Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Merry Christmas, & Happy New Year!

This is as good as is gets in terms of a holiday greetings this year...I have been too tired and busy to get anything else done! I blame it on baby number three. Wink.

We pray you will be filled with hope, joy, love, peace and truth that comes from knowing Jesus Christ in 2009!

"We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true—even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life." 1 John 5:20

Here comes trouble already at age 2....

She loves jewelry, shoes, and has a killer pout...what will we do in the teen years? Oh, our precious girl!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

I want a kayak

So I've been wanting a kayak for a while now. I'm not sure what put it into my head first, but for over a year now I've wanted to either start kayaking or join a crew team. I have scant experience with the former and none with the latter. The idea appeals to me.

Just did the presents thing early and got a nice gift card to Dick's Sporting Goods. I think that it might be time. Problem: don't know much about them. I don't really know the benefits of an inflatable versus a hard shell besides the easier storage with the first. Anyone have any insights?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Hatin' the Boilerplatin'

I have to say, "amen and amen" to this article by Richard Bernstein. I didn't even donate any money to the campaign and I've been "offered" a coffee mug, a t-shirt, and a stocking cap. Let's give the solicitations a rest.

Then again, a portent of things to come?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Preferring the beauty of an empty gesture

I just read an article by Roger Cohen about a recent visit to Guatanamo and his subsequent observation of a Catholic Mass. His words struck me at several places:

"A surprise awaited me. The church was full."

"I am a stranger to faith. Yet . . ."

He quotes the author of the novel The Power and the Glory: "When you visualized a man or woman carefully, you could always begin to feel pity - that was a quality God's image carried with it."

"I wondered, but preferred mystery to answers."

"I'd seen America's Guantánamo prison. I'd felt the suffering of the woman in the car. I'd left New York's financial disaster, based on greed for multiplying assets, for the economic ravages of Cuba's head-in-the-ground communism."

"And if this priest had the power to turn the wafer into the flesh and blood of God, and if the people gathered here believed that and were consoled, I was ready to bow my head in silence."

It seems that there is something very representative of American/Western thought in this article. There is a combination of incredulity towards those who practice some kind of faith in the supernatural, a need to respond to the power presented, and an inability to do anything besides attempt a respectful, though empty, posture. What screams out to me as I read this article is the synthesis of intelligent articulations with a complete vacancy when it comes to genuine solutions. We lack the courage, as a culture, to engage on a deep level with really difficult problems that require more than an understanding of economics. Unless we can speak in terms of numbers and statistics, we can offer a car ride or a bowed head, but nothing more.

This is not to say that there are not those who are attempting to reveal and confront injustices. But as a culture, we are too timid. Perhaps it is merely a current natural reaction to the fact that our current president has espoused so much confidence in himself and thus come across as presumptuous. My thought is that the problem runs deeper. My thought is that the problem is apparent in the article mentioned above. My thought is that in our secular sophistication we have lost the ability to claim moral authority and with it the stomach for unpopular positions. Despite the fact that I could not in good conscience vote for President Bush in 2004 (I sat the election out) and have been glad of the fact whenever I have met strangers while travelling in Europe, I have grown severely tired of the fact that courage is currently being defined by so many as simply protesting American foreign policy or throwing shoes at a press conference. Because the preferred alternative to Bush's swagger is the dumbfounded silence of the Western journalist in a Cuban church. And that to me, is ridiculous, sad, and extremely disturbing.

Our alleged respect for "mystery" is too often a cloak for cowardice. We want to ask the questions, but we do not want to provide answers because people may disagree with us or not like us as a result. Therefore, we prefer the dull and shallow beauty of an empty gesture. There was One who did more. The nativity scene is not a sentimental gesture of some cosmic positive force, nor is the cross simply a symbol of the struggle between good and evil. That life was the Act of love: an act of love that asked questions that needed to be asked, provided answers that no one was looking for but everyone needed, and then climbed onto a tree and gave up His life in love.

He came and defeated evil. We don't even want to believe that 'evil' exists, or if we do acknowledge its existence, we diminish its meaning by simply labeling an unpopular world leader as such. I read articles such as the one by Cohen this morning and I don't see a respectful and intelligent journalist. I see the product of a culture that is unwilling and unable to do anything genuinely and deeply good, and I am saddened by it. I prefer the beauty that is more deeply true than anything else. I prefer the beauty that has the power to vanquish evil. I prefer the beauty that never is satisfied by a gesture.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

All I want for Christmas . . .

. . . something with an Obama insignia on it.

Fortunately, if you donate to the DNC, you can get a T-shirt, a mug, a winter hat, or a four year calendar depending on how much you give. So, come on, how better to celebrate our capitalistically fantastic democracy than by purchasing political products?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

On a lighter note . . . kinda

Faculty Christmas Parties . . . always suspect if you're a guy: cute decorations, lots of giggling or cackling, small talk, the gift exchange. Now, I will say that they have catered a good lunch both years--today was fajitas from a local chain and they were delicious. But the gifts that are purchased are still largely with the stereotypical female teacher in mind. To their credit, they added two small pocket knives this year and a Best Buy gift card to the usual mix of hand lotions and boxes of chocolate.

And everything was going along just fine, until my turn finally arrived: #40 out of 41. Typically I would have had very low expectations and had actually been keeping my eye out for something that the wife would like, knowing that the preponderance of the formerly mentioned gifts along with this year's addition of aqua globes, ensured that there really wasn't anything that I would care about. But then it happened.

It was a magical moment. A moment divine. Somewhere around turn #37 a gift card to Barnes and Noble had been unwrapped by a Pre-K teacher--not a likely candidate for an afficionado of books and it seemed that none of the other teachers were all that interested either. 38 came and went. 39-a Shrek Chia pet (I kid you not). My number came and with a hopeful and yet triumphant stride I found my way over to said Pre-K teacher's spot and took the B&N card much to the amusement of everyone else in the room: "Who would want to buy books!? Don't you have enough of those yet?!!?" Clearly, I was among a group that knew the value of education.

Thinking that all was done when #41 showed no interest in my card I was relaxed: a full belly and an expected future purchase to add to the shelf. My reward had come.

But then, the hapless #1 was given the opportunity to select any gift that she desired. I wasn't worried: she taught kindergarten. She then called out "Okay! Who's got the gift card with the largest monetary value?" I still wasn't worried because I knew that there were gift cards out there that had more money on theirs than mine. Someone then directed her to the $10 Sonic gift card possessed by another teacher, to which she replied: "oh that'll be a great stocking stuffer!"Less than a second before taking the Sonic card, the would-be victim and another teacher cried out: "HE'S GOT $15 TO BARNES AND NOBLE!" I froze. I cried out! I stammered and sputtered. What did she want this gift card for? She clearly didn't care about it except that it had 5 more dollars on it! This is criminal! But it was too late. I tried threats. She must not have believed them. It was gone.

And did I get to choose something else at that point? No. Every other victim in the game gets an opportunity to choose a gift from among all of the options. Not so with the last one. I got whatever the thief formerly had. And what was that? A small bucket-thing of Vanilla Spice bathing products.

My consolation is two-fold: I had initially expected no better than something the wife would like and she does like vanilla scented products, and it could have been much worse . . . two words: aqua globe.

At the same time, this simply goes to reinforce and prove my thesis: faculty Christmas parties are designed with women in mind, even women that are not employed by the school.

Falling Whistles

Found this link through a blog today. Check it out. Read the story.