Monthly Archives: November 2004

Sunday Losses

Tim Bauman is one of the guitarists in our worship band, and he has become a good friend of mine during the last six years since Anchor began. His father, Fred, who also attends Anchor, had a heart attack. Tim stopped by the church during the service and left word that they would be removing his father from the respirator. It was expected that he would only live another hour after that.

So it was a sad day for those of us who know and love Tim and his dad. A group of us gathered at the front of the sanctuary after the service to have prayer. Tim is a great guy, and I grieve for him.

Kevin Kay, back from his sophomore year at Ball State, wanted to play me in ping pong after the service. We’ve probably played a hundred games over the past few years, and he has only beaten me once. In fact, he’s the only person at Anchor who has beaten me in six years. But he plays a lot at Ball State, and it showed. He started off beating me the first two games (though both went extra points). I won the third game.

A new era has dawned. The age of my dominance in ping pong has officially come to an end. I can still take my game up a notch‚ÄîI’m not nearly as good as I was in college‚Äîbut I need regular practice. Otherwise, the next time Kevin comes back from Ball State, he’ll just beat me again. Can’t let that happen. I don’t want to use the excuse of being an “old man.” Gotta beat the young whippersnapper.

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Magazines Vs. Books

For about ten years, beginning around 1985, I had a goal of reading at least 52 books a year (one per week). When I began dating Pam, she, a voracious reader, adopted the same goal. We would occasionally battle to see who would end the year with the most books read. My high was in the 80s. But I can’t compete with Pam. One year, while I met my 52 goal, she read 104 books. This year, she’s on track to hit that number again. Right now, she’s somewhere around 90 books read for the year.

I met that goal for about seven years, but couldn’t keep it going. There was my Masters work, my actual book writing (six books during the 1990s), and various general excuses. But most significantly, I read magazines, and while the accumulated wordage might equal Pam’s book-reading, we haven’t figured out an equitable formula for including my magazine reading. Not that either of us really cares.

I look forward to my magazines coming. They are:

  • Newsweek and Time. I’ve been reading Newsweek since I was a kid, and we received it at home. I began taking Time during the mid-1980s. If I had to give up one, it would be Time, I guess. Newsweek tackles some more ambitious and creative ideas, like the recent review of the Presidential election.
  • BusinessWeek. I began taking BusinessWeek in the mid-1980s, probably because I got a great deal for a trial subscription. I’ve grown to really like it. Learning what is happening in the business world is a great complement to Time and Newsweek.
  • New Yorker. I discovered The New Yorker during my Masters work at Ball State, and have been taking it since around 1993. It’s weekly. The New Yorker has the best, most in-depth reporting you’ll find anywhere. And the quality of writing is exceptional. Some people say it has a liberal bent, but I don’t really see that. The reporting is very fair, and very thorough. It has long long long articles, so reading it is a commitment. I usually read maybe two articles per issue. That’s enough.
  • Sports Illustrated. I’ve always enjoyed Sports Illustrated, but have viewed it more as a guilty pleasure, compared to the hard news magazines. But I began taking it again six or seven years ago, and don’t mind indulging this guilty pleasure. >Besides, the writing is incredible. To take an event that I saw on TV and heard commentators dissect, and then provide me an article a week later that fully captures my attention–that’s good writing. The in-depth features can be remarkable. The writing quality is up there with The New Yorker, though of a different breed. As a writer, I need to be reading both of those magazines.
  • ESPN. This one is, indeed, an indulgence. We got it cheap, it comes every two weeks, and I enjoy it. Don’t need it, but enjoy it. It definitely has its own identity apart from SI.
  • Entertainment. Pam and I took this years ago, then stopped. We started again a couple years ago, after getting a good deal. It’s fun. I enjoy keeping up on celebrity/entertainment nonsense.
  • MacWorld and MacAddict. I get these monthlies at work, and devour them right away. I need to keep up on what’s happening in the Macintosh world, since I run a network of Macs. I also check out two Mac news bulletin boards every day (MacNN and Macintouch).
  • Christianity Today. I also receive CT at work, and usually read it right away.

So that’s it. Put it all together, and you’ve got a lot of reading material. But I don’t know how to count it up to equal what Pam reads in books.

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Alexander the Disappointing

Pam and I just returned from seeing Oliver Stone’s new film, Alexander the Great. What a disappointment! Overall, a pretty strange film. Stone really played up the homosexual angle with Alexander–which may be historically accurate, but not something I care to see. But beyond that, the movie was just strange. Three hours and ten minutes of strange.

It was sleeting when we left the theatre. I guess winter is here.

Yesterday I finished James Patterson’s book, “The Big Bad Wolf.” I’m a fan of Patterson, especially his Alex Cross crime thrillers. There was one that I didn’t care for–some gratuitous sexual stuff–but generally, he does good stuff. I started another one last night, “Four Blind Mice.”

Heard the referendum results from four different conferences today. Hmmm.

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The Pistons-Pacers Brawl

I was watching the Piston-Pacers game last Friday night when the brawl broke out. I missed how it actually started, since I was channel-surfing, but I came back to the game just a few seconds after Ron Artest launched himself into the crowd. It was quite a scene.

Yesterday, when Pam and I went to Indianapolis to do some early Christmas shopping, I listened to talk-radio discussions about the game all the way down and back. We now have XM Satellite radio in Pam’s new car, and between the four sports stations, someone was always talking about the fight. Sometimes, all four were. It was quite interesting.

The initial commentary, last Friday night, from the ESPN quartet almost seemed sympathetic to Ron Artest. “He had a right to defend himself.” But my gut told me the NBA would come down hard on any players who went into the stands, where they could tumble over little kids and innocent fans. And on Sunday, Commissioner David Stern took that hard-line approach. I didn’t expect the severity of it‚ÄîArtest out for the season, 30 games for Germaine O’Neill, 25 for Stephen Jackson‚Äîbut I don’t disagree with it. Stern was certainly sending a message.

I do think O’Neill’s suspension might have been excessive. I don’t think he went into the stands, and the fan he plastered was on the floor and, from O’Neill’s view, was evidently threatening someone in the Pacers organization. And then with the abuse he took just getting into the locker room….

But, good for Stern. Stephen Jackson was certainly out of control. A madman. I never liked him when he played for San Antonio, and I still don’t. I don’t really know why, but I don’t.

My only complaint is that Detroit got off easy. I don’t know who DESERVED to get hit harder. Frankly, Ben Wallace’s six-game suspension was probably a bit too much. I guess there’s no real way to penalize fans or the stadium or the Pistons organization. So, they won. And Pistons fans are probably gloating over the ability to say, “Yeah, we’re the baddest fans in the NBA!” It was a total win for them (except that they lost the game).

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The Incredibles – National Treasure

Pam and I just got back from seeing The Incredibles, the latest Pixar movie. It was a great deal of fun, with lots of humor. Very unlike any previous Pixar movie. It may well be my favorite of all of the Pixar movies thus far. We also saw the trailer for Cars, the 2005 Pixar movie. It’ll be a good one, too. We went to the Sunday 8 pm showing, figuring there wouldn’t be a bunch of kids there. And there weren’t–just a handful of adults. Very nice.

On Saturday we saw National Treasure, with Nicholas Cage. I don’t think critics really cared for it, but it was a very fun ride. Lots of history in it, and more humor than I was expecting. There is validity in calling it a modern-day Raiders of the Lost Ark–there are certainly parallels. I liked it a lot more than I was expecting, and would recommend it.

We also saw, for the first time, the trailer for the next Star Wars movie, the one which tells about the rise of Darth Vader. It looks like it’ll be a great movie. The last two (episodes 1 and 2) have not been well received, at least in comparison to the original three movies, but I’ll bet this one goes all out.

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I Admit It — I’m a Wimp

I’m such a wimp. This morning Pam and I went to Lutheran Hospital to have some blood drawn for testing. For me, it has to do with high blood pressure which developed over the past year, and for which I’ve been taking tiny white pills. I hadn’t eaten in 12 hours, since you’re supposed to fast before having blood taken. But I also hadn’t drunk any water, which is allowable, but I guess I wasn’t thirsty. As a result, the nurse said, I was somewhat dehydrated, and that made it difficult for her to find a vein. She tried puncturing one on my right arm, but the blood stopped coming–because I was dehydrated–and she had to stop. And about that time, I started on a trajectory toward fainting. I didn’t, but I was heading in that direction, fast. I’m just a wimp.

So I sat there with my head lowered, trying to bring blood back to my head, and they brought me ice water to get some liquid in me. Meanwhile, a lady who was probably 70 came into the room and had blood taken. She talked the whole time, commented on the speed with which the blood was exiting her body, and generally became my Hero.

Eventually, color returned, and the nurse tried again. She had me clench my left hand while she kept tapping on my arm, trying to scare up a vein. She found one, poked it, and then what seemed like several hours passed. It was really only a minute or so, but it seemed interminable. Feeling myself going again, I started asking the nurse about her work‚Äîhow many of these blood tests she did each day‚Äîand she, knowing why I was asking questions, tried to make conversation back. Toward the end, I felt myself going, my face flushing, and I’ll bet I would have fainted right there in the chair if she hadn’t suddenly said, “There, we’re done.”

She had me drop my head again to let me recover. Finally, I felt ready to go, and I stood up. Yep, I was ready. I said good-bye and left, finding Pam waiting for me (having long since given her blood).

I am SUCH a wimp.

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Early Returns on UB Voting

I’ve heard lots of “exit polling” from the October elections in United Brethren churches regarding the referendum on our denomination joining the Missionary Church. Here’s my guess: it’ll pass with a 55-60% yes vote. We’ll know soon enough. Conference boards of tellers are now compiling the results from conference churches, and they’ll be forwarding the results to the Bishop’s office. Maybe in a couple weeks, we’ll know.

Right now, we’re kind of in the eye of the hurricane–things are fairly calm. Have been, pretty much, since local church voting started at the beginning of October. But once the results are announced, things will heat up again, one way or the other. It’s hard to predict what exactly will happen under any scenario. But it’s good to be optimistic.

I remain very excited about the synergies that can happen in bringing our denominations together. It certainly won’t automatically make our churches healthy, and nobody’s claiming that that will happen. But there is a lot we can do together, and the United Brethren church is just too small‚Äîas a group of churches‚Äîto do a lot of things by ourselves. Plus, we’ll be good for the Missionary Church‚Äîa fresh infusion of good churches and seasoned leaders with new energy. And we’ll bring fresh perspectives, as outsiders always do. Like I said, it’s the synergies that really have me cranked.

If it fails, the United Brethren denomination can “keep the church doors” open indefinitely. But I’m concerned about long-term effectiveness. We’ve been on a certain trajectory for over 15 years, a trajectory toward being a group of merely affiliated churches that do less and less cooperatively. I don’t like that trajectory. Some people might prefer that, but I like the idea of being a denomination where churches cooperate to do meaningful things. That’s what I remember from my childhood and early adult years. That’s what I feel we can regain by uniting with the Missionary Church.

Some people argue that this issue is dividing our church. Well, there are certainly differing opinions about whether or not this is a good thing. But as a pastor pointed out to me earlier this week, we’re actually trying to do something that brings applause in heaven‚Äîuniting churches. Where you see dividing, I see uniting. For the sake of more effectively building the Kingdom.

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Thoughts on the 40 Days

Anchor finished the seven-week “40 Days of Purpose” campaign. Pam and I hosted a group during that time. We held our last meeting this past Sunday night (actually, our 8th meeting). We had a great time. While the book had a lot of rich content, I think a lot of other books could have been just as valuable (Experiencing God, Pursuit of Holiness, Celebration of Discipline…). The greatest value was in having everybody focusing on the same thing together, regardless of the book (as long as it’s good stuff).

Plus, we’ve not been successful in getting small groups going at Anchor. This campaign exposed a large number of our people to small groups–we had 110 people in groups, out of an attendance of 130 or so. With positive experiences in those groups, many will want to continue in a small group, or at least be more open to the idea in the future. Everybody in my group wants to continue being part of a small group. We need to capitalize on that.

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The Widening Money Gap

Although I voted for George Bush, my main complaint about him is his clear preference for the “needs” of the rich. This is not only a complaint about him, but about the Republican Party in general (of which I’m a part). We claim to be the party of moral values, and yet when it comes to social justice and looking out for the poor–a group that that Bible continually tells us to look out for–we fall flat. We Republicans are good in a lot of areas when it comes to values, but not in this one. At least not when it comes to national policy (because at the local level, Christians who are also Republicans do much to help the poor).

BusinessWeek’s November 1 issue contained a column by Laura D’Andrea Tyson which discussed the widening gap between the wealthy and the poor. She points out that in the 1990s, most of the growth in income and wealthy was concentrated among the top 10% of households, who now account for 44% of total household income in the US, compared to 33% in 1980.

“Income and wealth are more unevenly distributed among Americans than at any time since the Jazz Age of the 1920s. On measures of income and wealth inequality, the US tops the charts among the advanced industrial nations. Yet rather than fashion economic policy to ameliorate the trends of growing income and wealth inequality, President Bush has championed policies that have exacerbated them.”

She notes that the Bush tax cuts “have boosted the after-tax incomes of the top 1% of households, with average incomes in excess of $1 million, by 10%–compared with a 2.3% increase for middle-income families with average incomes of $57,000, and a 1.6% increase for the bottom 20% of families, with average incomes of less than $17,000. The tax cuts for millionaires alone have reduced government revenues by $90 billion a year….”

“As an intended consequence of the Bush tax cuts, the share of federal taxes paid by the bottom 80% of taxpayers has increased, while the share paid by the top 1% has dropped.” And if Bush succeeds in making his tax cuts permanent, “he will have chosen tax relief for the rich over strengthening the Social Security system, on which low-income workers, disabled workers, widows, and surviving children depend to avoid poverty.”

Notice the groups she mentioned–the same groups that Jesus admonished people to look out for: the poor, the infirm, widows, orphans. I look forward to the day when a national Republican politician actively champions the needs of the same poeple for whom Jesus was a champion. I really don’t want to side with the Democrats on this one.

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Can We Stop Talking about Scott and Laci Now

Finally, finally, the Scott Peterson trial is over. And they found him guilty. I’ve gotten so weary of hearing about this. When it comes on, I change channels. Just can’t stand the guy, and can’t stand the case. Way too much hype.

We’ve had a lot of potential “trials of the century,” but none can beat the OJ Simpson trial. Bill Clinton (impeachment hearings), Martha Stewart, Kobe Bryant, various other–none can really compare with OJ. Interestingly, it’s been ages since I’ve heard anyone–black or white–argue that OJ was innocent. It’s like the whole world realizes he did it, and got away with it. And he did.

The Michael Jackson case could be interesting, if it ever comes to trial. And it looks like it probably will, perhaps even in my lifetime. That could, potentially, unseat OJ, because Michael is a bona fide international celebrity.

And still ahead: Robert Blake (nobody will really care, I suspect), and Saddam Hussein (that’ll be interesting).

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