Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Music Hath Charms

As my Christmas gift to you all I want to suggest 5 musical masterpieces you can add to your collection to enjoy in 2009. I am always wrapped in wonderment when I consider how blessed we are to be able to enjoy the creative miracles God offers us through people He has made with the skills to create joy from sound. It is even more wonderful that we have the ability to preserve and recreate these experiences through recorded music. As the Bard of Avon observed, music does have charms. In no particular order here are my suggestions:

Kathleen Edwards - Asking for Flowers - Zoƫ Records, MRCD 6487; 2008. Since her debut record Failer in 2002 Kathleen, native of Ottawa, has been a busy girl - releasing two more studio albums, a live record, touring extensively and appearing on Austin City Limits just to name a few of her exploits. This 2008 release was recorded in California with excellent players including her husband, Colin Cripps (who works regularly for Jim Cuddy of Blue Rodeo). This is easily Kathleen's most polished album, with superb lyrics, captivating melodies, catchy hooks and deft production. It's rootsy, country, rocky and raw in places (her publishing company is called "Potty Mouth Records"). In any case it has been in medium/high rotation on my playlist ever since I brought it home.

Maroon 5 - It Won't Be Soon Before Long - A&M / Octone, B000891702; 2007. Loads poppier than their more introspective 2002 debut, Songs About Jane, Maroon 5 appear to have hit their songwriting stride full force. I admit that I bought this one for one song - Makes Me Wonder - and then sort of forgot about it until I heard Won't Go Home Without You on the radio last week. I pulled out the CD and gave it another listen and lo and behold 5 tracks knocked me out. If the band and their A & R people are smart they'll release Not Falling Apart next on the radio. We're gonna be hearing more from these boys.

Dala are Sheila Carabine and Amanda Walther from Ontario. We heard them live at "Stuart McLean's Vinyl Cafe Christmas - 2008" and bought a copy of their latest album - Who Do You Think You Are? - Universal Music Canada, 0251741144; 2008. I don't have the ability to describe their inimitable harmony, but once you hear them you'll understand. They also are superb songwriters and consummate musicians - and they're pretty young so we can hope for more - much, much more - from them in the years to come. Check out their tune Marilyn Monroe and then fall under their spell. Canada is producing some of the most talented musicians to be found anywhere.

Prairie Oyster has been plying their country/blues/roots trade across Canada in one form or another since 1974. Their most recent album, One Kiss - Open Road Canada / Zoom, 7210; 2006, is a tour de force of their collective abilities, which are greater than the mere sum of their parts. Founding member, Russell deCarle is getting ready to release a solo album in 2009. I didn't own any Prairie Oyster albums until this month. That was a mistake, but One Kiss is gracious redemption. Since the advent of the CD I have found that I very rarely listen to an album all the way through (unless I'm mining my vinyl collection), but I sat through this CD and didn't ONCE want to hit the skip button. I believe you won't want to skip one tune either.

My friend Ben loves music and, like many of us I suspect, has issues with Christmas music. While I agree that most of the Christmas stuff that gets pushed at us this time of year is musical dreck of the lowest order, there are a few recordings that can transcend the commercial hype and bring true enjoyment and emotion. The self-produced album Polyhymnia by Canada's own John Sheard is one of these few gems. Because it is a bit hard to find I've included a link to help you. John may be Canada's most accomplished pianist, albeit not that well known. We discovered him through Stuart McLean as John has been the musical director for the live shows we've seen Stuart in, and also collaborates with Stuart on his weekly radio program on CBC (one of the few redeeming programs on our erstwhile Canadian radio network). Polyhymnia is a collection of 16 hymns and carols, brilliantly arranged and played by John. The recording quality is also uniformly superb. If this CD can't get you in the Christmas mood then check yourself in the mirror for physical resemblances to the Grinch.

I could offer 5 more albums, and then 5 more and 5 more after that for your consideration, but these must suffice (I have other things to do). Try one or two out, I urge you. Music is a great gift from God and a wonderful gift to enjoy at this time of year or whenever.


Thursday, December 04, 2008

Last Post (Probably) for 2008 - Advent & Christmastide

The Holiday season is washing over everyone I know with tsunami-like vengeance, and in the midst of the most unsettled days of my brief life since the days of Cuban Missile Crisis, it is hard to get one's bearings, let alone maintain them.

Recent events in our extended family have intersected our plans and created new ones. I won't have enough time to even post at my usually infrequent "whenever I get around to it" rate. Thankfully, according to my Sat Counter widget, I am remaining fairly true to my mission and tagline (writing for an audience of one, reaching even fewer) so I am confident that I am not disappointing a large number of my fellow pilgrims. Still, I know there are a few of you out there so this message is for you.

This season is supposedly tied in some comically and warped human way to one of the greatest events in human history and the "greatest story ever told". Sadly, but not surprisingly, we have warped and marred the meaning of this event almost beyond recognition. Almost.

We are in the season of Advent right now as recognized by followers of Christ since around the 5th or 6th century, perhaps as a balance to the growing observance of Christmas - which was a converted pagan festival - that also began around those times. Regardless of either celebration's genesis, we have what we have today, but we also have choice too.

I hope you will choose to slow down and take time to cultivate holy anticipation this Advent season - anticipation being a lost and even scorned practice in our culture of instant gratification. I even saw an ad recently for a product that purports to help make the sex act happen faster, for those who don't have time to savor the moment, I guess. Things really are getting weird out there. Anyway, I will pray that you can wait in anticipation for what God is and will be doing. And then, may you enter Christmastide (all 12 days of it) with joy, vigor and wonder. Again, having a 12-day feast to celebrate requires a bit of pacing and self-control as opposed to a one-day, all-out, over-indulgent, food-and-football-fueled Bacchanalia. Besides, what good is a celebration that you have to recover from? You'd have to recover from hitting yourself in the head with a hammer, and that would be cheaper than the usual Christmas blowout we usually get sucked into.

Now before you think we're not going to give and receive presents this year, or eat, or celebrate - let me say that I suspect that our events will look much like they do every year, but we are working to change the spirit and intention of these proceedings an ways that we pray will flow out into new appreciations and possibilities in our lives. Here's one example:

Being nearly 50 means that there really isn't anything much out there I need anymore (except increasingly excellent health care coverage). So two years ago my family bought some gifts for me from World Vision. And they did again last year. I don't know if they will again this year, but we have already agreed to use half of the "love gift" we get from the church I serve to buy what we can from World Vision. We have been gifted for years. Time to give back. Gift-giving is a GOOD part of this season if we work to keep God's perspective in view.

We will be spending some time with distant family and for reasons one might not think are worthy of celebrating, but we are committed to celebrating with them while we are together. Often at this time of year circumstances conflict with peoples Dickensian fantasies of what should be happening, but we are praying we will be able to truly "give thanks in all circumstances". God doesn't stop being gracious and abounding in love just because human sin and its consequences intersect our plans.

We are going to celebrate Christmastide. I'm not just certain how, but we will and we will include as many others as we can. Why not stretch the season, even in little ways? As many have observed, "it's a shame we act like this only one day a year".

To you few who read these ramblings from time to time, I send our heartfelt greetings of love, peace and joy in the name of Christ Jesus. Whether or not our beliefs agree, we cannot deny that we stand on the same earth and walk under the same sky and share the same ultimate human fate. You are our brothers and sisters and we pray for you, even if we don't know you well.

May the Lord Bless you and Keep you.
May He make His Face shine upon you.
May He lift up His Countenance upon you
and give you His Everlasting Peace.


Friday, November 14, 2008

Two Out of Three Ain't Bad - But it Still is Disappointing


It's taken me a long time to come to terms with my disappointment in the sound at the Dylan concert at the Brandt Center in Regina on November 1st.

Here is my opinion on the subject. The band was tight and musically capable. Dylan was obviously in control of the set - the band was LOCKED onto him in a way that I haven't seen since watching Tom Coster, Michael Shrieve, Jose Arreas, and the rest of Carlos Santana's band follow his lead for over two hours of non-stop music in 1974. Magic!

Dylan was calling the shots on November 1st. That was very obvious - and you could NOT understand MOST of what he was singing.

The only logical conclusions to be made are that he, and his sound crew, were unable to make his vocals clearer or that he, and his sound crew, were unwilling to make his vocals clearer. I could clearly hear Dylan's keyboards and harmonica. I could clearly discern each solo played by the band's guitarists. I could hear the bass line and the drum fills. If all of that was possible then hearing vocals should have been no problem. I could not hear Dylan clearly for much of the show.

If the reason for the poor sound was the first explanation suggested above then Dylan can stop touring - now! It's over. We don't need any more demonstrations that the "authentic voice of a generation" has literally lost his voice. If the reason was the second explanation it may be an artistic choice. I may not know art, but I know what I like - and I did not like what I heard at the Brandt Center.

Dylan may be an artist who has risen so far above his medium that he doesn't have to pay attention to what he's doing - but in the end if art is inaccessible, I believe it loses its transformative power. I will not stop being a Dylan fan, but I believe the artist always has a responsibility to his audience to present his art in the best and most accessible way he or she can. If Dylan is only playing for an audience of one then he doesn't need my $80 or my ears - which were actually hurt by the poor sound.

Anyway, I was there. I bought the t-shirt, and the pins. I'll buy more CDs over time to fill in my collection. I'll check out any new releases to hear if they can speak to me. I'll continue to hope that Dylan creates art that I and others can appreciate, but I won't try to experience his art live again. I'll have to remain content with video and audio recordings, and forget "live".

So be it.

As Meat Loaf would observe - "Two out of three ain't bad."

But it is sad.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

I'll Remember

I'm not usually big on political happenings - my faith is in Someone else rather than political leaders - but I will remember November 4, 2008. Even as September 11, 2001 was a day when we all felt a horrible shift in our world, last night's results in the US Presidential election had the same pervasive impact, but this time in a positive way.

It may be fair to say that our world needs to grow beyond such seeming preoccupation with the USA, but it remains true that there still is no other nation in the world that has the same boundless potential to influence for good, or ill if it comes to that.

As I mentioned before, I have no faith in humanity, but I do have hope that when we are influenced by higher ideals, principals and morals we can rise to the occasion and do honor to God. And we can be better to each other.

Last night the USA shed a bit more of its dark past and took a further step into the light of the ideals its founders brilliantly entrenched into its founding document. Last night the hopes and dreams of so many who have worked and prayed and sacrificed to see a better day for themselves and their children took one step closer to being realized. Last night the differences on the outside of people everywhere became less important, and the ideals and hopes they share became more important.

Last night, I believe, real justice became just a bit more possible for our dear neighbours to the south.

Godspeed USA.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Quietly It Begins

I'm self-publishing some fiction online here.

Critics, be gentle please.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Great "Climate Change" Debate

I have been skeptical for some time about the position the most strident proponents of "global warming" have taken, mostly due to the inordinate amount of effort they have expended to limit debate on the subject. When the rhetoric took on the tone of religious debate about three years ago, I was fairly convinced that we were being sold a bill of goods. When my wife began working for a major western Canadian university she told me that professors indicated to her that they had to write their research proposals with an intentional eye on keeping their lines of research within the sphere proscribed by the "green" science cabal - or at least avoid asking questions that might ruffle feathers - or else they ran the risk of not receiving the funding they need. When the lines of scientific research are constrained by what amounts to social and political policy - however well-intentioned it may be - then it has lost it's academic independence and, I would argue, much of its usefulness to humanity.

One of the writers who has consistently poked holes in the "global warming/climate change" conclusions and proposals is Patrick Bedard, a staff writer for Car and Driver (Yes, yes I can hear the cat-calls and hissing saying "Vested interest!" - SHHH CHILDREN! Listen and LEARN!). Mr Bedard is an engineer, and his mantra isn't "cars at any cost" it's more "does this add up?". If you take the time to survey a few of his articles you'll quickly come to see that he does his homework and he doesn't fudge the figures. Now his perspective is going mainstream thanks to a recent article by Lorne Gunter.

Of course, if one has been paying attention to stories on the fringes of the media and the subtle shifts in the rhetoric of the "green" movement, these revelations should come as no surprise. A recent report suggested that the climate change movement was heading for a "tough decade" because global temperatures were trending down, not up - a fact Gunter's article supports. And the label "global warming" has been shifted over recent months to "climate change" - a suitably non-specific moniker that can be interpreted in any fashion to fit the facts. It seems that political expediency, power and money have co-opted the science community, the media and our political leaders. And we probably shouldn't be surprised.

I am a Christian, and as such I am deeply concerned that we take seriously how we use God's creation. I believe we are charged with stewardship of this planet, and all places we may touch - but if we are to be able to do this we need truth in the information we use to help us make our decisions. We need scientists, academics and researchers who are politically, socially and economically independent so they can pursue the lines of investigation they want to without fear of reprisal or censure. And helping maintain and protect this independence must be the first and the constant goal we should pursue in science.

Sadly, most people want the "academic eggheads" to provide us with solutions that we can understand with eighth-grade education and that can be explained in 30 seconds by some "talking head" on the six-o-clock news. And we want solutions that will not require much from us. We are the common denominator in this power struggle and it is by and to our low expectations and selfish lifestyles that the arguments and policies of our leaders are shaped and directed. We are getting what we demand - just like angry, hungry babies. We should be getting what we need.

So my exhortation to the one or two of you who read this blog is this - do some more reading on this. Don't let me or others make up your mind for you. Question those who are sanctimoniously using their authority to dictate what questions may be asked and what answers may be accepted. And talk amongst yourselves. Then talk to your local politicians, write letters to the editors of newspapers, email the news directors of broadcast news, comment on the electronic news sites and share the info. Because - and here I agree wholeheartedly with the leaders of the "green" movement - we ALL need to get involved.

Up to this point there has been no real debate on this subject - it's high time we had one.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

On Going Green

I was ranting a while ago about things recyclable (or not) here in Flatland. Well on my last visit to our recycling station I discovered that glass was seemingly back on the recycle menu. I'll keep you posted, but if it is true I'll take partial credit - as if! I'm just glad to see that my glass can be sent somewhere useful again.

In this month's issue of Car and Driver there is a 10 page advertising section from Saturn - GM's 'brand with a difference'. In fine print on the first page is a disclaimer that states that the new Aura XE and XR-4 sedans get 33mpg (hwy) - 34 for the hybrid.


Is it just me or is owning a hybrid vehicle just a new form of conspicuous consumption wrapped in ecological hypocrisy? ONE WHOLE MPG MORE! PINCH ME!

The whole 'holier than thou' stuff from the eco-nazis has been wearing thin on me already, but now it has manifested itself in creating products that are definitely just a whitewash to help cover someone's conscience and meet some arbitrary goal.

We are gonna break our collective arm patting ourselves on the back over how we are 'going green' while nothing really changes - and I blame the big names in the so-called "Green" movement for this. It is their stridency, their demonization of their favourite targets, their amped-up rhetoric that has led us to this sorry juncture. Now, in order to placate the dragon, we will swallow any trendy thing if it will get the collective conscience off our backs. What was needed was cooperation, innovation and encouragement. What we got was politics, posturing and pontification.

It's not Saturn's fault. This is what the mob is crying for.

Oh, and if you're interested - the Emperor has no clothes too!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Uncertainty in Uncertain Times

This post at Internetmonk.com caused me to comment - something I don't often do.

A lot of people think I "have it all together" because I'm a pastor. The truth is that my journey has raised more questions than answers. So why do I persevere? Because of the one thing I am not uncertain about - God's love for us all through Jesus Christ. I guess that's faith. It may not seem intellectual, but it is where I am - questions, doubts, insecurities and uncertainties notwithstanding. That is what He has done for me. And it's enough.

"It's the end of the world as we know it,

And I feel fine."

Lyrics from "It's the End of the World" by R.E.M.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Disappointing Result

One of the many radio talk show questions I heard posed last week was "What outcome do you want to see in the federal election?" Typical answers expressed the desire to see a majority or minority government formed with the party of the respondent's choice holding the balance of power.

I had another reaction. I wanted to see more than 70% of my fellow citizens cast votes - the outcome of that being entirely beside the point. Please note: I said 70%. I wasn't looking for a miracle - just a decent turnout. And of course there are those who had legitimate reasons for failing to cast a ballot - but I suspect that I'll not offend anyone in a coma with what I'm about to say - nor are my comments directed at them.

It's difficult to express my disappointment in all of you who could have but did not vote. But I'll try.

If you could have but didn't vote, don't offer an excuse - there isn't one worth giving voice to. You think you live in a world where your reality is reality everywhere. The truth is there is no one more isolated, selfish and ungrateful than you. People all over the world will be tortured and die today because they wanted the freedom to express a political opinion. Yesterday you stayed warm, comfortable and safe in your ignorant refusal to exercise your obligation to the rest of us. Canada is still a democracy, flawed and difficult, but still a place where free speech and free political expression are possible - and you take that for granted. Shame! Shame! Don't even start with your insipid excuses and rationalizations about how the system is "skewed" or "doesn't work". If you were capable of anything resembling adult, logical thought you would understand that those are the most compelling reasons to exercise your right and fulfill your duty to be involved.

If you could have but didn't vote, don't complain - about anything! You have no right. You didn't participate. It didn't matter enough to you to be involved so you have no moral right to be disappointed.

If you could have but didn't vote, don't comment. Leave that up to the adults. Children - especially spoiled ones - should be seen and not heard. And in your case not being seen might also be an improvement. Those of us who take our civil duty seriously don't have time for your infantile gibberish. Just be quiet, try to do your job without messing up and make plans to redeem yourself at the next election - be it municipal, provincial or federal.

I love Canada. It's the indifference and apathy that makes it hard to love.

And indifference and apathy are exactly the opposite of love!

If you could have but didn't vote, you do not love this country. And it is so, so disappointing that there are so many of you.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


One of my first postings in the blogsphere was an exhortation to vote. The wheel turns and here we are again.


Just DO it! (Sorry Nike - please don't sue me - I don't have anything anyway.)

If you don't vote - don't complain. Ours is not a perfect system, but you get to exercise your franchise and you get to do it without fear of violent coercion. Heck, you even HAVE a franchise.

If you vote try to do it intelligently. Read some stuff about the candidates and the parties. Talk to your friends - the smart and lucid ones - and finally form your own opinions.

We'll get the government we choose. So choose.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Inside the News

I know someone who was in the gymnasium at Luther College High School in Regina today when a former student entered brandishing a weapon. The news services have the details mostly right. But they don't and, I am convinced, won't tell the whole story. I won't either, but I will say this. This event is entirely the wrong one to use to further political debate having to do with firearm legislation in Canada.

There are at least three critical reasons why this is true:

1) - The weapon involved in the incident was not, nor is likely to ever be, scheduled on a list of restricted weapons. In fact, if you really think about this event, it becomes obvious that the current legislation worked well to ensure the disturbed offender didn't obtain a dangerous weapon. If the details if this individual's recent activities were known it would also become obvious that he would not be allowed to obtain a permit. The offender could have obtained a lethal weapon, but it would have meant using illegal means - and no legislation will ever prevent that from happening.

2) - No conceivable legislation could ever prevent an individual from entering any public facility like Luther College High School unless we are willing to turn all of our public places into armed camps surrounded by razor wire and filled with armed personnel. If we are going to live out of the collective fear of what might happen, then we are all going to lose much, much more than we could ever hope to gain by arming and entrenching. The best we can hope for is that those who are responsible for any school, shopping mall, recreation complex or other public place will train and empower their employees to act accordingly when dangerous incidents arise. Obviously the teachers and administration at Luther were ready.

3) - The measures, policies and actions of those in authority were appropriate and effective in the face of the threat - even if the threat had been more deadly than it turned out to be. The teachers and administrators acted in a professional and mature manner, keeping the safety and welfare of the students uppermost in their minds as they made decisions as to how to respond. The local police responded quickly and acted decisively while also seeking a resolution that would minimize potential injury to all involved. In short, this incident could not have been handled any better.

There is a lot of background to this incident that I'm not at liberty to divulge, but this is clear to me - the issues that led to this incident have little, if anything, to do with firearm legislation and much to do with personal and social issues that are more complex than a commercial news report or a blog can cover. I've read a lot of the reactive comments to be found after the news item I linked earlier in this post and the sad truth is they miss the point by a wide margin. The commentators are not to be blamed - they don't have all the information. And this is my final cautionary word to us all. We never have all the information in these situations. So we should proceed carefully in making our judgments and pronouncements.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The TULIP Died

One of the outcomes of my ordination journey was the examination of where I fall in the Calvinism vs. Arminianism debate. Strangely enough I was prompted to post this because I was channel-surfing the other night and happened across the movie Hardcore in which George C. Scott plays a very conservative mid-western businessman on a quest in California for his estranged daughter who has run away and fallen into the world of hardcore pornography and the sex trade. I actually just caught the scene where Scott is explaining the TULIP acronym to a hooker he has convinced to help him find his daughter. It's an odd scene to be sure, but it speaks to the character Scott portrays and to a large portion of Christian belief and experience in America and Canada.

I admit I have flirted with some of the petals of TULIP over the years, particularly 'total depravity' and 'irresistible grace', but my recent journey has led me to be convinced that I am a Wesleyan through and through - something my parents would have been happy to hear as they were both taught by largely Wesleyan Methodist professors, and were in every way Arminian in their position. As the Apostle Paul observes there is no substitute for a good upbringing in the faith.

Most Christians don't give much thought to these things - they believe what they believe and that's that. I'm not so certain that results in a persuasive witness. In a world where the fanatical religious seem to be uncontrollably following their belief systems like WWE actors - prisoners of inevitable inertia as they fly across the ring of life, unable to change their trajectory - I believe many people are looking for the Truth that frees instead of binds.

At the core of the Wesleyan perspective is the concept of God's prevenient grace. It is that grace that restores our ability to choose God and have an unforced relationship with Him. This does not mean that God leaves it entirely up to us - He does make a persuasive argument - but in the end we have a choice. I struggle with some of the ways we talk about that choice - often I think we describe it with a bit too much emphasis on what we do and so I believe Calvin did have some points worth noting. As my history/theology prof, David T. Priestley said, "Calvin wasn't a Calvinist. He was Calvinian." (emphasis mine) Others who came after him created the five points out of his, and others, writings at the Synod of Dordtrecht in 1618-19. A cautionary tale for us all I'm sure.

In the end, my faith is based on God's Word and the evidence of His grace and love to me - but it is, I hope, a reasonable and understandable faith. The Apostle Paul writes that the Gospel doesn't make sense to the world. In a world where thought, reason and personal reflection seem as archaic as buggy whips and Morse Code I guess this is one more aspect of my life that marks me as His. And I pray that my witness is persuasive.


The image attached to this post was found here and was not used in any way that was intended to deprive the owner of their rights.

Friday, September 12, 2008

To Debate or Not To Debate

Simply put, I do not believe what we will experience in the so-called "leaders debate" will be of any use to anyone, except the TV networks and their advertising departments. If the debate is 1 hr (with commercials) that means we will see 44 minutes with 5 candidates (8.8 minutes per candidate). Even without commercials it will only allow 12 minutes per person, but we all know that what we will get will be an hour of poorly controlled mayhem. No one uses dictionaries anymore - we're just like Lewis Carroll's caterpillar, "When I use a word it means what I choose it to mean." "Debate" indeed!

At the risk of offending - I'm not quite sure who - neither M. Duceppe nor Ms. Mays has any business being in a national leaders debate. I'll not go into depth here, but I cannot vote for a candidate from either party in my riding (as far as I know at this time) so they are, in the strictest sense of this word, irrelevant.

Our political system has devolved into a media circus that can only communicate in 5 second sound bytes. Watch the debate if you want - I suggest taking two Excedrin beforehand to ward off the inevitable migraine it will produce - but remember this, the media has absolutely no interest in providing you with anything in the way of useful information. They just want you there to watch the ads and prop up their market share numbers.

As Liam Neeson said to Clint Eastwood in "The Dead Pool", "Bums on seats, luv. That's what it's all about."

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Library Additions

I've added The Shack to my reading list. I found it at Shoppers Drug Mart for 25% off so it was cheaper than buying it online. I'll discuss it here soon.

I also just received my copy of Letters From Jesus by Pastor Alan Descheneau. Alan studies the seven churches in Revelation through the specific messages or "letters" they receive from Christ. Al was one of my classmates in seminary. At the very least I should get some motivation to publish something myself. Knowing Al, I'll get much, much more from his work.

I'll be ordering the Treasury of Daily Prayer being released by Concordia Publishing House on October 23rd and the companion book Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions. This may seem odd - a Baptist reading Lutheran theology and using a prayer devotional that is designed around the church year - but, in my opinion, all Protestants are (or should be) children of the Reformation. As Protestants we should know, understand and appreciate Reform Theology. Or are we something other than Protestants?

The Shack has been both lauded as a Christian allegory for the 21st Century and criticized as dangerous heresy masquerading in the guise of fiction. As always, gentle reader, I suggest we decide for ourselves.

So there appears to be some balance in my acquisition strategy, at least until I get my copy of Schlock Mercenary: The Teraport Wars. Then things seem to definitely go a bit askew.

In a related note, Susie and I need new eyeglasses. We hope to see the optometrist next week, and we're praying out coverage will help us see better - affordably. Until then it's onward and squint away!


Friday, September 05, 2008

Still On My Soap Box

So here it is kids - proof that glass (other than that which has gathered a cash deposit) has no where to go in Saskatchewan - except the landfill. With all the "green" blather that is flying about one wonders where Elizabeth Mays or David Suzuki is? No doubt out and about getting airtime over something far sexier and photogenic than abandoned pickle jars.

I'm generally disgusted by this, but heck, it pales by comparison to having a guy drown in a tailing pond in Ft. McMurray while operating a floating backhoe. Meanwhile we trade our children's future each day for another cup of drive through coffee.


Monday, July 21, 2008

Kicking Glass

I took a picture today of about a dozen glass containers sitting on the ground beside a Loraas recycling bin. I can't post it because my personal computer is "in the shop", but rest assured dear reader, (if you exist) I will post it soon. It is an image that should be used to indite and shame our provincial politicians.

Glass manufacturers have been recycling their product since the 1600's or even much earlier but we can't do that in Saskatchewan unless the containers we do deal with once contained either sugar-loaded drinks or alcoholic beverages.


Morons can recycle glass - but not Saskatchewanites. We have 2 BILLION excess dollars in our provincial coffers that have not been budgeted to be spent on anything yet and we still can't recycle pickle jars. And our provincial members of the Fourth and Fifth Estates should also be ashamed because they are saying NOTHING about this.

If I even hear ONE person say anything about how it isn't "economically viable" to recycle general glass products at this time I'll go ballistic!. That is exactly the kind of thinking that has gotten us to the ecological crisis we now face. If we can't do the right thing because we can't AFFORD to do the right thing then we are officially screwed to a wholly breathtakingly new and frightening level.

So John Gormley et.al., before you claim to be "holding the politician's feet to the fire" let me hear you get our provincial Minister of the Environment on you radio show and ask him a couple of hardball questions about glass. And Premier Wall, before you go off spouting about how great we are in Flatland and how we're ready to move into the future let's see if you and your cabinet can figure out how to do something Europeans have been doing since before Samuel de Champlain discovered how bad the black flies were in northern Ontario.

'Nuff said.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


The Ordination Council was today.

It was a GOOD experience!

I passed!

God be praised!

Shalom People!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Follow Up Release

Hot on the heels of my outrageously inaccessible debut CD we are offering an equally unavailable follow-up release guaranteed to generate at least as much spurious interest as any non-event you have never witnessed.

Due to purely speculative creative differences between my id and super-ego I/we were forced to rename the group while imaginary yet concretely expensive solicitors hash out the contract disputes in a Kangaroo court located (conveniently) in Perth, Australia.

p-y method

for the new metaphors

Remember - We're Incognito Records - you can't find us because we don't want to be found.



Sunday, June 29, 2008

OK, I Love You, Buh-Bye!

Vacation, sweet vacation.

Try not to let your world spin madly out of control without me.

I will be back. (But right now that's the LAST thing I want to think of.)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Indirect Affirmation

Thanks to my friend and brother in Christ, Rick, I have discovered that my thoughts on the issue of the legal redefinition of marriage are not mine alone. As this article states, even our brothers and sisters in the USA are beginning to see that the changes they were told not to fear coming to pass are now arriving at their doorsteps.

I may not be as eloquent, or as lucid, but it's nice to discover that I seem to have read my Bible correctly, and also understood the current culture reasonably well. What I have also deduced is that, in terms of social shifts and new cultural norms, Canada is ahead of the USA. The conventional wisdom when I was in my teens was that culturally, economically, socially and politically Canada was always a decade or so behind the USA.

Much has changed it seems, but it may be a dubious honor to be the winners in this current race towards the "brave new world".


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Daring to Do Nothing

"For six years you are to sow your fields and harvest the crops, but during the seventh year let the land lie unplowed and unused. Then the poor among your people may get food from it, and the wild animals may eat what they leave. Do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove." Exodus 23:10-11.

So I read this article and began wondering how do I go about obtaining a sabbatical? On Father's Day I was at a popular brunch spot in town and a colleague was there with his family. He dropped by to say "Hi" and I discovered that he was on his sabbatical. In a moment of purely unguarded honesty passing off as humor I said I was jealous. Humor is always closest to the truth I think. On September 1st we will begin our 7th year of full-time ministry and after my need to get counseling last summer I am wondering if I'm not due for an extended time of 'refreshing'. Our church has never sent a pastor on a sabbatical. They've never had one work for them full-time for 6 years straight. It's new ground for everyone.

And that hammock looks GREAT!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Hitting The Wall - Good Thing, Good Thing!

"Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:8-10.

So I read this article at LeadershipJournal.net and after my eyes were able to refocus from the blinding light that went off (as Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus" played at '11' in my head) I wrote this post.

We want it to be 'finished'. We want it to be 'done'. We want to 'arrive'. I'm speaking about sanctification. But if we were ever able to claim total victory wouldn't we also claim we had outgrown Christ? I have victory because Jesus provides to to me by His grace and because of His sacrifice. I am saved every day by what He did, not by what I do. Should I resist temptation, sin and the Devil? Yes!! Am I lost because I fail and fall? No!!

Obedient dependence. It's a good thing, and it comes from hitting the wall (my wall) and learning in humility that the only way for me to go forward is by His grace and mercy.


Saturday, June 14, 2008

My Debut Album

Ever wonder how graphic designers, publicists and artists get their collective visions together to launch a debut album and still have time to schmooze and party with the glitteratti? I think the GameGhost may have figured it out. So what follows is the debut album art, band name and title for my new indie/trans/techno/roots/Christian/funk/blues/metal/folk CD.

Enjoy the fantasy people.

Ponga Asturias
Of The Greatest Virtues

Available on Incognito Records
If you can find us, you're good!

Now - back to work everybody!

Friday, June 13, 2008

On the Road to Forgiveness

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has set Canada on the road to finding forgiveness between First Nations People and the culture (our culture) that has dominated and damaged them for so long. The range of reaction to his apology on our behalf read in the House of Commons yesterday was to be expected. Thankfully, even the most negative reactions I have heard so far have at least acknowledged the open honesty of Harpers words, even if some could not bring themselves to accept them, yet.

It is now that the Gospel has a real chance to influence the path our country will take in the coming months and years. Colossians 3:13 says in part, "Forgive as the Lord forgave you."

We have an example, a model, a benchmark to reach for in our pursuit of forgiveness and reconciliation. We need to pray for and work for nothing less.

If we do follow Christ's example our destination will be true Shalom.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Process

The though from the Word on my mind. 2 Timothy 2:15.

The frying pan/fire thing is just a joke really. I procrastinated. I waffled. I was distracted. But finally I finished my ordination paper, showed it to our association Credentials Committee and our church leaders, got feedback, made changes, met with the Committee, made it through the meeting (with more input and tweaks suggested) and I have been recommended to face an actual ordination council.

This part of the examination process was easier, even more helpful and encouraging than I had hoped for. I made the process harder on myself than I had to it seems. But I was, and still am, taking it very seriously. And I discovered that I am the frying pan. I'm being seasoned to remain in the fire and not burn everything that I touch. That's the process happening here.

God is graciously making me a little bit more useful in His Kingdom.

Good Ol' Customer Service

Sasktel is the answer when the “independents” get it wrong. When we migrated to Sasktel almost two years ago the jump.ca guy promised our son Steven that he would be able to download the pictures from his phone directly to his computer. Long story short - Not. Possible. Ever.

In frustration, Steven downloaded his pix over the internet and rang up a $80.00 bill for doing it. I called Sasktel and the guy from customer service understood our problem and did the following:

He cut the bill in half - no questions, no hassles, just done.

He suggested a change to Steven’s package that included a two month free period that equaled the other half of the bill. Wow!!

We then went to Sasktel (at Cornwall), told them our story and Michael (the manager) offered to get Steven into another phone, agreeing that my argument was valid - that we wouldn’t have chosen the one we got if we had the right info at the time of purchase . There was only one tense moment when it seemed that they wanted to charge us for for the new phone (we were willing to pay to upgrade, but not to get an equivalent), but my reasonably gentle but firm and incredulous response ended that idea right there.

Steven now has a phone that does what he wants, plus they downloaded all of his photos currently in the old phone via the internet for free, and I am frankly way impressed. Sasktel fixed jump.ca’s blunder because, in the end we are Sasktel’s customer. I suspect Michael and other employees of Sasktel have some uncharitable ideas about what the fate of jump.ca should be, but the Sasktel folks did the right thing, for the right reasons.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Lies, Gossip & the Internet

About once every couple of months or so I get a email that purports to be a true story about some shocking, unfair or disturbing event that I have heard nothing about previously through the various media channels I monitor. While I'm not an obsessed news junkie (please keep your opinions and snickering in check for a moment), I do like to think I'm reasonably well informed across a range of topics and a bit too informed on a few I really enjoy. Still I receive these "e-rumors" with enough regularity that I feel I must respond. It is interesting to note that although most of my friends and contacts are "Christian", and these messages come from many of them, few of them have considered what impact on their witness is caused when they forward an untrue story to their email list.

I am including the text of my latest e-mail response to one of these "e-rumors" below in the hope that the two or three of you who read this blog might take this cause to heart and at least consider doing what I do in response to receiving such a message.

Dear Friends,

As much as I enjoy getting messages from you, I really only have time for ones of truth and value (humour is good, too). The story attached to the original email I received about the removal of studies related to the Jewish Holocaust in WWII at the University of Kentucky is a hoax. Please follow the link I am providing to see the article regarding this posted at Truth or Fiction.com.


While I encourage people of good conscience to be informed and to oppose (and seek support for opposing) evil and wrong things, I believe we all would agree that there is no benefit in 'tilting at windmills'. Here are some helpful guidelines I use to help me weed out the truth from lies.

1. Be suspicious of any story that does not include a verifiable citation. If the story claims to be from a particular media outlet but has no live link to the original included, then go to - or contact - the claimed media outlet to get verification. The more information included with an article forwarded to you the better the likelihood it is a true story. Live links to real websites are best, but having the information as to the media source, date the article appeared and an author byline included are also good signs of reliability - but the most important thing you can do is confirm the story yourself. If you do not confirm the story and forward it anyway, you are vouching for its authenticity. Be careful lest you attach your name to a lie. From a moral perspective doing so is to engage in gossip.

2. Be suspicious of any very scandalous, shocking or outrageous story that you have heard nothing about through regular media channels - unless you never follow news, which is an issue all of of its own. It is unlikely in the extreme that the media would 'miss' or even suppress a story that would cause a strong reaction in you (and certainly a large number of other people) because of the obvious benefits they would gain by reporting it. If you believe the majority of western media is controlled to the extent that serious and disturbing stories are routinely being deliberately not reported then I'm afraid you are not going to follow my suggestions, regardless. I do believe in media 'bias' but that's not the same thing as willful suppression. The best defense in regard to media bias is a good offense. Set yourself up with a variety of media sources so you can sample what is being reported from a wide range of perspectives. I also suggest adding a site like http://www.maisonneuve.org/ which offers an alternative to traditional established Canadian media while interacting with what those media outlets report. Another good perspective is available from http://www.evangelicalfellowship.ca/NetCommunity/Page.aspx?pid=178 which offers a decidedly Christian perspective on Canadian news, albeit from a somewhat narrower viewpoint.

3. Put the link for Truth or Fiction.com in your browser's favourites so it is just a click away. If you cannot verify an email news story that has been sent to you, just check it out at this website. In the case of the message that prompted this response, I simply searched the word "holocaust" at the Truth or Fiction.com website and the story about this hoax was the first item it found. I have used Truth of Fiction.com for almost 10 years now and I have yet to be unable to verify or debunk an email message I have received.

4. When you get an email hoax do what I did. Respond to the sender(s) with this information. I have also been trying to spread the word about internet and email hoaxes for 10 years and I still have to do this about two or three times a year. It would be VERY helpful if we could harness the same power of the World Wide Web that brings these annoying untruths into our lives to spread the word about how to deal with them properly. At the very least you can teach your children how to deal with these messages properly. That would be, in my opinion, your minimum responsibility.

Thanks for reading this (if you did). Thanks even more if you take some steps because of the message.


Friday, March 28, 2008

Arts & Culture Roundup

So we took in the "Andy Warhol - Larger Than Life" exhibit at the MacKenzie Art Gallery on Saturday. The best part of the experience was being with the Ashton family, especially Beth who is their "arts" child - now living in the BC lower mainland - who was back to visit for the Easter weekend. We miss her but it was good to catch up and fun to see art together and discuss it. I like Warhol because, for me, he made modern and abstract art more accessible. When it comes to fine art and visual stuff I'm pretty much a philistine in a trendy t-shirt. I will say that the exhibit is quite good, well conserved and displayed with interpretive tours available. I say it's worth the $12. So check it out. (BTW the pic on this entry is attributed to Warhol but it came from the World Wide Weird Web so who really knows.)

The CBC just took their radio orchestra (the last such ensemble in North America) out behind the barn and shot it according to a report I heard on CBC radio this morning. My fav quote was from an emotional and understandably upset orchestra member, "They're taking this away so they can pay banjo players!" (This isn't verbatim but it's the best my shaky memory can do.) I love all kinds of music, and music is supposed to be the universal language of acceptance and peace, but take away an oboe player's meal ticket and it's every sensitive artist for themselves. Banjo players vs. cello players, the brass section vs. the percussion section, vocalists vs. the strings, rockers vs. folkies.... Oh, the humanity! Where will it end?

And once again the CBC management manages to live down to the reputation they have earned for being insensitive, heavy handed, myopic and artless. As a final point, the annual budget for the radio orchestra is under one million dollars. That's about what Rick Mercer has in his spare change holder on his bedroom dresser. Let's add managerially inept to the descriptive list above. Monkeys could figure out a plan to keep the radio orchestra going inside the CBC budget. If the CBC worked like public TV does in the US - even just a little bit - the listeners in Canada could be approached to help fund this and I bet they would.

As most of you know my real love is music, and usually popular stuff, by I am an eclectic listener so here's an overview of what I'm listening to and looking forward to listening to:

The Luther College High School Choirs Home Concert is taking place on Sunday, April 20th at Christ Lutheran Church, 4825 Dewdney Avenue, Regina at 7:30PM. Simply put this is an exceptional night of music from a program that always impresses and delivers a truly musical experience.

Nils Lofgren, guitar virtuoso and perennial member of the E Street Band is the source of my favourite quote about "The Boss". In the 1996 video released to support the EP "Blood Brothers" Lofgren says something to the effect that, "He (Springsteen) always has half an album in his back pocket. He's always got a few tunes he's working on and they're always good. Really, really good! I hate him." Obviously tongue-in-cheek, yet poignant and truthful from someone who should know and who has suffered and benefited from a long-running and tempestuous relationship with the guy I like to call the "rockin' Dylan". Still, Lofgren and the rest of the E Street Band has come together on Bruce Springsteen's latest album, "Magic", and my friends, it is.

I'll simply say this, if rootsy rock 'n' roll infused with cinematographic lyrics, virtuoso musicianship, killer production and acute social sensibility is your cup 'o' tea then this is it. I got mine for $9.99 on sale at HMV and frankly it was a steal because there isn't a bad tune on the whole disc.

The unlikely pairing of Robert Plant and Alison Krauss for the making of "Raising Sand" was one of those musical experiments that I was frankly a bit dubious about, despite all of the critical acclaim. I was wrong! (Does admitting that make me a 'bigger man', and will that question be a source of schadenfreude-based humour for many of you at my expense? Wait, why do I care? Nobody's reading this anyway. Whew - relief!) Anyhoo, the "Raising Sand" CD has been one of my recent happy discoveries and it also suggests to me that not every current music critic is a vacuous gasbag bent on shameless self-promotion or the pursuit of the sound of their own voice. (Hey, am I in that group? Naaahhh!) "Raising Sand" - try it, you'll like it.

Susie and I just purchased tickets to see Mark Knopfler in concert at the Conexus Arts Centre on Wednesday, July 9th. We saw Mark once before in Edmonton when he was still doing the "Dire Straits rock 'n' roll band" as he described it. All I could say to anyone who asked me about the show was, "Oh yeah! The boy can play!" If you want to see one of the greatest living guitarists and a fine, fine songwriter doing his thing then get on board. Mark may not be the "top of the pops" these days, but that might actually be a GOOD thing!

Months ago we also obtained tickets to see Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in Edmonton in August. We've been listening to Tom and the boys since we got married, so this, like the Knopfler concert, will be a nostalgic experience. I guess we're just a couple of middle-aged rockers now. (Hey, Hey, Hey!! No jokes about furniture here! I heard that!)

So we're getting some art into our lives. I am always moved, and amazed, and challenged, and disturbed, and inspired by these artistic encounters. I truly, truly believe that if an artist - whatever kind of art they do - is honest and steadfast in pursuing the truth they will necessarily encounter God, because ALL truth is God's truth. And so I find God playing with His children and intimately involved in their process of making art in the most unlikely and likely of places. I hope you find Him around you too.

"Coming Soon" - a review and discussion of "Horton Hears a Who".

Shalom people.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

And Now A Word From Our Sponsors...

So I have recieved two emails asking me if I want to allow 'advertising' on my blogsite. I track my numbers using Statcounter so I KNOW that I am staying very close to maintaining the truth of my tagline - "writing for an audience of one - reaching even fewer". It has to be a scam of some type.

Never the less, and I have received no consideration at all for this, I am going to exhort the 3 of you reading this to check out a dental hygiene product I have begun using.

I have always had trouble flossing. My teeth are tight, crowded and crooked (especially on my lower jaw). I have a small mouth (OK guys - yuk it up to your heart's content on that one), and I have short, stubby fingers attached to meaty palms. I shred regular floss and it gets stuck between my teeth so I have to use extra slippery stuff that is even harder to hold and control. Sheesh.

Well enter the new Reach Access Flosser. If you've tried other flossing tools and given up, take heart, this sucker works! It takes me less than a minute to floss completely down to my gum line and between each tooth with no shredding, gagging, slobber or muttered cursing.

If flossing is difficult for you, or simply inconvenient, then get thee hence to thine apothecary's shop and purchase this modern marvel of applied technology. And what's more, we really need the help as our dental coverage has been "adjusted" and cleanings are covered only every 9 months for us now. So hopefully this will help us keep our teeth and gums healthy until we can visit our hygienist.

There! I've done my good deed for the day/week/month/year/decade/century/millennium.

'Nuff said!

Another "Cover" for The Savior

So Jesus has made the cover of Macleans magazine again for Easter. He gets Time, Newsweek and Macleans covers with startling regularity. After 2000 years he's still newsworthy and good for a bump in reader responses if not in circulation.

The article isn't very flattering. Another thing that hasn't changed much in 2000 years. Jesus hardly garnered much positive press during His ministry and of course has gotten consistently bad reviews ever since, so I'm not surprised by the article's content. The really sad thing is that today's reporters are presenting this material like it's somehow new and earthshaking - when in fact, the basis of the criticisms against Jesus in this article are as old as the New Testament.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

And the question still remains - who do you say He is?

Whatever you may say you can't say He is insignificant. Love Him or hate Him, you have to deal with Him and make up your mind, unless you're of the habit of letting others do your thinking for you. And still the basic approach it seems is to try to categorize, control and contain Jesus.

I suggest contemplation, cognition and communion.

As for me and my house - we will serve the Lord. (Joshua 24:15)


It's Quiet. Too Durn Quiet.

So the dialogue has come to a deafening halt over at the 'other' blog I contribute to. Nothing now except the sound of crickets chirping.

Was it something I said?


Tuesday, March 25, 2008


I can really get stuff going sometimes. I don't mean to, but it is always an irresistible urge in me to ramp up any irony I find in a situation - even more so it seems if I have a personal stake in it. The reason I'm saying all of this is because a discussion has been going on over at "At The Master's Feet", a blog I contribute to.

I'm working towards my ordination and something popped up at our recent Association meetings in this regard. It has spilled out into emails and our blog and I may have made things worse. You can read and decide for yourselves.

The point I want to make here is this: I'm a Christian and a pastor - and I sometimes have no idea whether or not I'm actually helping when I say stuff or ask questions or make observations. I love and respect everyone who is posting on "At The Master's Feet". They are my brothers and I would never want to disrespect or hurt them. But even so, it seems I may have contributed to the creation of a potentially out of control spiral.

It's a good lesson for me, and I want to share it with you. Most folks think "Christians" are folks who believe they have all the answers, are always right and are never confused. "Monkey Feathers!" Says I!!

We struggle with our understandings, our issues and our doubts as much as anyone else does. What keeps me staying the course is that I really believe that Jesus wins! I really believe that grace and mercy and love and forgiveness wins. I am confident that even though I may be confused and uncertain sometimes, if I fight for the loving, gracious, positive choice then I will have glorified God and it will work out.

You can go to dozens and dozens of websites on the internet and read the writings of the confident and assured Christians who have an answer for everything. I love being involved with the wonderful guys on "At The Master's Feet" because they are willing to 'get into it'. And maybe that means that we will occasionally ride an out of control spiral to somewhere. But Christ is everywhere so.....


Sunday, March 23, 2008

Only Giant Shadows

"Any reasonably advanced technology would be indistinguishable from magic."

That is my gloss of a quotation attributed to the renowned author Arthur C Clarke. You'll notice that I didn't write "science fiction" before the word "author" above. It's my own personal rejection of the common practice of relegating certain writers to the artistic ghetto of the genre they write within. All of my life "Sci-Fi" has been relegated to a status below "literature". Now Clarke is gone, passing away last week and we are just beginning to discern the vast landscape his artistic shadow occupies.

I've been becoming uncomfortably aware recently of an increase in the number of artistic and culturally iconic persons who are shuffling off this mortal coil and this had led me into musing as to who, if anyone, is moving forward to occupy the void such losses create. Perhaps that is a misbegotten question, having more to do with my rising angst about my own mortality - which these passings are seeming to make keener in my mind. Still, I find myself looking for new shadows cast by new artists that seem to measure up to the ones cast by the giants I have encountered thus far.

I suspect that each generation asks similar questions, and that these questions become more personal and poignant as the one voicing them perceives they have truly passed the halfway post in the race they are running. It is our human perspective to ever view the world and events through the lens of self, even if we say we strive for empathy. We are hopelessly wrapped up in ourselves at times, especially at those time when we feel the Grim Reaper's breath cold upon the nape of our neck.

Still I am grateful for Clarke and his generous, creative energy that has so infused my life and thought with ideas that are at once wildly fantastic and deeply human. Indeed, it seems to me that the fantastic is often a better place to observe the truly human moments of truth we are all heir to. The fantastic can often provide a sharper sense of contrast, irony and inconvenient truth than we perceive amid the familiar. It was, and still is Clarke's uncompromising commitment to look straight into the human condition that has lent the ring of truth and the air of worth to his great canon of work.

But new fantastic revelations will flow no more from his mind into ours. We are left with only his giant shadow it seems, but perhaps something more as well. Shadows only appear in the light, and the bigger and more distinct they are, the brighter and more focussed the light must be. And the light draws us all, doesn't it?

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Of Crumbled Cookies and Bouncing Balls

I've been awash in stories of disappointment and discouragement of late. That's not what's kept me from blogging either; my own distracted nature managed that without much help from Brother Circumstance (a wonderful Corsican monk who makes excellent wine but suffers from habitually poor timing in all things social).

Too many people I know are either in the midst of the worst plague of seasonal affective disorder I have ever witnessed or else Mr. "Murphy" has gotten behind in his deliveries and is attempting to clean out the warehouse before inventory is to be done. And it seems all that happens in response is that some shoulders get shrugged, some tongues get clucked, some eyeballs get rolled and some countenances get set in steely poses as we all attempt push forward against the dour tide of misfortune and dismay. It's enough to drive a tee-totaling Baptist pastor to spike his coffee, it is!

Whither joy?

Whither glee?

Whither cheer and good humor?

Whither a decent hour of television - a pox on this 'writer's strike' I say!

Then a friend reminded me, in an officious, yet loving way - only a TRUE friend can do that - that it is our responsibility to choose the positive reaction. It is our responsibility to question and defy the stingy spirit within. It is our responsibility to change our perspective. The Psalmist questions his own motives and mood when he asks, "Why are you so downhearted, O my soul?"

Truth is I COULD whine and complain and go on and on about what's happened to me, to my family, to my friends and to my acquaintances as of late, but "it won't make it no better" as Tonio K would say. And despite the fact that I'm truly only about one more bad bounce away from writing a Grammy Award-winning country music song, I refuse to get swept up in this!

I'm going to put on Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down" and disturb the neighbors while I quaff a beverage and thank the Good Lord that even when my cookies crumble wrong and my ball bounces down the sewer I'm still here and I'm still breathing!

'Nuff said!