Thanksgiving at the Ritchie’s

November 25, 2004

Thanksgiving was well observed in our house today. Sheila’s brothers and sister, together with their families, came to our home. Mom and dad also appeared for several hours.
There was basketball in the back yard, video games galore in the house, laser tag in both places, turkey, dressing, football on TV (did the Cowboys REALLY win?), and – to end the evening – a rousing game of Taboo (men versus women, of course). We must have worked our way through the entire box of Taboo cards during the last 24 hours!
As a national holiday, I’m beginning to develop the same love/hate relationship with Thanksgiving that I already have with Christmas. Has it become yet another convenient opportunity to make a trite gesture toward heaven as a substitute for the life-long demands of discipleship? For a lot of folks, probably so. But, like Christmas, it can also be a great time for me to relax, to catch up with family, and to reflect on the things that are truly meaningful in life.
On a related note, its unlikely we’ll get much sleep tonight. At 5:00 or so tomorrow morning, most (or all) of the family is off to BOBS, a local ministry – representing a cooperative effort between several churches – that offers a breakfast and sack lunch to the homeless and impoverished of our community.  Sheila has been a part of the BOBS ministry for at least a couple of years now, and she normally takes at least one of the big kids with her when she goes.
I’ve only been once before – but it feels like I’ve been a lot more than that because family members always come home telling stories about their experiences. Hard to believe ANYONE in THIS family could ever have a great experience before 9:00 a.m., but miracles seem to happen at BOBS. I’m looking forward to it.


The Revolution Continues

November 21, 2004

Sheila and I finished our series on spiritual formation this morning. We called the series Revolution of the Heart, borrowing a phrase that Dallas Willard used to describe the process. When you teach a series that attempts to re-focus our attention on the very thing that ought to be seen as the central purpose of our faith – it’s a little difficult to say that its time to “move on” to something else.  In that sense, I hope the “revolution” continues in all of the things that happen at Highland, and in our small class, over the coming months and years.
Sheila – who has this day been my wife for 17 years – shared some things about her experiences in losing her mother and father before our time of meditation and prayer this morning. She pointed out that – sometimes – we are so consumed by anxiety and grief that a systematic, intentional pursuit of discipleship is just too much. In those times, “holding on” is about all we can do. But even in those times – maybe in those times more than any other – God comes to us and forms us.
Just another example of how her perspective has enriched a series of lessons that otherwise would have seemed a lot more sterile and academic. I’m so glad she agreed to do this with me.
We concluded the morning with smaller groups that prayed about our spiritual formation. It was powerful listening to all of the voices in all of the groups in our classroom: strong male voices, trembling female voices, soft voices of elders, all blending together to lift up our cry to be formed in the image of Jesus. Sheila compared it to listening to the “wish radio” in the movie We’re Back. It also reminded me of all of those prayers you could hear at once at the beginning of It’s a Wonderful Life.
Even five minutes after class was supposed to be over, everyone was oblivious to time as they continued to pray. It was one of those neat, intimate moments where the touch of the Spirit could be felt in the room.
What a privilege it is to be in a class with these people.

The Tech Support Generation

November 19, 2004

Newsweek is running a great little piece on how Generations X and Y have become technical support engineers for their parents’ home computers, especially around the holidays.
Mom and dad: if you’re reading this, please don’t think of it as a complaint. Truth is, I LOVE working on tech stuff, especially after shuffling papers and phone calls all day. Its therapeutic – so bring it on!

Incredible Incredibles

November 13, 2004

I had a chance to see The Incredibles last night. I could go on and on about how much I enjoyed this movie, but here are a few of the reasons:

  • It didn’t play political favorites. Sure, the movie had some fun at the expense of the insurance industry, but it was just as quick to mock our overly litigious society and the lawyers that make it possible.
  • The script refused to get bogged down in over-used plot devices. For example, there was a “this-isn’t-what-it-looks-like-I’m-not-cheating-on-you” scene toward the end of the movie. Other writers would have milked the romantic tension from this scene for at least another ten minutes, but the Pixar folks quickly (and thankfully) mop up the whole thing with a big smooch and some light banter.
  • Dash! Could this kid be any more like my five year old girl?
  • While stealthily moving through the super-villain’s fortress, Mrs. Incredible (who, for the last fifteen years, has given up the superhero business to be a mother and wife) pauses to examine herself in the mirror, moaning at way her new super suit accentuates her widened hips.
  • While whizzing down the freeway in a van to rescue the city from a rampaging robot, Mr. and Mrs. Incredible have a mutually pig-headed argument over which exit to take. (If you were at last night’s 7:30 showing, I was the guy who was laughing uncontrollably throughout this entire sequence.)
  • Frozone, patting his face and neck with “Karate” cologne.
  • During the same scene, Frozone arguing with his feisty, off-camera wife (How many times can a person say “Woman!!! Where’s my super suit?!!!” with an increasingly outraged tone?)
  • The surprisingly sensitive treatment of Mr. Incredible’s mid-life crisis. He’s bottled up in cubicles, jobs, cars, and houses that just don’t fit him as he grows increasingly obese. He loves his family, but the things he loves about them the most are the things that they are trying to repress.
  • Even after Mr. Incredible gets back into shape, he is still a little soft around the middle. (How I can relate to this!)
  • The Revenge of the Sith trailer. I know the first two prequels were disappointing, but – based on ten seconds’ worth of clips that were flashed across the screen during the trailer – I can now confidently assure you that this one will be better.
  • The brassy, retro film score. It sounds a bit more like spy movie music than a superhero movie score, but it still fits.
  • You know a movie is good when your five year-old is asking if we can get the DVD before the closing credits are over.


November 12, 2004

I just added a sidebar link that allows readers to subscribe with Bloglines, a free web-based news service that acts as a “homepage” for all of your rss/xml enabled blogs . You can even download a notifier that goes in your system tray, which will light up and play a sound whenever one of your news feeds or blogs is updated. I’ve been using it for the past few days, and it really saves a lot of time. Instead of jumping from one page to the next, you can check in with Bloglines to see if any of your favorite blogs or news sites have been updated. If they are updated, the new item(s) are only a click or two away.

Newsboys: Time to Rock Again, Guys!

November 10, 2004

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I’m enjoying Devotion, the latest Newsboys’ project, which is a follow-up to their Adoration worship album. I like the way they’ve added their unique musical “attitude” to several familiar worship songs, especially two or three of my favorite Tim Hughes tunes, plus they’ve written a few of their own. (Is it just me, or does “The Orphan” – even with its very moving lyrics – seem a little out of place?)
But – truth be told – I would like to see this group get back to their rock roots next time around with an album that is a little more horizontal in emphasis. Its now been almost two years since I got the album as a Christmas gift, and I still haven’t grown tired of Thrive. Its a terrific album with a strong (often satirical) message about abandoning the things that make us comfortable and safe and living a life that lays it on the line for God. On top of that, its just a really good rock album. It lifts my spirits and challenges me all at the same time.

Hello Halo

November 10, 2004

Any nerds in your life suspiciously absent yesterday? There’s probably a perfectly reasonable explanation.