Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Some wise words from one of my favorite portions of the Bible, Ecclesiastes:

"The race is not to the swift,
nor the battle to the strong,
nor does food come to the wise
nor wealth to the brilliant,
nor favor to the learned;
but time and chance happen to them all."

"Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore stand in awe of God."

"All man's efforts are for his mouth,
yet his appetite is never satisfied."

"Do not say, 'Why were the old days better than these?'
for it is not wise to ask such questions."

"Since no man knows the future,
who can tell him what is to come?"

"No one knows what is coming -
who can tell him what will happen after him?"

"As you do not know the path of the wind,
or how the body is formed in a mother's womb,
so you cannot understand the work of God,
the maker of all things."

"Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body."

I freakin' love Ecclesiastes.

Friday, April 21, 2006

funny site

here's a funny site:

You should check it out. Sometimes it's not that funny, but there's some really good ones. It takes a bit to get used to how bad it is, and then it's hilarious.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The spirit

I've been talking with several people about the Spirit.

On a side topic (I will get to my main points in a minute) what is it with the christian obsession with capitalizing everything. Word, God, Spirit, He, Thee, It, One: is it really that important. I know we want to seperate the idea of God from god, so that weknow we mean to talk about the one and only God and not any of the so-called gods, who, whether they are gods or not, are not the one and only. But do we really have to capitalize One and Only? I just think it's an obsession, and there's no real reason for it. Like in songs, if we sing "you," we don't have to sing "You," because it's not like we don't know what we're talking about, especially if we're singing worship music. And really, in what other setting would you see the words to the music up on a screen for you to sing with (let's discount sing-a-long childrens' videos)? So we know what we mean right? Or "Him." Can't we look at the context? That's what we do with every other piece of literature. We read the pronoun in context and quickly make the distinction of which pronoun refers to which noun. So I don't see what the big deal is. As far as "Spirit" such as many places in the bible where it is capitalized, does that really matter? There were no capital letters in the greek version, as it was written. Yeah, go pull out your Greek New Testament and see. No capitals... imagine that! So really, since we don't have the capital letter to indicate that "spirit" refers to "Spirit" shouldn't we translate accordingly, and leave it up to the interpretation? If god puts his "spirit of peace" on us, does it have to be his "Spirit of Peace?"

Anyway, now that I'm done ranting, I was talking about the Spirit. I've been under the impression for about twelve years, since I first started thinking about these things, that people in American churches don't really know what to do about the *Holy Spirit* (that was a whisper). And I'm not limiting this to my own church, my own upbringing. There are charismatics and pentacostals (not to group the two together too closely) who think they've got it, or some semblance of it, that they know what it's all about, and they certainly have more of a flair for the emotional side of christian living, but do they really get it? Does anybody? I've known people who see angels or, bless them,, see demons. And I feel like they know something the rest of the world doesn't, but I don't think they really know what it is. They just have a window, over which everyone else seems to carry shutters. I've known people who think they can discern God's will with the way they "feel the spirit", but I don't think they can really explain it, nor do I think that all of them really have the ability. A lot of the people who are into things of the spirit, seem to be manufacturing the evidence for themselves. They learn to cloak their entire mindset with an aura of spirituality, but are any of them really being moved by the spirit? I don't know. I believe some of them are. But the ones who are the most convincing have never really been taught. Things just happened. It's like God just stepped into their lives and started changing the way they experienced him. This includes gifts of the spirit which are typical of charismatic traditions: tongues, discernent prophecy. It astounds me how many people think they have these gifts.

The rest of us seem to be floating in a miasma of confusion. Let me lay out how I learned that we were supposed to "hear God's voice:"

There was the bible reading. You had to read your bible. That was the most important part of finding God's will for your life. Everything we needed to know about living in this world was found there, and if God was going to give you specific guidance for your current circumstances, he was going to do it through "THE WORD."

Then there was other people. In addition to using His Word, God would sometimes use other people, namely strong christian people, to tell you his will. This would usually come in the form of a parent, pastor, mentor figure who was wise enough to understand what you're supposed to do in life, or maybe even is moved in some mysterious spiritual way, unintentionally of course, to tell you something you need to hear.

Then of course there was prayer. If you prayed a lot, God would probably cause the right thoughts to come to your mind.

All these things were what we knew about the way of God's Spirit. The Holy Spirit did other things, too. We didn't disbelieve the accounts of miracles and tongues and other things in the modern day; we just weren't comfortable with them within our own doors. Casting out demons was cool, if God had really called you to do that, and if you went over to places where it was really happening, like South America. They clearly have a need for casting out demons in South America. But any of that done in your back yard or at some religious gathering was clearly a little weird. If the guy is not throwing himself in the fire or overpowering twelve men, each twice his size, then he's really not demon-possessed. Or at the least, let's not make a stink of it, unless he starts showing these signs. Because really, how embarrassing would it be if we started casting out a demon, and it turns out the guy was just acting creepy to try and scare us. Boy wouldn't we be chagrined. Let's not have any of that, okay? Really, we just don't like the idea of making mistakes like that, so let's avoid that whole line of thinking as much as we can.

Is this really the Way, which the disciples followed? Is this what got people burned alive or fed to the animals in the gladiator pits or crucified upside down? Is this the amazing power which sprang up in Christ's followers like springs of living water? It doesn't seem to fit. Nothing I've seen seems to fit. I just think the entire church needs to take a new look on the Holy Spirit. Because I'm sure he exists and I'm sure that we can truly learn to follow him and truly have those living waters springing up in us, but I don't really know what it's all about.

Okay, that was long, but I'm done talking for now. Give me your ideas, if you've got them.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Poker and Anger Management

Poker is back! I'm pretty happy about that. But early into the game, as I delved back into the online challenged, I realized I have to make another resolution. I mustn't get angry with poker. It's a terrible thing to realize that you've placed expectations on something which are utterly ludicrous. For some reason, I expect poker to be fair. That people who make stupid moves will be punished with bad fortune. Maybe it's a little too much proverbs mentality applied to a game of chance. But fairness and justice have nothing to do with poker. I have to stop myself from thinking that they do. I have this weird thing about me that I really need to get rid of: namely, that if something isn't right or is stupid (let's just assume that the fact that this is all my own deluded perspective of rightness or stupidity: it doesn't really need to enter the conversation), that I get angry about it. I'm driving on the road. Somebody freaks out because I get in front of them, at a place where I have to do so, and they can no longer go 80 mph. It's wrong and it's stupid, and I get angry at those kind of people, just as I get angry at the people who are going less than the speed limit allows for no reason whatsoever. If I feel like going fast, I'm not going to get all bent out of shape about being forced to go what I'm supposed to be going anyway. But I'm not going to go slow for no reason either. That's just stupid, and it makes me angry. Believe what you want about my opinions and upjumped esteem for my own superiority of intellect, but my main concern is wiith the fact that I get angry. The fact that things don't turn out as I expect or demand or hope or wish or believe would be right, is not enough of a true reason for anger. That's unhealthy, and I need to stop it. Just like the poker thing. Things happen in poker. People make stupid plays and they get lucky, while you make the right play and get screwed. It just happens. And on the road, people do their own thing: we're all out there just getting where we want to go in our own way, and there's just no use getting mad over any of it.

I don't really know what to do about this weird thing in me that feels the need to judge the circumstances/decisions that get in my way, and then allow those judgements to affect my emotions and the potential for positive energy. I can't very well decide that my powers of intellect are just no good and that I should just disregard everything I think about people as nonsense. I really do believe that people make stupid decisions (stupid, not indicating a lack of potential, but indicating a lack of thought, situationally: you'll notice a lot of these stupid things people do while they're driving are done while on their cel phones; ie. they are not thinking about what they're doing, because their minds are on other things). There is, in my mind, a way that things are supposed to be done. People don't do them right, it annoys me. So how do I change my thinking? I'd like to stop being so critical, but they taught me critical thinking in school. (yes, this is a form of humor: do not correct me, even in your heads, on the difference between being critical and critical thinking... jeez).

Anyway, I'm liking having poker online again. I'm doing my best to laugh off the ridiculous bad beats I keep getting and just roll with it. Whatever happens, happens, and I won't whine about it. And now that I have made great use of the institution of the Parentheses, I will stop rambling, and bid my computer a good night.

Good night... computer... ...

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Friday, April 14, 2006

A queen vs. a barmaid?

Anyone remember the Three Musketeers movie with Chris O'Donnell? One of my favorite lines goes:

"A queen is no different from a barmaid in the dark. Only less practiced in the art of massage."

And he says "massage" not like I'm used to saying it with the emphasis at the end (maSSAGe), but with the emphasis at the beginning, so his voice pitches way up as he says "MASSage." It's hilarious, and I'm sure it's oh, so true. Some co-workers of mine were saying that they should take me out get me to get drunk and meet chicks. I told them I don't want to do something I regret, and they laughed about having "beer-goggles" on. Everybody's a queen when you're drunk, I guess. Of course, that's merely one of the many mistakes I hope to avoid by not getting drunk.

Back to the queen & barmaid contraversy: I'd still rather have a queen. I'd like to have someone that I can look at pleasantly and who won't bore me with ridiculous chatter. I don't know where this is coming from. But the line is funny, and it makes me think of my own choices, and perhaps the reason why I'm still single. I have no doubt of my ability to pick up a "barmaid"-like chick, if I really had a mind to do so. But I don't. I can't. But "queens"! Queens are a different story. Not nearly so easy to win over and not nearly so easy to please. You've got to be a hero or a prince or a rogue, someone who will storm his way gallantly (or ungallant) into her world, sweep her off her feet, impress her with amazing stunts, and finally see if you have a chance with her at all. It's hard. Because you have to do all that just for her to look at you. And most of the guys who do amazing stunts aren't necessarily great guys. They can just do stunts. I don't really do stunts. Therefore, the queens of this world will never bother to see what kind of guy I really am. (This is the beer talking, I'm sure. I'm not really this bitter). (Actually, I don't drink beer and I haven't had any other forms of alcohol tonight, but roll with me on this one).

Anyway, please disregard the entire previous rant, because it is not in keeping with my reserved, discreet persona. And just enjoy the funny quote from the guy who played Porthos in that one Musketeer movie.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Holy Week

It's Holy Week, and I think I'm supposed to be busy this week. Lots of stuff has been going on. Grandpa's 75th birthday - that was kinda cool. Actually, it was the most I've enjoyed time with my extended family in quite some time. I dont' know why - maybe I was just more relaxed or they were cooler or I don't know. Maybe 'cause it was all adults and older people. I don't know. It just felt good to celebrate Grandpa Patrick Cullen.

Today, I've had a lot of work to do with music stuff: learning a new song for Friday night, finishing the one I'm writing/adapting for Easter, transposing hymns to sing for Sunday morning and picking out what to sing at all. I'm finally done with it all and it's only a half hour til practice. Then tomorrow night it's off to the Porch for the prayer vigil. I'll be sitting around for a few hours while other people pray. I'm hoping somebody doesn't show up, so I can probably take a turn. But it doesn't matter. I don't think I'll go to the foot-washing earlier that evening. I went last year, and to be honest, I was bored. I dont' think footwashing carries nearly enough weight in today's culture for it to be as meaningful an experience. We should rather just take the lesson from the narrative and serve one another in ways that are needed. I don't need anyone to wash my feet. They're rarely even dirty.

Friday night is the Good Friday service at ER. That shouldn't be too difficult: I'm only singing a couple of songs. I'm not sure if I'll be able to get "My Jesus" ready to play by that time, but I'll try. It's hard to remember how everything goes, because there are way to many words. He keeps changing them so there isn't a consistent chorus or anything. It's thematically the same but even the melody changes sometimes. And he stuffs long phrases into short segments, so I can never remember how they're supposed to come out.

Saturday, a friend of mine is in town and he's gonna have a barbeque and a bunch of people over and maybe play poker. Fun stuff.

And of course Sunday is Easter. That will be a busy day. I'm glad I have my song done. I don't know why I'm so hesitant to play songs I've played before. But if it isn't new... I dont' know. Maybe it makes me feel like I dropped the ball for the year when I don't have something new to play. Whatever. It'll be fun. I've come up with a new song, although it's an adaptation of a cheesy hymn. I like my version, though. It sounds better and it uses a lot of the same words, though not all.

Anyway, here's to the most boring bit of blog rambling I've ever done. Cheers!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

This is so DuMb:

This story seriously belongs in the Onion. I don't always read the paper, but I was doing my poetry thing, and this was on the same page from Local News, Pioneer Press, March 28:

Peeps make a quiet stand
The Easter bunny's expulsion prompts a marshmallow defense

"Marshmallow Peeps, the popular Easter candy made of sugar, corn syrup and gelatin, have become a new symbol of protest in St. Paul these days.
The "Vision of Peace," a 36-foot, 60-ton onyx City Hall statue of American Indians, has become the stage for a peculiar form of civil discourse. Since last week's decision to kick the Easter Bunny out of a City Council office, a handful of employees have ringed the statue with the spongy chick- and rabbit-shaped candies.
Two laminated signs even announce the statue's temporary new moniker - "Vision of Peeps."
It began last week, when someone left a couple of peeps boxes at the base of the statue. But over the weekend the marshmallow critters, as rabbits tend to do, multiplied. There are now about two dozen boxes...
... News of the Easter Bunny's exile fanned out across the country Thursday, leading to an angry backlash. But around City Hall, the story was met with humor. Myor Chris Colema, tongue planted firmly in cheek, said that a bunny was a vicious animal bent on attacking small children..."

You get the idea. Funny stuff. I have no disrespect to the writer of this article. He was pretty humorous about it himself and clearly being playful about the whole ordeal. But the fact that this would happen... It's just a knee-jerker, that's all it is. Er... a... knee-slapper. ... a tear-jerker? Whatever - What is up with our people?? Minnesota's a nutty place.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Same system, new poem

It is strange to me how I can use the same system only a week later, and come up with something entirely different. Granted, it was a different article. But keep in mind, this is the same poetry exercise I mentioned in a previous blog. Every first word was every fifth word in a newspaper article. But really anything could have come from those words. I could have gone any way with them I wanted, really. I still find it kind of cool. Anyway, here's my next poem, using my patented Fifth Word, Five Syllable System. No it's not actually patented. I just made that up. hahah...
Here it is:

Monday made me brash
Would that I could care
For life enough to
Sieze my precious time
And live outside my
Private dreams and fears.

The time plods by, made
Of motions wooden,
Property is not
Expected as a
Version of the self.

Weeks go by and I,
Passed out under my
Desk, am brought before
The confines they set,
Of home and status,
Seeking my fortune,
Power to conquer,
After I'm emptied,
Ruled by fear's scepter.

Tear through the middle.
Make my hole in it
And emerge without.
This will be my quest,
Passed by the desert
Of my great folly.
The prison casts my
Vote, which I have lost.

The way is hidden.
New roads must be made,
Most of them yellow.
They shine brightly now.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


Here's my niece, Sage. Isn't she darling?


I love spring. I can't stand the long cold of winter anymore. I need a place where the weather is nice, where green plants are growing and the sun is shining. Today is the best spring day we've had so far. It wasn't hot or oppressive like some summer days can be. It was cool, refreshing, the sun shinging, the breeze blowing. I was agitated earlier today. I was cooped up in this church where I lead music, plainning the worship set for Sunday and just hanging out, reading and the like. I couldn't stand it. I was going crazy and making myself frustrated and angry. So I decided I was just so restless, I needed to go for a walk. Lo and behold, it was gorgeous. It was brilliant and perfect outside, as I walked down Hastings. Even with all the cars driving by, which usually I don't care for, I loved being outside, looking at all the houses and admiring the trees and the grass that was turning green again.

I also came to a realization: I need to start some form of gardening. This may seem weird, because I'm a guy and, well, I just don't know of a lot of gardeners who are not either women or rather elderly. But you have to start some time. The thing is, gardening isn't exactly something that's been available to me in the past 8 years. But the truth is, I'd rather plant trees. I love trees and seeing them grow and seeing life develop and spring up. That's part of why I love spring. Everything is so full of life: all the colors are brilliant, all the feelings are vibrant, and everything is more upbeat. Spring makes me smile with more genuine happiness than possibly anything else I've experienced. The only downpoint is the loneliness. I would love to walk through some place more remote, with less cars and useless shops, but I'd feel very alone without the right person there with me. I don't know. Nevertheless, I'm going to enjoy this spring as much as I can. If I were an expressive person, I think people would be surpriised at my feelings, because I don't always show them. Now I'm back in this dingy church, and it's really dim and there's no sun, so I'm going to go outside and read.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

A Dinner Party

I'm less then a third of the way through "Dune." Suffice it to say, it is a captivating book. This last chapter was all about a dinner party, and it was absolutely the most intriguing, most exciting dinner party I've ever read about, that does not have anything happen but talking and eating. I dont' know how the author does it, but every conversation is primed for mystery and intrige and every action is important and interesting. On Dune, which is a nickname for the planet called Arrakis, a Ducal family, named Atreides, has recently taken over power. It is all a set-up. They are meant to fail at ruling Dune, and they have to sift through all of the politics, all of the intrigues and all of the assassination attempts. It is clear that the father, the Duke Leto, is going to die. The real hero of the story is 15-year-old Paul, the Duke's son. Paul and his mother, Jessica, are both experts in reading people and situations, intuitive and trained in observation and calculation. At this dinner party, it is just fascinating as they see who is allied with whom, who is afraid of whom, who is distrustful, who is an enemy, and basically every trait that ever attendee has which can be understood or exploited. But there is still mystery. Why is the banker afraid of the Judge of the Change, a man of temporary position. Why is the smuggler allied with the latter figure. What are their enemy's real aims and purposes. What do they plan for Paul. Are their prophecies and mythic expectations really something, or just the implantations of a manipulating faction, called the Bene Gesserit? I'm loving this book, and I'm excited to see what happens as I continue further.

Saturday, April 01, 2006


I'm in this strange mood. I'm talking to this girl that I don't know very well, and all I know is that she's going through a really tough time. She's not really giving me any details. Which is fine - I wouldn't expect it from a fairly recent acquaintance. But I get the sense that these problems are tearing her apart inside, and I imagine her crying her eyes out while she's alone at night. It has put me in this weird mood, this passive perception on the suffering of life. Everyone has it - those times of excruciating emotional hardship. For some it's worse than others and longer-lasting. For some it's momentary and not quite as acute. But everyone has it. It's part of life. Death and pain happen and we live it and suffer through it and endure what we must with hope. But how can God stand it? The acute awareness of all the suffering going on in the world must be tearing him apart. If I dwell on it, I... I can't really manage it.

God help this girl to deal with her torment. Bring her peace and calm her storm. Show her your great love; be kind and compassionate to her, and bring her the desires of her heart. Bring her joy, and help her to hold on to hope. Be her strong tower and shelter her from the cruel storms in her life. Help her to grow deep roots in your love and goodness. Nourish her soul with your good things. Aid her in her distress, and give her peace.

Tyler Durden's words of wisdom

"Things you own end up owning you," says Tyler Durden, in the movie "Fight Club." I know, this isn't exactly a new movie. I've seen it before, but it's on television right now. It really is an amazing movie. The things they talk about and the things they do. They touch at a sensitive nerve in our society. The man's apartment blows up as he is returning to his home. The guy is worried about his things. Like every sad person in this consumeristic society, he is trapped in the lifestyle. He can't ask for help or for a place to stay. "Three rounds of beers and you still can't ask," says Tyler. The neverending need for something more, something deeper, filling the gaps with plane trips and support groups, they find can only be stymied by pain. They find out that even though they couldn't find fulfillment or peace, at least they could feel. So pain felt good. It's strange. They obviously went the wrong way. But it's like opening up a gaping wound. Once the blood starts pouring, you can't just ignore it. I think this is partly why I'm really excited to go to Africa. I'm getting up and leaving everything behind. Granted, I'll put a lot of stuff in storage and I'll come back to it. But I'm giving up my job and my apartment and what I've known as my life for the past two or three years. It seems to open up the door to the possibilities. And of course, I get to go to a far away place and connect with a very different people and serve and love and bless people and be blessed. I'm excited about that too.