Infinite Curses on You!

September 29, 2005

Now here is something really useful: a randomized bible curse generator! A couple of clicks, a little cutting and pasting, and you’re raining down condemnation folks like an old school prophet.

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Back from NY

September 29, 2005

Went on a quick overnight trip to New York yesterday and had no internet access due to some incompatabilties between my borrowed laptop and my wireless G card, so I wasn’t able to post.

I saw lots of cool stuff on the upper west side last night: Juliard, the Strawberry Fields section of Central Park, about 200 residences that all look like the place where the Huxtable family (of Cosby fame) lived, tons and tons of energetic Columbia students, an amazing Barnes and Noble (four floors and an internet cafe full of students on the top floor!), a Sesame Street style playground, the NYSE, and the Trump Building (where I attended a deposition, but – thankfully – was not offered a chance to be an apprentice).

Didn’t see the twin towers site, though I thought about going.

One of my cab drivers – a man who appeared to be of Arabic descent – had a little sign hanging off his his mirror that says “I (heart) Jesus”. How many stereotypes does THAT break?

Lots of homeless people (especially in Central Park). Some appeared to be mentally ill, some just down on their luck. New York must have a massive homeless population.

One of the best burgers I’ve ever had from a little hole-in-the-wall joint called “Nicks”.

And a dumpster covered, of all things, with several “Dallas Cowboys” stickers.

What a cool, strange, scary, wonderful, exhilirating, crowded, noisy, expensive, occasionally disturbing, diverse place that is.


The Flannelgraph Kingdom: Noah

September 27, 2005

[The first post in this series is here.]

Everything I ever needed to know about the Kingdom of God, I learned from flannelgraph.

At this point, I need to say something to those who don’t know what flannelgraph is. Probably, you didn’t go to a conservative church during your youth, and you really missed out on something here. Now mind you, there are a LOT of other things that it is just as well you never experienced in that sort-of environment – but flannelgraph: that was good stuff.

Here is what it looked like, courtesy of thefeltsource.com:

During my younger years, I could look forward – almost every Sunday – to a new bible story brought to life on flannelgraph. It was exciting and colorful. It added clarity and life to stories that sometimes were difficult to understand. Sure, the characters looked more like middle-aged adults from the 1950s dressed up in costumes than REAL bible characters, but I didn’t mind. (Only now am I beginning to realize that the appearance of early bible characters were probably more similar to my ideas of cave men than the well-groomed flannelgraph guys – but hey, I STILL don’t care).

Flannelgraph was cool.

And it is on those flat, colorful felt boards that I first began to understand what the Kingdom of God was all about.

Lets start with Noah. I’m guessing we all know the story. He builds a boat, engages in the most impressive zoological round-up in the history of man, and rides out an apocalyptic flood with a few family members. At the end of the story there is a big rainbow and a sacrifice, followed by a little drunkenness and nudity (the last part never showed up on the flannelgraph) .

But the rainbow part – that was what looked good in flannelgraph. That felt rainbow symbolized – and to this day continues to symbolize – something very important to me.

Here is the story so far. Genesis begins with a description of a “good” creation over which God is…well, God. But then, for the better part of the first five chapters of Genesis, we have an account of the decline and fall of that creation: particularly, the people who are a part of it. I know, I know. Most folks want to talk about Eve and the apple when they discuss “the fall” – but I think there is a broader story being told about how – as people becomes more “progressed” – they also becomes more arrogant, ambitious, and, consequently, un-godly.

By Genesis 6:6, God is grieving because his good, perfect creation has become completely corrupt. People don’t recognize his authority or Kingship at all, and the earth is instead a “violent” place where man contends against man for power and control. So he decides to wipe men out from the earth and start over with the one guy who still honors him.

A few days later, virtually all of humanity is dead.

Kind-of a sobering thought. Again, bloated, rotting corpses floating on the surface of the water didn’t make for good flannelgraph, not like rainbows. But I knew about that harsher part of the story, too.

Then comes Noah’s sacrifice, followed by something truly remarkable. God says: “I’m not going to do this again. Ever.”

And don’t miss this from Chapter 7: “EVEN THOUGH EVERY INCLINATION OF THEIR HEARTS ARE EVIL” I will not destroy the world like this. Mass destruction could have been – but will no longer be – the response to man’s un-godlyness.

God the flood-destroyer decides, commits, covenants that he will no longer destroy. Instead, as we will soon learn, he will irrevocably commit himself to being a redeemer: THE redeemer of man and creation.

And thus, in my mind, the story of the Kingdom of God begins with a colorful, flanelgraph rainbow: a symbol that God’s ultimate purposes are not destructive, but redemptive.


Galactica Season One – Wow!

September 26, 2005

Last year, the SciFi channel aired a 13 episode season of the new Battlestar Galactica, close on the heels of the miniseries that aired in 2003.

For about three years now, we have only had basic cable (long story as to why – but essentially, the cost for buying it, combined with all of the time that our kids wasted watching Nick, led us to axe everything but a few basic channels). As such, though I’ve been eager to see what happened during the first season, and though I’ve had a chance to see a couple of episodes on videotape – thanks to my parents – I never got a chance to follow the entire season.

Until this weekend.

Last Tuesday, the Galactica Season One DVDs hit stores, and my local Blockbuster is renting them one at a time. I’ve only had a chance to watch one episode thus far (You Can’t Go Home Again) but all I have to say is…WOW!

This is good TV. Not just good science fiction. Not just good space opera. It is incredibly well written, engaging drama. I don’t watch enough TV to say this categorically, but I imagine it is as good as (or better than) any drama show on TV. Its that amazing.

All the buzz around the show is about Trish Helfer’s portrayal of Number Six, a blonde-bombshell of a Cylon agent – and the personification of Satan herself. But my favorite character is President Rosslyn, portrayed by Mary McDonnel. Just a wonderful, flawed, almost uncertain personality that still seems to find the right words and the right tone for every situation. When she started weeping at the announcement that Starbuck – lost on a patrol and presumed dead – had been found, I just about lost it myself.

I wish Cox offered SciFi with their basic cable plan…


Whatever Happened to the Kingdom of God?

September 25, 2005

Beyond question, the most prominent subject in the teachings of Jesus is the Kingdom of God. Its arrival was announced through John the Baptist, and its message was immediately taken up by Jesus when John was imprisoned.

It is a concept that appears in virtually every book in the New Testament, and it is a prominent theme in The Revelation. Every Sunday, many of us pray, as Jesus taught us, for the Kingdom to “come”.

Its presence (and, oddly, also its imminent arrival) was announced by the Prophets.

So here is what I am wondering about today: Whatever happened to the Kingdom? How many books involve this theme as their focus? How many sermons or bible class series have examined what the Kingdom is all about? Have folks become so focused on the idea of “church” as the vehicle of God’s presence in the world that we have forgotten about this concept? And how could something like that happen?

For all that maters, what IS the Kingdom of God? And why was it so important (seemingly all-important) to Jesus?

If none of these questions interest you, you might want to find another blog to read for the next few weeks, ’cause the occasionally coherent blatherings that you find in this space are about to turn to that subject.


Join Civanon Today!

September 23, 2005

I realize there aren’t many Civilization players reading this blog, but – if you are an avid Civ player – you will find this ad (and link) to be absolutely hilarioius:


TV Worth Watching?

September 22, 2005

Lets face it: most television is garbage. Sheila and I share a saying in our marriage that, in the interest of providing family-friendly content, I won’t repeat in its entirety. (Hint: two words; first word is “TV”; second word starts and ends with “s” and it isn’t “stinks”).

Every once in a while, though, a show that is worth watching comes along. Here is my short list of shows that have (usually) met/meet that description:

#1. The X-Files. This is a show that ended when it should have. I don’t wish it were still around, because it pretty much ran its course. But during its hey-day, I was captivated by the way it explored questions of the interactions between the rational and the supernatural. David Duchovney’s Mulder is probably my favorite of all TV characters. He is deep, complex, funny, tragic, goofy, and (occasionally) mildly perverse, all rolled into one. A very real character in a series that could sometimes explore the very un-real.

#2. Buffy the Vampire Slayer. There is no way to sum up this show in a few words. They did so many things well – characters, writing, comedy, tradgedy, horror. An episode like The Body just stuns you with its realistic depiction of shock and grief. The next one has your side splitting. Seldom did this one ever fail to disappoint.

#3. The Simpsons. Incredibly sharp, witty social commentary. Still going strong after all of these years.

#4. King of the Hill. I have this love/hate relationship with Hank. In some ways, I am soooo much like him. But he also annoys me because he just won’t accept cultural change. Still, this is a great show about all of the goofy characters that seem to be at center stage during this odd, cultural shift that we are experiencing.

#5. Thirtysomething. I realize it looks very dated now, but – even though I was in my early twenties when it aired – I became attached to the characters in this show. To this day, I continue to identify with so many of Michael Stedman’s struggles.

#6. Cowboys on Monday Night Football. What can I say? Its a weeknight. Its late. Its the NFL. Who cares if I have to go to work in the morning? For a few hours I can forget about the hassles of the new week and just get lost in a game.

#7. Seinfeld. I really can’t say exactly why I liked this, except that its willingness to be blatantly honest about what REALLY motivates us most of the time in the way we handle relationships was kind-of refreshing.

#8. Columbo. People ask me how I behave in depositions and in the courtroom, and I tell them that I probably come off more like Columbo than anyone else. That isn’t always a good thing, but I think that watching this show at 6-7 years of age must have ingrained his absent-minded, but relentlessly analytical approach into my personality. Plus, I’m always talking about my wife.

Here’s a few that others swear by that I never “got”:

– Friends. Not funny, very shallow, and continuously sex-obsessed. It seemed to me to be more about the telegenic cast than any meaningful stories or dialog.

– Cheers. I get the premise: people who are “losers” (in different ways) come together to drown themselves in their misery and have a few laughs. Its just to grim for me.

– American Idol. Never even watched one episode. I could care less what Simon or Paula think about anything.

– Happy Days. I tried to like this show, but couldn’t ever get past all of the corny humor.

– Anything that vaguely resembles reality TV.

Anybody else want to make their own lists?