Monthly Archives: March 2006

Movie: The Gospel (Thumbs Way Up!)

the GospelTonight Pam and I watched “The Gospel.” Wow, what a strong Christian message! It’s basically a modern-day retelling of the Prodigal Son story. The DVD’s “Making of” featurette showed that the people who made this film are serious about their faith.

I was deeply moved by “The Gospel.” I grew up hearing that the story of the Prodigal Son is really about the “good” son who stayed home and was loyal to his father. Likewise with this movie. You had the prodigal and the good son, and they were at odds with each other. Each needed a different kind of redemption.

Rent the flick.

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Shameless Self-Promotion

I stumbled across (via a Google search) some kind words about my commercial site which sells Powerpoint background slides for church. A really large site called does a lot with Powerpoint and electronic projection in general. The fellow who runs it took a look at his favorites in various categories–favorite children’s teacher site, favorite free Powerpoint backgrounds, favorite Bible study site, favorite Holy Land photos. And:

“OUR FAVORITE COMMERCIAL POWERPOINT BACKGROUNDS – This is a hard pick. There are LOTS of great sites selling PowerPoint backgrounds. Our favorite is the “VideoScriptures” set available from Our second favorite is Steve Dennie’s material at:”

Well, that kinda made my day! You can read his words here.

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Movies: Redeye, Transporter 2, Battle of Algiers

redeyemovie.jpgWe watched several movies during the past few weeks, all rented through Netflix, in which we’ve been members for three years. Just think–for three years, we haven’t made a single trip to a video store. Zero time spent perusing the racks of recent and old releases, trying to decide what to rent. Zero time spent standing in long lines. Netflix is a pure time-saver…and money saver, all things considered.

battleofalgiers.jpgLast Saturday we watched “Redeye,” and the previous week we watched “Transporter 2.” Both were carriers of fairly mindless mayhem and mischief. Nothing particularly redeeming, just fun rides. We’ve never watched “Transporter 1.” We’ll need to do tht, because we kinda liked the sequel. An interesting kind of action hero.

I had heard about “The Battle of Algiers,” a French movie with subtitles made somewhere around 1960. It’s black and white, and involves how the French got booted out of Algeria (after having already been unceremoniously ejected from Vietnam). It was very, very good. At least, as a historical piece, I found it quite interesting. I had heard that it was filmed with a documentary feel, and that’s certainly the case. This one did, indeed, have some redeeming value.

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God is Good, Let US Thank Him For Our Food

This past Sunday, part of my pastor’s message dealt with prayer. He mentioned (not as a central point) that when people pray at mealtimes, they always pray the same prayer. Isn’t that true! I’m certainly that way. I have a basic Meal Prayer Template, and I don’t stray far from it. Mix up a few words here and there, but basically say the same thing.

What are the ramifications of that? Does it mean we’re praying on automatic pilot? Is a rote, meaningless prayer worse than no prayer at all? Or is prayer never meaningless? I don’t know. Don’t want to make a whole lot out of it. But I did laugh out loud when Tim said we all pray the same prayer over and over.

But I must confess–when I go out for lunch by myself (as I will within the hour), I rarely say a prayer over my meal as I’m sitting there at Wendy’s or Long John’s or Bob Evans. I used to, but somewhere along the line (some years ago), I stopped. I don’t remember why. Maybe it got to be just too automatic, ritualistic, dutiful, or whatever. When Pam and I eat out, we always hold a hand across the table and pray. But I don’t when it’s just me. Does that make me unspiritual? Less committed? Well, whatever the case, I’m not inclined to start again. I feel like I’m “removing the ancient landmarks” that scripture warns against.

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Bucky – On His Way Out

Does anyone disagree that it’s Bucky’s turn to hit the streets next on American Idol? It doesn’t matter how well he performs tonight. He’s on deck to exit. I guess we’ll find out for sure Wednesday night. I’m just putting in my bets now. And next week it’ll be Lisa. Then Elliott. Then it starts getting really really hard, so I’m not going to predict any further.

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NCAA Lethargy

On the Wednesday before the NCAA tournament started, I dutifully filled out my bracket. But, unlike in previous years, I lacked enthusiasm about it, and didn’t really care to spend the time needed to keep it updated during the two weeks of the tourney. I noted that I didn’t fairly well on the opening Thursday and Friday, but then I threw away the bracket. I love watching the games, but felt too busy to spend energy on the bracket.

Just as well. Everybody’s bracket has been busted to smithereens this year. I can’t believe UCLA, my favorite team (since my high school days in California, at the tail end of the Wooden/Walton era) is in the Final Four. According to ESPN radio this morning, the TV ratings are down, because everybody’s bracket is busted. Well, that’s just too bad.

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Jordi Turns Seven

Jordi as KittenYesterday was Jordi’s 7th birthday. We got him about six weeks after he was born, and the picture shows what he looked like then. Just a tiny, cute little thing. Now he’s about 16 pounds, and a bit bigger than in picture in the blog header (where he’s obsuring most of my face, which is for the better).

Jordi got to spend a lot of time outside yesterday–clear outside, in the grass, where all of his senses come alive (and hapless mice meet the afterlife). He ate some of the special treats he considers so delicious. He took a ride when we went to get our Sunday night pizza (he loves jumping into the back window on the way to the pizza place, and then nestling into Pam’s arms in the front seat on the way home). He got plenty of attention, and didn’t have a clue why.

Jordi is named after Geordi, on Star Trek. Jordi Picard Dennie–that’s his full name. We got him from a family in Kendalville who had a litter of kittens to give away. They told us Jordi was a long-haired female, which is what we said we wanted. Turns out he’s a short-haired male. But we never considered returning him.

Pam and I are severely afflicted with the Couples with Cats And No Kids Dimentia.

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The Starbucks Cool Factor

As usual, I stopped at Starbucks this morning. The lady in front of me ordered a grande hot tea, and then said, “I’d like to put the tea bags in myself.” So basically, she got a cup of hot water, with a side of teabags.

This got me thinking. You can buy from Starbucks a box of their teabags. And this being the 21st Century, most homes are equipped with the technology to boil water. This woman could then boil water at home, add two teabags, and be able to skip a trip to Starbucks. The only advantage I can see is if the water Starbucks uses is somehow “special,” like Evian water or something.

But I’m missing the point. The point is, this woman probably wants to be able to say, “Yeah, I stopped at Starbucks on my way to work.” There is a degree of hipness in that. For that matter, I could just as easily brew some Starbucks coffee (with Ice Mountain water, on special occasions) while I’m taking a shower, and then save 5-10 minutes (depending on the store’s busyness) on my way to work. But I’d rather tell people that I stop at Starbucks every morning. It shows that I’m “with it,” I’m a “happenin’ dude,” I’m 49 but still “cool.” Or am I just really, really psychologically screwed up?

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Continuous Partial Attention (continued)

Yesterday I ranted about Continuous Partial Attention, otherwise known as the Laptops in Meetings Disease. CPA has been around for a while, and it’s not limited to using computers during meetings. I find myself unable, or unwilling, to focus on something in a variety of settings. And I’m not alone. We quip, “I’m just multi-tasking,” which carries the pretense of being efficient, doing two or more things at once. But the reality is, you’re not giving any one thing your full attention. Like:

  • Talking on the cell phone while driving.
  • Jotting down ideas for my Sunday night small group meeting during the sermon. Guilty.
  • Reading Newsweek while watching TV (though TV rarely deserves your full attention, unless it’s “24” or Taylor Hicks is performing on American Idol).
  • Doing a project at work while chatting with someone via iChat (like, um, my wife; we’re linked that way all day long).
  • Reading a magazine while eating, which I always do. No, that doesn’t count, any more than eating popcorn while watching a movie does.

Can you think of other examples? I know there are gobs of them.

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Continuous Partial Attention

I discovered a great new term yesterday: CPA, which stands for Continuous Partial Attention. It was apparently coined by an executive with Apple who was speaking at a convention of, basically, geeks. While she spoke, those geeks would have been consulting their Blackberrys, surfing on their G4 laptops, doing stuff on iPods, and playing with their Treos. In other words, giving her, as she spoke, only partial attention. And she nailed them about it.

Our society is seriously afflicted with this Continous Partial Attention disorder. This includes the church. When we have denominational meetings, guys sit there listening to the bishop or keynote speakers with their laptops open, typing away as if taking notes, but everyone knows their actually responding to emails, writing sermons, or doing other things under the guise of “multi-tasking.” But to me–a former transgressor, I freely admit–it’s become simply rude.

When we held transition meetings with representatives from the Missionary Church, back in the merger-talks days, none of the MC guys brought laptops. But on the United Brethren side, you would see four or five laptops open. And when a laptop is open, with a clean wireless connection to the internet, it’s impossible to just ignore it. The keyboard cries out, “Use me! Use me!” And so, we UBs were giving partial attention as others spoke about hugely important issues.

The same thing happened last summer at our US National Conference. Curses on the presence of wireless! And I saw it again a few weeks ago when our cluster leaders met for a two-day meeting in Hillsdale, Mich., to discuss how we were totally re-engineering the denomination. Very important stuff. But as Bishop Ramsey or Pat Jones or Tom Blaylock spoke, or as others entered into discussion, we’d have a number of guys poking away at their laptops.

This is not peculiar to UBs. It’s just an example of the prevalence of CPA.

For denominational meetings, we–meaning, sacrificial tithes-payers in the pews–will spend hundreds of dollars to fly a guy or gal to Huntington. Why? Because we desire their input and wisdom and experience. But when they pay only partial attention to what’s going on, I think we’ve wasted our money. Yeah, this partial attention malady irks me. Continuously.

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