Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Yes, I am the Grammar Police!

"I'd rather be a comma, than a full stop"- Coldplay

I know I'm a little neurotic about this.  I was an English major, after all.  But when my daughter's school starts putting up signs with blatant grammar errors and not even changing them in the course of a day, I think it moves from being the geek who annoyingly points out improper use of a semicolon, to something else.

The first thing everyone wants to blame is cell phones.  Txt msgng.  Those darn kids and their 'adorbs' and their 'TTYL' and 'LOL'!  They've corrupted our culture!  But those are acronyms.  Abbreviations.  Marshall McLuhan said that the medium is the message, and to a degree, he's right.  It's a short message on a telephone.  It's not meant to be Anna Karenina.

But that's no excuse and shouldn't really be an explanation.  It's a pretty big jump from abbreviating to ignoring mistakes.  It's the ignorance and the toleration of error that is disturbing.  In a text message or an email you need to get out quickly?  Okay.  In twitter, with limited characters to use?  Sure.  But on a sign you are displaying for the public to see?  In some cases, a permanent sign?  For one day, maybe.  But to leave such a thing displayed after awhile just says "I don't care that it's wrong".

And now, since this is my blog and you're here for free, I will indulge myself for a paragraph.  The word 'You're' is a contraction.  It is a shorter way of writing the words "You are".  When someone other than you has possession of something, we say it is 'Your' whatever it is.  Is that really so hard?  Because some things in grammar are hard to remember.  'It's' is the contraction, and without the apostrophe is the possessive.  Sure.  That's splitting hairs and harder to remember.  But You're coat?  Your going to the store?  That's just lack of language skill.

You may say, 'well everyone doesn't have to be a doctor of linguistics'.  Sure.  Nor does everyone need to be a surgeon and whittle sticks with a scalpel.  But wouldn't you admit that a knife works better than a hammer?  Or a club?  A certain amount of linguistic competence (sharpness) is necessary, or we might as well just grunt and point.

Do not take me as using this as some sort of xenophobic crack at ESL.  Can you imagine if English were your second language?  And you came from a language that made sense?  Those people have a reason to struggle with English, and in fact often are more correct in their English than some others, who I am thinking of.

Ironically, many of these same people would never tolerate baseball playing as sloppy as the English they use, even from their children.  'If you're going to play, play right!' I can hear them yelling.  And that's a game.  How much more should we care about 'playing right' when it's our written language we're talking about?  Again, ending a sentence with a preposition or writing a run-on sentence is not what I'm thinking of. (see what I did, there?)

Follow this link and then come back to this post and read it again.  You'll see.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Dentist Post, v.2

 A few weeks ago, I went to tut he dentist.  I'm not scared of the place, but I don't enjoy at all the feeling of loss of control I seem to always get at the dentist's office.  X rays, insurance, all of it seems to run itself without anyone asking what I want.  So after a less-than-stellar visit, I was pretty much overflowing with 'See, just like I said', and thoughts along those lines.  And then I checked my email and got a 'customer experience survey'.  Here's what I wrote to them.

I called and made an appointment a few days ago because I had one of my back teeth causing quite a bit of pain every time I eat.  I got an appointment and was happy to know something would be done.

I arrived for my appointment and was shown to the chair.  Never did the woman introduce herself.  I thought maybe since I'd called for a specific issue rather than a checkup, maybe she was the dentist who would help.  No, she just did X rays.  Doctor Hjorth stopped by and said he needed more Xrays.  The whole mouth.  Okay, I guess.  while I'm here.  He came back, told me how many cavities I had, and said the desk would check with my insurance to see how much they'd cover.  Uh, ok- but what about my tooth.  He did mention in passing that it had a cavity, but had said nothing about what would be done about it.  It's causing pain- the reason I called, remember.

So I thought (since he hadn't so much as said goodbye) that we were just going to wait to hear from the insurance and then he'd do something. I sat there a moment and the woman said "You're all set, you can go to the desk now".  When I had stood there for awhile, the desk person said I was all set and hadn't needed to wait for her.  She explained that they would contact me when they heard from the insurance about 'how much I would be responsible for'.  Now, it's not her fault, she hadn't seen the exam, but I hadn't even been told what was going on, other than a mention of a number of cavities, and a quick mention from Dr. Hjorth that I should get a tooth pulled and have a root canal on another.  These are teeth that ARE NOT CURRENTLY BOTHERING ME AT ALL.  So now insurance is being checked for procedures I didn't OK and am only vaguely aware of, to see how much I'll 'be responsible for', and you still didn't fix the tooth I came in about, didn't make any mention of how it would be fixed, and didn't say one thing about what I should do in the meantime to lessen the pain that led me to call your practice in the first place.  I am not a stupid person, but my visit to Dr. Hjorth sure did make me feel stupid.  I suppose for thinking that when you call a dentist saying you have an aching in your tooth and jaw, he will do something about that pain. 

I guess he'll just do a full dental exam and start adding up the bill.  It's like going to a bike shop to get a flat tire fixed, and instead getting back a list of everything the bike needs to race the Tour De France, and a bike with a flat tire.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Voicemail Evangelism: All Or Nothing? PART TWO

 Not a Fan: Becoming a Completely Committed Follower of  Jesus  -     By: Kyle Idleman
All In: You Are One Decision Away From a Totally Different Life  -     By: Mark Batterson

I ended part one describing the guilt of evangelism.  How I felt that maybe I was misunderstanding it, or maybe something was wrong with me.  How I tried to make myself whip out Jesus, but just couldn't pull the trigger in the end- I kept feeling that I needed to talk to THEM, that every person was a special case that the rules of Romans Road didn't apply to (check the link if you don't know what that refers to).

Looking back now, I'm proud of myself, because I WAS RIGHT.  Perhaps I misunderstood- I'll allow that objection- but what the hell were they thinking?  I would like to blame it on the 80's and the "me decade" or some of that crap, but I don't think that's the case, because I still see the same thing around me now.  Hence the topic of these two parts.

Many people would rather just pull out the cannon of the gospel (we Christians LOVE to refer to the sword of the Word.  Love "Onward Christian Soldiers", etc- fodder for another post) and shoot 'em, than get to know the people they want to conquer....uhhh... I mean... convert.

I feel like so much of this Christian need for "evangelism"* comes from from a sort of falling-dominoes guilt culture.

But first, here are two currently very popular how-to-live-as-a-Christian books, and the marketing talk that goes along with them.

The first is Kyle Idleman's Not A Fan.  The book is described this way:
"If Jesus were to sit down with you right now and have a DTR (Define the Relationship) conversation, how would you respond? Are you truly his follower or just a fan---or perhaps someone who doesn’t even care about the difference? Not a Fan invites you to make Jesus not merely the object of your admiration, but the very center of your life."
 You see, it's not enough to be interested in Jesus.  Or inspired by Jesus.  Or curious about Jesus.  Forget the Apostle Paul's thoughts that "The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached" (Phillipians 1:18) or Jesus' own words in Mark 9 that "whoever is not against us is for us". 

Or does making people feel inadequate just make money?  Look it up on Google- it's been the keystone of advertisers for a long time.  But surely Christians wouldn't do that, would they?

Next, let's look at an even newer book:  Mark Batterson's All In.  Here's the dust-jacket copy for that one:

 The message of All In is simple: if Jesus is not Lord of all then Jesus is not Lord at all. It’s all or nothing. It’s now or never. Kneeling... and surrendering to His Lordship is a radical act of dethroning yourself and enthroning Christ as King. It’s also an act of disowning yourself. Nothing belongs to you. Not even you. Batterson writes," ...for many years, I thought I was following Jesus. I wasn’t."
All or nothing.  Black or white.  1's or 0's.  On or Off.  And what do you think a person who isn't a Christian but is intrigued enough to pick up this book will think when they read that?  I would bet it'd be some version of "Well, forget it, then!"

So the question comes back to:  Why?  What is it that makes such a large group of Christians afraid of their own friends?  Is it books like the above?  Is it social media?  American culture?  Or maybe they don't have any friends outside of the church (and isn't that one sign that you're a member of a cult?).


 Back to that domino effect guilt.  If someone has made you feel guilty about something you should do, it is a common choice to pass that guilt along- to initiate the next person the same way you were initiated. 

Well, as for me and my... readers- it ends here. 

Love.  It's about love.  In Matthew 22, we see this exchange:

 One of them, an expert in the law, tested [Jesus] with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
 Love God, Love your neighbor (Defined by Jesus elsewhere as anyone who needs you)

So, just to free associate, what words do we associate with love?  Guilt, Fear, Distance, Impersonal, One-size-fits-all, formula?  Or maybe inadequate, uncommitted, restrained?  No?  These don't sound like loving words?  And yet we've just seen from two best-selling books that this is what Christians are communicating about their faith.

Sure, it's a response to wishy-washy church-on-Sunday, party-on-Saturday 'Christians'.  And yes, these books are intended not for 'the unchurched' or 'inquirers', but I think they still speak of the thinking of the Christians who should be reaching out to those groups.

But, back to the Great Commission that we ended part one with.  Jesus wants us to go "...and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you."  Well, just a moment ago, we saw that Jesus 'commanded' that the greatest two commandments are to love God and love our neighbor.  We can certainly look at the other things that "hang on" those commandments.  But for our purposes right now, how did Jesus interact with those outside his faith circle?  How about the woman at the well?  Or Zacheus?  What about the prostitute who washed his feet with her hair and expensive perfume?

That's a good one to start with.

Here's some info on why the feet are washed:

The Old Testament references show that the washing of the feet was the first act on entering the tent or house after a journey. The Orientals wore only sandals, and this washing was refreshing as well as cleanly. In the case of ordinary people, the host furnished the water, and the guests washed their own feet, but in the richer houses, the washing was done by a slave. It was looked upon as the lowliest of all services.

Now what would it mean for a prostitute- you can imagine how she was thought of in the Biblical world, and if you can't read this- to use her own hair to do the above?  Imagine how this woman must have felt.  Did Jesus try to make her feel bad, yell at her for touching Him?, make an example of her?  No, he told a story to the religious superstars he was having dinner with:

"Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him 500 denarii, and the other 50.  Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?" [the host, Simon] replied, "I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled." "You have judged correctly," Jesus said. 
Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.  You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet.  You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet.  

Hmmm.  Sounds like He's encouraging what she did, not reminding her how she needs to be 'more than a fan' or that she needs to go 'all in'.  In fact, some people may be going 'all in' just speaking with us about Christian things.  But in order to know that we'd have to actually know them, live with them, be friends with them and love them.

Or you could just quote a single Bible verse on your voicemail and leave it at that.  And if they don't get converted by it, well that's their problem, isn't it?

Next time we'll look at this last sentence a little more.  Do we love these people- or hate them?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Voicemail Evangelism: Jesus Calling, Indeed (PART ONE)

[note on the title:  If you don't know- and I didn't- there is a book out called Jesus Calling that is a devotional written in the first person, as if Jesus is speaking to you.  It is wildly popular, and I don't think that's an overstatement.]

As a part of my job, I call people.  People who've  placed orders with our business.  I could rant on and on about the things they say and do, but most of that is not important.

One thing I've noticed, though, that seems to be a growing trend, is voicemail evangelism.  And like many things, I see this as part of a bigger problem.

"Thanks for calling, and remember, "God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him."

They don't say their name.  They don't say their phone number.  No way whatsoever for me to know if I've called the right place.  But at least they checked off their "witness" box for the day.  And with no effort!

So much of what Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote about in The Cost of Discipleship is as true today as ever:

"Cheap grace is preaching forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession. … Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate."

Maybe I'm stretching too far here, but I include along with that evangelism without personal effort, personal conversation, or even consent from the other person.

I once felt like this.  Like maybe I was misunderstanding evangelism, or maybe something was wrong with me.  I tried to make myself whip out Jesus on total strangers.  Even as late as seminary (preacher graduate school, if you don't know), I went with a group to Salem to evangelize the witches at halloween.  Because Jesus told us to go to the ends of the earth spreading His gospel, right?

He sure did that, but what exactly IS this gospel he was telling us to spread?

Look for my thoughts on that in part 2.

Monday, February 24, 2014

New Newness

New photographing project in the works.  Just for fun, you understand.

Interestingly, there seems to have been quite a bit of shake-up at Patch.  Lots of editors losing their jobs.  Should've let me keep writing for them, I guess.  :)

Sunday, December 1, 2013

...Clubhouse In The Sky

Once, in A New World Of Time, there was a band that showed so much perfect promise.  It was a man and his wife, leading a band that had some interesting spiritual things to say. Their name started with "a", and consisted of two words.

I could be talking about Arcade Fire, but I'm not  I'm talking about Adam Again:  a band from earlier in this century and the end of the last one.  They too had all the makings of fame- but you haven't heard of them, have you?  This is a small piece of their story.

Gene Andrusco was a child actor.  A voice actor.  He once did voice-overs for a cartoon, with an actress.  They both did voices for the children of the title character.  The name of the cartoon is unimportant.  You may have heard of his coworker though:  Jodie Foster is such a famous actress that she is said to have inspired Reagan's would-be assassin, and most certainly inspired a band called JFA.  I'm sure Gene inspired lots of people, maybe they started bands, but they didn't name them after him.

And they knew people.  In the above-linked album, you'll note the distinctive cover art.  It reminds you of Talking Heads and R.E.M., does it not?  Indeed.  It is by Howard Finster, and his work appeared on the covers of Reckoning and Little Creatures, two iconic 1980's albums.  Oh, and on Adam Again's In A New World Of Time.  Again they were peers of greatness.

But they weren't just close to greatness.  They were more than capable of it themselves.  Listen to "Jimmy" by the Lost Dogs, or "Dunce Cap", also with them.  Listen to "River On Fire",  from Adam Again, and you can just hear it.  They had it.  Gene had it.  Whatever that un-imitatable quality is- Gene's voice had a copyright on it.  From their name (a reference to the second Adam) to their songs, they had a subtle and honest emotional pull that could bring you to tears)

I am not their biographer.  I can't say 'except for _______ and ________ they would've been the biggest band in the world!'.  I don't know that kind of detail.  But I can tell you the two major points that would have to be touched on in that biography

The first is the dissolution of the Andrusco's marriage to Michele Bunch-Palmer in 1994.  She continued with the band until the year 2000, but you have to know that things had changed in the creative engine of the band.  Yes, this sort of pain can sometimes produce great art, and arguably in this case it did as well, but as to the world changing, career-making success that the band sometimes talks about in their lyrics (or laments not having) it was undoubtedly affected by the change.

By far the saddest and most final of the signpost events that affected Adam Again, though, was the death in the year 2000 of Gene "Eugene" Andrusco.  If their marriage and/or divorce is an arguable point, and it is arguable whether their marriage was the creative center of the band, Gene's death was unquestionable and irreplaceable.  It was the end of the band, the end of their apiration for acknowledgement. If- as lyrics suggest- the band was their house, this was the house burning down.

Realizing all this, it is poignant to listen to the band as they comment frankly through their music about how hard life can be, about having "...the pink slip for my car... a little place...  a band that plays my songs... " and knowing that they all "...need more, much more".  This sort of thing is typical for rock.  What isn't is listening and KNOWING that it's never going to be.  Knowing that barring some amazing and unimaginable turn of events, this music will slowly slip into obscurity.  That the band members go their separate ways, but the band itself, the "house" is simply a place you remember which is no longer there, like the hillside that's been leveled to create a mini-mall.  Knowing this makes it bittersweet to listen to.  But what can you say?  The impossible happens.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Updated Photo Gallery

I have been paid money to take pictures.  Even within the last decade.  So I suppose that makes me a professional photographer, eh?  Also, I won that hat the year before last.  From the UK, nonetheless.  So I'm internationally recognized for my photography.

Enough of that nonsense.  Here's some pictures I took at last week's GP Gloucester.  I havt  so many more photos, but I just cannot bear to work with this computer loading photos one moment longer.

This is Nicole Duke.  She used to race DH mountain bikes back in the day.

I like the 'what is a woman?' angle here.
the bar is there to emphasize the fact that this is the first Richard Sachs bike in a long time to not be painted red. 
Add caption
Great color combination.  Sugarcoat.
Nice bus.  Van Dessel is a bike co.
I couldn't resist this little burst of color.
I fantasize about living in one of these and taking my kid to all the nat'l parks.
I love the "crash" aspect here.  And the racers still in the scene.
Up the stairs into the light.
Ben Berden, from Belgium.  Think he took his 'colourway' from this page.