Weekend Update … And Beyond!!!

Stuff I did this weekend, and other links and stuff I need to blog:


Before I get into the weekend, I’ll announce that I’m hosting and playing in a Face2Face improv comedy show tonight at Sam & Greg’s on the square in downtown Huntsville at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $5. We’ve had packed crowds the last couple of weeks, and would love to see you there tonight!


My good friends Mathis and Jill Sneed came over Friday night and we watched my Blu-Ray copy of (500) Days of Summer, which I’d not seen since it was in theaters back in August. I wrote a blog at the time about the parallels between my life and Zooey Deschanel’s last two movies. It was weird watching the movie again with a bit more water under the bridge, both with and without my own “Summer.” (The amusing coincidence that we’d also had a run of 500 days is unfortunately out of date now.) But, you know, the main thing I took away from it this time is, what do I bring to people’s lives? At the end of the movie, the guy is better for having known the girl. Do I have that effect on people who come into my life?

Save Me A Saturday Night

Saturday during the day was fairly nondescript. I made it up onto the mountain for the first time in too long, which made me very happy. (I’m going again this afternoon with my discipleship partner Dave, first time we’ve done this.) I took my car to Firestone for a long, long time, getting it ready to drive down to Florida this coming weekend for the STS-131 launch. Have I mentioned I’m going to the STS-131 launch? I’m going to the STS-131 launch. Firestone, in fact, lasted for such a long, long time that I was almost late to …

The year’s second Face2Face improv show at Kenny Mango’s, which was all sorts of awesome. We had the best crowd we’ve had at Kenny’s in a long time, both in terms of size and involvement. We actually had to turn people away, and it’s been a while since we’ve done that. The show was great. It was one of our long-format shows, about an hour and a half, not counting intermission, and everyone did a great job.

After feeling like my humor barometer was completely off last month, it was very nice to feel like I had a better feel for things this time. A show like that is an amazingly rewarding experience.

And, as a bonus, I had two updates to items on The List — I talked to the singles minister at Asbury about participating in their mission trip this summer, and it turns out one of my troupemates skydives all the time, and would love to go when I do.

Blue Like Jazz

I finished reading Blue Like Jazz while I was at Firestone Saturday, and had mixed thoughts. To be honest, I didn’t care for Miller’s writing style at all. I found his simplicity pretentious at best and arrogant at worst. On the other hand, a good bit of what he had to say, I liked very much. The didn’t challenge me the way it probably would have two years ago or so, but it was still very interesting to read his fresh takes on things. Worth reading, but there are books I would recommend first.

Teach the Children

OK, I’m lousy at this whole teaching-kids thing. I went to Sojourn Sunday morning for my third round of story-telling for the kids group. This week, the story was about Judas. I’m not sure that this week was worse than last time, but it certainly wasn’t as good as the first time. And it certainly wasn’t good.

And part of that was my fault. I could have been better prepared. I’d waited for some information from the children’s leader that I didn’t get towards the end of the week, so at that point I decided to prepare on Saturday, but then, as I mentioned, Firestone took way longer than planned, and that didn’t happen. So I was still gettting ready Sunday morning. I slept poorly Saturday night, the way I did in college when I had a test that day I hadn’t studied for or a paper due that I hadn’t finished.

On the other hand, though, I’m not sure how much difference more preparation would have made. I kinda suspect I would have still felt bad about it even if I’d spent more time on it. I feel like I’m just not good at it. I do OK with groups of adults, I do OK one-on-one with kids. I can’t connect with groups of kids, though.

And that’s challenging me. I’ve taken the viewpoint over the last year or two that your area of service should be where God has gifted you. If I’m really supposed to be teaching kids, I should be better at it. I shouldn’t have to force it. When I started becoming involved in Sojourn, I made a decision that I wasn’t going to seek involvement. I’m not going to try to shoehorn myself into anything, but I’m going to be open to where people think I fit. If someone comes to me and says they think I should do something, I’ll trust that they have a better sense of my fit for the task than I do, and if it turns out they think I’m not such a great fit after all, I won’t be offended. By that, I’m supposed to be doing this. By the way I feel, I’m not. And I’m still trying to piece together which is the case.

How Was Sunday Night Different from All Other Nights?

I went to a messianic Passover seder. But I’ve already written about that. If you haven’t read it, scroll down a few entries. Good stuff.

It’s Lonely Out In Space

Someone sent me a link to something on McSweeney’s earlier today, and that and the upcoming STS-131 launch made me remember their Letter to Elton John From the Office of the NASA Administrator, part of their series of Pop-Song Correspondences. Funny stuff.

Klingon Jesus

Saw this on Twitter today: “@XIANITY: MISSIONS: With Bible translated in their own language, Klingons no longer considered an unreached people group. Qapla'”

It amused me because of my long-standing discussion about Klingon Jesus, and whether there would be a need for such. As silly as it sounds, it’s actually a pretty involved theological discussion about the incarnation of Christ and the nature of original sin. I may have to blog about it sometime, but, in the meantime, if you’re ever talking to me, feel free to ask about Klingon Jesus.

Ask Me Anything

I’m out of user-submitted questions in my formspring.me page. Ask me things. I’ll answer. I’ve also set up a Plinky account, as evidenced by the haiku a couple of posts down.

And, in other blog news, my good friend and mentor Joe Gurner now has a blog again. Read it.

All Things New

Spring is here!

I went for a hike Thursday for the first time in too long, and signs of impending spring were starting to show up along the trail.

And I’m ready for it. I’m ready for warmer weather. I’m ready to see the sun again. I’m ready for new birth, rebirth. New life.

All things new
I can start again
Creator, God
Calling me Your friend
Sing praise, my soul
To the Maker of the skies
A song will rise

I will sing a song of hope
Sing along
God of heaven come down
Heaven come down
Just to know You and be loved is enough
God of heaven come down, heaven come down

Hallelujah, sing
Hallelujah, sing
Hallelujah, sing
–Robbie Seay Band, “Song of Hope”

El Cóndor Pasa

For reasons I cannot explain
There’s some part of me wants to see Graceland,
And I may be obliged to defend
Every love every ending
Or maybe there’s no obligations now.
Maybe I’ve a reason to believe
We all will be received
In Graceland.

OK, I don’t really have any great desire to see Graceland.

But I would kind of like to hear “Graceland.”

I don’t know that I’ll get the chance, but I’m really not concerned about it. Today, I’m buying my ticket to see Simon & Garfunkel in April.

I had a conversation over a year ago about places I would want to travel, and I really didn’t have an answer as far as destinations. Part of that was that at that point I was less excited about traveling; part of it was that up to that point my life really hadn’t been conducive to it, so I hadn’t given it a lot of thought; and part of it was something that I really wasn’t able to put words to until I watched Slumdog Millionaire a few months later. It would never have occurred to me to want to go to the places in that movie; there’s no way they would have made it onto any sort of list. But if I’m ever going to travel overseas, and I do hope to someday, I want to go somewhere different. I’m less interested in what I see than what I experience. Yeah, it would be cool to see Big Ben or the Great Pyramids or the Mona Lisa in person, but I’d be less interested than seeing the reality of things I’ve seen photos of than in experiencing something totally alien to me, something that has nothing to do with my world and my life.

Now, granted, I say that as someone who, at least when it comes to other countries, has done neither. Actually seeing the Eiffel Tower may be cool in ways that I couldn’t understand until I do so, and I’m willing to acknowledge that possibility.

But, pressured during the conversation way back when to come up with an answer, I said I would want to go see Paul Simon. Not really a destination, to be sure, but something I want to do, and something that would involve travel.

I’ve been fortunate that I’ve had the chance to see most of my favorite artists in person, from U2 down to Sarah Masen. A few months before that conversation, I had the chance to see Lori McKenna, pretty much completing my list, save for Paul Simon.

I’ve had several concert-related conversations recently, and that reminded me about that discussion, and so I decided, OK, I need to get serious about doing this. And, like I said, next month, I will.

To be honest, I would have preferred to see him solo, but, you know, I’m not gonna complain about the chance to see Simon & Garfunkel together. I can live with that.

It’s already been a pretty decent year. I’ve finally seen a shuttle night launch. I’ve finally seen B.B. King do a real concert. I’ve been to the Grand Canyon. I’ve finally eaten at a Brazilian-style restaurant. All since January 1. Not bad.

I’ve never had a Bucket List, a list of stuff to do before I die. Part of that is because I’m not that imaginative — I couldn’t come up with cool things to do, and I do cooler things that I could come up with. (The Zero G flight? Yeah, never would have dared dream that one. I road the Goliath roller coaster at Six Flags just the year before the flight, and firmly believed that would be as close to weightlessness as I would ever get.)

But the B.B. King concert and the Brazilian lunch come close; those have both been things I’ve been interested in for years. The shuttle launch in general had been a long-standing goal, but I crossed that off last May, and the night launch had only been a goal since then. The Grand Canyon was just completely lagniappe.

The last year of my life, and particularly 2010, however, have made me start thinking a little bit more about the idea of a bucket list. Like I said, I’ve never really been one to dream big, and part of that is because there are so many reasons not to do the cool things. In the last year, though, I’ve started finding out what happens if you stop letting those things stop you.

So what do I populate that list with? The trick is, I want them to be things I want to do, and I want them to be doable. I would love to visit the space station, but I’m not going to put that on the list, because realistically there’s a decent chance it’s not going to happen. And I don’t want to populate the list with things that I don’t really expect to do; it would make it easier to write off the others as well. The trick is to know what’s a reasonable constraint, and what’s just naysaying and fear.

I want to, and will, see Paul Simon.

I want to skydive. (I think — back in October, I found I was unable to jump from a rope swing into a lake. For some reason, I think skydiving would be easier, but that may be stupid.) It would be a cool experience, and it’s something I could realistically do.

I want to go on an overnight hiking trip. I’ve started hiking in the past year, but the Walls of Jericho is the most “serious” hiking I’ve done, and that’s really pretty low-end. I want to do something that is really a different type of experience from what I’ve been doing.

On the far end, I want to leave the country. I have no idea what that looks like yet, so it’s not officially on the list. I’ve been thinking about a foreign mission trip, but feel like I need a greater call before doing that. I’d be interested in doing a Carribean cruise at some point, but that’s still a ways off, and depending on where it goes, don’t know if that would qualify as adequately “foreign.” So this one’s still in development.

So there’s the very rough beginnings of thinking about a list.

What’s on yours?

Weekend Update

OK, been a while since I’ve done a Weekend Update, but also been a while since I’ve had a weekend sufficiently varied to merit it. I’ve had some good weekends lately, to be sure, but they’ve generally been single-topic, a la the improv update or the STS-130 trip, or none of your business, or both. 😉

I left work Friday and went for a quick hike, and then to Milton Frank Stadium, where I’d never been before. Ironically, the first time this Huntsville High School alum set foot in Milton Frank, it was to cheer for the Lee High School girls soccer team. A friend of mine from church is in her first year coaching the team, and so I stopped by to watch them. I picked a good game to go to — they won for the first time. I didn’t get to stay for the whole game, but I did get to see them score three times. A fun brief excursion, and it was great fun cheering for the Lee girls..

From there, I had a great dinner, getting to know a good friend better. God has brought many new characters into my life over the past year, and they’ve been a real blessing to me.

Saturday was largely lazy and unproductive, which was awesome. The highlight of the day was a concert that night. I knew of Michelle Malone from three songs she’d done with Garrison Starr, whom I like much, and knew she lived in the area and frequently did shows around here, but had never made it to one before. When I saw Friday that she was playing Flying Monkey Saturday night, I contacted some friends and made plans to go. The show was amazing. It was basically just her with a guitar and harmonica (and occassionally tamborine and percussion shaker back-up), but she filled the room. You could easily forget it wasn’t a full band; I very much want to go back for one of her full-band shows just to see what it would be like. The songs I knew were Tighten Up The Springs and Miss Miss’ippi, but there was plenty of other good stuff as well. Check her out.

Sunday morning, I got up early to go to church. I was kind of excited about it; actually gettting to go to the service at Sojourn has been the exception this year, between working with kids on Sunday mornings and being out of town. I got there early to help set up beforehand. While we were setting up, someone commented on how great a day it was supposed to be; I lamented that my plans involved me being indoors the entire time. After we finished setting up, a guy who has recently started coming to our Wednesday night Bible study Journey Group asked if I would want to go with him to get a biscuit before church. On the way, we started talking about some stuff he’s dealing with, and started talking about some of my story, and the conversation continued after we got back. And continued, and continued. Finally, it became obvious that we weren’t going to the service, and so we decided to migrate the conversation to the hiking trail. And, wow. So very cool sharing a literal walk with someone with whom I kind of share a spiritual walk. Great time of sharing stories and ministering to each other. Definitely a feeling of being where I was supposed to be when I was supposed to be. At the end of it, we prayed together, and I prayed for him that God do something that day to reassure Him about where he’s supposed to be. Considered praying the same for me, but realized that He just had.

So, amazing church that morning. Someday I hope to actually make it to a service again.

After that, I got an e-mail from my pastor (different congregation) asking if I would want to play disc golf. And so I did. So after bemoaning the fact that I was going to have to spend the day indoors, I got to both hike and play disc golf, so not bad at all.

From there to a housewarming/birthday party for a good friend; it was an honor to be able to be a part of celebrating the occassion.

Weekend concluded with Alice In Wonderland, which was entertaining. It was probably about what I expected in the Depp/Burton weirdness department, but it was a fun romp nonetheless, and pretty visually spectacular in 3D. That said, I am SO looking forward to Tron Legacy. I mean, like, inordinately so.

Stripes of Snow

Yep, more 365project reject pictures. I liked my picture for yesterday better as a photograph, but these capture something that intrigued me as I was hiking yesterday — all the trees in the first part of the hike had a neat stripe of snow down one side. Why? I don’t know. But it was pretty.

Ruach Hako’desh

This is the latest in my series of blog entries taking a fresh look at a variety of topics over the next year. I’ve set up a page on the blog explaining the project and linking to my entries.

“And the three men I admire the most, the Father, Son and that other guy …”

It seems a lot of times that’s how Christians view the Holy Spirit. Oh, sure, He gets mentioned sometimes, always last in some songs and creeds. You get baptized “in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” In the Doxology, we “praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.”

But while there are plenty of songs to or about the Father, or to or about Jesus, the Holy Spirit doesn’t get many hymns of His own. He really is just sort of the other member of the Trinity.

Which is sort of ironic, in a way. On the one hand, it kind of makes sense. He doesn’t play the same sort of role in the Bible. He’s never quoted. The Father and Jesus show up, walk around, eat, talk, hang out, do miracles, all that sort of stuff. The Holy Spirit comes and fills people and places with His presence. Just not quite as sexy, you know? So it’s no wonder His Q score isn’t as high.

On the other hand, though, while He doesn’t say anything in the Bible, if you hear God speaking to you personally, yeah, it’s probably coming through the Holy Spirit. So, like I said, ironic — we’re more focused on the aspects of the Trinity that spoke to Moses and Paul than to the one that speaks to us. Why? Perhaps the words given to Moses and Paul are easier for us to hear and to listen to.

To be honest, this has been the hardest of the posts so far for me to work on. I’ve been putting it of all week, hoping that by today I would have something to say. I dedicated my hike this morning to seeking insight in what to write. Part of that is because I’m very much in the middle of this one. Several of the topics on the list are ones I’ve been deconstructing over the past couple of years, so they’re going to come pretty easily. Wait until we get to “the rite of communion.” Depending on how deep I want to get, that could easily be the longest post I’ve ever written. I’ve taken that one apart and put it back together constantly over the last couple of years. The Holy Spirit? Heh. Read my last blog post. I’m very much knee deep in that one at the moment. Ask me in a month or two, I may have something different today. But the prompt came for this week, and I’m writing it this week.

The one bit of rethinking of the Holy Spirit that I have done in the last year or two is having been challenged with the idea that the Holy Spirit does not convict us of sin. It’s one of those things that we just take for granted — if you asked people what the Holy Spirit does, for a lot of them, convicting us of sin would be pretty high in His job description. But supporting that with scripture? Well, that’s an interesting issue. I’m not saying it can’t be done, I’m just saying I haven’t taken the time to find support for it yet. Instead, what I have found is that the Holy Spirit convicts us of righteousness. He reminds us who we are.

In some ways, it’s similar. When we go astray, He confronts us about it. But the argument is that, rather than pointing out our failures, He points out that we’re better than that. Picture a student who has failed a test he “should have” passed. A parent could berate the child and punish him. Or a parent could say, I know you can do this. What happened? God doesn’t need to convict us of our sin. Since the fall, since Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, we’ve carried that ability within ourselves. We’re self-policing. We just choose to ignore that fact sometimes. We choose to ignore who we are, who we should and could be. When we do, the Holy Spirit reminds us.

I’m not saying I’ve completely drunk that Kool-Ade. I’m just saying it’s an interesting argument I’m still considering.

Another fact that I was reminded of in meditating on this blog entry is that I’m not, technically, the Holy Spirit. Oh, sure, sometimes I would like to be, but it seems that the position is full, and that they’re not hiring for it at the moment.

Now, I believe fully that the Holy Spirit can work through other people. If He can speak to a person, He can speak through a person. And I’ve had that happen numerous times recently — people have given me a word that was given them for me by God. Heck, I think I may have had it happen in the last couple of hours. And, conversely, there have been times the opposite has been true. I’ve been given something to say that was a message for someone else. And it’s an incredible honor to be used in that capacity. In some ways, that’s unfortunate, because there can be a temptation to seek that privilege, to take it upon ourselves to serve as the Holy Spirit in someone’s life, rather than serving as the tool of the Holy Spirit. And, really, that’s not such a good idea. Again, a fault I probably have lapsed into during the past week. Sorry.

The other thing that came out of my hike was a meditation on the different ways He speaks to us, which has definitely been a journey for me over the past couple of years. To be honest, me three years ago would probably think me today is crazy. But oh well. I’ve never had Him speak to me in dreams, but I’ve seen it happen. Someone was telling me about a friend who gets mental pictures, and was trying to figure out whey she didn’t. I said I figured it was an individual dispensation, that I didn’t either; only to realize that I did — once. I used to listen primarily to providence and circumstance, and now try to avoid as much as possible relying on those. Occasionally He uses the weather with me, but generally just when He’s showing off. I’ve never heard an actual audible voice, and am jealous of those who have. I don’t begin to understand the whole idea of prayer languages, but have been open to the idea that the lack of understanding is my fault — and then heard a story over lunch today that pretty much sold me on that. Still kinda glad it’s not my gifting, though.

At this point, I wish I had a good conclusion or wrap up or parting thought. But I don’t. Like I said, I’m still working through this one.

Uh, the end?

“The best apologetic for a Christian is the Holy Spirit” — Patrick Collins

Come The Storm

Photo by Tom McCay, courtesy of Bonnie Redmond

It was beautiful all day at work. I knew it had been supposed to rain, but it had been really nice when I went out to lunch, and when I left the office, it appeared that not a drop of rain had fallen.

I’d had an interesting discussion during/after Journey Group last night (probably another future post) and had come across some interesting and related reading since, and really wanted to go for a hike. And it appeared that it was going to be a great day for it, so I headed toward the mountain.

Right before I got there, I ran into the first signs that it might be something other than a beautiful day. Not much, just a few raindrops hitting the window. I almost turned back. If I’d known what the weather was going to do, I would have. But, as it was, I figured I’d take my chances. Worst case scenario, I get drenched and have to change clothes before the play that night. It’s not uncommon for me to go for walks in the rain, but I’ve never hiked in the rain before. Might be an interesting, if muddy, experience.

As it happened, I didn’t get to find out. There was thunder in the distance at various points during the hike, which made for a couple of interesting prayer moments, but not a drop of rain fell on me during the entire hike.

To be on the safe side, I had left my iPhone in the car in case I did get drenched, so I was incommunicado the entire time. As I was coming back, I did see an odd-shaped cloud over the mountain that looked like it had a cylindrical section sticking down, but I could only see the top part of it, so didn’t really think that much of it.

It wasn’t until afterwards when I was talking to a friend who mentioned matter-of-factly that her husband had seen the tornado blow a roof of a house that I found out what had happened while I’d been on the mountain.