Sunday, November 29, 2009

Meeting God in the mundane

A blast from the past, for those of you who didn't know me four years ago or who weren't aware where I was posting my writing: the rough material of what was to be (and what still might someday be) a book on hearing God's voice in everyday moments:
And finally, the thesis/last word.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

My Christmas music mix

Here are 10 of my favorite Christmas songs, free for you to enjoy!


(If you don't see the iPod-style player above, the songs are:
Sweet Little Jesus Boy — Rebecca St. James
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day — Casting Crowns
Babe in the Straw - Caedmon's Call
O Come All Ye Faithful — Rebecca St. James again
Do You Hear What I Hear — Third Day
Breath of Heaven — Amy Grant
Carol of the Bells — The Calling
Child of Love — Sara Groves
Mary Did You Know — Michael English
Strange Way To Save The World — 4Him)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Total recall

It's been more than three months since Corin and I watched a quarter of Star Wars together, and then he played with my vintage C-3PO and R2-D2 action figures for a week or so. It's been even longer since he's actually worn my brother's old vintage Star Wars t-shirt. I've made no mention of R2-D2 in the meantime — anything remotely Star Wars related is still packed up.

And yet when I pulled out the t-shirt from a pile of clothes for him to wear today, and I asked him who that was, he said "doo-dee-doo" (his version of two-dee-two). He retains minuscule bits of information from literally months ago. That's some crazy long-term memory for a 2 1/2-year-old.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

And a course of leeches?

We all know that washing one's hands reduces the transmission of bacteria, and that the practice is particularly relevant and necessary in hospitals and other health care facilities. Hospitals positively reek with the scent of disinfectant, and we've seen a million TV shows with doctors scrubbing up and unwrapping sterile medical supplies. Hospitals are clean as clean can be, right?

Except... "The Centers for Disease Control based in Atlanta says half of hospital infections could be prevented if caregivers cleaned their hands before touching patients, but 60% of health care workers don't do so," says this article on Ohio's Channel 9 website.

Wait, what? Health care professionals don't wash their hands between patients? I guess it must not be that important after all.

Except... "Every year, 100,000 people [in America] die from infections they get in a hospital, nursing home or other medical facility. That’s more people than die of AIDS, breast cancer and car accidents combined." The problem is that while most bacteria is harmless as long as it stays on the skin, if certain kinds enter the "body through a cut or incision, it can become deadly." Touching one patient after another without handwashing allow a bad strain of bacteria from one person to be transferred to dozens of people healing from surgeries and wounds.

That's ... bad.

"'We have the knowledge to prevent these infections but what has been lacking is the will,'" says Betsy McCaughey, former lieutenant governor of New York, consumer advocate, and founder of RID (Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths). "'Numerous hospitals have reduced their infection rates by 90% in pilot programs with cleaning and screening,' she says ... . Denmark, Holland and Finland had similar rates of infection to ours; they now have have rates below 1%, after changing the way they intake patients."

Wow. That would be 90,000 deaths per year that could be avoided. Imagine if a car company introduced new technology that prevented 9 out of every 10 current passenger deaths. It would be an instant hit. Everyone would be clamoring for it. Unless ... it were prohibitively expensive. That must be the big hurdle in this case: cost.

"'And it’s affordable. The data show that hospitals actually become more profitable by taking these steps,'" says McCaughey. A Leapfrog Group study says that "'hospital-acquired infections add more than $15,000 to a patient's hospital bill, amounting to more than $30 billion a year wasted on avoidable costs.'"

So ... what's the holdup? Accountability. McCaughey, among others, are pushing for a nationwide report-card system that will make available to the public the infection rate for each hospital. That way, each hospital will self-police and try to lower their infection rate as drastically as possible as a way of keeping business in a competitive marketplace.

Colleen O’Toole, president of the Greater Cincinnati Health Council, says we'll get there ... eventually. "'We think that the hospitals here and across the country are going to be reporting infections in some standard way in the not-too-distant future. The question you're asking is how to get from here to there.'"

Sigh. How about a placard reading: "No, seriously, wash your hands, people" at the door to every room? How about a memo: "We are no longer in the dark ages, medically speaking, so act like it."

In the meantime, the article concludes: "All our experts advise patients and families to speak up when they visit doctors, hospitals or nursing homes. Ask every doctor, nurse or technician to wash his or her hands."

Personally, I'm going with the placard.

Monday, November 23, 2009

On mortality

If somebody offers you a lifetime supply of candy and there is just one piece, don't eat it: It's probably poison.
—Timmy Dale

Buddhist Suicide Note: "BRB, cruel world!"
—Brendan Bell

People complain that the only two constants in this world are death and taxes, but it's just not true. The kid I hit with my car never paid taxes.
—Steve H.

(via 105%)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Rockin' the mic

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Me, but smaller

I posted some more of my childhood photos up at

Steve, age 3-4 (ish)

Steve, age 4-5 (ish)

Steve, age 5-6 (ish)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

You're it

I've just introduced the game of tag to Corin. We've done chasing games in the past, which he loves, but we've added the finger stab.

What's nice for me is that he thinks he has to tag me square on the chest, since that's where I tagged him the first time. It's less running and more wrestling that way.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

We are raising Harry Potter

Corin thinks that every picture he sees is a thumbnail to a youtube video of the subject in action. He seriously doesn't know what the point of a still photograph is.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Knock knock

Corin's latest knock-knock joke:

"Knock knock!"

"Who's there?"


"Penguin who?"


Friday, November 13, 2009

Full sentences

Corin has just recently started putting together more complex thoughts. He just said to me:"Fork. Be right back," and then toddled off to the silverware drawer.

He used the fork for thirty seconds or so to stab an orange (I had once started peeling an orange with a tine of a nearby fork), and then decided he was finished. "Be back. Fork. Away."

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Stealth baby

Today at the zoo Corin was fascinated by the bronze sculptures of the otters. For some reason their noses were really large (much larger than the real otters, which were right there for comparison) and looked enough in shape like cow noses that Corin decided they were statues of cows (all other evidence to the contrary).

Then, just to prove that he didn't get the concept of sculptures either, he kept hiding behind a large pillar and jumping out at the bronze otters, yelling "Surprise, cows!"

Sunday, November 8, 2009

That's train-tastic!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Corin visits the aquarium

Friday, November 6, 2009

Corin's halloween video

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Pep talk

These two quotes should probably be printed at the front of every Bible study and on every church bulletin, tucked into the pocket of every Christian, carved over the doors to every church, and burned into the memory of every believer. Pursuing a life in Christ is not about getting one's ducks in a row but a matter of continual reawakening:

From "Jesus: A Meditation on His Stories and His Relationships with Women," by Andrew Greeley:
"We must begin a search for understanding some of the stories of Jesus with the realization that he is deliberately elusive, mysterious, enigmatic, paradoxical. Hence we will never finish our search. We will never understand him. He is a man of surprises, appropriate for one who claims to witness a God of surprises. This, when we think we at last have figured him out, truly understand him, and can sign him up for our cause, we find that he has slipped away. ... The Jesus we have shaped to fit our ideas, our needs, our fears, may be a very interesting and special person, but he is no longer Jesus. ...

"Those who followed him in Palestine a couple of millennia ago were fascinated by his stories. They had heard most of them before, but he insisted on ending the stories with a disturbing twist, a disconcerting finale. ... His good news indeed sounded good, perhaps too good to be true, but it didn't fit the expectations of his followers, even the closest followers. It disturbed them.

"If he doesn't disturb us, then he's not Jesus."

From "The Sacredness of Questioning Everything," by David Dark:
"C.S. Lewis once observed that while many people use art, only a very few receive it. ... We only receive art when we let it call our own lives into question.

"If the words of Jesus of Nazareth, for instance, strike us as comfortable and perfectly in tune with our own confident common sense, our likes and dislikes, our budgets, and our actions toward strangers and foreigners, the receiving the words of Jesus is probably not what we're doing. We may quote a verse, put it in a PowerPoint presentation, or even intone it loudly with an emotional, choked-up quiver, but if it doesn't scandalize or bother us, challenging our already-made-up minds, we aren't really receiving it. ...

"If we aren't reaching toward a fresh understanding of the world through the questions we ask, we remain pretty well zombified in the cold comfort of a dead religiousity. Fresh questions and new acts of imagination are our primary means to encounter love and liveliness, to discover integrity and authenticity. Without them, we're pretty much done for."

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Joining the wolf pack

We are now proud owners of an annual zoo membership: Wolf Pack level, with full aquarium privileges.

It's only $180 a year, as opposed to $86.50 for one zoo trip and one aquarium trip per year for the three of us. We just need to go more than twice a year and we're rolling in savings!

That will take the pressure off to devote a whole day to a zoo visit to make it worthwhile, meaning we can just go for an hour whenever it's convenient for us. It's great to have a perfect afternoon activity without doing any planning or paying.

Enjoy what is sure to be the first of many zoo-visit videos:

Sunday, November 1, 2009

An insane generosity (part two)

What Paul MeantIn Andrew Greeley's book "Jesus: A Meditation on His Stories and His Relationships with Women," he unpacks the parable of the Workers in the Vineyard (which he titles "The Crazy Vintner," as it is the vineyard owner who the parable is fully about), in which men are hired to harvest grapes at various intervals throughout the day, as the owner returns to the marketplace again and again. At the end of the day, the vintner pays everyone the wage of a silver coin, the wage for a full day, no matter how long each person had worked, causing grousing among those who'd worked since sun-up.
"John Shea says that this is the most unpopular parable because people perceive it as being "not fair." Why did the loafers get paid for not working. It seems possible that Jesus was retelling a rabbinic story in which those who came at the eleventh hour worked so hard they earned a day's wage. ...

"They were startled, shocked, disturbed by Jesus' twist. Instead of the pious moral of the original story he portrayed the five o'clock crowd as more interested in how much they'd be paid than in doing any work. ... Such men deserved no more than a pittance.

"The protagonist of Jesus' story, however, did a terrible thing. He paid everyone the same. He paid everyone the same. Even the five o'clock slackers received the silver coin, much to the dismay of those who had worked the whole day. The farmer was not only unjust, he was off-the-wall crazy. This was God?

"The answer was, yes, this is God. The story was ... about a God who was so expansive, abundant, and loving in his generosity that humans who behaved with similar generosity people would think insane. ... It is much easier to deal with the odd economics of the parable than to deal with the image of a mad and perhaps madcap God. ... Yet Jesus believed and asked us to believe that the God of Isaiah has to be exorbitant in his abundance or he isn't God."
It's interesting to me that in a completely different book I was reading, about a completely different passage, I felt compelled to blog about the insane generosity of God. (Hence the 'part two' in the title for this one.)

It also just occurred to me that one of the movie reviews that I wrote that I submitted for our church's art journal is also about God's irrationality:
An icon can be counted on to act according to its nature. An icon can be counted on to follow the dictates of the script. That is why it is so important to understand God as more than an icon of love, truth, justice and beauty, more than just a measuring stick for all that is good and perfect. God is not reasonable, stable, easy to understand. God is a living being, capable of surprise, capable of performing the irrational act of incarnating himself as a human. It was not a just act; it was not dictated by his standards; it was not inevitable. The crux of the Gospel message is this: God loves human beings more than his own standards, and he put himself through death in order to break the hold those standards had on him.
Apparently, no matter how many times it strikes me that God is not a rational, sensible, fair, rule-adherent being, it's always a new revelation. It's just too ingrained in my mind that God is somehow the personification of all order and reason, logic and sense. The smartest people in our society are the dispassionate observers of phenomena and the constructors of theories that bring order to our thoughts and concepts of reality. So true reality must be clean, ordered, and sensible underneath, right? But no. Real love, for instance, is irrational. It is a little unhinged. It doesn't make sense. Maybe, just maybe, the really smart people in this world are those who love most. God, who is love, must be equally wild, passionate, abundant, lavish, playful, surprising, and intimate. I wish I could see that all the time.