Sunday, December 30, 2007

it is official


Our LT is listed as being on a flight headed toward Colorado Springs. His plane should land early Monday afternoon and the welcoming ceremony at Ft. Carson is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. MST. After that he can leave the post and go home with his wife.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

a half empty or a half full nest?

We lost half of this week's inhabitants at our home today. Her aunt and uncle left for a visit to cousins in Maryland. Miss Lois's stay is also over. My little Hoya is on her way to Honduras for a week-long trip with this group working at Copprome, a small orphanage.

Friday, December 28, 2007

how to publicize christian books


To read an interview with the finest book publicist in the Western Hemisphere, if not the entire world, CLICK HERE.

Be blessed!
RB

P.S. Her co-worker at WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing was interviewed last week HERE.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

elvis has left the sandbox

We just heard that our LT is in Kuwait. He and the last five guys in his platoon left IQ with no plans to return any time soon. Some of his other men were back in Colorado Springs in time for Christmas. He is scheduled to leave Sunday for Germany and then on to Colorado Springs.

Today another son was given the day off with pay so he could spend time with his daughter. Is that a great boss or what?

The other night I saw something I thought I never would see: an argument between a toddler and her great, great aunt. (There is an 80-year age difference.) Miss Lois would cough and say “Sneeze.” Aunt Lois would respond, “No, that is a cough not a sneeze.” Miss Lois would say “Sneeze.” Aunt Lois would again reply “No, that is a cough not a sneeze. This went on for many, many rounds with neither one giving in. BTW, Miss Lois knows full well the difference between “cough” and “sneeze.”

Yesterday, the day after Christmas, I was in a store and noticed Valentine’s Day cards and displays are out.

We had a classic Christmas incident. A certain daddy bought his little girl a lovely baby doll. After pulling the doll out of the box, the little girl spent the next half hour playing with the box.

For the first time in my long teaching career, I did not complete my fall semester grading before Christmas. Some things came up at the end of last week so one seminar’s papers were not read. Since grades are not due to the registrar until January 3rd, I decided to wait until the New Year to grade and to endeavor to enjoy a few days before Christmas and this week without any compulsion or guilt about work I should be doing. So far it is working. (BTW, it feels wonderful.)

A certain little girl has yet to open her Christmas stocking. Of course, this same little girl does not understand the concept of a Christmas stocking. She’ll learn soon enough without our help.

A very special aunt and uncle of hers are again with us for Christmas. They have made Christmas into a longer-than-a-week event rather than merely a special day. We all have long realized their presence is more important than presents.

Be blessed!
RB

Sunday, December 23, 2007

thanks giving

In the past week I have felt very grateful for my students this semester. I have enjoyed each of my students in each of my classes as well as each of my advisees. A few students did not always have the best attitudes but I enjoyed them still. One of the real joys of teaching at St. Lawrence is how wonderful our students are as persons.

God has so blessed me with these folks.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

1 corinthians 13 for christmas

If I speak in the tongues of Christmas materialism and greed but have not love, I am only a tinny Christmas song or an out-of-tune choir.

If I have the gift of knowing what Aunt Agatha will give me this year and can even understand last year's present, and if I have the faith that I won't get yet more socks and ties this year but have not love, I am nothing.

If I clear out the house and give everything to charity and my credit cards are snapped in half but have not love, what can I possibly gain?

Love is patient when the fourth store you've tried doesn't have a bottle garden.

Love is kind and lets the couple with only a few items go in front of you and your bulging shopping cart.

Love does not envy your friend who gets mega-presents from everybody.

Love does not boast about the expensive bike, the Wii, the HDTV, DVR, and computer your dad gave you.

Love does not attempt to out-buy, out-wrap, and out-give the rest of the family just to impress.

Love doesn't cut Aunt Flo off your Christmas card list because she forgot you last year.

Love is not self-seeking and leaves a copy of your Christmas list in every room of the house.

Love is not easily angered when the young girl at the checkout takes forever because she is just temporary staff.

Love doesn't keep remembering how many times your mom forgets you don't like Brussels sprouts.

Love does not delight in the commercial bandwagon but rejoices with the truth of a baby born in the stable.

Love always protects the family from Christmas hype.

Love always trusts that the hiding places for presents will remain secret for another year.

Love always hopes that this year more neighbors will drop in to your open house coffee morning.

Love always perseveres until the cards are written, the presents all bought, the shopping done, and the Christmas cake iced.

Toys may break, socks wear thin, but love never fails.

Where there is the feeling of the presents to guess their contents, and Mom going on about being good so Father Christmas will come, and searching through the cupboards to find your hidden presents, they will all stop.

For we think we know what we are getting, and we hope we know what we are getting, but when Christmas Day arrives, all will be revealed.

When I was a child, I talked with big wide-open eyes about Christmas, I thought that Christmas was all about me, I reasoned that Jesus should have been born more often. When I became an adult, I forgot the joy, wonder, and excitement of this special time.

Now we just hear about the angels, shepherds, and wise men; then we shall see them all the time. Now I know as much as the Bible says about the first Christmas; then I shall know just how many wise men there were and where they came from.

Now three things remain to be done:
- To have faith that the baby born in a stable is the Son of God.
- To hope that the true message of Christmas will not get discarded with the wrapping paper and unwanted gifts.
- And the most important, to have a love for others like the one that God has for us.

Copyright 2001 Claire Jordan (caleb@eurobell.co.uk).
Permission is granted to send this to others, but not for
commercial purposes.

Monday, December 17, 2007

cookin' kuchen

We had a fun, snowed-in weekend with Miss Sweet Pea. She put the candles in her daddy's birthday cake (using her own unique decorating style), helped grandma decorate the tree, went on a toboggan ride with her daddy. helped grandma cook meals and bake cookies, and jumped on grandpa, among other things.

She also made kuchen (a German raisin bread) with grandma. This is a special holiday tradition in our home. Her grandma learned to make it from her grandma who learned from her mother. I don't know how far it goes back but Sweet Pea is the fifth generation of kuchen makers I personally have met.

The kuchen is good but the passing on of the tradition is even better.

Be blessed!
RB

Sunday, December 16, 2007

charitable giving: usa v. the world

The USA beats other nations by a mile in terms of charitable giving. As a percentage of income, we give over twice as much as Brits and Canadians. Germans are particularly closed-fisted when it comes to giving. The French give well less than one-tenth as much as Americans. Folks in each of these countries tend to view themselves as compassionate and look down on Americans as greedy and self-centered. Perceptions don't seem to match reality.

Chart from The Wall Street Journal 10 December 2007, p. R10.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

gop should pack it in though it's only '07

Source: Wikipedia

The November 2008 election is already over. A Democrat, most likely Clinton, will be president. Look at the above electoral college map from 2004. If Kerry had won Ohio with its 20 electoral college votes, he would have been president. With Ohio going for Kerry, he'd have had 271 votes to Bush's 266.

Do you really think Clinton will lose any state that the more liberal Kerry won in 2004? So all she has to do is win Ohio. Remember: other than Ohio, the red states above do not matter. A Clinton-Obama ticket would certainly do the trick in Ohio.

Below is a cool map with states and DC resized to reflect their relative size in the electoral college.
Source: Election Results Maps

Sunday, December 9, 2007

our guy's guys

"Clean House: U.S. Army Soldiers from 2nd Platoon, Alpha Troop, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment instruct Iraqi police on room clearing procedures at Forward Operating Base Volunteer in Baghdad." ~ Source: Multi-National Force - Iraq

(This was published earlier this week and these troopers are in our LT's platoon.)

P.S. The trooper in the foreground is our LT's humvee driver.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

it has been a week, a slow week . . . .

I went off coffee and spent the first day of the month with a withdrawal headache. I will try to limit myself to a couple of cups per week to avoid a recurrence of caffeine addiction. Except for decaf, I only had a half a cup on Thursday.

It's one day at a time . . . .

Friday, December 7, 2007

boomers born to be wild

This was sent by her to her who sent it to me.

Original source: Newsday.com

Thursday, December 6, 2007

let's say thanks

If you go to this web site, www.letssaythanks.com, you can pick out a thank you card, Xerox will print it, and it will be sent to a service member serving overseas. You can't pick out who gets it, but it will go to some member of the armed services.

Last year folks from our church sent packages to my son in Iraq who then put together Christmas stockings for the men in his platoon. We were shocked when he told us that for a number of the men, that was the only thing they received from anyone on Christmas.

So if you can take a minute, please go to www.letssaythanks.com. It may make a real difference to one of our men or women deployed overseas.

Be blessed.
RB

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

best stock market sectors?


Source: Callan Associates

The above chart shows indexes (like an average) for eight different financial sectors, or types of financial investments, for the years 1987 to 2006. They are color coded and ranked top-to-bottom by returns for the year in question.

Conclusion? No one part of the market out performs other sectors each year. On average, some sectors have beat other sectors over a long period of time, but not each and every year.

Implication? Have a diversified portfolio of investments from many sectors.

Be blessed!
RB

P.S. Want a better view? You can double click the image above. If that is too blurry for you, then you can download the original pdf file here.

Monday, December 3, 2007

thinking, economics, and dilbert

From The Teaching Economist:

Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, majored in economics at Hartwick College in Oneonta, N.Y. In September, he wrote about how economics has influenced his thinking: “I’m convinced that the study of economics changes brains in a way I can identify after about five minutes of conversation. In particular, I think the study of economics makes you relatively immune to cognitive dissonance…. The primary skill of an economist is identifying all of the explanations for various phenomena. Cognitive dissonance is, at its core, the inability to recognize and accept other explanations. I’m oversimplifying, but you get the point. The more your brain is trained for economics, the less it is susceptible to cognitive dissonance, or so it seems. The joke about economists is that they are always using the phrase ‘On the other hand.’ Economists are trained to recognize all sides of an argument. That seems like an easy and obvious skill, but in my experience, the general population lacks that skill. Once people take a side, they interpret any argument on the other side as absurd. In other words, they are relatively susceptible to cognitive dissonance.”

Saturday, December 1, 2007

happy december

I am very grateful that one of my sons has a new job. With his previous job his entire day consisted of commuting, working, coming home, sleeping, and getting up to go to work. He worked a nine-hour evening shift. The new position is a nine-to-five, Monday through Friday job with a much shorter commute. In fact, he will have an extra four hours per day. (This is not an exaggeration.) It is similar work but more intellectually challenging and therefore more interesting.

He's happy. We're happy for him. Everyone should be happy for him**.

Be blessed!
RB

** If some bizarre reason you are not happy for him, then please seek help from a mental health professional. Referrals are available. :)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

beowulf

We saw it today and the IMAX 3-D version is the only way this movie should be viewed.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

efficient picketing

A colleague sent this link from NPR (you can read the text or click "Listen Now" on the site):

Union Outsources Picket Lines to the Homeless.

Hmmm...unions support paying "a living wage" but $8 an hour is not a living wage for DC. However, since union carpenter wages are so high it is too costly for them to take time off to protest. So it is economically efficient to use cheap labor to outsource, a win-win situation for both highly paid union members and homeless people.

Sure it is hypocritical, but it is efficient.

BTW, many political organizations and special interest groups do the same sort of thing, especially in DC and NYC.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

answered prayer

Friday was an absolutely wonderful day. I had a great night’s sleep of nine hours and awoke to a beautiful winter scene outside my window. (I may have spent twenty-plus years in the North Country but I still recall my snow-deprived childhood.) I wanted to go up to Massena but had to spend more than a half hour deicing the van. All the doors were frozen shut except the back hatch. So I crawled through to the front, started her up, put all the defrosters on, and set the temperature as high as it could go However, I didn’t mind in the least. There were other little chores to do while waiting.

Driving up Rt. 310 I caught myself going past 65 mph. The radio was off and I had been thinking about all I had to be thankful for. I then thought that if I had gotten a ticket, it would have all been worth it since the benefit of the gratitude was worth more than the cost of the fine. I did, however, slow down and set the cruise control. At 55 mph, the same gain can be obtained without the pain.

A bit after turning north onto Rt. 56 I noticed a state trooper passing me going south. I glanced down at my speedometer and saw that I was going past 65 again. I looked in the rear view mirror and sure enough, the trooper was making a u-turn.

I had forgotten to reset the cruise after turning onto 56. I then waited and waited, but the trooper was not making his move, but just stayed back far behind me. This is not unusual except it was going on much longer than usual. Maybe he wasn’t going to pull me over? I waited some more and still nothing happened. Finally I said, “I give it to you Lord. If you want me to have a ticket or not, that is up to you.”

Within a second of finishing that prayer, the light bar on the trooper's car lit up brighter than a thousand Christmas trees.

I just laughed out loud. I seldom have the privilege of seeing an instantaneous answer to prayer. This was as if the hand of God was on that switch in the police car, just waiting for me to call out to him.

I was probably one of the cheeriest yet sober people the trooper had ever ticketed. I think he even felt bad about it since he all but apologized after he gave me the ticket.

Afterward I went into a few stores, bought a few things, and greatly enjoyed the whole shopping experience. This is quite unusual for me.

I had an absolutely lovely day. Every part of it was lovely.

Be blessed!
RB

Friday, November 23, 2007

pleasant surprises on the day of the lord.

. . . If you are a nice person - if virtue comes easily to you - beware! Much is expected from those to whom much is given. If you mistake for your own merits what are really God's gifts to you through nature, and if you are contented with simply being nice, you are still a rebel: and all those gifts will only make your fall more terrible, your corruption more complicated, your bad example more disastrous. The Devil was an archangel once; his natural gifts were as far above yours as yours are above those of a chimpanzee.

But if you are a poor creature - poisoned by a wretched upbringing in some house full of vulgar jealousies and senseless quarrels saddled, by no choice of your own, with some loathsome sexual, perversion- nagged day in and day out by an inferiority complex that makes you snap at your best friends - do not despair. He knows all about it. You are one of the poor whom He blessed. He knows what a wretched machine you are trying to drive. Keep on. Do what you can. One day (perhaps in another world, but perhaps far sooner than that) He will fling it on the scrap-heap and give you a new one. And then you may astonish us all - not least yourself: for you have learned your driving in a hard school. (Some of the last will be first and some of the first will be last.)

~ C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Chapter 32.

I have always found myself admiring people whom others take little notice. I could admire the talent of the talented but seldom was as impressed with the one talented. I have been more impressed with less gifted folks who were struggling. I have the strange tendency to look at how people act when they are at their weakest, when things are going badly.

I have always kept this to myself because I thought that at best I just was being contrary. At worst, I was weird. I was afraid I was weird in a way that reflected something terrible about myself. I didn’t know what for sure, but it probably was not something I wanted exposed.

By admiring "people who struggle" - Christian-speak for losers - maybe I am showing myself to be such a complete loser that I could only admire other losers?

Then I read the above from C.S. Lewis. He understood and I began to understand. It is like the widow’s mite (Mark 12:41-44; Luke 21:2). Jesus admired what folks did with what they had, not with what they had. The Church, on the other hand, tends to admire and to look at results, at productivity, at what someone does for us.

Two examples of people I admire come to mind. I know an older, wiser woman in the Lord who struggled deeply with severe emotional and physical problems. She was not outgoing, no one sought her as a mentor, the more gregarious, younger female leaders (as did everyone else) found her easy to ignore. However, I got to know her and I was blessed. I learned to listen when she spoke and to seek her wisdom when she did not speak. I admired her faith and ability to sometimes just barely survive, to show up, to keep on walking with the Lord despite all that came against her.

I am thinking of a man tortured by emotional problems more severe than I can imagine. He shows up at church meetings and is faithful, although sometimes he feels that he is just barely holding on. However, I doubt if I could be so faithful with a fraction of his troubles. He is a man of faith. I can not think about him and still think that I have much faith.

After the Resurrection, I think we will all be quite surprised at some who get the best crowns. However when we learn why, there will be no disappointment, no envy, only admiration.

That will be a good day.

Be blessed.
RB

Thursday, November 22, 2007

got leftovers? try the hot brown sandwich

Brown Hotel, Louisville, KY

4 ounces butter
Flour to make a roux (about 6 tablespoons)
3 to 3 1/2 cups milk
1 beaten egg
6 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 ounce whipped cream (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
Slices of roast turkey
8 to 12 slices of toast (may be trimmed)
1/4 beefsteak tomato
Extra Parmesan for topping
8 to 12 strips of fried bacon
• Melt butter and add enough flour to make a reasonably thick roux (enough to absorb all of the butter). Add milk and Parmesan cheese. Add egg to thicken sauce, but do not allow sauce to boil. Remove from heat. Fold in whipped cream. Add salt and pepper to taste.
• For each Hot Brown, place two slices of toast on a metal (or flameproof) dish. Cover the toast with a liberal amount of turkey. Pour a generous amount of sauce over the turkey and toast. Add tomato on sides of dish. Sprinkle with additional Parmesan cheese. Place entire dish under a broiler until the sauce is speckled brown and bubbly. Remove from broiler, cross two pieces of bacon on top, and serve immediately.
[Source: The Wall Street Journal]

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

what about saturday?

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction....
~ 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (ESV)

We are in the last moments of autumn, winter will soon set in, and after a wait, then spring will arrive. One of my favorite North Country sights during spring is to watch the cattle, especially the calves, head out to the fields after a long stay indoors. This is the same picture the Lord uses in Malachi 4:2b (“You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.”) to express our joy on the Day of the Lord, when we shall be part of the Resurrection of those in the Book of Life. All our enemies, especially death and the grave, are to be so completely destroyed, “… that it will leave them neither root nor branch (v 1).”

The Lord showed me Malachi 4 late the night before the Black Hawk crash. The next day, Thursday the 8th, was one of those Fridays when we need to remember that Sunday, the Resurrection, is coming. It helped to remember, but whenever I said to myself, “It’s Friday but Sunday’s coming,” I still felt the weight on my chest, the lump in my throat, my eyes welling up. Yeah, Sunday’s coming but we have to wait. We still have to mourn.

We have a God who knows our sorrows. We have a God who watched his own son die a horrible death. We have a God that knew that Sunday was coming.

What about Saturday? What did God do on Saturday? It was the Sabbath, a day of rest. There was nothing for God to do but mourn and grieve at the loss of his son. God had to wait for Sunday too. God knew Sunday was coming but he still had to get through Saturday.

“Well,” you might say,”God only had to wait one day.” Yes, but to God one day is as a thousand years (2 Peter 3:8). Stay with me here. I want to get a bit radical: I want to take Scripture literally. I don’t think it means that one of our days seemed in a psychological sense like a thousand years to God. I think one of our days literally was a thousand years to God. (It’s an Einstein, relativity, light, quantum physics, and all that sort of thing.)

Think about it. What if God had to wait? What if he had to be without his only son for a thousand years? God was, and is, one with his son, but not on that awful Saturday. That Saturday Jesus was in the tomb, totally forsaken by the Father. The Father had to live with that. He had to live with that for a thousand years.

Who comforted God while he mourned, while he grieved? He created us to have relationship with him but who comforted God? Those that followed Jesus didn’t know what was what, let alone that Sunday was coming. They never comforted the Father. Everyone else either was celebrating the death of his only son or was oblivious to it.

No one comforted the Father.

No one ever mourned or grieved for a thousand years. No one ever lived for a thousand years. Adam lost a son but he had to wait only about 800 years (Genesis 4:25; 5:4). Adam also had a wife and later other sons and daughters to comfort him.

We have a God who can comfort us. No one ever mourned as deeply or as long as God mourned for his son. He is able to comfort us because he understands the excruciating pain that accompanies the mourning and the grief better than anyone. He knows the pain better than any of us since he suffered it more intensely and without any comfort from others. He has been there and doesn’t want us to have to suffer without his comfort.

Now some will be able to use God’s comfort to comfort others some day. This is good since, unfortunately, there will be future Fridays. Yes, Sunday will be coming. However, we’ll still need help to get through those awful Saturdays.

Be blessed.
RB

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

new yorkers know trees

NYC is the most cosmopolitan and cultural diverse city in America. New Yorkers don't need to be p.c.

Watchdog Groups Agitate to Keep Christmas Christian:
Lowe's Gets Stung for Advertising 'Family Trees'

By ANN ZIMMERMAN
The Wall Street Journal
November 20, 2007

As retailers begin advertising their hot holiday products and setting up their seasonal displays this week, no one will be more eager to check it all out than the 3.3 million supporters of the American Family Association.

The Tupelo, Miss.-based watchdog group will be hitting the stores and checking out ads as part of its Project Merry Christmas campaign, an effort to chastise retailers and others for purposely leaving Christmas out of their marketing. Supporters can also purchase buttons -- for a 90-cent "donation" apiece -- that proclaim: "Merry Christmas. God's good news!"

The group has already started agitating. Last week, someone brought to chairman Don Wildmon's attention that Lowe's Cos. holiday catalogue had a two-page spread of decorated trees it labeled "Family Trees" instead of Christmas trees.

Mr. Wildmon sent an email "action alert" to his members and between 11 p.m. Monday night and 7 a.m. the next morning, the home improvement chain had received 119,000 emails at its Mooresville, N.C., headquarters.

Lowe's spokeswoman Chris Ahearn immediately phoned Mr. Wildmon and apologized. "It was not our intention to be politically correct," says Ms. Ahearn. "It just slipped through the proofreading process. It was a play on words, but it was not well received."

The AFA has targeted Lowe's before. Two years ago, the retailer had banners in its stores over the trees calling them "holiday trees," part of the company's overall "home for the holidays" theme. Lowe's apologized then, too, and pulled the banners down, replacing them with banners that said "Christmas Trees." Lowe's asked them to call in the future if there was ever another problem, but apparently the group thought emails would be more effective.

"We found it's best if you talk after they heard from your supporters," explains Mr. Wildmon.


WSJ's Adam Najberg hits the streets to check if New Yorkers have their tree terminology straight:

latest photos



I uploaded two more albums of family photos:

1) 2007 September

2) 2007 October

Monday, November 19, 2007

dumb blondes or dumb men?

Next time CFA gives achievement tests, maybe a certain someone should take the day off.

Men’s mental performance drops in the presence of blond women, apparently due to the subconscious link of dumbness to blondness, reports the Sunday Times.

A study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found that men’s scores fell in tests after they had been shown a picture of a fair-headed woman. Further analysis ruled out that the poor performance came down to any distraction the image might have caused. Instead, the subjects “mimic the unconscious stereotype of the dumb blonde,” said Thierry Meyer, joint author of the study and professor of social psychology at the University of Paris X-Nanterre.

The study adds to a body of research of how stereotypes affect peoples’ behavior. Other similar research has shown people walk and talk more slowly in front of the elderly.

Source: The Wall Street Journal


Be blessed!
RB

blue beauty

This is a wonderful slide show sent to me by her.

To change slides/pictures just click the arrows at the bottom of the slide show. This is gorgeous but to really enjoy it you need the full screen view. To view full screen click here to go to slideshare.net. Then at the new page click "full" in the lower right corner of the slide show there. To change slides/pictures you just need to click on the screen.

Enjoy!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

a special relationship

I have talked to many women friends, relatives, and students. There is often a very special relationship between a girl and her grandmother. I see this in Lois and her grandmother. She has got to be the best grandma ever: extremely patient and affirming yet not overly indulgent. This weekend these two washed dishes and cooked together. It was wonderful how grandma involved this little girl, making her feel completely part of a team working together.

Two albums of photos from August have been uploaded:

1) various family activities and celebrations.

2) Miss Lois at Taylor Park.

Be blessed!
RB

Saturday, November 17, 2007

after 2000 years he is still intimidating people

It's a music video, so may want to turn the sound up.



My favorite line:

...it has Christ in it and after 2000 years He is still intimidating people.


Be blessed.
RB

Sunday, November 11, 2007

it's friday . . . but . . . .

This is my favorite all-time sermon. I think a lot of us could use this right now.

Evangelist Dr. Tony Campolo tells the story of a little preaching competition that he had with his pastor during services at the church where he attends. Dr. Campolo tells how he preached the perfect sermon, perfect in every way. He had taken the congregation to the heights of glory. And as he sat down beside his pastor, Dr. Campolo patted him on the knee and simply said, "Top that." The older black pastor (S.M. Lockridge) looked at him and said, "Boy, watch the master."

It was a simple sermon, starting softly, building in volume and intensity until the entire congregation was completely involved, repeating the phrases in unison. The sermon went something like this:


It's Friday. Jesus is arrested in the garden where He was praying. But Sunday's coming.

It's Friday. The disciples are hiding and Peter's denying that he knows the Lord. But Sunday's coming.

It's Friday. Jesus is standing before the high priest of Israel, silent as a lamb before the slaughter. But Sunday's coming.

It's Friday. Jesus is beaten, mocked, and spit upon. But Sunday's coming.

It's Friday. Those Roman soldiers are flogging our Lord with a leather scourge that has bits of bones and glass and metal, tearing at his flesh. But Sunday's coming.

It's Friday. The Son of man stands firm as they press the crown of thorns down into his brow. But Sunday's coming.

It's Friday. See Him walking to Calvary, the blood dripping from His body. See the cross crashing down on His back as He stumbles beneath the load. It's Friday; but Sunday's a coming.

It's Friday. See those Roman soldiers driving the nails into the feet and hands of my Lord. Hear my Jesus cry, "Father, forgive them." It's Friday; but Sunday's coming.

It's Friday. Jesus is hanging on the cross, bloody and dying. But Sunday's coming.

It's Friday. The sky grows dark, the earth begins to tremble, and He who knew no sin became sin for us. Holy God who will not abide with sin pours out His wrath on that perfect sacrificial lamb who cries out, "My God, My God. Why hast thou forsaken me?" What a horrible cry. But Sunday's coming.

It's Friday. And at the moment of Jesus' death, the veil of the Temple that separates sinful man from Holy God was torn from the top to the bottom because Sunday's coming.

It's Friday. Jesus is hanging on the cross, heaven is weeping and hell is partying. But that's because it's Friday, and they don't know it, but Sunday's a coming.

And on that horrible day 2000 years ago, Jesus the Christ, the Lord of glory, the only begotten Son of God, the only perfect man died on the cross of Calvary. Satan thought that he had won the victory. Surely he had destroyed the Son of God. Finally he had disproved the prophecy God had uttered in the Garden and the one who was to crush his head had been destroyed. But that was Friday.

Now it's Sunday. And just about dawn on that first day of the week, there was a great earthquake. But that wasn't the only thing that was shaking because now it's Sunday. And the angel of the Lord is coming down out of heaven and rolling the stone away from the door of the tomb. Yes, it's Sunday, and the angel of the Lord is sitting on that stone and the guards posted at the tomb to keep the body from disappearing were shaking in their boots because it's Sunday, and the lamb that was silent before the slaughter is now the resurrected lion from the tribe of Judah, for He is not here, the angel says. He is risen indeed.

It's Sunday, and the crucified and resurrected Christ has defeated death, hell, sin and the grave. It's Sunday. And now everything has changed. It's the age of grace, God's grace poured out on all who would look to that crucified lamb of Calvary. Grace freely given to all who would believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross of Calvary was buried and rose again. All because it's Sunday.

It's Friday! But Sunday's a Coming!

[To download the mp3 file of a 55-minute Tony Campolo sermon (it's great but only the last five minutes relates to the above sermon) click HERE.]

Friday, November 9, 2007

a training mission

A Black Hawk helicopter crashes in northern Italy with eleven on board. Four dead solders are pulled from the wreckage. Another died soon after in hospital. Others are in critical condition. The fifth fatality, Army aviator Captain Christian Skoglund, was an outstanding young man married to a wonderful young woman. A young woman from Canton. A young woman I watched grow up.

Excuse me while I write to myself. This is just for me. I feel so stupid and that my writing is embarrassingly sophomoric. No need to read on. I'm out of my depth trying to work through this, indulging in a futile attempt to reason about the unreasonable.

This afternoon I went to tell a colleague the bad news. He had met Christian only once but was impressed with the guy. My colleague had a very understandable and common reaction to the news, saying something to the effect that he had trouble understanding God's will in the death of this remarkable young man.

I don't know if it was God's will. Anyway, that was my reply. After thinking about this all afternoon, that would still be my reply. There is so much that happens that is not God's will. There is so much that I do that is against God's will. There is so much evil and sin in the world which God in his mercy does not eradicate, and therefore allows. (If God destroyed all the evil in the world tonight, where would you and I be in the morning?) There is so much that is not God's will, why should this be any different?

What if sin or evil was not the cause of this crash? What if it was the result of an innocent mistake (e.g., pilot error) or the result of a mechanical problem beyond any one's control?

I do not mean to be flippant, but death happens. Training missions. Combat. Helicopters crash. IEDs and grenades explode. Snipers. Ambushes. Soldiers die.

Why Christian? Why not?

Was he less deserving of death? Are others more deserving of death? To be honest, as I look at the people around me, when I look in the mirror, I have to say yes. It seems such a waste. It seems so unfair.

Our LT leads a cavalry scout platoon. Only 18 men but eight have purple hearts. Seven of his troopers were saved from certain death. It was the protective hand of God: multiple, obvious miracles.

Why were they spared? Why not?

Well the prayers of believers for these men are powerful and God is merciful. These prayers guided the protective hand of God. However, Captain Skoglund was a believer. His family members are believers. God also heard their prayers for the safety of him and his men.

Why Christian? Why not?

I do not know. I do not know.

What do I know? Christian Skoglund gave his life to Christ a long time ago. He was a child of God. To paraphrase an old hymn, his life was not his own, it was bought with a price; bought by the precious blood of Jesus Christ. His life belonged to Jesus. His life did not belong to a now grieving mother nor to a now grieving widow. It wasn't his. It wasn't theirs. It certainly wasn't any of ours.

We look for meaning in the tragedy in Italy. We want the seemingly senseless to make sense. I think there is meaning. I do not think this is random. However, I do not expect to find meaning unless God supernaturally reveals it. I also think the pat answer, the theological bromide, "It's God's will" does not help me or anyone else make sense of this.

The end of the Gospel of John (21:18-23) has Jesus talking one-on-one with Peter, indicating the manner in which Peter will die. Peter then saw John and asked, "Lord, what about him?"

Jesus answered, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?"

If you ask Jesus why, maybe he'll answer, "What is that to you?" Christian had a personal relationship with the Lord. Christian's life and his death are between him and God. It is none of our business. We are not owed an explanation. God does not need to justify himself. It is personal. It is a private matter between God and Christian. Go ahead and ask. Maybe God will answer.

Jesus also promised to comfort those who mourn (Matthew 5:4). Jesus wept (John 11:35) when he saw the pain caused by the death of his friend Lazarus. God knows what it is like to have a son die. He even had to watch it.

We should cry. We should mourn. We should grieve. We should be angry at death. If we are angry with God, we should tell him. Why pretend otherwise? Like God doesn't know?

Let's also thank God for Christian. He was a gift. Let's be grateful for the time we did have him. Those who knew him the best, those who were closest to him, those to whom Christian blessed most, are the same who have the most for which to be thankful.

The great paradox of this is that those who are grieving and suffering the most right now, are those who have the most to be thankful for. Those who are most angry with God are those who have the most to thank God for.

I understand the hurt and the anger. I understand the need to be thankful. These coexist together. What I don't understand is how or why they can coexist together. They do, but it doesn't make sense.

. . . blessed be the name of the Lord (Job 1:21)

Saturday, October 20, 2007

china '07 summer trip website

We finally finished the website SLU's CIIS Fellows Program: China Summer '07. There are slide shows, the written word, as well as links to websites, photos, and background readings. The site provides answers to such probing questions as: What are labor standards like in China? Are they improving? What does CIIS mean? Who's the Ivy chick?

Yes, all the answers to these questions and more are available at:

http://china07.wordpress.com

Be blessed!
RB

P.S. There may still be some typos and stuff to correct before we are really finished with the site. Any suggestions, corrections, or comments are welcome.

Friday, October 12, 2007

red cloud v. ivy


Our LT is in the 2nd Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division (2-2). The 2ID's shoulder patch insignia is an Indian head (Chief Red Cloud) in a star. As mentioned a couple of days ago, the 2-2 will be reflagged in 2008 as the 4th Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division (4-4).

While 4-4 may seem to be twice as good as 2-2, the 4ID's insignia is ivy. Like the Ivy League, this comes from the Roman numeral for four, IV. However, ivy is not nearly as cool as an Indian warrior.

Which would you pick: The Warrior Division or The Ivy Division?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

blog topics

This afternoon I labeled all my posts to this blog. [See Blog Topics in the sidebar on the right.] This was mostly for my own benefit so I can more easily find old posts. This was the ideal mindless task since I spent the morning in bed and I was too under the weather to do much else this afternoon.

Time for a nap.

Be blessed!
RB

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

army numerology

From yesterday's Stars and Stripes:

ARLINGTON, Va. — Following the latest deployment to Iraq is like playing a game of musical chairs.

The 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, based in Fort Hood, Texas, is heading to Iraq next summer, according to the Defense Department.

Before they go, they will be reflagged as the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Defense officials said.

Here is where it starts getting confusing.

The existing 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division is already in Iraq, officials said.

They are returning home this winter and will be reflagged as the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division as part of the Army’s efforts to have 1st Armored Division units based out of Fort Bliss, Texas, officials said.

Those aren’t the only changes planned for fiscal 2008.

The 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, which is now in Iraq, will be reflagged when it comes home as the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, an Army official said.

Meanwhile, the 5th Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division — a new unit — will become the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, the official said.

Any questions?


To help clarify, there are ten active divisions in the U.S. Army. Ft. Drum's 10th Mountain Division is the tenth and last one activated. [Note: This is where this stops making sense.] You'd think they would just number the divisions in, well, numerical order (like one through ten). No way! That what the marines do so the army can't follow their lead.

First of all there are three first divisions: The 1st Infantry Division (Ft. Riley, KS), the 1st Armored Division (Ft. Bliss TX), and the 1st Cavalry Division (Ft. Hood TX).

Now there is a a 2nd Infantry Division (South Korea), a 3rd Infantry Division (Ft. Steward GA), a 4th Infantry Division (Ft. Hood, TX) but no active 5th through 9th divisions. The remaining three are the 82nd Airborne (Ft. Bragg NC), 101st Airborne (Ft. Campbell KY) and the 25th Infantry (Schofield Barracks HI) Divisions.

Our LT is in the 2nd Brigade 2ID (2-2) stationed at Ft. Carson CO but the 2ID's 1st Brigade and HQ is in Korea while the 3rd, 4th and 5th Brigades are at Ft. Lewis WA. The 2ID is the only division with 5 brigades -- but not for long!

Also at Ft. Carson are two of the four brigades of the 4ID but two others and HQ are currently at Ft. Hood.

With the changes described by Stars and Stripes, the army is actually trying to have all this make better sense. The 4ID will move entirely to Ft. Carson and have all four brigades and HQ there. The 2ID will have three brigades at Ft. Lewis (all but Korea's 1st Brigade).

To do this the 2-2 will become the 4-4 at Ft. Carson and at Ft. Lewis the 5-2 will become the 2-2, while the old 4-4 at Ft. Hood will become the 4th Brigade 1st Cavalry Division. Of course to make this happen the current 4th Brigade 1st Cavalry Division will need to have a completely new designation, the 4th Brigade 1st Armored Division.

I trust this clears things up.

Be blessed!
RB

Monday, October 8, 2007

shakespeare on counseling

I just read of the death yesterday of a faculty emeriti (retired), also an SLU alum and a fourth generation Laurentian. He taught in the education department and was a counselor.

One of his favorite quotes was from Shakespeare’s Hamlet:

"There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so."


While this can be taken to extremes of relativism, is does capture the trap of unhealthy, negative thinking patterns. Our minds have developed habits of twisting reality that lets us think we see truth when it is often only the product of our deceitful hearts.

I've written on this before . . . 'nuff said.

Be blessed!
RB

Sunday, October 7, 2007

military intelligence goes postal

A common line from those who have served in the armed forces is that military intelligence is a contradiction in terms. It is still as true as ever.

This week we received a letter from Ft. Carson, Colorado informing us that the 3-61st CAV is due to return sometime in the first half of January.

They also informed us of the last date to send mail to IQ. Now it usually takes a week, maybe two weeks tops, for letters and packages to reach Baghdad. So guess when the last day is to mail things? Mid December? December 1st?

Nope. November 1st.

Anything post-marked after that date will be sent directly to Colorado and will not be opened until the troopers return.

No mail for two months. No Thanksgiving treats or Christmas presents unless sent on or before the day after Halloween. In fact, the guys will get no mail at all after the middle of November.

This is dumb.

How dumb? Too dumb, and not at all humorous enough, to make her list.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

china '07 fun

We have been putting together a website about last summer's China trip. For a sneak preview of the slide show from our "fun" page click here.

Be blessed!
RB

Friday, September 28, 2007

death by powerpoint





Fighting death by PowerPoint... How to make a presentation and not to bore your audience to death.



Thursday, September 27, 2007

a plug for a book sale @ slu

The Friends of Owen D. Young and Launders Libraries announce their third, second-hand BOOK SALE including separate tables of collectible books (prices vary).

When:
Saturday, September 29th 10am – 4pm
Sunday, September 30th 10am – 2pm

Where:
MacAllaster Room, Owen D. Young Library, St. Lawrence University

SPECIAL SALE:

After 12 p.m. Sunday, fill a bag with books and pay $2. (They supply the bag).

Questions? Please call 315-229-5956 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              315-229-5956      end_of_the_skype_highlighting begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              315-229-5956      end_of_the_skype_highlighting or the ODY Library office: 315-229-5454

Thursday, September 20, 2007

shift happens





This is a stylization of a slideshow originally created by Karl Fisch, examining globalization and America’s future in the 21st century. Enjoy!


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

slu alum gives $128 million

Ms. Barbara Dodd Anderson, SLU Class of 1954, gave a chunk of change to her old high school but not her old college. The following link was sent by our LT in IQ. The article is published in today's New York Times.

Alumna Gives $128 Million to High School

[Note: Be patient and the green the ad will go away after several seconds.]

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

the neuroeconomics of greed

This paragraph has nothing to do with greed. (At least I hope not!) Christian Fellowship Center is hosting Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University course again this fall. We meet Wednesdays 7 to 9 p.m. Tomorrow, Wednesday the 19th, will be the second of thirteen meetings. We should finish the course on December 12th.

The following has everything to do with greed. She sent me this last week from a Wells Fargo Daily Advantage newsletter:

Researchers in neuroeconomics study what happens in the human brain when we make economic decisions, and one of their findings is that the human brain is tremendously stimulated at the prospect of economic gain, i.e., "getting rich," "making a killing," "hitting paydirt," etc. In other words, when scientists scan the brain using MRI technology, they see the pleasure centers light up at the prospect of profit, just as they light up at the prospect of food, shelter, and safety. The reaction is so pronounced that it dwarfs the satisfaction we feel when we actually make the profit. In other words, we get a bigger rush from anticipating a gain than we get from realizing a gain.

Why should that be so? Who knows? Maybe we're all like cars in that it takes more energy to get us moving than to keep us moving. But we need to remember that while drag racing out of the traffic light may feel good, it doesn't necessarily end well. And the same is true of investing: The rush we feel at the prospect of gain may exist to get us up off the sofa and moving, but we also need to apply reason to guide the impulse. (The scientists say those pleasurable responses are a part of our "reflexive brain" and reasoning is part of our "reflective brain.")

The high we feel at the prospect of scoring big explains the enduring appeal of tip sheets and cable TV shows where people bellow like bulls and promise to make us all rich. And I feel it's okay to pay attention to those once things in a while, but keep your cool: Burning rubber out of a traffic light is one way to ruin, and jackrabbit investing is another.

Peter Nulty
Editor

This is from a review of a popular press book by Jason Zweig, Your Money & Your Brain: How the New Science of Neuroeconomics Can Help Make You Rich (Simon & Schuster). If interested please check out a discussion that appeared last week in USA TODAY.

Be blessed!
RB

Sunday, September 16, 2007

a new challenge

My oldest recommended a biography from one of his classes, so I started reading George Marsden’s Jonathan Edwards: A Life (Yale University Press, 2003). Most people know Edwards for his sermon, "A Sinner in the Hands of an Angry God." However despite growing up in the backwoods, the wild frontier of early 18th Century New England that was the Connecticut River valley, Edwards was one of the world’s foremost philosophers and theologians of his day. The book's first few chapters have been very good and given its excellent reviews, along with being the 2004 winner of the Bancroft Prize for American History, I expect more good things.

Marsden attempts to explain the worldview of Edwards and his times, the early 18th Century, rather than interpreting his life by modern sensibilities. Edwards experience of finding God, his “awakenings,” as a teenage is interesting with many of the same struggles all young men have when seeking God.

I also found myself comparing and contrasting my feelings with his. I am grateful to have the assurance of my salvation and standing with God, something Edwards lacked given his particularly Calvinist/Puritan/Reform theological roots. He was always looking and striving for evidence of his salvation, his election by a completely sovereign Lord, but never being quite sure if such evidence was merely the result of self delusion and self will. I have the confidence and peace that comes with knowing that I am a child of the living God. I know where I will spend eternity and fear not the Day of Judgment. I know that God is with me and will never leave me.

Edwards, on the other hand had many things that I lack but desire. He had a deep knowledge of the particular depths of his own sins and his own sinful nature. While I doubt he was more sinful than I am, while I do realize to a degree how sinful I am, I am afraid my sin awareness just scrapes the surface. I am much worse than I imagine. As a result I think Edwards had a more powerful appreciation of God’s mercy and grace than I or most 21st Century contemporary evangelical Christians do.

Edwards as a young man clearly saw all around him, particularly in nature, signs of an all-powerful, a good and just, a magnificently awesome and great God. I am afraid that a consequence of my awareness and assurance of a God that is always with me, who loves me, who communes with me, that I have a vision of Him that is way, way smaller. I think maybe I have a better micro-view while Edwards had a more wonderful, awe-inspiring macro-view of God. What I need to do is magnify my view of God, not to distort His greatness, but to get closer to reality of how big our God is. However tough it is to reconcile the incredibly awesome Creator, the One who designed and spoke the universe into existence, with the God who cares for me and lives with me as His temple, it is something I need to do.

Anyway, that is the challenge for me.

Be blessed.
RB

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

chinese business practices

China's Business Practices Mirror 19th-Century U.S.
• THE BOSTON GLOBE -- AUG. 26

China's sometimes fast-and-loose business style doesn't necessarily reflect a distinct Chinese approach to capitalism. The U.S. itself once shocked the world with piracy, counterfeiting and food scandals, Stephen Mihm, an assistant professor of American history at the University of Georgia, writes in the Boston Globe.

Just as pirated DVDs and Harry Potter books abound in China, U.S. printers published British authors' books without permission or payment, provoking Charles Dickens to condemn the U.S. Hats, gin and paper made in the U.S. would be labeled as fine imports from Paris. An 1859 investigation in Boston found copper sulphate in pickles and watered-down milk bulked up with chalk.

When the U.S. became a major exporter, such practices scandalized Europe. In the mid-1880s, U.S. butter exports to Europe plummeted following the revelation that a lot of it was "oleo-margarine," made of beef fat, cattle stomach and ewe udders. In 1879, Germany accused the U.S. of exporting pork contaminated with cholera, leading several countries to boycott the U.S.

Prof. Mihm concedes there are many differences between present-day China and 19th-century America. China isn't a democracy, for one. But the many similarities suggest that what is happening in China today happens in most newly capitalist countries, as new technologies, expanding markets and wily entrepreneurs overwhelm systems of control designed for rural areas. If the U.S. in the 20th century is any guide, China's business practices will eventually improve under stiff international pressure, says Prof. Mihm. The landmark Food and Drug Act of 1906 was in part aimed at improving the reputation of U.S. food abroad. Also, just as U.S. copyright laws tightened as U.S. authors became popular overseas, Prof. Mihm predicts China will crack down on counterfeit DVDs if and when it has a significant movie industry of its own.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

china doll

Went to church this morning with my little china doll Sweet Pea. She has been here for the weekend and a lot of fun to hang out with. We let her run wild at SLU and there is always something to grab her attention there like squirrels, flag poles, puddles, flowers, and manhole covers.

Last night we had two-thirds (6 of 9) of the Blewetts here for a very nice dinner. We haven't had that many together since Easter when all nine were here. Off-spring #4 grilled steaks to perfection while his sister was in charge of hors d'oeuvres.

Just when I got down to my pre-China trip weight! Oh well, I can always do it again.

Tomorrow we leave for DC to move my little Hoya into college for the fourth and final time.

That will leave me Wednesday to begin to prepare my classes for the semester which starts on Thursday.

Be blessed!
RB

P.S. You can double click the image for an enlargement.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

grasping the obvious

Answer not a fool according to his folly,
lest you be like him yourself.

Answer a fool according to his folly,
lest he be wise in his own eyes.

~ Proverbs 26:5-6 (ESV)


These verses have always puzzled me. They seem so contradictory yet since the verses are next to each other I can’t argue a different context or other typical ways to reconcile a seeming scriptural paradox.

How to handle the contradictory commands of Proverbs 26:5-6? I used to think that we needed discernment to know when to answer a fool according to his folly and when not to. However, that is too difficult to justify. There are no conditional statements or anything else to support this interpretation.

Then it came to me. Duh! This refers to a situation where there is no good outcome. No matter what I do, the result is bad!

For example I have had to deal with someone, a believer, with very twisted thinking, negatively interpreting actions and then believing the fabrications as truth. This sort of “insightful” toxic thinking is ungodly, a fool’s folly.

Do I address the person’s fabricated yet sincerely believed conclusions? Whether I do or I don’t, I lose. After an initial disappointment, I realized that these verses are actually quite freeing. This is a no-win situation! This freed me from agonizing over what to do, then blaming myself when things turn out badly; being weighed down by the second thoughts of “if only I had said it better.” God is pointing out there are times when the outcomes are going to be less than I desire.

Sometimes it takes me awhile to grasp the obvious.

Be blessed.
RB

Friday, August 24, 2007

blowing the cobwebs out of elizabethan drama.

American Shakespeare Center's touring troupe (formerly know as the Shenandoah Shakespeare Express) will be doing it with the lights on again this October at SLU. Here is the schedule:

Monday, October 22, The Taming of the Shrew - 7:30 p.m.
Tuesday, October 23, Henry V - 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday, October 24, The Merchant of Venice - 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, October 25 - day off
Friday, October 26, The Taming of the Shrew - 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, October 27, Henry V - 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, October 27, The Merchant of Venice - Midnight
Sunday, October 28, The Taming of the Shrew - Matinee at 1:30 p.m.

All shows in Eben Holden Hall.

Be blessed!
RB

i’m back . . . sort of . . . .

I awoke in Chengdu, CN at 5 a.m. Saturday and I arrived back in Canton at 12:40 a.m. Sunday after 32 hours of traveling. I slept maybe an hour or so on the planes, trying to stay awake so I could sleep at more normal NNY times when home.

Anyway, that was the plan.

Well, I did get seven hours of sleep until I awoke. Good news: I went to church and I only slept an hour on Sunday afternoon. Bad news: I was tired, grouchy, and extremely stupid.

I was asked to play tennis, doubles, Sunday night. I hadn’t played in 15 years, had eight hours of sleep in the past 48, and my body thought it was 12 time zones away. I gave it a go anyway.

It was not a pretty sight.

It was no surprise I had no serve. However, I had trouble hitting the ball. I had great form, but I was swinging the racket and missing clean by six to ten inches. On one of my first serves, I tossed the ball up, swung the racket, swished, and the ball came down, hitting me on the top of my head.

My play at the net was similarly impressive. There were a few times when I looked back to see my partner on his hands and knees in the back court. I thought maybe he was injured. No, he was laughing so hard that he couldn’t stand.

Despite my play, I had fun and we, the over-fifty guys, lost a close match in three sets (3-6, 6-3, 5-7) to the under-thirty guys.

I don’t remember Monday. I dozed all day and all evening. Of course, I had trouble sleeping at night. I have not had a really good, uninterrupted night’s sleep yet this week.

I managed our finances during the past few days. I spread work that usually takes an hour or two over three days. This pace was not in the plan.

I did put in a full day at the office yesterday, Thursday. I filled out an expense report for the China-trip grant. This was an intellectual challenge, not only due to my continuing jet lag but also because most of the receipts were written in Chinese with no English. Looks like I’m a few hundred over budget, which I probably will have to eat. I don’t feel too bad since the international and in-China airfares jumped by over $800 between the grant application and when we purchased them. It could have been a lot worse. We were saved by having a couple of wonderful Chinese women on the team who didn’t hesitate to argue and fuss over a couple of yuan (27 cents).

Maybe I’ll be able to sleep tonight . . . .

Be blessed.
RB

Friday, August 17, 2007

miscellany

1.  Last night (Thursday) XC and I were talking while having a late dinner after some interviews.   She knows the people we have been around are all believers and they have all been genuinely very nice.  XC mentioned that she noticed that I was more relaxed, and had no tension while in Chengdu.  She said something to the effect that I must feel in Chengdu like she did in Fuzhou when she was back home with all her family.

 

I think she gets it.

 

2.  Everyone here has continually commented certain CFC people who lived in Chengdu this past year.   They had a very real impact on people and really helped the Chinese.  This is genuine admiration and not just Asian politeness.

 

3.  If you can read this, or could possibly read this, I am not bringing you any gifts from China.  Sorry, but I did not come here to shop and I have had work to do.

 

4.  Chinese yell at each other a lot.

 

5.  I love "tapioca milk tea" with "frog eggs" (i.e., little purple, gummy rice balls) on the bottom.  My students joke that I am addicted to it.  It is hard to describe this drink in a meaningful way.  So I won't.

 

6.  At a large, upscale shopping district in Shenzhen I found an "all for 2 yuan" store (2 yuan = 27 cents).

 

7.  Asian Big Macs are good and quite different.  The meat is highly peppered and they replace lettuce with cabbage.  It is quite appropriate to eat one in taxi while rushing to the airport.

 

8.  Lay's potato chips come in the "classic American" style as well as other flavors such as beef, chicken, and my personal favorite, cucumber.

 

9.  Saw DVD's in Shanghai for sale for 16 yuan ($2.14) with plastic case or 7 yuan ($0.93) in a cardboard sleeve.   Titles included Die Hard IV, the latest Harry Potter, Spiderman 3, Transformers.   Some of these films are not even in theaters here.   I wanted to buy a bunch but came under conviction.

 

10.  When I ordered a "green tea frappacino" in a Shenzhen Starbucks, the clerk was very impressed and pleased that a foreigner would want a local favorite.   I must have scored points because later she gave me some free samples of other drinks to try.
 
11.  I just put XC in a taxi for the airport (fey gee chang).  I leave early tomorrow for Shanghai in order to take the world's longest 45-minute flight to Chicago.  I leave a little after 4 p.m. and arrive before 5 p.m.

 

Be blessed!

RB

i'm blogging blind here

[Note: this was written yesterday but I was unable to send it out]

 

It is Thursday afternoon.  I am in an internet cafĂ© in Chengdu, CN.   Blogger is blocked in CN so I must post by email and hope for the best.

 

Half our crew left this morning so it is just XC and I.  XC leaves Friday evening and I leave Saturday morning so tomorrow is our last day of work.   We are dealing with a very sensitive subject and it is especially sensitive here.  I think that is because the problem is even worse here than in the industrialized cities on the east coast.   Basically no one wants to talk to us.  The only people who will see us are believers connected to other believers who I know.   However, these contacts have been quite excellent.  We have learned much and expect to learn more tomorrow.

 

Yesterday (Wednesday) morning I took the students to the Panda Research Centre.  Neither of our two Chinese women had ever seen a live panda.   So I thought we could not leave Chengdu without them seeing their own national treasure.  We saw adult and juvenile giant pandas but the real treat was visiting the baby panda nursery.   We saw a 20-day-old baby with the distinctive black and white fur as well as a twice as large 40-day-old panda.  They were in plastic incubators like you would see in an American hospital's neo-natal unit.   There was also a tiny, two-day-old hairless infant in a third incubator.  It was covered with a towel to keep it extra warm but we could see it squirming around under the towel.   We could also see its little pink tail and little pink feet sticking out.

 

I am especially blessed to be surrounded by believers here in Chengdu.  I have had a very good trip and the students have been wonderful.   However, after two-plus weeks without fellowship, I found I miss being with brothers and sisters.  Sometimes you don't realize you miss something until you have it again.   Anyway, I find it very peaceful and relaxing here.

 

I have been trying to stay away from coffee for the past month but today I have had three cups, the last one with CFC's very own Jeff S.   He is doing quite well and if anyone knows his mom, please assure her that he is not only quite healthy, but thriving in the Middle Kingdom.

 

After all that coffee, I really must go now . . . .

 

Be blessed!

RB

Sunday, August 12, 2007

friday in shenzhen

I was out of internet contact for six days and I have been very busy and/or too tired to post anything.  I'll post something later on the missing week (August 4-10).

Shenzhen is located on the border with Hong Kong and is China's richest city.  It was a fishing village before being designated a Special Economic Zone in 1980.  Now it has a population of over 13 million, over 11 million of these are migrant workers and the vast majority of those are women.  That means they are not local residents and do not have certain rights like schooling for their children.

Being a young city it really has no soul and zero charm.  There are only three things it is known for:  fake brand-name goods, the best foot massages in China, and hordes of prostitutes.

Friday we visited a factory and went out to dinner with two factory owners and a broker that connects factories with buyers like Walmart, Costco, BJ's.  Then a dark side of Chinese business social life was exposed.  They brought out shot glasses and a bottle of 104 proof Chinese version of white lightning.  The men down the shots at one time, quickly getting drunk, trying to prove who is the better man by how much they drink .  I have heard about this before.  They seemed to reluctantly accept that I did not drink any alcohol anytime and that they shouldn't take it personally.  Poor DM took a couple of shots then wanted no more.  It got a little ugly as they really pressured him to drink.  DM got a little peeved at the pressure and absolutely refused to drink any more.  Then they gave him a beer.  He probably would have had the beer except he resented how they tried to force him to drink it.

The social abuse, the power trips and bullying is something you wouldn't even see among US frat boys.

After dinner our host wanted to take us by his factory then out to a club.  We didn't have time for the factory tour but agreed to go to the club.  One of our women wanted to go and the other felt she had to so as to not offend our host.  DM had been before to this sort of thing, told them what to expect, and absolutely did not want to go.  I decided we'd all go due to the sketchiness of it all.  I wasn't about to let the female students go there by themselves.

It was opening night for the club.  Very pretty girls would escort you to a room with loud music where a bunch of drunks and pretty women (prostitutes) were playing cards, doing business, karaoke, and more drinking.  There were also some waitresses with forced smiles whose purpose was to keep the beer flowing.  I had the honor, I later found out, of sitting next to the owner, a local mafia leader.  I smiled a lot, did not drink toasts but made the OK sign frequently.

I was doing pretty well until the female students left my side to karaoke.  Then after a few minutes a couple of professional women descended upon me.  I tried moving a bit further away but they just moved closer to me on the couch.   They were quite social despite our language differences.  They kept yelling "What is your name?" I answered but they either couldn't hear or couldn't understand me.   I soon excused my myself to tell YW, "I'm making some friends I really don't want to make."  We soon left a little while later, explaining we had appointments in the morning.

A funny thing happened to DM.  He was trying to be polite by having a beer with the boys but then received a cell call.  He went out in the hall to answer it.  It was his mother calling from Nepal.  As he was talking with mom a handful of prostitutes encircled him asking for his name.  It was to say the least an awkward situation.  DM can really tell a story and we were both doubled over with laughter when he later recounted his tale in our hotel room.

Only DM and I seemed to understand what a potentially bad situation it might have been had the women students gone by themselves.  Let's just say, mafia types aren't known for asking for permission.  There were a lot of drunk guys and the only other women socializing in the place were prostitutes.

I think our purpose there was to be trophy American friends of our host.  DM heard him tell someone earlier in the day that he couldn't talk because he was with his friends from the States.

The rest of our stay has been more pleasant.

Be blessed.
RB



 

Thursday, August 9, 2007

update

It is Friday morning. I am alive and well in Shenzhen.  I have internet access!  I have learned to say my first full sentence in Mandarin:

I am not Yao Ming.

After checking 100-plus emails, I'm going back to bed.

Be blessed!
RB
 

Friday, August 3, 2007

the dream team

I'm down to eating one meal a day and I'm still gaining weight. Yesterday, Friday, I had a plum for breakfast, no snacks, and an orange and a Coke for dinner. Lunch was a bit different. We went to visit two factories, one a small machine shop with maybe a little over one hundred employees and the other a little larger than produces derricks for oil drilling. The owner of the first factory took us out for lunch at a very nice restaurant. We had our own private room. The table had the typical tree-foot diameter lazy susan. I keep forgetting that even though the lazy susan is filled with dishes of food, it is only round one of maybe three or four rounds. So for round one I eat a substantial amount, then repeat with round two, etc. Most often the food gets better with each round! It was a long 10-hour day with the first hour and the last two hours spent in traffic jams. The conversations were mostly in Mandarin or Shanghaiese. I'll ask YW, our only Shanghaiese speaker, to fill me in.

Today DM needs to move out of his apartment and YW needs to pack for the rest of our trip. XC and I plan to visit the Shanghai Museum then meet up with the others at the Maglev station about 6:00. The Maglev is train that levitates over the track due to opposing magnetic forces. It goes a couple of hundred miles per hour and you do not feel like you are moving. XC and YW have never been on it so we decided to take it to the airport for our flight to Fuzhou. The train takes only 8 minutes rather than 45-60 minutes driving. Plus, it is a lot cooler.

The other night we had dinner with the director of the program in Shanghai to which we send our students. DM took us to a Nepali restaurant where you take off your shoes and sit on pillows around a low table. Excellent food, close to Indian food but a bit more spicier. DM is easy-going, funny, generous, personable Nepali, and incapable of any guile. I think he was a favorite of the director when he attended the Shanghai program last fall. DM later told us that after the dinner the director, an American, told him how he is more and more impressed with SLU. First of all, we send him good, low maintenance students. Second, SLU funds students to travel with professors over the summer. This is very rare. What most impressed him was our interaction. At dinner he was expecting the students to be very quiet in the presence of their professor, trying to not make any mistakes, etc. Instead, we all had a fun time, making jokes and teasing each other, more like friends rather than what he usually sees with students and professors.

It is so good to hear things like that. It reminds me of what a very special place SLU is and how blessed I am to be there. It is all too easy to take things for granted. I need a wake up call every once and a while.

It also helps that I am traveling with my dream team. They are great students and great people.

Be blessed!
RB