Pop Culture Roundup

This week I picked up The Golden Compass, on which the movie of same name is based. I'd become curious after the apparent growing Christian backlash against it. The basic argument is that the His Dark Materials trilogy does for atheism what Narnia does for Christianity (but, you know, the latter is okay). So I figured I'd read it for myself and see what all the fuss is about. I haven't started it yet, but I will soon.

We saw The Game Plan. I'm a Rock fan, so I wanted to. And given the time of day that we went and the length of time that the movie has been out, we were the only two in the theater. That was kind of fun. The movie itself is very much a Disney movie: very family-oriented, The Rock seems to purposefully oversell some of the sillier moments (although he oversold as a wrestler a lot of times as well, so no shock there). One thing that I finally realized after this movie is that the NFL doesn't seem to license their logo, team names, and so on for movies. I seriously cannot think of one football movie where they use real NFL team stuff. Are there any?

This week, House surprised me. First, the case the team worked on was a young musician whose "music" is that new-age seemingly-random-notes-but-no-really-its-art crap. There's some argument about whether it's drug-related (the guy's condition, not his music). Finally, House decides that its a viral infection in his brain, and proves it by inducing a seizure by playing the guy's own music really loud back at him. Then it's time to pick his team. After arguing with Cuddy about how many he can pick (she says two, he says three), he fires the blonde (woohoo!) and #13. Cuddy is shocked that he'd fire #13, tells him to hire her back, and then realizes that that's how he'd intended it to play out the whole time. Ha! The question I have at this point is what the show is really going to do with House's old team. Foreman is the only one getting substantial face time. The other two make brief appearances if they're written into the episode at all.

There was also an interesting development on Scrubs last night. While JD and Turk get into an argument about what growing up means, it's Kelso's birthday. Some higher-up on the Board of Directors finds out that he's turning 65 and now they'll begin edging him toward retirement. It's the last season and all, but I hadn't expected that. Kelso is not the most endearing character on the show, either. He has his moments and in more recent seasons they've softened him, but the other staff isn't exactly going to react with well-wishes and sympathy. I can only imagine what Dr. Cox will do when he finds out.

(For a guy who doesn't do too well with blood and needles and things, I sure watch a lot of medical shows...)

This week I've been playing with my new Chocolate phone. You see the church sanctuary in a whole new light while listening to Saliva's Ladies and Gentlemen.

Around the web, here's a funny (and true-to-life) cartoon about a cat trying to wake its owner.

Three Years

There doesn't seem to be as much wide-spread common wisdom about the three-year mark of a pastorate as there is for earlier milestones. At least, I haven't heard much.

I've heard that after the first two years of learning them and loving them, respectively, the third year is when the pastor starts leading them. I think that I can look back and spot moments in which that has started to happen, moments where I've begun truly living into my prescribed role as spiritual guide for our governing board and committees. Administration is not my strong suit--or at least it's not something that greatly energizes me--so I'll take whatever I can get.

The only other thing I've heard about the three-year mark came from a colleague who observed that after three years, the tone changes: people start being more honest; less guarded in relation to you. I don't know what exactly she meant. I like to think that people have been pretty honest with me already about likes and dislikes about what I do and about what concerns them most about their own lives. So whatever shift this is that takes place, I don't know what it looks like. That's either because it still hasn't happened, or because such honesty has already been so woven into my time here that a single moment to which I can refer will not happen. I helped demolish the "honeymoon period" within the first six months, so such a sea change probably isn't going to register now.

There is a sense of accomplishment, I think, that has accompanied my journey toward three years. For one thing, I've completed one tour through the lectionary. From this point forward, I'll have seen all these texts before. Perhaps now I'll stray from it a little more often in order to keep things fresh. While planning for Advent, I did find myself gravitating back toward a few texts on which I've preached before, but with fresh eyes.

Secondly, I guess I have this notion stuck in my head that three years is somehow a "real" ministry. Three years is this mystical milestone for me where once you've made it to this mark, you've gotten past any opportunities for early exits, the play-nice "honeymoon" period and the "serious questioning of your call" period, and at this point all that's left is to dig in your heels and do what you can.

There has been one other thing that has accompanied my journey toward three years. As a farewell gift, one of my seminary field placements presented me with a Pastoral Record book, wherein I can record all my baptisms, weddings, funerals, sermons, and so on. I have to say that I've been utterly fascinated with this thing. Some of the categories one can record comes from a different set of cultural assumptions and thus will be left blank, but in terms of the most familiar ongoing acts of ministry, I've just been giddy about being able to write this stuff in this book, moreso to look back and read over each list. Behind each name is a story, a lesson learned, an experience that has helped me in some way and, I hope, has helped others.

But today, and really the past few weeks, I've looked over the pages in this book and have marveled at the fact that I've really preached three years' worth of sermons, officiated at three years' worth of special ceremonies. Have I really been out on my own doing this for this long? Have I really prepared a sermon almost every week for three years? How'd I end up being able to do that?

But three years ago today I started in my present position. It really doesn't seem like it's been that long. I don't have any plans to mark the day, but maybe an idea will present itself. I hope a couple ideas will present themselves, actually, because I'm planning on writing my sermon.

Open Forum: The Pastor's Schedule

All entries are open for comments, but Open Forum posts especially ask for discussion and feedback...

This has been a point of interest for me lately after several conversations with colleagues in ministry. It seems to me that we're all on different wavelengths about time off, which days to take off, how long each day goes, and so on. But moreso, I keep getting the impression that at least some other pastors generally regard my schedule in particular as some sort of anomaly ("You have two days off?" "How is it that every week you write about a new book?"). We're all different, so that shouldn't be too big a surprise. And that's to say nothing of church members who may wonder what their pastor does all week, even less so some of Coffeewife's non-churchgoing friends who were in all earnestness surprised when they learned that I do work more than an hour a week. I know that that's the old joke, but they weren't joking (they weren't being mean, either).

Either way, this is my typical weekly schedule. I made this an "open forum" post so that I could hear especially from other pastors about their week, just to see how each of us budget our time.

Monday is a day off. It's my favorite day of the week because it's that in-between time: I've finished Sunday duties and have yet to start the next week's worth of work. So I do some chores, read, watch wrestling...you know, "day off stuff."

Tuesday through Thursday I have office hours from 9:00 a.m. to noon. There are exceptions to this, as some Association activities that I'm a part of are scheduled on weekday mornings, so I may wander in late. Otherwise, I use this time for a lot of my studying and writing: bulletin, sermon, Bible study, youth activity, newsletter, etc. It's also the time to schedule visits, do all the phone call/e-mail stuff, and prepare for meetings.

I tend not to get too many visitors. If people stop in for other reasons such as handing off an announcement for the bulletin or newsletter, they'll wander in and chat. And people do occasionally stop in for more serious things. But most weeks, there isn't a lot going on. I used to make coffee just in case, but when I was the only one drinking almost the entire pot every day, I stopped that. Even I have my limit. (Side note: this is how I learned to drink it black.)

Weekday afternoons are visitation times. I take communion to shut-ins, I visit people in the hospital, I stop in just to catch up, I meet people for coffee. These days during a typical week, I may see anywhere between 2-4 people/households. This depends on what else is going on that week and how much I think I can handle.

After visits are done for the day, I'll wander back over to the church office for a while to do more studying/writing. But generally I won't stay past 4 or 5:00.

Weekday evenings follow a typical routine, though not always.

First, 5-7 p.m. is generally free time. So I'll exercise, read, lay around on the couch, whatever.

Tuesdays tend to be committee nights, and most committees don't last longer than an hour. So 8:00, I'm done for the day and watch Bones and House.

Wednesdays tend not to have anything scheduled unless it's Lent. So I'm usually done for the day by 5:00 and I'm not going to complain.

Thursdays tend to be Bible study. Again, I'm done for the day by 8:00.

Fridays are my other day off. Here is where some other pastors react in surprise and awe, to which I respond that my parishioners have two days off, so why shouldn't I? However, Fridays can sometimes be more muddled: there's the odd Friday church activity or surgery or funeral or something, so I may end up putting in some time. The same thing happens to Mondays, but seemingly not as often.

Saturdays are a workday, to Coffeewife's eternal dismay. I made this change back when I noticed that I tend to work a lot of Saturdays anyway: youth stuff, swiss steak dinners, weddings, wider church stuff, other special activities. Plus, it's a day when, if I need to, I can catch people who work during the week. And of course I make any sort of final preparations for Sunday worship. This probably won't last forever...I do have a baby on the way, after all. And in the fall I sometimes miss Michigan's game time. There will be, I think, some intangible aspect of my ministry that will be lost when I switch off of Saturdays, but that's a topic for another day.

Sundays are worship and sometimes youth things. The culture of this particular church tends to dictate that otherwise it's a family day and scheduling much else is a waste of time. I will head to the hospital in the afternoon if something comes up during the prayer time, and I'll look ahead to next Sunday. I may also use Sunday afternoons to plan the next month's preaching schedule (just the selected text and maybe a theme).

And that's pretty much it. I'll admit that it's not always the busiest job (and actually, the next month or so is probably the least busy time of my whole year despite what people may think...people are too busy with other things to want to do a lot of church stuff). I try to be intentional about self-care and time off and things of that sort, hence the two days off and my being able to pretty well read a book a week (not to mention the time that I have to sit here and blog).

So what about you? Is this that weird of a setup in your eyes? How do you make time for yourself, fellow pastor-types?

The Liturgically Incorrect Blog

You like what I've done with the place?

I know there's still a Sunday left before Advent starts, but my view is that after Thanksgiving the decorating can commence at any time. And even then, I went right for the Christmas red and green instead of Advent purple. Forgive me, liturgy police, for I can't help but get into the spirit of things.

It was just a couple years ago that I felt so incredibly bogged down by the commercialism of it all. Here's a past entry to that effect. At that point pulling the covers over my head sounded better than a lot of the crap we set up for ourselves around this time. But this year has felt different. There seems to be some good energy surrounding the beginning of this season, and I'm going to take full advantage.

So here's first to Reign of Christ Sunday, one of those lesser-known holy days, and then here's to the beginning of Advent.

This year I think I'll start a new posting tradition that will take us toward Christmas: every Monday, a post related to the season. It'll be some reflection on the themes of Advent, the goings-on at church, my experience of ministry, the Coffeehousehold's preparations...something along those lines.

The Mondays of Advent series...coming soon. I know you're thrilled.

Pop Culture Roundup

I'm still reading The First Christmas. Borg and Crossan do a lot of contrasting between the use of words and phrases like "Son of God," "Savior," "kingdom of God," "King of the Jews" and so on with how they applied to Caesar and other Roman authorities. To me, that's nothing new but nonetheless interesting. One of the most fascinating discussions so far has been how Matthew presents Jesus as a new Moses: they talk about a midrashic story where Pharoah dreams of a baby who will be born and who will lead Israel, and that's what leads him to order the killing of male infants. This, of course, mirrors the arrival of the Magi and Herod's order to kill all male infants. Matthew presents the Magi for this purpose, because it makes little sense for God to give Herod a dream that leads him to freak out on the Jewish people. I'm liking this book.

We went to see Fred Claus this past week, which was okay. The movie borrows concepts that have almost become cliches in Christmas movies: we have the modern take on how the North Pole is run like a corporation, the need for someone other than Santa to deliver the presents, and the bad guy only being the bad guy because Santa didn't bring him what he wanted when he was a kid, but finally giving him that toy makes everything better. The interesting twist in this movie is the exploration of family dynamics, which they could have even done more with. There's the son who's clearly the favorite and who may be willfully oblivious to this fact, the brother who feels underappreciated and bitter, the mother who will overlook her favorite son's flaws at all costs and openly compare her children to each other, and a passive wallflower father. Family therapists might have a field day analyzing all of this.

This past week, House fired the Mormon doctor (affectionately nicknamed "Big Love") after he made a deal with Cuddy in order to satisfy a challenge presented by House. I'll leave the sordid details of that challenge alone. Suffice to say, House had made the challenge to get the candidates to undercut Cuddy's authority rather than make deals with her, so it was an easy choice. Next week, House picks his team, and I get the feeling that the plastic surgeon womanizer guy will be the odd one out. They've hinted at a thing between House and #13, we're not lucky enough to get rid of the blonde, and the guy who played Kumar has signed on as a regular. There. Easy.

This past week I've been enjoying the full Mezzanine album from Massive Attack.

Around the web, here's an infuriating game where you try to throw a paper airplane. I wanted to share my misery with others.

Happy Thanksgiving

Sung to the tune of "Deck the Halls"

Happy Thanksgiving, Happy Thanks
Giving Happy Thanksgiving Happy!

Thanksgiving Happy Thanksgiving
Happy Thanksgiving, Happy Thanksgiv!

Ing, Happy Thanksgiving Happy
Thanksgiving, Happy Thanksgiving Hap!

Py! Thanksgiving Happy Thanksgiv
Ing, Happy Thanksgiving, Happy THANKS!

Worst Thanksgiving Ever

This is the story of the Worst Thanksgiving Ever...at least as my wife and I remember it. There are many Thanksgivings that are probably worse than this, but at least as our Thanksgivings go, this one was The Worst.

The year was 2003, the place was St. Louis, Missouri. That September I had started my time as student pastor at a large UCC church right down the road from the seminary. Coffeewife's time had been occupied for some time at a local children's psychiatric hospital which was right up her alley in terms of background and career aspirations. I think that's enough of a setup.

The church at which I was serving held a worship service on Thanksgiving Day, followed by a traditional meal in their parlor. The whole thing would start mid-morning and finish shortly after noon. Since I was the low guy on the totem pole, I was put in charge of organizing and leading this service. This was no shock to me, so I began to put the thing together. Coffeewife's reaction to this news is lost to my memory, but there was some measure of understanding that I as the scrub had to perform this thing. So any plans to head back to Ohio had to be scrapped, at least for that day.

She, meanwhile, had the entire day off, so we began evaluating our options for after I would complete my duties at the church. One option would be to visit friends of her family who still lived in the area, but we'd done that the year before and hadn't been keen on not knowing very many people at that gathering. Another option would be to wander to the seminary's commons for a student-organized family potluck sort of thing. This was one toward which I leaned, just because I figured we'd know more people and would be the most comfortable.

The service went fine. Coffeewife's experience less so. She sat by herself in a pew with what seemed a 10-foot radius of avoidance around her (others' avoidance, not her own). The tipping point for this part of the day was someone approaching her afterwards to make introductions and then following up with, "Oh, you should come on Sunday mornings!" Of course, she had been coming for almost three months by that point. This was one of the last times she attended that church.

After the meal, we headed home to try to figure out how to make the most of the rest of the holiday. Unfortunately, we weren't able to come up with something. The time of the seminary potluck drew near, and began to pass. In a moment I'm now not very proud of, I pretty well dragged her to this gathering which, at that point, had been raging for a half hour or more.

It was here that it began to dawn on me that the seminary community was beginning to pass me by. I was, after all, in my final year at this point. A lot of the people with whom I'd really hung out had graduated, and many of those from my own class had gone home for the weekend. This gathering was mostly made up of students from the first- and second-year classes, and it was very apparent that this was especially geared toward families with children. Coffeewife and I picked over the lukewarm leftovers at the head table, ate largely in silence with the sounds of children all around us, and left after couldn't have been longer than 20 minutes.

So we had had two Thanksgiving meals without any real Thanksgiving connection to others. It wasn't that we'd spent the day alone...but we had spent it in loneliness. We were both 500 miles away from our families and despite anyone's best case for what constitutes family and how the church is also our family and blah blah blah, those settings had not been very familial or familiar to us. With the time change, darkness had settled in early, but darkness seemed to have creeped over our holiday much much earlier. This had not gone well.

Now this is where my memory of the day gets a little hazy. One thing for sure is that we decided we wanted to be anywhere but on campus in our shoebox apartment...we needed to get out, and fast. The other thing for sure is that we ended up at Friday's with a table full of appetizers and desserts and even a toast: "Here's to salvaging Thanksgiving" or something like that. We may or may not have gone to a movie before we'd ended up there, but even after a little 'net research on what came out around that time, nothing has jogged my memory. Still, by that point we were looking for some comfort activities to save our holiday, and mozzarella sticks and vanilla bean cheesecake seemed to placate that desire. By that point we could even begin laughing about how ridiculous the day had turned out to be.

By a lot of people's standards, this was not really the Worst Thanksgiving Ever. But on a day traditionally spent with the familiar, the comfortable, the affirming...the best that we could do for ourselves that day was Friday's. It wasn't that the food was prepared badly or that there was a big flareup at the table...it was simply that we were far away from where we wanted to be, and it wouldn't have been so bad if the day's reminders hadn't been so brutal.

I suspect that most other people's Worst Thanksgivings Ever are variations on this theme: being far from home. When "home" is defined as the ones you're with and who create that space of warmth and safety to be yourself and to share that space with little reservation, we were far from home that day.

I wonder how many people will be far from home this year, either physically or emotionally, and how a home may yet be possible for them.

Three and Out

That pretty well sums up Michigan's offense today. Attempt after attempt at short throws and long bombs, each one usually met with either the ball slipping through the receiver's fingers or Henne lying flat on his back. After the first few series, Hart wasn't even much of a factor.

Okay, let's get a couple things straight.

As much as people have been dogging Lloyd, this had little to do with him. There were the afforementioned dropped passes, the sacks, and Henne's injured shoulder that didn't seem to come around the way it did in previous games. Whether Carr retires at this point or not, this loss can't really hang on his performance. The running game basically got shut down and Manningham and Co. couldn't hold onto the ball.

The defense did their part, at least after a while. Wells did what Hart usually does, but really, the defense held the Buckeyes to two touchdowns. That's significant, I think. That's even less than Akron allowed (AKRON!). They caused Boeckman to make a lot of mistakes as well which, annoyingly, the ABC announcers seemed to blame on the weather every single time. Then the offense would step in, play three downs, and give the ball back.

It was a mess on Michigan's end. But it wasn't that they were outcoached. It was more that the offense couldn't take advantage.

So here they sit, 8-4, probably headed to...what...the Alamo Bowl? Capital One? Outback? One of those.

Whatever. Go Blue.

Pop Culture Roundup

I've been reading The First Christmas, which is the latest joint offering from Marcus Borg and J.D. Crossan, similar to last year's The Last Week. This time the pair treat Jesus' birth narratives contained in Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2, calling them more "parabolic" than historical. They build a case for the narratives being more concerned with faith claims and presenting these through particular constructions of genealogies, birth announcements, whom they each say is invited to come visit the child, and so on. They juxtapose the announcement of Jesus the Son of God with Caesar the Son of God, and so on. This will be old hat to those familiar with these scholars' work, but still helpful heading into Advent. That's why I picked it up anyway.

We watched The Departed this past week, which we meant to see way back when it was in theaters. It finally showed up on HBO, so we settled in on Saturday evening. Matt Damon, in a rare "heavy" role, plays a guy infiltrating the Boston police department for Jack Nicholson's Irish mob boss. At the same time, however, Leonardo DiCaprio is infiltrating the boss' crew for the P.D. The theme of the movie is exploring why people lie: what they're covering up, what they just don't tell others, and how lies come back to bite you. Not very many people make it to the end, either. The style and the portrayal of this world as something less than clean-cut and operatic is reminiscient of The Sopranos, as one wishes that certain people get more out of this than they do. All that is to say that this was pretty good.

This past week HBO aired a special called Michigan vs. Ohio State: The Rivalry, which detailed the history of The Game. The big critique that I've read from the Michigan side is that once the special hits the mid-90s, we hear a lot more about the Buckeye side of things, which seems pretty true. For instance, we hear about OSU's 2002 championship, but not Michigan's 1997 championship. They go on for a little bit about Cooper and Tressel (mostly to contrast their records against UM), but there's barely a mention of Carr. One of the big focal points, of course, is the Ten Year War, featuring Woody ranting and raving and slobbering all over the sidelines and how he ran up the score in 1968, and then Bo came in to even things out. The special spends a lot of time detailing how this re-invigorated the rivalry after a period when it was almost a given that OSU would win every year. They'd interviewed Bo for this, and I guess it was one of the last interviews he did before he died. But then the special details Woody and Bo's friendship and the respect that they really had for each other. The show worked on two fronts: to show how heated the rivalry is, but also how deep down most have an appreciation for how special this game is. And then during the credits, some of the interviewees tell their favorite OSU/UM jokes. "How do you get an Ohio State grad off your porch? Pay him for the pizza." Ha!

This week I learned that the theme song to House is "Teardrop" by Massive Attack.

Speaking of House, why bring in that hot CIA chick one week only to fire her the next week? That seemed pointless. Okay, that's all I have for that right now.

Around the web, here's a Michigan Youtube video that was made before last year's game. It's still pretty relevant. Go Blue.

The Potential for Change

Without much fanfare, I added a few Michigan sports blogs to the sidebar, and they're some of my favorites to read (and via Statcounter, I saw that at least one of them noticed...hope you guys don't mind).

this entry was posted the other day on Michigan Against the World, and I thought that it was worth quoting in full. It's a reflection on the 2004 UM-OSU game, the game that would begin OSU's three-year winning streak over the Wolverines. I remember sitting in a nearly empty St. Louis apartment with not much other than a TV, a computer, and a cat (the rest was on a moving truck heading for Ohio), thankful that I was at least in somewhat neutral territory and wouldn't have to hear about it. Of course, then my Buckeye alum sister-in-law found me on IM and started laying it on.

The point of the article is that this game was the latest big shift in the rivalry, and that there's little reason to doubt that the next one could come on Saturday or, if rumors are true, soon after. Enjoy.

(Oh, and there's language. Sorry.)

Flash back with me three years. On this day- November 14, 2004- the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry was in a much different place. As we anticipated the 101st meeting of these two bitter rivals in the big game, expectations couldn’t have been more different. After an early loss in South Bend; Michigan rallied behind Chad Henne and Mike Hart, two incredible freshmen in their backfield, to enter the final game at 9-1 ranked in the top 10, and having already clinched a share of the Big Ten title. With a win in Columbus, the Wolverines would clinch a return bid to the Rose Bowl Game in Pasadena. Ohio State? The Buckeyes were a team in disarray. After a 3-0 start, they slumped in the middle of the season losing three straight games. They entered the game on November 20 with a 6-4 record, long eliminated from the Big Ten championship picture, and catching heat from the people of Columbus.

Jim Tressel, only two years removed from a national title, was under about as much pressure as a coach can be without having legitimate fear of losing his job. “Tresselball” was being knocked in Columbus on internet message boards, sports radio, and no doubt water cooler conversation on Mondays throughout the state. Troy Smith was not Troy Smith, rather the “other” QB of the great class of 2002 who had seen action replacing an injured Justin Zwick, and shown flashes of brilliance but an overall inconsistency of play. Freshman sensation Ted Ginn had acclimatized well, but the questions in Columbus were abundant.

Michigan, on the other hand, was in about as good a place as a team could be it seemed. The aforementioned freshman stars in the backfield giving hope to all maize and blue backers that a bright four years were ahead of us. Senior all-world WR Braylon Edwards was in the midst of one of the most dominating seasons of all-time. Junior WR Jason Avant was about as good a #2 guy as you’d see, and the team was loaded with young talent. This Michigan team seemed stacked and ready to take the Big Ten title that was theirs, and hold on to it for four years.

Michigan also entered that game looking to re-establish dominance in the rivalry. John Cooper’s firing in 2000 after the 2-10-1 record against Michigan was followed by two wins in Tressel’s first two seasons. The Wolverines got back at OSU in 2003, and in 2004 looked like they would even the score, and turn things back toward the blue in the years to come. Few gave OSU a chance.

I remember heading down to this game supremely confident in victory. In fact, the one eerie thing about this looking back is that the OSU faithful had essentially written off victory as well. One guarantee in life aside from death and taxes is that you will catch shit wearing Michigan gear in Columbus. Yet, the smack talk from the OSU side was surprisingly non-existent compared with my first 3 trips in 98, 00 and 02 when I was informed multiple times before the game how badly we would be beaten. Aside from the typical “FUCK MICHIGAN!” chants, Kyle and I received relatively few taunts despite our bravado in chanting “PAS-A-DE-NA” and passing out “Tresselbucks” to OSU fans. Not since 1999 had the OSU fans been so reserved and humble about their team’s chances.

And then Tressel changed the face of the rivalry for good.

I’m not sure what did it. I know we had joked before the game that the only way OSU stood a chance would be if Tressel abandoned his traditional boring offense and studied film of how MSU was able to keep it close despite a gaping difference in talent by running their spread offense through the QB and delayed handoffs, and misdirections. After all, I reasoned, OSU does have Troy Smith who can run. Sometimes it sucks being right. Maybe Tressel listened to Busta Rhymes early in Michigan Week and took “flip mode” to heart. Who knows? But, out of shotgun, five plays into the game when Smith found a wide open Anthony Gonzalez for a 68 yard touchdown, the horseshoe awoke from its slumber, and things changed. Michigan fought back and took a 14-7 lead, and we were driving near midfield. When we failed to convert a third down near midfield, we punted back to OSU and pinned them back at their own one. The following drive- a 99 yard masterpiece by Smith- tied the score and changed the rivalry for good. Michigan never challenged OSU again on the day. By the time Braylon Edwards dropped Chad Henne’s fourth down pass late in the game and down by two scores, Michigan’s fate was sealed. Smith had the greatest day ever by a single player in this rivalry, running for 145 yards, and throwing for 241.

The 2004 game was the first game that in my opinion, Tressel really changed the rivalry. In 2001 OSU came in and beat us, but that was more on our team for poor execution and stupid mistakes. A 23-0 OSU lead only turned into a 26-20 win. In 2002, OSU flat out had the better team. But in this 2004 game, Tressel showed the world that he was willing to change his approach, modify the entire offensive philosophy of Ohio State football, and play to his strengths in order to beat Michigan. That attitude paid off, as since that game Ohio State has not lost to Michigan, has gone 33-4 and picked up 2 Big Ten titles. Michigan has gone 26-11 following that game.

So why, of all people, am I bringing this game up during this week? Clearly it’s not to sing the praises of Tressel or the OSU program, as Merriman-Webster is diligently working on a word to accurately describe the level of hate I have for them. The reasoning is quite clear: this is a game that can change the fortunes of the teams. I know this has been a trying year for Michigan fans, and for some reason there are quite a few folks who think we stand no chance in this game. I couldn’t disagree more, and I point to the 2004 game as an example of how a big win in this the biggest game in college football can change the fortunes of a program. Our program isn’t in a bad place right now. I’ve read the speculation on Lloyd’s retirement. I have a decent idea of what direction we would go in for his replacement, and I’m fairly certain that we can maintain the continuity of success here at Michigan, and raise the bar a little bit. I think that this game on Saturday can go a long way in getting us back to the level expected of Michigan teams. We have more to play for on Saturday than the 2004 Buckeyes did, and heading into an off-season that is likely to produce great change within the program with a Big Ten title and a win over OSU will make things that much easier in 2008.

Toot, Toot!

So after about a year and a half or so of agonizing, pulling teeth, throwing things, and a ridiculous amount of hope that at times felt really really foolish, I went into my Consistory meeting last night and said the following:

"I think I can now say that we have a senior high youth program."

It even drew a little applause.

If there's anything that I've learned about the church the past several years while trying to get this thing off the ground, it's that patience, no matter how irritating and frustrating and despicable and ridiculous it seems, is an absolute must.

Would I say that if I were still agonizing and throwing things? Probably not. But it worked in this case.

I guess that this post was to toot my own horn a little. But mostly it was the patience thing. Because that only happened by the grace of God.

There was also a "don't be afraid of success" thing and a "be thankful for what you have" thing in there, but mostly I'm sticking with patience in this entry.

Related entry: An Epiphany!

Congratulations to Philosophy Over Coffee!

This week the 2007 Weblog Awards were announced, and I have some great news!

Philosophy Over Coffee wasn't even nominated! Neither of its readers thought to wander over to give it a mention!

That means that this blog will not receive the extra couple hits that a win surely would have produced!

It also means that I will not receive any sort of grand prize in the mail that surely accompanies such an honor, like a million dollar cash prize, or an exotic trip, or a free Frosty at Wendy's! I won't even get to tell my friends and family about the really neat online award that I won and thus receive such acclaim and shouts of joy and congratulation, or at least a few bowed heads shaking in shame!

My recognition for spending hours upon hours this past year filling out memes, writing riveting original essays, and depriving myself of daylight will have to wait another year.

Nevertheless, faithful audience, I thank you for reading. Some day I will properly be honored for the time that I really should be spending with flesh-and-blood human beings!

(HT to Serotoninrain)

That Time of Year

We've come to that week.

If you live in Ohio or Michigan, you know what that week is.

Lately, this week has made me cranky. Why, you ask. Because I just become overwhelmed with a sense of dread about the whole thing. Last year, I was really cranky because the teams were so close in ability that I knew it would be a nail-biter, and the final score reflected that.

This year...uh...

Okay, up until Saturday Ohio State was number 1 in the nation...again. Highly touted defense, decent offense. They've blown out almost every opponent, except Illinois. On the other hand, OSU's schedule hasn't exactly set the world on fire in terms of difficulty. They had a couple scares against Washington and Wisconsin...and Akron.

Michigan...well, we all like to remind UM fans about how their year has gone, don't we? There was the craptastic debacle that was Appalachian State, followed by the trouncing by Oregon. Although we now know that Oregon is really one of the best teams in the country, and I really respect the year that they've put together. They owned Michigan that day, plain and simple, and they've also owned pretty much everyone else. Since then, UM has done okay for itself racking up a string of solid, though not overwhelming, victories. Henne and Hart have both played hurt but still carried the team on their backs at a few points, which is the epitome of toughness. And we saw just how important these two are to the team when they were left out against Wisconsin.

Mostly, I worry about Michigan's defense, and I worry that Henne and Hart won't play. If both or even one of them don't, UM probably loses. Mallett has done some good stuff this year, but he showed against Wisconsin that he's still very limited. Knowing Henne and Hart, they're taking really good care of themselves this week because this was one of the reasons they stuck around.

If it ends up being another win for Ohio State (Tressel and Carr are still the head coaches, after all), that'll make four in a row. And if Carr doesn't decide to retire after that, well...maybe someone else will suggest it. Good guy, has done some great things as head coach...but dude, you gotta win The Game.

What makes me cranky is the thought of four in a row.

Tressel the head coach, against a shaky defense and some banged-up key offensive guys.

And the fact that I have to live with these people...truly The Most Insufferable Fans in the Land. TRULY.

We'll see. Study that Illinois film, boys.

Go Blue.

Okay, Pass the Crow

I will happily eat a plate of crow over something I wrote a few weeks ago related to the TV show ER adding a chaplain:

I'm all about a chaplain being portrayed as "normal." God knows clergy struggle with relationships as much as anyone else. I wonder, though...will she pray with people? Will she struggle with some of the tough spiritual questions that come with experiences in the ER? Will she counsel fellow staff after a tough loss of a patient? Will she share her struggles with others in a way that shows how draining and rewarding real chaplains find their work? Obviously, there'll be the sexual tension between her and Uncle Jesse. Oh, and she'll wear low-cut tops. I just hope there'll be more to it than that.

Basically, I was worried that she'd spend more time flirting with John Stamos than doing her job, and that when she did do her job, it'd be so watered-down so as not to reflect what real chaplains do on a daily basis.

This past week I willed myself to sit through ER in order to see what exactly they do with their new chaplain. It's not that I don't enjoy the show...I just don't watch it regularly and 10:00 seems to constitute "late" for me nowadays. I know...lame.

Side note: hey look, it's Stanley Tucci! Cool!

Our new chaplain was not the focal point of the show by any means. Instead, there was something about a heat wave (on a November episode) that I think allowed them to keep with NBC's "green" theme of the night. And another character has a serious drinking problem that apparently almost everyone else is oblivious to.

Anyway, the chaplain first appears tonight finishing a visit with a Jewish family. As she departs, she uses a Hebrew phrase to wish them well. So she's aware of the diversity of religious worldviews that will show up at her job, and she makes use of that knowledge to help care for her patients. And she does this in specific ways, rather than offer a few inoffensive platitudes. Okay.

Later in the episode, John Stamos notices the labyrinth tattoo on her wrist and asks about it. She goes into a somewhat detailed response about what the labyrinth symbolizes and its meaning to her. Dropping some knowledge while giving just a tiny snippet of her own faith story. Okay again.

She explains the tattoo's meaning (after also mentioning that she has more than one) while drinking beer and shooting pool. So that successfully portrays about 60-70% of the pastors that I know. Granted, I run in less uppity circles so mileage may vary. Still, she hangs out without bringing attention to it, i.e., "Hey, lookit me the chaplain drinking beer!" which was what made a show like Book of Daniel so horrendous.

I was even wrong about the low-cut top/cleavage thing. She wore stuff that was contemporary and a little provocative, but not in a "trying too hard to make the chaplain not a nun" sort of way.

Maybe she's UCC.

All in all, based on one episode, I might be willing to call this one of the better clergy portrayals on TV. But where's it going? Once her thing with Stamos' character hits full stride, will she retain her chaplain-ness? Maybe it'll present a conflict about how well she can do her job while being involved with a co-worker! I guess time will tell. But so far, so good.

Can I get my crow with a honey glaze?

A Wedding Meme?

I'm feeling a little sappy, so why not?

1. How long were you and your wife dating before you got engaged? A year and change.

2. What date did you get engaged? April 2, 2000

3. [Question about maiden names that does not apply]

4. Any special story about the engagement to share? After I proposed, she went to call everyone she knew and I went to watch Wrestlemania with some frat brothers.

5. My In-Laws are (choose all that apply):
a. Very welcoming
b. Part of a huge family…I will need name tags
c. Not excited about the marriage
d. Divorced
e. Contributing money to help
f. Marrying off their only child

6. When did you get married? June 15, 2002

7. Did you leave the next morning for your Honeymoon? We have yet to take a honeymoon. We didn't have any money at the time and we just recently started to really make money, but now we're pregnant, so maybe by the time we're married for 10 years we'll get around to that.

8. Was the ceremony in a church? If not, where? Yep. We held it at a humongous Baptist church that in hindsight we didn't really need.

9. What were your wedding colors? Black and gold.

10. Which attributes are true about her wedding dress?
(I don't know what half these other things mean)
Family Heirloom

11. Who was your Best Man? My good buddy The Masked Doctoral Student.

12. What time was the ceremony? Haha...I forget. 2:30, maybe?

13. Wrote your own vows? Nope. Pretty much straight out of the UCC Book of Worship.

14. How much was the photographer?
a. My pictures were a gift
b. Under $500
c. $500-$1000
d. $1000-$1500
e. $1500 up
f. Don’t remember

15. Did you go with fresh flowers? Yes.

16. Who gave the Toast? Again, that would be The Masked Doctoral Student.

17. How long was her veil? No clue.

18. Did it rain on your wedding day? No.

19. Did you have a head table? Yep.

20. The food served was:
a. A multiple course meal, served – 2+ choices for entrée
b. A multiple course meal, served – 1 choice entrée (Right? Man, I suck at this)
c. A buffet
d. A Bar-B-Que
e. Appetizers only

21. Live band or a DJ? We had a little of both, but mostly a band.

22. Open bar? Yep.

23. Did you have a Mother/Son Dance? What song? Yep. "Because You Loved Me" by Celine Dion. In hindsight, I would've gone with "I'll Remember" by Madonna.

24. [Question about tossing the bouquet that does not apply]

25. The ‘Feeding of the cake’ was:
a. Very civil
b. I got caked, but then I got revenge!
c. He got caked, but was kind to me.
d. A little here, a little there
e. Cake everywhere!!!!!

26. What color did your Mother wear to your wedding? A gold/champagne type color.

27. What was the song for your first dance as Husband and Wife? "Kissing You" by Des'ree

28. What was the best wedding gift you received? Either the George Foreman grill or the milkshake maker. Yeah.

29. Did you stay for the entire reception? Nope.

30. OK, there is always at least one disaster at weddings…what was yours? One of my groomsmen fainted during the ceremony.

31. If you could change one thing about your wedding day, what would it be? I'd have had my cousin as a groomsman. That was really really dumb.

Pop Culture Roundup

This past week I read most of They Like Jesus But Not the Church by Dan Kimball. The title pretty much says it all: Kimball details his conversations with...he doesn't really use a particular term. Unchurched? Unbelievers? The lines are blurred a little. Anyway, he talks to non-churchgoers (particularly those under 30) who don't necessarily profess to be Christians, but who have a tremendous amount of respect for Jesus. Basically, the people Kimball talks to love what Jesus has to say, but think that the church sucks at following him. He spots a few overarching reasons that they give about why they don't care for the church (judgmental, homophobic, oppressive of women, political agenda, stifles true spiritual experience). Kimball then attempts to show how each of these are misunderstandings based on the Christians who keep showing up on TV. Kimball tries to backtrack in a couple places to acknowledge that it's more than just that (he does offer several challenges to Christians to rethink certain positions). Overall, Kimball offers some important insights related to Christians resisting getting sucked into the Church Subculture Bubble, where all your friends are Christians and you spend all your free time at church and you lose all sense of the wider culture and what non-Christians think about things.

I watched The Marine, starring WWE's John Cena, which was a passable action flick that allowed me to turn off my brain for an hour and a half. Cena plays John Triton, a Marine who is discharged after disobeying an order in the field (but if he hadn't disobeyed, he wouldn't have been able to single-handedly kill like 500 insurgents). Dejected, he comes home and takes a job as a security guard, all the while reminding everyone who will listen that he's really a Marine, in case anyone forgets what movie they're watching. Then Robert Patrick shows up to add credibility to the movie and to kidnap Triton's wife, so Triton uses his Marine training to chase the bad guys like a Marine would do if he was a Marine. Like I said, it's a passable action movie with some good funny bits (his stint as a security guard was pretty amusing, as well as a nod to one of Robert Patrick's previous roles).

I watched a seriously good football game between Michigan and Michigan State this past Saturday. I might not have written that if Manningham hadn't caught that touchdown pass late in the 4th quarter...no, I would have forced myself to do it anyway. MSU put up a fight and it really seemed like they were going to pull it out, but then Michigan marched down the field a few times in the second half. It was sad reading other blogs and forums the next couple days though, because everyone, both UM and MSU fans, were saying, "Yeah, we knew that would happen." Sorry Sparty. I thought about calling the one MSU fan I know to congratulate her on a good game, but I doubt she would have appreciated it.

This week's House featured a trip to CIA headquarters to help out with an agent suffering from an unknown illness. Higher-ups wonder if he's been poisoned. So House argues with another doctor and flirts with the hot CIA chief of medicine-type person. Meanwhile, Foreman tries to keep House's team under control, which is difficult for him as at least twice different members go behind his back to run tests or administer treatment. House's case had an amusing payoff based on how much the CIA would tell him about the patient, and then he comes home just in time to figure out that one of his team members was screwing their patient over For The Greater Good, giving her polio so that he could cure it and Raise Awareness~! I didn't like that guy anyway. So now House has whittled his team down to five (I hope that blonde chick is next), except now the hot CIA chief of medicine-type person has shown up to work with House. What a great show.

This week I'm back to Pink Floyd.

Around the web, there's a website called How It Should Have Ended. Here's their take on Spiderman 3 and the original Superman.

I Get All Political

Right, so I think yesterday's Onion article hit a nerve. I figured that it would, as it pushes some boundaries as satire is wont to do. And let me be clear that The Onion is nothing but satire, which is important. You know all the Christian panty-twisting over Harry Potter being satanic and J.K. Rowling secretly wanting to convert children to wicca and whatever? All that was started by an Onion article. So I get that when something isn't read in its proper context, bad things happen.

(As an aside, the more I think about it, the more I'm willing to bet that the Harry Potter stuff was someone with a sense of humor fanning the flames and trying to see just how big the fire would get...which would make it a brilliant act of satire. Too bad a lot of people wouldn't "get" it.)

Satire is meant to hold up a mirror to a particular aspect of society and help show its ridiculous side. When that happens, it tends to make us uncomfortable. It may go places we don't want to go. I'd actually posted that Onion article twice yesterday. I first posted it in the morning, took it down, and then re-posted it in the evening because I wondered about some of the imagery, whether people would understand its use. At the end of the day, obviously, I said, "screw it." Art is dangerous.

Okay, so what's this article really about if Guiliani isn't really running for president of 9/11? It is about politicians who cling to one of the most tragic events in U.S. history as a way to get over with voters. It's a cheap ploy that attempts to keep people in a state of fear or sentimentality and doesn't let people move on to dealing with the present situation that that tragedy helped create. I'm not saying we should forget what happened and I'm not saying that it wasn't a horrible watershed moment...just that trying to keep people there during your presidential campaign is irresponsible and manipulative.

There. Now you know one candidate that I probably won't be voting for.

Hey, what the hell, while I'm on the subject, BARACK OBAMA IS NOT A MUSLIM. Holy crap, people. He's a member of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. OH NOES, HIS MIDDLE NAME IS HUSSEIN~!

Well, my last name originates from Sweden, so that means if I was running for office I'd secretly plan on converting our government to a constitutional monarchy, establish Dutch Calvinism as the official state religion, and replace Budweiser with Akvavit. Oh yes, fear the name. It means EVERYTHING~!

That was satire, too. Maybe not particularly good satire, but satire.

I was originally going to write about more light-hearted things in this post, but now I'm too cranky.

Guiliani to Run for President of 9/11

From The Onion:

NEW YORK—At a well-attended rally in front of his new Ground Zero headquarters Monday, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani officially announced his plan to run for president of 9/11.

"My fellow citizens of 9/11, today I will make you a promise," said Giuliani during his 18-minute announcement speech in front of a charred and torn American flag. "As president of 9/11, I will usher in a bold new 9/11 for all."

If elected, Giuliani would inherit the duties of current 9/11 President George W. Bush, including making grim facial expressions, seeing the world's conflicts in terms of good and evil, and carrying a bullhorn at all state functions.

"Let us all remember how we felt on that day, with the world watching our every move, waiting on our every word," said Giuliani, flanked by several firefighters, ex-New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, and Judith Nathan, his third wife. "With a campaign built on traditional 9/11 values, and with the help of every citizen who believes in the 9/11 dream, I want to make 9/11 great again."

According to Washington–based political analyst Gregory Hammond, Giuliani's candidacy "should not be underestimated."

"Sure, he has no foreign or national policy experience, and both his personal life and political career are riddled with scandal," said Hammond. "But in the key area of having been on TV on 9/11, the other candidates simply cannot match him. And as we saw in 2004, that's what matters most to voters in this post-9/11 world."

After his downtown Manhattan announcement, Giuliani held an afternoon rally near the Pentagon. In the early evening, he flew to a field outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where he hosted a $5,000-a-plate fundraising dinner in a tent decorated with clouds of ash, streaming sheets of singed office paper, and small piles of authentic rubble from the World Trade Center site.

Among the policy planks listed on his website are his Cleaner Air Act, which would severely limit the levels of smoke and harmful gases allowed to pour from 747s flying into 110-story office buildings, guaranteed health insurance covering burns caused by shards of burning metal, and his "No Child Left Behind In A Smoldering Skyscraper" initiative.

Giuliani supporters praised the candidate for his "early and unwavering commitment" to 9/11. "People talk about Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, but did either of them happen to be mayor of New York in September 2001?" Bedford, NH resident Helen Rolfe said. "Guiliani was. To me, that speaks volumes about this man."

Though his campaign apparatus is not yet fully operational, Giuliani's "mobile campaign units"—refurbished fire trucks decorated with banners, balloons, and bloodstains, whose droning sirens continuously blare Giuliani's official campaign song—have already begun canvassing towns in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Giuliani's pro-9/11 message seems to be resonating with potential voters. Said Ames, IA voter Alan Benoit: "I remember seeing Rudolph Giuliani's face, on television, saying reassuring things during a highly emotional moment filled with fear and confusion. He's got my vote."

With more than a year until the primaries—unless Giuliani's court-filed request to hold New York's primary on the second Tuesday in September is approved—Giuliani said it is too early to discuss potential running mates, though he refused to rule out the possibility of naming a twisted, half-melted aluminum beam, an FDNY ball cap, or even John McCain. Giuliani, however, called rumors that he had met with a large shard of glass from the wreckage of the Pentagon "patently untrue."

"Letting 9/11 fall into the hands of the Democrats in 2008 would be nothing short of a national tragedy," Giuliani said. "Ever since 9/11 was founded that fateful day on 9/11, 9/11 has stood for one thing: 9/11."

A-Rod Receives Offer from Toledo Mud Hens

Heh. From the Detroit Free Press online:

Alex Rodriguez isn’t going to be a Tiger in 2008, but maybe he’ll consider an offer from the Toledo Mud Hens.

On Sunday, after SI.com reported that Rodriguez would opt out of his contract and become a free agent, New York Yankees senior vice president Hank Steinbrenner told the New York Times, “Does he want to go into the Hall of Fame as a Yankee, or a Toledo Mud Hen?”

The Mud Hens figured they should give him that opportunity.

Dan Royer, a graphic designer for the team, created a mock Hall of Fame bust, with Rodriguez wearing a Toledo hat.

The Mud Hens also prepared a letter that they plan to mail to Rodriguez’s agent, Scott Boras. Included is a contract offer with incentives if he hits 75 home runs per season and leads Toledo to 10 straight Governors’ Cup titles.

There is a catch, of course.

The letter includes a reminder that Mike Hessman – the International League’s reigning Most Valuable Player – is the Mud Hens’ everyday third baseman.

“We think that it would be a healthy competition at spring training between the two of them,” it reads. “Would your client be willing to play a different position?”

It's Funny Because It's True

I'd nearly forgotten the hilarity of this commercial for MeChurch.

In other news, it just started snowing. SNOWING.

Pop Culture Roundup

This week I read American Gangster, which was the basis for the Denzel Washington movie of same name that is coming out soon. These are a series of articles written by journalist Marc Jacobson, all based on people and events in New York City. The piece on Frank Lucas--the drug kingpin who basically ran Harlem in the 70s--is longer than the others, chronicling his childhood and rise to power. It details how he smuggled heroin into the U.S. in the coffins of dead soldiers being shipped back from Vietnam, and how he'd hang out with the likes of Sammy Davis, Jr. But Jacobson also tells stories of the Village Voice losing its soul to the New Times, 9/11 conspiracy theorists who believe it was an inside job, hating the Yankees, and the love story between an escort and her pimp. These aren't hard news stories so much as human interest pieces, and they're fascinating glimpses into the weird, complicated, unique world of New York City.

On Halloween, the Sci-Fi Network had its second annual Live Ghost Hunters show, which they held this year at the Waverly Hills Sanatorium, in which thousands of people died of TB and at which TAPS had experienced so much the last time they'd investigated it. This six-hour long live show featured the ability for viewers to log onto the Sci-Fi website and watch different camera feeds, as well as hit a "Panic Button" if they saw something they think the group should look at. In a shameless bit of cross-promotion, ECW's Elijah Burke investigated with them as well (just like CM Punk did last year), and he mostly followed the others around and said things like, "Whoa...this is creepy." They did catch some stuff, though. In one hallway where it is believed that the ghost of a little boy hangs out, they'd placed a rubber ball that moved several times over the course of the evening. The show went until three in the morning, and we conked out around midnight. For shame.

Have you ever started liking a band because of the latest stuff you hear on the radio or the internets, but when you start listening to their earlier stuff you can't help but think, "What is this crap?" That was me with moe. this past week. I picked up No Doy, which is one of their earliest albums (and because it was $10 at Best Buy), after loving later songs such as "New York City," "Faker," and "Captain America." The album is hit and miss...maybe as a fan of so-called "jam bands" I shouldn't be complaining about lyrics, but they've really got some ridiculous happy-go-lucky fluff on this one. The music itself is better, with some good jam breaks. Still, it won't ever be my favorite.

Around the web, in honor of it now being November, here's Jim Gaffigan making fun of holiday traditions.


So this year, the Coffeehousehold had one trick-or-treater. That's actually one more than we've had the past two years combined. Why is that, you ask? Because we live in a freaking cornfield and parents understandably don't think it's worth the drive for their kid to get one more chocolate bar.

The only reason we even had one was because I made an announcement before worship on Sunday. And knowing full well that we won't get many, we always make it a point to make it worth people's while: this year we picked up some full-size Snickers and Milky Way bars. "Fun size?" How is making your candy smaller "fun?" No, we go for the gusto. People are missing out, man.

Anyway, the one who did make it up (which we were entirely too excited about) was a little girl who'd just turned a year old. Her mom carried her up to the front step and had her all decked out in a little duck costume. We let her pick out a Milky Way, which she wasn't old enough to appreciate yet. Coffeewife even scooped up our cat who loves to escape out the front door, and let the two interact. Our cat kind of got the raw end: a few hard pats on the head, a slight tug on the ear...but he's so laid-back that he didn't seem to mind. They even touched noses. We later considered that a good sign of how he'll deal with the baby.

Articles like this make me nervous to have a daughter. Hey, let's tempt all the neighborhood child molesters as much as possible while encouraging children to lose their virginity at age 10! Screw that. Here's a garbage bag with some holes for your head and arms. When you turn 18 you're allowed to show your neck and elbows. I'm kidding. Sort of.

Anyway, hope you had a Happy Halloween.

(HT to Church for Starving Artists for the disturbing article link.)