Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Prayer for Overcoming Indifference

I watch the news, God. I observe it from a comfortable distance. I see people suffering, and I don't lift a finger to help them. I condemn injustice but I do nothing to fight against it. I am pained by the faces of starving children, but I am not moved enough to try to save them. I step over homeless people in the street, I walk past outstretched hands, I avert my eyes, I close my heart.

Forgive me, God, for remaining aloof while others are in need of my assistance.

Wake me up, God; ignite my passion, fill me with outrage. Remind me that I am responsible for Your world. Don't allow me to stand idly by. Inspire me to act. Teach me to believe that I can repair some corner of this world.

When I despair, fill me with hope. When I doubt my strength, fill me with faith. When I am weary, renew my spirit. When I lose direction, show me the way back to meaning, back to compassion, back to You. Amen.

—Rabbi Naomi Levy

Pasted from:

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

I Heart New York

What I like about you:

Your people. How can you not love New Yorkers?
Your transit system. It's so easy to get around the city.
Your not-New-Jersey-ness. Sheesh, I had forgotten what a cesspool the Meadowlands area is. I lived in the state for 39 years. I have the right to say this.
Your food. Still savoring the memory.
Your skyline. Saw it this weekend for the first time since 9/11, and the absence of two tall buildings made my heart skip a beat or two. But still. I love your skyline.
Your energy. I didn't need a nap the whole time I was there!

Monday, January 29, 2007

Declensions**, Anyone?

I took a quick trip to NYC over the weekend, and it proved to be uneventful travelwise—until the flight home. After our Continental pilot wished us a good morning at 2:45 p.m., he asked the first-class passengers not to conjugate* around the first-class galley.

Yes, I laughed out loud.

Things settled down for the rest of the flight, but then again my headphones drowned out anything else he might have said—until we began our ever-popular initial descent. That's when he thanked us for choosing Continental and wished us an enjoyable stay in Orlando, or "wherever your final destinations take you."

I hope my final destinations take me someplace enjoyable, that's for sure. May yours do the same.

* In case you need a refresher, this is something—not at all unpleasant, I might add—that you do to verbs. Okay, it also means "to couple." If first class was coupling around the galley, that may explain the pilot's brain lapses.

** This has to do with inflections of nouns, pronouns, and adjectives and can indeed be unpleasant.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Am I the Only One? Today's Top 9

Am I the only one who:

  • is so spoiled that even DSL seems slow?
  • wonders when the stock-tip spam will run its course?
  • thinks prime-time game shows are, I don't know—slimy?
  • is going to miss NPR's "Mozart Cafe" now that the year-long celebration has come to an end?
  • has stopped laughing—for just a minute or two—at all those wacky conspiracy theories?
  • considers competitive reality shows to be, I don't know—slimy?
  • doesn't cover food in the microwave even though I know it will splatter?
  • wouldn't miss the Academy Awards if the show was permanently canceled, except for the fact that Jon Stewart hosted last year and Ellen DeGeneres is hosting this year, making it worth watching only if you cut out everything else?
  • can't get Blogger to "remember me" at login?

    Why an unnumbered Top 9? I like bullets, 10 is too predictable, 11 too many, 9 just an odd number.
  • Thursday, January 25, 2007

    What's Not to Love?

    About The Weather Channel, that is. I listed it as a TV favorite on MySpace, and you'd think I had listed Gilmore Girls for all the flak I've gotten. Ah, my poor unenlightened critics, trudging through their dreary lives, mistakenly believing TWC is only about forecasting, rolling their eyes at me, saying, "Geez, just look out the window!"

    Well, I do that too, because weather is real and endlessly fascinating. But even if TWC didn't examine its fascinating aspects and provide a meteorological education at the same time, I'd still watch it. There's nothing like being in a hotel room in an unfamiliar city and tuning to TWC after an exhausting day at a trade show. It's like an old friend, comforting and familiar and reassuring: "Hey, look, there's Mike Seidel! You go, Mike! Don't let those Category 4 winds beat you down!" That's me, talking to myself, wishing the best for Mike, whose career I've followed since his heady days as chief meteorologist at a local station in Salisbury, MD.

    Go ahead. Roll your eyes. Call me crazy. My fellow weather nerds get it. Reality shows come and go, but TWC will always be there for us.

    Must go. I need to add Gilmore Girls to my list.

    Tuesday, January 23, 2007

    My Divorced Daughter, Adam

    The other day I received a comment to one of my Blogger posts from "Adam." But the comment began, "Way to go, Mom..." Now I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure I don't have a son named Adam. In fact, I'm pretty sure I don't have a son at all.

    I do have a daughter who dates a guy named Adam. Turns out she posted the comment from Adam's computer and didn't bother signing in under her name. Okay, I get that, though it did give me pause for a few seconds.

    Next stop: MySpace. I go to add my daughter, Elizabeth (a.k.a. Adam), to my "friends," only to discover that she's now divorced. I realize parents are always the last to know, but you'd think she would have at least invited us to the wedding. Except that there was no wedding. Elizabeth has never been married. I just asked her to make sure. She said that selecting "divorced" as her marital status was an inside joke.

    Talk about creating your own reality! Somebody out there is sure messin' with mine.

    Sunday, January 21, 2007

    Bloggin' Insanity

    Now that I've caught the blogging bug, I'm smitten. Problem is, I'm now blogging here, on Amazon's AuthorConnect, and on MySpace—or at least I will be; I got distracted listing my favorite movies and all that on MySpace and haven'tgotten around to the blog yet. But the question is this: how on earth do y'all manage it? I know some of you do Blogger and MySpace and Facebook and your personal website and Amazon and who knows what else. I'm serious—how do you do it? All suggestions greatly appreciated!

    Saturday, January 20, 2007

    I Need a Makeover!

    That's my website doing all that yelling, not me. Every time I stop by to visit my cyberbaby,, it shouts at me and heckles me and hurls all manner of rude language at me: "I'm sick of the way I look! I need a redesign—fresh paint, new wallpaper, different artwork! Do something!" (Rude language omitted out of respect for your tender ears.) Even when I leave, it continues to pester me.

    Would someone please help me out? I need to silence the site's complaints and get on with my life. My site doesn't understand that I'm no designer; sure, I can go in and do some cleaning and tidying with FrontPage, but that just means I'm a housekeeper, not an interior decorator.

    So here's the deal: you redesign my website—nothing fancy, no bells, no whistles, no animation—and I'll edit or provide original content for your site. Any takers?

    Friday, January 19, 2007

    Jossin' The Office

    Just found out from Robin Parrish's Infuze mag that Joss Whedon will direct a future episode of The Office. If you aren't familiar with Whedon, he's the creator of three late, great shows: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and the short-lived, vastly underrated Firefly, which segued into the equally underrated Serenity film. No matter; committed Whedonites recognize his genius, even if the masses don't.

    I used to be among those masses, figuring Buffy was just another lame, teeny-bopper show until one night years ago when my daughters were watching it and I stopped to look at the TV long enough to witness one of the funniest, best-written scenes ever. (Joss fans, you know the one—when Spike can't do his vampire thing to Willow.) That did it—I watched every episode after that and got caught up by watching videos of all the previous episodes. Sarah's such a huge fan that she even helped a bit with the research for Jana Riess's fabulous book, What Would Buffy Do? ("Oh, you need to know where that quote came from? It was episode 6, season 3, at about the 18-minute mark." She could do that off the top of her head, that daughter of mine.)

    So I'll be checking The Office schedule for Joss's name. Wouldn't miss it for anything. The man is brilliant.

    Thursday, January 18, 2007

    An Inconvenient Label

    By all accounts, Al Gore's film on global warming, An Inconvenient Truth, is one of those rarities, a must-see documentary. After deciding that I must see it but must not buy it, I placed it on hold at the library. Our library system owns 22 copies, but it still took more than a month for my hold to reach the top of the waiting list. Buoyed by my position at #1 on any list, I went to pick up the long-awaited DVD as soon as I got the call.

    "This is due in two days," the librarian said as she handed it to me.

    Huh? Documentaries are three-week loans, one week if they're new releases.

    She saw the look on my face, and since all the librarians know by now how to interpret my dumbfounded expressions, she explained, "It's a two-day loan because it's labeled fiction."

    So An Inconvenient Truth is considered fiction.

    Poor Al. Poor, poor Al. The guy can't win for losing.

    Monday, January 15, 2007

    On Guilt, Failure, and Widescreen TVs

    Any chance you know someone who has walked away from God because of a sexual failing or two...or hundreds? My guess is you know lots of someones like that, even if they've never openly said why they took that long walk away from faith. The truth is, they feel as if they have failed God, and what's more, the church condemns them for that failure. Well! Along comes John Piper with his take on a couple of awesome verses from Micah to put everyone in their place—their rightful place before God. Regardless of the nature of your own guilt or failure or whatever, his talk at the Passion '07 conference for college students is one of those rare sermons worth reading in its entirety. I'll leave you to do that right now. It's that good.

    Sunday, January 14, 2007

    This Is Great Stuff

    Anyone know where I can find an online style guide that covers southern dialect? I've spent way too much time searching for one. Ah, but I've uncovered so many riches irrelevant to that particular quest! Who cares if the dialect in the novel I'm editing isn't just exactly so? I'm having a great time bookmarking all these cool language sites I've found! I know, I know—"cool" isn't the first word most people think of when it comes to language. But get this:
    In its 17th annual words of the year vote, the American Dialect Society voted “plutoed” as the word of the year, in a run-off against "climate canary." To pluto is to demote or devalue someone or something, as happened to the former planet Pluto when...[it] no longer met [the] definition of a planet.
    Now, I knew about Pluto being demoted and all, but how I missed the verb "to pluto" is beyond me. I love it. Yes! It deserved the award. Here are some other contenders for word of the year:

    * murse: man’s purse (yuck)
    * climate canary: "an organism or species whose poor health or declining numbers hint at a larger environmental catastrophe on the horizon"
    * flog: a blog that flacks product (thumbs up on this one, down on the flog itself)
    * YouTube: as a verb, to use the YouTube web site or to have a video of one’s self be posted on the site (eh; seems hard to use)
    * macaca/macaca moment: an ethnic or racial gaffe caught on video (oh, yeah-I do like this one)
    * boomeritis: afflictions or injuries of Baby Boomers, caused by their age (I can relate)

    Oh, and in case you're wondering just who this "American Dialect Society" is, it's the august association that chose "truthiness" as the 2005 word of the year. Can't get much smarter than that.

    Thursday, January 11, 2007

    Mike Huckabee, Jon Stewart, and Hope for America

    ...well, one reason why I have hope for America, anyway, and not an overwhelming amount at that: On last night's The Daily Show, Jon Stewart interviewed former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, an admitted conservative, evangelical Republican. ("I'm a conservative, but I'm not mad at everybody over it," Huckabee quipped at one point.) Here are some more snippets from Huckabee:
    We do what I call...horizontal politics, which is where America is in trouble, people wanting everything to be left or right. The truth is, the average American doesn't think in the ideological terms of left and right. They think in the vertical terms of are you going to lift us up or are you going to take us down.

    I'm pro-life, and I think life begins at conception, but I don’t think it ends at birth. We have to be concerned about a a child's education, and healthcare, safe neighborhoods, clean water, the access to a college education, a child's whole life—that is pro-life.

    So here's why I'm hopeful: Finally, finally, reasonable political discourse is being heard. Part of Jon Stewart's genius lies in his ability to transcend partisan politics and give common-sense politics a voice. What a contrast to the insanity that fills the airwaves on Sunday morning! (No, not the preaching from televised pulpits but the political rhetoric coming out of D.C. television studios.)

    The Huckabee segment wasn't unusual for Stewart; it was representative. Weird, isn't it? It took a Comedy Central show to find someone—a comedian, no less—willing to look beyond labels so we can actually start talking to each other, and maybe, just maybe, start to deal with our problems.

    Monday, January 08, 2007

    No Surprise Here

    George Barna* just released another study that caught my attention, this one indicating that Christians in America who attend house churches are significantly more likely to be satisfied with their church life than those who attend traditional churches.

    I've been involved with only one actual house church, and that one was unorthodox even as house churches go. We were all members of a nondenominational church and had been active in church leadership, but we were bored to tears there. So we started meeting in each other's homes on a rotating basis, with the host family leading that particular "service." In other words, we had no official leader. Granted, that's not likely to work for most groups, but we were good friends who trusted each other. We still considered ourselves affiliated with the church we belonged to; we just didn't attend it anymore (well, one couple did, so we shifted our services to Sunday night so they could still go to regular church on Sunday morning).

    Our most memorable service had to be the night the pastor of the church decided to pay a visit. He seemed to be a really nice guy, but we didn't know him very well; the church had gone through several pastors in as many months. So he came to our meeting and listened politely to whoever gave the teaching that night. When he finally spoke, he said, "This is a really good group, and I keep hearing good things about all of you, but I don't get it -- you never go to church!" We all burst out laughing -- it was a truly priceless moment. One member said something like, "Well, yeah, I can see where that could be confusing." Even the pastor understood that we weren't laughing at him, but rather at how absurd our group must have seemed to him -- sort of in the church but not of the church. Or maybe it's the other way around: of the church but not in the church. Yeah, that's it.

    Anyway, the point is that Barna's findings reflect my experience. Whenever I've been involved in a home group or other small group, that became my "church." I could take or leave Sunday morning services (except in a liturgical church, but that's another blog entirely), but don't take my home group away from me. That's where my longest-lasting friendships were forged, where we shared our lives, our joy and our pain, our successes and our failures, our ever-deepening relationship with Jesus.

    Home groups, small groups, house churches--all have enabled me to serve, to worship, to fellowship, to be the body of Christ, like nothing else ever has.

    * Disclaimer: I have no stake in The Barna Group despite the number of my blogs that cite its research. Honest.

    Friday, January 05, 2007

    Independents, Unite!

    As a registered Independent, I don't have a whole lot of interaction with people who think the way I do politically, since we're not what you'd call organized. So recently, for various reasons, I kind of, sort of, maybe halfway joined a network of Independent voters -- from a safe distance, meaning through a website. Shortly afterward, I had an email exchange with one of the organizers, who was inviting me to join in an upcoming teleconference. I swear, my body literally tensed up as I read the email. They want me something?? To participate?? Give me a break! I'm an Independent!

    I declined in a bumbling sort of way, unintentionally tipping her off to the fact that I don't want to get involved or anything. In a subsequent email I could almost hear her chuckling; she must get that kind of reaction all the time.

    It's really quite comical, the idea that Independents could ever become an organized force. And yet, I'm not so sure it's all that improbable, especially in the wake of the '06 midterms. But still. There's something deliciously funny about trying to organize a ragtag group of stubborn voters. Can we hang out together sometime? Sure. Will we be unified? Only in our insistence that we remain independent. Oh, the challenges!

    Thursday, January 04, 2007

    Overheard at Wal-Mart

    Dad: Why don't you just borrow a movie from the library instead of buying one?

    Teenage daughter: I hate the library. There's too many books there.

    So many thoughts. So very many thoughts. Which one to choose?

    Wednesday, January 03, 2007

    Check? What's a Check?

    At the start of every new year, you hear people bemoaning the fact that they're still writing last year's date on their checks: "I just got used to writing 2006! I can't believe I have to start remembering to write 2007!" In just three days, I've heard so many comments like this that here I am blogging about it.

    Questions, so many questions, like: Check? What's a check? Who the heck is still writing checks these days? Well, me, but only one a month, and that's only because I don't trust this one particular recipient all that much. I want both a paper trail and an electronic trail.

    I actually take notice of it when someone who looks to be younger than 60 writes out a check in the supermarket checkout line. It's just so turn-of-the-century.

    I wonder how long it will be before checks as we know them will become obsolete. Any predictions?

    Tuesday, January 02, 2007

    Back to Barna

    Okay, now that all the partying and revelry is over (it is, isn't it?), let's get back to Barna. Here's another finding from the report I mentioned in my Dec. 29 blog:
    Five of the highest-profile Christian leaders – Rick Warren, Joel Osteen, James Dobson, Tim LaHaye and T.D. Jakes – were unknown to a majority of the population. Most of those leaders were also unknown to most born again Christians.

    This one should give pause to anyone who is an author, radio personality, pastor, or leader of any kind in the Christian community. Let's take these one by one:

    • Rick Warren: This one should be most alarming to authors. How many weeks was The Purpose-Driven Life number 1 on so many bestseller lists? For years, you couldn't even enter a bookstore without the risk of tripping over a freestanding display of PDL and its myriad ancillary products. And you could hardly find a church that wasn't following the "40 Days of Purpose" program (I tried). If it hadn't been for PDL, Warren's relative obscurity outside of Southern California and his church network wouldn't be such a surprise. But post-PDL, I can't imagine how so many Christians could be unfamiliar with him.

    • Joel Osteen: No surprise here. Yes, he's a bestselling author, but his bestselling book has nowhere near the title recognition that Warren's PDL has. He's known in Texas and among charismatics, but that's about it.

    • James Dobson: You've got to be kidding me. Christians don't know who Dobson is? With the exception of LaHaye, Dobson's been around longer than anyone else on the list, and for decades he was well-known and highly regarded among evangelicals for his teaching on child-rearing. Even secular parents bought his books. Plus, he had, and has, a huge radio audience. He lost some followers and gained some more when he started getting all political, but he also attracted the attention of secular audiences at that point. They hated him, but still. The man has name recognition. Who on earth did Barna's people ask?

    • Tim LaHaye: This one should alarm co-authors. Either the "Left Behind" mega series is better known by its titles than its authors, or Jerry Jenkins is getting all the credit. Actually, the latter may be the case; I've been familiar with LaHaye's work since the 1970s, and I almost never think of him in the context of "Left Behind." He's just always been there, like evangelical wallpaper. I swear, the pollsters must have been talking to teenagers, because anyone who's been around the church for a while should at least know LaHaye's name, even if they can't figure out where they know it from.

    • T.D. Jakes: Another bestselling author who is apparently living in obscurity despite his millions of followers. Go figure. Granted, he's best known among charismatics and African-Americans, but he was also well-known in a liberal, liturgical church I attended. Like Warren and Osteen, he's a relative newcomer, so maybe that's part of the problem.

    What do you think? Are these people as obscure as the poll suggests, especially among Christians?