Saturday, March 31, 2007

'Blades of Glory' a witty escape

"Blades of Glory" is no "Happy Gilmore." Of course it isn't, you say. One stars Will Ferrell, the other Adam Sandler. One is about the elitist sport of ice skating, the other centers on the, well, elitist sport of golf.

To me, "Happy" remains the modern standard of a sports comedy: It pokes fun at a beloved sport but in a way that some of the sport's biggest fans and heroes can rally behind. "Blades" -- or BOG, as some have taken to calling it -- attempts a similar feat, and manages to have more celeb/athlete cameos than I would have imagined.

"Happy" is a movie I'm comfortable watching with just about anyone. Sure, there's some colorful language, but it's largely a feel-good flick. Besides, who can resist the Bob Barker-Adam Sandler faceoff. On the other hand, I don't think I'll be taking a group of students from my church to watch "Blades." Too much sexuality. Too much crudeness. Too much ouch.

All that being said, I still enjoyed "Blades of Glory." I laughed for most of the movie, and I'm sure many of the characters' lines will take on a long pop-culture life. Would I recommend it? Yeah, probably. The overall premise is hilarious, and many of the scenes are gut-wrenchingly funny. If you aren't bothered by Will Ferrell's over-the-top silly sexuality, then you'll enjoy the pointed humor of these "Blades."

Friday, March 30, 2007

Chris Sligh, 4Him and American Idol.

Sounds like the opening line to an old Johnny Carson "Carnac the Magnificent" skit. Sorry kids, probably too old of a reference for ya.

So, I'm scanning through websites today and came across a news article about Chris Sligh getting bumped off "American Idol." Gotta be honest: I really don't care about the show, even though I've watched more of this season than all the other seasons combined. But I know Sligh has gotten lots of attention in Christian circles because he's a worship leader at his church.

This article pointed out that Sligh used to attend the ultraconservartivehyperfundamentalist (pretend you're speaking German on that one) Christian school Bob Jones University. Apparently, Sligh got kicked out for "attending a contemporary Christian concert featuring the group 4Him."

You're kidding, right? 4Him is still around?

Oh, and you're kidding about the college kickin' him out for such a silly "offense," right? Negatory, says the story. It's true.

This is crazy on multiple levels. First, 4Him hasn't had a "hit" song since at least the 1990s or so. Second, Sligh is the long-lost half-brother to Sideshow Bob from The Simpsons; this is absolute fact. Third, why is a 28-year-old singer/worship leader listening to drivel like 4Him? Fourth, Bob Jones kicking out a student for attending a concert like that makes my own alma mater look like a bastion of liberal hedonism. Back in the 1990s, Evangel College actually HOSTED a couple of concerts by 4Him. Crazy.

Well, I'm going public with my prediction. Sanjaya is gonna win "American Idol" this year. He has the support of all the non-fans, and they will bring about the show's demise.

Ain't democracy great?

Gotta love junior-highers.

Get a load of this:
    Holtsville, N.Y. (AP) -- Some Long Island eighth graders apparently got an early start on April Fool's Day pranks on Friday, when they handed out doughnuts laced with laxatives to classmates, school officials said.

    There were no apparent injuries, although ambulances were dispatched to the Sequoya Middle School as a precaution, a spokeswoman for the Sachem School District said.

    "Approximately 18 students ate the doughnuts," the district said in a statement. "Although the students are feeling well, the school is taking precautionary measures."

    Police were investigating and parents were been informed about the situation. Classes proceeded as usual, but parents were given the option to pick up their children.

    The district said it would take "appropriate disciplinary action."

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Yosemite Tales: #3 story from my trip.

Here is the third-funniest story from my five-day adventure in Yosemite National Park.

Apparently, the forces that control weather in Yosemite like to play with my mind.

A year ago, I visited at the end of March, beginning of April. It snowed on me -- on April Fool's Day.

Two months ago, I visited, expecting wintry weather. It was spring-like.

This week, I returned, unsure of what I'd get. It rained. It was cold. Oh, and it snowed. Again. Two straight years. Trips near the end of March. And snow.

It'd been years since I had slept in a tent while it was raining. Oh yes, did I fail to mention that I was REALLY camping? Wild. Rain turned into snow, as Monday night turned into Tuesday morning. I got up around 6:30AM and went walking around, taking a few dozen photos of the beauty.

The snow melted as the day went along, but fresh snow kept falling. Later in the afternoon, lots of snow fell but very little stuck. By the end of the day, there was almost no evidence of the snow. But it was still a pretty sight.

Hmm. March 2008...Yosemite, anyone?

Yosemite Tales: #2 story from my trip.

Here's the second best story from my five-day adventure in Yosemite National Park:

On Wednesday afternoon, I was sitting at my campsite preparing a healthy lunch of peanut butter and jelly. I even had some bread. As I'm completing this work of culinary genius, some forestry folks walk through and say they're going to be cutting down a couple of dead trees they had missed the week before.

Awesome. Cheap entertainment for my lunch.

This forestry person -- ranger? official? chainsaw handler? -- takes her chainsaw and begins to cut away at this huge tree. Only when I look closely do I agree with their assessment that yes, this tree is dead. Kinda like the ones right outside our youth warehouse.

She's working away, doing her thing, and after a number of minutes, she turns off the chainsaw and grabs an old-fashioned axe. She takes the backside of the axe and begins whacking away at the wedge she placed in the tree. One. Two. Three. She checks her angle. Four. Five. Six. The tree starts to sway. Seven. Crack. I watch as this huge tree begins to fall.

Have you ever heard the sound of a tree falling in the forest? Well, since I was there, I can tell you that it DOES make a noise when people are around. First was the crack of the actual tree. Then came the collision with the branches of the nearby trees as it fell. And finally came dual thuds, as the middle of the tree hit a large boulder, and the rest of the tree hit the open ground.

Awesome. Wish I had videotaped it. But then they might have suspected me of being some kind of ecoterrorist. I look the part, of course. Especially after going nearly three weeks without shavin' the beard.

Yosemite Tales: #1 story from my trip.

Here's the best story from my five-day adventure in Yosemite:

I've been driving for more than 17 years. In that time, I've had just one accident; it happened three months after I got my license.

I've had two silly tickets: one, in Berkeley, for parking along a street on the street-sweeping day; and two, also in Berkeley, for parking in a tow-away zone, and getting my car towed. Ooops.

I've never been caught speeding. I've never gotten a speeding ticket.

Things changed Tuesday: I got pulled over for speeding. In Yosemite. Yes, Yosemite.

They're doing some road work in Yosemite right now, so a stretch of road that's normally one-way now handles two-way traffic. That change has brought the speed limit DOWN from 35MPH to an astonishingly slow 25MPH.

Tuesday afternoon, I was driving this stretch of road. I came around a corner. There sat a park ranger vehicle staring straight at me. As I passed him, I saw in my rear-view mirror that he had turned around and was following me. A minute later, the lights went on.

He checked out my license, proof of insurance and registration -- though that one took a while to find in my glove compartment -- and walked back to his vehicle. I sat there, waiting. I was chuckling to myself, because he told me I was driving 36 in a 25 zone...even though the zone NORMALLY is a 35 zone.

Mr Park Ranger returned to my vehicle, handed me my documents, and told me he was letting me go with just a verbal warning. I thanked him, and then he let me go on my merry way -- but not without asking why I had completely different addresses on my driver license, my proof of insurance and my registration. Easy, I explained. License: old, old address. Insurance: current home. Reg: old apartment where I was living when I renewed my reg last year.

He chuckled and let me drive away.

But not without putting the fear of God in me. Since Tuesday, I don't think I've driven more than 5MPH above any speed limit I've seen. Hey, I like having a nearly perfect driving record -- and the insurance rates that come with it!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Away for some days.

So, after getting back in the swing of multiple posts for days...I'm leaving for the mountains. I will have NO computer access until either Thursday or Friday. This is a good thing. Need a break. Need some days unplugged. Need some hardcore me-and-God time in the mounts. Phone will be off. Voicemail can be left. Emails can be sent. But ya probably won't hear from me until the end of the week.

Hope yours goes as well as I hope mine goes.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Life isn't worth living.

Just kidding.

It was just a basketball game.

The Kansas Jayhawks lost tonight, so their men's basketball season is over. Too bad. They had so much potential.

Only good thing for me? If the Jayhawks had reached the national championship game, they would have played on Monday, April 2. That's the first evening of the Easter Camp we're attending next month. And there aren't many TVs where we're headed. So, I would have faced the moral dilemma of being at the first evening service of camp, or skipping out and finding a TV somewhere to watch the game.

No dilemma now.


Friday, March 23, 2007

Living with cancer.

It's been interesting watching all the commentary and analysis over John Edwards' decision to keep running for president, even though his wife Elizabeth is facing a renewed battle against cancer. My mom has been battling cancer since last year, and the combination of chemo and prayer have been aided by her resilience and desire to maintain life's routines.

Here are some thoughts about the Edwards family's decision from C.W. Nevius, a columnist for the SF Chronicle.

DOD: Discovery of the Day

I proudly own a Treo 700p smartphone that is apparently smarter than many other cell phones out there. When daylight saving time began, a simple reboot switched the device to the correct time. I love my smartphone.

However, having a smartphone does not necessarily make ME smart. Today's Discovery of the Day comes to me via my buddy Jeremy Anderson. He owns a Treo 650, and we were talking today about the beauty of texting. I made a comment about copying and pasting a text message for multiple people, and he told me that I could send the same message to lots of people at once, without the copy-paste method.


Duh, yes. I've seen the semicolon appear after I type the name or number of a new person to text. I know what semicolons and commas mean in the world of email and messaging. But it never occurred to me I could send just one message to lots of people at once.

Some of you need to stop laughing at me right now, because of how obvious this DOD was. But it was still a discovery for me.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Friends worth un-losing.

This is turning out to be an interesting week. Yesterday I hung out with a friend who I hadn't seen much of over the last couple of years. This evening, I got a phone call from a college friend; we hadn't chatted in many, many months. And then later in the evening, on a whim, I sent a text message to a old friend that I haven't talked to in probably two years; turns out his cell number is still alive and accurate. Tomorrow I'm having coffee with a buddy who caused my long-ago sprained ankle (he didn't really cause it, but I like to be lame and blame him for it), after a long period of time without chatting.

Any particular reason this has all happened? Probably not. But it's a good reminder that just when we reach points in our lives when we're struggling to see who's on our side, we should always remember that there ARE plenty of people who have our backs. And that's a nice feeling.

Hmmm...perhaps I'll label this as my Discovery of the Day. :)

Wow, that was close.

If Kansas can barely handle the defense of the Southern Illinois Salukis, the Jayhawks may encounter more impressive obstacles in their quest to win a national basketball championship.

Wow, that was an awesome lead paragraph for a sports story. You'd think I used to be a reporter or something.

Fortunately, my Jayhawks held on tonight to beat SIU underwhelmingly, 61-58. I think I grew two or three gray hairs watching the game, which will help replace all the ones I pulled out as Kansas struggled to play to its full potential. The Jayhawks will play either UCLA or Pittsburgh this weekend; not sure if it makes a difference which of those teams wins the game tonight. Maybe this will prove to be a wake-up call for Kansas. We'll see!

Can women be pastors?

Great post I can across today about the biblical position on ordaining women as pastors. Make sure you read the whole thing, or you'll miss the real point.

Came across it on Brad Boydston's blog. Brad apparently is now a missionary in Guam, but he used to pastor a church in my hometown of Turlock and was a regular source when I wrote religion articles for the local newspaper.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Game idea: Identity

At two recent events, we've played variations of the new "Identity" TV game show. It doesn't require the props of "Deal or No Deal," and you don't need 101 competitors, a la "1 vs 100." Here are two ways we've played it; there are a host of other variations you can try.

Gather a group of students -- the "participants" -- away from the rest of the crowd. Learn 1 unique fact about each participant ("I've been to all 50 states" or "I teach kids how to bellydance"). The remaining students break up into groups of 3 or 4 people. The participants enter the room, each one holding a number 1, 2, 3, etc. The teams must match the participants number with one of the "identities" on the screen above; these are the unique facts you gathered from the participants. Winning team is the one that has the most correct matches for the participants. We used this variation at a United service with 3 other youth groups.

Similar concept, but this time, all the members of a group participate. We've used this with our team preparing for a Mexico missions trip this summer. Each person writes down a unique trait on a piece of paper and passes the papers to the moderator. On a separate piece of paper, each team member writes the numbers 1, 2, 3, etc. on the left-hand side. The moderator then randomly picks a piece of paper and reads that trait. Next to the number 1, team members then write down the name of the person. This continues until all the traits have been read, and the winner is the one who knew the most about the other team members. Worked well as an icebreaker and a reminder that as a team, we need to know each other and love each other for our missions trip to be a success.

A sad, sad day.

Larry "Bud" Melman has died. It's a sad, sad day in the world of late-night TV.

    The balding, bespectacled nebbish who gained cult status as the oddball Larry "Bud" Melman on David Letterman's late-night television shows has died after a long illness.

    Brooklyn-born Calvert DeForest, who was 85, died Monday at a hospital on Long Island, the Letterman show announced Wednesday.

    He made dozens of appearances on Letterman's shows from 1982 through 2002, handling a variety of twisted duties: singing a duet with Sonny Bono on "I Got You, Babe"; doing a Mary Tyler Moore impression during a visit to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where her 1970s show was set; handing out hot towels to arrivals at New York's Port Authority Bus Terminal.

Don't be an iTarget.

Great article on the SF Chronicle's website today about iPod robberies. Not the first story written about this trend; not even the first written by the Chron. But it's interesting to see how teens and young adults appear to be the primary victims of these robberies. Makes sense, because of the popularity of iPods among youth. Also just a good piece of wisdom to pass along to teens...along with "turn the volume down so you won't be deaf at 40!"

    The iPod is seemingly everywhere, signature white cords dangling from the ears of riders on buses, students at schools and people walking down the sidewalk.

    The digital music players' appeal has also spread among a less desirable element -- thieves.

    As the supremely portable devices have spread across the Bay Area, the number of iPod robberies has soared. Listeners, often lost in the music and oblivious to their surroundings, tend not to realize how attractive a casually protected high-tech device worth hundreds of dollars can be to a criminal, police say.

Discoveries: Tough to, well, discover.

I had a fun conversation with a parent earlier this week about my blog. I've been far too quiet of late, but this parent hadn't seen the posts, so it didn't seem so dead to her.

Anyway, she said she enjoyed my DODs...the Discovery of the Day. I've only written about two DODs so far, and I realized something significant: It's tough to have a true "discovery" every day!

I guess I could make it my personal quest, to never let my head hit the pillow without making some kind of discovery each day. That might work for awhile. But I'm afraid someday I'd end up wandering through the aisles of the grocery store, searching for an obscure ingredient in a mass-produced product. And then I'd call it my "discovery." And that would be pathetic, eh?

Small town news.

I'm in Turlock visiting my mom for a few days. She had a doctor's appointment today, and things continue to look good for her. Earlier this week, her blood pressure took a big drop while she was receiving her rituxan chemo treatment for her lymphoma cancer. Today, the doctor decided to stop the treatments for a few weeks, and do a PT scan in early May, after Mom returns from a trip back east with her sister.

Mom and I ate lunch after her appointment, and as I was driving back to her house, it occurred to me that I miss living in a smaller town. Turlock isn't a small town anymore; its population is closing in on 70K, I think. But I live in the Sacramento area, where town blends into the next town, where the sense of community is a little bit harder to grasp.

We ate at the local Togo's, and the long wall of the restaurant is covered in sports pictures from the local high schools and university. And maybe that's part of what I miss.

I miss walking into a store and seeing a teacher from back in high school.

I miss driving past a building and remembering what used to be there 10 years ago.

I miss spending time with people whom I've known for 10, 15, 20 years.

I miss being able to get across town in less than 15 minutes.

I miss local politics.

I miss living in an actual city, with an actual mayor and actual city council.

I miss having old friends who've hardly seen me in 4 years tell me that I'm looking slim and that I've lost weight (it's happened the last two times in town; gotta love it)

Just some thoughts for the day.

The way of wisdom.

We've been spending a lot of time lately in our youth ministry focusing on wisdom and choices and decisions. Our church and our youth program have been going through some tough times, but the Sunday and Wednesday series aren't a response. In fact, they've both been on the schedule for months! (Yea, I decided a while back that I should plan further than 72 hours ahead; it's been a life-saving change.)

For two straight Wednesday nights, we talked about The Way of Wisdom: finding it and following it. Sometimes it's through the junk of life, the difficult times, the painful experiences that we realize how much we need God's wisdom. That's what James says in James 1:2-4; it's what Solomon realized as he was about to step into David's shoes and God promised to answer any prayer. We find that way of wisdom when we admit that we don't have all the answers on our own.

But it's not just enough to find that way; we have to follow it, too. Solomon spent much of his kingly tenure on track, but eventually he got sidetracked by stuff and wealth and women and power; he had found the way of wisdom but he chose to walk away from it. In James 3, we read that selfish ambition and bitter jealousy lead to disorder and all kinds of evil. That's the result of NOT following the way of wisdom.

The good news is that when we find the way of wisdom and then follow it, we open our lives to a "harvest of goodness," is the way the New Living phrases it, I believe. That's what I want in my life. That's what most of our students want, even if they don't quite know how to express that desire. Who wants destruction when goodness and blessing are available?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

My Jayhawks.

What can I say? I thought my Kansas Jayhawks might be walking into troubled waters in the NCAA men's basketball tournament this year, but my fears have disappeared. After strong wins in their first two games, the Jayhawks have proven they have what it takes to win -- and maybe even what it takes to win a national championship.

Now if I can just get my Kansas City Royals to do so well in baseball. Some of my students are trying to persuade me to drop the Royals in favor of another team. Specifically, another team that sports blue jerseys. The Dodgers. Sorry friends, that one ain't gonna happen. The Dodgers are from L.A., and rooting for an L.A. team would violate one of the foundations of my personal theology. One of these days I'll share all of those tenets. But not tonight.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Quite a fire.

Life in the Sacramento area got a little exciting last night. Around 5:45PM, a huge fire erupted along a train trestle near Cal Expo, which you could define as being right in the middle of our metro area. It created a huge plume of smoke that people could see for miles and miles. It didn't represent any real risk to people or property, but it was an incredible sight -- especially with local news coverage.

The NBC affiliate, KCRA, interrupted the network news right around 5:45, as the fire began, and didn't really stop until 8:30. The ABC affiliate began its coverage at 6PM, and eventually broke away around 8PM for its evening programs. CBS, however, was caught in a predicament: Thursday was the first day of the first round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. So, the folks at CBS interrupted games with updates throughout the evening. But man, you KNOW the news people there were mad that they couldn't do wall-to-wall coverage. This was a big fire, talk of the town, and they're unable to do true live coverage.

On a related note, the Goodyear blimp flew overhead this afternoon, perhaps on the way up to the Sierra to get some video footage for later in the day. The arrival of a Goodyear might not be a big deal to some of you mega-metropolis people, but we don't see it everyday.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Teen angst.

Wow, we've finally arrived in March. I'm still struggling to find the words to describe February. It was challenging, it was stretching, it was new, it was fresh, it was tough, it was rewarding, it was draining -- it felt like 6 months of ministry experiences squished into just 28 days.

Our youth program, Route 1 Student Ministries, decided to take all of our gathering times in February and focus on love, romance, dating and sex. What a month. Our Wednesday night entry-level services tackled the love, romance and sex part. Week 1, we redefined love. Week 2, we defined intimacy. Week 3, we redefined sexy.

(Yes, there were 4 Wednesdays in February. But I was out of town for one of them, and our young adults led the service with their own theme and message for that night.)

Sundays were set aside to the dating focus. But for much of the month, I felt like the dating issues flooded over into Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. We had more "dating drama" in one month than we've had in several years. Sure, we have issues from time to time -- it's inevitable when ministering to teens. But last month, we had breakups, we had gossip, we had rumors, we had betrayal, we had rebound relationships, we had musical-chairs relationships (you know, when one person breaks up with someone and then three days later starts dating someone else, who also just got out of a relationship -- can somebody say unhealthy?).

Wow. What a month.

Last Friday I was at a luncheon with a group of youth pastors, and the topic of "who talked about relationships in February" arose. One guy said he decided to tackle the topic in January, to be prepared for the February onslaught.


But then someone else chimed in: "We started back in September to get ready for February!"

Even greater wisdom, perhaps.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Faith in my team?

My Kansas Jayhawks square off Saturday against Texas in the final regular season game. KU is now ranked #3 by both the coaches and the sportswriters. This can mean only one thing.

Kansas will fail.

I hate to write those words. But #3? I've watched the Jayhawks play this year, and as much as I want them to win and win and win, I'm not convinced they're the third-best team in the nation.

They might be good enough to beat Texas. But I get nervous when Kansas gets high in the rankings. 'Cause that's when KU tends to stumble.

We'll see.

DOD: Discovery of the Day

Today's DOD is brought to you by our little friend, the pebble.

Until this morning, I didn't realize that small rocks could fly through a side window of my car and hit me while I was driving. But it can happen. And it did happen. To me. This morning. Now I know. And knowing is half the battle.