Tuesday, December 30, 2008

How does this happen? And why?

Act of Random Kindness

I love quiet nights at home. They seem far and few between lately but I'm working hard to enjoy them when they're here!

Today was some house cleaning, enjoying homemade soup and herb-cheese bread and then relaxing to watch Evan Almighty. Not exactly an Oscar winning film but thought-provoking none the less. There's a reason that we often teach through story. For all it's fun, Steve Carell filled antics, there were some themes, one in particular that caught my attention.

The premise is that Steve Carell's character, Evan Baxter, Jim Carey's news anchor co-star in Bruce Almighty, has been elected to congress, running on the slogan "We can change the world." His entire platform and election is based on his desire to be a world changer. The night before his first day, while getting ready for bed, his wife suggests that if he were to pray, he should ask for help with the task. "If I were taking on something that big, I could use a little help," she tells him. And so he does. He prays for help. Amidst all the story that goes with...well...with building an ark, one conversation with Morgan Freeman's version of God stands out to me. God asks, "How do you change the world?" and answers the question by saying "one act of random kindness at a time." Which, coincidentally, or not so coincidentally, can be summed up by the acronym ARK. Go figure.

It's true though, isn't it? I want to change the world, to leave it different than I found it, but if I were to try to do something radical that would change it all at once, I wouldn't know where to begin. I can, however, start with one small bit at a time exactly where I'm at. At the grocery store. At the pool where I work. When I drive. In my home. With my friends. Each small act of kindness will change my world and, hopefully, the ripple effects will be far reaching, beyond me and my ambitions. I can build my life into the life of a world changer 'one act of random kindness' at a time. I figure, if I live that way, I might just be surprised by the way I've impacted the world by the time I'm done.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Current Read

Dragondrums, Anne McCaffrey


Season 7 of 24 is coming and I'm getting excited about it. I just finished watching the Redemption episode (if you're a 24 fan and planning on watching Season 7, I recommend you watching this first. Really). Anyway, I was poking around the official website (yes, I am that big of a geek) when I found this:

24 Reasons Jack Bauer Rules...

1. Jack makes carrying a purse masculine.
2. He gets perfect cell phone reception, regardless of his location. 3. He's tough enough to withstand torture, but isn't ashamed to cry. 4. He gave Cheng the silent treatment for 2 years. 5. Jack can fly a plane and a helicopter. 6. Jack doesn't care what other people think of him. 7. Jack Bauer is always right. 8. He got Erin Driscoll to listen to him eventually. 9. He pulled the trigger on Chase. Talk about dedication to his work. 10. Despite suffering from Herion withdrawl, he was able to break Ramon Salazaar out of prison. 11. He broke Ramon out of prison in less than an hour. It took Michael Scofield a whole season to break out of Fox River. 12. Hacksaw. 13. He doesn't always listen to orders, because he knows he's right. 14. Jack hurt that annoying scumbag Joe Prado. 15. He killed the whole Drazen gang by himself. 16. He figured out to look up presumed dead people in order to find Saunders. 17. He can hold his breath forever. 18. His magic hoodie is very impressive. 19. Straight men have crushes on him. 20. He can kill people without using his hands or legs. 21. He asked for forgiveness before killing Chapelle. 22. He's "died" twice and yet seems to be in great health. 23. He trusted George to take the plane down. 24. Despite saving millions of people over and over again, has never asked for a thank you!*

Way to go, Jack!

*If you knew what even half of them are talking about, I'd say you're just as big a geek as I am ;)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Help, I'm Alive

Help, I'm Alive by Metric

This song has been in my head since the show on Friday! It's a brand new song off their upcoming album, the first single to be released to radio. I'm loving it!

Personality Profile

from PersonalDNA

The God Who Is Revealed in Christmas

Christmas is God's answer to human longing, God's response to the centuries of prayers that lay hidden in our groaning, our sighs, our frustrations, and our religious efforts, each of them a plea, mostly silent, for a divine intervention, all of them asking God to come and rid the world of injustice and our hearts of loneliness and heartache.

But God's answer didn't exactly meet our expectations even as it surpassed them. What was born with Jesus' birth and what still lies seemingly helpless in mangers all around the world wasn't exactly what the world expected.

What the world expected was a superstar, someone with the talent, sharpness, and raw muscle-power to out-gun everything that's bad on this planet, someone charismatic enough to make everyone who opposes him slink away in defeat. God's answer to that: A baby lying helpless in the straw!

Why? Why would God choose to be born into the world in this way?

Because you can't argue with a baby! Babies don't try to compete, don't stand up to you, don't try to best you in an argument, and don't try to impress you with their answers. Indeed, they can't speak at all. You, on your part, have to coax everything out of them, be it a smile or a word, and that effort, which demands great patience, usually draws out what's best in you. Moreover, you can't push at a baby too hard, it will begin to cry and the session is over.

And that is the Savior who was born in Bethlehem, and that is too how God is still basically in the world. Like a baby, God does not outgun anyone, out-muscle anyone, threaten anyone, or overpower anyone. The power of God revealed in Christmas is the power of a baby, nothing more, nothing less: innocence, gentleness, helplessness, a vulnerability that can soften hearts, invite in, have us hush our voices, teach us patience, and call forth what's best in us. We watch our language around a baby in the same way as we watch our language in a church, with good reason.

The power of Christmas is like the power of a baby, it underwhelms in such a way so as to eventually overwhelm. There is a greater power than muscle, speed, charism, unstoppable force: If you were to put a baby into a room with the heavy-weight boxing champion of the world, who ultimately would be the stronger? The boxer could kill the baby, but, no doubt, wouldn't, precisely because something inside the baby's powerlessness would overwhelm the boxer. Such is the way of God, the message of Christmas.

But we have always been slow to understand this; we want our messiahs to possess more immediate power. And we are in good company here. The messiah that people longed for during all those centuries leading up to Jesus and Bethlehem was precisely conceived of as a human superhero, someone with the earthly muscle to bang heads together and purge the world of evil by morally superior muscles.

Even John the Baptist expected the messiah to come with that kind of power. His concern was justice, repentance, asceticism. He warned people of an approaching time of reckoning and expected the longed-for messiah to come precisely as a violent fire, a winnowing fan that would separate the bad from the good and burn up the former with a righteousness that came straight from God. When he heard reports of Jesus gently inviting sinners in rather than casting them off, John was scandalized, that kind of a messiah didn't fit his expectations, or his preaching. That's why Jesus, in sending a response to him, invites John not to be scandalized in him. John hadn't wanted a gentle, vulnerable, peace-preaching messiah. He wanted bad people punished, not converted. But, to his credit, once he saw how Jesus' power worked, he understood, accepted a deeper truth, stepped back in self-effacement, and pointed people in Jesus' direction with the words: He must increase and I must decrease. I'm not even worthy to untie his scandal strap!

We too are slow to understand. Like John the Baptist, our impatience for truth and justice makes us want and expect a messiah who comes in earthly terms, all talent and muscle, banging heads together so as to rid the planet of falsehood and evil. We want the kind of messiah we see at the end of every Hollywood thriller, Mother Theresa turned into Sylvester Stallone or Bruce Willis, beating up the bad guys with a violence they can only envy.

But that's not the Christmas story, nor the power revealed in it. An infant lying in the straw in Bethlehem didn't outgun anyone. He just lay there, waiting for anyone, good or bad, to come to him, see his helplessness, feel a tug at his or her heart strings, and then gently try to coax a smile or a word out of him. That's still how God meets us.

By Ron Rolheiser

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Music Discussion

A friend of mine who teaches English in Europe posed this question to me in an email this week:

What 5 contemporary songs from the last 25 years would YOU suggest for a discussion class?? (Not Christian songs) Here's the scoop, in January I'll be leading a discussion group on music. I am hoping to come up with a list of 15 songs we can listen to and discuss. It would be really great if the song was either a BIG hit (very popular) OR the artist/group is/was very popular. The goal is to have thought provoking conversation about life issues, AND open the door to spiritual conversation.

What would you suggest?

Current Read

Jesus Wants to Save Christians, Rob Bell

Soundtrack to My Life

This is what happens when I can't settle down enough to just go to bed...

1. Open Itunes (or take out your Ipod)
2. Put all your music on shuffle
3. Answer the questions with the song name
4. Click next song
5. DON'T CHEAT!!! I really didn't cheat.


1. What is the song that plays at the main menu?
Lookin’ Out - Mobile

2. What is the song for your opening credits?
The Upper Peninsula – Sufjan Stevens

3. What is the song for your opening scene?
Everybody – Stabilo

4. What song plays at a dramatic scene?
Cheating on You – Franz Ferdinand

5. What song plays at your fight scene?
Martyrs and Thieves – Jennifer Knapp

6. What song plays at your dilemma scene?
Wholly Yours – David Crowder

7. What song plays when you fall in love?
I Miss You Here - Downhere

8. What song will play at your last scene?
We’re Here for Good Time, Not a Long Time – Trooper

9. What song will play at your credits?
Let Your Mercy Rain – Chris Tomlin

10. What is the song that plays at the extra scene after the credits?
Hopes and Fears – Keane

Monday, December 15, 2008

Monday, December 08, 2008

Once again we find ourselves enmeshed in the Holiday Season, that very special time of year when we join with our loved ones in sharing centuries-old traditions such as trying to find a parking space at the mall. We traditionally do this in my family by driving around the parking lot until we see a shopper emerge from the mall, then we follow her, in very much the same spirit as the Three Wise Men, who 2,000 years ago followed a star, week after week, until it led them to a parking space.

~Dave Barry

Friday, December 05, 2008

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

A Wee Little Poll

Okay, so I want to watch some Christmas movies (or something) to get a little bit more in the Christmas spirit but I'm not sure which ones. Any suggestions?

I’ll admit it. I’m one of those people that loves every aspect of Christmas. I love the songs. I love the lights. I love the food. I love the smells. I love the decorations. I even enjoy shopping for the perfect present for special people…even if the malls are crowded and people don’t seem to be all that joyful. I love time spent with family and friends. I love Christmas.

It’s easy to be distracted by all of that though. I’m thankful that this year at Journey, we’ve dedicated this season to looking at ways to avoiding the Christmas chaos and enjoying, living and celebrating the season for what it truly means – Christ came down to join us in all of our chaos, bringing peace, love, joy and hope to humanity no matter what else life brings. I hope that message will prevail in our hearts and our homes - and in yours too - as we celebrate Christmas this year.

This quote was shared with me recently. "Once a year the Christmas season strikes both the sacred and secular spheres of life with sledgehammer force: suddenly Jesus is everywhere. For approximately one month His presence is inescapable. You may accept Him or reject Him, affirm Him or deny Him, but you cannot ignore Him. Of course He is proclaimed in speech, song and symbol in all the Christian churches. But He also rides every red-nosed reindeer, lurks behind every Christmas toy, and resonates in the most basic "season's greetings". Remotely or proximately, He is toasted in every cup of Christmas cheer. Each sprig of holly is a hint of His holiness, each cluster of mistletoe a sign He is here." Brennan Manning

I pray that this Christmas more than any other, you see Him here all through the Christmas season and that you will be able to be able to enjoy the presents, the carols, the parties, and all the season brings even more because you realize that at the heart of it all is a God who loves you enough to send His son to be the Savior of the world.

Monday, December 01, 2008

"When Christ said: "I was hungry and you fed me," he didn't mean only the hunger for bread and for food; he also meant the hunger to be loved. Jesus himself experienced this loneliness. He came amongst his own and his own received him not, and it hurt him then and it has kept on hurting him. The same hunger, the same loneliness, the same having no one to be accepted by and to be loved and wanted by. Every human being in that case resembles Christ in his loneliness; and that is the hardest part, that's real hunger."
Mother Teresa

December has rolled in. I'm not sure how. I'm not sure when. Well, okay, I know when. This morning. Bright and early. The thing is I'm still stuck somewhere back in October. Where did October go? Of course, the unseasonably warm weather probably isn't helping my misconception of time. Not that I'm complaining. Really. It could stay this way all winter long and I'd be happy. In fact, I think it's going to... oh, but I digress. The point is, it is December. That's what my calendar says today, no matter what my brain is saying. And if it's December, that means Christmas is right around the corner. The malls have been decorated for Christmas for weeks. Shoppers are going nuts and store owners are counting on significant bank deposits each night. Wrapping paper, chocolates and candy canes are filling shopping bags. Starbucks has brought out the Christmas drinks.

I love Christmas. I love the sights, the sounds, the celebrating, the time with family....I love it all. I want to try really hard to make sure that my Christmas is full of meaning. I want to make sure that I'm remembering why we celebrate. I want to make sure that there is room in my Christmas for thought and reflection and thankfulness. I want to make room for Christ this Christmas.

Today, I'm thinking about just how significant it is that God came down to earth, put on our broken flesh and lived among us, experiencing all the ages and stages that come with it. Think about the humility of that action. Here is God as an infant, completely dependent on someone else for his every need. Or as a toddler, skinning his knees as he learns to walk. Or as a five year old, running down the street with his friends. Or as a teenager, figuring out his voice as it changes from that of a boy to that of a man. Think of the things he experienced as a man that as God he could have avoided. Think of the things he felt and experienced.

I was trying to convey that with some of the kids at church a while back and the best analogy I could come up with was the princess in Aladdin. She had everything in the palace but chose to leave to experience life and, boy, was it different than she thought. She was not prepared for what she found there. Good thing Aladdin was there to keep her safe until she showed herself to be the princess and was returned to the palace, out of the mess she'd managed to get herself into. Come on, you know the part I'm talking about!

The thing is, Jesus didn't go running back. He didn't rely on his divinity to get himself out of the pain of human existence. He stuck it out. He faced it head on, to death on a cross.

Who would have thought that this baby, this boy, this man was really God?

And so today, I think of a baby who would change everything. Welcome to our world, little one.
When we become aware that we do not have to escape our pains, but that we can mobilize them into a common search for life, those very pains are transformed from expressions of despair into signs of hope.

Henri Nouwen

Happy 60th Anniversary

Emil & Josephine Sparshu
November 21, 1948

Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone - we find it with another.

Thoma Merton

Less than 1% of North American marriages will celebrate a 60th wedding anniversary and if you would have asked our family five years ago, we probably wouldn't have expected to celebrate my grandparents' 60th either and yet that was the privilege we had last weekend. It was a celebration of them, the life they've lived (so far), the example they've set (and continue to set) and the family that comes behind them.

I can't imagine being a live that long, let alone being married that long and yet they still make it look so easy, even though we know it hasn't always been easy. It is such a joy to see a couple so deeply in love after so much life lived, a blessing to see what happens when a relationship is built on mutual respect, love and care and a beautiful example of what can happen when God is the center of life. I can only hope to follow their example. I am thankful for my dear Grandma and Grandpa.

This is the prayer my Grandma wrote for their anniversary:

Mom and Dad’s Prayer
By Josie Sparshu

Today Dear Lord we’re married sixty years
and there’s so much we haven’t done.
We hope Dear Lord you’ll let us live
until it’s sixty-one.
But then, we won’t have finished all we want to do.
Would you let us stay until it’s sixty-two?
So many places we want to go.
So much we want to see.
Do you think you could manage to make it sixty-three?
The world is changing very fast.
There is so much in store.
We’d like so very much to live to celebrate sixty-four.
And if by then we’re still alive,
we’d like to stay ‘til sixty-five.
More planes will be in the air,
so we’d really like to stick,
and see what happens to the world
when we celebrate sixty-six.

We know Dear Lord it’s much to ask
(and it must be nice in heaven).
But we would love to celebrate number sixty-seven.
We know by then we won’t be fast,
and sometimes we’ll be late.
But it would be pleasant to celebrate number sixty-eight.
We will have seen so many things,
and had a wonderful time
so we’re sure that we’ll be willing
to leave at sixty-nine
Now Lord, we’ve been married seventy years.
Our minds are still sound, we think.
We like it here. We can still get around
Yes, our time is limited, we know
and someday we’ll have to go.
We’re not greedy, or guided by fears
but we want to see what happens
in the next few years
We’re sure you’ve heard this plea before
but our bags will be packed and by the door
by the time we celebrate seventy-four

Current Read

Dragonsong, Anne McCaffrey