Monday, June 30, 2014


Summer Story of Waco

I love haiku that tells a good story, and I particularly enjoy a story I can relate to.  That's why I liked Heather Garcia's verses about one particularly gross cycle of life in Waco:

The cricket plague stinks.
Literally. Thousands of
dead ones bring a stench.

Dead is better though
than flying in attack mode
through my living room.

They reign at gas pumps
too. I do a crazy dance
to get them off me.

At last the birds come,
migrating to my rescue.
They feast on my plague.

Three cheers for the birds!
…til they take over and I
become their target.

Proposal day, I
get congratulated by
warm goo on my face.

Sunday, June 29, 2014


Sunday Reflection: The Good-bye Season

Like a lot of other people in my vocation, this is a difficult season.  Graduation is a good-bye; it is bittersweet to see students go on, even if they are going on to great things.

For teachers, not all moments are equal, not every month is the same.  There is a strong rhythm to the year, like a roller-coater that dips and soars the same way every ride.  That is one thing I love about it, of course-- that there is that strong sense of time passing in a discernible way.  That's the way it is supposed to be, right?

Too often we only read the start of Ecclesiastes 3, and don't get to the payoff in verse 12:

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?
10 I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it.
11 He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.
12 I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life.

Saturday, June 28, 2014


The other hamburger clowns

I was always a little confused by the claim that (the super-creepy) Ronald McDonald is "America's Favorite Hamburger Clown."  I mean, how much competition is there for that title?  I wasn't aware of any other hamburger clowns until I dredged up old memories and did some research.  Here are just three (I'm leaving out the infamous Burger Chef, who wasn't a clown but instead seemed to just be a straight-out pedophile):

1)  Sloppy Joe

Originally created as mascot for the now-defunct "Cracker Barrel Jr." fast-food restaurants, Sloppy Joe now free-lances for individual Hardee's outlets that contract directly with him.  His persona centers on his unkempt appearance, distinctive aroma, and trademark shopping cart full of personal items and cats.  Catchphrase: "My cats love Cracker Barrel Jr."

2)  Jack-In-The-Box

Here we have an entire restaurant chain named for a hamburger clown.  Jack, of course, is a bizarre apparition who is usually portrayed as either screaming at customers or unusually jolly.  Jack-In-The-Box was the only fast-food restaurant in or near Grosse Pointe when I was a kid, and I'll never forget the awkward experience of yelling my order in the clown's wide-open mouth at the drive-through.  It didn't make sense, even to an 11-year-old... why would you yell into someone's mouth?  Wouldn't it make more sense to yell into his ear?

3)  Carl, Sr.

The mascot for the Carl's Jr. chain in the west, Carl Sr. was a dapper gentleman with a cane, monocle, and revolver who advised children on decorum while dining.  After a number of violent incidents, was "retired" to Victorville Federal Correctional Institution.  Once took a shot at Sloppy Joe in a Wal-Mart  parking lot in Bakersfield, California.

Friday, June 27, 2014


Haiku Friday: Bugs and pests

We all have a pest that bugs us:  Spiders, fire ants, mosquitos, black flies, etc.  I even know one person who absolutely hates bunnies (because they eat flowers).  Let's haiku about our littlest nemeses today.  Here, I will go first:

Minnesota's plague:
Little biting monsters, die!
Mosquito!  I swat.

Now it is your turn.  Just make the first line about 14 syllables, the second line 2 syllables, and then the last line 9 syllables.  Wait, that's wrong.  Make if 5/7/5 instead...

Thursday, June 26, 2014


Political Mayhem Thursday: Iraq, and what to do

Every day seems to bring a new story about the advance of ISIS forces in Iraq-- most recently, their advance on a large dam on the Euphrates, after having already seized Mosul and border crossing to Jordan and Syria.

By every account the Sunni-run ISIS is a troubling outfit-- so bad, they reportedly were kicked out of Al Queda.  Wow!  That's some bad stuff.

What should the US do, as this war takes a strange new turn where we find ourselves allied with Iran?  The most common answer seems to be something, without more specificity.

I have a different answer:  Nothing.  We should not send "advisors."  We should not send drones.  We should not supply the government.  Instead, we should learn from the futility of our involvement in foreign civil wars, only one of which (Bosnia) went very well in the end.

I am willing to listen to other views, though… what do you think we should do?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


Best places to buy stuff, in rank order

10)  The Dollar Store in the basement of the Southdale Mall
9)  Radke's (hardware and hockey stuff)
8)  The Cranky Guy Hardware Store
7)  Target
6)  Food n' Stuff
5)  Holiday Gas Station
4)  This n' That for Pets
3)  Costco
2)  Waco Drive-In Flea Market
1)  J. Press

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


Medill "F!"

Uh-oh.  It looks like some of this year's graduates of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern had a typo on their diploma.   Not a huge, Damn You Autocorrect type typo, but still, not so good-- they spelled the word "integrated" as "itigrated."

What's fascinating about this is that students at Medill traditionally have gotten a failing grade on any work that contains a misspelled word or grammatical error (obviously, I am not a Medill student or graduate).

As someone who is terrible at grammar but still manages to get stuff written, I have always seen this as overly harsh.  Maybe this will give them permission to loosen up a little?

Monday, June 23, 2014



Two standout haikus from last week!

First, from Christine:

Giglio; Italia
Crazy in the Shores.

"The Shores" refers to Grosse Pointe Shores, where her family and mine (down the block on Colonial Rd.) watched the games on portable TVs out in screen porches.

Then this, from Ang, just because it makes so much sense:

Temper tantrum flops
could give a three-year-old a
run for his money!

Sunday, June 22, 2014


Sunday Reflection: John Donohue, who slipped off when I wasn't looking...

For reasons having mostly to do with Bill and Jane Smith, I went to college far away from home, in the midst of a very different culture.  I arrived at William and Mary with a suitcase in one hand and a portable typewriter in the other, having flown in from Detroit.  A cab dropped me off in front of Dupont Hall after dark, and after registration had closed.  Eventually, I found someone to give me a key, and found my room.  That's when I also found my roommate, John Donohue.

He was as much of an insider as I was an outsider.  He'd gone to a big high school in Northern Virginia, W.T. Woodson.  Because it was a good school, and William and Mary a state college that has to take at least 65% Virginia residents, there were a lot of people there from his class.  John was popular, the kind of people that others called out to as you walked across campus, new as we were to Williamsburg.  I spent those first weeks in his shadow, but that was a good place to be because he was generous and welcoming.  I got to know and love the school in part because of his kindness.

Unlike me, he already had an academic passion.  He loved classic languages and literature, and was a champion at Certamen, a kind of high-school quiz bowl in Latin.  He was a goofy normal guy, who would lapse into Latin phrases at any moment, a quirk that was both charming and kind of intimidating.

We remained friends through college, and there were a fair number of misadventures, many of them late at night deep within Colonial Williamsburg.   He was good that way-- the kind of guy who had ideas, fun ideas, that weren't too dangerous.  More than once, this combination of Latin scholar/mischievousness struck me as an ideal character for a TV show; he would have fit right in with the gang on Scooby Doo.

Then I went back to Detroit, and then off to law school, and we lost touch.

The year I graduated from law school, I stumbled across the January, 1990 edition of Reader's Digest, and found the story "The Unforgettable Maureen O'Donnell," by John Donohue.  It was John's account of the Latin teacher who had nurtured his passion and whose program he had taken over.   Reading it made my heart leap-- it was the perfect outcome for the guy I knew, the one who both loved the classics and was still about 22% 16-year-old boy.   I wrote to him; he wrote back.  We kept in touch in that too-loose way that guys do, a strand easily dropped.

This past Thursday night, I was watching IPLawGuy barbecue some chicken in his back yard (apparently, his recipe is to cook it at 170 degrees until the bird hits 160, which takes about 9 hours but leaves you with some great chicken).  It was a warm-but-not-hot clear-sky dusk in Northern Virginia, the Platonic ideal of a late spring evening.   I had spent the day working hard on clemency stuff in DC (there is quite a bit of that right now), and it was a perfect end to that frenzy of activity.  Sitting there, I realized that we weren't far from where John had grown up.

Maybe, too, William and Mary had been on my mind.  I was in a conference room earlier that day, furiously making notes before giving a short presentation to about 100 representatives of advocacy groups and an advisor to President Obama, when I felt strong hands on my shoulders from behind me.  Her voice said "you know who this is," and I did.  I did not need to stand or turn; I knew that it was Dr. Joanne Braxton, and it was.  There is sometimes that bond with those who have taught you.

With all of this, John kept coming back to me.  When I was back in Minneapolis on Friday, I looked to see what John was up to; we are friends on Facebook, so that is easy to do.  What I learned was that he died earlier this year of cancer.  He left behind a wife, two children, thousands of students, and a eulogy he wrote in the too-short time between his diagnosis and his death.

He slipped away when I wasn't looking, and there is something deeply sad about that.

There has been a torrent of rain here in Minnesota, and the creek by my house is raging-- it is now a river.  It spills over the banks, wipes out gardens, and sounds like power.  It is not the gentle stone-smoother behind the church anymore.

That's what happens here sometimes, in the Spring.  The water builds up, moves fast, demands its own path as it courses around you and you must struggle to keep up.  You lose sight of things, you're distracted, and then it happens-- someone has slipped under, and you did not notice.

Saturday, June 21, 2014


Social Media and Faith

I'll admit that I'm not much of an expert on social media, but I don't have the repulsion to it that some people do.  I understand the objection some have, that it pulls us away from in-person interactions, but I think that may be overstated.

My latest post over at the Huffington Post is about exactly this...

Friday, June 20, 2014


Haiku Friday: The World Cup!

I've got World Cup fever!  Unfortunately, I also have Federal Commutation of Sentences Fever, so I haven't been able to watch much of it (I was in meeting in DC the last few days).  Still, it has been an entertaining and unusual tournament.

Let's haiku about that-- even if, like me, you are pretty naive about the sport.  Here, I will go first:

Wait, what…the game's over?
At 95:27?
What a sport this is!

Now it is your turn… have some fun with it!

Thursday, June 19, 2014


Political Mayhem Thursday: The Redskins Controversy

In a fascinating new development, the US Patent and Trademark Office has ruled that the Washington Redskins no longer have the ability to register that name with the Office.  In short, this doesn't mean that the Redskins can't use the name-- only that if someone wants to rip off their logo, the team can't sue under that federal law which bars illegal use of a registered trademark.

Obviously, this is IPLawGuy's thing, not mine, and I am hoping that he will chime in at some point before heading out to see the Nationals lose this evening.

It had never occurred to me that the way to confront this problem was through trademark law, and I really admire the lawyering...

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


Survived by 10 Cadillacs

Stanley Marsh 3, the West Texas eccentric who commission the Ant Farm to create the Cadillac Ranch near Amarillo, died yesterday.  An heir to an oil and gas fortune, he was a man of many antics (and apparently a few crimes, too).

The first time I saw the Cadillac Ranch, I just happened to be driving that way.  It caught the corner of my eye and I realized what it was.  Like a lot of things in West Texas, it was as much as anything a frame for the sky.  There is nothing like a West Texas sky.

Not so long ago, IPLawGuy and I made a trip out to West Texas-- El Paso, Alpine, and Marfa.  We saw many odd things (though not the Cadillac Ranch; we didn't go that far North).  IPLG had purchased "The Greatest Hits of Norman Greenbaum," and we listened to that and drove in the high desert, watching the sky as it trailed off to forever.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


U.S.A.! U.S.A.!

Maybe it is the fact that I work within earshot of Britt's, the home of Minnesota's loudest soccer fans.  Maybe it is the odd spate of scoring that has occurred.  Maybe it is the mascot, pictured here.  For whatever reason, I'm getting pulled into caring about the World Cup.

That doesn't mean I understand it, though.  Here are some interesting facts I've gleaned so far:

1)  Japan seems to be the most interesting team in some ways.  They chose Pikachu as their mascot.  Really.  And their fans used blue trash bags to clean up their section after the teams opening loss to the Ivory Coast.

2)  It's truly a world game, but how is it that India and China are not a factor?  The Chinese have qualified only once, in 2002, and they failed to even score a goal-- yet 170 million Chinese families bought television sets so they could watch those three games!   India seems less interested, and never has qualified for the big show.  

3)  It seems like every kid in the US plays soccer when they are little, and then 98% stop between ages 10 and 14.  What's up with that?

4)  And I understanding this right?  No one except the ref knows when the game is going to end?  I can't figure out if that is crazy or the most awesome rule ever...

Monday, June 16, 2014


Summertime 'Ku

That was one great crop of haiku last week!  I think I was most jealous of the Medievalist:

Forty Baylor Bears,
Exploring the Alhambra,
Spain in the summer.

Though, to be honest, the Spanish are probably a little grumpy after their 5-1 World Cup thumping by the Netherlands, so I might want to lifeguard instead, like Casablanca fan:

Lifeguard at the pool
Tanned, flirting but ready
Save lives in a trice

... or "anonymous"--

I am a lifeguard.
Summer job: a perfect fit.
Meyers/Briggs says so.

Meanwhile, Ang's warning on movie popcorn bears hearing, as does the idea of staying away from Renee's sister:

A fellow waitress
Lobbed saltshaker at my head.
My testy sister.

Sunday, June 15, 2014


Sunday Reflection: Well Parented

I am now 51 years old.  I imagined, as a younger person, that at this point in life I would no longer need to be parented, but I have found that as I get older I need the lessons I get from my mom and dad as much as ever.

The delivery method has changed, certainly.  I don't rely on them to tell me what to do (and they aren't eager to do so anyways).  Instead, I find that I learn a lot by watching them, and learning from their actions and the beliefs that are reflected there.  It's like reading the gospels-- there are the teachings, but also what we see in Jesus's actions, how he lived, that tells us things of great meaning, too.

I'm constantly inspired by my parents.  Some of what I have seen, I try to incorporate into my own principles and actions.  Here are a few of those things I see when I watch them:

1)  Their sense of justice is rarely offended by things that happen to them.  Rather, their passion is largely reserved for injustices suffered by others.  There is so much more power in that, huh?  They are givers, and happily so.

2)  They see beauty everywhere.  In people, in places, in the light on a fall afternoon.  They see it, and they talk about it, and then others see it to.  When you look at my dad's art (like this and this), it is like seeing through his eyes for one moment.

3)  They care about ideas more than things.

4)  They have been my parents for 51 years, and they still surprise me.  I don't know everything, and when I care to watch I see how much more I have to learn...

Saturday, June 14, 2014


More Important Commentary on Eric Cantor's Stunning Primary Loss

Friday, June 13, 2014


Haiku Friday: Summer jobs

That's my sister Kathy, happily gutting a fish up at the Island last summer.  There is something about summer tasks-- grilling, fish-catching, mowing the lawn-- that get built into our sense of self.  

So that's one kind of summer job you can haiku about.

The other is the more traditional "summer job"-- those temporary employments during high school and college.  Feel free to cover that, if you would like.

Here is mine:

I drove a combine
In thick, lush fields of green peas
Unlikely farm hand.

Now it is your turn!  Craft a poem that has about 5 syllables for the first line, 7 for the second, and 5 for the third, and you are in business!

Thursday, June 12, 2014


Political Mayhem Thursday: The Demise of Eric Cantor and a memory of 1984

On Tuesday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost in the primary to a little-known Tea Party challenger, college professor David Brat.  His home district in and around Richmond rejected the incumbent and a lot of people are guessing at the reasons.  Top speculations include shifting positions, a failure to pay attention to retail politics in his district, and Democrats turning out to vote against him.   

Cantor's ouster (he immediately resigned as Majority Leader) was both confounding and historic.  He had been the highest-ranking Jewish member in the history of the House, and the only non-Christian Republican in all of Congress, though I have heard no suggestion that religion played a role in his electoral loss (after all, he won the seat in the first place with his religion well-known).

Clearly, the Republican party is having an identity crisis of sorts.   The Tea Party faction has positioned itself to the right of the Republican mainstream, and even when they don't win elections (and they usually don't),

All this made me think about the most successful Republican of our times in political terms, Ronald Reagan.  If nothing else, Reagan did seem to bring together the divergent wings of the Republican Party.  I believe much more in what Reagan said than what he did-- in truth, he was a remarkable deficit-builder who solved problems by enlarging the federal government-- but his political success was built on his own smarts (he was smart) and successful use of symbol and imagery.  For example, this is his most memorable ad:

It's a great ad, and it fit Reagan's demeanor and personality.  It worked.  

Plus, and I noticed this for the first time yesterday, the house that appears at 0:12 of the ad looks exactly like the house I grew up in!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


Fierce Cello

I'm not spending a lot of time these days watching "Glee," but for some reason yesterday I found myself thinking about this version they did of Michael Jackson's Smooth Criminal.

There is something about the orchestration that I really love.  It's a collaboration with a group called 2Cellos, which is, uh, two guys playing the cello.  For whatever reason, I have a strong reaction to string instruments played this way, with aggression and purpose.

My favorite in this genre has long been Bach's Brandenburg Concerto #3:

Do you like it?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


About that swimming pool...

I recently heard a speaker quote Dennis Rodman as having said that "Life is like a swimming pool.  You dive into the water, but you can't tell how deep it is."

More than anything, I want to see (but maybe not swim in) Dennis Rodman's pool.  Why can't you see the bottom?  What has he got in there?

Monday, June 09, 2014


Mothers and Fathers

My parents were visiting last week; they left early in the morning yesterday.  Their three children live strung out along I-94, so they can head out from Detroit and hit us all without straying from that road.  They do anyways, though; on of the things that is in our blood is a near-total inability to stay on an interstate highway for long.  We're bored, and crave the things to see along the road that was there before the interstate was laid out, so we head over to highway 12 or route 614 or country road BB or whatever and hope for the best.  Often, our hopes are fulfilled.

As always, I miss them when they leave.  I don't know anyone else like them.  They left behind various things, as we always do, and I will pick them up and put them in a bag and later this summer I throw that bag and drive down I-94 towards their end of the road. Not that I will stay on the highway. There will be a highway 12 or county road BB that I can't resist.  I probably will be a little late.

Amy Shimmel wrote a great haiku last week that isn't disconnected from all of this:

A deep well of love
Mothers believe in their kids
Time and time again.

It's true.  They do believe, even when we say we will be there by 4 and that turns out to be an incorrect estimate, due to the interstate problem...

Sunday, June 08, 2014


Sunday Reflection: What Craig Said

Razorite Craig A. is one of my favorite people.  In the last few years, I have gotten to see a whole new part of him emerge as he has started writing regularly for his local paper, the Richmond Times-Dispatch.  His columns are consistently challenging, moral complex, and genuine.  

I guess that it should not have surprised me that he has this talent.  He has always (well, since college, when I met him) been an inspiration and mentor to me, and it is exactly those things that are at the heart of his writing that I have always seen in his words to me and the way he conducts his life.

As I get older, I see the people around me trying new things, becoming deeper and better.  It's a wonderful thing, and very often I see it inspired by the spirit we celebrate today, on Pentecost.

Saturday, June 07, 2014


Baby ducks in Minnehaha Creek

That is all.

Friday, June 06, 2014


Haiku Friday: Unsung heroes & surprising stories

Maybe I went a little overboard yesterday about C. Everett Koop... or maybe I didn't go overboard enough!  It started me thinking about unsung heroes and surprising figures... and I think that should be our haiku topic for the day.  You have wide latitude here-- it doesn't have to be a public figure, or even someone you know much about-- just someone who has surprised you in a good way. 

I'll go first:

C. Everett Koop
Bow tie, amish beard, but a
Doctor most of all.

Now you go!  I have high hopes for this one...

Thursday, June 05, 2014


Political Mayhem Thursday: In Praise of an Unlikely Hero

In 1981, Ronald Reagan chose a renowned pediatric surgeon named C. Everett Koop to be his Surgeon General.  It was a controversial choice, fiercely opposed by liberals.  In part, this was based on the same thing that had drawn Reagan's attention:  A series of presentations with theologian Francis Schaeffer which challenged the ethics of legal abortion.  Ted Kennedy condemned the choice, and the New York Times titled its editorial in opposition "Dr. Unqualified."  Comedians made fun of his Old Testament look and the stern demeanor that seemed to match his worldview.

Everyone was wrong-- Reagan was wrong, Kennedy was wrong, and the New York Times was wrong.  Even the comedians were wrong.  Koop turned out to be the most influential Surgeon General in history.  He fought, and largely won, a battle to establish the truth about the dangers of smoking, despite the efforts of tobacco-state legislators.
Perhaps most importantly, he convinced the nation to set aside prejudice and attack the problem of AIDS with real vigor.  In 1986, Koop (who died last year) issued a blunt, true, and surprising report on AIDS that pressed for more research and condom use, and rejected the tactics of mandatory testing or quarantine.  What jumped out at me was this section of the report:

From the start, this disease has evoked highly emotional and often irrational responses.  Much of the reaction could be attributed to fear of the many unknowns surrounding a new and very deadly disease.  This fear was compounded by personal feeling regarding the groups of people primarily affected—homosexual men and intravenous drug abusers.  Rumors and misinformation spread rampantly and became as difficult to combat as the disease itself.  It is time to put self-defeating attitudes aside and recognize that we are fighting a disease, not people.

I was researching Koop in the course of writing a law review article for Rutgers.  My thesis is that we would have been better off if we had treated crack more like we did its contemporary health crisis, AIDS-- with a focus on systems analysis and problem-solving rather than moral condemnation and punishment.  Koop put it better than I could.  With one simple word substitution, I could make the last sentence quoted above my own thesis:  "It is time to put self-defeating attitudes aside and recognize that we are fighting a market, not people."

It's a wonderful thing to stumble across a new hero, and nothing less than that happened to me yesterday; thank you, Dr. Koop.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014


Good advice, guys!

Well, I certainly got a lot of good advice from people in response to my post yesterday about musical theater.  RRL suggested I check out the Book of Mormon (above).  Gavin wisely pointed me to the Hennepin Theater Trust as a source for tickets to good shows just a few blocks away.  Also, some anonymous guy pointed out that I listed the Lion King twice.  Oops.

Perhaps most intriguing, though, was this message from my Mom:

In the words of King Lear, "How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless child."

When you were a senior in high school, we took the whole family to the Fisher Theater to see "Les Miserables." It is my all time favorite show, and I was in seventh heaven. Evidently you were not! You did see it, though.

Ouch!  She is, of course, right, and you gotta respect the Shakespeare quote...

Tuesday, June 03, 2014


The mystery that is musical theater…

There are a lot of things I don't know about, and the older I get the more profoundly aware I become of how much I don't know.  Of all the areas of American life, though, probably the one I understand the least is musical theater.  It's not that I don't like it; it's that I just don't know how it works.  It's kind of like the sport of cricket that way.

In fact, some of my favorite people are even in the field of musical theater, or were at some point.  I suppose that I owe it to them to learn more.  Just as background, here is a list of the shows that I have never seen, either live or in film version:

1)  Hair
2)  West Side Story
3)  Fiddler on the Roof
4)  Annie
5)  Wicked
6)  Cats
7)  Cabaret
8)  The Music Man
9)  Lion King
10) Oliver
11) Chicago
12)  Annie Get Your Gun
13)  < Whatever this is < (it involves a cow)
14)  Porgy and Bess
15)  Brigadoon
16)  A Chorus Line
17)  Fame
18)  42nd Street
19)  Kiss Me Kate
20)  Grease
21)  Phantom of the Opera
22)  Pippin
23)  The Lion King
24)  Gypsy
25)  South Pacific
26)  Jesus Christ Superstar
27)  Godspell
28)  Showboat
29)  Evita
30)  Mamma Mia!
31)  Carousel
32)  Rent
33)  Avenue Q
34)  My Fair Lady
35)  La Cage Aux Folles
36-100)  Pretty much every other musical ever

Musicals I have seen:

1)  Schoolhouse Rock, Jr.
2)  Oklahoma
3)  Spinal Tap
4)  Les Miserables, at the Fisher Theater, with my Mom (per the comments)

Monday, June 02, 2014


Haikus, sermons, and floods

Yesterday's sermons at St. Stephens went pretty well, I think.  The setting was an apocalyptic flooding of Minnehaha Creek behind the church, bringing an ominous pre-service warning that "water has entered the electrical room."  In a way, it was a pretty good setting for what I had to say, and I was able to float home on a tube afterwards.

Meanwhile, there were some excellent haikus last week, on the subject of extraordinary people.   My favorite was by longtime favorite Geoffrey the Mustang Boy (whose affections were not returned):

O Sally you are up
My proverbial alley.
Mystery thy name

Is Salgal. Never
Do I know will you pounce
Or purr.Nice kitty.

Sunday, June 01, 2014


Sunday Reflection: And then he was gone....

Today I preach at St. Stephens at Edina at 8 and 10.  Here is part of what I am going to say (as previously posted at HuffPo):

Christianity is at its best when it offers a way to see and understand the most profound human conditions: joy, love, fellowship, reconciliation. This week before Pentecost offers a view of a nearly universal heartache -- the pain of being left.

Jesus had returned from the dead, through the miracle at the heart of the church, and was talking to his disciples. They think, hope, that he is back to stay. "Is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?" they ask. They think they may be on the verge of an even greater victory.

They are let down, hard. Rather than leading them, Jesus leaves them. They never see him again. They are left looking up toward heaven. There is something so stark and universal about that image, that picture of the people who were left. It is the family gathered in the kitchen after a cruel and sudden death, the woman at an airport sitting in her car after someone she loves has flown off, the stifled heartbreak when a child leaves home. There is a quietness suffused with deep sadness in those moments.

To the disciples, it must have been crushing to see Jesus go. Think of Peter -- he had left his wife, his job, everything, to follow someone he had just met, and the experience had transformed him. He had spent years following Jesus through the desert, hanging on every word, sharing great and terrible days, and then he was left there, looking up to a blank sky. His feelings must have been complex as he remembered not only the victories but the mistakes such as his denial of Jesus during his trial. Haven't we all had that moment when someone has left by death or choice and we are left broken and confused?

Perhaps that is what this week is -- that time of brokenness. At one level, it is odd that the Holy Spirit did not appear as Jesus left. Instead, God constructed this story so that there was this gap, this time of bereft people left behind after Jesus leaves but before Pentecost and the arrival of that Holy Spirit.

It might be that it is exactly that brokenness that allows the Holy Spirit in. A mistake of modern Christianity is often that we present ourselves as people who are perfect, unblemished. It is simply not true. We are broken, often by are own mistakes. We have been left, and sometimes we were the ones who left. The church is a gathering of the unperfected, and an honesty about those broken places may well be what we need the most. There has been, and will come, a time when we look up and wonder what just happened. What Christianity offers is the hope of something better beyond that moment.

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