Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas Parades, Dentist's Office, and Bjorlin Christmas

Well, Christmas in Duluth has been just what the doctor ordered. It reminds me of this song that is a Duluth staple around the holidays:

Apparently, one of the local TV stations commissioned Merv Griffin to write and sing that song especially for the Christmas City of the North Parade, which is the parade held in downtown Duluth every year on the Friday before Thanksgiving. If you listen to the last 20 seconds of the song, you will hear the specific Duluth shout out. Oh, the memories from that parade! Hermantown's band would march in it every year, and I remember wondering why Duluth thought it was a good idea to hold an outdoor anything at that time of the year. Half the brass instruments would freeze up on their respective player's spit, your hands would become almost unresponsive to any brain signals, and the below freezing weather did very little for a band's intonation, believe it or not. But it was all worth it when you saw those beautiful cheerleaders in their snowmobile suits. I wonder if there was any frostbite reported post-Christmas city?

Speaking of medical attention, I made it through my dentist appointment! I walked in at 7:50 with a healthy dose of fear and trembling and was escorted into the dental chair by a hygienist that is a friend of the family's. This was good because I could shower her with excuses and caveats before she began, and she couldn't guilt trip me quite as bad knowing I could go cry to my family. Then the cleaning process began. About ten minutes in, I'm sure it looked like a reenactment of a Civil War surgery as she stopped periodically to sharpen her torture tools with the sching sching of metal against metal. At about 20 minutes I started getting lightheaded from the loss of blood as I practiced centering prayer and other forms of meditation. At 30 minutes I was debating whether to ask for a blood transfusion or local anesthesia when she said, "Well, let's just polish these things up!" Then out came the floss and the obligatory question, "So, how much do you floss?" Always believing honesty to be the best policy, I answer, "Not much." Which is true, as far as it goes. I'm not going to define what "not much" means or rub it in her face how little I've been flossing. Here's how I would graph out my flossing:

I do try really hard after to be better, but it never seems to stick. I am going to give it another college try after this cleaning. However, I don't have any cavities. The exact conversation at the end of my check-up:
Dentist: Well, I can't see anything wrong with you.
Dave: Really?
Dentist: Yep, it looks good.
Dave: It's a Christmas miracle!
Dentist: Miracle at the dentist's office...I like that!
Dave (running out so they can't change their mind): Okay, see you lat... (door slams shut and tires screech as I fly out of the parking lot).

I probably should have consumed some juice and cookies to get the blood sugar up before driving, but I'm a risk-taker.

Bjorlin Christmas (Dec. 28th) went well up at Anna and Peter's. We played some games, ate some food, and ended the night opening presents. I was ecstatic with this Duluth Pack bag:

Also, I got two pictures framed, which both look absolutely incredible. Add a couple pairs of smart wool socks and a Dylan CD and it was about as much as this boy could ask for.

Now, I'm headed down to the Brewhouse because I haven't eaten in about an hour and a half. Get ready for some food/exercise-related New Year's Resolutions on my next post after this vacation gluttony!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas 2011: Road Trip Edition

I'm currently sitting in the Harju living room in Duluth feeling pretty content after a long day of driving. I have to say, this was probably the best road trip I've had with my brother in quite a long time. We had a audiobook we both could agree on (Divergent - it's like Hunger Games set in Chicago), we didn't argue at all about church/worship styles, and he didn't fake hypoglycemia the whole way! So, all in all, it was a good Christmas. I will never enjoy the drive through Wisconsin. I swear the billboards alternate between cheese and adult superstores with maybe a pro-life billboard thrown in. I think the most confusing I saw this year was: "God Bless America: Life Begins at Conception." How are those two related? It's like saying, "Happy Hanukkah: CFC's Accelerate Ozone Depletion."

Also, my stint as Christmas pastor went well. Both services went off without a hitch (I mean, our pianist who I will not name did skip the Psalter lesson Christmas Eve, but I'll let it go this time.) even if attendance was a bit slim. I think it's a bit harder to preach when there's only 25 people there because you can see everyone's instant reaction instead of focusing on the group as a whole if that makes sense. I felt like the Monsignor in the first scene at the church in Sister Act: "We are a small congregation this morning...too many mornings" (obviously the last part is not true).

And a nice ending to the night was seeing D Rose stick it to the Lakers.

The Lakers losing feels like a fulfillment of the Magnificat. You know, the proud being scattered in their conceit and the rich being sent away empty. Now if only the Packers would have lost, it truly would have been a good Christmas. Oh well, a boy can dream.

Now, we're going to start Home Alone 2, so I'm out. Wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas. I'll leave you with the third verse (in the Covenant Hymnal) of "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear," which for some reason was the verse of hymnody that struck me this year:

O you beneath life's crushing load,
whose forms are bending low,
who toil along the climbing way
with painful steps and slow;
look now, for glad and golden hours
come swiftly on the wing;
O rest beside the weary road
and hear the angels sing.

I love that last part. Sometimes when we aren't feeling the Christmas spirit (this isn't my personal experience this year, but it just struck me for some reason) or we cannot feel the hope and joy ourselves, the best we can do is sit beside the road and listen to the cosmos praise God. I like that.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Adoption, Margie's Candies, and Tebow

Well, I had a dream last night that I somehow got on an adoption list and received a call telling me that an adoption agency had a baby for me. While I was freaking out, I kept thinking, "When did I sign up for this? Did I think I was signing up for a Compassion International child and accidentally sign up for an actual child? How did anyone think I was fit to be a single parent on an income of $10,000 a year? Was it because I already had an extra room? Shouldn't I have had visitations or interviews or something?" Then, I got in a car accident on a foggy night and woke up while I was flying through the air. Overall, it was a great night of sleep.

Why didn't I know that the Beatles went to Margie's Candies after their show at Comiskey? This makes me love the place all that much more. Seriously, last night I could have been sitting at the same table that once held John, Paul, George and Ringo! I'm inspired just thinking about it.

Whenever I see that my peanut butter uses "unblanched" or "blanched" nuts, all I can think of is that these nuts hold some reference to Blanche Devereaux from the Golden Girls.

So, there's that.

In other news, Christmas is fast approaching! I have to say the lack of snow is really killing my Christmas buzz, but at this point I hope it holds off until I turn off the ignition in Duluth. Then, I could go for a blizzard (and I mean that in relation to both the weather and DQ). I will say, I am excited to be in Duluth at the Hotel Harju. Besides world peace and a return of sane politicians, I would like a Duluth Pack computer bag, framing for artwork I bought this year, smart wool socks, and Amazon/iTunes gift cards.

Well, since I mentioned the Wild's recent ascendency to power, they have lost four in a row (although getting a point out of the shootout with the Blackhawks). I knew I should have kept my mouth shut. In sports news that make me smile, the Packers losing to the Chiefs was pretty great. Hopefully, it will lead to a quick exit in the playoffs. Finally, this SNL skit, while maybe a bit sacrilegious, is also pretty funny:

What I like from a religious stand point is Jesus telling Tebow (and us all) that we have to do our own hard work (at seminary: studying; in football: stretching and reading the playbook; giving a sermon: reading commentaries and practicing) and not expect God to make up for our lack of preparation.

Okay, I need a shower something fierce after a nice jog through the neighborhood.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Books by Their Cover, Atlantis, and Yahoo!

You may not be able to judge a book by its cover, but I think you can fairly judge the publishing company. I don't understand how so many books have such unappealing covers. Seriously, sometimes I think it must be some type of aversion therapy for biblioholics.

So, just after my post about how great the Wild were doing they drop two in a row, one of which was to the Blackhawks. I should have gone with the age-old wisdom of the no-hitter; don't mention it, or you'll ruin it.

I decided I wasn't going to post The Daily Show clips for a while because I didn't want to be a one-trick pony, but...Oh my goodness! (which should make you think of Carol Burnett mocking an orphan) A clip combining John Stewart, FoxNews, the Muppets, and It's a Wonderful Life...this is like finding a unicorn, the fountain of youth, the lost city of Atlantis, my rollerblades that I lost in seventh grade when my duffle bag was stolen at the old Corey Veech memorial football field! Sit back and feast your eyes on this:

My Yahoo! account (I know, I need to make a full transition to Gmail, but there's a certain familiarity and nostalgia that goes along with Yahoo!; this is similarly why I clung to Xanga while popular opinion was rolling its gurney to the morgue) has the following headline on its homepage: "In exclusive ABC/Yahoo! interview (first of all, whoppie!, an exclusive ABC/Yahoo! interview!), Obama says, 'I want to make really good two-term president.'" I can almost guarantee this was not Obama said, unless he tricked ABC/Yahoo! and had a presi-bot give the interview - one who hadn't quite mastered the correct usage of indefinite articles.

Congratulations to my brother Stephen, who will be done with his first semester of seminary by this time tomorrow! One down, five to go!

I can't believe there are only 10 more days until Christmas! I will admit I would like to see a bit of snow, but if my luck holds it will save itself for Christmas and dump down two or three feet as I attempt to drive back to Duluth. I have done a 360 on Hwy 53 though, so I should be well-seasoned for some crazy driving.

If you are around, you can come to ResCov for an Advent Lessons and Carols on Sunday at 7 (preceded by a potluck!), a Christmas Eve service at 7, and a Christmas Day (Sunday) service at the usual 10:30. I'm the pastor in town this year, so that probably is dissuading you from coming, but maybe you should come just to see if I can keep it together! It'll be some good, ole-fashioned ecclesial rubbernecking as you drive pass the carnage (don't worry; it won't actually be bad).

Okay, I need to figure out something to do tonight. I have been a reading machine today, but I should try and leave my self-imposed dungeon for a few hours at least.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Soccer Trouble and Gambling

So, I've tried to like soccer for quite a while. I agree that it is a worldwide sport that truly has fans on almost every continent. Also, I have no doubt that soccer players are amazing athletes in peak physical shape. The excitement of the World Cup is amazing and infectious, but I still can't get into it. I think the length and slower pace of games combined with my own soccer ignorance creates this perfect storm of "meh." However, here is the one thing that I truly dislike about soccer:

It reminds me of this:

Now, I realize all sports have this element to a degree (the NBA has increasingly become a game of floppers from Vlade Divac to Lebron himself), but it just seems to happen much more often in soccer. Can someone explain this phenomenon to me?

I bet you $10,000 (in school loan debt, so more like $-10,000) I can't pass up a chance to show how out of touch Mitt Romney is. Shoot, I'm about to lose. Okay, Mitt: if people already think you are a rich, out of touch businessman, why would you ever bet someone 10,000 bucks! Obviously, we have to hear from Jon Stewart on this:

What I'm really happy about is how they debunked Romney's later assertion that this was "an outrageous number to answer an outrageous charge," seeing as $10,000 is .005 % of your worth (am I don't that math right? 10,000 of about 200 million?). That would be outrageous as me betting someone (not counting school loans) about 75 cents (don't do the math; it will just depress you and me both). How outrageous of me to have to dig in my chain jar or under my couch cushions to pay off this lavish bet! If you're going to be someone something outrageous, it should be considered outrageous for you. So, you could have bet 500 trillion dollars or your firstborn son/daughter or a promise not to slick back your hair for a month...that would be outrageous.

Lloyd: Yeah right! I bet you 20 bucks that I can get you gambling before the end of the day.
Harry: No way.
Lloyd: "I'll give you 3-1 odds."
Harry: Nope.
Lloyd: 5-1.
Harry: Nope.
Lloyd: 10-1.
Harry: You're on!
Lloyd: "I'm gonna get ya.
Harry: nuh-uh.
Lloyd: I don't know how, but I'm gonna get ya!"

Well, it's time to get my butt to work. Later.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

On Technology and Negative Newt (Among Other Things)

Well, it looks like the rest of the songs are vying for second place because "O Holy Night" just won't let up. Three versions of "O Holy Night" that you must have.
1. Mariah Carey - duh.
2. Tracy Chapman - it is acoustic and stripped down and beautiful.
3. Bing Crosby - He can sing the phonebook, as they say, and it would be beautiful.

And apparently I have 16 versions of this song on iTunes. Yikes. Some other good versions: Shelby Lynn, Puppini Sisters, Melissa McClelland. Versions I could do without: Glee and Chris Tomlin.

Either God and Tim Tebow have worked out a Tebowic covenant or Tebow sold his soul to the devil a la Damn Yankees. There is no other way to explain the craziness that has been these last eight games. He doesn't throw completions, half the time looks way out of place in the NFL, but then always manages to win games in heroic fashions. The end of that Bears game was pretty crazy (I could hear my upstairs neighbor pacing and stomping, and it didn't sound like happy pacing or stomping).

See, I know Bears fans are going to say, "Well, what about your Vikings? There's nothing to brag about there!" Yes, this is exactly the point. We're so bad that right now that losing is in our best interest, and the season has been out of reach for quite some time. You, on the other hand, should have been able to clinch a playoff spot with a bit of decent play, yet it's been choke-city. And how about those Minnesota Wild? First place, sixth straight on the road, 17 out of their last 21, and most points in the NHL. I have to say it's nice to have some good hockey in Minnesota. Also, the University of Minnesota-Duluth (UMD) Bulldogs have a 14 game unbeaten streak going and are rated first in the country!

Remember when Newt Gingrich said he wasn't going to negative on Romney? Well, it didn't last long during the debate, but I did quite enjoy his zinger and how aghast Romney is (and the crowd for that matter) that Gingrich could possibly state what is obviously true. I have to admit that I kind of liked Gingrich for that 2.3 seconds. Then he kept talking...

So, after reading Infinite Jest, a sprawling, futuristic novel by now-deceased author David Foster Wallace about technological entertainment basically overtaking society, I think I've become convinced that I don't ever want a smart phone - something I've been mulling over for quite a while. I think there's something weird about always being in contact with people by several simultaneous forms of media (phone, text, email, chat, facebook), having all questions immediately answered at the touch of a button (now you don't have to wait for anything!), and boiling communication down to the lowest common denominator. Call me a luddite, but I don't want people to get a hold of me whenever they want by multiple forms of communication; I don't want to spend all my free time looking at a phone. Knowing myself, I would be much too tempted to play on my smart phone during any conversation/lecture/homily/meeting that I arbitrarily decide doesn't need my full attention. I think you miss out when you do this and have a hard time living in any kind of present reality. Plus, people's phone etiquette is already so terrible, this just adds to most people's rudeness (including my own). No, I think I'm better off with the dumb phone. Now I may have to find a carabiner and some rope because I'm up pretty high on this horse/soapbox. "On belay? Belay on!"

Only one more week of Advent. It kind of makes me sad that Advent is only four weeks, but c'est la calendrier liturgique. But you should all come to our Advent Lessons and Carols next Sunday night at 7 p.m. preceded by a potluck at 5:30. It's probably going to be my Advent highlight.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

O Holy Night, Winterizing, and War on Christmas

"O Holy Night" has jumped out to a commanding lead over the competition. I can't say that that I'm too surprised by this. Four things you should know about "O Holy Night":
1. It was written by the French poet Placide Cappeau and put to music by Adolph Adam. This was significant because Adam was a Jew and Cappeau a social radical, and church leaders refused to play the music in church because of this. However, it gained such popularity among the masses that they eventually relented, and "Minuit Chretien/Cantique de Noel" became what it is today.
2. It was translated to English by an abolitionist minister John Sullivan Dwight, who gave us the especially poignant and loosely translated, "Truly he taught us to love one another/his law is love and his gospel is peace./Chains shall he break for the slave is our brother,/and in his name all oppression shall cease."
3. It was the first song broadcast live on the radio by the guy who invented the AM radio. He played it on the violin and sang the last verse.
4. In 1870 during the Franco-Prussian war, a soldier jumped out of the trenches and began singing this (much like a similar WWI story). Apparently, the Germans joined in with their own carol, a temporary truce was called, and neither side fought that night.

I feel like I need to play this:

In other news, I did my winterizing shopping yesterday, which meant picking up both lotion and chapstick so that my hands and lips make it through this season of perpetual dryness. This need was exacerbated by moving furniture all week in the plummeting temperatures. I have to say I wasn't too excited to see snow on the ground on Friday knowing that an apartment had to be set up in the midst of it, which is kind of sad because generally I'm a sucker for that first snowfall.

I enjoyed this rejoinder by Jon Stewart to Bill O'Reilly's War on Christmas bit:

I just can't imagine anyone getting worked up about a "War on Christmas." I think such Christians should divert their anger from imaginary wars of semantics to actual wars that kill people. Try stopping those wars, you know, like that one guy, that "Prince-of-peace-turn-the-other-cheek" guy. Also, if you need the government to validate Christmas, I think we've already lost the war. Same goes for trying to keep the 10 commandments in public places. Let's try keeping the 1o commandments first...and I have to play this clip because it's about the best thing ever (wait until the end!):

Okay, I need to work up the courage to go for a run today. Neither the spirit nor the flesh seem particularly willing this morning.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Poll Results, Favorite Christmas Song, and Confessions

The polls have closed, and Sufjan Stevens edged out both the cast of Peanuts and Mariah Carey for best Christmas album. I'm expecting he'll want to write a guest post as his form of an acceptance speech. So, for the next 18 days, you are asked to pick your favorite Christmas song from the list on the left. Choose wisely.

I think one of my favorite Christmas songs as of late is "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day," based on a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow written in 1864. His wife had just died in an accidental fire, his country was being torn apart from the Civil War, and his son had just been grievously injured on the battlefield. He begins with what seems like a happy note:

I heard the bells on Christmas day,
their old familiar carols play
and wild and sweet the words repeat,
of peace on earth, good will to men (sic).

But he really gets into the heart of it on the fourth and fifth verse. In the midst of so much personal and corporate suffering, he honestly writes:

But in despair I bow my head,
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"for hate is strong and mocks the song
of peace on earth, good will to men."

Yet, the last verse sings of a deep hope in the midst of grief and despair. I get the chills when I hear it:

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
the wrong shall fail, the right prevail
with peace on earth, good will to men."

That will preach! I always liked Pedro the Lion's version, mainly because I imagine Dave Bazan's almost despairing voice is exactly how I imagine Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's frame of mind in writing this.

On a totally unrelated notes, here are some things I've been needing to confess for a while:
1. I feel an innate sense of superiority over people who rely on snooze buttons (no offense to my current roommate or previous roommates). I don't try to think this way, but subconsciously (sometimes more "sub" than others) that such people are a bit weaker in some way because of their inability to get up in the morning.
2. I don't like the new Bon Iver album. I think it sounds like he was forced to record an album using only the instruments in Yanni's recording studio. All that synthesizer detracts from the album in my humble opinion.
3. Last Christmas I got subscriptions to both The Economist and The New Yorker, and I barely read either of them. I have such good intentions and enjoy when I do, but I don't.
4. I've always known I should like John's songs better, but I like Paul's. Frankly, I'm a sucker for a good ballad.
5. I usually can't tell the difference between good and bad coffee. In fact, I'm still not a huge fan of coffee in any form (espresso drinks excluded).

We're up to 5 apartments set up this week. I think we'll have six by Friday. I'm going to be a bodybuilding Santa for Christmas this year. Later.

Monday, December 5, 2011

O Christmas Tree, Liturgical Pet Peeves, and Augustine at His Best

Seventeen hours to go on the voting and Sufjan has taken a one vote lead! This could go down to the wire!

So, yesterday (Monday) I went to Home Depot (sorry small businesses and McClain's) and got my first ever Christmas tree! I have to say I was pretty excited driving home with the tree strapped to the top of the old Rav4. As Andrew and I were decorating it, I thought there should be nostalgic Christmas music as the camera slowly panned to me putting the star on top of the tree and then faded out, out from the house, from the block, until all you could see were the twinkling Christmas lights of the city. Then it would cut to someone doing a good deed for a person in need on the streets of downtown Chicago followed by a cut to Jesus being born in the manger. (c) Dave Bjorlin 2011. Here's the pathetic picture.

The crooked shades inspired me to title this picture, "Deadbeat Christmas."

Well, in the last three work days, Matt and I have set up four apartments for families coming over the next two weeks. I think we should enter some competition or something because we've got it down to a science. Granted, I could also use a masseuse or a good hot tub because my body is sore from all this lifting.

So, as someone who plans a fair number of worship services and searches the internet for resources, I have come across a fair number of things that really grate on my liturgical nerves. So, I thought I would share those in case any of you see a career in writing liturgies or prayers. These are in no particular order:
1. Calls to worship that don't call you to worship. I feel like people just throw a verse at the top of the service. It would be like using a confession that doesn't confess any sins; it just doesn't make sense. This goes for invocations. Invoke something please!
2. Advent confessions that begin in any way resembling this: "God, in the midst of the busyness of Christmas," or "The trees are up, the lights are on in the house, but we have forgotten...", or "our calendars are full of parties and gift exchanges, yet...". I don't know why, but this seems like a slippery slope to "Remember the reason for the season!" and "Put Christ back in Christmas!"
3. explicit and over-the-top symbolism. I don't know if I can explain this one well, but there is something about overtly obvious symbols that take away some of the need for symbols altogether.
4. Clip art as bulletin art. It just shouldn't be done.
5. Space ideas (meaning the worship space, not NASA space) that require an architect and/or a structural engineer to build it and several tithing architects and engineers to fund.

Well, I came across this St. Augustine gem while reading City of God. He is talking about people who can do incredible physical feats that others can't:
"A number of people produce at will such musical sounds from their behind (without any stink) that they seem to be singing from that region. I know from my own experience of a man who used to sweat whenever he chose." Boy, Augustine should have been a talent agent rather than a bishop/theologian. He could have made a fortune!

I just found out that the term for replacing swear words with euphemisms is "taboo deformation." What a great phrase!

Okay, I'm going for a run. Later.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Baby Massages, Long Sundays, and Tebow

Two more days of voting, and Sufjan has taken A Charlie Brown Christmas's place as co-leader with Mariah. Only a few more days of voting before the poll is switched!

I saw a sign the other day for baby massages, and I think that is kind of weird. All I can picture is a baby laying face down on a massage table with a glass of wine at its head, saying things like, "Oh, you wouldn't believe the stress at work. Oh my gosh, that knot right there....yeah, stay there for a few minutes. I just feel the stress ebbing away. Oh, if you could hit the feet, I've been having trouble with my know, being on my feet all day is really starting to take its toll."

The second Sunday of Advent went fairly well. It was a busy week because I was preaching and presenting on the topic of Advent after the service as well (and the evening service at 7). I think in the future I would chose to lead a discussion on a Sunday that I wasn't preaching. It was kind of a challenge to switch modes during coffee hour and also to dig into my extrovert reserves for another couple hours of leading discussion. Good thing the meal was lasagna, so I could carbo load as I talked a la Michael Scott right before the Fun Run for Rabies.

Needless to say, I crashed into a glorious Sunday nap afterward. Few things are superior in life to a lazy Sunday afternoon of sleeping and reading.

This week is going to be the week of World Relief. I think about five families are coming in, so we will be setting up apartments like its our job (which, it is) over the next few days. However, right around the 16th, my life will hit the brakes for a few weeks, and I am looking forward to that day in hopeful Advent expectation.

Speaking of which, the other day we picked up some furniture from an apartment where they were engaged in an all-day Lord of the Rings extended version viewing party (all three in one day). It took all of my will not to ask if I could stay and order a pizza with them.

Well, the Vikings just couldn't handle the Tebow yesterday. I have been a scoffer these past six seven weeks, but I must say, the record is speaking louder than the stats at this point. Granted, running the option in the NFL just doesn't bode well for QB longevity. If there is a bright side, it's that I am not a Bears fan. Now there was an ugly game. It turns out Jay Cutler was the only thing keeping that team afloat. Now, if only Aaron Rodgers would stumble across some kryptonite...and Troy Aikman and Joe Buck would start miming their commentary instead of speaking it..then, all would be right with the world. I think Green Bay fans are so zealous because what else are you going to cheer for in Green Bay? I remember the first time I drove through Green Bay as a seven year-old thinking, "Really?"

Well, the first candidate bites the dust. Herman Cain, we hardly knew thee...but the more we knew, the less we wanted to know. Who's the next to fall? I'm guessing the hindenbergian campaign of Michelle Bachmann. Yet, maybe some of the rabid Cain fans will bring new life to a sinking campaign? I guess we'll all have to stay tuned and be thankful for Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.

Well, here goes Monday!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Completed Applications, Muppet Review, and World Relief Decembers

So, as I mentioned on Facebook, all of my applications have been sent in! I can't tell you what a process this is, especially for someone who has a penchant towards disorganization and misplacing things. It's no doubt a blessing that I live in this technological age of online applications that reduces the number of papers I must sort through and makes it almost impossible to lose parts of the application. It truly is like another part-time job filling out the papers, writing essays, asking people to write letters of recommendation, etc. This is how I felt when I finished:

I mean, it was perhaps on a smaller scale...maybe. I think I figured out that it cost me $463 to apply. I know that's not a huge sum of money, but I think that's a fairly steep price to pay to see if you even have a chance to attend school. So, this Advent season will be brought to you by ramen noodles (just matter the amount of money in my bank account, I pass on ramen. I'm more a mac and cheese kind of guy).

So now, after my obvious celebratory nap, I'm trying to decide how to mark this occasion. Maybe Chipotle? Maybe a night out on the town? Maybe some good solid reading of a novel? Maybe I'll go over and practice my sermon. The world is my oyster, and I'm going to crack that sucker open and see if someone left me a pearl.

I don't think I ever mentioned how much I appreciated The Muppets. It was exactly what it should be, and I have to admit getting a little misty-eyed when Kermit began strumming the banjo for "Rainbow Connection." The only weak spot for me was the bizarre rap by the evil CEO. Yet, on the whole it left me feeling hopeful for least those who appreciate the muppets. I think my favorite line was when the network exec was showing the gang the current hit on network television, "Punch the Teacher." After you see the premise (basically two hours of teachers getting punched by students), it cuts a way from the show, but not before you here one of the teachers lament, "I just wanted to make a difference!" A little social commentary via the muppets.

Oh, I guess I could also celebrate the fact that I registered for Midwinter? What I should say is I celebrate going to a church that will pay for me to go to midwinter. I definitely celebrate that! Hopefully there's good books in the book bag we receive at the beginning of the conference. That makes or breaks the conference for me.

Well, guess what month is turning out to be the busiest month for World Relief donations coordinators? If you guessed December, you're our winner! Nothing like moving furniture in December...fa la la la la la la.

For those of you who were sorely offended by my less than glowing praise of U2, I will tell you that I did listen to the entire Joshua Tree album the other day. I will say it was better than I expected. I actually liked some of the lesser known tracks towards the end more than the standards at the the one that starts with a harmonica.

Okay, I'm off to see what this night has in store for me. Let's be honest, it's probably reading with an early bedtime, but I'll take it!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

100th Post of 2011, Wind, and My Homage to U2

I don't know whether to be proud or ashamed, but this is my 100th blog post of 2011. So, there's that.

What was with the wind yesterday? I could almost picture Dorothy clutching Toto and wrenching uselessly on the cellar doors. Although I remember thinking, even as a child, there was no way that window would have knocked Dorothy out. The thing barely even touched her! Sync up the video to 1:48 and tell me that I'm wrong:

As many of you know, I am no big fan of U2. I think much of their music sounds the same, and the cynic in me think sometimes their view of saving the world seems like consumerism of a different sort (the RED campaign or the Louis Vuitton ads). Also, why then we must pay upwards of $100 to go to a concert to hear about poverty? Granted, it is more than most rockers do, and I do have respect for Bono being outspoken and trying to do some good in the world. Yet, it really is the music that doesn't do much for me. But, I will say there are three U2 songs that I not only can tolerate but really enjoy. They are:
1. "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," only the version with the New Voices of Freedom Gospel choir. Granted, I think the main reason I like this is because it has a gospel choir, but I like the synergy between Bono and the gospel singers. I mean, this video is pretty great. Note especially the Christian flag and the hymn board in the background. The music/magic begins at about the minute marker:

2. "Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of." I don't know what it is about this song, but the chorus is just so catchy and singable. I can't help but sing along and enjoy every minute of it.
3. I Still Believe in Father Christmas - Yes, this isn't originally an Emerson, Lake, and Palmer song, but I do think the U2 version is far superior. I'm a sucker for a rock song that has a classical piece playing in the background (Prokofiev's "Lieutenant Kije").

So, are there other U2 songs I should give a chance?

Well, I got a rough draft of my sermon done for Sunday. You should all come and hear it. I mean, preaching during Advent is just about the most a worship pastor could ask for! I promise references to Isaiah, John the Baptist, and Theodora Ayot. That's all I will say.

Okay, I'm going to go shower and get ready for dinner. Later.

Monday, November 28, 2011

ADVENT!!!! (and other things)

We are finally in Advent! Yesterday’s services were such a refreshing change of pace, especially that evening service. Man, I love these evening Advent services. Maybe its because it embodies the Advent idea of waiting in the dark...gathering as the light has all but gone and darkness is continues to grow throughout the night. There is something radically hopeful about facing darkness and lighting a candle and proclaiming that darkness will not vanquish or destroy the light. I realize I already put this Howard Thurman quote on Facebook, but I think it may be my favorite quote of the year:

"[Waiting] is to watch a gathering darkness until all light is swallowed up completely without the power to interfere or bring a halt. Then to continue one's journey in the darkness with one's footsteps guided by the illumination of remembered radiance is to know courage of a peculiar kind - the courage to demand that light continue to be light even in the surrounding darkness. To walk in the light while darkness invades, envelops, and surrounds is to wait on the Lord. This is to know the renewal of strength. This is to walk and faint not." PREACH!

Also, look at this great piece of artwork done for the first week of Advent by ResCov's very own Liz Ahlem!

Thanksgiving has come and gone, and all it all it went pretty darn well. It was good to catch up with some members of my family who I haven’t seen either because they were gone when I was there over the past few years or vice versa. Also, there were no big fights over politics, which is always good. Those don’t seem to go well and weirdly enough never end up changing anyone’s mind. I think there should be a rule: no talking politics if you don’t see each other more than once a year. You just don't have the time or resources to have that conversation well.

To encourage laughter and humor on this Monday evening, here’s a text my 83 year-old Grandma sent to my sister over the Thanksgiving break:

“Peg (my aunt) will call u 4 a spot to meet in Woodbury. We r going to go out 4 nif’s (nickname for my cousin) b-day at 7”

If that’s not a sign of the apocalypse, I don’t know what is.

I have turned in my first two applications (Notre Dame and Duke), and when I get paid in the next couple days I will send out the other three. It feels like I'm sending my babies off to college, which I guess is kind of apropos. I make sure they have what they need (fill out the basic info), they got their oil changed (have the essays proofread), have some friends to look after them (letters of recommendation), and send them on their way. Granted there were not nearly the number of tears shed in this goodbye. Five kids and five different schools...I'm going to need another job!

To do this week: write a sermon, prepare two lectures, and some Relief of the World on the side. Here goes nothing!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Live-Blogging: The Day After

So, as your Thanksgiving festivities continue or wrap-up (whatever the case may be) on this Friday, here is my Thanksgiving list.

Things I'm thankful for:
1. First, the obvious ones: family (although I do wish Jess and Isaac were here!), friends, food, faith, and other alliteratively-fitting words.
2. Having work enough to pay my bills and then a bit extra (a wee little bit).
3. Applications for schools that will be turned in next week.
4. Parents that not only brought down my ornaments from Minnesota but also bought me Christmas lights, a tree stand, and a rubbermaid container to begin my own Christmas decorations storage unit. Aren't they the greatest?
5. Advent...Advent...Two days until Advent!
6. Minnesotacare. Thank God for Minnesota socialist health care that provides health care for poor people with preexisting conditions! And, to broaden that, Minnesota in general. "Minnesota, hail to thee, hail to thee our state so dear./Thy light shall ever be a beacon bright and clear!"
7. Alka-seltzer. It's true: "Get yourself some alka-seltzer, and you'll feel better fast." It has been with me on so many heartburning/indigestioning nights including last night.
8. Being able to listen to Christmas music without all the pre-Thanksgiving Yuletide haters and judgers (i.e. an upstairs neighbor who will go unnamed).
9. Christmas approaching, with all of the vacations, parties, and various pleasantries and festivities pertaining thereto.
10. Fans. Helping me sleep since 1991.

Another thanksgiving treat.

Today I am looking forward to a day of Polish breakfast (pierogies, polish sausage, boiled potatoes), shopping at Loome Theological Bookstore (20% off the already-used prices plus $10 off between 10 and 12 a.m.), bowling with the family, watching The Muppets, and probably round the night off with dinner out at some pizza place or an establishment of equal or lesser value.

I need to get married so I can get my own room on family vacations rather than trying to sleep on on air mattress my parents bought that holds air for about five minutes before slowly exhaling as you sink to the ground forcing you to take sofa cushions and lay them out on the floor because you are just three inches too tall for the couch while your sister four years your junior is sawing logs on a real bed in a separate room because she happens to have a ring on the appropriate finger. This is all hypothetical of course and in no way a description of my current state.

Well, while I'm up early and alone in the house this morning, I'm going to finish Sunday's PowerPoint and try to find scripture readers. woo.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Live-Blogging

That's right, folks. I'm currently in the basement of my uncle and aunt's house in Hudson, Wisconsin at the annual Szyman (mom's maiden name) Thanksgiving extravaganza. First off, I am feeling much better, thanks for asking. It turned out my virulent illness lasted from about 9:30 p.m. - 2 a.m. with a one day convalescence while my stomach tried to find meaning in its life again after such a foundation-shaking crisis.

Today was basically all travel, but it was great having people to travel with. Johann (age 8) enlivened the trip with some solid riddles (and he wouldn't just tell you the answers; you had to guess) and a few games. I also reflected how much easier road trips would have been if iPads had been invented by 1992.

I think the highlight of the trip was when my brother started to get all hypoglycemically-crabby and began looking for the other half of his footlong that he had saved for lunch. It was at this point that I realized that the empty, crumpled up subway bag I had thrown away at the gas station was actually a half-empty, crumpled up subway bag with half a sandwich still left. For some reason I found this much funnier than my brother. So, after being compelled basically at knifepoint to stop at Burger King (well, knifepoint for my brother is this kind of sulking crabbiness that is worse than a knife because it's so freaking annoying and reminds you of your relationship circa 2000), we were on our merry way again.

So, we arrived safe and sound and had a nice lasagna dinner at my Uncle Jim's in Stillwater before heading back to Hudson. One thing I apparently must do is go to the used theological bookstore (I know: a. I didn't know such a thing existed; b. this is a dream come true; c. they have a whole section on liturgy) in Stillwater that was recommended to me by three North Park faculty members (granted two of them were married to each other, but they were still separate recommendations!). So, I think I will go on Friday to peruse/buy too many books.

Friday is one of my least favorite days of the U.S. calendar year: Black Friday. The whole concept of waiting in these mob-like lines in the wee hours of the morning for a $25 TV that you have to rip out of some other poor sop's hands gives me the willies. I think this feeling is exacerbated when places like Wal-mart are simultaneously oppressing international and domestic workforces in the process - and also shutting down small businesses in the area, all with one fell swoop of the whistling smiley-face that is lowering prices and killing the middle class. When I heard some stores are actually opening up at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, it made it even worse. Just think of those poor employees who have to go in at 11:30 after Thanksgiving and pretend like they not only want to be near all those crazy people who are about to bust down the door, but that they want to help them find what they are looking for. One of these days those mobs are going to go all Lord-of-the-Flies and end with heads on stakes and some little kid named Piggy getting his glasses broken to start a fire while the other kids yell, "Sucks to your ass-mar!"

So, now that it's officially Thanksgiving, I am going to get some shuteye! Here's a Thanksgiving card from me to you. Later.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Sick, Advent, and Politics

Well, it's 2:21 a.m., and I am sitting in bed enjoying a nice night of stomach flu. I knew something was wrong when I picked up a book but had no energy to read. So, I decided to make the night a bit bearable by blogging (don't worry, not about the stomach flu). This post is dedicated to Andrew Freeman, who gets to be vicariously sick with me tonight. Hopefully it's something I ate so I won't be all sick and needy during Thanksgiving.

I just started working on this week's know, the one that has blue/purple headers instead of green and uses amazing songs like "O Come, O Come Emmanuel," "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence," and "Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus." Advent is finally almost here! Six more days! A shout out to all my Catholic brothers and sisters who are switching over to the new translation of the mass next week. Now, instead of saying:

Leader: The Lord be with you.
Congregation: And also with you.

They will say:
Leader: The Lord be with you.
Congregation: And with your spirit.

It's also supposed to be a bit more poetic and be closer to the Latin translation. We'll see how it goes!

So, I've been thinking a lot about politics, economics, and faith recently, and I keep coming back to this basic point: how can a Christian whose entire faith is built on the idea of unmerited grace, i.e. receiving salvation that we in no way earned, buy into an economic system/philosophy that says we should only get what we've earned? For example, when people debate welfare and other social services they say things like, "Well, people are lazy and won't work for it," or "People will never do anything for themselves when they keep receiving handouts." Now, disregarding that I think these basic premises are wrong (say they were right, just for argument's sake), doesn't our faith say that people always receive grace when they should receive punishment? That mercy trumps judgment? Who am I to decide who "deserves" health care or food stamps or fill-in-the-blank. All that to say, thank God I don't get what I deserve because I don't think it would be pretty (not to mention people that "earned their way" have often had many more privileges afforded them than they would like to admit). Political rant done.

In two days I'll be in Minnesota! I always like when I can say that.

I mean, obviously:

Who'd have guessed this?

I might give up on politics soon. I have come to the realization that I am already much too cynical about life to add an element that could turn even the cutest fawn or a bunny into a hardened cynic. I have no idea what I'm writing anymore. This is it, folks.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Muppets, Advent, and Christmas Trees

You know, just spent a Saturday morning watching Muppets Take Manhattan. I've almost gone through the whole Muppet anthology in preparation for the new movie. Muppets in Space and Muppets Christmas Carol are the last two on the list. In other Saturday news, I got my longer run out of the way this morning, and I have since spent a relaxing afternoon planning Advent services/sermons, reading, and taking a sold nap.

For those who are counting, 8 days left until Advent! In related news, we at ResCov have decided to hold an Advent Lessons and Carols service at 7 p.m. on December 18th. If you've never been to a Lessons and Carols service, it's a series of readings from the breadth of the biblical story interspersed with carols and prayers. It sounds like we'll have a bunch of people involved, and I think it will be a solid service. You should mark your calendars and come on out! Now, only 11 services to plan and two sermons to write between now and Christmas!

I think this will be the year where I actually buy a real Christmas tree. In another symbol of passage into adulthood, I'll be getting my ornaments from my parents over Thanksgiving so I can decorate it. Granted, many of these ornaments are homemade, so my Christmas tree could look pretty skeezy. It may surprise you, but the ornaments I made in grade school aren't the nicest looking of the family's. I mean, I was the kid in kindergarten who finger painted a canvas in all black, and then when my teacher (the venerable Mrs. Brown) asked what it was, I calmly replied, "A black hole." I was also famous in my family for "decorating" the tree by sitting on the couch and lobbing my ornaments at the tree in hopes that they would eventually plinko their way down until the hook caught on one of the branches. For some reason, my mom frowned on this practice. Anyway, now I have to get a tree stand and figure out where the best and cheapest place to buy a tree is. I'm thinking Home Depot, but I'm not committing this early. Another question is configuration: where should I put the tree in my apartment? I'm thinking by the door, but I don't want it to be in a major thoroughfare.

Thanksgiving really snuck up on me this year! I don't actually believe that I'll be going to the Twin Cities next week. Hopefully the reality will sink in at a reasonable date prior so that I can pack and get my various work-related projects done before I depart. One nice thing about this trip is a full car! Usually I make this trip alone, drinking coffee and energy drinks while listening to anything that will keep me awake at loud volumes with the window down. This time I will not only be traveling with my brother, but also with Karl and Johann Clifton-Soderstrom! I won't know what to do with all the company and conversation...

I'm now sitting waiting for my brother to call so we can go get some dinner. I'm a bit concerned he has forgotten or will wait until 10:30 and then call and declare, "I'm outside! Let's go!" He should know by now that I turn into a pumpkin at about 9:45.

How have I not seen these before?

Actually, this makes more sense than say her position on the HPV vaccine causing "mental retardation" or her comment that the Solyndra business makes "Watergate look like child's play."

Okay, the kid actually called. I'm out.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Amy Grant, New Sheets, and Winter

Amy Grant's surging in the polls! I think it's the combination of "Tender Tennessee Christmas" and "Emm--anuel, Emm--anuel.....WONderfulCOUNselor....LORD of LIFE...Lord of ALL!"

I always thought Rahm Emanuel should have used this song: "Em---anuel, rahm (on the pick up note) Em--anuel ... WONderful CHIEF of staff...etc." His loss.

Last night I washed all of my blankets/duvet cover and put new flannel sheets on my bed, and I was seriously excited to call it a night and climb on in. It was so clean and warm and neat. I love how newly-washed bedding lays perfectly on the surface of the mattress, sitting flat and even without all of the annoying bunching or ink stains that plague my old sheets (I know, I could avoid this by writing in places that were meant to be writing stations - desks, tables, chairs, etc. - But there's something great about writing in bed; I can't explain it.).

On a similar note, I am still in awe of people who can fold fitted sheets. I don't get how it is done. For me, his mystery is right up there with how Stonehenge and the heads on Easter Island came to be. It's like a linen crop circle.

Yesterday was the first day I had to wear my under armour leggings/running tights while running. Winter is coming, as the Starks' would say (Game of Thrones reference, sorry). Yet, both of those names for this piece of clothing leave something to be desired. Leggings immediately bring to mind women who wear leggings in place of pants. "Running tights" for some reason makes me feel like I'm an 8 year-old girl playing dress-up. Spandex has its own etymological baggage too. If I'm going to run outdoors all year, I will need to purchase a face mask soon. As I say, if my Mom can run year-round in Hermantown and Breckenridge, I can too.

Does anyone else get a bit nervous when you sign-in to online banking? I always feel like I'm spinning the Wheel of Fortune or playing that game show, Press Your Luck, "Big money, no whammy, STOP!" Today I was pleasantly surprised by the amount. Maybe I can apply to all these grad schools after all!

Speaking of which, last night I finished the last of my essays for grad school applications! I can't tell you how glad I was to be done. Once they are proofread by a third-party, I will be sending those suckers in. That will be a good day indeed.

I love when you can find scientific data that backs up your lifestyle choices that you already have made. For instance, when I found out that new studies find it better not to stretch before running longer distances I thought, "Perfect! I never stretch!" Similarly, is this study about the health benefits of beer in moderation. Now, if someone can come out with a study that shows long-term health benefits of carbs, starch, and high fructose corn syrup consumption, I'll be well on my way to perfect health. Well, one out of three ain't bad:

These corn syrup commercials crack me up. And, of course, SNL's hyperbolic take on it:

Monday, November 14, 2011

Announcer Mute Button, Herman Cain, and Memories

So far Mariah Carey and Charlie Brown are in a dead heat for best album. Cast your vote now! I did expect Amy Grant to have a better showing than this. Maybe my middle-age women demographic is not as strong as I thought.

While watching the game last night over at Matt and Elsa's, Matt came up with a brilliant idea: somehow rig a broadcast so that you could mute certain announcers with the click of a button. For example, when Jon Gruden begins his five-minute doxology of Aaron Rogers, you simply hit the "Mute Gruden" button and enjoy the silence left by his paean to the Packers. It would be equally effective for: Bill Walton, Dick Vitale, Chris Berman, Dan Dierdorf, etc. The only snag would be baseball games announced by Joe Buck and Tim McCarver because you would be left with only the sounds of the fans in the background after silencing those two jokers sometime during the pre-game show.

I don't want to talk about the Vikings game last night; it's still too painful.

I just saw that the video game Halo is celebrating its 10th anniversary. That makes me feel quite old. I remember playing that game for quite a few hours during my senior year with Brady Anderson and Joe Idziorek in between school and basketball practice or on Saturday mornings after spending the night. Oh, the days of playing video games for hours on end without a care in the world toward productivity. Now, even the thought of playing video games makes me guiltily reach for some work or a book I should be reading.

It looks like Herman Cain caught whatever mind-blocking disease was ailing Rick Perry at the last debate:

This is a similar approach that I used to stall during my Spanish oral examinations in high school. You know, when I was asked, "Como estas?" I would shift in my chair awhile, asking "Como estoy? Eso es la pregunta? I just want to make sure I understand the question. Hmm...Pues, es dificil...necesito tiempo..." Until I could think of how to conjugate whatever verb I was supposed to conjugate into the preterite and say something that would use only Spanish words and fill the alloted time. I was very good at stretching the meaning of common verbs to make them more inclusive to whatever need I had for them at the time. I think it was really an art form.

Speaking of high school and art, I was the only kid that my parents didn't force to take an art class in high school. My mom later confessed it was because she didn't want to ruin my GPA and hurt my chances for scholarships. Mom - 1, Dave's fine motor skills - 0.

It's always around this time of the year that I long for a house with a fireplace. My house in Hermantown had one, and I fondly remember sitting in the basement, watching movies, and listening to the fire crackle as we cozied up on the couches/chairs. I remember a bit less fondly going out to the garage for my dad to stack our arms full of wood and trying to navigate to the house and down the stairs with my arms shaking underneath the load and my vision obscured by the pile of wood. I can remember more than a few accidents on the stairway followed by fights concerning who left their shoes right in front of the staircase.

Well, this turned into a reminiscing post. Deal with it.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Fuller, Midnight Special, and Advent

Well, we're adding another application to the list: Fuller, you too will have the opportunity to read some first-class 500-word essays brought to you by David D. Bjorlin and the letter "J," which gives my name so much of its unspoken character. This is the first application with a spiritual autobiography essay - 500 words or less, which is a bit less than St. Augustine got in Confessions (I think he originally published with Zondervan?). Granted, I'm a bit less than Augustine. Still, it's hard to sum up that much in that little space.

I can't tell you how much I love Midnight Special. It's a radio show (speaking of which, I'm not sure if you italicize radio shows or go with quotation marks, but I decided not to look it up) on WFMT (98.7 in Chicago) on Saturday nights from 9 p.m. -12 (I realize you have to be quite a socialite with lots of free time on Saturday night to truly enjoy it) that plays exclusively folk music with some show tunes and comedy sketches thrown in the mix. I first discovered it when I was in undergrad on a late night run during winter. It was a magical moment when I first heard its dulcet tones that seemed to fit perfectly with the falling snow and possibly my melancholy mood that probably motivated a Saturday night run in the middle of winter (wow...poorly constructed sentence). I spent the rest of the evening lying on my living room floor listening. I have been in love ever since and always enjoy when I am home on Saturday nights and can tune in. If you're driving on a Saturday night and want to hear folk music, like folk folk music, check it out.

Does it show too sharp of divide between sacred and secular that I will start listening to Christmas music now but refuse to play any in the church during Advent? I mean, I'm not budging on the second part, but I wonder if I should attempt next year to go on an Advent Christmas music fast as a spiritual discipline to engender the anticipation and waiting aspects of the season. I don't know if I can listen to "O Come, O Come Emmanuel," "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence," and "Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus" enough to compensate for what I would be listening, but maybe that's the point.

Speaking of Advent, only 13 more days! Yesterday at church I got really excited thinking about planning a Christ the King service followed by four solid weeks of Advent morning and evening services. Planning liturgies during these more defined seasons is really when I feel in my element or working in my wheelhouse or whatever other cliche/aphorism you would like to insert. I will soon be sending out the annual emails to recruit people for the mini-choir to sing "Wait for the Lord" during communion. What I do not enjoy is the version of "Wait for the Lord" I have, which includes this really obnoxious soprano sax playing over the thing Kenny G -style. It just doesn't seem to fit the taize spirit; it fits more the riding-in-a-glass-elevator-at-Macy's spirit.

Well, Monday calls.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Belated Birthdays, Rick Perry (can't pass it up), and Advent

First, check out the new poll. Please, no comments about how we can't listen to Christmas music yet. I'll respect your decision if you'll respect mine.

I don't understand why my mail comes at 7 p.m. but the garbage truck rumbles loudly down the alley at 6:45 a.m. If the city of Chicago's Department of Streets and Sanitation and the USPS could get together and have those times switched, it would be much appreciated. Thanks. Also, closing down Grace is really killing my commute to Trader Joe's. I'd like that opened ASAP. I think that's it for now.

My brother and I (and Kelly Perez) went out last night for a belated birthday dinner. It's still weird (in a good way) that he's in town, even though I see him about as often as I did when he lived in Duluth/Breckenridge/Bemidji. We finished the night off by watching Muppet Treasure Island to get ready for the upcoming movie. Good times. Happy 25th, broseph. This is the point when it's easiest to remember how old all my siblings are: Jessica-29, me-27, Stephen-25, Anna-23. Two years apart from November until March when I go and screw it up by getting older.

Rick Perry's latest gaffe was pretty epic. I mean, you should at least know the name of the government agencies you want to get rid of. However, to be fair, maybe he's already gotten rid of the department in his mind, so why bother remembering the name? Here's the awe-inspiring clip, if you missed it. The best part is definitely the "Oops!" at the end.

And, of course, Jon Stewart's take on it:

I'm giving four "meh's..." to Billy Crystal hosting the Oscars. I think they should have definitely gone with the Muppets. I mean, no offense to Crystal, he's great, but what have you done for me lately? Forget Paris? Analyze This/That? A voice-over in Cars and Monsters, Inc? (You better believe I just looked him up on imdb).

16 days until Advent!! I can't wait for Advent (irony intended). I think it's my favorite season because it does not shy away from the reality of darkness or even pain to some extent, but it is always undergirded with a deep and lasting hope. Hope and light rise out of the darkness and despair of occupation and dashed dreams, shining all the clearer through the night that once surrounded it. Even its call for repentance is not so much penitent (as in Lent) as it is preparation for a feast, a getting ready for the kingdom of God, a personal and corporate transformation imbued with the joy and hope of the King and kingdom we wait for. Advent, come quickly!

I think I'll end on that note.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Rain, A Few More Signs of Aging, and Trips/Jobs

So, you think when it's raining pretty good and your work involves moving furniture, you would find a rain coat or at least bring an umbrella for the walk to and from your car. Not this guy! I'd rather walk around half-sopping and cold-skinned all day (yesterday). I was cold until about 8:30, which is a rare occurrence for me.

Okay, I thought of a few more signs you're aging:
1. The first time you throw out your arm. I used to think something was wrong with my dad when we'd play catch because he'd always be stretching his arm and windmilling it. Then, in gym class my senior year playing a derivative of trench, I threw my arm out. Now, I understand the warm-up.
2. When you start appreciating utilitarian presents for Christmas/birthdays. I remember being enraged that my parents would give me luggage for Christmas my junior year (maybe it was a subtle hint on their plans for me upon graduating!). However, this year I'm asking for a satchel bag and am more than happy to get new sheets, socks, etc.
3. When you can say, "Ten years ago," and have vivid memories at or near adulthood.
4. When 9:30 rolls around and all you can think of is how warm your bed is going to be when you get there.

All Saints' Sunday was really great at church. I think the combination of a bunch of new members, children running around, old members present, and the saints hanging from the wall all hit me at the same time as I was singing. I guess I'm reminded every once in a while that I really like my church, and that's a blessing one shouldn't take for granted. I wonder how many church employees could pass a lie-detector test saying the first part of the previous sentence!

I need a trip to look forward to...besides Minnesota. You know, a block-out-ten-days-six-months-from-now-buy-plane-tickets-and-guide-books kind of trip. So, first I'll have to find a low-security bank to rob or a long-lost, fabulously wealthy great-aunt to finance my lavish lifestyle, and then the planning can commence! Maybe I should call one of those numbers that are on the neon flyers left under my windshield wiper. They seem to know how to make quick money while allowing for flexible, part-time hours. I think I'm due for a good pyramid scheme.

That reminds me of the year after high school when I saw an ad for part-time work in the paper, and when I showed up to interview the job was selling knives basically door-to-door. Needless to say, I excused myself as soon as I could. I would be the worst salesman ever. Here's how I imagine the conversation going:
(knock, knock)
Homeowner: Hello?
Dave: Sorry to bother you, and you probably don't want these things anyway. They're kind of crappy, but maybe you like crappy knives? They cut stuff good...ummm...I'm selling stuff and...
Homeowner: (interrupting) I'm not interested.
Dave: No, I don't blame you. Thanks for your time. Sorry I wasted a bit of your day. You know what? Here's a free knife for your troubles. Yeah, just take it. It was good of you to open the door. (homeowner looks confused, but takes it from my hand as I scurry from their porch).

Next thing you know, I'm buying sets of knives to keep myself in business while losing money week-to-week.

Okay, I think that's all for today. However, you should all join me at 7:30 tonight in Isaacson Chapel (the seminary chapel) for a hymn sing! Come one, come all!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Parallel Parking, All Saints', and Signs of Adulthood

Sometimes, after I nail an amazingly small parallel park, I feel so exhilarated, like I should get out of the car, be handed a Oscar-like statue, and be given the opportunity to give an acceptance speech: I'd like to thank everyone who made this possible. Thanks to Toyota, for making the roomy yet compact Rav4. I'd like to thank the bumpers of the car ahead of me and behind me. I really could not have done this without your sacrifice. Finally, I'd like to thank Pontiac, who made the 97 Pontiac TranSport minivan, which I drove my senior year of college when the power steering was starting to go. You gave me the courage to parallel park with abandon, and without that trial by fire, this day wouldn't have been possible."

So, we're celebrating All Saints' Day tomorrow at church, so today I was taping up pictures of some saints of the broader know, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Theresa, St. Augustine, etc. Anyway, just as I announced to Andrew that I had gotten all the saints hung up, Dorothy Day fell from the wall. I thought it was symbolic she did; a non-conformist until the end! (Also, for nerdy Covenanters, Burton Nelson is straight across the sanctuary from Bonhoeffer. This wasn't planned from the beginning, but when I got to that section and he was in the mix, it seemed the proper choice!).

So, the other day I was thinking about some transitional moments from childhood to adulthood, those events that make you realize you're becoming an adult. Here are some of mine - both serious and not so serious in no particular order (some previously mentioned in other posts):
1. Driver's license. duh.
2. The first funeral you can remember attending. I was five when my grandpa died, and I still remember snapshots from the funeral and the car ride there.
3. The first time you realize Princess Bride is a spoof. I remember vividly being on a choir bus on the way to Canada in 6th grade and realizing that this wasn't an earnest movie about saving a princess; it was satire of those movies. That really blew my mind.
4. When you start secretly enjoying Prairie Home Companion. See previous post.
5. The first time your parents leave you alone without a babysitter. That must be a hard decision to make when you're a parent.
6. The first time you're asked to babysit - a hard decision for the parents' of the children!
7. Reading your first adult novel - John Grisham's The Client, if you're wondering. I think I've mentioned this before, but I went on a Grisham spree after that, but my mom would paperclip the parts of the book that I wasn't allowed to read and give me a synopsis of what happened.
8. When you buy your first tape/CD. Mine was Ace of Base's The Sign.
9. The first paid job besides babysitting and realizing that the next 50 years of work might be a bummer.
10. The first time you overdraw on your checking account.

Those are ten. Do you have others? Reflections?

I'm having a hard time getting into the Christmas spirit with all this warm weather. We need a good cold front with some snow!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Large Lips, Republican Flops, and Rainy Days

Well, maybe it's the halloween candy I ate over the last few days, but I have developed a nice ole' canker sore right in the center of my upper lip. Now, if you didn't know me before college, you might not know that I was plagued by canker sores growing up, and I don't mean a few small nuisances; these were more ulcers than sores. I think the braces exacerbated an already strong predisposition. I also theorize that it had something to do with adolescence/hormones, but I can't verify this scientifically. I had to develop some truly innovative embouchures (word for the position of your mouth while playing a wind/brass instrument) when playing the saxophone so that I could make it through band without tearing up.

Anyway, I think this is the first one I've had in a while, and it made me wonder how I ever made it in high school. One of the bonuses of such sores is that my already large lips become swollen, especially in the mornings. Today I woke up looking like either Liv/Steven Tyler or Julia Roberts during a crying scene. Exhibit A:

And, from Steel Magnolias, exhibit B:

It's like lips with a side of face. I don't know why I chose to talk about this at such great length, but c'est la vie.

Well, it looks like another possible Republican frontrunner is biting the dust. I don't see Herman Cain bouncing back from three allegations of sexual harassment. Who's going to be flavor of the month for Republicans in November? It seems that just when they get to liking a guy/lady, you find all this footage of the person saying or doing crazy things. For instance, Rick Perry's public drunk dial/muscle relaxant-induced speech that he gave in New Hampshire:

Seriously, what is going on with this guy? Did someone slip him a mickey/roofie? I think the Republicans are just going to have to settle on Romney, even if he is a flip-flopping automaton with a good smile (not to mention the whole Mormon thing, which isn't going to go over well at some of the Focus on the Family meetings).

Well, today is one of those rainy days where the cold water seems to seep into your very being. As such, I think it's the perfect day for reading at home! I don't like these transitional days; let's just have the snow and get to winter already! Okay, off to read.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Who's Your Favorite Saint?

Well, today is All Saints' Day! Over the past five years, I have grown in my appreciation and understanding of the saints, and I think it should be a feast day that all churches, from the highest of high churches to the lowest of low churches, celebrate with gusto! It reminds us our faith is ours because of the faithful yet broken people throughout the generations who have continued to tell the story, even in the midst of overwhelming persecution, of God's redemptive work. We truly stand on the shoulders of those who have come before us. I like how Fred Pratt Green sums it up in his hymn:

"Rejoice in God's saints, today and all days!
A world without saints forgets how to praise.
Their faith in acquiring the habit of prayer,
their depth of adoring, Lord, help us to share."

So, what saint (picking from outside of your family or local congregation) has impacted your faith journey the most?

I have many ideas - St. Benedict, St. Augustine, David Nyvall, Lina Sandell - but I think two that I always come back to are Corrie and Betsie ten Boom. These were two Dutch sisters who lived together during the Nazi occupation of the 1940s. When the plight of Jews became severe, they risked everything to hide them in their house because they believed that Christ's call extended love to everyone. Even when Betsie lay dying in the concentration camp, she looked around at guards and prisoners alike and whispered to Corrie, "Tell them there is no pit so deep that God's love is not deeper still." I think that may be one of my favorite quotes in the whole world. Betsie did die in Ravensbruck, but Corrie survived and lived her life determined to tell people about God's love and forgiveness, even coming face-to-face with one of her former concentration camp guards and extending the hand of forgiveness despite her inner turmoil. She wrote this story in her autobiography, The Hiding Place, which I would recommend highly if you want to know more about these women. Here's a picture of them (from left to right: Betsie, Corrie, and their sister Nollie):

So, that's my pick.

One of my new running pet peeves: when I'm listening to an audiobook and the reading is drowned out by the sound of the el or sirens. It always seems to happen at key moments in the story. I know, not a real problem, but annoying.

I saw a big jug of aloe vera juice at Trader Joe's and almost barfed all over it. Unless I somehow fall asleep on a beach with my mouth open and get sunburn on the back of my throat, I'm not drinking aloe vera juice. to World Relief. Happy All Saints' Day!

Full Weekends, Halloween, and Red Shorts

Well, this weekend consisted of a wedding (Yeah, Tricia and Patrick!), a halloween party, and a potluck at church. I've filled my social quota for at least the next two weeks. If you need me, I'll be holding a prolonged session of SSR (sustained silent reading) in my bedroom/living room.

Well, it's truly been a freaky weekend: both the Gophers and Vikings won! As the late REM once sang, "It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine."

This year I felt completely uninspired when it came to halloween costumes. I just couldn't put any energy into thinking about a creative costume, let alone going out to find the elements that would be needed for the costume I thought up. As such, I went down into the basement and grabbed one of the old orange polyester choir robes from the church with a complimentary yellow robe and went as a choir member. It's not as good as previous costumes - Ellen, the internet, fundamentalist pastor - but it got the job done.

If I had a kid, I would definitely try to go by Rosie O'Donnell's house. She just moved in about a block away from the church/my building. She better at least be giving out full candy bars, that's all I'm saying. Ahh...memories of judging people by the candy they gave out! I mean, there definitely still is a hierarchy of candies...and no one should be given bit-o-honeys or hard candy of any type. Werthers Originals, butterscotch discs, and root beer barrels should be reserved for a decorative candy dish at an estate sale, not for the dear children of our society. Speaking of which, it probably wouldn't be a bad idea for me to go and buy some candy just in case we do have trick-or-treaters this year. I could always resort to turning off all my lights and hibernating in my room. Vamos a ver.

I don't know if you've ever been one to lose clothes, but I have been known to misplace a sweater every once in a while. What I find fascinating is how the newer clothes I really like tend to be the ones I lose while the clothes I have had for 10+ years always seem to be on the top of my laundry basket. For instance, I couldn't lose my 10+ year old red nike shorts if I took a plane over a remote jungle, covered them in cow meat, and dropped them in piranha infested waters. The next week I'd find them in the mail with a note saying someone had found them, recognized them, and had them dry-cleaned for me before sending them back. You know, these red shorts:

Seriously, I've had them since my junior year of high school when I would wear them with my red-and-blue tie-dyed chemistry shirt for my tennis uniform before we ordered shirts. My mom would make comments like, "If I were the coach, I wouldn't let you play looking like that." To which I replied, "If you were my coach, I wouldn't be playing tennis," or "If you were my coach, we would have bigger problems than what shorts I wore," or "(roll of the eyes while walking up to my room)."

Okay, I need to go for a run. As you can probably guess, weddings, halloween parties, and potlucks do not make for light eating. I'm going to have to start putting those maternity bands on my jeans soon. Later.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Change Jar Total, Signs of Apocalypse/Aging, and Fall Weather

Well, I am happy to report that I had $91 of change in my change jar. My hope was somewhere in the $100 ballpark, so that's nice. Granted, I still felt like a cool kid walking into the bank with a big jar of change, but...

You may have seen it on my facebook page, but what is the world coming to when Pat Robertson is calling the Republican field too extreme?

The money quote: "Well, if they want to lose, this is the game for losers." When the guy who called for the assassination of Hugo Chavez and blamed Haiti's problems on a pact with the devil, when this same guy calls the Republican field "too extreme," you may have problems in the general election. Just sayin'.

I love how Hillary Clinton is still rocking the scrunchie during State Department meetings. Chelsea, it's time for an intervention.

Signs that you're getting older: you refer to restaurants or stores by what used to be in the building. In Duluth this past week, I caught myself saying things like, "You know, where Chi-Chi's used to be," or "Let's meet down in Canal Park by the old Grand Slam building." I remember hearing my Dad say things like that and thinking, "Hey Deano-saur (see what I did there?), maybe when you drove the Model-T down the old cow trails that was a golf course. But now that we've moved from the caves to houses, it's a gas station." Now, I understand the difficulty in keeping up with all of the business changes! Not to mention, I occasionally suffer from bouts of nostalgia.

You know what else makes me feel old? Writing letters of reference for people. Where you say thinks like, "Almost ten years ago, I met...". I probably wrote right after that, "We first met by the old Blockbuster on Lawrence and Lincoln."

Well, the application process is slowly wrapping up. The essays are mostly done, the CV is written, the forms are filled out, the writing sample has been chosen, and the references are set. Now I pay the fees, attach the files, and begin the wait. It is almost advent after all, so I might as well own the waiting period. One good bit of news on the fees part: North Park puts both undergrad and seminary transcripts on the same page, so I only have to pay for one official transcript instead of two. I mean, I'm only saving $20, but it's the small victories in life. Maybe I should take that $20 saved and put it under my mattress!

Can all Chicagoans take a moment and admit that we've had a beautiful fall? We are trained to complain about the weather, but the weather has been near perfect over the last month and a half. I know, it's always glass-half-full with me...the eternal optimist. I think the last person I mentioned this fall weather to told me to get ready because La Nina is going to be sending us an extreme winter. Now, that's a Chicagoan!

Well, I'm going to break my fast and get ready for a day of meetings. This sounds boring, but there are some interesting ones today. Later.