Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Tears, Seeds, Yeast and the Benedictus

I didn't expect to be crying.

There I was praying with 80 other men and I started to snivel. My eyes filled up and the overflow started running down my cheeks and dripping onto the floor. One of the men had cancer and we were praying for him. As the first petitions ascended to Heaven I was back in the Nursing Home with my Mom watching her die.

I have only ever seen one person die. And that death has colored and changed the word cancer for me. The word used to be an abstract concept - sure I knew people who had dealt with it - but I hadn't experienced its stark cruel reality. So as we prayed for this man I was transported back to my mom's bedside, watching in sadness, grief, horror and many other emotions as this woman, who had held on to life until my brother and I walked in the room, finally embraced death with one last tremor and vomit of her cancer ridden body.

That was four and half months ago, and the ripples of that event still rock the boat of my life.

As we prayed in staff worship we read the Lectionary for today.

Luke 13:18-21

Then Jesus asked, "What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air perched in its branches."
Again he asked, "What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough."

It used to be that when I thought of 'The Kingdom of God' I saw fierce armies, men with banners and swords cutting brutal swathes through the enemy.

But here we have a seed and some yeast. The seed takes time to grow, many years for a it to be strong enough to support the weight of birds nesting in it's branches. Yeast is fragile - mix it with water that is too hot and you kill it - mix it with water that is too cold and it will not rise and the bread will remain flat.

The Kingdom of God as something small and fragile, that takes time to grow within me and needs careful nurturing. That fits how I feel right now - God feels like the smallest ember within my heart that needs to be tended. The 'God' I had before Mom's death has passed away along with her and a new one is carefully growing.

At the close of worship we read The Benedictus (Luke 1:68-79). We don't often read this, but in the traditional Morning Prayer it is read every day. It closes with these words:

"In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high will break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace."

I used to think that the 'Shadow of Death' was the darkness of my own mortality. Now I know it is larger - watching death embrace someone I love has changed that for me. But I still believe in 'The Tender Compassion of our God' even though His kingdom seems tiny and fragile and insignificant in my life right now.

The light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot put it out.

In the darkness of winter comes the light of Advent.

And in the Shadow of Death comes the Light of the World.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Flesh Eating???!!!! The U.S. Government at Work

This is rather scary!!!!!

Proposed (Classified) Bill Will Defend Against Flesh-Eating (Classified)

(For the interests of clarity I should point out that this is a Satire made by 'The Onion' Thing is though, I've seen CSPAN and this isn't far from the truth!)

Pastrami, Recycling and Bombing Germany

Last night was my usual board game fest!!!

We started the night with Duel in the Dark a game about bombing raids on Germany during WWII. I played the British (of course) and Greg played Germany. It was an interesting night for bombing with lots of heavy cloud cover!

I managed to fly my bomber all the way to Dresden, drop bombs and make it back again, but I suffered under the German defenses so although I made it back alive it counted as a German Victory :( To be honest it's not really a style of board game I like that much, but it is a new hot item and has some great bits so it was fun to try it!

After a brief teaching game of Blue Moon which is a classic Reiner Kinzia game that I hadn't tried the rest of the motley gang arrived and we pulled out Power Grid.

Power Grid is a game of building Power Companies across the U.S. (though other maps are available). You have to buy your different Power Stations, Build them and all the connecting cabling and also purchase all the fuel that you need to power cities. It is a very well balanced games with lots of different balancing mechanisms for the price of fuel etc. You have to really carefully manage your money!!!!

I was doing really well, until one turn before the end when due to a miscalculation I paid one Electro too much for a station I wanted. This meant I couldn't buy all the Waste I needed to power my recycling plant and still build where I need too. I actually triggered the end of the game by building my 17th city and it all came down to a tie break on money as all of us were providing power to the same number of cities.

In retrospect I should have postponed the building and let the game go one more round, then I might have won, but in the end I came in second. I think my frustration at my bad math got the better of me.

The final game of the night (Started at Midnight) was Edel, Stein and Reich, a game of Jewel Dealing. I like the game, it was a good late night closer, but last night I didn't do too well. Oh well!

At some point in the night I had started joking with Paul about Pastrami and Rye (I'm not sure why, I just knew I was hungry) So after we left Greg's at 1:15 we headed over to Katz's Deli as it is open 24 hours!!!!! I had the Pastrami Reuben which was delicious and eventually got home to bed at about 3:15am.

It was a fun night!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

O.K. so it took me a while!!!

Started Stitching: Feb 1992
Finished Stitching: Dec 1997
Sat finished in Plastic Bag: 10 years!!!!
Time to frame it: 2 weeks!

Man this travelled across the world with me - I can even remember stitching whilst on a motor boat on the river!!!!!! Never again will I attempt one of these, they look kewl, but they are a pain.

Monday, October 22, 2007

I don't Like Mondays!!!

We had a cold front come through this morning. As I was driving to work we experienced sudden intermittent rain showers. It would be dry one moment and then the next it would be torrential rain for a few moments and then back to dry again.

I was driving to work this morning and as I braked for a stop sign I started to skid and I slid into the Escalade SUV that was in front of me :(

They hardly received a scratch, but my car was not so lucky.

They didn't know what to do as they had never been in a wreck before so they called the police. No one was hurt or injured - though I do have a little neck stiffness as I type this.

I got issued a citation for 'Failure to Control Speed/Accident'. Trouble is I wasn't speeding - it was the sudden slickness of the road.

So now I am in a rental car, faced with having to pay my deductible and go to court in November.

The policeman was very polite and actually apologised as he gave me the citation because he works off duty here at the church doing security for Mercy Street!!!

It's not a good Monday!!!!!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Wikihow strikes again

I don't know if you've come across wikihow yet, it's a kind of 'How To' manual that anyone can edit.

Today I ran across 'How to cook Lasagne in a Dishwasher'

Absolutely terrifying, but if we have another stormy day I just might try it.....I do weird things on stormy days, for the last one read here.

What I'm Watching (currently)

Well I just watched Sordid Lives very funny!

A family gathers to pay their respects to their momma who died whilst committing adultery in a seedy motel, she got up to use the bathroom in the night and tripped over her lovers two wooden legs that were lying in the middle of the floor!!! Need I say more.

It's described as a black comedy about White Trash, and if you are in the mindset and want to see Olivia Newton John play a lesbian folk singer and see a Tammy Wynette Drag Show in Big Spring mental hospital then this is the movie for you.

I've just finished Season Two of 'The Sopranos' Not a show I had any real interest in, but someone Lent me the first two seasons and I got sucked in and love it. There was some great plot twists in season two, the acting is great, as is the dialogue. Where else can you get gang violence, family drama and therapy!!!!!

Bride and Prejudice was interesting. Jane Austen's classic novel re imagined into contemporary Indian culture and turned into a Bollywood musical. There were some scenes that only made sense to me after watching the dvd extras that helped explain Bollywood as a genre, but even with my lack of knowledge about Bollywood, it was still a light fun frothy movie.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Another 'Pat' email

I received my third email from 'Pat' this morning. To read about the first two click here.

This one has the same email address as the second and fits the other characteristics too.

The good news is that all three emails share the same I.P. address. This means we can prove that they all came from the same person, and if they get physically threatening we can give the information to the police and they can track Pat down.

This third email was also a personal character attack, but more vicious than the second. Pat made comments about my weight, appearance and my 'fat ass ego' (Pat's words)

I'm trying to pray for Pat, but I must confess it is difficult.

Pat's words sound very much like my own 'inner critic' - something all of us deal with to some degree.

Oh well, at least when I start being down on myself, I have a new name for the 'voice' in my head. Though here in my blog I'll just call the voice 'Pat'.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Omlette Art

As most of you know I love to cook, and I do a fairly good job, but there has always been a couple of items that defeat me. One of them is Omelets. For some reason I nearly always seem to have trouble and I have to pretend that I was really intending to cook scrambled eggs with bits in!

Now one of my former roommates Cliff was not a cook - he was a great mechanic and an awesome guy, but he wouldn't really call himself a Chef.

Except for omelets.

You see he spent one summer working at a camp and every morning he worked on the Omelet Bar making orders for the campers. So Cliff could make omelets.

And Cliff (seeing as I know you will read this when your wife tells you that you are mentioned), I have a confession to make. I was jealous!

You didn't make omelets often, but when you did you had your precise way of doing it and they almost always turned out light and fluffy and cooked to perfection - not like my scrambled watery messes.

So I've been practicing - I bought a new skillet and I've been studying what Cooks Illustrated and all my other reference tomes say about the Omelet art. I think I was inspired by reading "Julie and Julia". Reading about Julie's troubles with omelets made me more willing to have another go.

And today I finally cooked one I was proud of! Stuffed with onion, chicken, avocado, tomato, garlic and cheese. It was a real yummy treat to consume whilst watching The Sopranos
(And I needed it to watch it after Chris got 'Whacked' at 11:30 last night!!!!!)

So I posted a pic for y'all to salivate over.


Friday, October 12, 2007

Boardgaming U.S. History.

Last night at board gaming we played a two player game called 1960: The Making of the President It was an interesting game. I played Kennedy and Greg was Nixon both in the final days of the run up to the election.

Nixon trounced me in the debates and I thought it was all over, but some very interesting dynamics came to play in the final days run up towards the election. We had been battling it for sometime over the Electoral Votes in New York State and Philadelphia. In the last moments of campaigning I capitalized on Dwight Eisenhower's lackluster support for Kennedy.

I managed to secure New York State with a final push of campaigning combined with radio endorsements and a risky maneuver turned Philadelphia to my favor.

I won with 285 electoral votes, though if Nixon had kept Philadelphia he would have won.

We also discovered after we had finished playing that we missed one rule at the end which might have also swung the election Nixon's way.

I guess you could say I won because of a dimpled chad LOLL

Now all I have to do is avoid the curse!!!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

A Friend of Mine in a Veggie Oil Truck

My friend Carol and her life partner are driving across the U.S. in a pick up truck powered by veggie oil!

Read the article and watch the news report here!

A Weird Situation - 'Pat' is back

Back last month I wrote a post about 'Pat' (Not the person's real name) which you can read here.

Well on Monday this week I received an email addressed to 'You Cute Brit' that claimed to be from a group of women who attend two of the services here at the church. They were requesting that I add to my song list for Sunday mornings some of the songs that were done at the Saturday night service.

The email was:

i) Typed all in capitals
ii) Contained rudimentary grammar and some spelling mistakes.
iii) From one woman (name beginning with 'M') claiming to represent a group of people.
iv) From a hotmail email address that unusual - i.e. not a person's name.

I checked out the name and the email address in the church membership database and we had no records for such a person. Nobody on staff seems to know this person.

I hit 'Reply' to post a response and I noticed that when I did so the return email address was not the one listed in the message! Further investigation revealed it to be from Pat.

I forwarded it to my superiors at church and did not respond.

This morning I received another unusual email

The email was

i) Typed all in capitals
ii) Contained rudimentary grammar and some spelling mistakes.
iii) From one woman (name beginning with 'M') claiming to represent a group of people.
iv) From a hotmail email address that unusual - i.e. not a person's name.

Now the person named in this second email was different to the first, but they also do not check out in the church database. I cannot prove that that this second email also came from 'Pat', but as you can see it is so similar to the first it is very suspicious.

This second email was a personal attack on my character :(

We know who 'Pat' is, we just have to work out how to approach this person. Please pray for them, in my opinion they are definitely in need of help, but I'm not sure if we are the best people to give it too Pat.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

A minor chuckle

Driving back from lunch today I waited at a stop sign while a plumber's van pulled out in front of me. The slogan on the side of the van was:

"A Flush beats a Full House"

It made me chuckle and has conjured up a mental image that I'm still trying to shake :)

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Let the kidnapping begin!

This morning I was up at 5am for work. We gathered the 5th and 6th graders from Boys Choir and went out to kidnap the 4th graders and bring them to the church for Dodge ball and Breakfast!

Small boys have way too much energy in the morning!

We split into different teams to kidnap at the different 4th grade houses.

Trying to find a house you've never been to before, in the dark with excited boys, when you're half asleep is an interesting challenge.

So, I have 3 boys in my car as we are riding over for a kidnap and I forget that I have the Brahms German Requiem playing on my car stereo. One of the boys said " Coach Johns*, why are you listening to sleepy opera music?!" Hmmmmmm, personally I would find the German Requiem very difficult to sleep through as it's very moody, but I guess the soprano soloist was wailing at a rather feverish pitch when the car stereo came on!
Lining up for Dodge ball teams!

Pancakes, weenies and Juice

Boys' Choir Mixed Drinks - Orange Juice and Maple Syrup!!!

It was a fun morning - even if now I am really tired and a little bit too asleep for my Kierkegaard discussion group that meets in 50 minutes. I was really amazed by how much the volunteer choir parents do to make the choir program a success. All I had to do this morning was show up and drive. All the parents were thanking me for taking time to teach their boys to sing! I was humbled, because I only took on the choir because I was told too. It does feel that some of their passion for the choir is beginning to rub off :)

*All the Choir Directors and Adult helpers are called 'Coach' - Maybe if we make choral singing a competitive sport more people would do it LOL

Friday, October 05, 2007

I Get Paid to do This???!!!!!!

Last saturday was the 10th anniversary of Mercy Street.

As part of the celebrations I played and sang with the old band that I used to direct, and they also asked me to revive and old drama sketch I co-wrote.


In it's original incarnation it was in the style of a late night infomercial. It was a solution to the problem of not having the time to get physically fit and spiritually fit. The solution is Prayerobics. Exercise routines to bible passages. "Now you can Love the Lord and love your Body!" Buy this tape and you can "Praise the Lord and shape your thighs!"

You get the idea.

We took soundbites from the preacher and made dance tracks that we exercised too whilst I lead us in a study of Genesis Chapter 1.

This is the third time that we have done a variant on this sketch. The first time everything went fine. The second time I strained my back and had to visit the massage therapist. This time one of the other actors managed to rupture his achilles and has to have surgery! Drama is dangerous.

Here are a few pics:

Here we come....

The advertising pitch

God makes Light and Dark

God makes 'Sea and Sky'

God makes 'Fish and Birds'....yes I've skipped a few days, you can use your imagination for the exercise routines to the day when God made 'The Sun by day, the Moon by night'!!!!!

God makes Man and Woman

......and day seven is a day of rest!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Great story - bad application

This was sent round our office via email, you may in fact have received it yourself.

In a zoo in California, a mother tiger gave birth to a rare set of triplet tiger cubs. Unfortunately, due to complications in the pregnancy, the cubs were born prematurely and due to their tiny size, they died shortly after birth. The mother tiger after recovering from the delivery, suddenly started to decline in health, although physically she was fine. The veterinarians felt that the loss of her litter had caused the tigress to fall into a depression.

The doctors decided that if the tigress could surrogate another mother's cubs, perhaps she would improve. After checking with many other zoos across the country, the depressing news was that there were no tiger cubs of the right age to introduce to the mourning mother. The veterinarians decided to try something that had never been tried in a zoo environment. Sometimes a mother of one species will take on the care of a different species. The only orphans" that could be found quickly, were a litter of weanling pigs. The zoo keepers and vets wrapped the piglets in tiger skin and placed the babies around the mother tiger. Would they become cubs or pork chops? Take a look...you won't believe your eyes!!

Now, please tell me one more time...........Why can't the rest of the world get along?

Unfortunately the story is pure fiction - the true story behind the photos is here.

....and shouldn't the application be "You can get along with anyone so long as you pretend to be something you are not."?????

Wednesday, October 03, 2007


O.k. I'll admit it.

I ring handbells, and I enjoy it.

Anyone got a problem with that???

I seem to get defensive about ringing bells because a lot of people find it unusual. To be honest I really enjoy it - it's like musical prozac for me. I start thinking that this is what one of my fingers feels like when I'm playing piano. You stand there counting furiously to play one note, and then go back to more counting. It is very difficult to think of anything else but counting (and making sure you are holding the right bell as everyone has at least 3 to cover) and not letting your mind wander - it's almost zen.

Now recently because of changes in work responsibilites I have taken over directing the tuesday lunchtime handbell group. Not something I trained for, but fun nevertheless.

We are lacking ringers at the moment, so I thought I'd post the publicity pic we just took for an article in the church magazine.

Last year the other church handbell ensemble I ring in (yes that's 2 ensembles, I enjoy it that much!) Joined with another local church and did an evening concert of music from movies. You've never heard 'Live and Let Die' until you've heard it played on handbells!!!

Well here is the fun publicity shot we used to promote that concert!

Monday, October 01, 2007

Boys and Fugues!

Every Sunday as part of my job I teach the 4th, 5th and 6th grade boys choir. It's always a challenge - esp. trying to keep them focused. A large amount of energy goes into 'Pranking the girls choir'.

Well last night we covered car that belonged to the Director of the Girls Choir with Post-it Notes.
This is them going Post-it crazy!
Fun times!!!!

I sort of enjoy Boys Choir, but it is really draining to try and get them focused on singing when all they want to do is 'Prank'.

So, on to other news. I'm editing my 'Tenebrae' at the moment with the hopes that I can get it performed on Good Friday. My setting uses mainly the words of Jesus from the Cross interspersed with modern responses.

At the moment I am creating a new response to "I Am Thirsty". This will be in the form of a Fugue. Wanna know what a fugue is? Here is a handy guide (using music by Britney Spears!)

That's a three voice Fugue....mine has four parts :( So here's a hint on how to write a four part one!