Saturday, December 23, 2006
Reading by candlelight isn't that bad. Abe Lincoln used to do it all the time. It's not that different than reading in the dark with a flashlight. This is something I suggest people try at least once in their lives. However, try to make sure that you have a source of heat nearby other than the candle, because reading by candlelight while holding on to a blanket that is keeping you from freezing is very difficult to do.
My father might not be a very intelligent man, but he is incredible nonetheless. I respect him even more than I did just a month ago. He lives every moment as a Gethsemane and doesn't even realize it.
Parents worry about their children. Children relieve their parents anxieties through the peace they have. If children have no peace, parents have none either.
Driving a car that looks like a light-blue golf ball isn't all that bad.
Monday, December 18, 2006
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34
I’m usually a pretty easy-going person. Even though I plan and try to prepare for things (I am an Eagle Scout after all), the above verse became more significant to me a couple weeks ago. About two weeks ago at I was awaken by a large, thundering sound. Everything outside was covered in ice and since that night tree branches and power lines had been falling. The sound of thunder that jolted me away from my peaceful slumber was the sound of part of a tree falling and landing outside. The tree landed right in front of the house and part of it was lying on my car. We could barely open the front door. Taking my Mag Lite, I went outside and investigated the car. It didn’t look like any of the windows were damaged, but I did see that some power lines were entangled with the tree. I came back into the house and crawled under the covers and went back to sleep.
In the morning we went outside and accessed as much of the damage as we could. In falling down, not only did the tree knock some electric lines down, it also ripped the phone box out of the side of the house. I really couldn’t see how damaged the car was because the tree was lying on top of it. I needed to see how bad things were because that car is my only form of transportation. We had some people who could cut the tree, but they were going to touch it until the power lines were out of the way. The phone company was also contacted, but they said they couldn’t do anything until the tree was moved. So, everything depended upon the power company coming and getting the line off the top of the car and out of the tree limbs. They had already been called at when the ginormous piece of lumber first fell. I called them later that evening just to make sure.
Two days later I was still in the same predicament. The electric company was called again and I was told that crews were on the way and everything was being done as quickly as it could. It was frustrating because I had cleared all the debris I could and there really wasn’t anything else I could do. Living without electricity was challenging, but was something that could be dealt with. But we couldn’t move the power line ourselves and we couldn’t do anything else until that was taken care of. It wouldn’t be until a total of 4, almost 5 days had past before some people from the electric company came and moved the wires. Electricity wasn’t restored until a day after that (though I know some places went a total of 10 days without).
In that time, the verse from Matt. became a very real and tangible part of my life. It would have been so easy just to get upset and mad about everything, but I didn’t. There was enough in each day itself to do that I couldn’t worry about tomorrow. I tried to live the days moment by moment. After doing everything that could be done and waiting for electricity return, I did have a sense of calm I had not expected. Sure it was frustrating at times, but the justifiable anger and rage that I could have felt, I did not. There was enough trouble in just trying to stay warm and keep busy without worrying about things I had no control over. It might not be easy to do, but taking things moment by moment and day by day sure beats incessantly worrying about things beyond your control.
Saturday, December 09, 2006
The past week has been a very long week for me. It has been a trying time, a growing time, and a learning time. The never-imagined and unexpected both became real. Some of it has been rather shocking. Most of it has been exciting. Some of it has been very challenging. Nevertheless, even amidst the new obstacles and difficulties that have presented themselves, I am grateful and have found love, peace, and joy. Life truly is a journey and even though the bad stuff is never pleasant, it makes me remember what a glorious adventure I am living.
I have several things I wish to write about and explore that have happened the last few days. I won’t be able to get to them all at once. So, I’m going to break them into smaller pieces. I’ll start at the beginning.
Last week, November 30th, was my birthday. Also, I almost died last week. Put the two things together for a really exciting statement: I almost died on my birthday. Well, not exactly on my birthday: it happened a few hours later, but it was close enough to say I almost died on my birthday.
I went to bed that night to the crackling of solid objects freezing and ice-laden tree branch-bombs falling from the sky. The closest I’ve ever been to being in battle is on a paintball course, but my Dad said all that ice and all those trees falling sounded like combat gunfire. It was a little frightening, but I found it more thrilling than frightening. I love storms and saw a side of nature that I really hadn’t seen before.
Anyway, the electricity went out long before I went to bed, but even without any heat I slept soundly. Once I get to sleep, I rarely wake up—one time when I was a kid our entire block was almost evacuated because of the burning of the township building down the street; there were fire trucks, police, ambulance, etc. but I slept through the whole thing. However, around four in the morning on the first day of December 2006, I was awoken by what sounded like Thor’s hammer pounding the Earth. Turns out, about half of this giant tree next to the house had collapsed beneath the burden of the ice it was carrying. It was too dark to see how much damage it had caused, but the tree was lying across the front yard and we could hardly open the front door.
I went back to bed, but didn’t get much sleep after that. Sometime near dawn my Dad and I went out into the freeze to check things out. The tree knocked a corner of the house away. Also, part of the tree landed on my car. There were a lot of dents, but surprisingly none of the windows on the car were broken.
But, here’s the real kicker: the tree should have landed on the house, but it didn’t. The tree should have crashed into the room in which I was sleeping and killed me, but it didn’t. I studied physics once and have had experience up to pre-calculus in mathematics. Even given the force of the wind that night and the extra weight of the ice, there is no worldly rational or logical reason why that tree didn’t crash into the house and land on top of my head. That tree fell hard, too; it’s been chopped up and taken away as firewood and lumber now, but the yard is riddled with foot-deep holes where some of the branches jolted themselves into the frozen soil and I’ll never get all of the dents out of the car. After studying the scene that morning, I found myself amazed. I could have died that night, but I didn’t. There are those that will scoff, but I know that the hand of God was involved, protecting me as I slept. That truly is the Peace that transcends understanding.
Monday, November 27, 2006
Friday, November 24, 2006
A few weeks ago I was watching a public showing of the movie
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
One of the things it made me think about is heroes. I've been thinking about heroes and the nature of a hero and what it means to be a hero a lot lately (I'm working on a more formal essay about heroes that will probably be by next published column which I'll post here, too). Traditionally, in most great stories from BEOWULF to Gilgamesh to many Biblical stories to THE LORD OF THE RINGS to KING KONG to Batman, a hero is someone who does something extraordinary at great danger to themselves in order to save someone else. Usually, a hero doesn't get the woman he loves (or if they're female they don't get the man they love) or they die and the greatest of heroes give up both the girl and their lives. I've always argued that in order to truly be a hero, the guy would either loose the woman he loved or end up loosing his life. Part of the reason for this is that to truly be a hero a person must experience great suffering and the loss of love or the loss of one's life are usually considered the two greatest sacrifices that can be afflicted upon a person. Sidekicks are the ones who can both get the girl and not get killed. Because of some thoughts that a certain television show airing on Monday nights on NBC has caused me to be thinking and now the movie, STRANGER THAN FICTION, I'm beginning to think that maybe that isn't the case.
I don't know exactly why I've become so preoccupied with this subject lately, but it's something I've found myself wrestling with in my head. I'm curious as to what other people think. So, What do you think? To truly be a hero does one have to sacrifice love or lose his life? Or can one be a hero and still get the girl and not loose his life?
Friday, November 03, 2006
Of course, school wasn’t the only reason that autumn used to be my favorite season. Besides the new school year and new friends, there were also all the other changes the season brought. There was a drop in the humidity and heat of those terrible St. Louis summer days. The leaves on the trees changed colors and made the Earth a more vivid place before the white pasting of winter covered the land. There were hayrides and bonfires filled with hot dogs and marshmallows and silly harmless practical jokes. Later there came pumpkins and a night of dressing up going door to door begging for candy. Back then, autumn was a time of new beginnings.
Years later the season that I once loved so much and was my favorite season of the year has become my least favorite. I still love watching the leaves change color and the cooler weather is often appreciated. I still see beauty around me and as I look and observe these changes around me, I thank God for the creation He has made and given to us. However, though I still have my innocence and am often naïve, those things have been tempered by wisdom and slightly by experience. The season that I once looked forward to for all the wonderful things it brought has been tainted to me by pain, suffering, heartache, and loneliness. I see joy and try to take it in, but instead find I am inhaling fumes of longing tinted with a twinge of despair.
I have no idea of when this change in my favorite season took place. It is true that I’ve experienced great heartache during autumn the past few years, but I had started disliking the season years before that. I’ve searched and wrestled with why I feel this way and I cannot find an answer. I first discovered this dislike about six years ago, but it might have happened a few years before that. I don’t really know. What I do know is that now as the weather cools and the leaves change color, there is also an aching in my heart that comes with it.
To be honest, I try to avoid politics. That's not to say I'm not aware of what goes on or that I don't know who major elected officials are. I tend to lean toward the Republican side of things, though when it comes to big business and things like helping the poor I find myself agreeing with the Democrat side. I'm registered as a Republican, but that's only because in Illinois in order to vote in a primary election you have to declare a party and rather than not have any choice as a declared Independent, I chose to be registered as a Republican. I've voted for candidates on both sides. I try to vote for a person, not a party. If we really examine things, there isn't a whole lot separating most political candidates one from the other anyway. However, there is a lot in each party's platform that separates them from each other. But I digress.
I was reading this article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and I wondered why it was such an important story? The Post-Dispatch tends to lean heavily toward the Democrat side of things and it occurred to me that maybe they are worried and are already in the process of trying to cover their behinds. I don't believe that either one of the last two Presidential elections were rigged, but I know there are many staunch Democrats who believe that they were: hanging chads caused lost votes in Florida and the voting in Ohio was rigged. I don't believe that. It's way too large of a conspiracy theory and even though I know government officials are often corrupt I don't think a conspiracy of that size would work. But, if you do believe such things are possible and if you've claimed that's happened the last two Presidential elections, even though you think you're party is going to win big this election, what's to stop you from already sewing the seeds of discord? That's why I think the Post had this story as it's cover story. They must be worried for some reason.
Monday, October 30, 2006
I read a lot. One of my goals in life is to read 100 books within a year. I've never reached that, yet. The closest I've ever gotten is just under 70. I don't know if I'll make it this year either--I just finished my 50th book last week. One of the books I read (well, re-read) last week was TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee. I first read this when I was a freshman in high school. I almost had to teach it last fall as part of my student teaching, but was assigned LORD OF THE FLIES instead. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is an American classic. It takes place in Alabama during the height of the Great Depression. There are some great characters in the book and the character of Atticus Finch is what Superman (after one of the major DC updates in the 1960s) is said to pattern the way he wanted to live as a human being. Anyway, I was reading TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD last week and I came across a passage that is thought-provoking and intriguing.
I'm an English teacher and am currently substitute teaching all over the place. When I first went back to get my certificate, I had a few of the same ideals about education as most beginning teachers do. I didn't have as many because I was getting started a bit later in the game. Anyway, after doing some of my initial observations and experiences, I became aware of how screwed up the educational system (particularly at the secondary level) in the U.S. is. I was once told by Howard Dean (yeah, the guy who leads the Democratic Party) that though there are problems with our system, we shouldn't be discouraged because we try to do something in the U.S. that no other country in the world does--we try to make sure that everyone has at least a basic, fundamental education. No other country in the world does that--in most places in the world after you reach a certain age, if you don't want to continue your schooling, you don't have to. It seems really nice when you first hear it and it does seem like a good ideal, but (and this comes after much experience) it's not practical and instead of doing what its supposed to be doing, its doing the exact opposite. By trying to educate those who do not wish to be educated, we are penalizing and punishing all of those who wish to learn. Here's what Atticus Finch had to say about that:
"Thomas Jefferson once said that all men are created equal, a phrase that the Yankees and the distaff side of the Executive branch in Washington are fond at hurling at us. There is a tendency in this year of grace, 1935, for certain people to use this phrase out of context, to satisfy all conditions. The most ridiculous example I can think of is that the people who run public education promote the stupid along with the industrious--because all men are created equal, educators will gravely tell you, the children left behind suffer terrible feelings of inferiority. We know all men are not created equal in the sense some people would have us believe--...--some people are born gifted beyond the normal scope of most men." p. 233, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, Harper Lee
I agree with Atticus. What do you think?
Saturday, October 28, 2006
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Monday, October 23, 2006
But, that was Detroit. Now it's back to St. Louis. Go Cards!
Saturday, October 21, 2006
Tom Varner (Tim Allgood)--Tom has performed in about 30 different plays. Noises Off is his 7th production with Hard Road Theatre. He was last seen on stage as Ken Gorman in last year’s HRT production of Rumors. Part of this past summer Tom was an animal wrangler for the On the Lake with Orlin and Arlen nature series. He also co-produced, co-wrote, and co-starred (as Ace McGregor) in the short horror parody film, Tremors 9. Currently, Tom is working on a screenplay (title to be announced later) that is scheduled to be filmed in 2009. Tom works as a substitute teacher and spends his free time looking for a full-time teaching job so he no longer has to refer to himself as “an unemployed English teacher.” His favorite song is “Stand By Me”. Tom likes vanilla ice cream and would like everyone to know that black footed ferrets are an endangered species.
Sunday, October 15, 2006
Last night Noises Off, the play I was in, closed. This afternoon I helped strike the set. I’m finding myself struggling through some mixed emotions right now.
The end of a play is almost always a bitter-sweet experience. There’s a lot of time, hard work, effort, and often money that each person gives to a production. It’s a commitment. Practices don’t always end when they should and sometimes after a long day of work rehearsing for a play is the last thing you want to do. Part of the payoff comes from the performances. I have yet to find something in my life that fills me with the joy, exultation, and excitement that performing does. As much as I enjoy it, it is nice to have some free time in the evenings again.
Yet, even now as I sit and write this, I miss the show. I miss the show because of the people with whom I worked, played, and performed with for the past two months. Old friendships were strengthened and new ones were formed. A small community was built. Now, the farewells have been made, the fellowship has been broken, and the community has been disbanded. Many of us will probably work together again. Some of us might not, but even if we were to all come together again, it would not be the same.
This show was really special to me. I’ve wanted to perform in Noises Off for a long time. I don’t remember when I first heard about the show. I made decisions in my life that would keep me in the area just so I would be close enough to do the show. For example, I really didn’t apply to too many schools that were outside of a 150 mile radius of the town where the play was going to be performed. Some people called me crazy. I couldn’t explain it to them. I just knew it was something I wanted to do and something I was supposed to do. For the past two months, the play has been a lifeline for me and it was actually something I looked forward to doing each night. Now, it is finished. The last set pieces have been taken away and the stage floor is swept and mopped.
There’s a line in the play that goes, “This is such a lovely company to work with.” It truly is. It truly is.
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
Tidbits from Tom By: Tom Varner
This weekend and
The show is being sponsored by Bradford National Bank. Performance dates are on Oct. 6,7,13, and 14th at and on Oct. 8th at at the Upper Elementary Auditorium in
I was able to see Noises Off a few years when it was performed by another organization. It is one of the funniest shows I have ever seen. The people at
After seeing the show, rent the movie based upon the play. Many times when plays are made into movies, they don’t succeed. However, the film version is an excellent adaptation of the play. The movie stars the late Christopher Reeve, John Ritter, and Denholm Elliott as well as Michael Caine, Carol Burnett, Marilu Henner, Nicolette Sheridan, Julie Hagerty, and Mark Linn-Baker. Like all movies based on existing works, the film has been altered slightly, especially the third act, but overall the movie does a superb job of bringing the play to the silver screen.
Friday, September 29, 2006
Tidbits from Tom
By: Tom Varner
Last week Steve Zaillian’s long delayed version of All the King’s Men was released. The movie is loosely based upon the 1947 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name by Robert Penn Warren and stars Sean Penn as Willie Stark. I haven’t seen the film myself, but from the reviews I’ve read and from talking with people who have seen it, I recommend not watching the movie.
Instead of seeing this latest version of All the King’s Men, you’re better off watching the classic 1949 production starring Broderick Crawford. This version stays closer to the spirit of the novel. It also won the Oscar for Best Picture in 1950. In a strange bit of irony, John Wayne was the first choice to portray Willie Stark in the 1949 version, but wrote a feisty letter turning down the role. Later,
If that doesn’t appeal to you, go read
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
I'm not sure about the rest of the country, but in the past few weeks gas prices have fallen. I had to fill up today and it was $2.28/gal. This "story" is making headlines in newspapers an on evening broadcasts. I guess the media gatekeepers think it's a big deal. Here's a bigger story, gas prices right now are still 20 cents higher than they were a year ago at this time--a month after Hurricane Katrina swept through the Gulf Coast. Has everybody forgotten that? After Katrina, we were told prices went up because, depending on who you asked, 10%-40% of all U.S. refinining capacity was knocked out. Yet, gasoline is still more expensive now than it was a year ago and much of the media is going crazy at how "inexpensive" gas is getting. Yeah, whatever. I can't believe it that people actually believe that. By the way, if you do believe that, let me know and for a nominal fee I can sell you some real estate on the imaginative plane.
We as a country have a serious drug addiction to oil. It's a really, really, bad addiction. If we don't seek treatment, it's going to end up killing us. The worst part is that our dealers-- mainly Iran, Syria, Venezuela--happen to be the same countries that are filled with people in positions of power who want to kill all of us. I'm ready for rehab. What about you? Let's go green.
Saturday, September 23, 2006
Tidbits from Tom
by Tom Varner
From all of the new movies released last week, the best of the bunch to see is Everyone’s Hero. It’s an animated tale about a boy who travels from New York to Chicago to get Babe Ruth’s bat back for the final stretch of the 1932 World Series and to save his dad’s job. The movie has a strong vocal cast, some great messages, and was Christopher Reeve’s last project.
In the land of television one of the biggest things on air was Survivor: Cook Islands. The show had received lots of early publicity because of the division of tribes by race. Certain leaders in New York, L.A., and other cities boycotted the show in protest, but the show finished first for the covenanted Thursday night time slot and as one of the top 10 shows of the week with 18 million viewers. Ironically, Thursday’s episode (remember 18 million people watched) was the 2nd least watched Survivor premiere ever. Only in Hollywood.
For trivia hounds, last week Ken Jennings’ (he of Jeopardy! fame) released a book entitled Brainiac. The book is a partial biography about Jennings’ life including his 75-game stint on Jeopardy! as well as an inside examination of the history of trivia and quizzing in the United States.
That’s all for now. Until next time.
Sunday, September 17, 2006
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
I had just arrived at work. At the time, I was working part-time in the shoe section of a local department store. I hated my job. I was working there because it was the only employment I had been able to find. I had applied at temp agencies galore, grocery stores, movie theatres, video stores, industrial labor, and even to a few fast food places. I had made follow up telephone calls and written letters, but the only job I could find was in a department store shelving shoes. I had been planning to move the following fall out to
I had wanted to move to
However that year, things began to shift. I had spent the summer working at camp. I thought it was going to be my last summer doing that. I had an amazing summer and through the experiences and some of the conversations I had, I began to believe that maybe I was supposed to teach for a time. I was dreading moving back to my hometown and working at some crummy job just to earn money so I could move next fall and begin doing what I really wanted to do. I had done that long enough. Life was too short and precious for me to waste part of my life like that. Also, I felt a divine tugging in my heart. I had been avoiding that. I knew what He was going to ask of me and I wasn’t prepared to give it up. I had spent my whole life preparing to move to
Whatever the case, I wasn’t going to work as a shoe salesman much longer. That was killing me inside. It was so pointless and meaningless. I had decided that the Thursday before when I had re-arranged and restacked the same boxes of shoes five times in four days.
That was all before I arrived at work on
I arrived at the store and everything was deathly silent. It was like a scene in a bad horror movie. I walked to the back of the store and all the people that were in the building were gathered around the normal-sized televisions.
“They just blew up one of the
“They’ve grounded all planes across the country.” The reporters on the screen were visibly shaken. They were talking non-stop, perhaps believing that if they didn’t stop talking then maybe it would all go away like a bad dream that wakes someone up in the middle of the night, but is lost in oblivion after falling back to sleep. It didn’t go away. This wasn’t a dream, not even of the nightmarish-type. This was real. A few minutes later the second plane hit the other tower.
The rest of the morning is a blur. The Pentagon has been hit. We are under attack. The White House has been hit. No, the White House has not been hit. We are under attack. It is rumored that a plane has crashed somewhere in
We were released an hour early from work that afternoon. No one was coming to the store anyway. It felt like time had stood still and sped by at light-speed at the same time. The world, our country, our towns, our schools, had changed. Everything had changed. Barely into the 21st Century and it had already begun more violently than the one before had ended. Do you remember?
I went to the car I drive, got in, and sat behind the steering wheel and cried for a little while. I prayed to God and asked him to be with us all and to have mercy upon us all. The events of that day were shocking, but they didn’t really surprise me. Each day that goes by brings us farther away from
I remember listening to the radio and listening to passionless djs and announcers suddenly come to life and begin speaking in tones and with words that if they had started doing a few days ago it would have made their ratings blow through the roof. I remember watching television as all the national leaders of the country gathered together on some stairs, held hands together, and sang a song. I think they even prayed. It was surreal. Life had been lifeless and brought death. Now that death was causing life and liveliness. I felt like I was living in a Salvador Dali painting. Do you remember?
Five years have gone by now. So much has changed, yet so much more has stayed the same. It seems like people have forgotten. Even outside of the political arena, whatever unity we had as a nation for those few brief moments five years ago has long since been broken. People continue to exist while pretending to live, while ignoring the events of
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Monday, August 28, 2006
So, here are a couple of things I have been thinking about. Why is it that in many modern American churches we treat worship leaders as a high priest? I thought the idea of an earthly high priest went out the window after Jesus’ crucifixion when the veil was ripped in two in the Holy of Holies. I thought Jesus had become our high priest (Heb. 8:1-2) and that each of us is ourselves a priest (I Pet. 2:9-10). If I’m not mistaken, isn’t worship more than just singing songs and making music? Isn’t worship more than just going to church, praying, reading the Bible, and doing good deeds? I thought worship was about how you live your life. I thought that everything we do, everything we say, and even everything we think should be an act of worship to God. I thought that worship wasn’t necessarily about what we do, but how we do things and the spirit of our hearts (John 4:23, Rom. 12:1-2). I know that none of us will actually be able to accomplish that in this life, but it is what we should be attempting.
If this is the case, then why is it that in many churches in America we treat those who lead music as rock stars? Why is it that we refer to the time we sing songs and music is played as “worship time?” Why is it that in so many churches that those who lead music are called and referred to as worship teams, worship bands, and worship leaders?
The real worship leaders are the people who clean the church bathrooms every week. The real worship bands and teams are those who come together anytime work needs to be done and they show up to help out. Many of these people may never have sung a note in a church service. Just about all of us can learn more about worship and what it is to worship from these people than we can from people who might lead us in singing every Sunday. Yet, we ignore these humble teachers and leaders and exalt others as high priests and rock stars.
When we do this, we do a great disservice and injustice to those around us. You and I might know that worship is supposed to incorporate every aspect of our lives, but that teenage boy who starting attending your services because of the youth group at your church might not. What about the young lady who is recovering from a drug addiction and just became a Christian a few weeks ago; might she get the wrong impression about what worship is? And what about those outside of the body of Christ who attend our services? If we, who are the Body of Christ, constantly and consistently refer to worship in terms of music and if we continue to make a distinction between things that are worship and spiritual and between everything else, what are those who aren’t followers supposed to think and believe?
This brings me to the other major issue I’ve been thinking about and wrestling with. If so many of us view worship and treat it as something we just do on Sundays or when we do something musically, then why is it that so many of us disengage ourselves from our intellect when we worship? For example, there are probably several hundred praise songs written in the past ten years that have some sort of line talking about bowing down to God, e.g. “We bow down”, “All bow down”, “Here I am to bow down.” How many times have you been at a church service and actually seen someone bow down when they sing those lyrics? I think a lot of people have no idea what they are singing and are just singing because they take pleasure from it.
Not that there’s anything wrong with singing. Some of us were created to sing. I like to sing. I take pleasure from singing. I also understand that God is probably more interested in how I live my life day to day than He is in the songs I might sing to Him on a particular day. Nevertheless, it is important that when we sing songs of praise, we actually mean and do what we sing. Otherwise, our catchy musical lyrics become hollow words signifying nothing. It is a matter of consistency, integrity, and honesty. I’m guilty of this too, but I try very hard not to sing a song just because it sounds pretty and makes me feel good. When I’m in a service where we’re supposed to be singing about bowing down I either don’t sing those lines or I actually do them. If there is a line in a song that I can’t bring myself to agree with, I don’t sing it. There are those who will make the argument that what we don’t do physically we do in spirit. There might be some validity to that argument, but for the most part it is a cop out. Why sing about something you are doing before God if you don’t and won’t actually do it? What purpose does that serve? If I wasn’t a Christian and I saw someone singing a song saying, “We bow down” and no one around me was bowing down I would think to myself either “They’re a bunch of hypocrites” or “What a bunch of idiots.” It might be true that any idiot can sing a song, but that doesn’t mean you have to be an idiot to sing, especially if you’re singing to the Creator of the Universe.
I know there are a lot of Christians in America who have become disillusioned with the churches they attend and even with the Church itself. I don’t blame them. There are times I’ve felt this way myself. This probably isn’t a bad thing. We all need some disillusionment in our lives: when we are forced to confront Ultimate Reality, He shatters whatever illusions we have and are holding onto. Nevertheless, there would probably be a lot less bitterness, frustration, anger, and confusion if we refused to disengage ourselves from our intellects and actually worshiped God “in spirit and in truth.” But what do I know, I’m just an unemployed English teacher.
Monday, August 21, 2006
Juicy droplets molded like plastic fingers
Manufactured on an assembly line
Into various health-food shapes:
Asparagus, bananas, grapes, pea pods, pineapples, and raspberries.
Tasting like raspberries, oranges, limes, licorice, and lemons.
Usually sold in cinema temples
As a refreshing confection
during an evening of what gatekeepers hope is mindless entertainment.
Often found annoying--
sticking to one's teeth and upper palate.
These sugary-filled treats contain a surprise.
Inside of each there is a fierce energy.
Put to the test of fire
The jujyfruit reveals its true nature:
A flaming black heart of power,
Glowing brighter in each moment
Until finally bursting into a brilliant blaze of glory.
Sometimes I wish I had the heart of a jujyfruit.
Sunday, August 20, 2006
THE WICKER MAN--I've seen the original version with Christopher Lee. I was able to figure out what was going on fairly early in the film. However, I'm curious to see how this update will be.
HOLLYWOODLAND--It will be interesting to see Ben Afflick's first decent role since GOOD WILL HUNTING. However, the real reason I want to see this movie isn't because of Ben, it's because it has a great story behind it; kind of a real life version of L.A. CONFIDENTIAL.
ALL THE KING'S MEN--the original novel is brilliant as is the original film (won Best Picture in 1949). This version has been delayed for over a year and is supposed to be coming out at the end of September. That doesn't necessarily bode well for the film. However, I like the book so much that I will probably see this version of the film regardless.
CHILDREN OF MEN--Out of all the films coming out this fall and winter, this is the one I'm most excited to see. I hope it is great and not a major let down.
EVERYONE'S HERO--You're probably thinking what I originally thought: "Oh, great another CGI animated picture." However, then I learned about the story line (a boy sets out to retrieve Babe Ruth's stolen baseball bat on the eve of the 1932 World Series) and it intrigued me. Not only that, but Christopher Reeve was the film's original director and this picture is one of the last things he worked on before he died.
FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS--the first of the two-film World War II Clint Eastwood set (the other is LETTERS OF OUR FATHERS) being released this year. I have the book and have read bits of it and have seen portions acted in skits and listened to parts read aloud. Not to mention some of my relatives could have fought in this famous battle. This could be the best war movie made since SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. Or it could turn into a disaster. Either way, it'll be worth the money to see it.
APOCALYPTO--Mel Gibson't latest directorial feature. Despite Mel's recent public humiliations (I still I would really enjoy hanging out with the guy), this film will probably be amazing. Filmed on location and in a Mayan language (with subtitles), the movie is about the fall of the Mayan civilization. However, if the title and trailer or any indication at all then the movie is really the book of Revelation from the Bible set against the backdrop of the Mayan society. If nothing else, it will prove interesting.
Other Films to See: STRANGER THAN FICTION (a movie with Will Ferrell about a guy who hears a voice narrating his life. He discovers that the voice is an author and somehow he's become the character in her story. He struggles to gain his life back before the author writes him out); HAPPY FEET (it's an animated movie about penguins. I love those creatures); FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION (the latest movie from Christopher Guest crew); THE PRESTIGE (if I can only see one other movie besides CHILDREN OF MEN, this would be the one); CASINO ROYALE (I am disappointed that Pierce Brosnan was fired from the film. Still I want to see how Daniel Craig fills Bond's shoes in the movie that is about Bond's first big adventure); THE NATIVITY STORY (there's nothing I can really say here, but any movie that actually tries to tell the story about the birth of Jesus correctly is worth my time to see); and NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM (Ben Stiller stars as the youngest and newest security guard at a museum hired to take over the night shift. What he doesn't realize at the time is that the museum comes to life at night).
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
"What people somehow (inadvertently, I'm sure) forgot to mention when we were children was that we need to make messes in order to find out who we are and why we are here--and, by extension, what we're supposed to be writing."--p. 32.
"baseball, like life, throbs with hope, or it wouldn't exist." --p. 175. I love baseball. Even the major leagues used to be as this quote says. Unfortunately, the majors have been corrupted by greed and drugs; sometimes games in the majors still throb with hope, but not like they used to.
"But then I remembered that whenever the world throws rose petals at you, which thrill and seduce the ego, beware. The cosmic banana peel is suddenly going to appear underfoot to make sure you don't take it all too seriously, that you don't fill up on junk food." --p. 218 This, this sums up a great deal of my life; I could not have said it better.
"'The world can't give that serenity,' he said. 'The world can't give us peace. We can only find it in our hearts.'
'I hate that,' I said.
'I know. But the good news is that by the same token, the world can't take it away.'"--p. 221. This is something I've known for awhile. It's a wonderful thing to know and to know it deeply within your soul. It makes the most difficult times in life not as difficult as they would be without having that soul-knowledge.
"Tell the truth as you understand it. If you're a writer, you have a moral obligation to do this. And it is a revolutionary act--truth is always subversive."--p. 226. This is part of the reason why I write.
Saturday, August 12, 2006
After several years living in various places around the country, I returned to the area in which I was raised. I felt led to pursue a new career and it was a lot cheaper to attend the state school near the old family homestead to get my teaching certificate rather than any of the other options I had. Besides, my youngest brother was in high school and I wanted to be around to help guide him. In fact, as much as an incentive as inexpensive schooling was, it was really because of my brother that I came back. He's gone off to college now and the circle is complete.
Here's to you, Jim!
Thursday, August 10, 2006
Monday, August 07, 2006
Sunday, August 06, 2006
TREMORS 9 is finished. It turned out to be the hilarious horror/comedy spoof that we were aiming for with the no budget and unwritten script that we had. The movie will soon be posted on internet movie sites, e.g. YouTube and IFilm so keep an eye out.
Thursday, August 03, 2006
All I could think about were pirates and that the reason many of them have one eye is because of their pet parrots they carry on their shoulders. "Pirates, pirates, pirates!" my mind was screaming as Packer grabbed a talon full of hair. I immediately shut my eyes tight because I wasn't going to let any bird pluck them out. Then I slowly started turning around in circles. As I turned around Packer moved from the top of my head, down to my arm (which she decided to bite and though she punctured my skin and made me bleed she didn't rip a piece of my flesh away), and finally onto a wooden bench where one of the other staff members was able to cover her with the shirt we use to carry her.
Even though it may appear that way, I don't think Packer attacked me. I think she just wanted some attention and was tired of sitting on Nibbles' cage and didn't know how else to get down.
Last week we wrapped the shooting of a short motion picture. The movie will soon be edited and should be available on the Internet (via You Tube, IFilm, etc.) sometime soon. Be on the look out for TREMORS 9. Watch out for the worms, but remember everybody dies. . . everybody.
Monday, July 31, 2006
Seth: "Hi. I'm Seth. I live just south of Chicago."
Campers cheer loudly.
Seth: "Some of you live south of Chicago?"
Camper: "Yeah. I am."
Seth: "I'm from South Holland. Where do you live?"
At that reply I started hysterically laughing for the next three minutes. I have a very peculiar laugh and apparently there are several variations to it. Apparently, each one of the variations was heard during those three minutes as Mike Zoellner so kindly pointed out to all the campers. What a riot.
Friday, July 28, 2006
This week is high school week and I've been given the opportunity to counsel again. It's been going great and I have an amazing group of high school juniors and seniors. This makes my 52nd week of cabin counseling here at Timber-lee. I've spent one entire year of my life doing this. It's a great way to have spent a year.
One of my campers this week is a camper I've counseled before. He's quite eccentric and unique, but he's a very humrous and fun-loving guy. He has a lot of issues and has had to deal with a lot of major problems in his life at a fairly young age. I love this guy. I'll call this camper Dale.
Dale says a lot of random and funny things. Sometimes the things he says make no sense, but are funny. Other times they are almost morbid, yet not quite. Below are some of my favorite quotes that Dale has said this week.
After having only been at camp for a few hours and while we were waiting to start devotions, Dale points at me and says, "Tom, I want you to start writing the alphabet backwards but you'll need a co-signer. You, Ned, be the co-signer and pretend to be a mime who has his hair on fire." It was so random and hilarious.
We were making cardboard boats to race for the tournament on Thursday morning and as we were finishing our boat, Dale looks at the boat and says, "We need to put a number 3 on here." "Why three?" "Because that was Dale Earnhardt's number. He was a great racer. May he rest in pieces." "What did you say?" "I said Dale Earnhardt was a great racer, may he rest in pieces."
We were doing word associations and someone gives me the word "flannel". I said, "Spam" (I was thinking of the old Monty Python routine). Dale says, "I hate spam. Everytime I go to check my email there's a bunch of spam in there trying to tell me how to make my buttocks more beautiful."
"I want to dress up like Abe Lincoln and wear a beard of slugs while delivering the Gettysburg Address."
"My home is the insane asylum."
"My favorite movies are Jaws and Jackass."
"I hate that song 'Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy.' Hollywood and the media takes a song like that and blows it out of proportion so we end up with things like BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN."
"I've hated soccer ever since I was in the 8th grade when they made me play skins."
"I've never seen Josiah Hager sleep. I don't think he sleeps. I think Josiah's a vampire or something." ---Dan Pinkhaus
Sunday, July 23, 2006
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
I asked, "Do people actually think about that?"
"Yeah. I've only thought about it a few times, but yeah. You've never thought about it."
I replied, "No."
I had never thought about that until last night. Last night I ended up thinking about it quite a lot. I basically reached the same conclusion I had before. I don't really care how many people show up at my funeral. I'm dead and when I'm in Heaven it will not matter to me how many people are there. Funerals aren't for the dead. Funerals are services for the living. We say we do them in rememberance and honor of the deceased and though that is partially true, it is more accurate to say we do them for ourselves. We hold funerals to bring closure to our own lives with someone. We hold funerals as a way to constructively deal with our grief. The dead don't care about that. Some of them probably yearn that loved ones left behind will believe the Truth that they rejected, but other than that I honestly don't think those who die really care who shows up to their funeral or how many people are there. I've thought a lot about that these past 12 hours and to be honest, I don't really care how many people show up at my funeral or who does. I just hope that whoever does, that the experience is a positive one that brings them a little closer to Jesus.
Thursday, July 06, 2006
Monday, July 03, 2006
I am a man of deep faith. I have been blessed to know Jesus for most of my life. I have had very long conversations with God on a fairly regular basis since I was about ten. My faith prevented me from the fate of the man in the first story. Suicidal thoughts I once had, but I know that it is because of my relationship with Christ and the Holy Spirit that is a part of me that prevented those from transforming into anything more than thoughts. I know life has a purpose and has a meaning.
Yet, despite trying not too, I am afraid I am becoming the cynical young man. I used to believe and know that Bible versus such as Psalm 37:4-5 (Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this.) were true. Now, even though I feel that I know they are true, I find myself doubting that I believe that. I am a sinner and I make mistakes and foul up. Yet, I keep pressing on. I do delight in God and all that he has given me and I find myself committing my way(s) to him often. Yet, I have yet to see the things I have desired most in my life come to be. The dreams I had for the first quarter century of my existence were swept away as I was carried to a new path. It is true that those dreams have been watered with hope recently. However, these things are still buds that are just beginning to poke out of the ground. They are not a deep rooted realization, yet. As for the other desires of my heart, they seem so remote and distant that I'm almost afraid to believe that they will ever come to be.
I've never been one to say that the Christian life is easy. Jesus never promised that in this life it would be that way. Yet, I see people who do seem more blessed than others. Often these are people of faith. This combines with the constant sermons I have heard preached of how if "you just do this" God will "bless your life abundantly." I often find myself frustrated when this happens. Part of it is because of my own sin--I find myself jealous of those blessings around me. Yet, part of it is just frustration. I said I am a man of faith, but that's not really true. I still can't command a tree to jump into the sea (and I have honestly tried that before) so I don't even have the faith of a mustard seed. My faith is so small especially when I think of those giant saints in my own life whose faith might have let them command a tree to jump. When I think of those saints, though, I remember that most of them had incredibly difficult lives.
This should provide comfort. It should, but usually it doesn't. I'm a sinful creature and I want to have the good life now. I want a decent job, a wife, maybe some children, and a nice house in a nice neighborhood. When I attend my next high school reunion I want to be like my classmates who are there and not the lone outcast who couldn't even convince the girl next door to come with him so he didn't have to show up dateless again. I want to teach for a little while. I want to write. I want to get a break in show business. I want to make a mark on this world and be a sign that points to my God. But, that is the crux of the matter. All the other desires in my life are subservient to that one: to love and serve my King and be a sign that points to him. I am a man of flesh and sometimes it is so difficult to keep that central desire in focus. But, that is the key. I just wish there could be an easier way to do it instead of working it out with fear and trembling all the time.
Thursday, May 25, 2006
DW arrived home yesterday from a week-long training session near Chicago. He leaves for special training in three weeks. Two months later he’ll be going to Iraq for a year. I love my brother incredibly. I’ve told him this, but he hates that (at least he pretends to). I’m also incredibly proud of him. He got into a lot of trouble a few years ago. I was in college and he lost his two closest friends in one day in a non-alcohol related car crash. I sometimes think that if I had been around I would have been able to keep him from getting into the trouble with the law and everyone else that he did. It took awhile for him to get back on track, but he did. He walked away from God for awhile, too. But he came back. That fills me with hope. He’s got a lot of growing to do spiritually, but all of us do. The spiritual life is anything but stagnant. Christianity is all about freedom and growth. Anyway, I leave for the summer in five days. Once I leave, I might not ever see my brother again and that fills me with great sadness; so much sadness that tears well up in my eyes if I let myself think about it. At the same time, I’m really not worried. God is guiding both our paths and wherever our journeys will take us, I know that if nothing else in the end we will meet again. So, here's to you brother! I love you and I'm incredibly proud of you.
Sunday, May 21, 2006
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to tonight’s graduation ceremony.
As the class historian, I believe we represent success in several different fields such as academics, music, dramatics, and athletics. Four valedictorians, a salutatorian, and a historian represent just a few of the many dimensions of our success and accomplishments.
One of the major reasons that our class has been so successful is because we are so adaptable to change. Many changes have taken place during our lifetime. We have seen the Vietnam War end and our nation’s bicentennial begin. We have watched the Space Shuttle Challenger explode. We have seen the end of the Cold War. We have lived through the Persian Gulf War. And we have been led by five different Presidents.
However, as we have grown and matured change has also occurred within our lives here at home. We have said farewell to Mr. Stout and welcomed Mr. Dillon as our principal. We have seen faculty come and go. We fought for the reinstatement of the senior trip. And one month ago over a third of our class enjoyed our victory at Chesterfield, Missouri.
As we leave these halls tonight we will be faced with the challenges of the world: genocide in the Balkans, the fight against drugs and crime in our cities, the search for cures for cancer and AIDS in our nation’s laboratories, and more personally what careers we will pursue and who we’ll date next Friday night.
I ask of you, my friends, that as you leave tonight and begin upon the great journey of life to remember our class motto: “Remember yesterday, dream for tomorrow, live for today.”
I congratulate us the class of 1994.
Friday, May 19, 2006
Apparently not because I got a call today and was informed that they had offered the job to someone else. Language cannot express how frustrated and angry that made me.
I have sent out around 30 different applications to schools that I know have open positions. I have had 7 interviews. The number of interviews should give me some comfort because I know that most applicants aren't offered that, but that knowledge provides me no comfort.
I really, really, really, really want to have a class of my own and be teaching English in the fall. I spent 2 1/2 years jumping through all sorts of hoops, spending precious time and money so that I could get the precious certification that the State of Illinois says you have to have to be able to teach. In December, I finally got that certification and in the process became stamped and approved by the government. I've been looking for a job since December and now it appears that come August, I'm not going to have one. I've done all the "proper" steps and I have the training. I've sent countless emails and have had numerous telephone conversations. I've followed up each of my interviews with a personal thank you letter. I've spent hours scouring the Internet and educational websites. I've talked to people I really didn't want to talk to just so I could get the experience. Always looking, looking, looking. And now it appears that it has all been to no avail. Language cannot describe how frustrated and upset I feel right now. I've not only done everything everyone has asked of me, I've gone far beyond it and still I am denied. I don't know what else I can do.
I should be encouraged somewhat because it will now be easier for me to move to Oregon. But I'm not. I wanted to teach so bad. I also shouldn't feel so bad because I'm quite used to rejection. Audition for enough shows and commercials and stuff and after awhile you develop rhinosaurous skin. But it's different with teaching. I'm a great teacher and a damn good English teacher. I know this. But knowing this only makes it worse. It really shouldn't bother me, I guess, because in the grand scheme of things it might not be that big of a deal and maybe it'll lead to a better opportunity. But, you know, it does bother me a lot right now. I always try to make the best out of a situation so it can be fun to play in the dirt and role around in it, but I get tired of eating dirt after awhile.
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
I've discovered this myself. I have an idea for a book I want to write someday. It'll be entitled, The Annointing Is In the Bathroom.
"But in the meantime I have learned that most of the time, all you have is the moment, and the imperfect love of people." --Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies, p. 168
Every moment is a Gethsemane. Press the best out.
Monday, May 15, 2006
"What happens when sex is cheapened?" somebody asked.
"A lot happens. The main thing is there is no sacred physical territory associated with commitment. There can still be emotional territory, but there isn't anything physical, experiential, that a man and a woman have only with each other. Sleeping around does something to the heart, to the mind. It leaves less commodity to spend on a sacred mate. But all of that sounds pretty fluffy. Let me break it down into practical stuff. Women saying no to men, not letting men have sex with them, causes men to step up. If, in order to have sex with them, women demanded you got a job and shaved every day and didn't dress like a dork or sit around playing video games, then all of us would do just that. We all want to have sex, right?'
"Amen," one of the guys said, which drew some laughter.
"So if a woman demanded that you acted like a gentleman," I continued, "that you were able to commit and focus, then everybody in this room would do that, if for no other reason than we want to have sex. And this in turn would be good for families, would be good for communitites. Let's face it, we're guys, and too often we are going to take the path of least resistance. Many of us are the way we are because women are attracted to a certain kind of man. We may not have realized this dynamic was shaping us, but it has been. Nobody is exempt. So, when sex gets cheapened, we are getting what we want without having to pay for it. That's not good for anybody, not in the long run anyway. It's a great system, you know."
"But women don't withhold sex. It doesn't work that way any more," a guy from the back of the room stated.
"That true," I said. "Women are imitating men, I think. The presupposition is that men are right, and in order for a woman to be successful, she should act not like a woman but like a man. Thanks for the compliment, but I disagree. I think men need women to be women, and we need to be made to jump through some hoops. If a woman withholds sex until she gets what she wants, we are all better for it."
"You know," I started in, softly, "I hate this as much as you guys do. You try to take away people's sex, try to make people feel guilty or something, and everybody hates you for it. I mean you're a geek, right? And I don't want to be that guy. I really don't. It's just that my dad left my mom when I was a kid, and I remember visiting him and he always had some girl living with him, or was sleeping around with a girl half his age, and that affected me. I think my dad just thought it didn't matter, that he should be able to sleep with whomever he wanted. But what I needed him to do was stay with my mom, love my mother, and be my father. I think we can think nobody is affected by our actions, by our habits, but they are. We aren't independent creatures, you know. We are all connected. And in a family, in marriage, it's important that sex be something special, and as men, it's important we take the initiative in protecting it. Those habits start now. Greg Spencer, a professor friend of mine, would say sex is the most psychologically involving of the physical acts. Men fantasize that sex is mere biology. Yet nothing seems to affect us quite as deeply as sex when it is abused. I hope you don't fault me for saying all of this."
The great argument, then, is not whether sex is good or bad outside a relational commitment, but whether sex is for anything other than the release of pleasure. There is no scientific evidence to suggest sex is for bonding. Common sense tells us sex bonds people, but science can't go into the poetic. The tendency, when pleasure drives logic, is to reduce sex to a dry Darwinian definition, ignoring the poetry of our bodies. And this doesn't sound like much of a crime, until we remember the argument about the value of the dollar. Poetics, then, matter. What we feel about something, what we agree about for the sake of health and progress becomes critical. I think of sex this way, not only because this is the way God thinks about sex, but because logically, even apart from some sort of Christian morality, the poetic interpretation has to be upheld. --Donald Miller