Friday, February 24, 2006

What does it mean?

crucifixion (c) ekatieholm photogrpahy For I have been crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me. And the life I live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Gal 2:20)

In this one verse, the Apostle Paul expresses the central idea, the Divine mystery and the way of life of the Kingdom of God. But how many of us are looking for the benefit without the cross?

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have been reading John Bright's The Kingdom of God for one of my classes. And I have had to read it three times, just to absorb all it has to say. But the central idea of the book, and I believe of all Christianity, is this: God rules over those whom He has chosen for Himself, and the path they tread is the path His Son tread, the path of the Suffering Servant.

Bright puts it this way in his chapter called "Captivity and New Exodus":

Here we learn that it is God's purpose to rule a worldwide kingdom, which men of all nations are invited to join. But the victory of that Kingdom, sure as God is sure, will be procured not by force or spectacular power, but by the sacrificial labor of God's Servant. . . . Israel is to follow the Servant, take up the cross of the Servant, share in the Servant's redemptive mission. The Servant can no more be separated from Israel than Christ can from his Church to which He said:'If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross' (Mk 8:34).

So we are dead men - and women. Dead to that ruling principle over which so many wars are fought, over which hatred has spread like a virus, that which deprives children of their parents, husbands and wives of their spouses, nations of their hope - self. Yet we, like Paul, still have the same bodies we had before we came to Christ. We look the same, we sound the same (as far as intonation and timbre of voice). We don't magically change our spots - on the outside. But we are different. We are His now.

Before we belonged to self - and by extension to Satan and his kingdom. We were destined for damnation, and justifiably so, because we were outlaws. But what the code written in stone could not do, God has done through His Spirit - written his laws in our hearts. Now what does that mean?

Andrew Murray in his book Two Covenants writes this:

God has planted the new heart in the midst of the flesh, which, with its animating principle, SELF, has to be denied, to be kept crucified, and by the Holy Spirit to be mortified. God has placed you in the midst of a world, from which, with all that is of it and its spirit, you are to come out and be entirely separate. God has given you your work in His kingdom,for which He asks all your interest, and time, and strength. In all these three respects you need wholeheartedness, to enable you to make the sacrifices that may be required. If you take the ordinary standard of Christian life around you, you will find that wholeheartedness, intense devotion to God and His service, is hardly thought of. How to make the best of both worlds, innocently to enjoy as much as possible of this present life, is the ruling principle, and, as a natural consequence, the present world secures the larger share of interest. To please self is considered legitimate, and the Christlike life of not pleasing self has little place. Wholeheartedness will lead you, and enable you too, to accept Christ's command and sell all for the pearl of great price. Though at first afraid of what it may involve, do not hesitate to speak the word frequently in the ear of your Father: with my whole heart.

This kind of heart sacrifice - the willingness to give all over to God, is our part of the drama. But even that willingness comes because God has called us to it first. It is not that we sought Him; He sought us and placed in us the desire to feel after Him and find Him.

How often do we see that? I don't very often. In the public debate we often see more service of self - whether through political power or intrigue or terrorism. The strife and hatred and bloodshed we see every night on the news comes from self - trying to preserve ourselves, further our political ends, make others conform to our ideas. But none of it comes from the Cross. Don't fool yourself - the Kingdom of God is not a political Kingdom. It is not obtained through force of arms, appointing judges, marching in the streets, hosting a talk show, or writing books. And the citizens of the Kingdom have a date with Golgotha.

Does that make it easier? No. But I know I need to press beyond my unbelief, to see the God who is able to do "exceedingly abundantly beyond all I could ask or think according to His power that is at work in me." He will enable me to love Him with my whole heart, and all my soul. Then I can echo Paul's words not only with what I say, but with my essence - who I am.

Crackberry Reprieve

So a judge has fired a shot across the bow, but millions of mid-level bureaucrats will continue to ignore their supervisors with blackberries - at least for now. And millions of supervisors will continue to send useless e-mails in an ever-infuriating effort to control workers who hate them.

U.S. District Judge James Spencer said Friday that Research In Motion Ltd. did infringe on the patent held by NTP Inc., when it made its Blackberry personal irritation device. RIM has denied it infringed on the patent, and the judge refused to issue an injunction that would have shut off these little hand-held monsters.

Thousands of government wonkers heaved a collective sigh of relief. The small devices send and receive e-mail and also have organizer, cell phone and other functions. About 3 million Americans, including Bush administration officials, members of Congress and executives, use them. Much to the chagrin of those who would rather be left alone.

RIM urged the court to give the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office more time to study the issue. The Patent office - part of the Bush Administration - is reexamining the NTP patents. Earlier this week, the agency rejected the first of five patents closely tied to the court case. Hmmmmm. I wonder if those patent attorneys use this device?

The two companies reached a tentative settlement of $450 million early last year, but that deal later fell through. The judge said he would issue a ruling "as soon as reasonably possible."

This at a time when Sprint is marketing it's Treo which would be another step up.

It's also just enough time to give the scientists a way to do what the Chinese do - change one thing, apply for the patent, and then say the whole idea is theirs!

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Ice Follies

American Sasha Cohen, Japan's Shizuka Arakawa and Russian Irina Slutskaya (c) Amy Sancetta/APOne of the things I get to do as a sports writer during the Olympics is know the results as they happen - instead of having to wait for Bobbie Costas and the NBC folks to bombard us with hours of ads to see the results.

This AP shot by Amy Sancetta shows the women's figure skating winner, Japan's Shizuka Arakawa, and American Sasha Cohen and Irina Slutskaya of Russia.(Arakawa skated a flawless program and was genuinely surprised to win. Sasha is holding her medal like it stinks and Slutskaya looks like she's over it!)

Cohen was leading Slutskaya after the short program in Turin, but both fell in the long program and Arakawa gave Japan its first Winter Olympic gold medal in women's figure skating. But one great thing about it all - we don't have to listen to Dick Button and Scott Hamilton make their stupid remarks any more.

There was one skater that the kindest thing they said about her was that she "didn't tie up her skates properly!" I mean come on! Granted these two guys are former champions, but one was champion when Eisenhower was president and the other seems like he has to yell everything he says.

I wonder some times if Dick Button has a "Golden Book of Crappy Remarks" on his desk. I have met him at the 2003 World championships and he is as much of a pedant in person as he is on the tv. I mean the man was gushing over Johnny Weir, but sounded like somebody's critical old grandmother most of the time. He makes Simon from American Idol look like an Up With People motivational speaker.

And who told Scott Hamilton he had to yell everything? Scott was over the top on the commentary all the time.

What would be really great, is if there were a way to get the closed-circuit feed, the one they show in the press center that does not have the lame commentary. I actually watched the 1996 women's gymnastics final that way, and I was able to reach my own conclusions about who won and who lost. And it was great.

NBC wonders why its ratings were down for this Games? Maybe it's because of the Internet, because people can find out the results long before we have to sit through 11 million coke and Chevrolet and FedEx and IBM commercials to find out what happened. Maybe it's the time difference. By the time most of us on the East Coast sat down to dinner, it was all over, so we really didn't care. Maybe it was that this is a Winter Olympics, and the number of people who ski, or skate, or sled is smaller than those who run, or throw, or play basketball.

And maybe, just maybe it's because the drama of the athletic competition would be enough without the lame features meant to appeal to women in the audience. All the soft focus and strings was getting sickening.

Granted, it's great that Irina Slutskaya has overcome injury and illness and her mother's kidney problem. It's great that Vonetta Flowers has a son who is just able to hear her for the first time because of a revolutionary operation. It's heart warming to hear that Jeret "Speedy" Anderson is a sexual abuse survivor - as is Chris Witty. But two weeks of that is enough! Show us more of the actual competition . That's what we want to see. The athletes, the events, the good and the bad.

And just once, I would like to see a figure skater come off the ice and do the interview with Andrea Joyce or whoever else happened to be working the sideline "Kiss and Cry" area and answer like Jim Mora when he was coach of the New Orleans Saints:

"I sucked. I stunk. I couldn't hit a salchow, couldn't land my triples. My spins were slow, my footwork sucked, and my music was off. It was a horsesh** performance. I mean, MEDALS? We can't talk about MEDALS. It'd be nice to get across the ice without falling on my a**! I couldn't do diddley-poo, it was an absolute embarrassment."

Now that would be worth watching.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Where's your center?

Image by PixelPerfect DigitalA friend of mine sent me a PowerPoint presentation that identified the absolute center of the Bible, the middle verse of the Bible. Literally, there are the same number of verses after it as there were before it.

What is it?

Psalm 118:8 "It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man." In these times of domestic spying, world terrorism, and natural disasters I believe I would do well to listen to this very important verse.

I have been studying the unity of the Bible this semester at Regent University. While the course is not over, the first book I read was John Bright's The Kingdom of God and the main point he makes is that the Kingdom of God is not a nation, not an ethnic designation, not even an ecclesiastical one, but it is the rule of God over His people. And if you are not under His rule, you are not part of His Kingdom.

That's pretty sobering, but it also points me back to this verse. With all the crap going on at my job, with the uncertainty of the future, with the wounds of the past still healing, I have to remember "It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man." I have to remind myself of that almost every second, especially when the urge for self-preservation or defensiveness washes over me.

I also find it ironic that some of the Christian talk shows seem to emphasize getting "Christians" in high places. President Bush says he prays every day. He has appointed Christian judges (including two to the Supreme Court). Talk shows want us to elect believers to public office, push "Family Values" agendas, - there's even having a bunch of conservatives on Capitol Hill in some kind of star chamber, where they set the agenda. All when God's kingdom is none of that.

One of the points that Bright makes in his book is that the path of God's King - Jesus - was the path of the Servant. Indeed, the author makes the point that the Servant in Isaiah 53 was subjected to all kinds of humiliation and shame but He was the one God had chosen.

I looked up the word "humiliation" and I found the definition enlightening. It means: "To lower the pride, dignity, or self-respect of." It comes from the Latin word humiliare, to humble.

Humble is defined as "Marked by meekness or modesty in behavior, attitude, or spirit; not arrogant or prideful" when used as an adjective and when used as a verb it means: To curtail or destroy the pride of; humiliate. It comes from Middle English, from Old French, from Latin humilis, low, lowly, from humus, ground;"

But that is the path the Jesus walked - and He emphasized that the Kingdom was the path of service, of losing your life to find it. This is a hard saying sometimes, to think that the Cross awaits all of us. But that is the Truth. The way up is the way down. Not that we can add anything to what Jesus did, but that we are to follow Him, to enter into the "fellowship of His sufferings" that Paul talks about.Karen's Cross (c) Christine Gray Photography Image by Photobucket

Even the link that this post goes to, on Centering Prayer, is a method of letting go - of letting God be God of all that comes in our lives. It makes you think that when you pray "Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on Earth, as it is in heaven," you need to realize that the Kingdom comes through the Cross, and not through the exercise of power. Have I done that? Yes and no. Yes I have done it, and no I don't always do that. But God is not done working on me.

Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men. And when He had come as a man in His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death--even to death on a cross. For this reason God also highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow - of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth - and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.(Phil 2:5-11)

Friday, February 17, 2006

That ain't right, yo

Chevy Rahlves at the Turin OlympicsI don't know if you saw this photo on the back of the Washington Post but this dog could go farther in the Turin Olympics than a veteran journalist with 25 years of experience.

This is Chevy Rahlves, who belongs to U.S. Skier Daron Rahlves, and Chevy, you will notice, has a credential with his picture on it. This dog could get into places in Turin that my colleagues could not because like it or not, the Olympics is a private party.

This dog - a Siberian Huskie, which I guess is appropriate for the Winter Olympics - has the kind of credential around his neck that allows him into the athlete's area of the Winter Games. He stays with his master, U.S. Alpine skier Daron Rahlves, in a customized bus that the Red Bull energy drink people supplied to Rahlves to travel around Europe during the World Cup season.

Chevy is handsome as dogs go, but the thing is he can go places where a U.S. government reporter could not because the agency I work for did not pay thousands of dollars to the IOC to get the rights. That's where this all comes down to - who has the Benjamins and who gets left out in the cold.

See, the Olympics are not a news event - they are a privately-funded international sporting event that you have to pay to have the rights to cover. And the kind of credential you get is based on how much you pay. This dog has one that gets him into the athletes' team hotel and offices, where reporters like me cannot go without an escort.

Four years ago in Salt Lake City, my editor as well as the guys from National Public Radio, Jeremy Schapp from ESPN, and other non-rights holders had to go hat-in-hand to try to get any interviews with athletes at the 2002 games. We were not allowed to go to the official event press conferences at the venues (even though some times we did) because our credentials had a big ENR - "electronic, non-rights holding" - mark on them. We could get into the main press center, and into the venues, but as far as recording anything, forget it. You no pay, you no play.

NPR's Howard Berkes had his tape confiscated by what we affectionately called "the Rights Nazis" when he was standing there interviewing Mitt Romney (now governor of Massachusetts and the man who wants to be the first Mormon President of the United States) at the ski jumping venue. The Nazi said "stop, give me your tape!" Howard - who lives in Salt Lake - surrendered the tape, Mitt smiled, patted Howard on the back, said "see you later!" and walked off.

I can understand that. NBC paid King Tut's ransom for the rights, the host broadcaster wants to make sure they can deliver the product to their advertisers - who pay the bills for this shindig - and they don't want any pirates. Which is what you are if you steal from them.

But one day I was walking through the main press center at the Civic Center there in good old Salt Lake, and what did I see - a dog with a right's holding credential! This one happened to be a German shepherd that belonged to a Mexican Talk show host.

But the dog - like Chevy - could go places where I could not. I was reporting for the world, for people who could not be there. The dog was window dressing. But that's the politics baby.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Winter's welcome silence

February Snowstorm (c) DbyrdSo it came - the blizzard of '06. This is what my front yard looked like Sunday morning. There was about an 8" snow-fro on everything in my back yard and the birds were chirping that they could not get to the feeder.

I even had to dig a path for the dog because when he tried to go out he sank neck deep in the snow. But the winter morning, with no one on the roads - and only a few jets flying into Dulles - offered a welcome relief from the noise, hurry, and crowds that make up most of life here in Metro DC.

I was awakened (after spending a fitful night coughing from a cold I have been trying to ignore) by a phone tree from a church we don't even attend. It said because of the snowstorm they were not having services. Good. At least they had the common sense to call things off. I didn't care what was happening outside my neighborhood, unless there was a national emergency that required evacuation, I wasn't planning to go anywhere. But it's good to know they thought of their congregation's safety.

As I said, I had to shovel a path for the dog. And it was still snowing a little, but the stuff moved pretty easily since it has not frozen as I write this. But it offered a time of quiet, a time when I didn't have to listen to other people trying to tell me things, or get me to buy (pizza, cars, hamburgers, Victoria's secret undies or a new mortgage). It made me wonder what it was like before all these "conveniences" extruded us into their mold. What was it like to walk near my house 100 years ago? But I will try to catch snatches of silence when I can.

It also reminded me of the co-worked who said "Ah, this storm will be nothing" as I left work yesterday.

"Oh no, you wait," I said. "It's coming." And it did. And it brought silence and stillness with it. If only for a while.

"In the silence of God we have overcome magic by seeing through what is not there and realizing that He Who IS, is closer to us than the "is not" that tries at all times to place itself between ourselves and Him." (Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude).

Friday, February 10, 2006

Check this choice!

Snowy path, February 2005Just thought I would give y'all a preview of what's to come here in the DC area.

The weather forecasters are calling for as much as 12" of snow here before it is all said and done.

I took this shot near my house at about this time last year. What is it about this time of year?

Oh, and just in case you're interested, this is what it looks like in the Bahamas.Cabbage Beach, Paradise Island, the Bahamas

Sometimes life just ain't fair.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Times of Our Lives ....

Sunset at Cabbage BeachWhen Sorrows come they come not single spies, but in battalions. (Shakespeare's Hamlet)

There are many problems when there is bread on the table; when there is no bread on the table there is only one problem (Chinese proverb)

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances (Phil 4:11)

So I got passed over for a promotion at work. But I guess I should be happy that I still have a job. If the powers that be have their way, the career I have invested nearly 30 years in could be on the verge of fizzling out. What then?

I have spent the last 16 years working for the U.S. Government in Washington. And this week, the President announced in his fiscal 2007 budget that he would actually increase the money to my agency. The only problem is, the people who run my agency want to spend it on more expensive television programming while eliminating English language radio programming from the Voice of America except for three things: the Website, English to Africa, and Special English, which uses a word list to help teach people English.

So what do the powers want to spend the money on? Television, which is much more expensive to produce than radio, and is broadcast to Iran and Afghanistan, where God only knows who sees it.

The whole idea is that the television programs - and other so-called public diplomacy efforts - will persuade the Iranians not to try to build a nuclear weapon or will help win the "hearts and minds" of the people who could be potential terrorists.

But they want to get the money to do that by cutting off the English radio programming at a time when the Chinese government and Al Jazeera are expanding English programming. Al Jazeera even hired an Iraq war vet, a former Marine no less, to work in its Washington bureau.

And the Bushistas say that this is all part of its "War on Terror." Huh?

Understand, I have been on radio since I was 16. I started in a little 1,000 watt station in North Carolina and the opportunities to cover news and sports worldwide that VOA offered have been irreplaceable. But I always kept the listeners in the back of my mind when I produced something. To me it was "Theatre of the Mind" and I remember one of my journalism professors exhorting us to "take me there" when we wrote. I considered it a privilege.

During my time at VOA I have covered the Olympics, the Super Bowl, the World Series, the NCAA Final Four, the World Track and Field Championships, the World Basketball championships, former President Ronald Reagan's Funeral, the 9-11 remembrance ceremony at the Pentagon, and the Supreme Court battle over the 2000 elections. It has been a true gift and I have gotten to see and go places that I never dreamed of going when I was growing up. I have always wanted to give my listeners not only information, but emotion, feeling.

But now - if things do not change - that door will be inexorably shut. Not only to me, but to those who listen to VOA for information.

I remember Martin and Gracia Burnham, missionaries who were captured by Islamic militants in the Philippines several years ago. Martin eventually died in a rescue attempt, but Gracia survived.

And when she was released she said that one thing their captors allowed them was to listen to VOA. And she said "We listened to the news, and we listened to the sports, and it was such an encouraging connection to home." And a small, hand-held short-wave radio was able to give them encouragement. Who knows, they might even have listened to one of my sportscasts or one of my reports while they were captives thousands of miles from home. But now, any new missionaries - or anyone else - who is captured or far from home will have only silence to listen to.

There has been a palpable pall over the VOA newsroom since the news was announced. Everybody is trying to keep a brave face, but there seems to be a fatalistic resignation that the cuts will come, no matter what.

Everybody seems to be in fear of their job, because if they can cut English programming -- English, the heart language of the United States, the language of commerce, the international language of airline pilots, the language that people will stop you on the streets of Beijing to practice -- then what's to stop them from cutting the rest of the employees out of the building?

To be fair, English is not the only division that faces the ax. Croatian, Turkish, Greek and a few others are on the chopping block too. For now, it does not directly affect me, but it has the potential to hurt - and toss out - people with whom I have worked and respect.

I have thought of writing my Congressman, but I don't think that would do much good. Four hundred-50 people from VOA sent a petition to Congress last year to ask it to look into the way the Broadcasting Board of Governors was handling VOA. I even wrote to my Congressman and two senators about the situation. I got a letter back from one of them, no response from the other, and a fund raising letter from the third.

So I am not sure that Congress gives a damn. But the American people should. It's their tax money that's being spent and it's their language that will be cut off come October 1st, 2006.

Friday, February 03, 2006

The people you meet ....

Jake Horowitz on his hybrid bikeThis guy is Jake Horowitz and the bike he is riding is one he made from scratch. Literally.

He welded this thing together himself, and I met him Friday when I was moving my car. He was kind of hard to miss - he towered over traffic and was riding about as high as the driver of a semi truck.

Turns out, Jake is dedicated to biking, and his hobby has become his passion.

Jake was pedaling down Maryland Avenue near the Museum of the American Indian when I saw him. I waited for him to turn onto 3rd St. and I said "hey man, stop, I got to talk to you about this thing."

So he did. Turns out the bike he is riding is made from two bike frames welded together, and is only a one-speed, with an old-school coaster brake system. Apparently, the coaster brake is safer than a hand brake system, 'cuz there's no way you feeties are gonna reach the ground on this monster. But Jake said it allows him to apply the brake while he is dismounting the bike.

He said that he had only two models so far, but he "just got a whole bunch of other frames from the junkyard, so I can make some more."

This guy has even been featured in the Brooklyn Bike Brawl and has been "chunking" or riding in a mutant bike club, for several years.Jake on the Hill(c) The

They even do jousting on these things. And in case you think that Jake is some doofus who can't afford a cool ride, know this: he is a graduate of Reed College in Oregon - where chunking and bike brawls took off - and he has a Masters' degree from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.

Last year he won a commuter bike from Bicycling magazine's Bike to Work contest. And he now works at the Department of Justice.

I didn't understand what he meant when he said "that's what this is about, Justice." But now that I understand that chunkers are getting ready for "Carmageddon" when the cars no longer rule the world, I think I have the revelation.

So if you get the chance, check out some of Jake's other photos at his website: With gas at $2.60 a gallon, maybe he's on to something.

Ah baht dem Stillers

Pittsburgh Steelers HelmetSo it's that time again, sports fans! Time to snuggle up in front of the tube for the Super Bowl, this year featuring the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Seattle Seahawks.

And this year, as every year, we will have to have to proper snack food for the game. Pepperoni rolls and kielbasa sausage for dem Stillers! But remember, this is Super Bowl XL - be ready to walk from DC to Pittsburgh to work off the munchies!

Now don't get me wrong. I love to eat good food. But sometimes the food doesn't love me back. Like polish sausage. Kielbasa, which any true Stillers fan would know is an essential for the big game. One - one - eight ounce sausage has 80 calories and eight grams of fat. (For you Weight Watcher folks, that means that one sausage - no bun, no sauce, no nothing works out to be two points).

Now put that on a regular hot dog roll, (116 calories and two grams of fat) and it's up to four points, for one sausage! Add some onions or peppers or ketchup or cheese and it gets even higher. Now let's say that you have some potato chips to go with that sausage. Your typical 1 oz. bag o' chips has 159 calories and 11 grams of fat (4 points!) and that's only one ounce. (These figures are courtesy of the Calorie Control Council; check out their website for more helpful stuff).

So what else do we add? How about some chicken wings - 99 calories and seven grams of fat if they are roasted. That's each. So about 100 calories a piece for each chicken wing. And a typical serving could be anywhere between 10 and 15 wings. So that's between 1,000 and 1,500 calories for the wings!

Add some beer to that mix - light beer even - 100 calories for light and 150 calories for a regular beer -- and the cals keep pilin' on like the Steel Curtain!

Now hang on! Like I said I love to eat. I enjoy a good meal - and a good celebration - just as much as the next guy. So what to do on Super Sunday? Alternatives!

Check it out. If you replace the polish sausages or other high-fat meat products with something like a Boca sausage, which can have as few as 47 calories and no fat, you could have three of them for the calorie content of one regular hot dog. Boca Italian Sausage (c)

(FYI the Boca sausages - smoked, Italian, and Bratwurst, all have between 120 and 140 calories and about 6 g of fat each. They have one gram of fiber which works out to 3 points for the sausage alone. Still expensive, if you are counting cals, but it might be worth it. An addendum, these things can give you gas, so you might get some Beano to go with them).

Add a light bun, like Sunbeam or Wonder fat free, and you could really pig out and not do nearly as much caloric damage as a regular Super Feast.

Chips? You could replace them with something like Pirates' Booty, which is a lower calorie chip that also has less fat. Or you could literally try Skinny Chips, which also have a good flavor and lower calorie content.

The U. S. Calorie Council estimates that Americans will consume up to 11.2 million pounds of potato chips, 8.2 million pounds of tortilla chips, and 4.3 million pounds of pretzels during the big game.

We will also choke down more than 3.8 million pounds of popcorn and 2.5 million pounds of nuts. The average person will eat an extra, 1,200 calories during Sunday's game, and that doesn't include alcohol!

A pound of fat is equal to 3,500 calories. One dietician said that it would take a person three hours of walking around a football field or 1:45 of running to burn off the 1,200 extra calories. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that 31% of the U.S. population between age 20 and 74 are obese, meaning our Body Mass Index is above the safe range. And we are dying younger. The Centers for Disease Control estimated that the average annual cost of obesity in the United States was $117 billion!

So make some healthy choices this week. It's been a long, long time since "dem Stillers" won the big game. Eat well so you can be around the next time they make it to the show.

Tick, Tick, Tick -- HAHAHAHAHA!

So the clock is ticking for these obnoxious little pieces of crap and frankly, I for one hope they all go offline so people will have to do without them. You see these little digital monsters everywhere, especially here inside the Beltway.

And the people who use them are nearly as obnoxious as the machines themselves. Isn't it ironic, that with the Blackberry and the iPod and all these other electronic gizmos that are supposed to help us communicate better, we have become more obnoxious and isolated from one another?

A Virginia company, NTP Inc., is suing Research In Motion Ltd., the Canadian-based manufacturer of the BlackBerry, for patent violations, claiming it was first to develop the technology that runs the devices.

If somebody doesn't pay up - a lot of money - NTP is seeking an injunction to shut down the service in the United States for most users.

But the BlackBerry manufacturer argues the service should not be shut down, because it works when cell phones and other avenues are out of action - like after 9-11 or during hurricane Katrina.

If the judge rules later this month that Blackberry has to shut off its service because of a patent infringement, then the little hand-held friends would go dark. And people might even have to talk to one another again. Wouldn't that be something?

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Acquainted with grief . . .

Thorns by's what Isaiah says about the suffering servant, whom Christians recognize as Jesus (Isa 53:3).

But grief is a companion that I for one do not want to be acquainted with. I don't like pain. I don't know anyone who does. But sometimes the only way to true freedom is to let down our defenses and make ourselves vulnerable to the very pain we are trying so desperately to avoid.

I'm not advocating masochism, nor am I advocating toleration of abuse. But what I am talking about is grief. Suffering the loss of something.

Why do I bring this up? Because God had brought it up in my life. Fifteen years ago last month my ex-wife moved out - actually it was the day the first Gulf War started in 1991. Our marriage officially ended about a year and a half later, but I still carry the scars of that. I think part of the reason is I never really grieved the loss.

And losses are funny things - they are like interest on a credit card, if you don't deal with them, they compound. That often leads - as it did in my life - to behaviors that make things worse - addictive, self-destructive behaviors.

And that is part of the price. But people don't want to hear about your grief. I don't know why. Maybe it's because they have bad things that happen in their own lives, and talking to someone else about their struggles just reminds them of their own pain. Or maybe they are lying - to themselves and to others. But I have had enough lies. It's time to get at the truth.

I remember feeling like I couldn't grieve the loss of my first marriage when it happened because I was caught in such a whirlwind of things going on. For one thing I nearly lost my job because my performance went in the toilet. I also had to move out of the house we had been renting, and I had expenses associated with that.

I also stopped going to church. I felt ashamed to be there because if someone had asked me where or how my wife was, I would have told them "we are separated; she moved out." Then, of course, you get the stammering speech, the eyes that look for the closest exit, the clammy hand on your shoulder in a feint of comfort, and some platitude like "well, I'm sorry to hear that; I'll pray for you." And WHWHHHHHHHHHOOOOOOOOOOOSHHH like a ghost, they're gone.

So what did I do with it - the pain? Medicate it! Alcohol, food, cigarettes, sex, running up the credit card bill, anything that I could to distract myself. But the pain came back. So now, I am confronted with it.


But this time, thank God, I have a therapeutic environment where I can handle this crap and come out on the other side.

I love roses - I love to smell them, to look at them, to marvel at their colors. Cornelia and I went to Biltmore Mansion in Asheville, North Carolina last year and saw some of the most beautiful roses I have ever seen. I also remember how the sundial in front of Moorehead Planetarium in Chapel Hill has roses of all kinds around it.

But there is a funny thing about roses: they only bloom on new growth. So that means all the old dead stuff has to be chopped off every autumn so the new growth - and the flowers - can come forth in the spring. So in a way I am like that rose bush - I have to have the old coping mechanisms and old resentments chopped off my life in order that the new growth can come forth.