My2K6Sports Addendum

Category: By Christian
So, something crazy just happened that must be noted in my chronicles of 2006. I know I just blogged about my fav sports moments of the year, but we have a late addition.

The Chiefs are going to the playoffs. Inexplicably, I might add.

Going into the game, the Chiefs not only had to win but three other teams had to lose. One of these teams was the dreaded Denver Broncos (BOOOOOOOO Broncos!!!), who would have to lose a home game to the lowly 49ers. Would you believe that just a few minutes ago Joe Nedney kicked an OT field goal to defeat the Broncos and send KC to the playoffs? Believe it, baby. Believe it.

Yeah, now the Chiefs have to go to Indy next week, but for the time being they can ride high and be glad they made it.

Fair Dinkum

My2K6: Sports

Category: By Christian
I witnessed a lot of great sports moments this year. I believe none of them occurred at Royals games that I attended, though I could be mistaken. Let's hope that 2007 will hold some happier Royals memories for me. As for 2006, the highlights include...

*Going to a KU basketball game with my dad, just like we used to go to Blazers games back in the day.

*Watching the opening game of the NFL football season at 8am on a 19-inch TV in my Vietnam hotel room. It was a pretty big deal at the time. I was in need of some serious encouragement after 18 hours of severe butt vomit. Was "butt vomit" a bit much? Sorry. It might be a bit vivid, but it really captures the depths of my despair.

*Watching the World Cup on tv. It was great. I even watched a taped game in Hutchinson, KS though the US broke my heart by failing to put away Ghana that day.

*The highlight of the year was certainly watching the BCS National Championship game in a Nashville Sports Bar. I usually don't like watching sports in such environs because it keeps me from really being able to concentrate, but this was a special night. The game was amazing, the nachos were to die for and I got to really let loose. Some people probable thought I was drunk, though I can assure you that I was completely sober. I can't really blame them though, because every time USC would do something good I would jump on my friend Adam Paul's back and sing the USC fight song as he carried me around all of the Texas fans. I just really dislike Texas. Whey didn't we let them break away from the nation when we had the chance? Oh well. The funniest moment of the night was when Adam Paul and I were visiting with a drunk white man. The conversation went something like this...

Drunk Guy: Dude, what's up with your brother?
Me: He's not my brother.
Drunk Guy: What?
Adam Paul: I'm white and he's black.
Drunk Guy (whispering to me): Dude, I think your friend is a prejudice (sic).

You heard it here first, folks. Adam Paul is a prejudice. Whatever the heck that is.

Fair Dinkum


Category: , By Christian
Last night, justice was served. Saddam was put to death, and rightly so. He murdered many civilians in the 1980's, and did so with the use of chemical weapons. He was a terrorist. He was a killer. He was found guilty of his crimes and now he has paid the price for them.

Sometimes justice can be a pretty tricky thing. In this case, it was quite simple.

Not only was Saddam found guilty, but so were some of his cohorts. Two were sentenced to death, one will spend life in prison, and three will spend 15 years in prison. That's justice. Because if you don't cut off entire networks of terror, then terror will continue to thrive. You must punish the terrorists as well as those who empower them and assist them. The hand of justice must extend to all those responsible, or it is rendered weak. It's just that simple.

At this point, we must finish the job. Now that they aren't threatened by Saddam, people will start talking. They can start telling us who supplied Saddam with his weapons in the '80's and who he was working with. Then, we can find those people and execute justice. It should be an open and shut case now that Saddam has been found guilty. If you are an accomplice to murder, you are a murderer. Plain and simple.

What's that you say? That must be a mistake. They didn't mention that in the paper this morning.

The US provided Saddam with chemical weapons? ("Officers say US aided Iraq despite the use of gas", August 18, New York Times) Regan and Rumsfeld helped Iraq battle-plan these atrocities so that Iran would be less of a threat in the region? The US helped Iraq develop its chemical and biological weapons programs?

Yeah, about that justice thing. Maybe it's not that simple. Maybe we'll just make sure justice is executed over there. We'll take a large helping of grace, please.

"Saddam's execution punishes a crime with another crime."

-Cardinal Renato Martino

"Grace is contagious, just like violence. I always say that if we believe terrorists are beyond redemption, we can rip out half of our New Testaments, since it was written by a converted terrorist who became an extremist for grace. It's what happens when we discover that God has a desperate love for losers just like us."

-Shane Claiborne in The Irresistible Revolution (p. 272), making reference to Paul (aka Saul) in Acts 8-9.


My2K6: Music

Category: By Christian
My music experiences this year were great. I got to listen to some fantastic music both live and recorded. Some highlights:

*The Roots: Game Theory - The Roots aren't your typical rap band. They are only quasi-popular because their songs typically don't sound too good on the radio. They don't talk about sex enough and are far too socially conscious. Perfect. Game Theory is essentially what Kanye West says he is and wishes he was. Instead, he's a rapper who makes records for the radio, and The Roots are rappers who make records to send a message. Mission accomplished.

*Gnarls Barkley - I thought Gnarls was stupid because of their name. In actuality, they are amazing. It's a sentimental record to me, because CeeLo Green and I have grown up over a period of time. Back when I was a punk high school kid I used to listen to this group called Goodie Mob. CeeLo was the head man, and I dug his voice, his rhymes and Goodie's crazy southern beats. Well, CeeLo has earned enough creative capital to do whatever the heck he wants, so he decided to team up with Danger Mouse, name his new band Gnarls Barkely, and release an absolutely splendid album this year. Oh yeah, he also dressed up like Darth Vader and performed Crazy on an MTV awards show.

*The Complete U2 - Having all of U2's works is great, but it sure makes it hard for you to want to listen to anything else.

*Nickel Creek Concert - Word on the street is that these cats are taking a break, so I'm glad I got to see them live. Their show was both fast and furious. It would be pretty hard to convince me that Bluegrass is not the most exciting form of music to listen to live.

*The David Crowder Experience - Late one night, I found myself in the back room of a local eatery talking theology with the David Crowder Band. A lot of people are quick to bash current worship artists on account that their songs are shallow and simple. This does not apply to Mr. Crowder. At the time, he was writing a book on the theology of bluegrass, and he might know more than a lot of people I go to seminary with. The guy is so incredibly aware of the effect his music has on the way people experience and view God, and he does not take that responsibility lightly. As much as I love his music, I can honestly say that I respect him even more as a person.

*Dixie Chicks - I've blogged about it before, so I'll spare you today.

Fair Dinkum

Mad World

Category: By Christian
I've been bummin a little bit for the past couple of days. It seems as though Ethiopia has been bombing strategic Muslim targets in Somolia this week. This is just part of an ongoing conflict between the neighboring African countries. 1,000 people have died, 3,000 have been wounded. It's a tough situation, because the power vacuum in Somalia has been filled by various warlords and Muslim Jihaddists over the past decade. The two countries have had a tenuous relationship over the years, but this thing is really in danger of spiraling out of control if the situation cannot be contained soon.

Ethiopia has had a special place in my heart since our adoption agency (Children's Hope International) started working there in earnest. There are 4 million orphans in the country and 1 million children have lost at least one parent to AIDS. By 2014, it is estimated that 2.1 million kids will be orphans due to their parents dying of AIDS. In addition to starting adoptions in Ethiopia, CHI is also working on an orphanage in the country. "CHI has built the first floor of this orphanage that will serve not only as a home for abandoned children, but also as a educational and medical center for the entire community. After it begins operation, the orphanage will develop a HIV/AIDS treatment center as well."

With CHI trying to work to address these serious issues, it is frustrating to see things happening in the region that could throw a wrench into their ability to work in Ethiopia. So many good things have been started, but work like this requires a certain amount of stability within the country. Wars hurt the poor. Wars cause more orphans. Wars take resources away from orphans and widows who could otherwise be helped.

And so I pray for the Ethiopians and the Somalians. A generation of Somalians are growing up knowing nothing but civil war and rogue warlords. I pray that the two countries can figure things out and that the African Union will provide better ideas and support for both countries. I pray that the Red Cross will effectively be able to help the 600 people they are currently serving. I pray that Americans will explore news sources that report issues in non-wealthy non-oil countries, and that those Americans will pray like crazy for peace. I pray for the orphans and for the people trying to minister to them.

I pray because my heart is saddened, and it gives me no choice.

Fair Dinkum

Memorable Eve

Category: By Christian
Yesterday was one of my favorite Christmas Eve's. I was already looking forward to it because we were going to get to go to church, which has historically been one of the things I really look forward to. It goes back to my high school days when Christmas eve started to emerge as a contemplative day for me. The church service was a great chance to slow down and make sure I was centered on Christ, and it became a sort of cornerstone for me.

Yesterday's church service was extra-refreshing. We went to the church that my parents have been attending, and it was absolutely fantastic. The church is six years old, and they lease a building that was the first black church built in Portland. MLK had spoken in that building twice. There is something moving about having an opportunity to worship in a place that is fraught with history both spiritual and social.

The service itself was a lot like what I desire in church experiences. The congregation was multi-cultural and had numerous multi-ethnic families. There was testimony given about the weekly HIV/AIDS ministry that the church has organized. There was liturgy, there was a spoken word performance by one of the members who also happens to be a rap artist who also happens to be an amazing painter who thoroughly outfitted the church with ethnic expressions of Christ. The sermon was solid, the worship was authentic. It was energizing and was a good encouragement to me that it is possible for church to be some of the things that I have come to believe church needs to be.

After church we had our traditional family Christmas Eve dinner. This year, my parents had invited some guests to eat with us who really needed to be there. I really enjoyed the company of our new friends, and it was such a blessing to learn from them and have our family extended for a day. It was a good example of what can happen when people open up their doors and see what God wants to do. It is also a good reminder that I want Christmas to be a formative experience for my kids. Stacy and I have talked about spending some time on Christmas serving as a family so that Christmas can be about more than just stuff and more than just us.

It was a great Christmas Eve. I hope I get to have more just like it.

Fair Dinkum

Book Reflection: Night

Category: By Christian

Earlier in the week I posted a book "review". No more. Perhaps it's just a matter of semantics, but from now on I'm going to post book reflections. As I finished Elie Wiesel's Night, I was humbled. The book had earned Wiesel a Nobel Prize in 1986, and was so amazing that there was nothing left to "review". Plus, I'm not a literary critic. All I can do is read books and then share what I've learned and how they made me feel.

I was tipped off to this book by two of my favorite professors at seminary. During a class session a few weeks ago, one of them recommended the book and commented that it would change your life if you read it. When the other professor agreed with this claim, it became a foregone conclusion that I would read Night in the near future.

A word to the wise: Night is not a benign read. It consists of 120 pages of some of the most difficult content I've ever processed as Wiesel describes his experiences in concentration camps as a 16-year-old. While the vocabulary and the pacing are uncomplicated, the story is difficult to work through as you get a taste for how evil the heart of darkness can truly be. There is an added horror in knowing that it was real and imagining myself as this young man. There is an added horror in thinking about how many stories there are that are still untold. Stories that are equally as frightening, and equally as desperate. There is an added horror in knowing what people are capable of, and what people are capable of looking past. There is an added horror in knowing that there is genocide and terror that are going on at this very moment, and stories like this are being recreated even as I type.

One of the most fascinating aspects to Night are the theological and spiritual insights that the author shares. It's like reading Job, but doing so with an emotional connection to the characters. There is a certain distance inherent whenever I read Job that allows me to rationalize aspects of the story away. But Night has skin. It has breath. It is the reflection of a man who loved God, who doubted God, who loved and doubted at the same time, who went through so much that at points he was numb to God and to the great evil going on around him.

Why read this during the Holidays? Why share it on Christmas Eve? Because today is the dark day. It is the night. But joy comes in the morning time. Tomorrow we wake up and we celebrate the light of the world breaking into history in a very real and creative and powerful way. We celebrate redemption on a macro-level. We celebrate a hope that is given to all of us. Without knowing and searching and processing the darkness, one cannot be truly grateful for the brightness and the glory of the light. One cannot understand how some people find it difficult to encounter the light and engage it. Sometimes it's difficult to emerge from the dark and enjoy the light. It burns. You don't understand it. You question why you were separated from it.

Read Night. It will change your life.

Fair Dinkum

Christmas Eve Eve

Category: , , By Christian
Nothing like a little down time in PDX to clear space in the schedule for more blogging. Some thoughts on events taking place around the world...

*In about two hours my family is going to a huge Star Wars exhibit at OMSI (the big science museum in Oregon). As a life-long Star Wars junkie, I am very excited. Not just for myself but also for my daughter's glorious introduction into the great events that occurred "long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away." I think that Stacy and my mom are just going so that they can make fun of my nerdiness for a couple of hours.

*Bono has been awarded honorary British Knighthood. Darn straight.

*I added a new blog to the "Blogs I Read" column on the right. In the interest of full-disclosure, you should know that it's written by my brother. Adam Paul is not actually my real brother, but we are both skinny punks and people often mistake us for family. Sometimes they even think we are the same person. Anyway, it's a good read and you would be well-served to peep it.

*One of the KC area news stories I have been following lately is a Council meeting that took place in Wyandotte County on Thursday. I'm ticked. There is an area of The 'Dotte called Village West that has had remarkable economic development over the past few years. The county handed out a bunch of tax breaks and free land in order to land a NASCAR track, a waterpark resort area, some fantastic retail opportunities and many eateries. Village West is now one of the premier shopping and entertainment districts in the region. Congrats to the county for making that happen. Boo to the county for handing out a $45-million dollar tax break to Wal-Mart (that's right...freaking WALMART!!!) so that they will bring a Supercenter and a Sam's Club to this now-profitable area. At this point, any new retailers should be paying out the nose to get out of Village West. The county could then use that money to build up the dilapidated urban core. But instead of making a killing on one of the most valuable pieces of property in the state, my fine county has decided to provide an absurd amount of corperate welfare to a company that needs no favors. I am so ticked. For the first time in my life I am going to write a letter to the editor of the Kansas City Star. I am also going to write to my Council members and tell them that they will not receive my vote in the next election.

*In one night, Stacy and I got hooked on 24. We dug into Season 1 last night, and watched 4 straight episodes. Great stuff. I think it should be called 18 though, because without the commercials it only lasts 18 hours. Talk about false advertising.

Fair Dinkum

Lazy Brainz

Category: By Christian
First off, we made it to Portland. We were an hour late, but I think most of the flights around the country were in the same boat. With Denver's airport being shutdown everyone was in a scramble to get planes, pilots and passengers to the right areas. I feel really bad for people who were supposed to fly through Denver on Wed or Thursday, because the soonest they can travel is Friday or Saturday. That would be utterly frustrating.

On to the main topic for today...Our Lazy Brainz. I was listening to an interview with a famous marketing advisor named Jay Conrad Levinson the other day on the radio. He said a lot of interesting things, but one that stuck with me is that "90% of purchases are made spontaneously. The key to getting to customers is repetition."

The concept makes sense. So much of what we do, we do on autopilot. As I discussed the other day, we rarely put a lot of mental effort into our conversations. Entertainment options are becoming less and less intellectually strenuous. Even living is made simple as our brain tells our body when to breathe, blink, swallow, etc. There is so much going on in us and around us that our brains create shortcuts to help us be more efficient in everything we do. It's so sweet that God made our brains in a way that allows us to live life to the full. However, this trait can also be taken advantage of. When people can make money off of this neurological phenomena though, we have to watch our backs.

I have learned over the years that advertisers are smart. There are hundreds of billions of consumer dollars out there to be won in the high stakes game of sales, so they don't pull any punches. They know our strengths. They know our weaknesses. They exploit us and we typically don't even know it.

I was thinking about this the other day in relation to our parental stance on Elli watching television. We don't want her to be a couch potato so we'll probably have some time limits on how much our kids watch tv. Based on content alone, there are a lot of things out there that we don't want her to be exposed to. But even the most innocent shows are financed by advertisers who are intent on manipulating kids into thinking that they "need" whatever product they are selling, because people spend tons of money on their kids. Not only that, but it's easy to get over on kids. If you can endear their heart to your product at an early age, they will be quite likely to be a loyal customer over the course of their life. Go ahead. Pimp my kid. At least she'll be entertained.

Are we throwing out the tv when we get home? Probably not. But the lesson for me is that not only do I need to spend a little more effort thinking through how I spend my money and why I chose to spend it the way I do, but I also need to train my kids to do the same. If advertisers are going to bring the big guns, we have to be prepared to blast back.

Fair Dinkum


Category: By Christian
The blog has been pretty heavy this week. It's probably the direct result of a focus in my life right now on contemplation, combined with reading binges. And yet, I'm still the same old goofy cat, as proved by various goings on in the life of CDoubleDizzle...

*For the first time in my life, I'm flossin' the 'rows. Cornrows, that is. It's where you get your hair tightly braided along your head. I need to get a picture of them up on the blog sometime soon, because since I got microbraids they aren't going to last very long. The look is all right. I don't absolutely love it, but I don't hate it either. It's fun to have once in a while.

*We're flying to Portland tonight. We were quite fortunate to not be going through Denver. Sometimes we do because Frontier has good deals every once in a while. Southwest is currently the carrier of choice though, because they have a non-stop to PDX. You get a little more picky about your flights when you have a 1-year-old traveling companion. We're hoping that Elli sleeps through the flight, because it takes off right at her bedtime.

*Stacy thinks we'll be a funny family as we walk through the airport. As she put it..."I'll be looking all 'Kansas', you'll be thugged out with your braids, and we'll have our little Asian child." I can see how such things would look humorous. We'd make a wonderful advertisement with our built-in diversity.

*I always wear white v-neck undershirts. Today is different however, because my undershirt would cost $70 had I actually paid for it. This guy I work with gets these types of things for free because his dad works at Nieman Marcus, and he graciously let me have one of the shirts. I must say that you would have to be absolutely off your donker to buy this shirt. Yes, it feels nice. I'd be willing to pay a little more than usual for it if it could prevent the yellow sweat-crust stains in the armpits that my shirts tend to get. However, $70 is far too much for a product like this. The most redonkulous part of the deal is that I have the jankey version of the undershirt. The "nice" version will run you $110. Plus tax, baby. To quote my wife again..."I always wondered how rich people spent their money. There is a whole level of spending in this world that is obviously unknown to me." I know that this entire story sounds completely implausible to most of you, so the links to those shirts are here and here.

*I found someone to accompany me to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. My friend Coleman has signed on board. We watched the 2006 Word Cup together this summer, though we had to do it at my house and various sports bars because we didn't plan ahead to make it to Germany. It would have been pretty inconvenient anyway, because we are both in grad school right now. Plus, I was getting ready for the trip to Vietnam. So, 2010 looks a lot better. Now we just have to figure out how to finance this venture. I figure I could try to save any Christmas and birthday money I get for the next four years. There will probably be a shortfall still, so I'll need some other funding mechanisms. You are welcome to give to the cause if you like. I even have a Paypal account so that you can give from the privacy of your own home. I need to warn you that we are not registered as a non-profit, though. It would be nice if you could get a tax break, but (unlike some people ) I cannot ethically take advantage of the system. I can also not guarantee that God will bless you if you give to our cause, even though many preachers have no qualms about making such an oath. There was a time a couple of years ago where I hit a lucky streak, so maybe I'll try for one of those again. In the matter of 18-months, I managed to: win 2 round-trip plane tickets on a sportstalk show by breaking down a KU basketball game, win Royals tickets, earn a spot in the Jim Rome smackoff, win a kickin' sound system, and appear on a nationally syndicated game show. Not too shabby. I gotta get back in the groove.

Fair Dinkum

Wrestling With the Issues

Category: By Christian
If you have been reading my blogs for a while, you know that my favorite editorial writer is Leonard Pitts. His Miami Herald columns are syndicated across the country, and he appears in the Kansas City Star each and every Tuesday. If you don't usually read my blog, then you just learned something that you will be reminded of on a regular basis.

About every six to eight weeks, Mr. Pitts writes something that I find to be absolutely wonderful. Welcome to my Bi-Monthly Leonard Pitts Fan Club meeting.

For the last few years I have been really wrestling with how the church should respond to the issue of homosexuality. I've prayed about it, I've read books about it, I've written papers about it. And yet, I'm not to a place of complete certainty. If you continue to read this entry, please know that I'm not just pulling this stuff out of my butt. Much effort has gone into my discernment process. The process isn't over. For the sake of time I'm going to drop some sexual, racial and theological bombs and then walk away. Just know that I'm always game for respectful, adult conversation on the issue. Drop an email or give me a call.

Bomb #1: I don't think that God created us with the intention that we would engage in homosexual sexual relationships.

Bomb #2: I think that churches who agree with me on Bomb #1 have been obscene in the ways in which they have treated the homosexual community. Bomb #1 does not entitle us to strip a group of their dignity and treat them like second-class citizens. Churches have been venomous, hateful and spiteful. This includes churches that have jumped on the constitutional amendment bandwagon and attacked the homosexual community in both explicit and . Jesus was a master at being gracious to people who were social outsiders, and restoring their social and public dignity.

Bomb #3: I have a hard time dealing with people who agree with me on Bomb #2, but then use the Black Civil Rights movement as the basis of their argument. Part of the problem is that a lot of the people who do it are White. I don't think that if you are a part of the group that did the oppressing that you can rip a symbol from another group and then apply it to whatever cause you are trying to promote. Is that a racist statement? I hope not. Since I'm mixed, I'd like to think that I could make that statement and have it be an ethical rational statement that doesn't make people think I am picking on them. Does it create a double standard in that I can deal with the rationale better if a Black person makes the argument? Probably so. Is that appropriate? Not sure about that one.

Ok. That's enough bombs for now. Back to Mr. Pitts.

He addressed the issue of Homosexual rights in his column this week. As a black man, he talked about the connection between his race, his meta-ethic and his feelings on this issue. It was one of the first pieces I've read in a while that I found to be really helpful. It's well nuanced, it's funny, but it's also honest and transparent. It didn't bring me to a point where I have everything figured out, but it certainly enlightened my worldview and brought some interesting points to an ongoing conversation.

Fair Dinkum

Book Review: You're Wearing That?

Category: By Christian

I am neither a daughter nor am I a mother. And yet, I just got done reading Deborah Tannen's book that explores how mothers communicate with their grown daughters. It's a book that I actually picked up for Stacy to read right before we left for Vietnam. I had heard the author on NPR, and she seemed very engaging. The book also appeared to be a timely buy since we were getting ready to go adopt our daughter. However, we did not do a ton of reading on our trip, so That? just sat around the house for the past three months.
In an effort to branch out from my typical theological fare, I started working through That? a few weeks ago. Sometimes it took some work for me to stay with it, because even though I found the book interesting there weren't a lot of times where I could authentically identify with the case studies. That is understandable, seeing as though I'm not a woman. I am interested to pick up Tannen's exploration of how men and women communicate, because I'm sure it will strike closer to home. Overall, I enjoyed the read. It was interesting to have a lens through which to translate conversations between women, and there were also a lot of nuggets about communication that would be helpful to anyone.
What really stood out most in my mind is the fact that we do not take very much time to think through how we say what we say. We typically communicate using certain intrinsic rules that essentially allow us to communicate on auto-pilot. The problem is that even family members can use different rules when talking, and we tend to project our own set of rules onto everyone in the conversation. The result is that we then misinterpret what other people are saying, and they misinterpret what we are saying. Stir in a healthy portion of emotion (which is often the case when mothers and daughters are in conversation), and it is no wonder these relationships can have their stressful moments.
The above points are so important to remember when we are having heated discussions with people. To step back and evaluate how we are saying what we are saying, and how other people hear and understand us can only serve to make us better communicators and better listeners. As I was reading the book, I found that I was doing a better job at evaluating why what people would say would make me feel adversely toward them. Comments or suggestions that I was viewing as overly critical, were in reality not so. By defining the lenses through which I was listening and reacting I was able to get over my ego in certain instances.
I remember a specific time when Stacy asked me to do something, and I resulted by internally pouting. As I stopped to think about it, I realized that I was interpreting her request as subtle criticism. In actuality it was simply a request. It is true that sometimes people make requests or suggestions as a passive-aggressive way to drop hints, but that is not Stacy's MO. So I took a deep breath, told myself to get over my infatuation with self and honor my wife by doing what she had asked me to do. A passive-aggressive reaction would have certainly made a non-situation a bad situation, and for no good reason.
It's amazing what happens when we put a little effort into listening and speaking. Perhaps as adults developing those skills will help us to have more functional and authentic relationships.
Fair Dinkum

The Makeover Continues...

Category: , By Christian
I'm still getting settled into my office and giving it some of that much-envied CDoubleDizzle flavor that everyone has come to know and love. It has been a gradual process, but I think that we're finally getting to a point where this is certainly my space. In addition to the previously mentioned Vietnam National Soccer jersey, we also have: family pics, a french press, snacks, my college diploma, some keepsakes from my last job and a slew of books. The books are a pretty big deal, because we needed to get them out of the house. One of my goals is that someday we will have a library in our house that has an abundance of bookcases that are built into the walls. Until that point in time, I will be forced to split my literature collection due to space constraints in our home. I don't really mind however, because one can only read so many books at once.

Today I put up the finishing decorative touch, and it's amazing. We celebrated Christmas with my in-laws this past weekend, and one of my gifts was some coffee. As a self-proclaimed coffee addict/snob, I have a bit of an ethical problem. I do not enjoy cheap coffee, and even nicer coffees are often harvested in such a way that is economically disadvantageous to the coffee growers. The result is that I feel compelled to drink coffee that is harvested in ways that are fair and allow farmers some economic viability.

Problem: such coffee isn't cheap, and I'm not rich.

Solution: when people ask what I want for a gift, I request a socially-responsible gift. In this case, Fair Trade coffee.

When my father-in-law visited the Coffee Merchant in Wichita they struck up what sounds to be a lengthy conversation. One thing led to another, and the merchant ended up giving my father-in-law a burlap coffee sack in addition to the few bags of coffee he purchased for me. This is a sweet bag, because it is from the Women's Coffee Association. This bag was used to ship 45kg of raw coffee beans from Columbia where it was picked by a group of 20 women who have joined together to cut out the middle-man and thus find economic sustainability in the coffee market.

With it's two vertical pink stripes on either side of a slender aqua stripe, it looks cool and it hangs well. But more than that, it's a symbol. It's a reminder that there are people out there who are trying to go against the system. The system undercuts them by taking advantage of people and thus competing with lower prices, but the system is only helping the rich get richer. The sack is partially about my love for coffee, but it's more about a reminder for me to join the downtrodden in the struggle. It's about how God's heart for the poor should effect what I pour into my cup. It's about a call as members of the Empire to flex our muscles and use our buying power to level things out across the globe before we put so much stress on the rest of the world that we cause the whole thing to bust apart at the seams.

Fair Dinkum


Category: , By Christian
Today I went to the hospital to visit one of our students. Also rolling with me on this fine day were two of my coworkers.

One of the running jokes we have around the office is that we are a basketball team. It's not really the funniest joke in the world, but it is applicable because we are all pretty tall. For instance, today I think I was the shortest member of our trio. Plus, I am also long an gangly which adds to the baller aura that I usually carry. I believe that my love for basketball exudes from my pores and thus augments my physical baller persona.

All that being the case, it was pretty funny when three different people asked us if we were a part of a basketball team. The security guard was the first to hit us up with the inquisition, and then we got popped the question on each of our elevator rides. In all three instances we humbly responded that we were not a part of any type of basketball squad. As we were leaving the hospital, we joked that it would be fun to tell people that we did in fact play for some team. Then maybe people would greet us with joy and adulation.

The only problem is that we could not possibly think of a team that we would all play for. If you know of any basketball teams that have an Indian dude, a Black dude and a White lady, please email me. Until then, we'll just tell people we are part of the United Nations team.

Fair Dinkum

Party Animal

Category: , By Christian
Over the past few months Stacy has be doing rotations at different hospitals in the KC metro area. As her heart is with indigent and underserved populations, our conversation the other day focused on that topic. She was sharing with me her observations on how different indigent populations demonstrate noncompliance in different ways. For those of you who aren't married to a med student, I should probably flesh that idea out a little more.

Typically, poor people are not the easiest patients for doctors. For various reasons, they do not follow the instructions that doctors give them very well. Whenever a patient does this, regardless of socio-economic standing, they are considered "noncompliant". Not all poor people are noncompliant, but usually a large portion of them are.

What Stacy has seem is that reasons for noncompliance are in large part different depending on the ethnicity of the patient. For instance, a lot of the Hispanic patients are noncompliant because of language barriers. To the doctor's face they are very polite and incredibly grateful for any type of help or hope the doctors offer. White patients are the opposite, however. They tend to come to the doctor with a sense of entitlement, and are quite argumentative. They also tend to reject solutions that cause them to take responsibility for their health (i.e. diet etc.).

The attitude and behavior of black patients often reflect a general anxiety for fairness. These patients tend to be sceptical of authority figures due to the way those figures have taken advantage of and neglected the black community in America in the past. Thus, they tend to be wary in an effort to keep from being treated unfairly. They tend to fight for what they perceive to be right and just, even when they don't need to.

All that to say that the other night I saw the amazing things that can happen when people are shown the love of Christ, and are treated with grace and dignity. This amazing experience happened at the Christmas Party that the Hope Center holds every year for the neighborhood. Quite honestly, it was one of the most vivid tastes of what the Kingdom of Heaven is going to be like that I have ever experienced before.

First of all, there were so many people there. All of the families that we are connected with are invited, and that night over 350 people showed up. Moms, dads, brothers, sisters, cousins, everyone. It was totally packed. What is amazing about this fact is that if you talk to teachers in this neighborhood, they usually struggle to get more than two or three parents to parent teacher conferences. And yet, on this night we had fantastic parental support. Not only that, but they were completely supportive of what we were doing and totally quiet during the 90-minute Christmas program.

The most amazing part came when it was finally time for dinner. We were behind schedule, so we didn't eat until 8pm. And yet, everyone was totally chill about the whole thing. The lines were orderly, they went smoothly, and there was not one issue with getting everyone enough to eat. It was so awesome.

It is simply humbling to see how stereotypes can break down when you treat people with grace and dignity. Now, the Hope Center has built up a lot of social capital. This ministry has been going on for 9 years, but it is nice to see that it has been so effective as to inspire people to trust that Hope Center is doing what is in the best interest of their families. I've heard stories about days where there were many difficulties, and I'm sure I'll experience some during my time here. And yet, it's totally worth it when you get to taste the Kingdom.

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Family Outing

Category: By Christian
This morning we had a great family outing. It was one of the rare times where our crazy schedules complemented each other perfectly, thus resulting in time together. It's a wild concept, but one that we are thankful for.

Since I had our Hope Center Christmas Party last night and Stacy has all-night call at the hospital tonight, we had all morning together. We decided to mark the occasion by going to Sophie's Deli, which is our neighborhood Polish Delicatessen. It's located at the end of our block, so it's not only good but it's also super-convenient. Plus, in our effort to make sure that our Vietnamese daughter who lives in a Hispanic neighborhood has an ever-expanding worldview, we felt it important for Elli to experience Sophie's.

What you have to understand about this place is that it is unlike most dining experiences. It's located in this small, red warehouse looking building that bears little resemblance to most eateries. It's only open for breakfast and lunch, because most of the people who work there are family. They are never open on the weekends, so our opportunities to have breakfast there as a family are limited. Nonetheless, it holds a certain place of fondness in our hearts. It was decided long ago that Stacy's graduation party this spring will be at least partially catered by Sophie's.

All that being said, the experience lived up to expectations today. The waitress still remembered us. Multiple people came out from the kitchen to greet Elli and let us know how cute she is. My pancakes and bacon were great, and Stacy's polish sausage and egg breakfast sandwich was wonderful. The best part about the whole thing was that when we left, all three of us had the very distinctive and yet nostalgic Sophie's Smell.

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Simple Joys

Category: By Christian
Sometimes there are very simple things in life that bring us joy. Currently, my list includes:

*Three Very Random Songs on my Ipod. A couple of weeks ago, Stacy let me know that she had $3 on her itunes account that she probably wasn't going to use. She let me have the credits, and I got down to do some shopping. Ever since that blessed day, I have become hooked on the three songs that I downloaded. Last night I played the three songs for Stacy so that she could experience the fruits of her graciousness, and let's just say she was a little less than enthused with my choices. First, I downloaded Popular from the hit Broadway musical Wicked. I'm pretty sure I heard the song when I was on a mission trip with some thespian types, but I'm not really sure where my affinity for the song came from. Next came Mad World by Michael Andrews (from the Donnie Darko soundtrack, if you're interested). Not only was it on a CSI episode, but it was also on this sweet-action videogame commercial. I didn't buy the videogame, but I certainly snagged the song. Finally came (drumroll please) the U2 and Greenday duet of The Saints are Coming live from the Superdome. It's a great performance because it's U2, but also because it has a lot of really good horn work. If you ever want to come over and listen to those three songs in a row, let me know. I have them in a playlist.

*Costco Lunches. Yesterday I had lunch at Costco with some of my co-workers. The joyful part is that I got a Polish Sausage with kraut, relish, mustard and fresh onions for $1.50. And that included a soda as well!!! I really felt like I was living the highlife. It did create some issues however, when I also had a chili chaser for dinner. Hehe.

*Arsenal v Chelsea. Since I don't work for a church anymore, my Sundays are a tad more open. I spent some of my open time this Sunday watching one of the best soccer games I've ever seen. It ended in a draw, but it was absolutely splendid viewing. I'm not usually a huge Arsenal fan, but I did root for them that day because Chelsea has been breaking my heart with their slim victories over Barca in the Champions League. There were a few times when I yelled a little too loud and startled the baby(out of excitement mind you..not anger), but other than that we got through the match without incident.

*My Vietnam National Team Soccer Jersey. I feel bad because my mom did some work on the jersey to make it fit. I picked it up in Vietnam when we were there, but had never tried it on until last week. The problem was that the hole for your head to go through was way too small. I have mucho cranium, so some alterations needed to be made. Well, when it was finished I put it on only to find out that there wasn't much space in the jersey through the chest. It was pretty snug. Since I'm currently under my ideal weight and am trying to put on about 10 pounds, I figured I wouldn't be wearing it very often, though I did floss it on Elli's birthday. That being the case, it is now hanging in my office. It looks quite handsome.

Fair Dinkum

Year of Jubilee

Category: By Christian
Last night we had our monthly leader's meeting at The Hope Center. During the first part of this meeting we always gather together to discuss an article or part of a book. Last night the main topic was the Year of Jubilee, and how we are supposed to apply it in our current social context.

The Year of Jubilee is a concept from the Hebrew Bible (aka Old Testament) where every 50 years land would go back to its original owners. It's talked about quite a bit in Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Is one of the laws that was built into ancient Israelite society in an effort to prevent class stratification. There are actually quite a few of those laws in the first few books of the Bible, demonstrating the passion that God has for people to retain their dignity as God's creations.

Well, the hardest question for everyone to wrestle with was how we can apply concepts like the Year of Jubilee today. Land redistribution would be pretty messy because with the globalization of the world, people would own tracts of land (or partial tracts) all over the world. Plus, since so many people (mostly brown-skinned people) had their land forcefully taken from them both on this continent and on other continents, it would be pretty impossible to make sure everyone got their fair share.

That being the case, I still think it is of the utmost importance that Christians find ways to obey the spirit of the law. The issue behind the issue with Jubilee year is upward mobility within society. When the law was written, one needed land to be considered a viable member of society. Poor people sometimes had to sell their land, or sometimes land got taken away from people because of social customs (ie, women couldn't own land, so they were in trouble if their husbands ever died or left them). Thus, returning land to people became a avenue to make sure people had opportunities to be upwardly mobile in the society. It was also a safeguard against a few people owning most of the land and social capital.

And this becomes the hard part, because the bar was set pretty high. At the risk of being called a Communist, I have to contend that we must be more radical and proactive with are giving. We must also combine this with strategies that attack the systems that contribute to problems of class stratification as opposed to just attacking the signs that those systems are indeed working in harmful ways. Macro-solutions can be pretty unappealing because they can drastically change the ways in which people who hold power and wealth live life, but as a person who has a relative amount of both I don't really care. But I guess our passion on the issue is going to depend on how much we believe that poverty and inequality are things that God is really passionate about.


Category: By Christian
Prayer is profitable because it makes us familiars with God.
-St. Thomas Aquinas

I have really learned how true that quote is over the past few weeks. One of the cool things about my new job is that there is a huge focus on contemplative spiritual disciplines. For instance, last weekend we went on a 24-hour silence and solitude retreat. We'll do the same thing for 3 days at the beginning of the year. Built into our daily schedule is a standing 30-minute prayer time where we do some liturgy, pray through scripture and journal. If you would have told me that my move to an urban ministry would improve my understanding and practice of ancient Celtic spiritual practices, I would have openly mocked you. I would have then had to openly apologize to you because you would have been right and I would have been wrong.

It's also something that we practice with the kids we minister to, though in 10-minute journal and prayer blocks instead of the larger blocks. The hope is that these practices will be something that will stick with them, and that they will become familiars with God through the process.

What is personally encouraging about these practices is that all of the scheduled time is not burning me out on talking with God. You know how sometimes you can spend too much time with someone, and then you just get so sick of them that you need some space? Well, that's not happening this time. To the contrary, it has made me hunger for it more. It's like God and I have been having these conversations, and even though I knew that God was cool I am finding that God is way bigger and more interesting than I had previously thought. As I become familiar with God, there is this desire to know more and more about God and become even more familiar. Not that there won't later be periods of frustration and drought, but for the time being it is an amazing period of exploration and experience of the journey.

Fair Dinkum

Morning Enlightertainment

Category: By Christian
I read the Kansas City Star every day. Most of the time it's a cover-to-cover affair. I have a little system where I take care of the entertainment parts first (Sports, Life), and then move to the deeper parts of the paper so that I can properly digest them without distraction. Three notes of little depth from the paper today...

*This year will be the best Rose Bowl Parade ever. The event has never been appointment viewing for me, but this year will be different. Not only will George Lucas be the Grand Marshall of the parade, but there will also be 2 Starwars floats. The highlight will most certainly be the 200 member Stormtrooper battalion that will also be making an appearance. I can hear the Imperial Deathmarch in my head already.

*As many of you know, Get Fuzzy is my favorite comic. What many of you don't know is that my second favorite is Foxtrot. The bad news today is that Foxtrot will only be printed on Sundays starting at the beginning of the year. For a guy who only reads 5 comics on a regular basis, this is quite a blow. Especially so considering that Boondocks seems to be on a permanent hiatus. Now we're just down to Fuzzy, Dilbert, Pearls Before Swine and Doonesbury in the regular rotation. The great thing about Foxtrot is that it's so dorky, much like myself. The main character loves Starwars, Videogames, and saying random things. We're kindred spirits. But alas, we shall only be able to meet on Sundays.No Foxtrot except on Sundays.

*The sports section is usually the typical landing spot for strip club advertisements. Today there were two particularly large, full-color strip club adverts on the bottom of one of the pages. Tucked in a corner between the two was a very small, black-and-white ad for the KC Ballet's upcoming Nutcracker performances. It's like someone had called the ad in and filed it under "dancing", so it got stuck in with the strippers. It just seemed slightly ironic that the one dancing performance of value was so non-descript and in the shadows of the carnal. It reminds me of a customer I had when I was a high-school senior working at Niketown. This girl came in to buy some tearaway basketball pants. I asked who she played for, but she replied that she wasn't an athlete. She needed them for dancing. "Oh, like HipHop or ballet?" I asked. "Exotic," she replied. I was pretty speechless after that. I had never met a stripper before, and I wasn't really sure how to make conversation with one. I was also shocked when one of my coworkers shared that he had seen her perform. Welcome to the world, kid.

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It's On!!

Category: By Christian
By "it", I am of course referring to the 2010 World Cup. Duh. Anyway, today FIFA officially announced that the 2010 WC will be held starting June 11, which means we are only 1283 days away. This might seem like a long time, but it's really pretty short for me as I need to spend that time devising a way to get to the WC and get tickets to a couple of matches.

What makes WC '10 especially tantalizing is that it is being held in South Africa. Over the past seven months or so I have had a great desire to try to get to a World Cup, and also to try to get to Africa. Now considering my personal responsibilities and financial situation, both of these desires most certainly fall into the "Someday" category. But honestly, it would be so stinkin' tight to take in the World Cup in the land where Diski was pioneered. To see the world come together to play the most popular game in all the world. All continents, all different ethnic backgrounds. All in the land where Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu and Edward J. Perkins fought so that all people could experience the dignity that is afforded to us as Children of God. I'm telling you, it would be off the hook.

Alas, a dream it shall probably remain. Tis still a sweet dream.

Oh, BTW. Yesterday FC Barcelona managed to break out of their Champion's League slump to knock off Werder Bremen and earn their way into the knockout round. I had taped the game, and was really struggling to decide if I should watch it last night or instead work on a paper that's due on Thursday. I chose to watch the game, but fortunately FCB scored two goals in the first 20 minutes, so I just watched the first half and then skimmed the second half. Still had time to finish my paper and get into be by midnight.

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Movie Review: Happy Feet

Category: By Christian
I usually don't go to two movies in the span of 12 days. However, I did go see "Happy Feet" with some of our kids yesterday, and here are some of my random thoughts from the experience.

*There is nothing like watching kids movies with kids. You never know what they are going to find funny, and when they start laughing it's totally contagious. I loved it.

*Kids movies probably don't need lots of sexual innuendo. This movie had a ton of it, which was a disappointment. I'm not sure how much the kids pick up, but why not just keep it clean and innocent? Then I don't have to spend my time worrying about how I'm going to explain things later.

*This was probably the most bizarre movie I've seen in a while. The problem was that for most of it, they were trying to be somewhat realistic. It's CGI talking penguins, but at the same time the creators had obviously watched a lot of penguin documentaries, and modeled the entire plot after such accuracies. Well, the last 15 minutes were the most ludicrous movie minutes ever. Huge plot jumps, completely implausible scenarios. It was a mess. I was actually stunned and shocked by how plain odd the last part of the movie was.

*Robin Williams is amazing in cartoons. So is Eddie Murphy for that matter, but he wasn't in this one. Nicole Kidman was in it, and I am constatly amazed at how well she can sing. She's really really good.

*One of the perils in going to a movie with kids is that you end up in the front row. I think my retina almost exploded.

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Happy Birthday, Elli

Category: , By Christian

Today is Elli's first birthday. For the last month people have been asking us what kind of party we are having. Honestly? This child does not need more parties. In the two months since we got home with her, she has been welcomed publicly, graciously and exorbadantly. We are humbled that her story has touched so many people, and that everyone has been so gracious in showing their love for her. It's been great, but at this point we felt that we were a little partied out.

That being said, this morning I had a chance to celebrate my daughter. We went through our normal routine of playing, eating, bathing, etc. this morning. But for some reason, this morning was special. It was like I was hit with how different her life was a year ago, and how far God has brought her in such a short time. I celebrated by soaking in her presense and then praying for her when she went down for her morning nap.

It's hard to believe that 365 days ago, Elli weighed 2.2 pounds. It's hard to believe that if you took bets on her life, it would be difficult to convince anyone that in one short year she would be thriving and loving life. God gave her the strength to fight hard while she was in what is probably the only hospital in Ho Chi Minh City that could keep her alive. God gave her strength to perservere in an orphanage, and was gracious enough to provide her with everything her little body needed even though the $16/month that the government gave her orphanage for her care was about half of what was needed. God kept her safe until we could make it to Vietnam to swoop her up and love her. God was good, and I thank God for everything that led to our family being brought together. Today as I prayed in celebration of Elli's life, I prayed for:

*All of the people who worked on our behalf both stateside and abroad.
*Elli's birth mom. I really hope that God gives her a sense of peace today, and that she could know that her little girl is ok and loved.
*Elli herself. She has grown so much since we got her, but she has a lot of life ahead of her. It's great to see what can happen to a child when they are given love and nurture and space to live. Our greatest prayer is that as she has all of those things, she will fall more in love with God everyday and recognize how amazing God has been in her journey.

So, happy birthday to my little girl. You won't remember it, but know that I celebrated you today. I enjoyed our morning together, and I even threw on my official Vientnam National Team Soccer jersey. Just so when people ask about it today, I can tell them how amazing you are.

Good Surprise: Google

Category: By Christian
I was pretty slow to jump on the Google bandwagon, but at this point you might as well consider me to be a certifiable fanboy. What I have come to realize is that Google either invents or acquires some of the coolest stuff on the net. I am currently using three free programs from Google on a regular basis, and I dare say that one of them has pretty much revolutionized my life in cyberspace.

Let's start there, shall we. I have one word for you..."gmail". For years and years and years I used hotmail. It was fine, but when I switched to gmail I became a much better emailer. For one, it groups all of my conversations together, so I don't have to trudge through my entire mailbox to piece together strings of emails and figure out who said what when. Secondly, gmail gives me so much space in my mailbox that I never have to delete ANYTHING. As someone who thrives amid clutter and hates to throw things away, this is truly a blessing. If Google could find some way to invent something that could do for my home what gmail has done for my email, I would be eternally indebted to them. My final plug is that gmail has tons of street cred. It's called gmail, for crying out loud.

Now if you don't want to switch your email address over to emailing heaven, that's fine. It's a lot of work. What I do suggest everyone do is download Picasa. It's Google's free digital photo software, and will do anything the novice photographer needs. We started using it when we got home from Vietnam and were ticked at ourselves for not using it when we were over there. I can email photos with the greatest of ease, and the program even resizes them for me. Plus, it has this sweet feature where I can push one button and it will optimize the lighting in the photo to make it look as good as possible. It's the straight bomb-dizzle. If you want prints of your pics, it also has tons of links to online services. Oh, and if you want to share pics without making prints then you can easily create online albums.

Finally, I have to tell you that Blogger is way better than my previous blogging engine. People who aren't a part of Blogger can now leave comments, and they don't get annoyed with pushy MySpace invitations. It's also visually sharper, and has a similar layout to MS Word. Not only does it have a spell-checker, but it also links to my gmail and picasa accounts. For a minute I started to worry that someone at Google would get power over all of my services and steal my identity. Then I remembered that Google stock trades at something redonkulous like $400/share. Since Google employees probably have numerous shares, I be they aren't interested in stealing money from some poor bloke like myself. My only worry now is that Google will become the so-called "mark of the beast" mentioned in Revelation. That could be a problem.

Fair Dinkum

Good Surprise: Senator Brownback

Category: By Christian
A little over a year ago I figured that Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) was most certainly angling for a Presidential run in '08. He had come out with some pretty harsh words against the President after Harriet Miers was nominated to succeed Justice O'Connor on the Supreme Court (and rightly so). It seemed as though he was playing to the extreme socially conservative base of the Republican Party at a time when they felt the President was abandoning their agenda. Let's just say the idea of "President Brownback" wasn't all that thrilling to me.

My how things change in 14 short months.

Last week there was an article in the Kansas City Star outlining his post-Thanksgiving plans. First, he was going to get and HIV test, and then he was going to visit a prison in Louisiana to bring to light creative and effective means of rehabilitating prisoners. They are efforts to get awareness out about very important issues, though I must admit that I never thought a Republican Senator from rural Kansas would be one of the catalysts of such initiatives.

The best part? It's a result of his faith.

“There’s this great coming together taking place, left and right, on Africa, on global health issues...This could be a moment where a broader vision can catch on among people of faith, and among political activists, the further left the better. They care deeply about these issues. Here’s a chance to have a broad public basis of support. It’s a beautiful moment if we don’t mess it up.”

Africa, global health, fixing a broken prison system and AIDS awareness. Wow.

Today was the kicker, though. Apparently a lot of rich people are finding out that significant parts of their financial portfolios contain investments in the Sudan. These investments then put money in the warlord's pockets, and these warlords then use the funds to keep on with the genocide in the country. Sen. Brownback has not only called for people to divest from their Sudanese investments, but he's doing it himself to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

I've never given money to a political candidate before, but if Sen. Brownback does run for President then I'm cutting a check. He can promote some conversations in churches and in the political establishment that need to happen, and I really think that he could change the focus of elections.

The sad irony is that since I didn't want to be a part of the Right Wing juggernaut in KS, I can't vote for him in the primary. Blast.

Nonetheless, he's in my top-4 for '08. Brownback, Obama, Edwards and McCain. Now that would be a sweet election. Unfortunately, there are two blowhards from NY who have tons of money and are lacking the candor and original ideas that my final-4 owould bring to the table. Hey, I can always dream can't I?

Good Surprise: Stranger Than Fiction

Category: By Christian
When I worked at Hillcrest, we would often sit around after a big event or trip and recap how it had gone. It's easy to remember and want to talk about the negative aspects, so we would be very intentional about bringing in the positive aspects as well. One of the questions we asked a lot was: "Who surprised you in a really good way?" There would always be students or leaders who would surpass our expectations, and it was helpful for us to bring those people up so that we could affirm them.

Well, yesterday's blog entry was a real downer. I'm still torn up about the whole situation, what with it ruining Christmas and all. In an effort to change the mood, I'm going to blog about some things that have surprised me in a really good way recently.

This past weekend, Stacy and I had the opportunity to go on a date. The grandparents took the little one for the evening, and we hit the town. The town I am referring to is none other than the great metropolis of Emporia, Kansas, which happens to be the metropolis that is nearest to my in-laws. In planning our date, I was disappointed to find that the movie selections were quite meager. Not only that, but going to a movie was "plan b". Our first choice was to go mini-golfing, but for some reason the outdoor mini-golf place in town didn't anticipate a run of 70-degree days in late November, so they were closed.

In the end we decided to go see "Stranger Than Fiction". I had only a rudimentary understanding of what the movie would be about, but it seemed like the only thing playing that we would have even the slightest chance of enjoying. I must say, the movie really surprised me.

I think that this movie is for Will Ferrell what "The Truman Show" was Jim Carey. Both funny guys, and both were able to find a script that let them be funny with depth. "Fiction" took a lot of risks, and most of them paid off. It was probably the most original movie I've seen since "Memento", and was so unlike most of the stuff big studios release that both Stacy and I were pretty shocked when we left the theatre. Now, the plot is by no means believable. You really have to suspend reality going into the experience, or you will probably hate the movie. But if you can let go for a little bit and let yourself get lost in the striking characters, it ends up being a very enjoyable couple of hours. It really is a fantastic piece of story telling.

I think people should support the movie, if for no other reason than it will show Hollywood that people really want cinematic experiences that are new and fresh. Or, if you don't want to tell Hollywood that then you can feel free to go watch James Bond have sex with women and blow things up in the 21st installment of what has to be the most redundant movie franchise in the history of movies.

Worst Christmas Ever

Category: By Christian

We didn't have a very good start to the Christmas Season at our house.
Decorating was not a very high priority this weekend. We were out of town for most of it, and when we got back on Saturday we had a baby that was a little burnt out on life. We had talked about doing a little bit of decorating, but the activity fell by the wayside.
On Sunday morning, I decided to salvage a little bit of the Christmas spirit. A couple of weeks ago, two of our friends lovingly gave me a Star Wars Christmas ornament. It happened to be the bronze-bikini-clad Princess Leia ornament that Hallmark released a couple of years ago. If it's Hallmark, then it must be classy. That's what I always say.
Well, Stacy saw me placing the ornament above the television and she did not think that it was appropriate living room decor. I countered with the point that nothing says "Christmas" like Star Wars. On that point we seem to differ. One thing led to another, until Stacy reached out to snatch Leia away to hide her. Well, I would have none of that. I swooped in to rescue her much as Luke did in Episode IV when he freed her from her cell in the Death Star, but Stacy put up a fight. In the midst of the fracas, Leia's sword broke.
There goes my mint condition ornament.
It is on that note that I say "Bah Humbug". Don't even try to cheer me up. It won't work.
Fair Dinkum

Dangerous Book

Category: By Christian
Middle school students are funny. They are funny and I love them. One of the highlights of my former job was the Tuesday afternoon Bible study at Panera Bread. It was always good for a classic quote, as well as opportunities to see students have light bulb moments on a weekly basis. There's nothing quite like having a 7th grade girl inform you that "Did you know that Paul Newman owns a salad dressing factory? He was so hot when he was in The Outsiders." When you then reply that Paul Newman is, like, 80, you then get put back in your place. "Well, 20 years ago he was hotttttttt!"

One of the most intruiging conversations we had came a couple of weeks ago. The kids started feverishly debating the plot of Esther, which is a short book in the Old Testament. They busted out their Bibles and made valiant attempts at proof-texting each other in an effort to prove their mental brawn. You have to realize that Middle School is the time when one's theological constructs are rapidly changing, because you begin getting the "real" versions of Biblical accounts. One of the boys realized this when he exclaimed, "Wait a minute!!! In Veggie Tales, everyone gets sent to Tickleland, but in the Bible they get HANGED!!!"

Ding, ding, ding.

For those who don't know, Veggietales is a CGI kids show that teaches Bible Stories and life lessons. One of the things they do though, is take some of the more scandalous Biblical accounts and sanitize them so that they are appropriate for kids. For instance, there is a story in the Bible where King David has an affair with a married woman named Bathsheba. She then gets pregnant, and Kind David ends up killing her husband so that he doesn't get caught. Well, the VT version has a king taking someones rubber ducky (get it??? BATHsheba) in an effort to teach kids about not being selfish. Cute, but perhaps not doing kids many favors when it comes to Biblical literacy.

So the Bible is not an entirely benign book. It's a messy book. It's R-rated in many places. It shows our faults, it shows our shortcomings, it shows the parts of life that exist in the grey and outside of the black and white. It's complicated, but I think that's a good thing. It's good because it engages us. It shows us that being in relationship with God isn't something that requires us to go through the motions. It's a relationship that calls us to get into the middle of the mess and deal with it.

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The Resurgance of Cake

Category: By Christian
Just a couple of weeks ago I proclaimed to my wife that I don't like cake anymore. It just wasn't doing it for me, and I was ready to give it up.

That all changed on Saturday when I had dinner with our friends Amy and David. I provided the wonderfully smoked meat (mmmmmmm....meat), and they were gracious enough to prepare a killer desert. A killer, killer cake.

This wasn't just any cake mind you. It was a chocolate cake with chocolate chips embedded in the brown pillowy goodness. It was bathed in a heavenly drizzle that was made up of melted chocolate that had been mixed with whipped topping. In side the center of the cake (it was baked in a bundt pan) was a tasty raspberry puree that filled the entirety of the cake's core, and spilled forth with volcanic goodness. It was truly a sight and taste to behold.

The realization I came to is that I'm not completely against cake. I'm against cake that consists of little more than flower and cheap white sugar. I am so totally for cakes that are works of art, and I would be happy to eat any such cakes that you feel led to prepare for consumption.


Category: By Christian
There are certain things that will guarantee that I like a song. The use of a marching band in hip-hop or tight harmonies, to name a couple. More than anything though, my ear is trained to love big voices. I realized this last night when Stacy and I were watching the Dixie Chicks on VHI Storytellers. The Dixie Chicks are probably the favorite band of the Dashiell house. Stacy doesn't really get into a lot of the stuff I listen to (how can you not dig Gnarls Barkley and Linkin' Park?), I have pretty much burned her out on U2, and I'm not much into most country music. Thus, when we want something that we both love, it's either Crowder or the 'Chicks.

There are a lot of things to love about the Dixie Chicks music. Great banjo skills, the aforementioned tight harmonies and engaging harmonies. More than anything though, Natalie's voice is incredible. They are at their best when her head is thrown back and she's just wailing. So it got me thinking, and there are only two other pure voices that I could think of that really can be considered in the same ballpark as Natalie's. The funny thing is that the other day I heard them back-to-back on the radio.

1) Christina Aguillera - There have been times when Christina hasn't really known what to do with all of that voice. Her initial projects were devoid of much creativity, and then she entered her period of "sexual revolution" where her albums were a bit on the trashy side. But she's gotten older and come back with a vengeance. Well thought out songs (respective to the rest of pop music, at least), and she's learned to do what Mariah Carey never could learn to do...she uses her powerful voice without overdoing it. The results are good.

2) Amy Lee - Probably the only person on the radio who could do opera. Her songs reflect that ability well, because they tend to fall into the category of power-rock-ballads. Strong songs with strong lyrics. It can literally wear you out to listen to her albums, because her voice takes you to the heart of her emotionally charged and raw lyrics.

All that being said, it's still a major goal in life for me to get to one more U2 concert even if Bono doesn't have a power voice.

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By Christian
I can't believe that my wife is a stone's throw away from being a doctor. An actual doctor with "MD" after her name. Not that I don't think she's capable. To the contrary, I've seen her work her tukas off ever since I met her in an effort to achieve this goal, but it's so hard to believe that it's finally come to fruition.

I think it's one of those deals where I've been so preconditioned to absolutely revere doctors, that I cannot believe people in my peer group can actually become one. Stacy had her first Residency interview yesterday, so on Monday night the program took us out to dinner along with a couple of other candidates. I was sitting around this table with med student's and residents and was taken aback when I realized how much responsibility they have over people's health. They deliver babies, they do procedures, they make recommendations. This is all pretty heavy stuff. And yet, it's what they are capably trained to do.

Perhaps I would not hold doctors in such high regard if we watched shows like Scrubs or Grey's Anatomy at our house. As it stands however, we don't. Something about watching people act completely asinine when you know the realities of the medical profession really just isn't that entertaining.

So instead, I'm just weirded out that people I know are about to attain a one of the pinnacle symbols of our culture. Go MD's.

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Enter the Phog

Category: By Christian
I love basketball. I was a Portland Trail Blazers fan since before I can remember, and playing/watching basketball filled many hours during my formative years. It was by no fault of my parents. They weren't intent on brainwashing me so that I might become some super athlete someday. I just recognized very early in life that basketball is a beautiful game, fun to play and watch.

I have many fun memories of my dad taking me to Blazers games in the old Memorial Coliseum as a kid. I got to see all of the greats play. Bird, Magic, Ewing, Dominique, Spudd Webb, David Robinson. I even got to see Jordan go against Drexler. Twice. The highlight of all highlights was on June 7, 1992. That was the day my dad surprised me by taking me to Game 3 of the NBA finals. Bulls vs. Blazers. All 12,000 people in the stands were going nuts as the game was being played out on the national stage for millions to watch. Amazing.

This past weekend things came full circle, so to speak. Saturday morning one of my friends called and offered me two free tickets to the University of Kansas basketball game. My parents happened to be in town, so my dad and I got to spend the evening taking in a game on one of the most hallowed pieces of basketball ground in the world.

We made sure to get to Phog Allen Fieldhouse over and hour early, because neither of us had attended a game there before. There was something really sweet about walking past the statue of James Naismith on the way into the Fieldhouse, and then checking out all of the trophies and history that were on display.

As a basketball lover, the night was amazing. The band, the chants, the popcorn. Looking up in the rafters and seeing some historical names with their retired numbers (i.e. Wilt Chamberlin). Getting chills before the game when the whole crowd started eerily chanting "Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk, K...U...). Feeling the gym shake when the student sections started jumping in unison and the people in the rafters began banging on the old-school heating ducts. It was crazy and it was loud and it wasn't even Big Monday. More than anything, it was a boy and his dad soaking up a little piece of basketball history.

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