Monthly Archives: April 2006

Today’s Junk Email

I just finished checking my email. I received 76 emails since checking last night. Only one of them was NOT junk (and even that was just an email subscription I have which I deleted without reviewing). This is really getting out of hand. And it’s been like this for quite a while. It used to be that the government talked about doing something about it. Oh well.

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Roger and Marilyn Reeck

ReecksRoger and Marilyn Reeck were in town today. They are Wycliffe missionaries in La Ceiba, the third largest city in Honduras, situated on the north coast. I wrote a book about the life of Marilyn’s father, Archie Cameron, who basically started and built the United Brethren ministry in Honduras, which now has over 80 churches. An amazing man. That was the best, and most rewarding, piece of writing I’ve ever done.

Both Roger and Marilyn are graduates of what is now Taylor University-Fort Wayne. Back then, it was called Fort Wayne Bible College. Marilyn attended Anchor, my church (then called Third Street United Brethren Church), while she was in college. An interesting connection.

In writing the book, I made three trips to Honduras, during which I spent many hours interviewing Archie, but also traipsing across northern Honduras with Roger interviewing other people, missionaries and nationals, who could tell me something about Archie’s life. The interviews were usually bilingual, which made it interesting. And having Roger translate made it especially interesting, because he’s such a fun guy. Roger knows over a dozen languages, and has been integrally involved in translating the Bible into the Zapotec and Garifuna languages. Now he’s working in the West African country of Guinnea Bissau (though still living in Honduras), working on translating the Bible into a language there. What could be more rewarding than that?

Pam and I had breakfast with the Reecks this morning (Pam accompanied me on one of those trips to Honduras). Roger told about being in a remote village in Guinea Bissau. All they had translated was the story of the Good Samaritan. The villagers gathered, and the story was read to them in their own language. “Read it again!” they said. So they read the story again. “Read it again!” This happened over and over, and they kept re-reading the story. Roger told me that the people are starved for God’s Word, and by hearing this single story over and over, they would be able to remember it well enough to repeat it to others.

Tio ArchieArchie Cameron died last fall. He had lived in Honduras since 1952. He was a pioneer, and part of the dying breed of missionaries who are “lifers”–who make missionary service in a foreign land their career. It was a great honor to do the book. Roger and Marilyn have told me that the book has been a blessing to other missionaries in Honduras, who value not only Archie’s testimony, but the background information I give about the country’s history. They mentioned one man who leads work teams to Honduras, and he always gives a copy to team members (and he’s not even United Brethren!). The book is used in teaching at the UB high school in La Ceiba.

Tio Archie has been translated into Spanish, and the Spanish people of Honduras are eager to read the book, but they don’t have the money to print it. Seems like, out of our American abundance, we should be able to come up with the money to make that happen. Because the book is really the Hondurans’ story, not an American story. (Archie, I should also mention, was Canadian.)

Roger and Marilyn are on their way to Florida, where their youngest daughter (of four) will graduate in May from Pensacola Bible College. I trust they have a joyous time.

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American Idol Predictions

I’m so shallow.

I think Kelly may get the boot tomorrow. She probably deserves to get it. Paris may get it instead, but only because she doesn’t seem to have a big fan following. Singing the love songs of Andrea Bocelli–geesh, who thunk up that theme? Paula Abdul is a flake, in case you hadn’t noticed.

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Hungry Howie’s

I do hereby declare that Hungry Howie’s, home of the flavored crust, is the best pizza in Fort Wayne. With their Sunday $5.99 special, they have been a regular weekend treat for Pam and me for well nigh unto a year. Thought it was time to alert the rest of the world.

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A Trivia Tidbit in Search of a Cause

In China, 84 percent of all car buyers are first-time buyers.

I’ve known that for a month now, and I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with it. Was there some analogy, perhaps, with first-time visitors to my church? None that I’ve been able to find.

The United States probably passed that 84 percent mark in the 1940s. But during periods in my life, I’m sure 84 percent of all cell-phone buyers were first-time buyers, and likewise with computer buyers, home cable installers, and even color TV buyers.

So, I don’t know, there you have it–a useless fact. Hope you can figure out what to do with it.

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Tonight’s Worship Team Gig at Seekers

Anchor Worship Team

From right: Jody Davison, Chris Kuntz, Tim Bauman, Terry Leatherman. Joe Leatherman is hiding amidst the drums. My keyboards were parked behind Jody.

Tonight, the Anchor worship team hosted the evening at the Seekers Coffeehouse in Fort Wayne, one of those coffeehouses around which a new church is starting. They have a very nice concert area, and every Thursday, a different worship team hosts the program. We did it last September, and then tonight. The schedule is to play for an hour, then have an open-mic situation where three other acts can do 15 minutes worth of stuff. But as it turned out, nobody else showed up tonight, so it was just us. Sweet.

We winged it. With all the Easter stuff, we just didn’t get a chance to practice before tonight’s gig. But everything went great. We have a big repertoire of songs, and have done them enough that we shouldn’t require a lot of practice. However, Joe, our 13-year-old drummer, hadn’t done a number of those songs before, so that was an issue. But he did more than fine. Joe is the son of Terry Leatherman, one of our guitarists. Joe’s really good, already.

Chris, our leader, did the “Cartoon Song” (I’m not sure that’s what it’s actually called) on his acoustic guitar. The song features a lot of voices from cartoon characters, and he did them great. Brought down the house. We’ll need to have him do it some Sunday morning. It was just him and Joe.

A couple months ago, I downloaded a bunch of versions of “Mustang Sally” from iTunes, versions by Buddy Guy, The Commitments, the Sugar Beats, Chris Raymond, Joe Cruz, and some other guys I hadn’t heard of. I burned them all onto a single CD and gave a copy to both Tim and Terry, our guitarists. Knew they’d enjoy it. I later suggested that they write Christian lyrics to it…and both of them did. So tonight, we did their versions of Mustang Sally. We hadn’t practiced this at all, and they didn’t have chord charts for it. Terry told me it was A, D, and E, and that’s all I needed. I play two keyboards, a full 88-key Roland and a short Alesis, which I use primarily as a bass (since we don’t have a bass player). I quickly settled into a nice, slow blues groove with the bass, and then threw in some high organ highlights on the lower keyboard. Just made it up as I went. It was wonderfully fun.

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Goodbye Ace

Nothing is more spiritually edifying for my readers than for me to pontificate about American Idol. And so, here is my weekly devotional.

As predicted, Ace said adieu to American Idol tonight. They’re at the point now where a really good performer must be cut every week. Ace was good, but you got the impression that not only Simon, but the “show” in general, had it in for Ace. The way the show is produced definitely spotlights certain people in more favorable ways. So while the results are not technically “fixed,” they are definitely influenced by the big bad omnipotent string-pulling producers, whoever they are. I hate lowering myself to grasp proofless conspiracy theories, but I just can’t help myself here.

The counterpart to my conspiratorialism is that I felt the producers were jacking up interest in Chris…and yet he had the second-lowest number of votes this week. So I really don’t know what I’m talking about.

Next week Chris, the rocker, has to do something from Andrea Bocelli. Right. That’ll be a hoot. He and Kelly are in trouble. Everyone else should do okay. Yes, Freddie Mercury sang the remarkable “Barcelona” album with Spanish opera diva Montserrat Caballe, but Chris ain’t no Freddie Mercury.

To show how much this show has be-fevered me: I downloaded clips of performances from previous seasons. The best ones were from Bo Bice, last year’s runner-up. As much as I like this year’s rocker, Chris, Bo Bice was far superior. That guy was good!

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One of Those Perfect Days

Steve and PamThis has been a great day. Yesterday Pam finished her 22nd tax season, which means working every Saturday from the beginning of January until April 15, plus many long nights. Such is the life of a CPA. It’s a long haul. Since April 15 fell on a weekend, the deadline was extended to the following Monday, April 17. Yesterday. But now it’s over. Again. Finally.

Today Pam took the day off. So did I. We slept in as long as the cats would let us, which was about 8:30. I made some Starbucks coffee and drank it out on the porch while proofreading some of my writing and watching the “kids” outside in the grass, surprised to be let out on a weekday morning. Pam baked orange rolls and brought my share out on the porch, along with a glass of orange juice (which a huge fly later fell into).

I did a lot of proofreading and rewriting, glad to have gotten the time for it. Pam finished one book and started another, which she’ll also no doubt finish before the day ends. Sometime in the afternoon she took a nap, which nobody could rightfully begrudge her.

Late in the afternoon we tore out a big scruffy bush from the front of the house. We sat for a while on the tailgate of my truck drinking a bottle of Ice Mountain water and watching cars go by, legs dangling, then felt sufficiently energetic to tear out a second bush. The roots ran thick and deep, and I broke a shovel, but I wrestled the chaotic stump out after much hacking. Pam bagged the remains and set them by the road for the trashman, who comes tomorrow. Our muscles ache, but in a satisfying way, a reminder of efforts spent in a worthwhile cause.

We just finished lounging on the back, screened-in porch, where I finished reading this week’s Newsweek magazine, which came today. After writing this, I’ll take a shower, and then we’ll get supper at the new Bandidos out on Route 14. Then we’ll come back to watch American Idol, fully expecting Ace to get the boot tomorrow night, though I would prefer seeing Elliott go.

It’s a beautiful day. Sunshiny, but not hot. A lazy day, yet a day of accomplishment. Our first truly “together” day all year (since Sundays, during tax season, are R&R days). Just husband and wife, with Jordi and Molly always nearby, and a nice breeze. One of those perfect days. Nothing special for you to read about. But special for us.

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Solving a Death in Venice

For me, one of life’s simple pleasures comes when I finish a book, and then get to decide what to read next. Such a moment came tonight. I finished Donna Leon’s “Death at La Fenice,” and now I can stand at my bookshelf–the top shelf, filled with books I haven’t read yet, but which I fully intend to read, eventually–and make a choice. I always end up reading the backs of the books, even though I’ve read them before, searching for some piece of description that will snag my interest sufficiently so that I declare to myself, “This is the book.”

I did that some already tonight. Haven’t made a selection yet.

So, let me review what I’ve been reading. For the past several novels, I’ve chosen detective-genre books set in unusual (for me) surroundings. Philip Kerr’s “March Violets” was a detective novel set in Berlin just before World War II began. Before that, I read Dan Fesperman’s “Small Boat of Great Sorrows,” set amidst the not-too-distant atrocities of present-day Bosnia. Both of those books were outstanding. Curt Colbert’s “Sayanorraville” took me into the post-WW2 Japanese and Chinese immigrant communities in Seattle. And now, the beautifully written “Death at La Fenice” featured a plodding detective in Venice, Italy.

fenice.jpgCommissioner Guido Brunetti never displayed a hint of violence, and guns weren’t mentioned in the whole book. I loved this piece of description early on about Brunetti: “His clothing marked him as Italian. The cadence of his speech announced that he was Venetian. His eyes were all policeman.” Superb!

In 2000, Pam and I spent a day in Venice. That’s where I first tasted the unparralled Italian ice cream called “gelato” (not a bit like what fraudsters might call “gelato” in the States). It was a little ice cream shop facing the main canal, just at the end of the covered bridge. Venice, thanks to global warming, is a doomed city. It’s already sinking somewhat, and massively heroic measures are being taken to hold back the sea. But with water levels bound to rise a foot or more in the next few decades, there’s not much that can be done.

Because of that single day’s experience in Venice, the book felt a bit familiar to me. Interestingly, while all the other books were written in first-person, which is the viewpoint of choice for detective fiction, this one was written in third person, and needlessly so, I think. Brunetti appeared in every scene, and you viewed every scene through his eyes, which makes it ideal for first-person (much more intimate) writing. When you, for instance, describe a room in a piece of fiction, you should describe it not from multiple different angles, but through the eyes of a single person located somewhere in that room (so you can say “To the left was…” and “Against the far wall stood…). In “Death at La Fenice,” everything was described through Brunetti’s eyes, but not by him, which I felt sacrifices something. But it worked okay. Brunetti is neither hard-bitten nor sarcastic, as are most protagonists in this genre. It was a well-done book with a satisfying ending (which I didn’t anticipate, despite the clues dropped along the way), but I’m not sure I’ll read another one. I prefer the first-person, quick-punching, pistol-waving investigators of the Chandler/Parker variety.

After reading these books set in exotic settings or different time periods, I’m not as interested in trade paperbacks by such mass-market novel juggernauts as John Sanford and James Patterson (though Robert Parker will never lose my favor). Chandler still does it best, but I’m fully intrigued by Philip Kerr’s “Berlin noir” books. He writes wonderfully, and the backdrop of Nazi Germany makes it engrossing. Alas, I don’t have another Kerr book on my shelf, so for now, I’ll force contentment from some other book.

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Easter Debrief

Today was a fun day at Anchor. We’ve had two services since September, but for Easter decided to hold just one combined service. It was a bit risky, considering this is always the biggest attendance of the year, but we managed to squeeze everyone in okay. And I do mean squeeze. There was not much room to spare.

We moved the worship team off the platform, with the drummer and one guitarist on the left side, and me and the other guitarist on the right side, and the singers in the middle. Occasionally I was able to hear the guys on the far side. Actually, things went well. With one large service, there was plenty of energy to spare from the congregation, and we did a superb batch of songs. They really got into it.

The reason we abdicated the platform is that we built a big tomb there. We held communion, and people went inside the tomb, by family, where Pastor Tim gave them the elements. It was pretty neat.

Days like this are always nice.

OrangeShirts_300.jpgDuring the sunrise service at 7 am, Tom Ayers told me that my shirt was his favorite color. But he recanted when we were in better light, and he realized my shirt was not actually orange, but what his wife described as “melon.” His own son, Matt, was wearing a truly orange shirt. And Mark Solak, one of the other elders, also arrived wearing legitimate orange. Mark was also wearing a tie and non-bluejeans, so he really outdid himself. Mark said he felt like an Easter Egg. Anyway, I had Tom take our picture. That’s me in the middle, Mark on the left, and Matt on the right. Shield your eyes from the glare. (Looking at the photo, I must agree with Tom that true orange is better.)

The day ended with Pam and I sitting in our car, with our two cats, out in front of our house waiting for the NIPSCO guy to come. Pam smelled something odd in the basement, and I did too, though not as strongly as Pam did. We both thought we might have a gas leak. So I called, and we were instructed to “evacuate the building.” The NIPSCO guy waved his magic wand around and didn’t find a trace of gas or CO2, so we once again have peace of mind. Still don’t know what that smell is, but at least it’s not gonna blow the house up.

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