Archive for the ‘Random’ Category

A Fork in the Road

Posted: February 28, 2011 in Random

For the past number of years this blog has been the home for all things Ben, however as of today that will change.  From here on out this blog will be the home of all things Ben that are non-sports related.  If you want my thoughts on sports you can instead find those here instead.

For the past number of months I’ve been struggling to decide what is worth posting about here and as such have wound up posting little to nothing.  Not because it’s not worth talking about, but mostly because I couldn’t decide what fit best here.  Those seeking ministry and theological posts may be turned off by sports opinions and those seeking sports thoughts may be turned off by posts of a theological bent.  After reading a post on Frank Viola’s blog a couple weeks ago that put forth the idea the only way to maintain readership is to be focused, I started toying with the idea of starting a secondary sports themed blog and today I took the step.

For those of you who really just want one or the other I hope this makes your time reading my blog(s) a little more effective and for those of you who want both I hope you will subscribe to the sports blog as well.  I’m not claiming either are worth scheduling your life around, but hopefully with things more sorted out my conviction, creativity and drive to post regularly will be more sorted out as well.

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Obviously with the world seemingly coming to an inescapable end at the hands of climate change in the near future – even Stephen Hawking thinks we should bail ship – every company and their tail wagging subsidiaries are trying to seem more earth friendly.  NBC does its green week, toilet paper comes recycled and this past week our Shopper’s Drug Mart started charging five cents per bag.  Obviously they are not the first business to try these shenanigans in an attempt to appear more environmentally conscious.  Superstore has been doing it for years.  It was the rest of the transaction that made me laugh out loud.

Being the well known Planeteer that I am, I turned down the bag at the check out counter – save a plastic tree when you can right – but then I was handed a 3″x3″ cardboard ticket and was wished “good luck”.  That is right: Shoppers Drug Mart would be horrified to give you a free flimsy plastic bag to carry your recently purchased items in and as such will charge a five cent per bag “sin tax” to make up their financial shortfall in a recession, but they have no problem in handing out cardboard instant win tickets – which we all know no one ever wins on – to every customer that comes through the doors.  Using a plastic bag that I will reuse at home is an evil to be discouraged five cents at a time, but deforesting South America to print lottery tickets in perfectly acceptable apparently.  The real kicker is that the prize being offered if someone were to win was a greenhouse gas factory . . . yup . . . a car.

I am all for being environmentally conscious, but please, can we all just agree to be at least a little bit consistent on this?  If only Alanis Morrisette had released “Jagged Little Pill” fifteen years later this could have been the second verse on her hit single.

It seems as though the past few months have been a time destined for letting go of the old and moving on to new things.  From divesting myself of a rickety smartphone (Motorla Q9c) and investing in my Samsung Omnia, to seeing the retirement of my senior pastor (he’s missed far more than the Moto Q9c) and taking on many of his duties, to the untimely death of Sharp Microwave and the ushering in of it’s replacement, it has been a time of change around here.

Just when I thought the changes had finally settled down though, our family suffered yet another loss this week: the lawn sprinkler.  I guess you’d really only call it a loss though if you will miss the object which is gone.  Unlike Sharp Microwave – who was a dear friend to the whole family – Oscillating Lawn Sprinkler was often the bane of my existence.  It’s inefficient and leaky ways always left me feeling like I was getting soaked in the deal.  It took as much water as it could, but despite it’s apparent “settings wheel” it would never really take instruction well.  In fact despite constant correction it usually watered my sidewalk and patio more than my lawn.  I had been considering ending our relationship for some time now, but – being the gracious person I am – always thought that maybe next time it would finally get it right.

The last straw came on Tuesday night.  The evening started of as it usually did with Oscillating Lawn Sprinkler curmudgeonly fighting against it’s settings and being too lazy to actually alternate spraying the right and then left sides of the lawn, and instead opting just to stick in one direction.  Finally, after much tough love, I was able to “convince” it to start going from one side to the other again.  Alas when I came out two hours later it became quite apparent that Oscillating Lawn Sprinkler had decided to go back to its one-sided ways shortly after I left the scene.  It likely thought I would graciously forgive again after a short conversation, but it was mistaken: its day of reckoning had finally come.  That night I declared that it had had it’s last chance and that, “Tomorrow I’ll buy a replacement”.  It stayed that night on the lawn: the last night it would see on my green earth.

Being a man of my word I went the next day to Walmart and forged a new friendship with this brown and yellow beauty.  With more jets than I could count and a promise of “25% increased efficiency” we hit it off right away.  After paying I took the new sprinkler back to my yard and introduced Oscillating Lawn Sprinkler to it’s replacement.  I think it was so shocked that it didn’t say a word.  So I just unhooked it from it’s hose of four years and attached it’s replacement.  I made a clean break and it felt good.

Rather than fighting and making a big scene of it though, Oscillating Lawn Sprinkler just slinked away on to the black top.  Maybe it thought that in it’s retirement it could just hang on to a spot somewhere in the garage and while away it’s years in retirement.  I considered it for a moment, but knew that letting it hang around wouldn’t be healthy or productive for either of us so I did the only thing I could do: I dumped it . . . in the garbage can in the alley.

Good riddance foul implement of water wastefulness and much agony.  My life and the lives of my family are far better off without you in them.

A quick warning to you all: this post holds no meaningful content whatsoever.  It is however particularly amusing to me so I will leave it for your judgment.

I do not often frequent the Pioneer Co-op grocery store for many reasons – mostly because the prices are high and also because the aisles are often blocked by people resembling Mr. Burns trying to decide between ketchup and catsup.  It’s not a pretty scene and will generally take you at least twenty minutes to get in and out with your $5 apple (I exaggerate obviously).  That being said, I do go there to buy cheap bulk hot dogs for the youth and when I do I am usually treated to at least some strange signage, weird product or comical mislabeling.  Previously I have told you about the muffin tops (you may want to follow me on Twitter to get all my musings) which are kind of  weird product, but this is more of a mislabeling laugh.

In recent times it has become popular for grocery stores to give you a per unit price on items beyond just the full price to save their customers the tedious task of having to bring a calculator to the grocery store so they can decide upon the best deal.  While trying to decide which hot dogs I should purchase for the youth fundraiser this weekend, I noticed that the per unit price on this particular variety was unnaturally high.  Not only that but I had never attempted to purchase bulk hot dogs by the milliliter either.  I was not sure if they would require the hot dogs be liquified before purchase or not – which would make them decidedly less useful for barbecuing – and I felt that even at that $399/100 ml seemed like a particularly high price for bulk hotdogs.

Thanks once again to Pioneer Co-op for providing some comic relief for me in what is otherwise a decidedly busy day.

Well, today was my turn to preach again, and as always I love the process of getting there and delivering the message.  I always feel blessed to have the opportunity to study and prepare for a week and then share what I’ve learned and been challenged by with a few hundred people on Sunday morning.  This morning was Galatians 3:6-9.  I was challenged again this week that the heart of God’s covenant with his people isn’t just about blessing his people, but making them a blessing to all those around them.  I always think it’s interesting how we can turn Jesus message of hope for the whole of creation and turn it solely into a message of personal salvation.  Our culture is becoming more and more social and community oriented and yet the message many of our churches are trying to sell is that Jesus came to save individuals.  Now it may not be completely untrue, but I think there’s so much more to it than that and maybe a revisiting of how we’re packaging Jesus message to our culture is probably warranted.

All that being said, now that the task is done for another week, I’m finding myself in a far from unfamiliar place.  Kind of like that smell that your pillow takes on when you don’t wash it for a while but you just get used to.  It’s not a good smell, and realistically you’d be happier without it, but it’s not altogether nauseous and so you just get used to it.  It would take quite a bit of work to do the wash when you have other things in life to accomplish so you just kind of carry on and live with it.  That’s what my post sermon blues are like: it’s not altogether debilitating and I know they’ll pass so I just kind of learn to deal with them.  With great regularity after preaching I find myself quite exhausted for the rest of the day and am left with an overall bedgraggled feeling: a kind of mix of weariness, insecurity, and depression.  This is far from an overwhelming feeling but it often does color the rest of my waking hours with an hue on the blue part of the spectrum.

I think it probably stems from the perfectionist part of me that wishes a few thoughts had come out better, the self-conscious part of me that wonders what people thought of what I said, the defeatest part of me that wonders if it really made any difference, and likely just the overall physical exertion that comes from verbally “opening a vein and bleeding for the congregation” for half an hour as I once read it put.  I know that with some sleep and a “day off” tomorrow the world will look much different, but tonight I’m sitting here typing, getting ready for bed, drinking a decaf mocha and listening to Alanis Morrissette’s acoustic re-recording of her “Jagged Little Pill” album.  I know I’m dating myself with this, but I still think it’s one of the best albums recorded.

With that I’ll bid you farewell, adieu, and all that other stuff.

25 Random Things About Me

Posted: February 9, 2009 in Random
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I realize that I’m far from the first to do this post, and I’ll likely be far from the last.  People have been getting tagged with this like a 7-11 wall in south central L.A. and I’m just one of the most recent to have received this love tap.  My hope is that I can come up with some things that you wouldn’t otherwise know about me, and that it won’t just become a twenty-five part run on sentence like I’ve read from some other people.  Feel free to applaud what you find virtuous and mercilessly mock what you find embarassing.

1. I’ve got a couple of clones out there that likely don’t know that they are only copies of the original.  I claim this despite the fact that both of my clones are years older than I am.  I can’t explain it, I just know that I have passed for Fred Durst and George Stroumboulopoulos on more than a few occasions.  I can see the Fred Durst similarities, but the George one is a bit more of a stretch in my mind.

2. Despite the fact that I have had a very stable home life throughout my time here on earth, I have lived in 8 different homes in my 28 years and have moved a total of 15 times.

3. Despite the fact that my job leads me to talking to lots of people and publicly speaking in front of groups of hundreds of people, I’m actually fairly shy and find it difficult to make friends.

4. After football and baseball, tennis may well be my favourite sport to watch on TV.

5. While being a “Mac guy” is the new culturally accepted counter-culture thing to do, I am unashamedly a “Windows guy”.

6. I am somewhat ashamed to admit that I was an early adopter of the Sega CD gaming system.  $400 later I was able to play Sega cartridge games on discs instead.  I have been subsequently hesitant to become an early adopter.

7. I’m rarely sleeping before 12:30am on weeknights even though I have to get up at 6am every morning to get the family on the road.

8. Given the opportunity I think that being a trucker or a sportswriter would be really enjoyable and fulfilling careers for me.

9. I own a 19 oz. pool cue named “Svetlana”.

10. I thoroughly love the Metal Gear Solid video game franchise but have only had the time to play through volume one and two so far even though I have had volumes three and four on my shelf for over 7 months now.

11. I am a member of the Mennonite Brethren conference of churches which is known for it’s pascifist theology, but I really enjoy watching MMA.

12. I am one of the world’s biggest Chicago Bears fans although I have no real idea as to exactly when I started cheering for them or why.

13. I would like to think I’m a fairly socially conscious person, but don’t think that I do enough about what I know.

14. I don’t watch many movies and don’t really miss them.

15. Despite the fact that I generally hated exercise until a year ago, I really miss not having been able to go to the gym regularly for the last little while.  Thankfully, I will be able to start getting back there regularly starting this week.

16. If I had to choose between having sattelite radio or sattelite TV I’d pick the sattelite radio.

17. I hate spending money on dress clothes because I think they are overpriced and only serve to make you look pretentious.

18. I have a few chronic diseases like acid reflux, IBS, and psoriasis, but none of them started until I got engaged.

19. I serve on the Board of Faith and Life for the Saskatchewan Mennonite Brethren conference – I help to discern matters of faith and practice.

20. I really only enjoy reading books that I think I might not agree with because I see no point in reading something I already know and agree with.

21. For some reason shows that I really enjoy tend to get cancelled. (ie. Andy Barker P.I., Arrested Development, Pushing Daisies)

22. Meatloaf is probably my favourite music artist which is somewhat ironic considering that I can’t stand Broadway musicals.  If that doesn’t seem ironic to you than you haven’t listened to enough Meatloaf before.

23. I prefer dark basements to sunny days outdoors.

24. I really hate shaving so I endeavour to do it as little as possible.

25. I can handle being apart from people and things for reasonably long periods of time without much problem, but I get antsy if I’m without internet access for more than a few hours.

Well, there’s 25 random things about me.  They certainly aren’t the most important things about me, and they certainly aren’t an exhaustive list of the things that comprise my personhood, but they were the first 25 to come to my mind.

“L”ucky Man

Posted: January 19, 2009 in life, Random
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fortune-cookieA couple days ago Jenn and I were out for Chinese at Casey’s Restaurant in downtown Swiftyville.  I’m not usually a big fan of Chinese smorg – I prefer to be able to order individual dishes – but when someone else is paying you certainly can’t complain.  All in all it was a good meal, but the they dropped off the fortune cookies.  Seeing as I lived in a dorm with 36 other guys for 4 years, I learned all of the different inappropriate games you can play with fortune cookie fortunes, but this one was funny even without games such as “in bed”.

It’s quite obvious what this fortune was intended to say, but it’s funnier as written.  However my past week has been neither lucky nor ucky, and I’m glad that I didn’t take the chance I thought of taking because I would have been out a few bucks (I’m looking at you Eagles).  The past few days have actually been quite predictable and curveball free despite Payton’s regular attempts to make it otherwise.  Maybe I’ll have to take a chance or two in the next while regardless of whether it’s an ucky or  a lucky time.  How long are “the next few days” in fortune cookie terms anyways?

bestMy brother Jon gave his best of list this past week, and I guess it would only make sense for me to again steal someone else’s idea and give my best of list. As is usual for me though, I will also give my worst of list in the hopes of possibly disuading you from wasting any of your time or money. Hopefully I don’t forget anything, as it would suck to disagree with your own best of list. So without further adieu, here it is:

VIDEO GAMES:
Best –Rock Band 2
This is easily the most fun I’ve ever had playing a video game. I’m really looking forward to forming a band with Jon and Kim. If you’d like to audition for the band just leave me a comment here and we’ll see if we can work out the details.

Worst –
I don’t really have much time to play video games anyways, so I really only have time for playing my favorites. If I had to vote on a worst it would likely be something involving a game made for a Disney Movie of some sort.

ALBUMS:
Best – Elect the Dead by Serj Tankian
Unlike Jon who inexplicably only purchased one album this year, my rough count brings me to the number of at least fourteen albums I acquired this past year.  Strangely enough, not a single one of the albums was released in the year 2008.  This album though, after much contemplation, likely comes out on top despite the fact it’s the one I purchased most recently.  Every song is great, and strangely enough Serj actually has a lot of insights to offer.

Worst – anything by T-Pain, Timbaland, or Nickelback
Classics like “Can I buy you a Drank”, “I’m in Love With a Stripper” and “The Way I Are” are quickly robbing western music and society of any credibility or value while simultaneously destroying the english language.  I enjoyed a lot of pop music from 2008 (I still can’t get Womanizer out of my head), but this stuff was just absolute dreck.

MOVIES:
Best – SICKO
I was going to nominate “The Dark Night” here because it was the most fun I had watching a movie all year, but SICKO was definitely the best movie I saw this year.  Whether you like Michael Moore or not, you can’t argue with the fact that the poor and needy are badly neglected in western society and this show pointed a giant finger at the problems we ignore that stare us right in the face all generally brought about by our pursuit of greed.  The most damning thing of all was the question he didn’t ask: “Where is the church in all this?”

Worst – Quantum of Solace
I’m told that if I had seen Casino Royale that this show may have made more sense to me.  The problem I have is that it made total sense, it was just more boring and predictable that a “See Dick Run” story.  None of the characters were particularly interesting, the people who were going to do were obvious, and there never really was the big dangerous end of the world type weapon or the cheesy humor that used to make Bond movies at least tolerable.  Don’t waste your two hours on this one, just watch the Wiggles instead.  It has more entertainment value, suspense, character development and plot in half an hour than Quantum did in two.

BOOKS:
Best – Jesus for President by Shane Claiborne
This one was a really tight race because I actually did quite a bit of reading this year and read a number of good books.  In the end this one I think was the best one of the year for me because it affected my thinking more than anything I’ve read in recent memory.  In the end I don’t buy the most extreme ends of what he endorses, but all in all I think this book helped me become more Christlike in my worldview and actions.

Worst – Jesus Wants to Save Christians by Rob Bell and Don Golden
I guess it wasn’t that terrible a book if you haven’t read anything from Bell before, or if you had previously thought that everything the Western Church endorses is awesome.  To me though this book was a major disappointment because I have read his previous stuff and I already know the church has problems.  I was hoping for some offering of suggestions as to what the church should look like, maybe some risky suggestions or admissions that we are deeply flawed, but instead I got a bunch of recycled ideas and gutless suggestions of possible problems.  Rather than offering some vision of where to get to he just pointed out a few vague possibilities of problems and smugly left it at that.  I was really hoping for more.

NEW (TO ME) AUTHORS:
Best – Donald Miller
I know he’s been around for quite some time, but I had never read anything of his before this year.  I picked up his Greatest Hits (a 3 book collection), in the local bookstore for $20 and I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of each book.  His writing style was very comfortable to read in a recliner with a cup of coffee in a darkened room.  His memories and stories of friends reminded me what it was like to have friends close to me onnce upon a time and really inspired me to think about writing myself.

Worst – N.T. Wright
Now, I know some of you my friends will want to burn me in effigy for this, but I’m just being honest.  I read a couple of his theological works this year and they were really dry reptitions of things that I had heard a hundred times before.  I didn’t really find anything new of challenging in any of his books.  All in all I think he’s probably a great man of God but he’s not a great writer.

NEW (TO ME) WEBSITE:
Best – Footballguys.com
I’ve been a pretty involved fantasy football player for about six years now and this is the most revolutionary thing that has happened in the game for me since I discovered VBD about 5 years ago.  Between the constant flow of information, the interesting articles, and the helpful applications, I spent more time on this site than any other over the past 5 months.

Worst – Faithful Word Baptist Church
I’ve posted all about this guy earlier in the year so I won’t rehash it all over again, but the hate, venom, and outright craziness espoused by the pastor of this church still astounds me.  His sermon about the man who pisseth against the wall is still one of the funniest of the things of the year though.  If only he meant it to be comedy.

SOFTWARE:
Best – Footballguys.com Draft Dominator
The number of calculations and sheer amount of data that this little application allows you to process almost instantly in a fantasy football draft is outstanding.  I will never feel comfortable in another draft without it.  Sure it was my worst season in fantasy football history but it’s not the fault of this little gem.

Worst – Internet Explorer 7
Wow.  Bill, I’ve really tried to be a team player here.  I’ve been a PC guy my entire adult life.  I’ve had a Windows 98 pc, Windows XP pc, a Windows Vista laptop, and even bought into Windows Mobile 6 with my new Motorola Q9C smartphone.  I’ve run your Microsoft Office platform for everything and even resisted iTunes in favor of Windows Media Player up until about a year ago, but this year you really broke my heart.  I naively kept on the Internet Explorer bandwagon for years now but after hearing about a new security flaw in IE7 seemingly weekly on the news I finally switched over to Firefox about a month ago.  Bill, your web browser sucks.

NEW (TO ME) TV SHOW:
Best – 30 Rock
It’s funny, really funny, I don’t even have to feel guilty about talking about it with church people.  I love the characters and the ways they interact in fake real life situations.  It’s completely unrealistic set in a real place.  I always heard good things about it and now I’m the one recommeding it to you.  The Office/30 Rock combo has been one of the few things that have brought me through a lot of otherwise miserable weeks.

Worst – Four Square
Now that I’m a dad and Payton is starting to be conscious enough of his surrounding that he enjoys some shows, I have been dragged down into the seemy underbelly of children’s programming.  Some shows like Rollie Pollie Ollie (sp?) and Winnie the Pooh are tolerable, but Four Square is such mindless, irritating, shmeg that I get angry even just thinking about it.  Grown adults in spandex aren’t allowed to serve alcohol in Regina and there’s no way they should have a children’s show either.  Silly actions and commands like “hup, hup” do not entertainment or education make.

GADGETS:
Best – Motorola Q9C smartphone
This was probably the toughest category for me to pick as a gadget guy because between my PS3, PSP, stereo bluetooth headset, and smartphone I had a lot of wonderful gadgets come my way this year.  Because of the sheer number of things this new phone has allowed me to do though (email, browsing, fantasy football, podcasts, ebooks, gps, scheduling, blogging, etc) I have to give the nod to my digital assistant.

Worst – None
Really since I discovered the wonderful electronics reviews on cnet.com I haven’t acquired any garbage gadgets in quite some time.  And I guess in my books it would take a lot for a gadget to be bad in my books.

Well, there you go . . . my best and worst of ’08. Praise and hate mail may be left accordingly.

It’s no secret that I’m not a big Christmas fan.  I love Jesus dearly, but Christmas hasn’t been about Jesus in an awfully long time if we’re being honest with eachother.  Christmas music is especially wretched.  You are completely inundated with the stuff for months ahead of time – there’s no escaping it.  I don’t mind singing carols, but listening to N’Sync sing O’ Holy Night is so asinine that I just can’t deal with it.

That being said, I’ve finally found a song that may redeem Christmas music for me.  Watch the video below to hear it.  Make sure you listen to it twice all the way through though. The first time you might think it’s strange, but by the time you’ve heard it twice you’ll never forget it. The song itself isn’t available for purchase until Monday, but it’s fair to say it will likely be my first and maybe only ever purchase of Christmas music.

No, your ears don’t deceive you, it’s not a real woman. It’s British comedian Peter Kay in character as Geraldine McQeen. Happy Christmas.

smile-squirrelThere are a lot of animals in the bible.  Bulls, and goats, and pigeons, oh my!  But for the first time ever a couple weeks ago we came across a squirrel during the youth bible study.  One of the kids was reading James 4:1 for us and it read as such, “What causes fights and squirrels among you?  Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?  You want something but don’t get it.”  Bible study was basically over at that point.

I’ve heard a lot of things that I never expected to be in the bible, like Jason the biblical time traveller from Acts 17, but this was the first time I’d been ever encountered the biblical squirrel of James chapter 4.  I’ve always thought that squirrels were a somewhat mischevious little animal, but prior to this I had no idea that they were genetic relatives to fights, or that they were the offspring of coveting and jealousy.  I’m still working on that essay outlining the evidence supporting my theory of Jason the biblical time traveller, so my letter to National Geographic outlining our discovery of the biblical squirrel will have to wait.  Either way it made for a fun bible study.