Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The Wind blows where it wants to ....

The earth has turned. I took a walk tonight near a pond down the path from my house. I took this shot of a sycamore tree that was on the edge of the pond. The clouds were low at the sunset. But the angle of the sun showed me that the summer is indeed over.

As I stood there, the wind was blowing through some beech trees nearby. They made a very characteristic sound. It made me think of the scripture in John that says "The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit."

It also reminded me of something that Cornelia told me one of her Bible school professors told her class about the movement of the Holy Spirit -- you can't make the wind blow by shaking the trees.

Sometimes in charismatic circles it seems like we think that if we do the right things, act in the right way, and do the right magical formula, then the Holy Spirit will do what we want Him to. Can I tell you that is not faith; it is witchcraft. We are trying to manipulate God when we do that.

One Sunday, our youth pastor was preaching and told us that faith is not us getting God to do what we want to do but our response to what He is doing. Acting like that leaves God in charge and allows us to be like the trees tonight -- bending to the will of the pneuma, the wind of God.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The Heavens declare the glory of God ...

Manassas SunsetI shot this photo the other night at sunset in our backyard. The skies were so breathtaking and the light made the whole world look pinkish-orange.

It's hard to see here, because no photograph really captures reality, but this is pretty good. It was gorgeous. It also reminded me of something I read about the presence of God -- that you can have as much of it as you can stand as long as you don't try to hold onto it. I think that came from a book about prayer by Fr. Thomas Keating:

Nothing is more delightful than the divine presence. For that very reason we want to carve out a piece of it and hide it in the closet for safekeeping. But that is like trying to grasp a handful of air. As soon as your fingers close over it, it is gone. The presence of God does not respond to greed. It has a different dynamism. It is totally available, but on condition that we freely accept it and do not try to possess it. (Thomas Keating, OCSO Finding Grace at the Center. St. Bede's Publications. Petersham, MA. 1985).

I often find things happen like that. In God's Providence, we are given little "I love you" gifts, some of which -- most of which -- we do not recognize as coming from Him. But He gives them all the same. But sometimes they are very temporary. He wants to express His love to us in that moment, but we cannot hold on to it. He has something new to show us, something deeper, something more. And reflection on these things is as Fr. Keating says a photograph of reality rather than the reality itself.

For the beauty of the earth,
For the beauty of the skies,
For the love which from our birth,
Over and around us lies,
Lord of all,
To Thee we raise
This our hymn
of grateful praise.

What a waste of time!

Closer (c) 2004 IMDbSo Cornelia and I rented this movie Closer with Julia Roberts, and Jude Law and Natalie Portman -- actually I rented it thinking it would be a good Saturday-night chick flick kind of film.

What a colossal pice of CRAP!

Neither one of us could believe we just spent 100 minutes of our life watching this piece of junk. What, did Julia Roberts and Jude Law need the money? When they saw the script did they not say "this really has no point; there is no story here?" Or perhaps this was their attempt to be artsy. Or to have Julia Roberts talk in graphic terms about sex. Who needs it! It was a total waste of time.

And It won a Golden Globe and was nominated for two Oscars! What were THEY smoking?

If you want to waste 100 minutes, rent this awful piece of celluloid. If not, maybe play with your kids or garden or shovel manure. Anything but give these people more money for making such an abysmal piece of work.

Friday, August 26, 2005

What the ?????

So this morning I took a walk through the neighborhood to get some exercise. I didn't have enough time to go to the gym and so I thought a long trek along our street would do me some good.

As I was walking, I noticed that several of the mail boxes (excluding mine and a few others) had paint -- latex house paint -- splashed on them. Some had big splashes and some had small splashes. But they were all vandalized.

"It was probably young guys with time on their hands driving around being stupid," I thought. But then I had another thought: if they did this down the street they will do it to me too sometime. So I thought I would report the vandalism to the police.

I call the non-emergency number for Prince William County. I gave the dispatcher my name and address and told her what has happened.

"Is it your property, sir," she asked.

"No it's just down the street," I said.

"Well sir, the property owners have to report the vandalism. You cannot. You can encourage them to call, but we can't do anything if it is not your property."

"Okay, thank you," I said. But I couldn't help thinking, here I am trying to report a crime -- granted a small crime, but a crime nonetheless -- and she tells me that I can't call it in. Whaaaa????

It reminds me of the scintillating law enforcement in our nation's capital when I had my car broken into and a computer and some other equipment (including several interviews that I had flown all the way to Argentina to get) stolen out of my truck.

Someone smashed my window and took the bag with all my stuff in it. And it was just down the street from Police Headquarters! So I walked into the police HQ to report the crime. The guy at the desk tells me I have to call it in.

"But can't I just tell you?" I asked.

"No sir, you have to call upstairs."

"Do you have a phone I can use," I ask. So he dials upstairs for me and the event gets even more comical. The person who answers the phone says that it's the end of the shift and I will have to drive home and call back from there.

"You mean you want me to drive all the way to Springfield and then call you back," I said.

"Yes sir. It's a very busy night for us (it was a Saturday) and we can't take your call right now."

"But I'm right down stairs in the lobby!"

"Still sir, go home and call us back from there," she said. Now after cleaning the shattered glass from my truck cab and driving home, I call back (at 1:00 am) and the person who answers the phone tells me that I will have to call back when the shift changes at 5:00!

Now by this time I am exhausted, pissed out of my mind and I just want the stupid case number so I can give it to my insurance company and start the ball rolling to get my truck repaired. Eventually I got the number and the truck was repaired.

They never caught the thief who stole my stuff.

I know cops are overworked and underpaid and God knows the bad guys are better armed and most of the time have more money. I even have a FOP sticker for helping support the police. But who decided that we have to wait for a crime to occur before we can do something about it?

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Do You Remember?

This is a Reuters Photo of a day we will never forget. It has been almost four years since 9-11, and I think we need to remember that day in more than just a passing way. Obviously the families will never forget it. The country will never forget it. The world should not forget it, even though there have been terrorist attacks in other cities since then -- Madrid, London, Baghdad. But this was US. America.

A friend of mine works for American Airlines. His wife was a flight attendant for AA and used to fly on the Washington to Los Angeles flight. He knew Chic BurlingameCharles Burlingame Image by the U.S. Navy and the rest of the flight crew from American Airlines flight 77. He even marshaled the airplane itself on that Tuesday morning. He will never forget it.

I have another friend who is a Fairfax County Firefighter. He got called to the Pentagon to help douse the fires that day and stayed there several days in a row to work on the damaged building. He will never forget it either.

I was working in the newsroom that morning when someone shouted from what we called "the Bubble" which is a glass-enclosed recording center. "Hey, turn on CNN, something hit the World Trade Center." After Atlanta, Oklahoma City and the 1993 attacks on the World Trade Center, we knew that it was probably not an accident. We all watched in horror as the day unfolded.

So do you remember? Do you remember how full the churches were after the attacks? Do you remember trying to understand why someone would do such a thing? Do you remember trying to find an American flag, anywhere, so you could fly one on your house or car or even put a sticker in your window.

I saw the flag that they flew from the Pentagon the other day at the museum of American History. Its' massive and it still has some of the stains on it from the burned building that it flew over. But it is still there. White House Photo of Pentagon Flag This is the White House's photo of the firefighters deploying it.

I remember how badly I wanted a flag that day. I couldn't find one. They were ALL gone. Target, WalMart, K-Mart, Costco, all the stores I tried were completely out of them. But now I can find them on the street -- no IN the street -- where they have fallen off someone's car. And no one bothers to pick them up. I can't stand that. Whenever I see one I have to stop and pick it up. I can't leave it.

It's funny. People say life has to go on. And I know it does. The Pentagon has been rebuilt. The memorial to those who died there and on Flight 77 is in Arlington cemetery. I even went to the service there last year and talked to the widow and son of one of the victims. She said that there are still times when she will have a circumstance confront her and she will think about "what would my husband do?" And she said she still needs him sometimes. The interview was particularly poignant for me because we were standing next to his grave.

Why did I get on this tack? Because the U.S. Open is about to start. A colleague of mine was covering the U.S. Open in 2001 and had flown over the World Trade Center on Monday, September 10th. He had wanted to go to the top of it but couldn't because of the weather and time pressure. He has told me that as he flew over he thought, "Oh well, I guess I'll have to do that another time."

Do you remember?

Spirit of Paris

Le Marseilleasie by www.spirit-of-paris.comThis is another great site for photos of Paris. This is one of the photos from this site, and in my opinion, this dude should be making some BIG $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$!!!!

Paris, one photo a day

Eiffel Tower by abcparislive.comParis, one photo a day. This guy is good (even though this isn't one of his photos, it's actually a live webcam photo of the Eiffel Tower from this morning). I always wanted to visit Paris; maybe I will get to before the world gets too crazy to travel.

In the morning ...

It was one of those mornings here in DC. The humidity has finally broken, and the skies are clear. Thank God for a northeasterly breeze that blew all the crud and smoke out of the air. The temperatures have moderated to about the mid 80 for a high. I decided to drive to work this morning -- I know, gas is almost $3.00 a gallon, and parking is not cheap and traffic sucks -- but I did it for a reason.

Okay, so the real reason was that my weight was up a little bit this morning and I didn't have time to work out before catching the train. But in the walk I took to assuage my guilt, I had a great time.

The Mall here in Washington is pretty and quiet before the Congressional types and all those counts and no-accounts who work in the city clog the streets on their way to whatever important work it is they are doing. And in the clear morning, with just a few people on the mall before the sun comes up, it's a great place to walk around.

The sunlight hits the Washington monument first, turning it a rosy-rusty kind of color. Especially this time of year. Then the orange light hits the windows of some of the buildings across the Potomac -- particularly the Gannett building where USA Today used to be headquartered. It turns the whole building into a glimmering sheet of flame. But the light is not so strong that it hurts your eyes.

It's the kind of morning that makes you want to call in sick. But no, we can't do that. So I decided to get in a walk as quickly as I could and still get to work on time. It was well worth the effort.

As I reached 14th street near the base of the Monument, I noticed the orange-yellow glow the sun was making on the Mall. The joggers had increased in number, and they were kicking up a little dust, so it made the beams of light even more pronounced. But it was breathtaking.

The light this time of year becomes almost surreal. As I walked toward the Capitol I was looking right into the sun. While it hurt my eyes a little, I didn't want to turn away from it because I couldn't help thinking "how many more of these do I get?"

Not to be maudlin, but I don't want to take life for granted. Four years ago, a bunch of people got on airplanes thinking on a morning similar to this and thought they would just go about their business and reach their destination. People took the Subway to lower Manhattan thinking it would be a normal day. We all know differently.

So I don't want to assume that gorgeous mornings are something I will have time to get to "someday." So I took a little down payment on someday today. And I'm glad I did.

Friday, August 19, 2005


Terrell Owens by ravensnest.comYou know, I am REALLY getting tired of Terrell Owens of the Philadelphia Eagles. Okay, so he can Catch the football. Great, he's a professional athlete who is paid very well to play a game. And he did help Philly get to the big dance last year, but alas, they lost.

Owens set team records with 14 touchdown receptions and finished with 77 catches for 1,200 yards last season. He also returned from a broken leg and severely sprained right ankle to catch nine passes for 122 yards in the Super Bowl. Which again, the Eagles LOST.

So now, T.O. is P.O.'d that the Eagles don't want to pay him more than seven million dollars a year to parade around and flex, and pretend to be somebody. MY HEART BLEEDS!

Here's a guy who is given a perfect environment in which to ply his trade. I mean, the Eagles have a new stadium, great facilities, and fans who actually support them. They have the best high-tech stuff to get strong, stay healthy, and if they do get sick or injured, they have highly-trained specialists to care for their every boo-boo.

So why isn't Terrell happy? What does he have to complain about? Two guys -- two -- who do the same job he does made more money that he did last season --$ 7,244,033. (These are figures for the salary cap value, not the actual money they took home). One of them was that other notorious malcontent Randy Moss, who now is in Oakland ($ 8,882,727). The other was Colts' wide receiver Marvin Harrison ($8,083,280).

Now, compare and contrast THAT statistic with this: A Lance Corporal in the Marine Corps -- you know the kind of guys getting their heads blown off in Iraq? -- like the late Harry R. Swain IV,Image hosted by who was killed at age 21 a week before he was scheduled to go home -- ironically the Monday before the Super Bowl -- takes home around $20,000 dollars a year. That breaks down $384.62 a week.

Compare that with some ass like T.O. who took home $176,167 a week (in REAL money, not cap crap) and no one was shooting at him, no one was trying to blow him up, he didn't have to eat sand, or fight camel spiders, or deal with scorpions or ride in a HUM-V that doesn't have sufficient armor. Also, he knew who his opponents were, he could see them, and there were rules to the game he played that everyone understood and tried to abide by.

So I have to ask: Who do you think we should be cheering for?

Thursday, August 18, 2005

What does Zigga Zoomba mean?

Kenan Stadium (c) William KluckIt's Tarheel Football Time! Okay, so maybe that's not a reason to celebrate for some fans. I mean Carolina did end last season 6-6 and lost to Boston College in the Continental Tire Bowl. But hey, it's almost football season. Is your heart pounding? Do your hands sweat? Does the thought of a crisp autumn afternoon punctuated by the screams of thousands of fans and the sound of high-impact plastic helmets crashing into one another make you dreamy? If so, you might be a college football fan.

Allow me to explain. In my last post, I talked about my dad. Don't mean to be morbid, but it had been 10 years since he died. Okay, so one of the things that we did share was Carolina football. If you have heard Andy Griffith's old comedy routine called "What it Was Was Football" I knew exactly what he was talking about, right down to the Big Orange Drink.

We used to get them at the stadium in a big plastic cup emblazoned with the Carolina logo, the word "Carolina" and they held about 24 ounces of soda (give or take a few ounces because of the ice). I remember as a kid thinking that they were the greatest thing because you could take them home! Not like the paper cups that you had to throw away. Nah, you could take these bad boys home and use them again.

So my Dad and I bonded a lot at Kenan Stadium. Because of his handicap we had a parking sticker that got us right next to the gate on the alumni side and we could walk right in and sit down.

And it was great. Fall, especially as the weather got cooler, and the colors emerged in Chapel Hill, was almost a religious experience. Everything was beautiful including the grass, the trees, and of course the coeds. It was a young man's fantasy -- but when it was actually my turn to be a college man going to the game and sitting in the sacred ground of the student card section, I found it less than fulfilling.

See the life I was living my first semester at Carolina left me feeling vacant inside. Drinking, partying, smoking dope, screwing around -- they all left me with this unbearable ache. The life I had hoped for was all a fantasy. Real life was a lot different.

But even that was redemptive in a way. Because I sowed whatever wild oats I could that first semester, I came to realize my need for Christ.

And in January of my second semester, I asked Him to save me, and He did. And the fulfillment I had been looking for, and the peace I was missing and the hope that I had longed for suddenly were real. I went from being a Rocky Horror Picture Show freak to witnessing on campus in what was known as "the Pit" in front of the bookstore.

I went from sleeping around to telling my old girlfriends about Jesus. I went from staying out all night drinking to staying out at a prayer meeting. It was a radical change. It was such a change that people in the theatre department asked me "what has happened to you?!" And I could not help but tell them.

So college football holds a kind of double memory for me. It's not really bittersweet, but it's realistic. I enjoy a good game as much as the next fan. I love it. I love to see Carolina win and I hate it when they lose. But I know that their wins and losses are not the be all and end all of life. But I still hold fond memories of Kenan and Chapel Hill.

Oh and by the way "Aye Zigga Zoomba" is sung at Carolina football games. It's not "Ziggy Zoomba" like Bowling Green, and it's not some Campfire song. It's what Carolina fans sing, especially after their favorite beverage.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Farewell, again.

Robert R. ByrdI want to introduce you to someone. This is my Dad. Actually this is his class picture from when he was at the University of North Carolina. I am not sure of the year this picture was taken, but I am sure of one thing. He died 10 years ago today.

It seems kind of strange to reach this anniversary. The last time I saw him I knew I would never see him again. We met for a couple of days in 1994 in Petersburg, Virginia, and had that talk that I think all fathers and sons have to have. The one where sons realize they have some things to say to their father, and they need to say them fast because the old man's clock is ticking. Actually, when I last saw him my dad was 64. He died one year later.

Not too much was written about him in his obituary -- that he was a director of child services at Sandhills Mental Health Center, that he had worked with the Richmond County, North Carolina School system. That he was survived by a wife -- Amy -- not my mom, but my mom was dead seven years before my dad -- as well as a daughter -- Anna whom I have never met and three sons -- my brother Bob, who lives in Salem, MA, my half brother Ross -- whom I have never met -- and me. And that was it. Some blah, blah about funeral arrangements.

But I didn't want to let this day go by without saying something about my Dad. Was he perfect? No way. Was he a good father? He tried to be; he failed often, but he didn't have much to work with.

You see, my dad passed on to my brother and I what he had experienced -- a deep wound that his father had given him. John Eldredge in Wild At Heart says every boy gets one from his father. And we do. And that's because our dads, try as they might, are not able to meet all our needs. They have needs of their own, and they might or might not have a relationship with the One who can heal us all. My dad's particular wound was abandonment. My grandfather was good at running away apparently. He did it a couple of times and left my dad to fend for himself.

And that's kind of what my dad did to me. He told my mom when I was about 11 that when I turned 18 he was leaving her. I didn't know enough to know that he was leaving her because they had a bad marriage. It was only after our last talk that I found out the reasons why. I won't bore you with the details; suffice it to say Mom had wounds of her own she never dealt with.

But was he a bad father? No. He did the best he could. What's really kind of freaky is that when I look in the mirror now when I shave, I see him. I see his hands when I type. I see his feet when I sit on the couch and watch TV. And I figured out that he was my age when he told my mom he was going to leave. And eventually that's what he did.

I have never met the children he had with his second wife. She asked me not to come to his memorial service because it might bother them. I guess that was because my brother's visit to their home wasn't the greatest. But I am not my brother.

And now I have a new Father -- One Who will never leave me and one who has promised to take me to His house when it's my turn to leave this place. I hope to see my Dad there. I don't know what his final thoughts were. He died of liver problems brought on by medicine he took for Rheumatoid Arthritis. It eventually caused the veins in his throat to rupture and he bled to death. I had tried on a couple of occasions to talk to him about God, and about my faith. He didn't want to hear it. I hope he listened at the last.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Now that's just bull...

No one rhymes with me!You have heard it said,
many times I would guess,
That no word rhymes with orange
And you'd answer me "Yes!"

But this strange fact
caused this curious soul,
To see if it's true,
so I went to troll
the Oxford Rhyming Dictionary to find
If orange had no word with which it could rhyme.

Through pages, and pages, and pages I turned,
past peacock, seacock, greening, and preening
To look for a place where Orange would rhyme.
But when I got there, I'd wasted my time.

See the editors of this scholarly tome, must have
Thought it evil to leave poor orange alone.
They stuck it with words that were similar, true,
But not really rhyming, not one would do!

There on the page like four actors on stage
were Scavenge, lozenge, Challenge, and orange!
"That's Bull!" I mused as I read the four words.
"what do they mean these rhyming Oxfords?"
To think that we'd be taken in by such tripe?
They must think that we're of Neanderthal's stripe.

Scavenge, and lozenge, and challenge, they say!
Those don't rhyme with orange, not any way!
Not like refill and landfill and backfill and infill,
Not freewheel, or pinwheel or flywheel and tailwheel.

Why I even found several rhymes for Oxford!
But not really for 'orange' the poor lonely word.

But rhyme it or not, we still love the orange.
Love the sweet merging of red-yellow tinge.
Why where would the sunsets and Florida be,
If there were no orange in the skies or the tree?

So let Red and Yellow hang out with the blues,
Let indigo, violet, and Green have their hues.
But don't look for orange to rhyme like they do,
For it is unique; now how about you?

So I was wondering....

Why do people blog? Is it for politics, for love, for money, for expression, to let out what they have to say? Some post photos, some post porno, some post poetry, and some have some really wild designs for their weblogs. Is there really that much that we want to share with the public?

Okay, so YDOUBLOG?

I got started by accident. A friend of mine (Tim Colson in the links column) had one and I wanted to post a comment on his and the next thing I knew, I had an account and was letting anyone who cared read my thoughts.

I'm a writer by training, and I work at it 10 hours a day, so WHY would I want to do it in my free time? Is it because I don't think anyone is listening?

I have designed blogs for other people. I have four on my profile now and there is a possibility that will increase. Do I REALLY have that much to say? Or do I really have a deep need to have someone listen; maybe that's it.

I work in a department of a job that no one pays any attention to. I play an instrument that no one notices unless its gone. I get together with friends every now and then, but I have only one or two people I would call at 3:00 in the morning. I haven't spoken to my brother in almost two years. I called; no answer. I sent Christmas gifts, no reply.

So maybe that's why I feel compelled to write. In a world that is way beyond my control, I feel like I cannot go silently. So I won't.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Theatrics in Washington

Click Here for Shakespeare!
Theatrics in Washington I found this blog while trollilng Thursday. Having worked for Shakespeare Theatre in the past, I though all the links on it would be quite helpful for those interested in seeing some good "drama".