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)