Keep Doin’ Whatcha Doin’…

“Chatter” is the monthly magazine-type thing our church puts out in lieu of a bulletin. It has announcements, calendars — that type of thing — as well as articles on random things. Brian has had two articles published in it (I think I linked to them here…?), and I thought you might enjoy reading his third! You can pick up Chatter at IBC or you can read some of the articles online. Here is a link to Brian’s:
Keep Doin’ Whatcha Doin’

Yay! Post number 1 in the new year for me! I’m off to a good start…do you think I will break my record of 7 from last year?!!? *L*

Happy Birthday Blog!

That’s right, one year ago today brianandlaura.blogspot.com was born. It all began with Laura’s first post (and seven since for her…one post every 45 days…that’s actually a little higher than she might’ve predicted). In honor of the birthday, we thought it would be cool to roll out a new color scheme, but who has that sort of time? Some might suggest that a public school teacher with the summer off might have that sort of time.

Instead, I thought it’d be cool to sift through the archives and remember the year that was.

July ’05
Green Thumbs & Red Eyes – my very first encounter with Wendell Berry’s books…a philosophical milestone in my life.

August ’05
Swasko / Zan Wedding – we get a new brother-in-law!

September ’05
Hurricane Katrina Relief @ IBC – our church’s effort to serve evacuees in DFW.

October ’05
Laura Goes National – Laura submits a funny quote she heard on NPR to Newsweek and they print it!

November ’05
“Crawling in to a dark hole for 500, Alex.” – I embarrass myself at an engagement party.

December ’05
Arizona Update Pt. 1 – Christmas in Arizona
Arizona Update Pt. 2
January ’06
Those Awake – some buddies and I join forces to create a hopefully thoughtful blog.

February ’06
J-Mac – nothing to do with us, but hands-down one of the best sports stories (or stories period) ever.

March ’06
Sigur Rós & Transcendentalism – we get to see a band that takes you “to a place”.

April ’06
Polk Panthers on the Prowl – my basketball team wins our Carrollton city league (in spite of my .07 shooting percentage).

May ’06
Not a single post in the month of May. Weird.

June ’06
Zambia Update Pt. 1 – updates on our mission trip from Zambia.
Zambia Update Pt. 2

Other memorables:
Aidan Brings Home the Bacon – our nephew wins Most Beautiful Baby.
The Happiest Place on Earth – Polyphonic Spree in Concert.
Big Day Out – the garden begins.
Hangin’ with Mrs. BAR – we meet Barbara Ann Radnofsky.
Zucchinis Are a Miracle – life finds a way.

Here’s to another great year!

The Search for the Perfect Hat…

…and other things that mean next to nothing.

My Rangers cap really went through the ringer this summer. I wore it every single day over in Zambia and that translates to lots of dirt and the ever undesirable sweat ring around the band. But, I like to represent my boys, so the hunt is on for RangersCap v2.0.

The problem is that before I got my teaching job, I worked for a merch company designing baseball caps. Spending eight hours a day studying the nuances of hat design will turn you in to a pretty particular consumer of leisure headwear. So, I know exactly which hat I’m looking for and pretty much nothing else is going to do. It’s a washed cotton, velcro adjustable, unstructured, six-panel, blue/white color block with the 1980’s era logo in 2-D embroidery. That hat would rock, and that hat would sell. Or, at least, it’d sell once…to me. In the meantime, I might just have to settle (and remove that Nike logo with an x-acto knife).

Here’s something else. In friendly games of golf, you usually agree on a number of mulligans before you tee off…one, three, zero, whatever. A mulligan is a do-over. So, you shank a drive, you take your mulligan and hopefully correct your mistake. I’m thinking it would be rad to have mulligans on handshakes and fives. There’ve been many times when I’m greeting or saying goodbye to a buddy and we go for the fiver, but instead of that rock solid “clap” you get before sliding in to the four finger clutch-and-break (snap optional), instead of that, you’re a couple inches off the mark and it’s this lame little tap sound and of course now the transistion is totally ruined. You just sort of look at each other thinking, “Dude, our five just bit. Are we real men?” But, of course, you don’t say that. You just think it.

Or take handshakes (which are every bit as essential to representing yourself in conversation as your conversation itself). Ideally, the curve between your finger and thumb sets firmly in to the curve of the other person, you grip, you shake, you bid adieu. An aside, some people prefer just to stand there squeezing hands, no shake necessary. Some, it’s just a lift once, swift downward motion, squeeze and release. Still others will actually shake your arm up and down over and over again, taking the phrase, “shaking hands” quite literally.

I’m down with all of these. What I am not down with is when the curve between your thumb and finger misses its mark, somehow gets stuck on the other persons knuckle and you’re left squeezing their fingers. That stinks. Because then you’re all in your head, “Does this dude think I don’t know how to frickin’ shake hands? Is it more lame for me to just get through this and leave it alone? Or should I come out and say, ‘Whooaaa. I don’t know what happened there.’ (adjust hand) ‘Ahh…see there, I don’t shake hands like a pre-pubescent after all. *chuckle heartily* Later pal.'”

Oy.

I think the handshakes in “Braveheart” are where it’s at. Instead of grabbing hands, they grabbed each other’s wrist. The question now is whether or not guys in 13th century Scotland ever had the misfortune of missing the entire arm of the other guy. No amount of mulligans will help you recover from that one.

And finally, Shaun, Richard, and I started work on the Fall Garden this morning.


[ click to enlarge ]


[ Me, Richard (who is not that short, he’s standing in a trench) and Shaun ]

Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

I’m ripping this straight off of Jay. Nice idea, buddy.

If you could go anywhere before you die, where would it be? We’ll do 4 or 5 places you’ve been and would love to return to, and 4 or 5 places you’ve never been but want to see before this life is over.

BRIAN’s LIST

Revisit:

1. Glacier Nat’l Park, Montana
2. Caye Caulker, Belize
3. New River Gorge, West Virginia
4. Washington, D.C.

Visit before I die:

1. Amalfi, Italy
2. Great Barrier Reef
3. Machu Pichu, Peru
4. Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

LAURA’s LIST

Revisit:

1. Amalfi Coast, Italy
2. Costa Rica
3. Oregon/Washington Coast
4. Prague, Czech Republic
5. Glacier National Park

Visit before I die:

1. Alaska
2. Jerusalem
3. some island in the Pacific
4. Nepal
5. Spain

What about you?!

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Wheel of Fortune

I’m continuing to learn a lot about and from our vegetable garden. For me, gardening is the perfect metaphor for life in general and spiritual life in specific. I’ve found that if I need to take my spiritual temperature, there’s a 16′ x 10′ plot in the backyard that’s a surprisingly accurate gauge. Currently, it’s “Neglected, but on the rise.”

For some reason, since returning from Zambia, I have just been awful about keeping everything on a consistent watering schedule and you don’t need me to describe the results. But, a few days ago, I was checking on one of the tomato plants and saw a pack of bugs crawling around on a cluster of three green tomatoes.

My first thought was to get the water hose, set the spray nozzle to “BOO-YAH!” and go medieval on them. My second thought was, “Maybe I should do some investigating and make sure that these guys actually pose a threat before I blast them. After all, I might do more harm than good if I jump to conclusions.”

After some looking around, I discovered that fortunately, these guys are a type of assassin bug called “Wheel Bugs” and the bugs on our fruit are newly hatched nymphs. They are considered highly beneficial because they kill harmful insects by stabbing them and sucking the life out of them. I guess I should say they are beneficial for gardeners, not so much for the other guy.

I also discovered that the splotches are a result of insufficient nutrients, meaning I need to fertilize some more. Again with the metaphor. It’s not even subtle sometimes.

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Obama’s a Barackstar

I may have mentioned this before, but one of my life goals is to shake hands with a President of the United States of America (or POTUS, as West Wing calls them). Well, I think I put a pretty solid investment in the bank when I got to shake Barack Obama’s hand in Dallas last November.

As if his address to the DNC in ’04 wasn’t good enough, his keynote speech at Call to Renewal has me wondering not if he’ll win, but just how much he’ll win by when he decides to run.

Download the video here.

Listen to the MP3 here.

Read the transcript here.

It’s not likely that he’ll run in ’08 (although I, and many others are holding our breath). But when he does, it’ll be Hail to the Chief.

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Loving the Futbol

Soccer (or futbol, or football – a much more appropriate name than American Football considering they actually use their feet in this one) is the most popular sport in the world and an estimated one billion people watched the final game. People are crazy about it and I’ve always sort of wondered, “What’s the big deal?”

Well, I gotta say, I’m starting to get it. It all started on the plane to London. There were little TV screens on the back of the seat in front of you, so you could choose which of the available programs you wanted to watch. One of the stations had the history of the World Cup as seen through the eyes of the nation of Brazil so I gave it a shot. It. Was. Fascinating.

And I was hooked.

At Gatwick Airport in London, they had a big screen TV set up near our gate so I sat down to watch Netherlands and Ivory Coast go at one another. As the game went on, more and more people crowded around until finally we had a legitimate gallery on our hands. It made viewing the game all the more exciting and it was an appropriate way to watch my first game with new eyes for the sport. I just love that it’s such a big deal that the airport had set up a TV. Does that even happen for the Olympics? The Super Bowl?

Even in Zambia, we were driving through one of the slums and if there was a television in a tavern, there was no question as to what it would be tuned to. The little 13″ TV in the house we stayed in had an antenna that picked up only one station. The only thing it ever broadcast was a poorly produced news program or the World Cup if there was a game.

I suppose there are as many reasons for its popularity as there are people who tuned in to it, but one that strikes me is its simplicity in terms of equipment. All you really need is a simple ball. It doesn’t even have to bounce that great to work sufficiently. No need for gloves, rackets, bats, a hoop…or ice. (Ice, now there’s an impediment to a sport’s migratory abilities.) Just get a ball and start kicking it around. It’s actually a lot of fun.

So why hasn’t it caught on here? It seems that every one plays soccer as a five or six-year old and then we drop it like it’s hot. As far as not liking it is concerned, I’m sure there are as many reasons as there are people who didn’t tune in.

But the one I’ve heard mentioned the most is that it’s boring. “Ninety minutes and it ends 0-0? That’s boring.” I’m sure it could be, but it could also be an exciting and nail-biting 90 minutes as well. I can see why someone would be bored or unimpressed with watching World Cup games if they turned it on expecting the sort of entertainment they’re used to from watching NFL or NBA games. Those sports are intense and exciting because there is big play after big play. You don’t have to wait very long to be wowed. Soccer (and I speak as a fan with exactly nine games of viewing under my belt) is about the nuance. You can’t watch it with the same eyes that you watched the Mavs edge the Spurs in Game 7 with. It’d be like going to a symphony concert expecting to see and hear the Rolling Stones. You’d be like, “What’s up? There wasn’t even an electric guitar.”

Here’s a short-cut to deciding if you should give the World Cup another chance when South Africa hosts it in four years. When you watch a baseball game and it’s 0-0 in the top of the 9th, are you saying to yourself, “Wow! This is an incredible pitching duel!” Are you hanging on each at-bat, loving the game within a game that is every single pitch? If so, June of 2010 is just around the corner (and qualifying begins long before). If not, Dolphins v. Steelers, Thursday, Sept. 7th.

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Journal Entry : Wednesday, June 21st

The best thing about today was the play time after lunch. There is a saying in education, “they don’t care what you know until they know that you care.” The truth of that phrase played itself out in a big way when the grounds at camp became a free-for-all playground with soccer balls, frisbees and a random beachball being chased down by hordes of children. It was during that time the language barrier between me and my boys ceased to exist. Finally, we were having simple fun together and it was clear to me, that now, I looked different to them. From that point on, I didn’t go anywhere without at least one of them tagging along close by.

There were a couple of older kids playing wiffleball rather unsuccessfully. They asked if I wanted a turn at bat so I sat my backpack down and took a few cuts then gave it back. The third time that my turn came up, I barely had the pack off my shoulder when Ernest – the smallest in my group – was taking it and wearing it for me.

This child is so small and the pack was so big that now, as I look back at that image, I see Christ. The last thing in the world Ernest should have been doing is carrying my burden, but not only was he willing to, he did it without my asking.

Journal Entry : Tuesday, June 20th

The past two days at camp have been encouraging, remarkable…I think the reality of what we’re doing here hasn’t sunk in yet and that’s why I describe it in such sober terms. To huddle in a circle, face down, palms on the skin of Zambia with these boys and pray together, “Your Will be done: in Zambia, in our schools, in our hospitals, in our orphanages, in our businesses, on our streets and in our hearts. Father, hear our prayers in the mighty name of Jesus Christ. Amen.”

It might be one of the most staggering things I’ve ever been blessed enough to be a part of, but I just cannot realize it yet. There have been dozens of times in praying with Fusion groups or in worship at IBC that I’ve been overcome by the presence of the Spirit and moved to the point of tears. Because that feeling hasn’t struck me, I think I’m underestimating the strength of what’s going on here. Also, I’m a little fearful of becoming, “this American who talked about Jesus” in one of these boy’s stories years down the road as he recounts his unsatisfactory encounters with Christianity.

I pray that I can simultaneously enjoy a proper confidence and a proper humility in sharing the story and message of Jesus with these boys. It’s amazing. We’re having an opportunity to love these kids, pray with them and pray over them. The small group time is what I’ll remember the most and I believe that will be the same for them. And so, God has blessed me with a chance to truly change the lives of 22 Zambian boys forever. I trust that if I honor His Word and His heart, He will honor these boys.

Father, hear our prayers. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

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