Saturday, October 30, 2010

A poem to my readers

Recently I was chatting with my friend Rachel about blogging and said something about "my 2.5 readers." She chided me, insisting that I had more readers than 2.5.

So I modified my estimate to 3.

And then, I dug around in the bloggy backroom and found the box where the statistics are kept. (It was behind a bunch of rakes, hidden under an old tarp and a McGovern '72 lawn sign.)

Turns out Rachel was right. There are more than 2.5 people reading this blog (or maybe it's the same 2.5 people reading it over and over).

Anyway, I wanted to thank those who read the inconsistent weirdness that is this blog. I'd bake you cookies, but that whole sending-food-through-the-Internet thing hasn't been perfected yet.

Maybe I could send you cookies if I pixellated them first...

So I wrote you a poem. I hope you like it.

To the Reader of This Blog (or, Why Dr. Seuss Made Up Words)

Dear reader of this blog, I hope you found the thing you sought,
Or something altogether more amazey,
For even if it offers content different than you thought,
My goal is to uplift, not make you crazy.

Statistically, you found me through a search for things related
To wedding cakes with bridges, stairs, and fountains,
But Google sent you to The Wedding Scrooge, who then berated
Those excesses that pile up bills like mountains.

To say that rant’s the opposite of that which you were seeking
Is understatement of the highest measure.
That irony’s not lost on me, but stay, and keep on peeking –
It’s possible you’ll find more lasting treasure.

Because, dear reader, while I hope you find that Googled thing
That brought you to my little bloggy dwelling,
I wish you peace with One who offers more than any ring,
Whose love for you outshines my best retelling.


Friday, October 29, 2010

7 Quick Takes: Volume 16

The idea of 7 Quick Takes Friday comes from blogger Jennifer Fulwiler, who hosts it weekly at her site, Conversion Diary.


It's Hallowe'en weekend. Many neighborhoods in my area have scheduled trick-or-treating for tomorrow (Oct. 30), rather than the actual day Hallowe'en falls on.

So tomorrow, as a treat to my readers, I'll be posting a little something special. It might not be a life-changer, but it'll be fun — and you won't even have to dress up!

Hopefully, you won't feel like this guy:


When I was looking for that video, I discovered this little tidbit on Wikipedia:

Charlie Brown's repeated line of "I got a rock" caused some stir among many viewers of the show, according to Charles Schulz in the book and retrospective TV special "Happy Birthday, Charlie Brown". Schulz said that after the program first aired, bags and boxes of candy came in from all over the world "just for Charlie Brown."


Yes, I spell it Hallowe'en.

Tonsure. Yep, that's what they call it.
Now you know what to ask for.

Of course, Oct. 31 is also Reformation Day.

Last year I wrote on that connection, confessing my desire to go trick-or-treating dressed as Martin Luther, and my friend Katrina told me about her annual Reformation Day tradition of telling her family, "OK, everyone: line up for your tonsures!"

Oh, geeky church history humor. Gotta love it.


But it seems I'm not the only one who finds humor in the idea of Martin Luther trick-or-treating.

Matt Zainea has written a funny and thought-provoking article on the Hallowe'en/Reformation Day connection. Cleverly titled 95 Theses or Reese's Pieces (or When Narratives Collide), it begins with a mashup of the two holidays, and goes on to explain how Hallowe'en evolved over the years and how their family celebrates. Here's an excerpt:
The senior Father quickly scanned the list and got a troubled look on his face. He sensed that the 95 theses would cause much trouble. "What is this? Some sort of trick?", he demanded. Martin retorted, "I think it's a treat for the church." The superior countered, "I think it is a trick." Martin entrenched, "No. It's a treat."
"Trick!" said the superior.
"Treat!" said Martin.
"Well, trick or treat I am posting them," Martin insisted.
"Get off this stoop," insisted the superior.
"No!" said Martin. "Here I stand. I can do no other."
"Here. I'll give you this candy to take down your stupid theses and go away," offered the superior.
Priceless. Wish I'd written it. Click the link above and keep reading for the thought-provoking part.

Edited to add: reader and friend R. left a thoughtful comment pointing to a blog post contesting the Hallowe'en/Samhain connection; Relevant Magazine just posted a light article summarizing the position that connects the two. Regardless of what individuals or families choose to do with this holiday, I hope we'll let grace rule how we speak to others' choices.


Ready for a little break from the Hallowe'en theme? Here's a beautiful video from Cake Wrecks:


But we can't end this post without candy! Here's comedian Tim Hawkins:

Happy Friday, and don't forget to come back tomorrow — anyone dressed up as Martin Luther (including the tonsure) gets extra Snickers!


Friday, October 22, 2010

7 Quick Takes: Volume 15

The idea of 7 Quick Takes Friday comes from blogger Jennifer Fulwiler, who hosts it weekly at her site, Conversion Diary.

Today's 7 Quick Takes brings us back to the original idea behind 7 quick takes... because I can't even pretend it has a theme (unless "odd assortment of weirdness" is a theme... and if it is, I think I might use it for my next birthday party).

Enjoy, and Happy Friday!


Here's the Great Chinese State Circus, with a piece that is equal parts dance, acrobatics, and insanity:


Chef Jamie Oliver teaches a few important knife skills. I like how he emphasizes the importance of not "taking lumps of your body off":


Speaking of cooking, if you've been reading this blog for a while, you know I've dabbled with homegrown and community-supported produce, but it's not easy to wean myself from the convenience and predictability of the grocery store.

Farmer's City Wife writes honestly and eloquently about various food movements and her efforts to incorporate the principles into her family's life. There's much to think about here.


I've mentioned Grand Rapids ArtPrize in a couple of posts. Of course, what qualifies as art is highly subjective, as this Creature Comforts video shows:


Speaking of art... sometimes crayons are better tools than words for solving a problem, as Clive Thompson writes in his Wired article on the power of visual thinking.

Hmmm. Would this illustration work better if it were flopped the other way?

If you've ever seen any of the brilliant videos produced by RSA Animate or The Story of Stuff Project, you can see Thompson's point. (And you won't even need the sharpener on the back of the box.)


Jon Acuff nails it again.


The Sesame Street "I Love My Hair" video has gone viral, but in case you haven't seen it, here it is (and here's the story behind the video):


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

New birth plus thirty

Thirty years ago today, I put my faith in Christ.

Baggage Claim, by Eric Samuel Timm
I've written a little about my journey to faith in a few places on this blog, though I've never written a full "testimony" here.

Sometimes I'm a little leery of people's conversion stories. It can so easily come across as ten pages of my terribly exciting former life and one sentence of how God rescued me.

For that reason (and several others), I've shied away from writing about "my terribly exciting former life" in too much detail. But here's what I can tell you:

I was raised in a family with no religious center, and I claimed atheism and/or agnosticism from an early age. When I left home at 17 for college, my belief system allowed for nothing beyond the physical world, and I made decisions consistent with that worldview.

I'll let you fill in the blanks there. Whatever you're imagining, you're probably not far off. (Hedonism is one logical outcome of the belief that nothing exists beyond the physical plane and people are soulless meatsacks. Though I probably wouldn't have phrased it that way.)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Now with antioxidants!

As I mentioned in take #6 here, it recently came to my attention it was time for a bloggy redesign.

And so, it is done.

What do you think?


Friday, October 15, 2010

7 Quick Takes: Volume 14

The idea of 7 Quick Takes Friday comes from blogger Jennifer Fulwiler, who hosts it weekly at her site, Conversion Diary.

Recent quotes from a few favorite bloggers:


Jon Acuff of Stuff Christians Like, has perfected the art of snark-free satire.

Jon predicts that church services this Sunday will be rife with Chilean miner sermon illustrations:

"But predicting that pastors will dig the Chilean miner rescue story is too easy. Anyone can predict that. I’ll actually tell you the four types of Chilean miner sermon you can expect..."

You'll need to read the whole post to see the four types.

(Also: "dig" and "miner rescue story"... wow. Puntastic.)


Sophie of BooMama ramps up into a discussion of recent mini home makeover projects:

"I am not, as a general rule, a how-to type of blogger. That is because I don’t really know how to do much of anything. Oh, I could tell you how to scream like some sort of hillbilly gameshow contestant while you’re watching a televised football game, or I could tell you how to streamline your ordering process at the Popeye’s drive-thru, but by and large these skills aren’t what you would call in demand. Plus, I’m wordy — and it’s probably not a very efficent how-to post if it also includes an anecdote or nine about the time that clown scared me when I was four."


Laurie Perry of Crazy Aunt Purl rants about crazy catalog pricing:

"Yes. $280 for a wool hat. If you want me to pay $280 for a knit hat, it better be created from silky strands of angel hair gathered after a heavenly harp convention. And it would have to function as a cloak of invisibility when needed. And make my ass smaller. And come with a free massage."


And speaking of catalogs... and because sometimes, snarky is my love language:

Catalog Living is fun for anyone who has ever looked at a catalog and wondered "who in the world lives here?!"

The blog's tagline is "A look into the exciting lives of the people who live in your catalogs." (Some of the advertisers on this site are catalog retailers. They must have quite a sense of humor.)

This post was hilarious to me... how many of you remember the TV series they're referring to?


Still speaking of catalogs, but on a more serious note...

Elizabeth of Things Bright ponders the handmade quilts offered in the catalog of a major retailer (hint: rhymes with "lottery yarn"), and asks an important question, which leads to several other important questions, such as:

"If you're going so in-depth about continuing an American tradition, why are they imported? If quiltmaking 'is a democratic art... that continues to this present day,' why are your quiltmakers hidden in Unnamed Import Land? If you really need to import them, why can't the new makers who are sewing these quilts for us be honored?"


On an even more serious note...

Writing on CNN's Belief Blog, Christian psychology professor Warren Throckmorton proposes a Christian response to anti-gay bullying:

"My view is that evangelicals need to put ideological worries aside and become part of the solution. Addressing anti-gay bias doesn't require anyone to change religious beliefs about sexuality."

I wrote on this topic a few days ago, but Dr. Throckmorton calls us to specific action. (Another of his posts on this topic is here.)


Too heavy? OK, back to light and fluffy. And what's lighter and fluffier than pancakes?

Jim of Jim's Pancakes answers that question with a unicorn pancake!

Happy Friday, friends!


Thursday, October 14, 2010

On falling leaves and rising standards

Fall is an amazing time of year.

I grew up in southern Arizona, and even after living in the midwest for many years, I still find this season a novelty. When the sun shines on the trees, the changing leaves look like jewels.

There are so many things I love about the autumn season. But election time is not one of them.

Don't get me wrong — I'm very grateful for the right and ability to vote. But I tire quickly of campaign ads where a candidate attacks the opponent rather than speaking on his or her own position on the issues.

Jim Wallis, writing in God's Politics, calls Christians to focus on truth and civility during the election season:

Between now and the election, I think there are three lessons of particular importance.

First, we Christians are politically different, but unified in Christ. Too often the church has reflected the political divisions of our culture rather than the unity we have in the body of Christ. The church in the United States can offer a message of hope and reconciliation to a nation that is deeply divided by political and cultural differences. We can disagree, but how we disagree with one another is a question of our witness for Christ.

Second, we should speak the truth and seek it. It is morally irresponsible to forward “rumor emails” without first checking the facts. Too often we focus on media caricatures of political figures. It might be the belief that Obama is a “secret Muslim” or that Sarah Palin actually said, “I can see Russia from my house.” (That was actually said by Tina Fey during her parody of Palin.)

Third, we must hold to the statement, “out of many, one.” “E pluribus unum” was not an admission of weakness but a proclamation of strength. The health of our democracy depends not only upon the outcomes of elections but also how those elections happen. We should all be able to say, in the words of Jon Stewart, “I disagree with you, but I’m pretty sure you’re not Hitler.”
The post includes a link to the Civility Covenant, in which each signer commits to civil discourse. I signed it, and I'd encourage you to prayerfully consider doing the same.


Friday, October 08, 2010

7 Quick Takes: Volume 13

The idea of 7 Quick Takes Friday comes from blogger Jennifer Fulwiler, who hosts it weekly at her site, Conversion Diary.

This week's episode of 7 Quick Takes is entitled "Announcements and Discoveries." Enjoy, and happy Friday!


ArtPrize made it onto The Today Show:


And last night, the winner of the competition was announced:

Cavalry, American Officers, 1921, by Chris LaPorte


Last weekend, we went on the annual tour of historic homes. (You'll note we have moved on to the "Discoveries" portion of our program.)

Grand Rapids is home to some pretty great architecture, including two Frank Lloyd Wright houses. One of those, the Meyer May House, is owned by Steelcase and is open to the public.

The other, the David Amberg house, was a part of this year's tour. I'd never toured the Amberg house before, and it was probably my favorite:

Amberg House, detail of exterior paintwork. (Click to enlarge.)
The art glass in the house is some of the most breathtaking I've ever seen. The style of the glass is echoed in the exterior paintwork, which is also pretty cool... although one of the painted forms reminds me of something... what is it?

Hey, a little alien! Shaped just like a TV!
Waaaaait a minute...

Oh yes. That's it.

You think maybe people in the early part of the 20th century knew something? Something about TVs and mind-controlling aliens?

Naaaaah. Too crazy.


OK, so maybe the paintwork doesn't really contain a hidden prophecy about TV-shaped aliens taking over the world and controlling our minds. (Though that would explain a few things.)

It's possible the design just reflects artistic creativity, or maybe TiVo is a lot older than we think it is.

Anyway, it turns out the Amberg house is home to a secret. More than one, really.

It seems that Wright may not have designed it after all — at least, not all of it. Wright ran off to Europe with the wife of a client, and left the home's design to be completed an employee named Marion Mahony, the world's first woman to be licensed as an architect. It turns out she did quite a bit of work that was attributed to her employer.

Yep. Scandal, secrets, sexism, and incredible home design. All right here in Bland Rapids*. Who knew?!

(Click here for more photos of the Amberg house and other Michigan houses designed by (or attributed to) Frank Lloyd Wright.)

* Note for those who don't know me well: I don't really call it that. I like Grand Rapids. Plus, only snooty people from... well... that other city call it that. Not snooty people from out of state.


This week I discovered a really good reason never to eat chicken nuggets. Two words: meat slurry. (Warning: the article and pictures are not for the faint of heart or the weak of stomach.)


A happier discovery this week: The Brothers Winn, with What You Ought to Know.


And this isn't an announcement or a discovery, but all those animal group names made me think of this:


Tuesday, October 05, 2010

In prison

It's the Holy Spirit's job to convict; it's God's job to judge; and it's our job to love.
— Billy Graham

Lately I've been contemplating prison.

Actually, it's prisoners that I've been thinking about.

You know the Bible passage where Jesus talks about visiting those in prison, where He puts prisoners in the same category with the needy, the sick, and the newcomer... and then He says looking after these is a demonstration of love for Him?

It suddenly occurred to me that He doesn't say we're only to visit those prisoners who are innocent.

Nor does He say we're supposed to explain to them the nature of their guilt and insist they agree with our perspective before we'll visit them again.

He says visit... look after. Which I think means show mercy.


My heart aches for the four teenagers who have died by their own hand in the last few weeks. All four committed suicide as a result of being harassed by classmates about their sexuality.

Billy Lucas, age 15.

Seth Walsh, age 13.

Asher Brown, age 13.

Tyler Clementi, age 18.

Real kids who felt they had no other option but to end their lives.


I'm not taking a stand here about whether homosexuality is or isn't a sin. That's not the point.

The action we're called to as believers is the same either way.

When Jesus spoke about visiting and looking after those in prison, did He mean for us to do so even if it's possible they might be guilty? I think so.

Does it matter what the prison is? Or what someone's guilt looks like? Or even if everyone agrees on whether it's sin or not?

It doesn't seem to. He's asking us to show mercy... not judgment.

How do I know? Because He set the example first.