Friday, April 27, 2007

Page One

A friend of mine asked me if I think it's possible to start over. Actually, she asked all the readers of her blog. I'm posting this here because if I don't, then I will have posted nothing this week. Just looking around my apartment I have to say that I certainly hope it's possible to start over, because I see at least a dozen half-read books, with not a single bookmark among them — but seriously, while it is certainly possible to start over on a project such as reading a book or writing a paper or even building a house, is it really possible to start over on something more significant?

Starting over. Going back to the beginning and doing it all over again. It certainly sounds tempting. The idea that maybe if we had the chance, we could avoid making some of the same mistakes. Maybe we could avoid some of the hurts. Maybe if we had the chance, we could hold on to something we lost a little harder. We could forget the things that cause us pain, because they would no longer be. We could also forget our guilt, because those things would no longer be either.

Who ever wants to start over on something they feel has gone well? No, it is only when we have failed (or been failed) that we want to undo it and try again. I can think of many mistakes I have made I wish I could undo, many things I wish I had never done; I can think of some things I wish had never been done to me either. The truth is, however, that there is simply no way to go back and undo those things; they will always be. But that does not mean we cannot start over.
2 Corinthians 5:17-19
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
By the grace of God, we are who are saved have been started over, and are being started over. We are made new creations, our past sins erased in forgiveness and reconciliation; this is the only truly fresh start to be had. That same forgiveness applies in human relationships. There is no going back to undo the hurts and failures of the past, but through forgiveness there is reconciliation.
Colossians 3:5-14
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.


Friday, April 20, 2007

Quotes of the Day

My friend's explanation when he couldn't remember where he knew someone from:
"I have a photographic memory, but I keep forgetting the captions."

Comment on seeing a man driving with his knuckles in Dallas traffic while smoking with one hand and reading a paperback book he was holding open with the other:
"Looks like Windows isn't the only thing that multitasks."
The response:
"Windows also isn't the only thing that crashes while multitasking."


Sunday, April 15, 2007


There have been a lot of babies born this year. To my friends, four so far, with another two or three yet to come. Today I had the privilege of meeting again one of the most recent of these; her parents call her their miracle, and she is.

As I was looking at this child today I suddenly began to see her in a different way than I have seen babies before. I saw her not as a small, as-yet preciously undeveloped life, but as being, behind those sleepy eyes, already that person she will one day surely be, only given the time; not like a seed, which grows to become something different, but as something which merely has yet to unfurl. Just as this child's parents waited expectantly for her birth, so now they desire with equal fervency not only to see revealed what this life is to become, but also to see her born again and to see that life unfurl.

Her father talked to me about change, and the hope which promised future change provides. Birth is a miraculous change which heralds the unfolding of a new life; salvation, the second birth, is an even more miraculously impossible change which heralds the unfolding of a new eternal life, and holds the promise of the coming resurrection. Two births, two lives intertwined, each a miraculous gift from God.


Saturday, April 14, 2007

For everything there is a season box set,
A time to love, and a time to... inexplicably bored out of my mind.

I love a good story. Even better, I love a good long story. I am also not a stranger to the DVD marathon, having been known in the past to devour an entire season of a television show in a single weekend. I once watched the first five seasons of The West Wing in less than a month. That is why it is no small thing I am announcing now: I have been beaten by Space: Above and Beyond.

In December I bought Space: Above and Beyond: The Complete Series (all of 23 episodes) and now, four months and only 11 episodes later, I am giving up. It's not that I haven't had time. No, in the past four months I have also watched the sixth season of The West Wing, the first season of 24 (not a keeper), seasons two and three of The Pretender and the first season of Numb3rs, not to mention a number of movies and even a second viewing for certain movies. Actually, all that makes it sound like I couldn't have had time, but the truth is, if Space...forget it, I'm abbreviating it SAAB from now on...if SAAB had been as dramatic as its box cover, I would have finished it before New Year's. At least I bought it used.

Is everything bad about it? Surprisingly, no. In fact, given that it was a show that got canceled during the time that even Babylon 5 wasn't getting canceled, I was surprised by how much wasn't bad about it. The special effects were nothing, well, special but were better than other shows of 1995 and worked around the CGI and budgetary limitations of the time quite well, and the same goes for set design. The music was fair to middling, but that was also common for the time. The premise wasn't bad either. It was a sci-fi show about a collection of flawed characters on the frontlines of a massive human-alien outer-space conflict; if that's not a premise practically bursting with exciting dramatic possibilities, I don't know what is. Even the specific episode plots weren't necessarily bad. No, what caused this series' downfall for me (and possibly everybody else in America who didn't watch it in 1995) was the wooden dialogue and the desolate, parched, and positively dreary wasteland where its characterization should have been. Again, it's not as if the characters were bad, or even lacking in potential; they simply starved starved to death out of neglect, leaving behind boring first-draft cardboard-cutout skeletons where their well fleshed out and three-dimensional bodies should have been. After 11 episodes of me switching the counter on my DVD player from "Time Elapsed" to a much more comforting "Time Remaining," I have decided that I want slots 1, 2 and 5 in my DVD player back much more than I want to finish the rest of this series. My biggest pet peeve when it comes to Story: squandered potential. I'm not saying any of this to criticize the series (What would be the point? It's been dead for 12 years.) but to illustrate some of the things I look for in film.

In contrast, Numb3rs is a series which by all rights should be boring. I mean, it's a crime procedural about math. However, what it has that SAAB utterly failed to produce are vibrant, likeable, complex, believable characters with interesting and entertaining inter-relationships that provide the show with humor and, surprisingly, warmth. The series is filled with gemstone-quality character moments that make it almost more of a procedural drama than just a straight procedural, and the show is all the better for them. I know I have talked about this show before, but I got the season one set in the mail on Thursday afternoon and I had watched my way through the entire (albeit shortened) season by Friday evening, about 4 minutes before the lightning knocked the power out.
"Larry, I didn't know you wanted kids."
"Well, children are wormholes."
"Yeah, they're portals, to the unreachable future and unattainable past. Well, as things stand now they exist only in the theoretical realm, so..."
"Yeah, I can see how you would have a problem selling a woman on the idea of carrying your wormhole."

- Drs. Larry Fleinhardt, Charlie Eppes and Amita Ramanujan, Numb3rs

Yeah, they're geeks, but at least they know it.

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Sunday, April 8, 2007

Making Change

"Change is a funny thing. All I can tell you for sure is that pennies are useless."

Change is an oddly difficult thing to pin down. In and of itself, it's not really even a thing. Change is simply the fact that something no longer is the way it used to be, that what once was, is no more. Sometimes change can seem impossible, other times merely impossibly undesirable; it is often necessary, but always inevitable.

I have a love/hate relationship with change. Some changes in my life have brought about the most unexpected blessings, and yet other times the things I treasure most are the things that haven't changed — in fact, sometimes the things I treasure most, I treasure because they're the only things that haven't changed. Some changes I cheer and welcome, others I see coming a hundred miles away and dread every inch of the trip.

With all of my various moves, graduations and new jobs you might think I'd be more used to change, but the truth is that I've never gotten used to it. I've said before that it's easy to sacrifice the things you are willing to give up; well, change is often easier when you don't have a choice. Up to this point, for most of the major changes in my life, the way God intends me to go has been very clearly indicated (often by a firm but loving shove). I'm not sure that's always going to be the case though. In fact, for situations in my life right now, I'm not at all sure which way God is pointing.

I am acutely aware of the human tendency to choose the path of least resistance. Many people would change everything in their lives just to avoid changing themselves; as hard as it is to change oneself, it is even harder to admit the need to do so. Just as difficult is recognizing in the first place that it is we who need to change, and not the rest of the world. On the other hand, far too much unhappiness also comes from the inability to accept when it is simply time to move on. How are we supposed to tell the difference?

Gaining a perspective of truth on the situation is vital, but also gets more difficult as the situation becomes more personal. I don't really have an answer for that. There are situations in my life that I still don't have a handle on. What I can tell you is this: if you are wondering whether a change needs to be made, then the need for change already exists. Either the situation is not right and needs to change, or you do. Either your choices, mindset and focus are right or they are not.

I have learned from experience that you can never really know other people's motivations (you can assume, you can even be pretty certain, but that's not the same as knowing), you can never know everything that is going on in their lives, and you can never have a complete grasp on all the facts of a situation; only God can do all those things. Making sure your own motivations are right is the only thing you can do. Figuring those out takes a lot of brutal self-honesty (tempered with some reasonable self-restraint), a lot of prayer and, every so often, the counsel of friends. More important than knowing your own motivations however, is trusting in God's motivation, in the fact that he does have a purpose for putting you in that situation. Between the self-honesty and the trust in God, I'm not sure which is more difficult.


Sunday, April 1, 2007

You cried, wolf.

Then Jesus showed up.
Said, "Before we go up,
I thought that we might reminisce.
See one night in your life,
When you turned out the lights,
You asked for and prayed for my forgiveness.

"You cried, wolf.
The tears they soaked your fur.
The blood dripped from your fangs.
You said, 'What have I done?'
You loved that lamb.
With every sinful bone.
And there you wept alone.
Your heart was so contrite.

"You said, 'Jesus, please forgive me of my crimes.
Sanctify this withered heart of mine.
Stay with me until my life is through,
And on that day please take me home with you.'"

- from Deathbed, by Relient K


What a difference 1,000,000 years makes.

Tonight, at a friend's apartment I perused (and was excessively amused by) a book that was written approximately one million years ago (i.e., in 1920) called "Games...". By "..." I of course mean that the title was about 15 words long and I simply don't remember it. The section on ball and bean bag games was particularly entertaining. Besides the three-quarters of a page devoted to explaining exactly what a bean bag is, the full page description of the rules for a game called "Ball Tag" (apparently an ancient ancestor of the modern day game "Dodge Ball") begain thus: "The children should scatter promiscuously across the field of play." The last sentence of the description wisely advises, "Hard balls should not be used."

My second favorite quote of the night: on being asked, "Are you by any chance a Darwinist?" my friend responded, "I might a million years."