Sitemeter

December 31, 2008

Some of you have noticed that I’ve added Sitemeter to my blog (courtesy of my friend, Emily).  I’m astonished, amazed, and a little creeped-out at just how much information you can access about other people’s Internet usage.  For a blog stats junkie like myself, this is a lot of fun.  

 

12-31-08 World Map

As you can see from the map (provided by Sitemeter), people in Central Europe are fans of my work…at least in the last few hours.  Ha!


A Good Read

December 31, 2008

2008 has brought about, among other things, my own personal reading renaissance.  My aversion to reading has been overcome by an insatiable need to be in-the-know.  Using an RSS feed reader (Google Reader, to be precise) has made it easier to keep up with what’s going on in the world.  Though I subscribed and unsubscribed to about 120 different sites in the past 6 months, I’ve found that keeping my feeds near 50 is most manageable.  Here’s a list of what I’m currently reading:

 

CHURCH

 

SPORTS

 

TECH

 

YOUTH MINISTRY

 

YOUTH CULTURE

 

FRIENDS

 

NEWS

 

What are you reading these days?  Any suggestions for godsnowhere readers?

Happy New Year!


Oops, My Bad

December 31, 2008

Don’t you just love the feeling of a prediction coming true?  Hidden in the fine print of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs must be the “I Told You So” corollary.  A lot of this has to do with our own insecurities of being *gasp* wrong.  We all know people who will brag endlessly over something they correctly anticipated…even something as insignificant or random as, “I betcha gas prices will go up next week.”

So what happens when you’re a national sports writer?  Their job in covering the world of sports is to be salacious enough to pique reader interest, but solid enough to make salient points.  Thanks to the folks at Real Clear Sports, we have a list of the Top 10 Erroneous Sports Columns of 2008.

  1. The Patriots will win the Super Bowl (they lost to the Giants)
  2. The Mets won’t collapse again (they did)
  3. The Rays won’t make the playoffs (they made it to the World Series)
  4. The Falcons screwed up picking Matt Ryan #3 (he’s the offensive rookie of the year)
  5. The Lakers will win the NBA title (they lost to the Celtics)
  6. Donovan McNabb’s time in Philadelphia is over (he’s in the playoffs)
  7. Kobe Bryant won’t win the MVP (he won it easily)
  8. Drew Brees will break Dan Marino’s passing record (he was 15 yards short)
  9. World Series will be an all-time “classic” (it sucked)
  10. Tony Romo’s broken finger will actually help the Cowboys (they sucked)

The good news (or Good News) is that even people who say stupid things about other people can be forgiven.


Can’t We All Just Get Along?

December 30, 2008

I’ve been putting off writing an article for about 3 months.  The working title is “The New Ecumenism”, which will outline how I think the emerging church conversation can cultivate a real ecumenical environment for a new generation of Christians.  I hope to get around to writing it at some point.  

In the meantime, here’s an interesting article, written by Jonathan Brink, that touches on this very topic.

If anything stood out in Tickle’s book, it was this: The Protestant movement chose divorce instead of reconciliation. We just could not find a way to agree to disagree without separating. And we’re reaping the costs now.

 

What would it look like to participate in a movement that said, “No more,” to the idea of divorce? What would it look like to work through the issues in a way that allowed us to agree to disagree? What would it look like to expand the use of Scripture as just one of the many ways God speaks to us, and include the Holy Spirit, our community, and creation as part of this process? What would it look like to have a generative conversation that allowed a Catholic, an Anglican, a Protestant, and a Greek Orthodox to sit in the same room with a Bible and discover what brings us together, this amazing person named Jesus, as opposed to what separates us?

I can’t change what happened in the church’s past, but I can participate in creating a new story for our children. I can choose to love my neighbor even when we disagree. I can sit with my brothers and sisters and participate in a faith expression that rises above the traditional labels; one that finds the best in each in a way that reveals love.

And that is why I have hope.

Though Brink and I disagree with the subtleties of the post-Reformation understanding of sola scriptura, I like what he has to say about the Protestant propensity to divide rather than unite…and how 21st century Christians are working to change that tendency.


Intellectual Honesty

December 28, 2008

While on the phone with my sister, Krista, she mentioned that she was hanging out with her old college roommate.  A few minutes into the chat, I hear Vickie reading something aloud in the background.  Apparently it was an op-ed piece from her hometown newspaper that questioned her “intellectual honesty”.  

 

Vickie Salmon, choir director for the Osceola Middle and High School, is to be commended for the amazing ability she has to draw on and organize the talents of the students under her charge. Tuesday’s middle school concert was another example of the result of the training and discipline she instills in her students. The expressions on their faces, as she led them through each number, testified to their respect for her and their performance displayed their improving singing skills.

My question to the educators in the district, however, deals with the topic of intellectual honesty. The choir program was entitled “Christmas Program.” Without a calendar I would have a hard time recognizing it as a Christmas program.

Yes, Alvin and the Chipmunks made their appearance, and there were “Silver Bells” but the historical purpose of Christmas was not recognized. We had a Japanese Snow Song, and African Noel (I suppose that was French Africa?) and a wonderful patriotic song “Unsung Hero” we’ve heard before and, as far as I am concerned, we could hear at every remaining concert this year.

The sixth grade did a medley that was titled “AwayIn A Manger/Dona Nobis Pacem” and did it well. My listening ear did not hear anything about a manger, the birth of Christ, a star in the sky or lowing cattle. The historic reason behind “Away In A Manger” had been erased and the lyrics rewritten.

The other medley song was sung in Latin and subtitled, “Grant Us Peace.”

“Gloria in Excelsis Deo” another song in Latin, was well done, but it is likely that to most of the audience the melody was more familiar than the significance.

Whether a person is spiritually interested in Christ, Christianity or the Reason for the Season, intellectual honesty would acknowledge that the origin of Christmas references the birth of a person some believe to be God. His reason for coming is believed by these same people to be to pay the penalty for man’s sinfulness, without which man cannot renew fellowship with God. It was a miraculous birth whose parents were God, the Father, and Mary, a mortal, and astrologers from as far away as the East spent two years tracking an unknown Star to locate this God-man.

Certainly something in a “Christmas” concert should reflect that, especially in a public school.

We ask our educators to be accountable for the progress students are to make in reading and math each year. Is it any less reasonable to expect accuracy in the teaching of an historical event? To do anything less is to leave our children ignorant.

 

Ugh.

This article is short-sighted on many levels.  For starters, a “Christmas Concert” is a time to perform seasonal music literature from a wide variety of genres and nationalities.  From all accounts, Vickie did an excellent job in this regard.  A vocal music concert is NOT the time for all aspects of a curriculum to be put on display…if that were the expectation, the concerts would last for days.  How do we know Vickie didn’t teach students about Christmas traditions during class time?  Just because the Christmas story wasn’t articulated in the concert doesn’t mean she has chosen to “leave our children ignorant”. 

It seems that the nameless author of this piece is asking for the Christmas Concert to also function as a history lesson AND a public service announcement for the audience about the origins of Christmas.  I’m not sure what this would accomplish, other than to lengthen a concert and blur the lines between religious and secular organizations.  A public school music concert is neither a necessary nor an appropriate forum to educate those gathered on what “Christmas is all about”.  If members of the community require an additional understanding of Christmas, I’m sure one of the nine churches in the greater-Osceola area would be happy to enlighten them. 

I also can’t believe the author would take exception to the erasure of the “historic reason behind ‘Away in a Manger'” by swapping out the original text with the Latin for “Grant us peace, Lord”.  The text of this particular Christmas song (along with “We Three Kings”) is one of the least accurate carols in the Christian tradition.  Hardly any of the lyrics in “Away in a Manger” come from scripture; nor is there any historical basis for the events that are described.  Is there any authoritative source that indicates Jesus didn’t cry as a newborn?  Or that cattle were present in the stable?  Or that the stars were looking down on Jesus.  At best, “Away” is a cute lullaby / bedtime prayer…but it’s certainly not something that is a bedrock of Christmas history or tradition.

I have lots of other issues with the article…but I think I’ve covered the big ones.  It’s so discouraging to read a piece that not only lacks what it accuses Vickie of needing – intellectual honesty – and also demonstrates something far more sinister from a 100+ year old news publication — intellectual laziness.  I hope the people of Osceola express their support for Vickie’s pedagogy and for the Christmas Concert offered by the chorus students at Osceola Middle and High Schools.


Did You Know?

December 28, 2008

The fam spent much of the day in our Hyundai Elantra going to & from Osage, IA.  The kids traveled pretty well, for the most part.  While they were watching a movie in the back seat, Allison and I came up with a new version of a game my parents used to play on road trips.  Back in the day, when my sisters and I were listening to our Walkman’s and filling out our Mad Libs books in the back of the van, my mom would read Trivial Pursuit cards to my dad.  As we got older, they would occasionally ask the kids some of the questions they thought we would be able to answer. 

Anyway, with the use of my Blackberry Curve and an unlimited data plan, Allison found a random assortment of trivia questions on various websites.  It was a lot of fun…something I’m sure we’ll do on future trips.  One question that stuck with me all day, as we drove past 300+ miles of farmland, was:

 

What percentage of the cost of produce goes to the farmers —  5%, 15%, 25%?

Sadly, the correct answer was 5%.  

 

*Sighs*


The Year of Living Simply

December 27, 2008

I’ve always been a big New Year’s Resolutions guy.  I think this goes back to my early understanding of baptism.  New Year’s Resolutions, like baptism, give us a fresh perspective on the way we go about our life.  I’m also really good at breaking these Resolutions…in part because I lack discipline, and also because I usually come up with them as I’m watching football in my PJ’s on New Year’s Day.  This year I’m going to try putting a little more thought into the process, in the hopes of keeping my resolutions afloat past Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

A few years ago, Allison painted a little sign that says

LIVE SIMPLY THAT OTHERS MAY SIMPLY LIVE

With that in mind, I’ve decided to call 2009 “The Year of Living Simply”.  Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

 

Utilize the Internet – 2008 has been my own personal period of enlightenment of how Web 2.0 can simplify various aspects of life.  I hope that in the coming year I can make a practical application of these new amenities.  Some of my favorites thus far include Google Reader, Twitter, Kraft Food & Family, Freecycle, and Rethinking Youth Ministry.  I’m sure there are others that will emerge in the future.

Daily Trips to the Grocery Store – I’m the appointed grocery shopper for the family.  I kinda like going to the supermarket, so this isn’t a problem for me.  My current routine is to go once every 7-10 days and fill the cart with the same kinds of foods every week.  Sometimes I make a list…usually I just get what I normally get.  Eggs…bread…mac-n-cheese…lots of produce…frozen pizza…4 gallons of milk…etc.  However, this way of doing things causes certain items to pile up in the pantry / fridge at home.  I think I need to be more intentional with buying MEALS instead of just going with the usual items.  I work 3 blocks away from a Hy-Vee, a Sam’s Club, and a Wal-Mart.  I live less than 1 mile away from another Hy-Vee.  It’s convenient, and it might cause me to be smarter about what I buy and what we actually eat.

Use Coupons When Eating Out – My grandparents just gave me their “Entertainment” coupon book for 2009.  I get a stack of coupons mailed to me at least once a week.  Almost every restaurant has coupons you can print from their website.  Most places I go to will have special discounts on certain foods and / or drinks.  I’m going to play a little game with myself and not pay full menu price for any pre-prepared food in 2009.  This will obviously save me a little coin, and would also cause me to be more intentional about where & what I eat when I’m out-and-about.

On-Line Bill Pay – I do this for a few regular expenses, but I think it’s time to do it with all of them.  It keeps me from worrying if I forgot to pay this bill or that bill…it will save me about $6 / month in stamps…and I won’t have to buy checks anymore.

Embrace Rituals – this is a big one for me.  I’ve entered a phase in my life where routines are imposed on me like never before.  Kids have to be at school by 8:50 every morning…writing projects have deadlines…meetings and events at church are locked into a predictable schedule.  Instead of seeing these reoccurring events as hindrances, perhaps I could see them as bringing balance and order into my life.  It causes me to think of other rituals I could take on.

  • Wake up early and read the paper (on-line, of course)
  • Drink coffee at home instead of on-the-go
  • Pack a lunch
  • Read scripture / pray at 11:00 daily
  • Hit the gym before coming home
  • Eat family meals around 6:00
  • Read stories to the kids before going to bed
  • Do any writing between 9 – 11:30 pm…no earlier; no later

This is all stuff I do, but not with any regularity or consistency.  I could use a little more structure in my daily routines.

 

That’s what I’ve come up with…for now.  It’s still a work in progress.  Hopefully this new perspective on life will not only simplify my day-to-day, but might make a small difference somewhere else in the world.  Do any of you have other ways that you are striving to “live simply”?