Thursday, June 30, 2005

Hold Dreams Lightly

The pursuit of one's "dreams" plays a major role in the American mind as it contemplates education and vocation. Many of us have grown up privileged with opportunity, and so it comes naturally to plan large and think big for ourselves. There's nothing inherently wrong with hope; in fact, the Bible exalts it, albeit after it has defined it in Christward categories. But as one carries one's hopes and chases those wispy dreams, it seems wise to consider that which we are not often told today: things may not work out. The rose may grow a thorn, the crop may die, and the rejection notice may come. We ought not to let such thinking bully our hopes, but we ought at least to consider it.

Realistic optimism places one in contrast to the world's thinking, where people seem to haphazardly chase their goals with little thought of failure. One simply sights the telos and runs headlong after it. Would-be CEOs become could-have-been addicts. Worldview-changing scholars morph into disgruntled armchair theologians. Nation-building diplomats settle into paper-pushing jobs, and grumble as they do so. This is the way of the world. Set the sights glowingly high, run, and then try to deal with what comes. It ought not to be so for Christians. We ought to sight the dream, pursue it with trust and without anxiety, and enjoy life as the will of God paints it. To do so, we've got to hold our dreams lightly. Hold them, yes; pursue them, yes; but knowing that the dream is not the end. Those heights are reserved for the Scriptural purpose of life: loving, knowing, embracing, enjoying God. That is the dream that does not die, the hope that does not fade.

Iraq: Is the Left Endangering Things?

A recent article in World magazine outlines the current efforts of US military to train the Iraqi national forces. Now, every mag has their bent, and World likely sees the US withdrawal as premature and so writes with that tone, but things don't look very good. One has to wonder if we aren't leaving Iraq early due in large part to pressure from the left to call off our involvement. From the day the first bomb exploded, we've heard incessant calls to leave Iraq, urging largely (and wisely) ignored. Uneasily, with unsteadiness characteristic of a formerly totalitarian state getting used to democratic shoes, Iraq has made continual progress towards viability. That's a beautiful thing and a tribute to courageous leadership from the White House.

But still--are we exiting the country too soon? Body counts unnerve us all, particularly when discussed by a press generally committed to portraying the conflict negatively. Iraq struggles against terrorists and progress is neither easy nor quick. It takes time to train a national army, lots of time, and by the way World portrays it, the Iraqis may not have had sufficient training. Will the left, by its continual calls for exit, undo the progress made thus far? We pray not. The shoes of democracy take some getting used to, but in a world of platform-heel politics and bloodstained spurs, they are the trustiest model one can find.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

In Honor of My Dad

I've been blessed to have a great mom and dad in this game called life. It's time for a tribute to my dad, a native Mainer, a forester, and a great guy. Get the kleenex, kids.

Here are several reasons why my dad is great.

1) Dad played all sorts of catch with me growing up. Seemingly whenever I asked, Dad would walk out to the barn where his humongous mitt lay, usually next to my tiny glove. We'd then proceed to the front lawn, where he'd throw pop-ups, grounders, and some heat at me. Over time, he molded me into a pretty solid second baseman as he coached me and my pint-sized peers on the Redwings. First season record: 1-15. We had one all-star: Gene Sneed. My buddy got hit in the eye by a monstrous twelve-year old who threw harder than Nolan Ryan, we theorized. I had to bat after him. Neither of us were ever the same as hitters.

In a quiet, simple way, Dad showed me a key part of loving fatherhood. So much of it seems to center in attention and time. Dad encouraged me, pushed me, and dried my tears when our front yard kicked up a ground ball into my nose. As a result, I have many happy memories with him that will remain with me all my life.

2) Dad was an example of faithfulness to our local church. Never seeking attention, Dad modeled steady attendance, participation in, and care for our local Baptist church. He served through the years on the deacon board and frequently helped out around the place with various projects. In this way, Dad is one example of many men and women whom you and I know who likely will never have a denominational plaque handed them, who won't get a retirement dinner, and who certainly won't ask for one. What they will get, however, surpasses each of these temporal accolades: the warming smile of He who sees all service, however lowly, and who richly rewards it. Thanks, Dad, for being a picture of faithfulness for me. You have no idea how it's impacted me.

3) This one bleeds into maternity, but both Mom and Dad made it to most every single sporting event I ever had in high school. In rain, shine, or shiny rain, they were there, and they were supportive. What an awesome way to show your kid you love them. For both my sister and I, they carved out a history of interested participation in our lives. What a blessing it was to share the swishes and hits with them, and what a help it was to draw their sympathy after the airballs and strikeouts.

4) Dad has always weighed in on my life with judicious, though limited, words. He's never tried to live out his aspirations through me. He's never tried to mold me in his own image. He poured his life into me, and brought me up well, but even when I sought exhaustive counsel, as I am wont to do, he merely chipped in with a fit word or two. As a result, I've learned to handle things for myself and to embrace adulthood.

If only I can be a dad like my own. I'm still a little surprised by the passing of childhood, and adolescence, and am taken aback by how little I now see my family. That said, what I lack in physical presence I possess in memory, in teaching, in example. That's a great gift to be given--and hopefully, a legacy to be passed on.

Are You a Hustler?

A hustler, in my vocab, is one who works hard to make things happen. Hustlers are often "good at life," one could say, and possess uncommon pluck, drive, and a knack for accomplishment. This blog is inspired by the rapper Cassidy's song "I'm a Hustla," where Cassidy shows various ways in which he hustles to get by. I'm blogging on this because I think this term, hustling, is worthy of inclusion in common parlance. To break this down, when an office worker is particularly productive, you need not say the tried and true "Sally sure is an efficient worker. She really went to it on those DPE memos for C3 and 821x, didn't she?" No no no, my friend. All you need say is this: "Mannnn (draw it out like that), Sally is a HUSTLA. That girl can memo." See? Wasn't that easy--and fun?

This same principle can be applied to Moms. You need not say in next Mother's Day card, "Mom, you sure are a swell gift. Thanks for the cookies and cleaning my bloody knees and blah blah blah." Instead, say "Ma, you are a straight-up hustla. How did you get us to soccer practice and all that stuff and still feed us essential vitamins and nutrients? Thanks for hustling all those years." Now, isn't that original? Isn't that fun for everyone?

Man, life is short. Go out there and hustle. Get after it. Do stuff. Don't just sit by. And don't be surprised if some day soon, your boss pats you on the back and says "Thanks Don--and hey--keep hustling." Somewhere, I'll be smiling.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Things People Think But Don't Say #1: Exercise

Tom Wolfe has a perceptive passage in his latest book, I Am Charlotte Simmons, where he talks about college weight-rooms packed with young men packing muscles on their sweaty bodies. I read that awhile ago and have thought some on the nature of weight-lifting. We're all so domesticized these days; most of us have no war to fight, no enemy to slay, and so we slay the mirror, we conquer the weight-bench, we pound the treadmill. We men still yell in the heat of exertion, but it is no longer accompanied by a sword-thrust. It signals, anticlimactically, a biceps curl. Woo-hoooo. Not exactly "FREEEEDOOOOMMMMMM" from dying lips.

And why all this sweaty fuss? Well, let's just cut to the chase: it's about appearance. Yes, even for Christians, it's often tied to one's image. Now, I would certainly not say that any attention to one's appearance is wrong; far from it. The Bible actually seems to support carrying oneself with dignity before men and God. Also, we need exercise. And it's good to be strong and fit--you live longer if you are, chances are. All that said, we all know pride is wrong, and so we who are especially body-conscious need to check our motives and stuff like that. But what is most interesting in this brief discussion is this: working out is like make-up for guys. We don't put on mascara, but we do put on biceps, or big shoulders, or rounded calves. Is that weird to anyone else?

Google Find-it: Challenge One

consumed introduces a new feature: the Google find-it game. I give yall a subject to research, and you have to do so. Or actually, you don't, cause there's neither a need or a way to enforce that rule, but you can if you want. You don't need to report it or anything, you can just check out the subject, learn about it, and go on with your life. I think it's a fun idea.

So those are the stipulations.

Today's subject: Camden, Maine.

There you go!

Grudging Admission: Mom is Right

The cliche is worn so as to be threadbare. But that doesn't keep it from being true. Here's proof.

1) Mom was right about getting a mouthguard. I should have bought it so very long ago. Now I have two gray teeth.

2) Mom was right about paying bills on time. Why is it that it is so simple to pay bills, and yet I, a college graduate, struggle in the fashion of a tragic hero to pay them? The bills come to me; I scorn them. They sit, scorned, simmering in their estate. They purse their lips at me but I reject them still. Then, when the due date passes, I rush after them, desperate to encounter them that I may unshackle myself from them, assessing torturous fines in the process. Finally, I pay them, and they leave me, only to return some weeks later, just waiting for rejection.

3) Thank-you notes. How great are these, especially when given punctually. I appreciate thank-you notes when I receive them. Mom was dead-on. If Moms did not exist, thank you notes would not, either. Dads don't naturally want to do them. They give other men a slap on the shoulder and a grunt of appreciation, and that's it.

There's lot more one could list. Mom--you were right. The thank-you note's in the mail. :)

We All Want to Be Movie Stars

After watching an uncharacteristic three movies (Braveheart, Forrest Gump, Batman Begins)this weekend, and considering my emotional response to each, I've realized that it's easy for people to want to live "movie lives." The movies present a vision of life that is so neat, so clean, so glamorous that it leaves this life feeling dry, rote, and listless. This goes beyond escapism. There's a part of us, I think, that wants not simply to make an exciting escape to fantasy-land, but to coolly and calmly exchange the slow growth and quiet pace of this life for flashy romance, emotionally empowered conversations, and convicted action that always leads to god results.

But real life is so much more messy than all that. There's trash in the corner, grime in the tub, and hurt in the heart. But this is the stuff of life, the authenticating brand, and in it we discover real humanity and the presence not of quick-cutting action, but of a faithful, consistent, kind God. The movies are fun for an hour or two, but real life gives flesh to existence in a way no moving picture can do.

The NBA Draft's Strange Structure

As a basketball fanatic, or perhaps a recovering fanatic (some days it's debatable), I have to point out something slightly hilarious about the draft. It's all hyped up and stuff, like sports usually are, but here's the deal: the best part happens in the first five minutes. In other form of media does this occur? In music, the first five minutes often functions as an intro; in movies, the first five minutes only begins to set the scene; in a radio show, the show is just getting off the ground five minutes in. With the NBA draft, however, powered by the NBA's breathless marketing campaign, the whole shebang peaks five minutes in. Does this strike anyone else as ironic?

The guy in the pic is Vermont's Taylor Coppenrath, who might get drafted. Vermont plays in the same conference as the University of Maine, where my father went, and which thus commands my allegiance.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Bring Back Puritan Names

What ever happened to Puritan names? Parents, why have you abandoned classic nomenclature of your progeny? Every little towhead these days is named something like Connor, Avery, Tyler, Smith, blah, blah, blah. In an attempt to help you all, I'm going to offer some suggestions by which we can turn this thing around. These are theologically motivated and in fact reflect a return to the theology of Puritans, which I think is dope, in general.

These are full names:
1) Exhaustive Foreknowledge Jones
2) Authoritative Revelation Smith
3) Forensic Righteousness Dupree
4) Fruits of The Spirit Carter
5) Foreordained Taylor

and my personal favorite, for twins: Decreed Will Preston & Desired Will Preston

Parents--think about this. It's a serious matter.

We're All Postmodern...

...when it comes to music these days. The most common answer I hear when I query others as to their favorite music is this: "You know, whatever. I like alot of stuff." Yes, my friends (all six of you reading this), it's true: your musical predisposition is postmodern. You have unconsciously committed to the viability of most types of music. Though you may subscribe to some ethical standard or presuppositional worldview, you are nothing other than a chameleon when it comes to rhythm and melody.

It's hilarious just how varied our tastes are. For example, in any given day, I might listen to the haunting English piano of Coldplay, the Southern bluegrass of Allison Krauss, the ghetto strains of Jay-Z, and the rustic tunes of Christian hymnody. That's pretty crazy. Just imagine our ancestors a few centuries ago, whose musical selection was largely limited, I suppose, to that which they heard in church. Can you imagine them speaking to one another in the midst of their agrarian routine: "Hey, Adolphus, can you hum that fresh tune the immigrants from Iceland have been singing?" "No, Gerhardus, I'm stuck on that ballad the Swedish maiden taught us by the Maypole last week."

Things done changed.

Have you noticed this? From the constellation of musical choices before us, we essentially make our own soundtrack by which we live, work, and play. Those crazy kids with their ipods only make it easier to "dj one's life," essentially. As for me, I got no funds, so my soundtrack has yet to be crafted.

Ten Commandments Thoughts

Lots of people are saying lots of things about this, so I won't waste much of your time. I do want to say to all persons of rational thought that not all Christians believe that our hope rests in the affixing of granite and stone to floors of public buildings. Christians place their hope in a Rock, for sure, but this is the decidedly non-granite person of Christ. I'm all for the advocation of the Christian worldview, but my trust rests in the establishment of a spiritual kingdom, not a physical one. The power of the Ten Words, as they are sometimes called, must be rooted in the heart, not the floor.

A Christian Reality TV Show

Seems a solid idea, to me. With cultural observers suddenly fascinated by the discovery of evangelicals, what could more satiate the fix than a show chronicling the lives of five twentysomething Christians? The dynamics for great tv are all there: romantic frustration, major life decisions, conflicts over doctrine and personality, interaction between Christians and non-Christians. I'm not necessarily saying I support this idea, but I certainly think that it could be a smash with a culture fond of eyeing evangelicals. What did they think--that we died out in the nineteenth century, slain by Mr. Darwin and his ever-evolving theory of evolution? Nope. We're alive and well, our votes have helped change the political face of the country in the last decade, and we regularly respirate and occasionally perspire.

Now make a show about us so we can all be fascinated.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Playing Basketball

The man to the right is Rafer Alston, playground basketball legend and
point guard for the Toronto Raptors. He's been an inspiration to me during my tortured basketball career. Someday I'll blog on that. For now, though, I'm excited to go play some ball with my buddy Will. Something so cleansing, so energizing, so pure about getting out and playing ball. Particularly in this adult life I find myself trapped in, where I sit for hours multiple by factors of four. When you're a kid, exercise isn't really play. It's pretty much your job. You get older, and sit in front of a screen or professor for eight hours--it's play, baby, and it's glorious.

Brooke Shields' Depression

Recently saw that Tom Cruise criticized Brooke Shields for taking medication for postpartum (after-birth) depression. The press has made a big fuss over this, mainly because it involves two beautiful throwing public mud at one another, but I've had my own thoughts on why this feud is noteworthy.

In a culture that prizes a utilitarian personal ethic, this exchange signifies a surprising act of judgment on the part of Cruise. These are the days of crazy schedules, little accountability, and supreme individuality. Autonomous action reigns. Live-as-let-live thrives. If happiness, seemingly the cardinal contemporary virtue, suffers, take action to restore it, goes the thinking. In an absence of true pursuit of God, people must often resort to medication and psychological help to recover personal joy. Why, then, should Tom Cruise care what anyone else takes or does? I find the call-out of Ms. Shields strange and slightly fascinating. He seems to be randomly applying judgment on a practice--taking medication--so commonplace as to be yawnworthy. The utilitarian personal ethic that so many Hollywood stars operate by stands corrected by a moral standard constructed by Cruise. What has prompted such action?

Perhaps Cruise realizes that psychology and medication cannot cure all. This is not to say that there cannot be any medicatory role for these means, but only faith can save, heal, restore. A culture that has replaced the pew with the couch cannot help but see this truth at some level, however obscured.

Biography is Good

My librarian mother and literati father read often to me during my youth. One of my earliest joys as a child was having mom and dad read not one but two books before bedtime. Over the years, I developed an interest in history, reading about such things as the Civil War, colonial America, and so on. In my adulthood, this interest has driven me to biographies. In fact, I love reading biographies. Here's why.

1) Biographies are about people. People are interesting. So it's fun to read biographies. In all seriousness, it is fascinating to look into the life of a person. So much of life involves passing others by, sometimes with a smile, often with nothing at all. In a biography, though, we are able to peer into a person's mind, to see what they thought, what they did, how they treated others. I recently read Iain Murray's bio of Martin Lloyd-Jones, and was simultaneously educated, encouraged, and challenged as I read. To be half the man he was. Soon I hope to read Titan on J.D. Rockefeller, Sr. Such a mover and shaker.

2) In reading a biography, a small part of the world comes to light. We discover territory previously untraversed. Biographies not only teach about people, they give historical context and thus reveal the past. The reading of many biographies thus brings history to light one "region" at a time. That's pretty cool. Knowledge of the past, when grasped, sits always ready to be applied. That's a powerful tool.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Frozen Pizza Rankings

1) California Pizza Kitchen--the champion. Delectable, delightful, destructive.
2) Freschetta Thin Crust-- exquisite. Fatty, but delirshious.
3) Digornio--Pretty solid. Good sauce.
4) Red Baron--Almost unthinkably fatty. 200& of your daily sat fat in a whole pizza. Good taste though.
5) Tony's--The dependable, cheap alternative. Tastes like it, too.

Tonight, I will be sampling the delights of a Freschetta 5-cheese pizza. My mouth waters just thinking of my circular friend just waiting to be--dare it say it?--consumed.
A picture of my friend Keegan (on the left) and myself a few hours before his wedding. The irony about this picture is that it is one of a very few pictures that have been published during our six-year friendship. We're on some sort of FDR-type deal. You know there's something like three pictures that survive of him in a wheelchair, don't you?

Anyway, the picture is from June 11, 2005, an awesome day for Keeg, Rachel, and all who attended.

I Heart Blogging

Man, this blogging thing is sweet. Stream of consciousness writing, to a public audience, with visions of improbable journalistic conquest--ah yes, the dream is alive and well here at Consumed. Thanks for being a part of this. Hopefully, we can keep it interesting. That's all I'm seeking. Though, if you know of a high-paying periodical in hot pursuit of a exuberant twentysomething evangelical writer, hit me.

How did I ignore this for so long?

Wealth is Bad

Have you ever noticed that in today's age of class consciousness and liberal decrial of the monied class (who often are conservative, at least fiscally), one can subtly slam another by drawing attention to their wealth? Just happened to pass by the Weekly Standard and saw a headline alluding to GOP strategist Ralph Reed's "lucrative" career. It may seem strange, but I think that in today's age, a way to cast a shadow across another is to draw attention to wealth and privilege. Witness the 2004 presidential election. How often did President Bush's opponents make reference to his privileged background? Ironically enough, the liberal elites often emerge from such monied backgrounds and achieve great wealth in doing what they do. The quiet stigma passed on to conservatives as rich and unconcerned somehow escapes similar attachment to those on the other side.

It's funny. Think of the last time you heard somebody apologize for being wealthy or from a wealthy background. Sure, some part of that impulse has long existed, but I think that there's a special consciousness of status that exists today that is employed as a weapon--and that, not equally.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The First

There's something about driving 80 miles an hour at 4am in the morning that connects you with mortality. Driving back from the SBC this morning with Brad afforded just such an experience. For a few minutes, I rammed through the darkness in the Park Avenue, my pulse elevated even as my eyes threatened to close. How close, I thought, am I to death? Two seconds? Three? What does one experience in the flash of the moment? Do my friends know the extent of my love should I lose grip on this old steering wheel?

It was at this point that Brad, sleeping in the passenger side, snorted, and encouraged me to go whatever speed I wanted. So I did.