Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Politics as usual

Yesterday was another election day.  I find myself trying to avoid most of the coverage to avoid facing the disconnect between our national leadership and the people getting up everyday and getting it done.

But here are some quick quotes to make me feel better (it's nothing new, GK Chesterton, 1910ish):
What I have lost is my old childlike faith in practical politics. I am still as much concerned as ever about the Battle of Armageddon; but I am not so much concerned about the General Election. As a babe I leapt up on my mother's knee at the mere mention of it. No; the vision is always solid and reliable. The vision is always a fact. It is the reality that is often a fraud. As much as I ever did, more than I ever did, I believe in Liberalism. But there was a rosy time of innocence when I believed in Liberals.

And here's the closing of an argument of two political parties proposing to paint something red or green -
Nearly all the great newspapers, both pompous and frivolous, will declare dogmatically day after day, until every one half believes it, that red and green are the only two colours in the paint-box. THE OBSERVER will say: "No one who knows the solid framework of politics or the emphatic first principles of an Imperial people can suppose for a moment that there is any possible compromise to be made in such a matter; we must either fulfil our manifest racial destiny and crown the edifice of ages with the august figure of a Green Premier, or we must abandon our heritage, break our promise to the Empire, fling ourselves into final anarchy, and allow the flaming and demoniac image of a Red Premier to hover over our dissolution and our doom." The DAILY MAIL would say: "There is no halfway house in this matter; it must be green or red. We wish to see every honest Englishman one colour or the other." And then some funny man in the popular Press would star the sentence with a pun, and say that the DAILY MAIL liked its readers to be green and its paper to be read. But no one would even dare to whisper that there is such a thing as yellow.

Monday, October 7, 2013

What's in a Name - Washington Redskins

The hubbub over the NFL Washington Redskins name being offensive is gaining momentum.

Truly it is a remnant from a different age.  Culture no longer wishes to cling to offensive antiquated labels that don't apply.  It may bring back outdated mental images of people in a different culture sitting around, drinking and being dependent upon a check or food to show up without any work; because somehow it is owed to them.  It is an offensive caricature to bring up.  Let the name die as we grow to care for each other as human beings, as people rather than to just see groups.

I'm coming to agree the name should be changed.  The team should probably relocate for a clean break too.

Richmond Redskins sounds much better.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

On the cause of Saint Gill - Patron Saint of Hipsters

I am a fan of GK Chesterton.  The sky is blue.  Dogs love sticks.

Now that the basics are out of the way I wanted to spell out some thoughts on the recent momentum in the push for Chesterton to become a saint.  The momentum?  There was an announcement from a Bishop that a cleric is being sought to begin the investigation to opening a cause for GK Chesterton.

My initial gut feel was "ugh.  Why?"

I hate to work backwards (having an ends before the logic), but I initially didn't like the idea, and then started to figure out - why? OR why not?

Part of me wonders if his being labelled a Catholic saint would raise walls for the general reader.  The title of Saint would bring with it the whole baggage of the Catholic church.  Chesterton was a profound writer of poetry, fiction and non-fiction.  If canonized, does he get labelled as simply a writer of "Catholic stuff".  It's very easy to say I don't want to read "Catholic stuff", I want to read a good story or a good defense of faith with reason, enough for an unreasonable world.  It is an ignorant view that is clinging to a stereotype; but these walls from the outside in were my concern.

I am not Catholic.  I have had a handful of wonderful and thoughtful conversations with some Catholics about faith elements and getting past into some of the basics of the Catholic church.  These conversations were incredibly enlightening and lead me to believe that the Catholic church, along with most other church bodies, has a terrible PR firm.  They and their beliefs are not understood well.  Truly God cares about the heart and not the image.  He wants the ruddy David and while the people seek the strong/tall Saul.  Truth doesn't need a PR firm.

As I was questioning my gut, I did some reading on what it means to be a Catholic saint.  Whatever my preconceived notion was, it was wrong.  From some research I found that a "saint" is confirmed to be in Heaven (the miracles are proof of being in Heaven and the candidates intercession in prayer), while on earth they had a life that exuded some level of favor (holiness) from God.  I fully believe GKC is in Heaven and while on earth he had some grace that set him apart. 

So at the basics it is a non-issue.

I'm in favor of it until I talk to some Catholics.  This is a broad brush I am about to paint with.  I feel the need to point to the target of my concern without pointing to all Catholics.  Bring out the Catho-tons. 

Catho-tons are eager to claim Chesterton as Catholic to the point that he was nothing else.  That is the start of the trouble; his writing is wonderful, why not claim it?  They work to label it as Catholic more than let it shine as Truth.  As if every word written by such a prolific writer was because he was Catholic and every word is Catholic teachings.  His sole motivation was the Roman Catholic Church. 

It forces me to ask:  Was he motivated by the RCC or the Truths that God revealed to him?  Are those truths exclusively Catholic?  If he never took the later life plunge into RCC would they be less true?  Is the Catholic cross different from the cross of Christ?

They are busy building the wall that my gut was worried about.  I was worried about a wall built from the outside and Catho-tons have built it from the inside.

I'm not sure any doctrine or church statement would point to a piece like The Ethics of Elfland.  Certainly it would lack the eloquence.  Where as Elfland certainly does shine the light of truth onto the church.  It provides the color to the paint-by-number of church doctrine.  But God speaks the color where as the doctrine can only try to define it by setting its edges.

 So was it God's irrepressible truth that stirred Chesterton to that piece?
Was it the Roman Catholic church that inspired him to fill in the gap?

The Catho-ton says his witty speaking of truth is Catholic, I'm saying his witty speaking is of Truth.

There is a prayer card that has been circulated:

The line that raises my hackles is "his lifelong devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary".  GKC joined the Roman Catholic church in 1922 and his wife joined him in 1926.  Prior to this he attended an Anglican church with his wife.  From a few accounts there was much tension over this.  To call him a lifelong Catholic is a very Calvinistic view (once Catholic, always Catholic?).  It does not follow that to be with Frances he had to be Anglican; when they met he was not a believer.  The RCC could be claimed as a final destination of his faith, but the Anglican church was not a prison to appease his wife, at the minimum it was a stepping stone.  Since being saved, he certainly always had a regard for Mary (as all Christians should and generally do); but he was not immediately a Catholic as his own words state in his "Autobiography" - " reckless course in becoming a Christian, an orthodox Christian, and finally a Catholic in the sense of a Roman Catholic."

He was catholic from his first day of faith and Catholic in his later life.  I'd rather not confuse the two.

I have no issues with GKC being recognized as a saint.  I doubt he would approve, but few saints would (it is neither proof nor dis-proof).  My concern is still there.  His logic is relentless, his writing overflows with seeing joy in the mysterious.  He was a craftsman with words.

 I think the world would be a better place if it would read more GK Chesterton.  I state that with the belief that all conviction and conversion is the work of the Holy Spirit. 

He adeptly makes points of God's beauty, that I fall short, and I need Jesus.  In his published arguments with Blatchford he replied to "What do you mean by the word Christianity?" with - "The belief that a certain human being whom we call Christ stood to a certain superhuman Being whom we call God in a certain unique transcendental relation which we call sonship."

Catho-tons think "the world would be a better place if it were more Catholic."  I was at a Chesterton Society meeting where that was said - not sought Jesus more, or enjoyed the family more, it needs to be more Catholic.

The best example I can find of this are some comments by Dale Ahlquist.  He is president of the American Chesterton Society.  Their official press release contains the following:

G.K. Chesterton’s prophetic writings are being embraced by a new generation who are drawn to his eloquent defense of the Catholic faith, of the traditional family, the sanctity of life, and economic justice. He is known for his great wit, humility, and profound Catholic joy. He was a major influence on such figures on Archbishop Fulton Sheen, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Dorothy Day, and Jorge Luis Borges. “I think he is very much a saint for our time and could draw many people into the Catholic Church,” Ahlquist added.
I'm not bashing Dale, it may have been a passing comment in the midst of an interview, and I'm straining gnats.  Chesterton was a spiritual hipster, he defended faith before it was Catholic.  He draws people to Jesus, not just the Catholic Church.  In my readings of GKC I see much that appeals to the masses and much less that appeals to the Mass.

 I really have no issue with GKC being recognized by the RCC as a Saint.  I think I would gladly send my children to The Chesterton Academy (there is one in Minnesota), I might send them to St. Gilbert's School, and as I sit currently I would never send my child to St. Gilbert's Catholic School.

There is nothing on the face of the action that is unsettling.  It is the Catho-ton defenses that stir me.  I struggle with ears straining to hear them proclaiming how we share common ground and only hear all ground being claimed as Roman Catholic. 

If becoming a Saint makes Chesterton less catholic (universal) and only Catholic - I for one am opposed.  I don't want to say one individual is larger than a long church tradition and should be held with higher regard than the denomination.  Yet certain individuals stand out beyond the Christian tradition to which they are a part - Thomas Aquinas, CS Lewis, John Wesley, George MacDonald, GK Chesterton. 

Now one week out I am in favor of it. Strongly.

I think the Catholic church might become more catholic.  As the average church member hears the rumblings of the news they may have to wrestle with the hailstorm that is Gilbert Keith Chesterton.

If the declaration of Sainthood on Chesterton, with all his wit, can nudge the Catholic church to talk to people how GKC did:  to enjoy communion with his fellow man in the pew, and beer with the cabman in the street; to battle the strongest minds with logic, top to bottom, and still present grace and love.  He didn't need a committee or a drive to reach out to people.  He saw their passion and their sense, their love and their loyalty; and he admired them for it.

Please mark him as a Saint and celebrate a feast.  Study his volumes of writing and dwell in the poetic prose.  Wrestle with the paradox.  But do not take away the cigar smoking, cheese eating, beer drinking, raucous personality that he was. 

"Do not free a camel of the burden of his hump, lest you free him of being a camel."


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Inside the Art and "Beyond the Frame" - Andy Gullahorn's newest album

I've been a fan of Andy Gullahorn for about 4 years.

He is a singer/songwriter in Nash-Vegas TN.  I initially became aware of him as a "Captain Courageous" who tours frequently with Andrew Peterson.  He has some of his own albums (why do we still call them albums?) out there and just released "Beyond the Frame".

I am a big fan of his work.  I think he is one of the absolute best singers for delivery of a complex truth in a simple way.  He doesn't try to do too much with a song.  Similar to the parables being able to offend your common sense (who sells all that they own for a piece of land?) his songs hammer a point.  Some might bother you.  He lets you sit being bothered; he lets the silence speak to you.

Andy is also a master with humor.  Many songs draw out a chuckle or smile and then the point is driven home while my guard is down.

I've heard a few of his songs live at Hutchmoot and am very excited for his playing at Center Presbyterian Church in Grove City this Friday (8/23/13).  His stage presence has the listener on the edge of his seat wondering - "will this story be incredibly funny or make me cry?  Either way I'll enjoy it." 

I've had "Beyond the Frame" available to my ears for a few days now and wanted to put my thoughts to digital paper.

It is very different from his previous work and I like it.  From the start it has a different sound; a different vibe might be a better way to say it.  It plays slower and is more insightful.  There is notable piano in some songs which he had not included before.  In some of the songs (I Will, Nowhere to be Found) the intro offers a sense of the mood before the rhythm is established.  It actually feels like the mood of each song carries it more than the lyric/melody combination.

If you're familiar with his earlier works don't despair, "Skinny Jeans" and "Flash in the Pan" delivers that sense of laughter from a guy in the middle that Andy is so adept at.  It reminds me of "More of a Man" or "Nobody Wants to Work" yet makes me laugh to the level of "Workin' Man".

So I highly recommend the album.  It's a roller coaster that is worth the ride. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

GK Chesterton on Modern Authority

I was searching for a quote and came across this from A Miscellany of Men:

All our commissions, petitions, and letters to the papers are asking whether these authorities can give an account of their stewardship. And at the same moment all our laws are decreeing that they shall not give any account of their stewardship, but shall become yet more irresponsible stewards. Bills like the Feeble-Minded Bill and the Inebriate Bill (very appropriate names for them) actually arm with scorpions the hand that has chastised the Malatestas and Maleckas with whips. The inspector, the doctor, the police sergeant, the well-paid person who writes certificates and "passes" this, that, or the other; this sort of man is being trusted with more authority, apparently because he is being doubted with more reason. In one room we are asking why the Government and the great experts between them cannot sail a ship. In another room we are deciding that the Government and experts shall be allowed, without trial or discussion, to immure any one's body, damn any one's soul, and dispose of unborn generations with the levity of a pagan god. We are putting the official on the throne while he is still in the dock.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Lights and sources

(I was clearing out my "draft" folder of posts.  This was inside and was developed far enough to pass along)

I was reading The Riddle of Joy and was struck by one of the essayists thoughts on CS Lewis.  Lewis had a friend who was driven to insanity by strange inward mental/spiritual focusses.  After this Lewis never dwelt nor dabbled into the realm of focussing inward.

It drove me to an epiphany (and I'm sure there is a pity and clever way to state it) - the inner light is only a reflection of the outer lightsource.

I was digging into the depths of that thought and checked what my buddy may have said regarding these new waters.  It turns out that GK Chesterton had sounded the depths before:

Of all conceivable forms of enlightenment the worst is what these people call the Inner Light. Of all horrible religions the most horrible is the worship of the god within. Any one who knows any body knows how it would work; any one who knows any one from the Higher Thought Centre knows how it does work. That Jones shall worship the god within him turns out ultimately to mean that Jones shall worship Jones.  Let Jones worship the sun or moon, anything rather than the Inner Light; let Jones worship cats or crocodiles, if he can find any in his street, but not the god within. Christianity came into the world firstly in order to assert with violence that a man had not only to look inwards, but to look outwards, to behold with astonishment and enthusiasm a divine company and a divine captain.  The only fun of being a Christian was that a man was not left alone with the Inner Light, but definitely recognized an outer light, fair as the sun, clear as the moon, terrible as an army with banners.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

VBS - Oh, What a Night

Becky & I help out here and there at VBS and had some of the older youth for service projects and such.  We had a pretty good night and as things were drawing to a close and kids are heading out with parents I was called upon - "Dan, we need you."

A good family friend had a real issue; a kitten had climbed inside the frame of their van.  It's a sturdy box structure with a cutout in the side web and it runs continuous up to the front bumper.  The size was small enough that the kitten couldn't turn around.  It sat, crying for deliverance from the situation.

First attempt were some sticks through a few holes to keep forcing it to move backwards.  Kind of like reversing a game of Kerplunk.  Didn't work.

I was able to position (doing yoga under the van) and reach into the frame and grab the tail.  The edges of the metal cutout, the tin edges of the heatshield and the heat of the catalytic converter were unfortunate obstacles but I wanted to rescue this kitten.  The frame had a small bump to tie in the front wheel structure and the kitten was on the other side.  A few attempts pulling on the tail only moved it about 3" and then it was a narrow opening requiring the tail and legs to come through at the same time.  I tried this way for about 15 minutes - pulling the tail wasn't enough and my reach wasn't enough to hook the legs to get it over the bump.  Eventually the panicked mewing stopped and we all knew the hoped and anticipated outcome wasn't to be.  This story doesn't have a happy ending.

About a dozen kids were around hoping to hold, cuddle, name and claim a distraught furball.  Their happiness would go unfed and hungry tonight.

I feel terrible.  Mostly for that family that has to carry the burden and reminder for some time longer.  Also for my 9 y/o who was feeling the weight the brokenness.  Also for my 8 y/o who was covering his ears in panic thinking that the van starting up as the family drove home would cause some further damage.  The damage had been done.

I know a curious kitten getting stuck and dying is nothing compared to the deep loss many feel.  We kick against relationships broken beyond repair, death too soon, or nature shows as unpredictable and tragic once again. 

I will admit - I like to be the hero and I wanted this to have a glorious ending.  I must also admit that I hate coming up short.  I hate seeing children suffer loss.  They don't play the mental gymnastics to make loss easier - "it was just a cat", "I can get another one", "it shouldn't have climbed in there to begin with", "why is that hole even in the frame? stupid van maker". 

They see it full on and weep.

Is it possible to receive the kingdom of God as a little child, and somehow not also see the brokenness of earth as a little child?  Probably not. Below is a video that is pushing me towards some ease.

Maybe it's a better thing,
to be more than merely innocent
to be broken and then redeemed by love
Maybe this old world is bent, but it's waking up

Friday, June 28, 2013

Floored by Nick Flora - "The Reintroduction of Nick Flora" review

Nick Flora's new album comes out on July 2nd. - The Reintroduction of Nick Flora

I supported the Kickstarter effort because enough was of interest to me, and he runs in a few circles of musicians I enjoy; namely the Square Peg Alliance folks.

As part of the supported level I received an advance digital copy of his newest album, "The Reintroduction of Nick Flora". It took me a few weeks to roll around to giving it a proper listen. I'm sorry that I waited.

I'm not very familiar with Nick's music.  I downloaded his trio of cover albums and they were able to produce a smile.  Not long ago I downloaded "Great Escape" off of Noisetrade and it was enjoyable but got lost in my sea of background music selection.

It is difficult to describe this album but I can say that I like it.  A LOT.  It doesn't squeeze nicely into a single genre.  There is a great mix of some pop, rock, ballads, Vegas lounge style and blues.  What blows my mind is that each is done well and so enjoyable.  Generally an experiment in styles can sound overproduced and the song gets lost behind horns that just sound out of place and hurt my ears.

For me it comes off as a soundtrack for a movie that I want to see.  Each song captures a moment well and doesn't get caught overstretching or saying too much.  I find myself humming these songs throughout the day.

Some specific song thoughts:
"Hard Man to Love" is an edgy declaration of "take it or leave it". 

"Luckiest Man of All" - probably the catchiest song to me.  I love the changes between verses.

"Everybody Asked About You" - this is probably my favorite song on the album.  It builds so well and the closing borders on remorse/realization and rebirth.  Some good stuff here:
Heartbeat finally we've broke through
You'll find in this life it's all on you
Everybody asked about you
So hold strong to your heart and listen close
for so long the hard part has run its course
Now everybody asks about you
Everybody asks about you
They're telling lies, so don't believe it
You've got greatness in you, boy and I have seen it
So just hold on

"Good Enough" - I love this ending song too.  The intro, the lonely vocal bridge and the powerful backup vocals are well placed.  Of course they aren't in this clip. 

I say if you get a chance get this album and give it a listen.  It's great for a roadtrip or a movie.

My brain soon started filling in the movie that holds this soundtrack.  The review pretty much ends here and any further reading is just me writing down some crazy idea for a dream movie that loosely ties together a handful of songs.

The youngest in the Jackson family of 4 brothers is getting married.  The big "last night of freedom party" is his brothers taking him from small town Missouri to the big city for a night of celebration.

The Jackson family house caught on fire one night.  One of the boys, Simon, managed to wake the family up and the boys were saved; the parents were trapped in a room behind the fire and died.  Rube feels like as the oldest he should've done more and saved the entire family.

Rube Jackson- oldest brother, once the bigwig but is now bitter and plugging away in a dead end job.  He seems to choose staying in a rut of self hatred.  He's separated from his wife but his pride seems to be the only obstacle to reconciliation.
Jud - brother #2 who is a party animal somehow engaged to a sweet lady, everyone wonders how long he'll stick around and why he pretends that he'd get married.  Wherever he goes a train wreck of empty bottles, loud music and craziness follows.
Simon - very upstanding guy and everyone knows he's dependable; after all he was the hero.
Joe - youngest and about to be married. 

Soundtrack panels:
"The Reintroduction" plays as Joe is packing his bags 3 days before his wedding.  The brothers make an odd lot but they're family.  3 out of 4 of them are packing - Rube can't bring himself to go.

"Hard Man to Love" plays as Jud shows that he is leading this celebration for his brother.  Leaves home with a bag full of beverages.

"Hometown Kids" - Rube is moping around thinking of all the things he should be doing but can't seem to take that step away from self pity.  Doesn't step toward his brother or his estranged wife.

"Lost at Sea" - Simon is the stable family guy.  He had to step in as their parents died in a house fire.  He's packing his stuff and anxious to step out of the burden of being Mr. Reliable. 

"Nobody Gets out Clean" plays as the road trip goes along without Rube.  He couldn't be drawn out of his personal pit.  Occasional flashes to a Rube realizing he's lonely.  It carries into the night of revelry. Flashy lights and shady clubs. It turns out Jud is controlled and knows when to quit and pulls the brothers away and back to the suite at the hotel.  He sends Simon and Joe back in a cab while he settles up the bill.  Simon is like a puppy chasing dandelions in a field and doesn't want to stop. He hires some ladies for more entertainment back at the hotel suite.  Jud arrives 10 minutes later and clears everyone out - loudly and forcefully

"Young Man's Game" - As the next day begins Jud calls home and realizes he's been missing out but he was never that far away, he just made it look that way.  Family life maybe pretty good.  Simon realizes he's been a well landscaped exterior to a house that's rotting.  Inside he's the guy that he resented Jud for being.

"Happy You're Happy" - Later in the day Joe is cornered by the bosses of the ladies who were booted out.  These gents aren't too happy about the treatment of their employees and want money or blood.

Kick & Scream - As the fighting starts and people are scrambling the Police show up, the trio are arrested and in jail.  They place a call to Rube to come pick them up.

"Make it Out Alive" - A long quiet roadtrip home. 

"Luckiest Man of All" - another quirky song, it plays as the wedding ceremony happens.  Ends with Rube picking up a phone and placing a call.

"Everybody Asked About You" - during the wedding feast there's an empty chair where Rube should be.

Good Enough - As the general dancing at the reception starts, in walks Rube to join the celebration.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Allegiance from "Gods of Mars" by Edgar Rice Burroughs

I'm about 2/3 done listening to the second book by E.R. Burroughs in his Barsoom series.  I'm finding it to be a space western.  I'm greatly enjoying these books.  The reading is good from the librivox volunteers, which helps.

This passage struck me and made me wonder about how temperamental my allegiance has been-

"Ah, my Prince," he continued, as though no thought had interrupted his greeting, "that you are back is sufficient, and let Hor Vastus' sword have the high honour of being first at thy feet." With these words the noble fellow unbuckled his scabbard and flung his sword upon the ground before me.

Could you know the customs and the character of red Martians you would appreciate the depth of meaning that that simple act conveyed to me and to all about us who witnessed it. The thing was equivalent to saying, "My sword, my body, my life, my soul are yours to do with as you wish. Until death and after death I look to you alone for authority for my every act. Be you right or wrong, your word shall be my only truth. Whoso raises his hand against you must answer to my sword."

It is the oath of fealty that men occasionally pay to a Jeddak whose high character and chivalrous acts have inspired the enthusiastic love of his followers. Never had I known this high tribute paid to a lesser mortal. There was but one response possible. I stooped and lifted the sword from the ground, raised the hilt to my lips, and then, stepping to Hor Vastus, I buckled the weapon upon him with my own hands.

"Hor Vastus," I said, placing my hand upon his shoulder, "you know best the promptings of your own heart. That I shall need your sword I have little doubt, but accept from John Carter upon his sacred honour the assurance that he will never call upon you to draw this sword other than in the cause of truth, justice, and righteousness."

"That I knew, my Prince," he replied, "ere ever I threw my beloved blade at thy feet."

Of course I need to tie in some GKC (Orthodoxy):
Before any cosmic act of reform we must have a cosmic oath of allegiance. A man must be interested in life, then he could be disinterested in his views of it.  "My son give me thy heart"; the heart must be fixed on the right thing: the moment we have a fixed heart we have a free hand.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Beer with Jesus

A friend posted this. I found it worth a listen and I'll openly admit that I have never heard of Brett Lott; google confirms that he is indeed a writer.

Bret Lott On Being a Writer, On Being a Christian from Crossway on Vimeo.

He makes mention of "Beer with Jesus" by Rhett Walker.  So I dug up the song and I greatly enjoy.  It has had much play this week.  And if I get smoother with a Bm chord it'll ring out on my uke.  It might be a little too much as a offertory song though, I'm still pondering that.

I know where Men can still be found,
Anger and clamorous accord,
And virtues growing from the ground,
And fellowship of beer and board,
And song, that is sturdy cord,
And hope, that is a hardy shrub,
And goodness, that is God's last word --
Will someone take me to a pub.
-GK Chesterton

Friday, June 7, 2013

An Epic review

The family went and watched "Epic" yesterday.  So here's my quick review.

All in all - pretty good.  I think it rises to being above average for what it isn't more than what it is.  Good action and threads of danger but not too dark; although my 4 y/o was slightly spooked by the bad guys.

The title is far reaching as it will not stand the test of time as an epic movie; but it does relate an epic event in the fairy world that we get to watch.

Teen-ish MK (Mary-Kate) is sent to live with her father after the death of her mother.  The mother and father split  due to the dad's obsession with chasing a fairy world.

So it turns out the fairyworld is real and there's an ongoing battle between the fairies who bring life to the forest and some forces that are seeking to bring decay.

Every 100 years the fairies anoint a new queen.  The selection ceremony is important and cannot take a shortcut for safety.  The leafmen guard forces try to be prepared but get overwhelmed by the decaybringers and MK is drawn into delivery the seedpod to complete the ceremony when it blooms under the full moon.

The story works well enough.  There are some well worn story elements - dead/missing parents, rebellious teen, etc; but they play okay.  There is some humor for various ages (physical and word humor).  I found the voice work to be good and fitting.

I think what lets this movie rise out of the sea of mediocrity is what it isn't.  It isn't a tree-hugger movie - Ferngully, Avatar.  This provided some good discussion on what a "tree hugger" movie is.  The decay of the world isn't the fault of humans.  Humans are not ignorantly wrecking everything or willfully wrecking everything.  It isn't a tale of children needing to teach their parents/elders - How to Train Your Dragon, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.  It isn't moralizing. 

Fairyland is nothing but the sunny country of common sense. It is not earth that judges heaven, but heaven that judges earth; so for me at least it was not earth that criticised elfland, but elfland that criticised the earth. I knew the magic beanstalk before I had tasted beans; I was sure of the Man in the Moon before I was certain of the moon. This was at one with all popular tradition. Modern minor poets are naturalists, and talk about the bush or the brook; but the singers of the old epics and fables were supernaturalists, and talked about the gods of brook and bush. That is what the moderns mean when they say that the ancients did not "appreciate Nature," because they said that Nature was divine. Old nurses do not tell children about the grass, but about the fairies that dance on the grass; and the old Greeks could not see the trees for the dryads. - GK Chesterton

Friday, May 17, 2013

Enough time to write well, enough beauty to tell

A post over at Story Warren by James Witmer had me racking my brain for a GKC quote.  The quote was teasing me like a puppy in a pet store window.  Once I found it, I found it wasn't quite related to the post, but still rings true. It's a good dog but not what I was looking for.

The tendency of all that is printed and much that is spoken to-day is to be, in the only true sense, behind the times. It is because it is always in a hurry that it is always too late. Give an ordinary man a day to write an article, and he will remember the things he has really heard latest; and may even, in the last glory of the sunset, begin to think of what he thinks himself. Give him an hour to write it, and he will think of the nearest text-book on the topic, and make the best mosaic he may out of classical quotations and old authorities. Give him ten minutes to write it and he will run screaming for refuge to the old nursery where he learnt his stalest proverbs, or the old school where he learnt his stalest politics. The quicker goes the journalist the slower go his thoughts. The result is the newspaper of our time, which every day can be delivered earlier and earlier, and which, every day, is less worth delivering at all. The poor panting critic falls farther behind the motor-car of modern fact.

--GK Chesterton, Eugenics and Other Evils

Back to the Story Warren.  I enjoy the post for holding to the view that raising children is an art.  Investing in and building a future beauty.

Sometimes I forget my end goal of parenting (by "make" I mean target towards).

Make happy kids - they'll grow expecting the world to make them happy and will be sorely disappointed at not winning American Idol.
Make hardworking kids - they'll be either very industrious (cue Cats in the Cradle), or bitterly slothful.
Survive the challenge of kids - this is escapist and easy to fall into.  Some days it is a better option than other options though.
Make friends - while nice it will neglect discipline and building trust of experience.
Make perfect kids - this is what really hits hardest for me.  Parents end up being examples, and should be examples of how to be broken too.  Admit when I'm wrong; say sorry.  Be willing to let my kid's know if I'm worried, nervous, angry or happy.  Be real, and my children will know it's okay to be real. 

I need to love each one individually, for how special each is.  They are a piece of art and I am able to contribute.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

"The Road" by Cormac McCarthy - heavy thoughts

Last night I finished the audiobook of "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy.

This book is a hard read.  It is well told and heavy, ton of bricks heavy.  I don't know how to talk about it without offering spoilers so read on with that warning.  I knew the end and still hated the end that was coming, and was glad the book was over when it came.

The setting is that after some apocalyptic event a man and a boy (a never named father and son) are trekking to survive somewhere.  Wake up, scour for food, hide from bad guys.  I'm not sure "bad guys" is a good description, maybe feral humans.  They won't survive another northern winter and believe there might be something to be found at the ocean. They keep moving.  That is the constant struggle in the story.  It is something you are always aware of - like light in a cave or a snorkel underwater.  Food is needed.

Imagine this, all day and  everyday, without the candybar to bite into.  okay it doesn't really relate but it is a funny commercial.

I was hit pretty hard by "The Road".  I have a soft spot for father/son stories mostly for some struggles in how my own real life has unfolded and continues into the next round.  It wasn't that I was locked into identifying with the particular characters, it was that their battle and their bond was believable.  The whole story is somehow believable - that a culture with such a callous view about life and everything this side of it would be able to turn to cannibalism wasn't a leap for me.

For me, this book was most unsettling as the 7ish y/o boy is a view of innocence and hope.  His questions and his comments were spot on - not too mature, not too immature.  There was a touch of being naive but not unaware.  The father's singular focus on keeping the boy safe is true to form also.  It did make me think about the few things that are really important and how many negligible things hold my attention.

I was truly struck by two things:
1. The father apologizes often.  It's not that he always messes up.  The man apologizes for a world where a boy sees other people being eaten for food.  He apologizes for when the boy is held at knife point and then has to have brains washed out of his hair.  The apologies are for a world that isn't right.

2.  Their role switch.  Through 3/4 or more of the book the father is the guardian of the boy.  It's his job.  At the end it is the boy worrying about the father.  I think this is most profound for not taking the easy route of it being a "coming of age" event.  The boy isn't ready.  No boy that age should be caught in that situation.

One of the other linchpins in the story is the mantra to "carry the fire".  The father tells the boy that we "carry the fire".  At first it seems that it may have been some trite statement to give the boy hope or answer a tough question.  But it really is their mission.  "We don't eat people and never will."  "We are the good guys."  They carry the hope of humanity forward.  Not animals just looking to live and eating anything.  There are many lines they cross to survive, but they stay human rather than animal.  They do indeed carry the fire so far, and then the boy carries it further.

I read the book as it was the theme for an Andrew Peterson song - "Carry the Fire" off of his album Light for the Lost Boy

So would I recommend reading (or watching or listening to) "The Road"?  Maybe.  It is well told but you better be ready for a dark ride.  To a casual reader - no.

All really imaginative literature is only the contrast between
the weird curves of Nature and the straightness of the soul.
Man may behold what ugliness he likes if he is sure that he will
not worship it; but there are some so weak that they will
worship a thing only because it is ugly.  These must be chained
to the beautiful.  It is not always wrong even to go, like Dante,
to the brink of the lowest promontory and look down at hell.
It is when you look up at hell that a serious miscalculation has
probably been made.

* * * *

Therefore I see no wrong in riding with the Nightmare to-night;
she whinnies to me from the rocking tree-tops and the roaring wind;
I will catch her and ride her through the awful air.
Woods and weeds are alike tugging at the roots in the rising tempest,
as if all wished to fly with us over the moon, like that wild,
amorous cow whose child was the Moon-Calf. We will rise to
that mad infinite where there is neither up nor down, the high
topsy-turveydom of the heavens.  I will ride on the Nightmare;
but she shall not ride on me.   
-GK Chesterton "The Nightmare"

Monday, May 6, 2013

And the judges give it a....

I've had a lot of travel recently.  It's really the climax of a busy travelling year so far while my employment has been relatively low in travel.  By my quick count it has been 27 days which puts me slightly over 30% travel on the year.

Last week I was taking a very familiar walk through the Charlotte airport and I was struck by a realization -  I am VERY good at judging people.  That isn't "good" in a sense of being "right" because it is completely wrong.  I have skills at judging people, and airports are like steroids for my judging muscles.

My eyes flit from traveller to traveller and I write a life story for them based upon their dress, their walk, their talk, or their confusion at the walls of information and graffiti of advertising.  I blatantly ignore that they are travelling for joys (weddings), sorrows (funerals), or have the same road weariness that I do.  I make a caricature of each person based on what jumps out to me from a one second glance.

I judge.

My realization was that I'm taking my instant label and applying it to their whole life.  I need to approach each person like they are having their worst day, and I can help.  They are parched in the desert of life and I can give them cool water.  That's what I would want.  That's who I want to be but my muscle memory runs deep and I have good reflexes.

All this reminds me of Jason Gray and the labels we throw onto other people and the labels we can choose to wear ourselves.

Monday, April 29, 2013

CS Lewis - "Letters to an American Lady"

Over the weekend I finished reading "Letters to an American Lady" by CS Lewis.

It was a fantastic read.  It is a collection of letters sent to a lady in America tracking a 13 year correspondence history.

It was great for what it offered.  It is a glimpse into the thoughts and personality of Jack.  There is no urgency from a publishing deadline or edits for appeal; the urgency is concern for a friend and the words are from the heard.

The letters start out fairly polite and reserved.  As the time passes and the normal personal barriers are passed he shifts from CS Lewis to Jack.  What struck me the most is how very personable (common?) he was.  "Mere Christianity" certainly shows his ability to express complex ideas in normal language; I don't think it struck me how much he lived in normal language.  "Practical" comes to mind, but I'm not sure why.

My other lingering thought was how much this was the exact opposite of "The Screwtape Letters".  These were real letters with no agenda, sharing true concerns with a friend.  TSL is a great book but fabricated, perverted to hide the truth (and to a point of revealing the absurd as CSL intended), between snivelling demons.

It is a light read that I didn't want to end.  It was painful to read of Joy's cancer, remission and then the final recurrence that claimed her time here.  There are many points of humor and many points of vulnerability.  I didn't want it to end because for a moment I felt like I could spy into the friendship and CSL was alive.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Missing my fellow sheep and "Black Sheep Boy"

I'm a mild Pierce Pettis fan.  I should say I'm a huge fan, but I forget sometimes; and I've only dipped my toe into the ocean of his music.

He's an odd musician and I can only think of him as like mac & cheese.  Pierce has been around a long time writing thoughtful songs that aren't hard to digest but certainly can fill you up.  He's comfort food.  Not flashy and always at the table of great music.  At church dinners sometimes I take mac and cheese and while few would claim it as a "favorite food"; that dish always came home empty.

I'm only vaguely familiar with his music and it continues to grow on me.  The more I find the more I want to find.

Anyway he had a free interview/song session that I caught about a year ago and he discussed and then played this song - "Black Sheep Boy".  I immediately checked Youtube and it wasn't there.  But it is now. 

There's that child in your family who tries but always seems to be out of place; and your heart breaks for them.  Maybe your heart breaks because at one time you were the black sheep.

Yesterday I lost a fellow black sheep.  One of my co-workers, Jim, moved to a higher place and is looking down on from above.  He was relocated to the 2nd floor to make room for a new employee.  Jim and I would daily solve problems.  Sometimes in engineering, sometimes in the world - no one ever seemed to ask us for those answers though.  We had many great discussions in the realms of the spiritual, social, political, engineering - we discussed life; we shared life.  We were 25ish years apart but we were kindred souls sharing much of the same outlook and internal drive for solutions, even if they weren't easy.

Jim's doing fine and I'm looking forward to building a friendship with the new guy; but I will greatly miss sharing with Jim.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Fantastic Friday

Good Friday is good, but a great clip can make it fantastic. Have a fantastic Friday!!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Jason Gray - "Nothing is Wasted"

I like this song.  I'm surprised it's getting the full treatment of having a radio mix, official video and I have actually heard it on the radio.  That says much for Centricity as a recording label and more for Jason as a crafter of songs.

I'm surprised since he has a ton of songs that are catchy and may play better.  I'm also surprised because the song drips with the gospel.  Life being painful and it is picked up by loving hands and used for glory.  It also touches on a deep subtle truth I'm starting to learn; leaning on the faith of Jesus. 

It goes back to a sermon I heard and the pastor point out that it is the "faith OF Christ" not "faith IN Christ".  He got into the Greek grammar:
Galatians 2:
NIV is poor in its translation:
16 know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in[d] Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.

KJV treats it better:
16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

Anyway, enjoy the song and video. I will.

Jason Gray- Nothing Is Wasted (Official Music Video) from jason-gray on GodTube.

Friday, March 1, 2013

What a country....

I listen to country music in fits.  Generally I can listen for 2 mornings once a month and catch any of the "newest" on the radio.

Overall I like country for a few reasons.  They are allowed to be funny (Blake Shelton), they're allowed to be sappy - often too formulaic in their being sappy

And they can shoot for the heart by telling a story.  These tend to get played less, but it happens. 

This morning I caught a song that doesn't usually get on the radio:

I don't know if it sticks around, but I'm enjoying it today.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Review: "Peace Like a River" by Leif Enger

I finished reading "Peace Like a River" by Leif Enger, so it's time to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard nowadays) and offer my $0.02.

The story is a narrative from an 11 y/o (Reuben Land) and his family adventure.  I'm going to try very hard to not have spoilers in this.

The story reads quickly and the characters are well developed.  The dad struggles with a son on the run from the law, the remnant siblings struggle with a brother they may admire too much, and their own pride and forgiveness.

The book is blatantly Christian.  It is part of the characters so it is part of the story.  The same plot could basically have been told without the father's faith, and it would be as boring as my senior year class on "Fluid Power and Systems" and have had just as much of an audience.

What jumped out to me the most was the descriptions of Rueben's asthma.  It is drawn out so well as a reader I started to wonder for my own breath.  It is a constant concern for him and he is offered fixes that don't fix and advice like he could give it up like a vice.  It's a strong parallel to our walk in this world.  Life can be a struggle to just get along - but at most we limp or are betrayed by raspy lungs that won't let us run like we could be able to.  There is a remedy but it isn't advise or breathing salts.

I was blindsided by the last 2 chapters.  I didn't know how all the wild threads that were woven into the tale would tie together.  It isn't exactly a happy ending, but it does end. 

I didn't find anything life changing or faith changing or thought changing in the book.  As compared to "Silence" (my thoughts here).  I did greatly enjoy it and would recommend it to anyone who wants a good read.  I think I gave it 5/5 on Goodreads.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

"Warrior" review and thoughts

After the plugging of Andrew Peterson we sat and watched "Warrior" the other night.

The premise in a sentence:
Two hard pressed brothers end up competing in a major MMA (mixed martial arts) tournament.

More background:
A Marine vet, Tommy, shows up at the doorstep of his alcoholic father who he hasn't seen for about 10 years.  At around the age of 15, Tommy and his mom run away and leave behind a very promising wrestling career (under his father's training) and an older brother (Brendan).

So Tommy mysteriously shows up and begins training, under his dad's direction, for a MMA tournament.  Brendan (600 miles away) ends up in the same tournament in desperate need of the financial winnings or losing his house.

My thoughts (probably spoilers):
As much as this sounds like a simple Disney good luck film (which would be released on Touchstone because MMA is bloody) it isn't.  I found the dialog crisp and understated.  It lets pauses and faces tell as much of the story as the spoken lines.  The music (especially in the final fight) was great in squeezing and supporting the emotion and mood of the scenes.

I'm a moderate MMA fan.  I've watched fights and I find them enjoyable.  I know some element is the "fight" and who can be tougher; but I also see the strategy of setting up punches, kicks and moves.  That's compelling.  The MMA in Warrior is theatric - high flying and flashy.  It isn't to the point of being a turnoff for being so false, which is good.  I'm pretty sure Rocky has the same touch to true boxers and any law or hospital TV drama will have the same feel to medical and legal professionals.

One of the underlying themes is the father, Paddy, (played superbly by Nick Nolte) listening to "Moby Dick".  He's 1000 days sober and falls off the wagon after a brutally honest exchange with Tommy.  Ahab wrecks his ship, his crew and his life in pursuit of the white whale.  Paddy is drunk in the hotel listening to the story and yelling to "turn the ship around".  It seems like the entire movie was built around this scene.  It struck me as such an honest portrayal of the trap of relentless pursuit of a dream.  The addictions in our lives can be alcohol, drugs, and even our dreams.

The character stories are believable.  I found myself rooting for each of the main three characters and each has a battle.  The family complexities, brothers, father/son and husband/wife, are well played and not trite or glossy in this.  Each struggle is somehow understandable and heartbreaking.

I highly recommend this movie because it tells a life story and doesn't ignore the grit.  It does have MMA so be prepared to see guys punching each other and throw each other around the caged ring.  The story is good, the characters are simple but their struggles aren't; and neither are ours.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Opposite of Forgiveness is Entitlement

A friend (Julie Wright-Silander) tweeted this:

The opposite of forgiveness is entitlement.

Deep.  Very Deep.  A day later and I'm still pondering it.  I'm just trying to unpack this so pardon my rambling.

First up is forgiveness:
forgiving debts; forgiving for wrongs.  It carries that something is owed (money or reparations) and the item/gap is removed without payment.  I owe something to another and they close the gap without my filling it.  It is granted by the person in power.

Then the entitlement:
a given credit; owing of something expected.  I think it carries that I'm owed something by people in possession of the power to give it.  I am due something by another; they have to fill the gap. 

The -ness and -ment are about the attitude of each.  An attitude that I owed something and have been graced out of it.  Conversely is the attitude that something is owed to me and others work(s) must fill it.

I guess I have to agree, they are opposites.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Optimism of the age

This was posted on FB and struck me, so I'm just reposted:

"ALL the optimism of the age had been false and disheartening for this reason, that it had always been trying to prove that we fit in to the world. The Christian optimism is based on the fact that we do NOT fit in to the world. I had tried to be happy by telling myself that man is an animal, like any other which sought its meat from God. But now I really was happy, for I had learnt that man is a m...onstrosity. I had been right in feeling all things as odd, for I myself was at once worse and better than all things. The optimist's pleasure was prosaic, for it dwelt on the naturalness of everything; the Christian pleasure was poetic, for it dwelt on the unnaturalness of everything in the light of the supernatural. The modern philosopher had told me again and again that I was in the right place, and I had still felt depressed even in acquiescence. But I had heard that I was in the WRONG place, and my soul sang for joy, like a bird in spring. The knowledge found out and illuminated forgotten chambers in the dark house of infancy. I knew now why grass had always seemed to me as queer as the green beard of a giant, and why I could feel homesick at home."

~G.K. Chesterton ("Orthodoxy")

Friday, January 11, 2013

Ho-Hey MLK

Martin Luther King Jr day is coming up.  I look to this day and I like to read some of the MLK Jr sermons.  He didn't shy away from issues, but that was out of his belief that God cared for justice and cared for people.  To me it's a shame how he has been whitewashed to caring about issues and not really believing in God.

I read a short biography that described him as a civil rights leader inspired by Ghandi.  Let's not forget that he didn't merely deliver speeches, he preached.  He delivered God's message, not his own.

The church today is challenged to proclaim God’s Son, Jesus Christ, to be the hope of men in all of their complex personal and social problems. Many will continue to come in quest of answers to life’s problems. Many young people who knock on the door are perplexed by the uncertainties of life, confused by daily disappointments, and disillusioned by the ambiguities of history. Some who come have been taken from their schools and careers and cast in the role of soldiers. We must provide them with the fresh bread of hope and imbue them with the conviction that God has the power to bring good out of evil. Some who come are tortured by a nagging guilt resulting from their wandering in the midnight of ethical relativism and their surrender to the doctrine of self-expression. We must lead them to Christ who will offer them the fresh bread of forgiveness. Some who knock are tormented by the fear of death as they move toward the evening of life. We must provide them with the bread of faith in immortality, so that they may realize that this earthly life is merely an embryonic prelude to a new awakening.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Eureka (x3)

Yesterday was an epiphany day.  I had quite a few ideas hit me that were significant.  If not major leaps in various journeys they were at least solid milestones. 

#1 - Screw It
While driving to work I was pondering a particular consistent design sticking point.  Our machines spin a cutting head against a metal bar that is shoved through the center.  Metal doesn't like to fall off so it take some power and it generates much heat.  So we shoot coolant on the cutting.  It has been most effective to sneak in some spray from the back to shoot directly where the cut is happening. We use a spray tube (in teal below) which has some coolant lines running to a nozzle ring.  The hard part is reaching however far (15"? 30"?) between the bar and the spinning tube holding the cutterhead.  Some chips and coolant can get stuck between the spray tube and the inside of the spindle sleeve.  Over time this can build up and cause troubles.

So my bright idea was to thread the inside of the spindle.  This would make it's rotation act like a pump and drive all the built up junk to the back or to the front (we're still kicking around which is better).  This could be a huge step in making my companies machines run better and longer.

#2 - Book It
My son loves graphic novels and comic books.  Who doesn't.  Becky is excellent at regular trips to the library to keep the kids loaded up on good materials.  It was something I never had, never did, and would be terrible at starting now.

She brought home a book called "Tommysaurus Rex" by Doug TenNapel. To call that a good story is to call the moon a nice rock.  There is so much more - location, movement, details.  It is a graphic novel that Caleb stayed up WAY too late reading (he read the book twice).  I read it on day 2 in our house (25 minutes) and was blown away. 

So I started digging into the author and the more I see the more I like.  I have much to investigate.

#3 Curse It
Becky & I do devotionals during the week.  It used to be mornings but then work got hectic and I started going in extra early so devotions migrated to evenings.  Devotionals for couples is a tough area to find a quality book.

I've found that some devotional books are fight starters - "have you stopped ignoring your wife?" "how can you be more involved in church?".  These questions start loaded with attacking a deficiency.  Sometimes the problem isn't there and don't just tell me to work harder.

Maybe I get like Goldilocks in that some are too light and too heavy also.  10-15minutes is the right length of time for these.  We won't have 2 hours to discuss sprinkling vs. immersion.

The devotional yesterday was spot on.  It wrapped up a discussion about primary male and female differences.  Men are more task driven and women are relationship driven.  The author referred to this as men seeking significance and women seeking intimacy.  The day before I thought the "significance" drive was pretty profound, and Becky let me know "intimacy" was pretty accurate. 

This made me re-evaluate the curse when Adam & Eve were cast from the garden.  I had always thought of the curse (especially Adam's) as external.  Adam toiled over the ground because it wouldn't grow easy.  I'm wondering if Adam toils over the ground because growing is a job.  In trying to be like God, he became bent to try to seek significance in something other than God.  I thought of Eve being cursed in that childbearing would just now be painful.  I didn't think of it as the emotional pain in trying to achieve closeness "your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you."

I don't think it is an either/or proposition that the curse was only external or internal.  I just never thought about the internals (emotional, mental) of being cursed.