"How Long Before We Get There?" and Other Hardwired Phrases Children Say

Traveling with Children is Always Interesting, and Sometimes Humerous

Five minutes out of the driveway, just about the time the car started warming up and my mug of coffee started cooling off—it started. Windshield wipers swished. Rain fell. Tires splashed. Then: "How long before we get there?"

Science is Wrong: Children Aren't Blank Slates
I've historically accepted the theory that children are linguistically Tabula rasa when born. But as I grow older, I'm beginning to think there are some phrases that are hardwired into them. Phrases like, What's for dinner? and, Can I watch a movie? and, Are we there yet? Other phrases are hardwired out of children. For example, I've never heard one of them ask unprovoked, "When can I go to bed?" or "May I have some more Brussels sprouts, please?" (Brussels sprouts: what are those...(click here to read more)


Escape Suburbia: Queeny Park in St. Louis, MO

When the rush of modernity drives you to the edge of insanity, a haven rests on the edge of urbanity. Just west of St. Louis proper, and tucked between the busy Manchester Road and I-64—known simply as "sixty-far, farty" by many native Missourians—lies 569 acres of hardwood, hiking trails, and most importantly, silence. This is Queeny Park.

This November, the leaves have decided to change late and in a less-than-systematic way. Some trees have shed completely their bounty and stand like a recalcitrant. But most—the more glorious specimens among them—have entered...(click here to read more).

(this post contains affliate links to Amazon.com)


Glimpsing for Heaven--What do you see?

Status update says, “Just saw the awesome trailer for…” and I start to rush over to Apple Trailers to see it too. Why? Because it must be important, right? Right? So I stop myself mid-Google and stare at the half-typed search words. Who am I kidding? I don’t care. I really don’t. I don’t care who the American Idol is this week, or what Brittney Spears was caught saying, or what Barak Obama swears to now, or which Taylor Swift song just showed up on YouTube. Frankly, I couldn’t care less about what app will now let Mafia War ratings cross over into Farmville for a bit of Cow on Horse violence.

Not to be too harsh—maybe, maybe these are really important things. For the sake of argument, let’s assume they are. So they are important, and lots of people are Googling and ogling over the pictures and sounds and tweets of people real and imagined. Looking around the bakery where I’m sitting—it sure seems that way. Of the patrons whose screens are facing me, only one has a non-Facebook-Google-email window open. All the rest franticly sip the overnight gossip with their side of morning coffee while crumbs of irrelevance and bagels fall from their fingers. Oh that one poor sap—the guy slaving over the spreadsheet—is missing out.

Then again, I guess I am too. I’m thinking that heaven will be like a memory fest where Jesus gets to sit down and tell the entirety of history starting with, “A long time ago, in the universe I created…” But this story is not like the kindergarten class—where stern faced teachers remind children not to shout out parts of the story even if they’ve heard it before. In this telling, we’re supposed to interrupt.

Jesus says, “So then I was talking with Cain and told him how sad I was by the emptiness of his sacrifices…” and Abel shouts out, “I was there. I saw that. That was the day when the wheat was high in the field and a flock of geese flew past my brother and me as we were walking out in the field.”

Only it won’t be just the “important” stuff—births and deaths and murders and victories, wars and rumors of wars. He’ll say, “And then on October 28th, 2010, I sent a flock of birds flying over Des Peres Missouri while the leaves were changing colors right in front of anybody willing to watch....” And the audience is silent. Nobody saw it. Nobody but God. That unique flock of birds, moving in just that unique way that—if you watched long enough from the right angle—spelled “Roll Tide” or “Hello friend.” These incredible images of life are the eternal currency of heaven—memories of fleeting glory, like momentary glimpses over the shoulder of God as he conducts the orchestra of history.

Okay—so the Taylor Swift Farmville Wars search is important. And somebody will be called on to shout out the memory of that event during the telling and retelling of the ancient tale of God brining redemption to all creation. But how many other details go unnoticed because we are so busy living our lives through other people? Heaven isn’t like the Thanksgiving table—where too-oft repeated details of mark and memory cause the audience to groan and eye-roll with the “not again.” Captive, we’ll all sit with unblinking attention, gasping with awe-filled amazement at the facets of redemption carried from this life into the next through the vehicle of memory.

But I’m thinking someone will need to fill in the detail of the perfect Fall tree on Burgundy Lane that—on October 28, 2010—was bare on top, red in the middle, yellow below that and green at the bottom. A tree that, like the whole of all the seasons of a year, captured for a moment everything in the morning light of a sun that was filtered dreamlike by thin sheets of mist. In fact, I’m banking on it, and turn my eyes to that glory of eternity that, like Christ himself once did, somehow found itself as part of the unfolding story of redemption. In turning, I’m missing something else—I’m sure. But one can only see one thing at a time.

Jesus says, “…and then I made the light fall just so and it landed…” and he welcomes my interruption as I stand amongst the redeemed throng of the sheep and say, “I saw that.”

The crowd leans forward in awe. Christ laughs. And the unfolding retelling goes on.

What will you see today?


Opelika Eighty-Two Tuscaloosa

These vacant shells of once-lived lives are shadows of my past, reflections of years traversed through the heart of Alabama. I know these hills and trees, and clapboard houses falling down. What the creeping passage of time does not consume, the rush of years will. And what the rush of years does not consume, the harsh heat of days will. And what the harsh heat of days does not consume, Kudzu will. Until, the downward flowing years of humanity are shadows, and shadows of shadows: a rusty mailbox with a bent flag, and five black men gathered around the stools of an old service station. Were they twelve, they could be the disciples with Jesus in the middle—or maybe the Pharisees plotting to kill Jesus, or maybe the left-behind crowds who said, “What just happened? Was that not the Son of Jesse?”, or the Roman guards that said, “Truly this was the son of God.”

Trees lean over the two-lane road called Eighty-two: pine and oak, and here and there the changing elm. Most remain untouched by the early days of southern autumn. It is October and I wish it would rain cold down on me. Behind me lies two days in Opelika, and a year. Ahead lies a day in Tuscaloosa—a day and a year, and two. Eighteen years ago, I drove this uncertain path on a day not unlike this—warmer, less cloudy, but equally filled with the expectation of something I could only imagine but longed for nonetheless.

This is me: I am young—as the miles wash away the years of travel—a shower of recollection on the train of memory. Next stop, college! Students played on the quad as I slowly drove down University Blvd. There was a volleyball game; I wished to play. There was Denny Chimes; I wanted to ring out as well—the caller of times present and past, “All is well! All is well!”, and “Peace. Peace.”

And then there was November. I drove home to vote in the 1992 elections and back in a day. Tara, Heather, Brett, Dan, Allen, and Chris waited back in Freidman (and the matching girls dorm). The cold chill of November rain gnawed through jeans and a paint-stained canvas barn jacket. I hated leaving. I hated in-between road.

Then there was the female twin, whose name I forget. Dark headed, and bright eyed. I didn’t really know her. No, but she was the one who laughed one night at a Southbound concert, smiled, and hugged me goodbye for the summer. And, goodbye forever! She died backing out of her driveway. Died, with a hug and a smile as a goodbye…and now even her name is lost.

Memory is like Old Testament prophesies. There is a shortening when looking backward as well as forward. The music always plays double-time. The tangled threads of particular commonality intertwine, confusticate, and then are gone.

I remember…walking from Freidman to a dorm across campus on a Saturday for lunch, to eat—hopefully—with someone I knew.
I remember…pool in the game room off the Ferguson center. Heidi and Camille were there.
I remember…sitting in my room during one home game, listening out the window to the sounds of pre-football ringing crisp on the cool September air.
I remember…the somber boy-knight who stands guard over the large study hall in Amelia.
I remember ...jumping off of the cliffs that first weekend in town, after standing scared for so very long.

I remember. I remember and I forget. Shake the snow-ball. Watch the world spin. Chaos rages all around, while Reindeer—or Santa, or the Eifel Tower—remain frozen in place. In my ball, I stand frozen amidst the swirl of memories. Snatch one out of the air—like a furtive lightening bug—then let it go just as fast, before the light goes out. A flake in the hand is worth nothing compared to the brilliance of the thousand that fly past.

Just before entering Chilton County, a white crumbling lean-too says, “The horn of plenty.” There is plenty enough in the old roads and hidden minds of humanity to make the world weep a billion years and laugh even longer, harder. For what: the past? The past is a fun place to visit. But longing after all is just longing, and the promise of presence is a power not easily overcome. No, I don’t want to be back here—alone, insecure, struggling, afraid, more sad than cheered, and regularly melancholic.

Yes, the past is a great place to visit, but I would never choose to live there.

Well—at least not often.


Missouri Looking for Someone to Lead

Happy Halloween, in September!

The recent report by the National Bureau of Economic Research—that the "great recession ended in June 2009"—would be funny, if they weren't so painfully false. Missouri continues the impact of fewer jobs and higher unemployment. Layoffs this summer at Boeing reflect changes in defense spending, while more-recent layoffs at ISS Facility Services Inc., a janitorial service, indicate companies are still cutting back on external services.

Higher unemployment means fewer taxable dollars, which in turn means declining municipal revenue. For East St. Louis, Illinois (part of the metropolitan St. Louis area) that has meant a 30% cut in police staff. For a city already plagued by crime, this situation is ripe for an escalation of violent activity—as greater need drives some to take greater risks in the face of diminished enforcement.

Mayor Alvin Parks said that "the weak economy has robbed the city of badly needed money," (St. Louis Post Dispatch, July 2010). Others suggest it is unchecked local, state, and federal governments which have robbed people of money—expanding already-unsustainable budgets during the '04-'06 high property-tax years.... (click here to read full article)


Five Steps to Becoming a Christian

Five Steps to Becoming a Christian (or is that Three?).
People love to start with the "how." So here it is—a step-by-step how-to of becoming a Christian:

1. Do nothing.
2. Do nothing some more.
3. Ask the God of the Bible to bring you into relationship with him.
4. (Optional) Thank God for bringing you into his family.
5. Continue doing nothing.

If that list seems remarkably short and a little irreligious—then you are starting to get the picture. Christianity is the only religion that does not require actions, behaviors, or obedience to save you. In fact, the more you "do" to become a Christian, the further away you are from getting the main point: that God loves us and wants to have relationship with us so much that, when we ran away from him (and got utterly lost), he couldn't stand it and so sent his son after us to bring us home.

I became a Christian when I was five. No, that's not when I joined the church or got baptized. I didn't suddenly change my behavior to be different, better, or holier. In that moment, I just regretted not listening to the Bible, and I asked God for another chance to listen. That's it—I said, "God, I want to hear what the Bible says."

Click here to read the rest of the article.

(this post contains affliate links to Amazon.com)


Missouri to Washington DC: We Want the Freedom to Choose

ST. LOUIS -- As 5 p.m. approached and the heat settled in at a steamy 99 degrees, the once-steady flow of voters tricked off to a near-standstill. On the Missouri ballot this hot August day—among the standard, statewide primaries—is Proposition C (Prop C). Also known as Missouri Health Care Freedom, the amendment takes to task key aspects of President Obama's trillion-dollar plan, signed into law in March.

Among the sporadic, late-afternoon voters were a college student, a family with one small girl, and an older woman. Provisions within the federal Patient Protection and Affordability Act of 2010 (PPACA) could possibly affect each of these individuals' ability to afford and secure sufficient health insurance. That is...(click here to read more)


Fox Seeks to Increase Male Viewership by Hijacking the Homosexual Agenda

From House M.D. And Bones to Fringe and Lie to Me, Fox Spins Sex for Male Viewers

Fox Television's uniqueness and creativity has brought this late-1990's upstart into the mainstream of TV viewing—with shows like JJ Abrams'Fringe,House,Bones, and Lie to Me. But Fox is unique in another way—that is, its blatant push to increase male viewership through the glorification of gratuitous, lesbian relationships.

Both Bones and House introduced regular, female bisexual characters in the past few years—Angela Montenegro and Dr. Remy Hadley respectively. Initially, small, passing references to bisexuality in both shows slowly took on more pronounced roles in the development of those characters...(click here to read full article).


ABC's Castle: A Review (of the Season Finale)

Maybe It's ABC That's Lost

Castle is one more in a long series of failed attempts by Disney's ABC to win viewers hearts and loyalty. The show is named for one of the two main characters, Richard Castle (played by Nathan Fillion)—a mystery novelist who puppy-dogs a female detective, Kate Beckett, (played by Stana Katic). And do I ever mean puppy-dog!

(Richard) Castle is like a big kid—driven by his desire for sex, clueless in his ability to shepherd his daughter through the pitfalls of adolescence (like sexual responsibility), and living as a divorced bachelor in a wealthy house full of large-screened entertainment systems. He drinks, smokes, and gambles at night with his buddies, and is occasionally visited by a pop-in mother who relates to her son like a child. Castle's ex-wife/publisher even says about him, "He's such a little boy sometimes. I don't know why." (click here to read more)


Another view on BP and THIS national crisis.

I'm not saying BP is free from guilt. They are gilty. It's the inconsistency of the response to this crisis verses the response to the banking, housing, and automobile crises...as Mark Haines points out.


Spain Stumbles While Switzerland Sails in World Cup Soccer Match!

Nobody wanted to be that team--the first ones to take on Spain in the 2010 World Cup Soccer (or Football, as the rest of the world calls it) Championship. Spain isn't the reigning champion of the previous World Cup, in 2006. That title belongs to Italy—won on penalty shots against France in a game make famous by Zinedine Zidane's headbutt of Italian Marco Materazzi). Still, Spain dominates world football (soccer). They pocketed a whopping...(click here for full article).


C.S. Lewis' Other Narnia: Three Books that Deserve the Large Screen

Good books don't make good movies. Well, not always. But sometimes—every so often—a book screams, "Make a movie out of me." The Help by Kathryn Stockett and Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers are two examples: compelling narratives, poignant themes, and rich characters. Three other books—a trilogy—that are equally compelling, poignant, and rich (and likely to be overlooked by the best film makers) are Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength, all books by Clive Staples Lewis.

Clive Who?
Affectionately known as C.S., Clive Staples is the renowned author of The Chronicles of Narnia, and the only slightly less known (in some circles) Mere Christianity. He was one of the most vibrant contributors to The Inklings—an eclectic group of writers out of Oxford—which also included J.R.R. Tolkien (author of The Lord of the Rings), Owen Barfield, and (sometimes) the poet T.S. Elliot. Unbeknownst to many, C.S. passed away relatively unnoticed—as newspapers worldwide focused on the same-day shooting of John F. Kennedy.

While Disney has re-popularized the Narnia series through the recent films The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian—C.S. Lewis' space trilogy remains a great imaginative adventure, with galactic trips between planets, introduction of strange and unique creatures, and a plotline that remains unique...(Click here to read entire article)


Participation versus Posting

Google any topic, click “I’m feeling lucky” and you are likely to end up at a discussion board, somewhere. And—whether the topic is financial planning and investing, home gardening, or how immunizations cause autism (or not!)—familiarity with discussion boards will quickly delineate comments into two groups: participators and posters (or, is that poser?).

Participators see themselves as part of a community, not only opining about some topic, but actually vesting themselves in the content of the discussion. There is a cost (gain or loss) to holding a particular view. And those views are acted upon. While the vast majority of infopinion the internet over is anonymous, disparate, and launched from a place of safety (i.e. there is no possible loss, error, or criticism linked to the to the opinion posted)—the greatest innovation, broadest transformation, and deepest impact of ideas and input is seen, measured, and felt when the random board pos(t)er becomes a participant. Any website can track the inconsequential numbers of page views or topic posts—but regular and recurrent participation is the stuff that turns random websites into social hubs. The posts of true participants are measured, not simply in regularity, but in depth of content and breadth of impact. Posts are proactive, sequential (if not also diverse), and grow from a place of informed certainty (if not also the possibly of being publicly wrong).

Pos(t)ers, by comparison, are those who surf the web—often in an aimless fashion. Their posts are reactive (rather than proactive), sporadic, and even a little spastically-psychotic. The key differentiation between pos(t)ers and participants is the possibility of loss. The possibility of being right in an unvested area, or being right in a vested area are one in the same. There is no shame in saying, “I think Google will increase in market share and market value,” not acting on that information, be right, and not be vested! That individual wins either way: he can boast of “being right” even if he can’t boast of the profits. But to say, “Apple (AAPL) will underperform the S&P 500 in the next year” (a position I publicly took a year ago!), not act on that information, and be wrong—whether one is vested or not—is a great risk. Either I risk money or my reputation or both. Either way, true risk must be measured in the possibility of loss, not the possibility (or reality) of gain.

And so random pos(t)ers will always stand outside the realm of real risk. If they opine on a topic, and are wrong, nobody knows who they are. There’s no possibility of shame. If they never invest, never vote, never buy, never practice, never participate—there is no possibility of loss. And what loss may really occur will never be observed. Pos(t)ers can spread opinion without accountability. I call them posers because there is a form and shape, but no substance.

This hit me acutely with a recent article comment thread at the Motley Fool financial site. On one article, one user posted three responses to an article (back to back), all within 1 hour. There were no other comments. Each responses focused on one stock mentioned—Sirius (SIRI)—and each increased in incredulity. A click through to this users “profile” revealed him/her to be a poser: zero stock ratings, zero board postings, zero profile updates, no stocks liked, etc. In short, his profile was blank (see below).

Note that pos(t)ers may be long time “account holders” at the places where they randomly show up. For example, this particular pos(t)er has been a Motley Fool (MF) member since 2007. (This fact reveals why we should be suspicious of companies that measure success in metrics based on “user length of time.”) By comparison, note the profile of a true participant (see below):

There is depth, commitment, and risk: the risk of being wrong with (in this case) favorite stocks, or with opinions taken on posts. There is also the risk of losing a great deal: of time, money, respect, recognition, and influence. These are not cheap or easily replaced. And yet, when there is true risk of loss, the benefits of reward—over and above the prospect of simply being right—is immense.

So is there anything that a company can do to move pos(t)ers to participants? First, participation needs to be rewarded. Loyalty is a value that drives the revenue of extremely successful business models. Companies can reward participation through a variety of value-added content and/or savings (e.g. resources available only to participants, scaled with increasing opportunity or discount based on level of participation). Companies can also recognize participation—allowing that certain metrics must be attained before comment recognition is allowed.

On the other hand, companies can generate a user-peer based model for participation, akin to MF. Peers can measure the weight of comments by posers based on a variety of things (cumulatively): length of membership, number of board posts, number of stocks rated, percentage of profile complete, and number of positive ratings per post.

This level of transparency is essential if we are to differentiate between participants and pos(t)ers. In reality, this is very hard. The weight of one comment can be disproportionate to the trend of a discussion or argument, until the level of participation is revealed. Then, it becomes clear who is a spastic pos(t)er and who a true participant. And, to be honest, most users are both pos(t)er and participant—though the level of each varies from forum to forum.

What do you think? Are there ways you differentiate between posers and participants? What else can companies do to move users along the scale from posers to participants? If you are a chronic pos(t)er, why? If you are a recognized participant, how would you leverage that position?

Almost Fifty: The End of Covenant Seminary's Original Administration Building

December 21, 2009: At the intersection of Conway Road and Balcon Estates Drive, an old white-columned building stands. Three-storied and painfully unattractive from the back—its facing mirrors the old homes that once lined the streets of this neighborhood. Perpendicular to neither road, the building is angled, poised—as if to proclaim some message. But whether through time her message has been “Welcome to the City” or “Now leaving the Country”—all is now silent in the end of the end of the waiting.

The building has a history that predates its incorporation into the once burgeoning institution of which it is currently part—Covenant Theological Seminary. Built in the early 1900s, the building used to sit at the site of St. John’s Hospital’s current extended care unit—where it served as a twenty-room convent for the Sisters of Mercy. Covenant Seminary was offered the building in 1960, when St. John’s was set to construct a $14 million facility at the same site.

The Seminary’s student newspaper reported that month, “It was a long-awaited answer to prayer when the phone rang several months ago and a Roman Catholic Sister said that she wished to donate a house to Covenant College [at that time the College and the Seminary shared the campus]. The house that she was speaking of is a twenty-room mansion about a half mile from the college on a site where the Catholics are planning to erect a $14,000,000 hospital in the near future. The one string attached to the gift, however, was that the school must at its own expense move the house off the property. Because the T-shaped house is old and sprawling, there is little hope that all of it can be successfully moved. The present plan is to move the front section of it down Conway Road and place it on a new basement and foundation constructed on a site between the faculty homes and the main gate of the campus. The rear section will then be rebuilt, so that when it is completed, the structure will be as large as it now is and will perhaps be arranged a little more conveniently for the purposes of the college” (The Bagpipe, October, 1960) The home made the journey on November 17, 1960—to watching neighbors and stopped traffic—across four days and half a mile.

Thirty-nine years later, much has changed. A red hawk has taken to perching on the house’s chimney, and once-small trees are old and weatherworn. The front, double doors open up to an empty and threadbare space that feels more like a tomb than a home. Converted to office space, and coded with fire doors, much of the original elegance and (then) contemporary comfort of the home is hidden by trappings of modernity or lost completely—patched over with sheetrock and drop-tile ceilings. To the careful observer, the grandeur of the décor is visible, here and there—in the ornate molding that breaks the long stretches of wall into decorative and inviting shapes.

In what must have been the lounge or receiving room—the fireplace is set in a series of contrasting trim styles, hand-crafted in days before mechanized routers and electric saws. A dark marble slab adorns the face, and evenly spaced bricks support the base. Though blackened with years of fires, one can still feel the once-inviting space, arranged perhaps for the occasional guest of residing nuns, on days equally as cold as this. I imagine a Sister would welcome the visitor and bid them warm by the fire, while outside the French-style windows snow covered ground, trees, and life.

Today, there is no fire. Cold seeps in through single-paned glass and the cracks in right angles no longer right in the settling of years and service. The muted sunlight barely lights the farthest corners of the room. How quickly decay has set in—as plaster blisters from the walls in the presence of too much moisture and not enough conditioning.

Original film footage of the moving of the house—with men running in and out beneath the raised structure—reveals the complexity and semi-magnitude of the project. Of course, those were in the days before Interstate 270 stretched over Conway Road, a reality that would prevent a modern reenactment. And yet, it remains a noteworthy feat—that the cumulative lives of those who lived in this house at St. John’s Hospital would be far outnumbered by those who would make it a home at Covenant Seminary.

After the move, the building front was adorned with a raised portico, Doric columns, and the unassuming name of “Administration Building.” But what the name lacked in creativity and color, the building made up for in the myriad of disparate and varied functions it served for the Seminary’s faculty, staff, and students. Originally employed as administrative offices and library space, the building regularly held classrooms, faculty offices, counseling rooms, and—perhaps most remembered—living space for single male students. Paul Billy Arnold, a native of southern India and currently a pastor in that region, lived in the building during the 1990s while studying at the Seminary. He recalls eating apples from the apple tree to the east and pears from the pear tree to the southwest. (The apple tree has been gone for years, but the pear tree still produces good cooking pears biannually.)

Other Seminary alumni from the 1970s remember negotiating with staff—who worked upstairs of the dorm floor—over what foods could and could not be cooked and when. Kimchi was among the favorites of the Korean students, and un-favored among staff. The old kitchen—where these debatable dishes were certainly prepared—remained in use until the end: for the occasional party or staff break room.

Once in place, the entirety of the building was covered over in a brick veneer and painted white. The upper screened sunroom, visible in those original images, was closed in to make even more office space—with the aforementioned addition on the back, restoring the T-design. The lateness of this addition is noticeable in minute architectural and design elements. The trim and molding are near perfect matches, and the French windows similar in style, but the lower ceiling and narrower hallways are a clear mark of the pragmatic 1960s rather than the hospitable 1930s.

Even if one ignores the prohibitive presence of I-270, the idea of such an attempt today—that is, moving an old building—seems preposterously inconceivable. In fact, the last four years have seen the felling of all the similarly-designed and commonly-aged houses on Conway Road—destroyed to make room for the stone-faced (castle-like) mansions popular today, and desired for their promise of privacy, over and against 1950’s neighborliness. There is no indication that anybody thought to save these homes and move them somewhere else.

What does it say about us as a nation that, what 50 years ago we would save at great expense and effort, today we do not think twice about destroying? What does it say about us that the once-hallowed halls of holy women—who gave themselves over to lives of prayer and sacred care—are deemed of so little value? It’s not just cement and stone and wood that will fall in the final demise of this building—it is the history of life and play that transpired with this structure as the stage.

Walking through the upper rooms of the abandoned building, one becomes keenly aware of much that could be salvaged—like the newish and excellently cared for doors left hanging on solid brass Hagar-made hinges. In the end, the cost of paying someone to salvage these, or the banister, or the fireplace below, has been deemed too great. And in an age where labor is expensive, all else can be replaced.

The Sisters of Mercy held to the beliefs in God, in eternal salvation, and in resurrection from the dead. Does that apply to the old structures that served so well? Will there be room in the great “new heavens and new earth” for redeemed buildings: deemed obsolete, outdated, and disposable?

For now, the building stands silent, cold, and closed up. The air hangs dank—a musty smell half dust, half dirt, with a sprinkling of years gone by. The emptiness rings hollow to my footsteps within. But I have come for a reason more than commemoration. I have been permitted the removal (“salvage” sounds so harsh) of finished corner shelves that adorn several offices. My hammer swinging, plaster takes flight—more dust than crumbs. And in the cloudy aftermath, I confirm the expert craftsmanship of these redeemed pieces—detailed, hand-chiseled lines as straight as a razor, with engraved parts that only God, and the occasional mouse, would ever see.

Beneath these shelves, an even older carpet is discovered—and beneath that, the spiny crisscross of floorboards: a little pine, a little oak, a nail or two, and a century of decay that bespeaks the years gone by. Perhaps somewhere among the fragments, one might find the lost charms of a chaste nun given to a life of purity and prayer. Only dust is the absolute now: universal in its covering. Some say that dust is half human—the cast off remains of a life lived. If so, then this structure stands not just as a record of history, but as a final resting place for those who gave their lives to work that history did not bother to note or remember. And from this place, perhaps the dust will reconstitute, and the dead will rise again.

In a sense—this removal of sacred shelves is a sacrilege. It is wrong! Not that I’m not permitted, but that, in a sense, no one should be. For in the piecemealing of these scraps, the last great remains of beauty are removed. Like Cinderella—stripped of her gown by contentious stepsisters—the fate of this home is rendered final, and the gaping holes left in the wake of my salvage effort mirror the destruction to come in a week.

December 28, 2009: Heavy equipment has taken up residence in the parking lot of 12330 Conway Road. The red hawk circles about listlessly, apparently unimpressed with the goings on below. Outside in the extreme cold, two men stand and talk about the pending demise of the building. One of them—David Brown, the Seminary’s director of facilities and operations—invites me into their small circle.

“Do you have everything you want out of there?” he asks, motioning to the white building. I stop to think. The shelves, yes. But what of the residual echoes of history that stain the walls of old buildings such as this one, and tell the story of a hundred lifetimes? Nobody can remove those. The ghosts that roam the hallways of these final hours are not the haunting sort, but are more a deep nostalgia—nuns about their daily prayers and Korean students about their kimchi.

David turns back to listen to the man in a hardhat, who is mumbling something about permits. “We’ll push it that way,” he says, motioning as if to destroy the building by sheer will. Above, the hawk calls out a haunting sound. A chill runs through me. And for an instant, I shield my eyes from the tragedy—as if someone has said, “Look away,”—protecting these last fragile images of the past with integrity.

After 49 years, 1 month, and 12 days of service, the iconic administration building at Covenant Seminary was destroyed and removed. Grass now covers the spot.


My submission to the BetaCup Contest

So the challenge is, make a better coffee cup. At the end of the day, I believe changes in habits have to be shaped by incentive. This is sad, but habits usually form this way. That said, I believe that the best way to change the habits of drinking coffee (or for that matter, water and soda) out of disposable canisters will be changed with a trend toward ubiquitous reusable containers. So, here goes:

To read the description that goes with this, click here.


Employment Opportunities for Humanities Majors

Finding Contentment--and Landing a Job--in Areas of Passion, the Arts, and Literature

Graduation: regalia, fanfare, and the last-minute projects that bookended four years of study. The University of Alabama was abuzz with activity—people moving out of dorms and sorority houses; frat boys surprised that they had graduated (or those who woke up to realize they hadn't), and well-wishers of all kinds about for the fun of it.

The crowds gathered in the Foster Auditorium for the ceremony: some 3,000 graduates and 10,000 parents, grandparents, siblings, spouses—plus the occasional road-scholar (not to be confused with Rhodes Scholars) who mistook the event for another of Alabama's sporting events. Then, the president had each group stand, by school: the College of Engineering, the College of Business Administration, the College of Education, and the College of Arts and Sciences.

What are You Going to do with that Degree?
I was in this last group (Arts and Sciences). We weren't the smallest group among the lot, but once you broke out those of us with degrees in the humanities—studio art, art history, linguistics, music, and literature—we were a small, ragamuffin band some two hundred or so in number. We were those students that everybody jokes about, and are asked—more than for our names—what the heck we are going to do with a degree in that? Yes, a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature, with minor studies in Studio Art and Creative Writing, doesn't scream, "Hire me!" At least not to most people...(read entire article here)


Training Leaders to Move the Church Forward

In every generation, the Church is called upon to apply the message of God’s grace to old vestiges of human depravity wrapped up in new inventions. The central message of God’s “rescue plan”—as Sally Lloyd Jones calls redemptive history—never changes: Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3). The many applications and ramifications of that truth look as different as the sins it means to address. Where the expressions of rebellion and denial may have taken new forms, the essence is unchanged: “sexual immorality, impurity, and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like” (Galatians 5:20–21).

(read full story here)

The Eyes of St. Patrick

Off stony clave, he northward gazed,
beyond the place Rome's Pax had blazed.
(read full poem here)


The Haiti Crisis: A Time of Reciprocity?

Less than two weeks since the devastating earthquake in Haiti, the United States is beginning to receive subtle criticism from outsiders. One NPR opinion editorial expressed concern about the presence of U.S. troops—and the necessity of the U.S. to function primarily through the United Nations, in close conjunction with the Haitian Préval-Bellerive Government. And yet, there is good cause to ask, "Should there be strings attached to the international help being extended in this hour of need?"

Ironically, nobody—save a dissident research fellow, Anthony Bradley—has asked, "Why is the world looking to the U.S. to rebuild Haiti? France, Spain, and the EU are solely responsible for what is 'Haiti'; not the U.S." Most journalists seem to be ignorant of (or deliberately ignoring) the fact that the Haitian situation today—political unrest, deep and perpetual corruption, and the totalitarian impoverishment of her people—is a direct consequence of the pattern of alternating French-Spanish occupation throughout the 19th Century. By contrast, U.S. occupation of Haiti during the early part of the 20th Century is credited for developing stability, dependable infrastructure, education, and economy.

Nobody thinks that help should be withheld...(click here to read full story).

Facts, Faces of the Farmers Market

On an early Thursday, to the sound of the morning rush hour, a plain-looking fellow sets up a tent in the parking lot of a strip mall. He is average build and height, but the texture of his skin and the raw size of his hands tell a story — for those interested in hearing.

"I'm a third generation farmer," says Thomas — who asks that his last name not be printed. "I'm dedicated to the work. Heck, it's all I know." Within a few moments, the tent is pegged and tethered. Thomas then pulls a folding chair out of the back of his flatbed, sits down in it, and smiles up at me. The twinkle in his eye says I should have remembered to bring my own seat. (click here to read more)


2010 Stock Market Indicates It's Not a Wonderful Life

"Merry Christmas, Mr. Potter."
Those now-iconic words uttered by the relieved George Bailey, in It's a Wonderful Life capture the unfettered enthusiasm of the past six months—a period that saw a 27.5% increase in the DJIA leading up to the New Year. But while the New Year is still young, the hope of peace and prosperity that underpins those celebrations is already starting to grow old—at least in terms of the stock market rally. After all, fourth quarter earnings from bellwether Alcoa—a raw materials provider—leaves investors and consumers alike with little hope that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's "green shoots" are surviving the cold streak of winter. Signals are mixed for the private investor—while Christmas sales came in slightly higher than expected, unemployment was also surprisingly up in December. The question is whether the stock market bull of late 2009 can continue its run as the stock market bull of 2010.

"Should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind"
Okay, maybe the six months stemming from September '08 through March '09 should be like the old acquaintance of Auld Lang Syne...(read the entire story here).


Methodology, Interpretation and Reasoning: Three Strikes and Cave is Out! A review of "What your Doctor May Not Tell You About Children's Vaccinations"

Dr. Stephanie Cave's book, What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Children's Vaccinations (Warner Books, 2001), is an attempt to inform non-medically trained people about hersuspicions concerning the potential dangers of vaccinations. However, her attempts more often fall short of their intended goal. No doubt, this book will leave questioning parents anxious and worried about the effects of vaccinations. But is this anxiety valid? In order to answer this question, one needs to examine (first) Cave's interpretation of supporting evidence, (second) her logical reasoning and defense, and (third) her methodology for conclusions.

Since the writing of this book eight years ago, there have been no less than eight epidemiological studies (one as recently as 2008) that conclusively—as conclusively as the scientific method allows—show no correlation whatsoever between autism and either vaccines or the preservatives used in them. Furthermore, since 2001, thimerosal has been nearly completely removed from childhood vaccines (by a 96%+ reduction). And case studies like the MMR study in Japan—after the cancelation of the MMR vaccine—have successfully and thoroughly disproved any relationship between MMR and autism.

What's more, Andrew Wakefield—oft quoted by Case in her book (e.g. p 65)—has been debunked in his research methodology. Some argue that ...(click here for full article).