Tuesday, November 27, 2007

'Tis the Season


Just getting our house ready for the holidays.

Wes

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Fathers and Sons

I really appreciated reading the following article that appeared in the most recent alumni email for Fuller grads:

Slowly but Surely
By Philip Carlson (ThM '93, MDiv '87)

We bring with us into every new day the memories and experiences of the past. For all of us there are parts of our story that are hard to forget: the injustices of life, experiences of being treated unfairly, the times when we were misunderstood, relationships that ended badly with no closure, hurts where no one ever said I'm sorry. How our past impacts our future is largely determined by the way we apply God's grace to our own hearts and the hearts of others.

Emotional healing has come slowly but surely for me through a growing recognition of God's love. The forgiveness I've received and given has helped facilitate the emotional healing that has set me free not to repeat the past. As God gave Carole and me our children, I committed to the Lord that they would grow up in a very different environment than I had. This meant more than avoiding the negative things that can leave lasting wounds in our children, but finding ways to convey the high value I place on each of them and leaving positive memories of a father who loved God by honoring them.

One of the things that I have done periodically over the years is to recite to my children the stories of the days they were born. I describe the events with careful detail, explaining our emotions throughout the day, especially as they were born and we held them for the first time. We may be sitting at home or riding in the car and I will just launch into the story. This is one of my idiosyncrasies of which they have never tired. I love to watch their expressions as I tell their stories. Each of them has favorite parts that I must not exclude. Brendan loves the end of his story the best. As I arrive at that part of the story he gets a look of enthusiasm that says, 'I love this part.' The end of his story goes like this: 'It was almost midnight and I was about to leave the hospital and go home. I decided to go to the nursery to see you one more time. When I got there the nursery was full, but you were front and center and the nurse was taking care of you. A number of people were standing there and several commented on how cute you were. As I stood there I felt so much love and joy that I thought my chest was going to explode and I pointed to you and said, 'That's my boy. That's my boy.''

Years ago I read in Gordon Dalbey's excellent book on the healing of the masculine soul that the thing sons most need to hear from their fathers is not 'I love you,' but the words 'You are my son. You belong to me.'

A couple of years ago, I took Brendan with me to visit someone in the hospital. As we walked holding hands, I said to Brendan, 'I love you, buddy. You are so precious to me. I am so glad that you are my son.' Brendan, who was about six, stopped dead in his tracks, looked up at me and said, 'I love it when you say that.' Now, I had made several statements and wanted to be clear about what he meant. So I asked, 'When I say what?' to which he replied, 'When you say what you just said: 'You are my son.''

'How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!' (1 John 3:1)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Project Runway

Only 4 hours and 30 some odd minutes until the start of Project Runway: Season 4. Anna and I are completely addicted to this show, but unfortunately we will not be tuning into the season opener tonight. This is one place where we really wish we had cable (the other is when college basketball is on ESPN).

But, we do have season 3 at our home currently, and it's all we can do not to watch all four episodes on each disk in one sitting. It's awesome.

Wes

Monday, November 12, 2007

Chowdown Town

Below you can read an article that appeared today in the local Owensboro newspaper. Apparently, the Big O is a hot spot for restaurants (specifically chain restaurants). Now, keep in mind that living in Pasadena gave Anna and I something like 430 restaurants to choose from - almost all of those being locally owned and operated (many of them ethnically based). Then, there's Owensboro, which has a handful of local places to eat, and a gazillion chain stores.

What can I say? Some notoriety is damnable - including being told you like to eat in a nation of over-eaters.

One last thing: the same magazine also handed out a "clean plate" award to various restaurants who served an outstanding dish or entree. Not surprisingly, most of the winners on this list were from bigger cities such as Chicago, NY, Washington D.C. and New Orleans. And, much to my delight, Pie 'N Burger in Pasadena made it for a burger and a slice of pie (In 'N Out also made the stingy list for their burger, fries and chocolate shake delights).

I guess it's a question of quantity versus quality. If you want more food than you can stomach, come to Owensboro. If you want a fine meal that will keep you coming back for more, ... well ...

We do have Famous Bistro, Old Hickory, House of Canton, and Skeeter's, which are - truly - wonderful places to eat in Owensboro. But, come on ... Pie 'N Burger. What's better than that?

Survey finds city 'chowdown town'

11/12/2007

Owensboro 7th best restaurant market

By Keith Lawrence

Messenger-Inquirer

The self-proclaimed "Barbecue Capital of the World" -- also known as "Chowdown Town" -- is getting some national attention for its appetite.

Restaurant Business magazine's November issue ranks Owensboro as the seventh best market nationally for restaurants -- right behind Las Vegas.

Myrtle Beach, S.C., topped the list, followed by Fort Walton Beach, Fla.; Flagstaff, Ariz.; Ocean City, N.J.; and Honolulu.

The Owensboro metropolitan area -- Daviess, Hancock and McLean counties -- has 188 restaurants, the magazine said.

That's the fewest of any of Kentucky's five metros.

But local restaurants will take in an estimated $273.9 million this year -- an average of $1.46 million each, the magazine said.

That's nearly double the $751,704 in sales the average restaurant in Louisville sees, the magazine reported.

Even Las Vegas, No. 6 in the survey, reported smaller average sales per restaurant -- $1.2 million -- than Owensboro. But that city has 4,266 restaurants to share its $4.8 billion in restaurant sales.

"We're about to close two restaurant deals in Highland Pointe," Brad Anderson, a partner in Gulfstream Enterprises, said Wednesday. "Neither is in Owensboro now."

That company is developing Highland Pointe, Woodlands Plaza and Gateway Commons in the Kentucky 54 area.

Anderson said he's working with six to eight restaurant chains now, trying to negotiate deals along that corridor.

"Owensboro is getting a lot of attention already," he said. "And this should help."

Culver's Frozen Custard and ButterBurgers, a national chain with more than 340 stores, opened a Highland Pointe location six months ago.

Work is nearing completion on Roca Bar, a pizza restaurant next door. And a Louisville group is developing a Japanese restaurant in the strip center next to Kohl's in Woodlands Plaza.

"Business has been great," Tyler Shookman, co-owner of the Culver's franchise, said Wednesday. "Our sales are above average for Culver's locations. And we're looking at an even better future with the new hospital, hotel, arena and convention center coming out here."

Restaurant Business wrote: "Owensboro, on the Ohio River 100 miles west of Louisville, is also gearing up for development. Underway is a $40 million riverfront development with a marina and river walk; a $400 million medical center and the $390 million Gateway Commons, with a hotel, convention center and arena."

"That's great advertising," said Nick Cambron, chairman of the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce. "There's a lot going on in Owensboro."

Cambron, a Realtor, said he's working with several restaurant chains that are looking at the Kentucky 54 corridor now.

"This area is a retail mecca," he said.

The magazine's Restaurant Growth Index studied 363 metropolitan areas, looking at total sales, total number of restaurants, per capita income and other factors.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Life in General

Representatives from a local Christian mission spoke to our congregation last night - trying to help our church understand the needs facing persons with serious addictions or other destructive habits that are ruining their lives. Shortly after enjoying a good plate of ham, potato casserole, green beans, and pineapple upside-down cake, the audience was shown a video with testimonies from people who had used or were using the mission's services. One of the men in the video quoted some advice a staff member had given him as he was in the gutter so to speak: "It isn't that you want to die; you just don't know how to live."

Bullseye. That line lodged itself into my conscience, germinating a number of other thoughts and conversations that lay dormant. How do we live? That is - isn't it - the essence of it all. What path are we intended to follow, what rules are intended to instruct our days?

I also read recently that the Hebrew tradition sought to answer those questions for us. Torah is meant to give instruction for living - all of it. Author A. J. Jacobs - a Jew by birth but not by practice (until recently) - has been making waves by drawing out this conclusion. He literally tried to follow the Bible for an entire year. His sense was that the prescriptions for holy living truly were profitable.

The Christian Scriptures too seek to illuminate a way of life: discipleship or a life-long willingness to follow the pattern of Christ. I have been reconnecting with this reality by tapping into some modern teachers like Dallas Willard and Richard Foster all over again. These two men have put in significant time studying and communicating answers to the question, "How do we live?" Foster in particular has established Renovare - an ecumenical effort to give Christians and churches a deeper appreciation for the long, deep history of others who have sought to answer this question. The resources that Foster and others are producing through Renovare are some of the most helpful and hopeful I've come across in a long time.

Of particular value is the book Streams of Living Water: Celebrating the Great Traditions of Christian Faith. The simple aim of this book is to present clearly how various traditions have tried to live faithfully God's call to be disciples of Christ. According to this study, there are six streams of thought and action: contemplative, holiness, charismatic/spirit-empowered, social justice, evangelical, and incarnational.

As I work with and minister to people of varying social and economic situations, the knowledge of how to live is clearly missing ... and I say that for my own soul much of the time. Our culture is good at determining how to be successful, how to progress, how to compete and win. But, there is very little awareness of how to live a good life - well, aside from the materialistic, shallow definitions given to us through television ads and billboards.

Those streams of culture - or more likely flood waters - are quick to suggest that meaning comes through acquisition and possession. But, the more I read rich souls and study Scripture, the more I get the sense that the good life comes through a deep awareness of God in all of life and through practices and habits that train us to be more deeply and fully aware of God. There is no easy way around it: living well means a good deal of training and preparing to live well. This - I am aware - flies in the face of what Dallas Willard calls "vampire Christianity" where we willingly take the blood of Christ for our forgiveness and peace of mind but abandon a life of decency, justice and holiness as the cross that it is (click here for more; Willard cites A. W. Tozer as the source of this modern heresy).

This takes me back to the voices of homeless men and women I heard last night on the DVD. When you get to the point of homelessness - of being down and out - there really isn't anything you can buy or obtain that will get you out of the pit. At the bottom is only a long, arduous path of recovery, which includes learning all over again how to live: how to manage money, how to say no to destructive forces and yes to positive habits. That's about it. Well, there are two other critical things - two things the Christian tradition holds dearly:

1. The role of the Spirit in leading our regeneration in Christ.
2. The value of community and ceremonies to help us remember that we are not in this alone.

Without those two realities, our efforts - so others have said - amounts to strict legalism, frustration, and ultimately a return to despair.

So, there it is: we all have a need to know how to live well. I guess that's why Joel Osteen can sell a ton of books and why self-help is now quintessentially American. People are dying to live well. And, if someone can promise to help you in that endeavor (especially with an ivory smile), why wouldn't you want to listen. It is even more complicated because there is a great deal of truth in these self-help methods and "positive Christianity" efforts.

But (and I swear this will be the last thing), there is a problem with that stream ... and to illustrate, I want to tell you about Cool Whip.

Cool Whip promises to have 50% less calories than real whipped cream. The assumption here is that you'll consume less calories, but it denies the underlying problem: people don't need less calories; they need a different understanding of how to eat.

In the same way, we don't need better products (specifically new and flashy ones) to live better. What we need are ancient, proven rhythms and postures. To hand ourselves over to the current best seller is to let in any number of "additives" that may just be counterproductive, if not destructive. So, that's it. I just finally had some pieces of the puzzle fall into place after a long period of looking long and hard at disorder.

Shalom,

Wes

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Wyatt on the Slide

Here is a clip of Wyatt totally loving a nearby slide! We had the help of Andrew and Lisa in making this Kendall Home Productions Video.

video

Wes

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Vacation

The luminous orb that is the moon seems fixed to the center of the sky, and weightless clouds float underneath its brilliance like airy waters passing from continent to continent. The wind is chilly for once, and fall is flaunting. It is a good season - one I enjoy more than any other.

Carmel apples have been plentiful at a nearby orchard, although I hear the apples came from Michigan this year. Winter - you may remember - found its way back into the party after being put to bed - interrupting a strange surge of warmth. So, the apple trees around here didn't fare well this year, at least not enough to supply the 21st apple festival at Reid's Orchard. But, pay no mind, apples are always delicious under the copper blanket of carmel.

So, I have been enjoying those carmel apples, almost one a day lately, which will both keep the dentist away and the dentist in business.

For her part, Anna would rather have the cider - by the gallon or in a frozen slurpee mixture. Wyatt too likes the slurpee.

God, I love fall. Thanks for creating it - for the good occasion to remember a hard season past, for a time when work turns to joy. I've put the mower away for a brief spell and taken to the rake and shovel - working until I break a sweat underneath the thick cotton of my long t-shirt and the warm embrace of my new hat.

I was turning back the excessive growth of grass upon the sidewalk and driveway yesterday. It was a job whose time was much overdue, but I have only recently procured an edger to do the deed. So, with the half moon blade beneath my feet, I pushed into the dirt ... once, twice, perhaps fifty times until a neat, linear line had been set against organic chaos. At the end of creating a long row of trimmed grass, like discarding excess icing from a cake, I bent low to pick at the remaining roots. The smell was rich from the four day rain that fell upon the land - musty. Deep browns and blacks hid a filthy matter that repelled and attracted me, the death and life of humus.

Inside I've been painting, lots of painting. Got smart about it this time and prepared properly: drop cloth, and painter's tape, primer and good rollers. All told, it's probably going to equate to one and a half rounds of primer and one, good round of semi-gloss, acrylic, marsh-green coat of paint. Our walls finally look modern, and our house is - inch by inch - creeping into a home that reflects us instead of Lucy and Ricky.

The smells in here are strong like the soil, but this is noxious. I have drunk the toxicity of the fumes far too long today, so much so that my head is swimming beneath the harsh oils and chemicals.

Did I mention that I've been reading Stephen King lately. Actually, just the last two weeks. I've been steadily marching through his less popular stuff: his short stories. The book I'm reading is titled Different Seasons and consists of four novellas for each season. Spring is Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption and Fall is The Body - both of which have been made into motion pictures. Spring is easy enough to remember for anyone who enjoys watching movies or has TNT. Fall is equally famous, although the title is different: Stand By Me.

That's the story I'm reading right now: The Body (or Stand By Me ... however, you choose to remember it). I watched the movie today as well - good movie, better story. King has this fabulous line in the novella, which Rob Reiner chose to use as the capstone of his film:

"I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?"

Great question. My friends at age 12 where fellas I'd still go to bat for: Smithers, Super-C, Levenhagen, Gray, Moore Brothers, and Petrin.

Coincendentally (and wonderfully), one of those friends - the one and only T. A. Smithers - is headed this way tomorrow morning - when I'm still sleeping off the paint fumes. It reminds me of that other King novella - The Shawshank Redemption - and one of my favorite movie lines of all time: "I guess I just miss my friend."

Amen.

Keep rollin' clouds. I got to gets me through the night, and then it is into long waiting of hope - the state that is longer than any emotion.

Wes

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Tornado

A tornado - or three - blew through Owensboro last Thursday, doing some pretty significant damage to the historic regions of this city. Third Baptist Church had its steeple collapse inward to the sanctuary - a terrible blow that could have been much, much worse considering there were people in the sanctuary who vacated a mere five minutes before the collapse.

That day was a bizarre day in general, and I had intended to publish a blog that night about one of the strange occurrences. It didn't happen; but here it is ...

---------

By the time I was ready to leave the home of a church parishioner, the rain was dropping in sheets and wind was howling across the eastern hills of Daviess County. I had arrived around 3:30 pm in the afternoon to give a 3rd grade girl a bible – a bible we had intended to give her back in August. Family travels had kept them away from the church and poor excuses and old routines had kept me away from them.

Wyatt – bless his soul – traveled the fifteen or so miles out into the county to visit this girl and her mother – screaming for two-thirds of the journey. Two motives drove me to take him along with me: Anna’s need to prepare our home and a meal for guests and my desire to make this bible presentation as overtly family oriented as possible.

Wyatt was a good companion – only a minor distraction from time to time. Although he did find it terribly frustrating to get a lock on the family cat only to have it evade his affection.

And I can’t say that my attention was always focused. There is a disorienting awkwardness about entering a family’s home under the pretenses of pastoral work. But despite the timid nature of both parties, we made well at conversation.

I was welcomed by a young girl at the door. Her mom had told me that her daughter was terribly excited about this, and as I entered, I wondered what the girl was hoping or expecting. I needn’t wonder long; her eyes spoke truth. She focused her vision firmly on the burgundy book with minor gold lettering tucked into a corner on the front.

I was carrying a mystery of magic – some wonderful book that she knew not much about except that it had deep, profound worth to certain people, I being one of those.

After some good discussion about school and about pets, I asked her and her mom where she liked to read in the house. This inquiry threw her a bit – not sure if that secret was okay to reveal to me, a relative stranger. Her mom encouraged her: “you like to read in here,” (referring to the living room), “and in your bedroom.” Not wanting to gift God’s word to her in a realm that was too personal, I proceeded then and there to briefly express the beauty, truth and marvel that is scripture. “This is a light, a way to see as you journey through life. This is a seed planted, a seed that can grow to produce peace, joy, patience and kindness. It is not an easy book to read. Some of it is quite confusing. But, it is our story. And, if you ever have any questions, you know you can ask your parents. And you can ask Jonathan or me. You can ask your Sunday school teachers.”

After I stammered this out, the girl took the bible in her own hands – clasping it as though it were her highest prize. Before I left, she dug out three other bibles that were buried beneath some other books near a shelf in the dining room. She wanted me to know they had others. And she told me how she had just watched Evan Almighty, and how she knew the story of the ark. “Genesis 6:13,” she said. “That was the verse in the movie. Genesis 6:13.” And with the bible now in her possession, she hunted the chapter and verse down and read in her naively trusting voice, “Then God said to Noah, ‘I have determined to make an end of all flesh; for the earth is filled with violence because of them; and now I am going to destroy them with the earth.”

The mother quickly averted this apocalyptic word by pressing the conversation back to school. The girl: she was delighted, having taken her new book of wonder and utilized a key she remembered from a movie to unlock one of its mysteries.

Yes, it was about that time the storm broke, which took this already surreal moment into the realm of bizarre. Huge sheets of rain flooded the driveway and rolled quickly off the deck onto the ongoing acres.

I realized the chance to escape with Wyatt in a quiet, smooth fashion had come and gone. So rather than waiting out the storm, we made a fool’s attempt to keep Wyatt dry with two umbrellas, two adults and one sippy-cup.

We slipped Wyatt into his car seat fairly smoothly, the large sheets of rain kicking against the stony drive and our legs. I fumbled my way in front of the car and to the driver’s seat, the mother holding one of the umbrellas to the air like an olive branch against a flood.

On the way home, tornado sirens screamed all over the countryside as varying degrees of gray gathered and hurtled their way into the eastern sky. To the west, vaulting clouds of cotton white where trying to climb one another into the highest heavens, and in between the duality of dark and light, a pristine sky of blue stretched north to the Ohio River. To top it all, a rainbow stretched from north to south over a lone farmhouse. It seemed to disappear into my car it was so close.

I think about that drive now. The bible. And that girl.

The rest of the evening has played out with more fury from the sky. Tornado sounds blared all night long – emptying themselves upon the city and county, forcing families to find shelter and refuge against the sinister spiral. Water ran up and down the street, trees shook their arms as if celebrating the long-missed rain with Pentecostal flare.

I wonder: what if that girl truly believed what she read. What if her faith moved that storm up onto our county? Of course, that would be preposterous. But, you have to wonder …

She eyes that book as though it were a truly magical work – something Harry Potter might employ. She remembers some verse, focusing her mind upon it to give her a way to unlock this new gift. She speaks the verse in wonder and trust – letting the story come alive in her mind even as her mom dodges the brutality of it all.

And God hears the story written long ago, lets it come to life again in the heart of a child. And, for a brief moment, the floodgates are unbound, brining a torrent of rain onto the land. God speaks through the flowing river dropping from the sky:

“Yes, girl, that part is true. I came within a hair’s breadth from snuffing out all that ever breathed – like two fingers joined together against the flame of a candle. There was great violence in those days. Still is. Great violence to fill a world full of tears if I let those tears run from my own face. But my tears were too much for me to bear. And so I set limits upon the earth, and I set a bow in the sky – a weapon of war to mark the peace that will rule the day into eternity.”

I wonder.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Falafel

During this year's multicultural festival at our church I had the good pleasure of talking to a few middle eastern gentlemen who were operating a booth in our "food court." They had some great falafel and tabbouleh ... just wonderful. Anyhow, I gave a few of them a card with my email address and phone number - never thinking it would lead anywhere.

Well, tonight I receive a call from one of the gentlemen. Honestly, I cannot remember his name given its complexity to my western ear and mind. He tells me that there will be an international food festival at his mosque in Evansville on Sunday, October 28th from 1 to 4 pm (1332 Lincoln Ave ... next to a large Catholic church and the University of Evansville). This - I believe - is extremely fortuitous given that some good friends are hoping to join us for a brief stay in these parts.

This also reminds me that I need to explain to all of you another great culinary experience in Evansville: Vietnamese food where the ingredients are picked up twice weekly from Asian markets in Chicago. But, that's another story.

Wes

Monday, October 15, 2007

Mixed Signals

Anna made a fabulous Italian soup tonight: spinach, tomatoes, sausage and some great spices. I enjoyed my bowl heartily - especially with the parmesan cheese from TJ's.

Throughout dinners, Anna and I usually try to carry on something like a conversation. However, Wyatt loves to interrupt these brief moments for us to actually dialogue by crying or whining. We patiently tell him to use the signs he knows to help us understand what he wants: signs like "eat," "please," "thank you," "milk," "water," and "more." Generally, it's a pretty good system. And I think it will serve him well when he enters those sulking teenage years. Perhaps - if nothing else - he can revert back to his "signing" days to communicate with two tired, frustrated parents.

Anyhow ...

Tonight, Wyatt uses the sign for "down" to tell us he's all through with dinner. Anna takes him down and he runs over to me to sit on my lap. (Don't ask me how or why, but Wyatt is absolutely thrilled to be around me right now ... love it.) I squeeze and hug him, but then he pleads "down" with quick gesticulations of the hand and arm. He runs over to Anna, begs to be picked up and Anna proceeds to swallow Wyatt into her own arms.

Then Wyatt looks at the table again where he sees Anna's bowl of soup laying there - empty aside from the remaining broth (which I was targeting as my last consumption). Wyatt ponders what it could be and offers a small grunt. Anna says, "that's soup."

At which point Wyatt reminds us once again why children are so wonderfully beautiful ... and an absolute joy to experience ...

Looking straight at the soup, and then up to Anna, Wyatt briskly makes one last sign. He puts his right thumb up in the air, sticks it into his left hand which is clinched into a fist, and proceeds to pull out his right thumb. Which, for those of you who don't know, is the universal sign for "poop."

Oh, nothing like a big bowl of poop on a fall night to make everyone happy.

Wes

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Kentucky Cabin

Here are some pictures from last weekend, when we had the chance to spend a day and a half out on some great land - enjoying the last bit of summer in early October. Although, I must say, I did enjoy a refreshing dip in the pond.

Thanks to some friends here in Owensboro who were gracious enough to open up their cabin and land for our little retreat away from the big city.






Wes

Evansville's "Westside Nut Club Fall Festival"

Last year, I blogged about the "Westside Nut Club Fall Festival" - a week long festival of absurd amounts of food. This year, we went back ... and I headed straight to the Unitarian Universalist Church booth - not because of a spiritual crisis. No, the Unitarians are the only booth that had a decent selection of food, including an African peanut chicken to die for.

Anyhow, here are some other pictures from the trip:

A Cincinnati chili dog ... which while not Skyline quality was pretty good.

Just a random picture ... Nothing says fall festival than pigs in overalls eating corn on the cob. Obviously this pig is tremendously pleased to eat corn ... and you should be happy to eat pigs that eat corn ... and cows that eat corn and chickens that eat corn.

Gall, I wish this sign was a joke. You might think so. But, no, this was real. And so was this fact: the longest line at the fall festival was the line for brains.

Sorry folks, no cow brains this year. Not with the mad cow disease. Gonna have to eat pork brains instead. Which comes out looking like this ...

And, I'm pretty sure the brains came from these plastic tubs ... mmm. Need I even mention the amount of flies swarming around these "left over" grey ... er, make that "pink" matter?
You all should come next year. It's awesome.

Wes

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Manish


About eight months after Anna and I left California we got some really troubling news about a dear friend, Manish Desai (left). Manish was told he had cancer in his hand. The short story is cruel: Manish sacrificed his hand in order to stave off the risk of the cancer spreading. Even worse, the hand that he lost severely restricted his professional skills as an architect. Almost two weeks ago, Manish began chemotherapy to further eliminate the risk of the cancer returning. Thanks be to God, right now there are no visible signs of cancer.

Still, the road is steep and hard for him and for his wife, Emily. Together, they are daily trying to relearn old rhythms and navigate life as parents to their beautiful son, Dillan.

The good news: Manish and Emily have an incredible amount of faith and perseverance of hope, and they have been a gift to Anna and I even as they've struggled through this battle.

And, yet, they are in need of more than prayers and encouragement. Manish is seeking the assistance of a prosthetic hand that would allow him to return more aptly to his work - not to mention his duties as father and husband. However, Manish's (and Emily's) hope of obtaining this prosthetic is severely limited by cost and the fact that his insurance company currently doesn't recognize the prosthetic that would best assist him.

This is why I am writing and posting this. Below is a letter written by a mutual friend of Manish, Marshall Allen (center of picture above). Marshall is a journalist for the Las Vegas Sun, and has also written a story about Manish for that paper, which you can read here. Also, here is a good website elaborating Manish's and Emily's journey: www.whatsleftisright.com

I hope you will consider Manish in your prayers. And if you can provide more, God bless whatever you give.

--------------

Dear Loved Ones,

It's a great honor for me to make a sincere appeal to you on behalf of my
dear friends, Manish, Emily and Dillan Desai. This family, as you may know,
have been stretched to capacity in the past six months during Manish's
battle with cancer. In this time of crisis they've been buoyed most by their
faith in Almighty God and the community of loved ones who has surrounded
them with companionship, support and encouragement. So, I greet you all as
Manish and Emily's "loved ones" because we may not know one another, but
this wonderful couple is the hub that joins us all.

It's been six months since Manish was diagnosed with cancer. I remember when Manish called me and told me about the cancer. He's a follower of Jesus, and given the depth of
his faith he said he's not afraid to die. But he said he does not want to
die. Manish is 31 and an architect - a gifted one with a passion for design.
He and Emily have been married about six years and have a beautiful
21-month-old boy, Dillan. The Desais have a lot of life to look forward to.
How we cried when we heard that news. And we prayed.

God was at work even before Manish found out he had cancer. First, he was
protected. The doctors are surprised that Manish is even alive because the
form of cancer he has is known to spread rapidly. Then, he and Emily were
sustained. Their attitudes have been a remarkable testimony through this
ordeal. And finally, they were looking to the future. The cancer doctors
were always clear that amputating Manish's left hand -- his dominant hand --
would be the best approach to dealing with this grave disease. Manish
mourned the loss, but Emily says the day he was given the news he also
started practicing writing and sketching with his right hand.

The cancer is gone (though it could come back, so keep praying) and we're
continuing with this push forward. I'm happy to say that the latest step
involves all of us. We have a God-given opportunity to give a remarkable
gift to Manish, Emily and Dillan -- a new hand. Manish is in the process of
getting an i-Limb, by a company called Touch Bionics.

This hand provides precision and fine motor skills that are unmatched among
other prosthetic devices, which are more hook- or claw-like. The i-Limb
boasts four fingers and a moveable thumb, each powered by its own motor and
directed by a central processing unit in the palm. It's an amazing piece of
technology and Manish's best bet to keep his career cruising in the fast
lane. (He has more work than ever, incidentally.)

There's one drawback, but this is our chance to shine. The i-Limb was just
introduced in the United States about two months ago and there are only 30
in the country. Insurance companies are not paying for this yet, and the
costs could be as high as $50,000 to get Manish set up for the first few
years (the hand itself is about $17,000, the cosmetic cover about $4,000,
the extended warranties are $4,000, the forearm fitting, labor and physical
therapy could be another $20,000, and there will be thousands in maintenance
annually and a new hand needed every five years or so).

Many of you have asked, as I did, how we can help pay for this hand. We've
set up a website that will provide that information, as well as tell Manish
and Emily's story for other people who may be going through similar
circumstances. Check out www.whatsleftisright.com to see the site, read
their story and check out the blog. You can also see a story I wrote about
Manish's search for a new hand. I'm a journalist at the Las Vegas Sun
newspaper, and by God's providence Manish and Emily came out here to a
prosthetics convention last week to check out the i-Limb.

Be sure to click on "Donate" to give via Paypal or see where to send a
check. We're sorry that there's no way to make this tax deductible, but you
can get points on your credit card by donating online, at least.

Some people may think that $50,000 sounds like a lot of money for people
surrounding Manish and Emily to raise. That's not the way I see it. First,
I'm asking that those of you who know Manish and Emily personally please
consider a sacrificial gift for this fund. That means a different amount for
all of us, obviously. Some people could give $5,000, some $1,000, some $100.
For some that might be $20. I just ask that you be generous and joyful about
this opportunity.

Second, I'm asking those of us who know Manish and Emily personally to
liberally forward this fundraising request to everyone on our email lists.
If the people who know each of us give only $10, or even $5, and if they
forward this request to their friends, we will have $50,000 in no time. I've
already had people at my office say they want to donate, and giving online
makes that really easy. Let's get this thing viral and send it around the
world!

You can keep up to date on Manish's progress via the website and his blog.
I'll be sure to write regular updates so you're informed, and am happy to
answer any questions you might have about the Desais or this fund-raising
effort. We are so excited to see God move in this next chapter of Manish and
Emily's life!


Grace and peace,

Marshall Allen

Walt

The year before Anna and I were to marry, a good friend - Ryan Lessmann - had the wisdom and care enough to recommend one book to me - a book to "prepare us" for the venture of covenant. "You should read Walter Wangerin's book," Ryan said to me. And then he went on to suggest that me - as a writer - somehow reminded Ryan of Walter Wanger, Jr. It was a compliment I didn't know was ludicrous and too gracious until well down the road.

Well, I'll let you see for yourself how ridiculous this claim was ... briefly.

Walter Wangerin, Jr. has been battling cancer for the last couple of years, and during this storming season, he's been plowing through it in the best way he knows how: writing. Occasionally, he offers up some of his thoughts and letters to a wider community. The following is the most recent of those letters.

-----------------------

August 10, 2007

Gentle souls and merciful spirits all:

Time used to tumble for me. Like the mountain stream that breaks at the big rocks, spouts and plunges at speed from crags to canyons. Time was narrow and very fast.

Now Time has slowed to a stately progression. I measure it in day/feet--feet per day. For there are fewer days left to me and heavier feet for the passage. Slowth: it requires enormous patience. Slowth: a damming of anxiety. The consequence of a body restrained, slower than an infant's crawl. My motion by disease reduced to the child's eternal wait for good things far away.

On the other hand, slowth's no trouble at all. Where once Time tumbled, now Time has widened. Like the river that covers a broad plain. And the patience I thought was severity has become my benefaction.

I don't look forward so much any more, dashing to grasp the future. I look left and right. I've the Time, you see, to scrutinize all that is. And what is companions me. The trees can't move. Well, then: let me abide by them a while. My toes, my roots. A good rain can linger almost forever.

The shorter my "Time," the vaster my scope.

Oh, my beautiful granddaughter! What you are right now doesn't need a future to give it purpose or to make the present girl a better one. You are! You are, you are--and for me it is enough. Sure, you may marry. Will be there to kiss you? Right now I don't know. But now I don't beg for that particular piece of future, nor do I bargain for it. Child, you are! And I am. And I have the Time to let the whole of you fill the whole of my knowing.

This, girl: just this. Tip of my finger to the tip of yours. It is altogether enough.

Let me illustrate the pragmatic benefits of patience.

--------------

For years before cancer broke the speed of my Time and spread its silver motion as far as the horizons, I never took my socks off. Well, not my right sock. Under the nail of the great toe concealed was a fungus that blackened the length and breadth of it. I'd heard somewhere that rubbing petroleum jelly into the nail could kill the fungus and return the toe to its former health--and me to my former purity.

I tried the trick. Fairly often at first, sitting on the side of my bed, my right ankles upon my left knee. But then Time caught me up and rushed me straightway into my days. Narrow spout, hurtling stream, my paper boat breathless upon the waters, now! I had no Time or leisure to attend to the toe. Years, I said: black as compost.

But cancer cut the speed, enforced a more casual floating, and opened an eternity between my shower and my breakfast. If I could take interest in the motion of the sunrise, well, I could in my person mimic that solar motion--just as interesting--and rub the petroleum jelly slowly, deeply into the nail.

And I know you know how slowly the nail on your great toe grows. In a few weeks I noticed that the fungus, like a black window shade, was rising. The long morning of the black sun!

And it has arisen. And every Time I trim the nail, I razor away another slice of black.

Cancer has cured me.

Soon I'll remove that sock too.

Surely it's high Time--isn't it?--that we pay as much attention to the blessings of a long affliction as we do to the pain for which we curse it. Please: it's not a man's peculiar interpretation or a woman's particular gift for longsuffering patience which enables each to live the sickness better than another does. It's a faith available to everyone. (Though there always is a learning curve.)

Pay attention!

In Lakota: wachin ksapa yo!--whose meaning is closer to "Be attentive" than to something we do sporadically. It's a continual manner of being.

For the footfall of an ant may be as thunderous as a maverick at full gallop, and as meaningful as the sky.

Rather than drowning awareness, or drugging it, or shrouding ourselves in pity or persistent sorrow, consider companionship: the tree that waits upon our slowth in order to befriend us. The wren who, quick as she is, follows ever her singular path and by her repetitions sticks in the same places in Time. The child whose entire life it caught up in a minute as long as a lifetime.

The toenail healed in Slow Time. The fullness of experience between the shower and a cup of coffee.

Walt

The Good Web

Here is a wonderful resource and website: Practicing Our Faith. It includes some good thoughts on various spiritual activities that lead to greater depth and strength of faith. I am also intrigued by the Valparaiso Practice Grant, which seeks to gift groups or organizations that would like to enhance or develop some of these activities.

Wes

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Yoga with Dad




Some photos from our recent day trip to Newburgh, Indiana. It was a very cool little town on the northern bank of the Ohio River (the Indiana side). We picked up two cool items from a consignment shop there as well: very styling bowls (like robin's eggs) and a parcheesi game from like 1960. Anna thinks parcheesi looks stupid. But, come on. It's an Indian version of backgammon. And as John Locke says, backgammon is the oldest game in the world. What can be stupid about that?




There were also two cool home decor and clothing stores there. Both of them had some good original art and even little niceties like letter-press cards.

I also saw some paintings from an artist named H. John Smith (local Evansville artist) that I really liked (oil on canvas). He had some scenes from a coffee shop in Santa Monica, and a cool painting of a sailboat. Here's a piece by him just to give you a feel:


Anna says that H. John Smith's work reminds her of Ken Auster - a pleinair artist from Laguna Beach that Anna had the fortune of taking a class from. What gifts these people have.

We've been mildly swamped with work, church, and Wyatt. Anna is now working part-time from home - doing clinical research work. And, she's seriously considering not running the marathon in October ... after preparing five months for it and running 20 miles last Friday.

Wyatt learned how to say "bum" today. No, we didn't teach him how to say that on purpose. You see, Wyatt seems to enjoy tearing off a few squares of toilet paper, sticking them in his mouth and walking around the house. We have tried and tried to tell him that is not good. Actually, we say, "Wyatt, that's icky." But, that never works. So today Anna said, "Wyatt that's not for your mouth; it's for your bum." It was then that Wyatt said "bum," heard us laugh and said it again, "bum."

He also loves rocks, the Swiffer-thing, and playing peakaboo with the cat. Oh, and this morning he got a kick out of doing Yoga with dad. When Anna told him that I was coming home soon from work, he went over to the Yoga mat, laid down and began to roll around. The truly funny part: if I was only half as flexible or calm as that kid, I'd have no need for Yoga!

Wes

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Electric Buga-Who?

Wes, do you like break-dancing? Oh, yeah.



I stumbled onto this randomly. Anna found a foosball table of my dreams: the Opus Foosball Table. Anna says ... "wouldn't this be a great foosball table for our house?" Yes, it would be ... if we had $50,000 laying around!!!

Geesh! $50,000!

But, it is an awesome foosball table.

The site that the video and the table were on is also pretty cool: Cool Hunting.

Wes

Spiritual Direction

Through a number of different means, I have been reminded recently of the value and importance of having an outside, seasoned voice to listen to and speak into my life. The short term for such a person could be many: pastor, counselor, director. I, however, am looking for a specific person: a spiritual director.

Recent nudges (and shoves) have reminded me of the importance to "get on this." So today I began asking some friends who know better than I where to look.

Spiritual direction is an avenue Catholic brothers and sisters have been pursuing much longer and much deeper than most other Christian traditions, so more than likely I'll end up in conversation with a local priest or nun.

But, what I found to be very cool in my initial search was the news that there is a website whereby you can track down a spiritual director anywhere in the world: Spiritual Directors International.

As the website just listed ... inviting someone to listen and speak to your journey is something you shouldn't do blithely. Still, this is a good resource.

Wes

Monday, September 17, 2007

Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)

Today, I listened to blues, which included one of my all-time favorite songs ... a beautiful prayer and lament.

TJ's

Top ten things I love to get at Trader Joe's ... in no particular order ...

Wes:
1. Salty and sweet trail mix
2. Red curry sauce
3. Chili verde chicken burritos
4. Pizza dough
5. Salsa especial
6. Tuscan marinara
7. Fettucini alfredo
8. Vanana yogurt (as of today)
9. TJ's orange juice
10. Corn tortilla chowder

Anna:
1. Vanana yogurt
2. chocolate
3. breaded cod
4. cheese
5. tuscan marinara
6. dried figs
7. California complete protein bread
8. Morning Lite cereal
9. edamame
10. spinach and tofu eggrolls

And one of every kind of bottle of wine available

Wes

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Bankrupt

Jesus said today that unless I am willing to sell all of my possessions - to sever the bonds of mother and father - that I am not yet ready to be his disciple.

So, I wonder what it is that I am holding onto that keeps me from bankrupting my life to witness greater things than these ...

the fear of not keeping pace with the Jones'

the security of a life that doesn't require much faith

the insecurity of moving beyond professional religion to do God's work

the fear that I will offend or confuse people if I try to live by God's will first and foremost

...

Yeah, that's pretty much about it.

...

Then, later in the day, someone besides Jesus said this:

"worship is meant to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable."

God cuts both ways - taking us down to lift us up, and lifting us up that we might be bowed down low.

Wes

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Mother Teresa

A compilation of Mother Teresa's letters and journals was recently compiled and published by a Catholic man hoping to bulster Mother Teresa's odds of becoming a saint. This book, Mother Teresa: Come By My Light, has been in the news much since its publication because it opens a new avenue into people's understanding of who this woman was. Or, more succinctly, people are in a stir because Mother Teresa doubted very much God's presence and pleasure in and for her life.

Here is an article from Time magazine about this book and Mother Teresa's dark night of the soul experience.

I hope to write more about her struggles and this article in the coming days. Briefly, though, what left the biggest impression upon me was the different ways other people analyze and critique her faith - from the religious leader to the psychoanalyst to the atheist. I have my own leanings, but I'd be interested to hear your own. What do you make of Mother Teresa's faith and struggles, her consistent humility (some would say groveling), and her inability to access any certainty of God's presence through her feelings?

Wes

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Updates

Over the last couple of weeks, we've been trying to work on a few spaces of our house: the guest bedroom, the kitchen and the breeze-way. Here are some pics to give you a clue of what we've had to work with and what has been done ...

The third bedroom is completely made up of knotty pine (as is the kitchen and the breeze-way). All of it will eventually be white, which is totally plain jane. But, we can't think of a better color right now, and we like it; perhaps only because we've been living in darkness with that pine paneling for the last year. Here is the initial painting ... and how we learned that primer is really a good idea ...

Anna rolling the walls with the "wet cat" as we like to call it: a floppy, fluffy roller that weighs about as much as a good-sized cat when it is full of paint and about as awkward looking ...

Ah, the stripping of the floor. Demolition: I've got it. I can rip things up and tear things away with the best of them (notice the knotty pine here in the breeze-way...gag) ...


Here it is: the old linoleum floor underneath the nappy carpet that got ripped up. You can also see the original carpet that covered the floor ... whoa ...


The new floor ... as laid down by professionals and screwed up by me. As Anna said, "it's a whole lot of green. " Indeed! It feels rather cold and professional right now ... but it is also so much easier to clean ...


A long view of the floor leading into the kitchen ...


It's the details that make the difference. Anna found a drafty door stopper on one of the cool websites she checks every now and then (notmartha.org -- thanks, Emily!) and made her own version...we're hoping for a cheaper heating bill this winter as a result of that one inch gap being stuffed efficiently!


Still to do: one more coat on the third bedroom, some major reorganization and a wall hanging
for that room; painting the breezeway; putting down quarter-round in the kitchen and breezeway; a fun, small, modern couch for the corner of the breezeway and a few other touches to make it warmer and more welcoming. That's just what's on the immediate radar...sheesh.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

The Whirlwind

I returned from a leaders' retreat for our church today ... only to be staring an unfinished sermon, another long day tomorrow, a fridge that needed to be moved, two rooms that needed to be painted, a family that I have been remiss to connect with, and the usual things I would love to be doing if I had a normal life (like seeing my wife and child).

But, instead of being reasonable, I tried to do the first thing that came to my mind: moving the fridge ... by myself ... with it full. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. I didn't realize how stupid it was until I had moved the fridge only about four feet AND punctured the brand new flooring that we just spent a pretty penny on to have installed. [Oh Snap!] Actually, Anna and I both had worse to say.

"What in the hell was I thinking," I thought. Anna told me I wasn't. She was right.

Thank God I am married to a woman who looks past my profoundly bull-headed, short-sighted attempts at doing good work (which only makes for bad work, in case you're wondering).

I swear the only reason to buy nice things is to have them get marred or broken (usually by me), which only makes me realize how fragile and dumb I am (and we are), and how much I depend upon God's mercy just to keep things in some sort of order.

Not to be too narcissistic or Calvinistic, but sometimes I think the greatest proof of God is that I live to see any beauty or clarity at all in my life. Left to my own devices ...

Anyhow, we did get the fridge moved. And the floor isn't as bad as we first dreaded and cursed. And I did finish the sermon ... thanks to God's grace again in the eleventh hour.

Preaching on Philemon tomorrow, which is a great story ...

Philemon and Onesimus were estranged. Paul had a welcome mat for each. Thanks be to God. Amen.

Monday, September 03, 2007

The Good Samaritan

I have just returned from a two day stay in Nashville where I attended the National Presbyterian Evangelism Conference. This was the first Presbyterian conference focusing on evangelism in 10 years - a fact caused by multiple reasons. Well, actually, it is probably pretty simple: as a denomination we have not had a clear voice about what is "good news" lately.

Jim Wallis - editor and author - was invited to address the 400 or so Presbyterians gathered in the Opryland Hotel. Anna had the chance to hear Jim Wallis at Fuller, but for some reason that I cannot recall I missed it. And, to be honest, I did not read his popular book God's Politics: Why the Right Gets it Wrong and the Left Just Doesn't Get It. So, I was excited to hear his stance and pitch.

Wallis essentially told all of us that what is needed is nothing less than a revival of 19th Evangelical Christianity ... or, in other words, a type of Christianity which is adamantly spiritual but that is also purposefully concerned with social justice. He said we need a "prairie fire" effect. And, to demonstrate his point, he lifted up the example of Charles Finney - the great preacher and prophet who was part of the Second Great Awakening in America.

Now, here's the crazy thing: Finney can not be classified by today's Christian labels. He fits both and neither. For he was ardent in his theology and justice-oriented in his worldview. As Wallis pointed out, it was Finney who began the practice of "altar calls" - that oft used and embarrassing technique we've all experienced at some point. But, here's the kicker: Finney used altar calls so he could sign up and register new believers for his abolition campaigns!

A consuming passion for God and a deep love and interest to create justice: Finney wanted them both.

...

Fabio Saccoriaz - a Cuban immigrant and former acquaintance from my Zionsville days- was also at this conference. He has been doing immigrant ministry in the Indianapolis area for the past six years. His language skills, his interest in immigrants and his experience with day-labor workers and tenant farmers makes him especially gifted for this work. You would think this conference - which was also about multiculturalism and ministering to immigrants - would be perfect for a person like Fabio. And, he was deeply thankful for it ... but not enough to cover his discouragement and exhaustion incurred from doing his work in Indianapolis.

I sat over lunch on Sunday listening to Fabio's struggles these past six years ... about how the Latino population of Indianapolis continues to grow as well as the need for assisting them ... legal help, dentistry, child care, ESL classes, job training. But, those are struggles he wants - needs he can meet. What is truly vexing for him is the lack of support from other Presbyterian churches in the area and from the regional governing board, which blesses his ministry superficially and is quick to claim it has a Latino ministry in Indianapolis but is absent in equipping Fabio's church with pastoral support.

By this point, I am getting worked up, because one of the major churches in the area - Zionsville Presbyterian Church - was my home church. So, I ask Fabio, "What about ZPC? Why aren't they helping?"

Fabio was clearly trying to be diplomatic. He said that yes, without ZPC's funding and assistance, he could never have begun this ministry. But ... I could tell there was a "but." He went on to say that he can't get the people of northern Indianapolis - including the congregation and leadership of ZPC - to engage in the ministry with him. Or, in Fabio's words, "I can get 300 people together for a mission trip down to Mexico, but I can't get more than a dozen people to volunteer for a bilingual VBS week in Indianapolis." Nor can he get more than a handful of dentists to do charitable work or more than one lawyer to do pro bono work. "And I know there's more than one lawyer in Zionsville," Fabio joked. I was not laughing.

Now, I love ZPC, and the pastoral staff at that church have been integral to my own faith journey. I know if they were to hear Fabio speak, they would be crushed and likely penitent. But, the fact of the matter is this: ZPC - and many other evangelical congregations - is too busy trying to be a church unto itself. A church that is doing great ministry, yes, but a church that is becoming more and more isolated. Think of Saddleback or Willow Creek. These type of churches are becoming bastions of Christianity, becoming regional poles but also losing a grip upon local realities. By and large mega-churches are suburban churches, so they inevitably lose contact with the ministry needs and injustices of the city's poor and rural poverty.

I kept thinking of what Fabio said ... about how suburban Christians were eager to travel thousands of miles once a year for the sake of Christ but couldn't engage the poor and overlooked in their own city. "That's the parable of the Good Samaritan," I said - that convicting and ironical tale about the religious leaders who go out of their way to do ministry while ignoring the injured in their path.

Unfortunately, Fabio and a few others are the only good Samaritans in this story. The rest of the church is walking to the other side of the street to do ministry somewhere else.

...

Yeah, it is time for a revival: to see our own streets and local communities with the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Minneapolis: You Suprise Me

Two of our new best friends in Owensboro are constantly lamenting how much cooler Minnesota was than Kentucky (literally and culturally). Well, I knew Minnesota was cool ... especially considering my escapades in Minnesota, which involved professional wrestlers and the Mall of America.

Today, though, I saw proof that Minnesota (and Minneapolis) is indeed cool. This building says it all:


That is just freakin' cool ... an industrial modern building hidden within the remains of an industrial retro building.

This is the Mill City Museum, and you can find out more about it here. The only way to get something like this done in Owensboro is to have it endorsed by the Pope or President Bush.

Wes

Mysticism through Immersion

"I have come to believe that the true mystics ... are not those who contemplate holiness in isolation ... but those who manage to find God in a life filled with noise, the demands of other people and relentless daily duties that can consume the self. They may be young parents juggling child-rearing and making a living ... If they are wise, they treasure the rare moments of solitude and silence that come their way, and use them not to escape, to distract themselves with television and the like. Instead, they listen for a sign of God's presence and they open their hearts towards prayer." - Kathleen Norris as quoted in Eugene Peterson's Eat This Book.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Reading the Sands of the Hourglass

Here's a fun link, which will determine how many years you can expect to live: click here.

I came to 82-83 years. Anna: 97! She better figure out what she's going to do for those additional fifteen.

Oh, and if you discover that you should already be dead ... I'm terribly sorry.

Wes

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Existentialist Anniversary

As I wrote recently, Saturday was our anniversary and we hoped to celebrate it with more gusto this week. Well, it is true we carved out space to celebrate it: two days, in fact. The original plan was to get away - off to Louisville where we could spend the night in a cool hotel. The big piece of this puzzle was getting someone to watch Wyatt, and when it became clear Lisa - Anna's mom - was not going to be available we should have nipped it in the bud. However, we pressed on, still trying to figure out a way to make it happen.

About last Friday, though, we realized our planning was senseless. Truly getting a good sweep of Louisville - enjoying some good art, dining and romantic space - was not an option. I was severely bummed by this.

Actually, I forgot a key piece. We were also lining up a plan B all the while we prepared for Louisville.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

9 to 5

Today marked the 9th Annual Multicultural Festival of Owensboro - hosted by (and largely run by) First Presbyterian Church. Subsequently, I found myself enjoying the first reasonably warm summer day in a long, long time on the beautiful grounds of the church which has called me to pastor them.

The Multicultural Festival is something more of a fair or circus, without the games and with the addition of some hints dignity. In truth, the multiculturalism is hidden beneath the more palatable guise of "multiculturalism in America." Therefore, anything goes, including the opening ceremony consisting of "America the Beautiful," the presentation of the colors, a Scottish band (yes, bag pipes rule!) and a Chinese dragon you'd likely see the streets of Shanghai. That said, I was surprisingly pleased to look around at one point and notice several peoples and nations represented across the lawn. And, it is indeed a beautiful collection of cultures - everything from the slow grace of martial arts to the playful prancing of country cloggers. We even had four or five solid booths set up to taste the world - including Chinese and Filipino food, which was all fairly authentic. The Middle Eastern food was definitely true to form, and I had a great conversation with two men - one a professor of criminal justice at a nearby university and another a Muslim from the nearby city of Evansville. I - along with others - encouraged these men to open up a Middle Eastern eatery somewhere in Owensboro. The best we could get from them was an invitation to an international food day sometime in November.

I played master of ceremonies to one of the two stages set up for the day - announcing in brief the various acts: blue grass band, Aikido demonstration, Latino dancing, a Zumba class, and the "Footstomping Express Cloggers" to end the day.

...

Today, also marked our 5th anniversary of marital life (Anna and I, that is). We nearly forgot to say congratulations to each other until we happened upon the farmer's market this morning. Actually, we knew it was coming up, but with multiple obligations creeping up and surrounding our lives, we had pushed hopes of celebrating our anniversary off into the coming week, which is why we suffered some amnesia. I couldn't let that stand, so we went with impromptu and bought some flowers at the farmer's market. And later we went to dine at Nikko's - the local eatery which actually seems worth finding a baby sitter, the time and the money to enjoy in Owensboro.

Wes

Friday, August 17, 2007

Wow

Steve McQueen's Ferrari went for $2,100,000. That's $1.5 million more the usual price for this type of Ferrari. I just need to get Johnny Depp to come back to Owensboro and plant his cheeks in the xA!

Wes

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Good Writing, Good Thinking

Here are two links for you today:

1. An article about one of Steve McQueen's old cars - a ferrari - that is going up for auction this weekend. Dan Neil's writing is superb. He brings me about as close to driving a hundred thousand dollar automobile as I'll ever get.

2. A blog from a cool couple in Southern Illinois who are making a go about sustainable living - interestingly, they moved to Illinois from the Los Angeles area about seven years ago.

Wes

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

My Boy



Tousled and tumbling into the thickest patch of grass,
I chased your laughter -
hoping it would fill my dreams,
nullify my worries.
You ran, circling me in jest and discovery -
all boy, my boy,
muscles forming and imperfect steps,
grunting the words "bug,"
and "ball."
Not words, sounds really -
Speaking a world into being.

Serious and serenely staring at the television,
you curl your body backwards against your spine -
stretching it against the sofa,
turning over in my lap,
wrestling your blanket in torment and delight.
My boy, your life is
a wonder of infinite unknowns and insights -
a steady collection of gestures and
mimics,
the shake of your head,
an extended arm to present a pea,
the over-sized brush over your teeth.

Your face is discovery,
and behind your eyes is a map awaiting
visions and formations,
Somehow, my boy, you are part of me,
and not.
The thousand scenes play in my head
of why you are life,
of why life is a gift.

Wes

Project Runway


[disclaimer: spoilers regarding Project Runway: Season 1 follow]

Oh my gosh. A and I just finished Project Runway: Season 1, and we are so charged up to be creative. Unfortunately, I am also way too tired right now, so creativity will have to wait at least one more night.

But, I did just want to say the following:

1. Wendy Pepper - wherever you are ... you are definitely a crazy bird ... my arm-chair psychologist in me definitely thinks you have HUGE insecurity issues and - therefore - have to bring every one else into a crap hole so you don't feel entirely inadequate. And Kara Saun fitted you better than a model ... don't give away your soul, you may need it someday ... just ask Bart Simpson.
2. Jay McCarroll won in what I believe is the best way - by immersing yourself into the regions that formed you and then screaming out at the top of your lungs in your own distinct voice. His stuff was not only cool; it's cool to know it emerged from a country setting where fashion is the farthest thing from most peoples' minds. Check out his website and the line of clothes he released by clicking here.
3. As much as a I hate to say it, I think Kara Saun was hurt by going back to LA to finish up her designs and clothes. When she was in NY, she was able to shine by letting her artistic vision rise above the rest of the contestants. In LA, I think she relied much too much on the designs coming out of Hollywood (not to mention the disappointing turn of events when she employed her friends to complete her design ... totally out of character).

Wes

Thursday, August 09, 2007

I'd Buy That for A Dollar

I paid my $20 to Steve Jobs this past weekend - as if Apple's pockets are not stuffed like teddy bears already. Anyhow, here are the twenty songs I selected. Oh, briefly, a word about them: I didn't get much feedback from all of you ... huurruumph. A friend from Los Angeles had given Anna a heads up about a cool artist named Regina Spektor ... that was great advice. Her two songs are my favorite on the cd. The rest of the songs came from hearing one song on "Lost": Joe Purdy's Wash Away (end of episode 3 of Season 1). I decided to go with the folksy, alternative stuff. So, again, here I go ...

1. Fidelity by Regina Spektor
2. On the Radio by Regina Spektor
3. Gotta Have You by The Weepies
4. The New Love Song by Joshua James
5. Today by Joshua James
6. Wash Away (reprise) by Joe Purdy
7. The City by Joe Purdy
8. Cinderella & the A Train by Joe Purdy
9. Laughing Man by Joe Purdy
10. Why You by Joe Purdy
11. Colors by Amos Lee
12. The Guy That Says Goodbye to You Is Out of His Mind by Griffin House
13. Never Again by Griffin House
14. Come On! Feel the Illinoise!, Pt. I: The World's Columbian Exposition / Pt. II: Carl Sandburg Visits Me In a Dream by Sufjan Stevens
15. Chicago by Sufjan Stevens
16. Casimir Pulaski Day by Sufjan Stevens
17. They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!! They Have Come Back from the Dead!! Ahhhh! by Sufjan Stevens
18. Title and Registration by Death Cab for Cutie
19. Rottura by Polmo Polpo
20. Chicago (To String Remix By Jongalloway) by Sufjan Stevens

Wes

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Michael Vick

Of all the lousy, shameful sports stories to emerge this summer, I've been following the Michael Vick story the closest. I'm not exactly sure why. Maybe it is because of a long personal fascination with black athletes (beginning with Michael Jordan) and - at the same time - a sadness and revulsion about the personal moments of utter failure: Jordan's long-recorded gambling addiction and infidelity, Kobe Bryant's sexual assault, Barry Bond's immense and intolerable ego. Maybe it's just the lure of an "Achilles" tale, of a demi-god who seemed to have it all but for the minor fault that brought him down.

Maybe you've read some of the news stories about what Michael Vick is accused of: running and funding a dog fighting scheme, which includes the accusation of viciously killing pit bulls if they did not perform well in practices or fights. Perhaps you've seen the loud cries of PETA and other concerned advocacy groups on television. I tried to remain as objective as possible and chose to read the 18 page indictment. There is no way around it; if the events suggested are true, then Vick has some reckoning (even if that doesn't occur through a judge and jury).

While acknowledging the potential horrors committed, I also couldn't escape an underlying irony: the fact that there would be such outrage and shock over an star football player engaged in brutal acts given that the very culture of professional football is brutal and violent. I also couldn't believe there wasn't anything written about how much race plays into this story ... until I read the following story at ESPN.com. Hopefully, you'll find this story worth your time. I think it's an important voice in this whole Vick drama:

A History of Mistrust
by Wright Thompson

Wes

Friday, August 03, 2007

Hot as Hades

Goodness gracious it is hot in Owensboro!

I rode home from work today, and I kept expecting an inferno the size of a city block just around the corner. That would presume that a wave of fiery exhaust was spewing from something the fire department could at least contain. But, noooo, the heat I felt on the way home was nothing but the searing sun and heavy humidity - turning Owensboro into a kiln.

I think this is what walking the rim of a volcano feels like.

Weather predictions have the heat ranging in the mid 90's (low 100's) with the heat index for the rest of the weekend and well into next week.

Wyatt and I go outside for some play time most afternoons when I get home, but even those are becoming unbearable. Thankfully, there is some shade to protect us. I am still nervous that the grass (or worse, myself) might suffer instantaneous combustion.

Just to make sure you know I'm not lying ... here is the weather report from the National Weather Service:
...DANGEROUS AFTERNOON HEAT INDEX VALUES EXPECTED NEXT WEEK...

WIDESPREAD HEAT INDEX READINGS BETWEEN 100 TO 105 DEGREES ARE
EXPECTED TO OCCUR...BEGINNING OVER PARTS OF SOUTHEAST MISSOURI
AND SOUTHWEST ILLINOIS SUNDAY AFTERNOON...AND OVERSPREADING THE
REMAINDER OF THE QUAD STATE REGION EACH AFTERNOON THROUGH MOST OF
NEXT WEEK.

A LARGE AREA OF HIGH PRESSURE WILL BECOME ENTRENCHED ACROSS THE
REGION STARTING THIS WEEKEND AND EXTENDING THROUGH AT LEAST THE
MIDDLE OF NEXT WEEK. HEAT AND HUMIDITY WILL CONTINUE TO BUILD AND
LEAD TO SOME OF THE HOTTEST WEATHER SO FAR THIS SUMMER.

AFTERNOON HIGH TEMPERATURES ARE EXPECTED TO RISE INTO THE MIDDLE
AND UPPER 90S....WITH DAYTIME RELATIVE HUMIDITIES EXPECTED TO
REMAIN AT OR ABOVE 50 PERCENT. THE COMBINATION OF THE HEAT AND
HUMIDITY...AS WELL AS RELATIVELY LIGHT WINDS WILL PRODUCE HEAT
INDEX VALUES IN THE EXTREME CAUTION TO DANGER CATEGORY...WITH
READINGS RANGING FROM 100 TO 105 DEGREES.

HERE A FEW TIPS TO GUARD AGAINST THE UPCOMING HEAT WAVE...

STAY OUT OF THE SUN...WHEN POSSIBLE.

SLOW DOWN. ANY STRENUOUS ACTIVITY SHOULD BE REDUCED...ELIMINATED
OR RESCHEDULED TO THE COOLEST TIME OF THE DAY.

DRESS IN LIGHT COLORED CLOTHING THAT REFLECTS HEAT AND SUNLIGHT.

DRINK PLENTY OF WATER OR OTHER NON ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES. BE SURE TO
DRINK FLUIDS...EVEN IF YOU DO NOT FEEL THIRSTY.

PERSONS WITH SPECIAL MEDICAL CONDITIONS SHOULD CHECK WITH THEIR
DOCTOR ON HOW TO DEAL WITH MEDICATIONS...FLUIDS AND DIET DURING HOT WEATHER.

THOSE ESPECIALLY SENSITIVE TO HEAT SHOULD SEEK SHELTER IN A COOL
PLACE. IF A COOL PLACE IS NOT IMMEDIATELY AVAILABLE...CONTACT YOUR
LOCAL GOVERNMENT OR COMMUNITY AGENCY TO FIND AIR CONDITIONED
LOCATIONS TO STAY IN DURING THE HOTTEST PART OF THE DAY.

IF YOU HAVE LIVESTOCK OR PETS...MAKE SURE THAT THEY ARE PROVIDED
WITH PLENTY OF WATER AND SHADE...WHEN POSSIBLE.

FINALLY...TAKE TIME OUT TO CHECK ON THOSE NEIGHBORS OR FAMILY
MEMBERS THAT MAY BE PARTICULARLY SENSITIVE TO HEAT.