Friday, August 29, 2008

Use Your Allusion: In The Words of Homer...

When I went to Mexico in July, I stopped by the bookstore at the airport to find something to read. If given the option, I will almost always pick an older book that is recognized as a classic. (1) They're not going to disappoint in terms of quality and (2) They're dirt cheap compared to new releases.

This trip I decided to read through Homer's Odyssey. I didn't finish it, but I got about 60 pages into it. I'm the type of person who always reads introductions and extra notes in the backs of books before I read the books themselves. I found some things in Homer's writing that I really liked in terms of his flowery language. Below is a list of some of Homer's expressions that are used to express simple ideas. They are full of references to Greek deities and cultural ideas. I'll not explain them all in this post. I found these very amusing.

Try whipping some of these out next time you're at home:
  • "The wooden guardian of our privacy, quick on its axel turn." = "Shut the door"

  • "Bring forth some remnant of Promethean theft, quick to expand the inclement air congealed by Boreas' rude breath." = "Light the fire"

  • "Apply thine engine to the spongy door, set Bacchus free from his glassy prison." = "Uncork the bottle"

  • "And strip white Ceres of her nut-brown coat." = "Take the crust off of the bread"
As a child, I refused to eat bread crust. I really wish I had known #4 back then so I could order my mother around. "Mommy, would you please strip white Ceres of her nut-brown coat?" :-)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Posts to the future...

This may get a little weird...

I try to make certain posts, such as pictures of my cat and ones about allusions, on certain days of the week. (Wednesday and Friday respectively) I've discovered that I can type a post in advance in blogger, then have it schedule the post. It's handy in that I've got some of the ones I want to post later already typed when I have had the leisure to do it. Then they show up later, when I want them to.

Then I keep wondering, morbid though it might be, "What if I ended up hospitalized--or worse--and the posts kept coming on here anyway?" I just wonder what people would think. I suspect at best, they would be confused. So for the record, sometimes I type posts long before they are scheduled to be posted.

I'm thinking maybe I should make some post about something that will happen in the future, and years later, it will show up with my thoughts from right now. Then again, I'm neither a prophet, nor the son of a prophet...

I just felt the need to warn you in the (hopefully) unlikely event of posthumous blog posts showing up on here.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Church Bulletin Error

Man, oh, man, do I feel bad for one of my Christian sister secretaries in a nearby congregation today. I'm withholding the name and location of the congregation so as not to embarrass them directly. Today, Don came into the office with a chuckle, and encouraged us to take a look at a bulletin he received in the mail today. Here is what was on the back. I laughed. Hard.

I hope she's emotionally stable enough to take the heap of chuckles she's probably going to be getting. I wonder how many people have already called to inform her of the error.

It's Nacho Cat: Photobooth Edition

It seems that the Photobooth program on Macs never ceases to be fun. I decided to get Nacho in on the action. As you can see, she was thrilled.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Punished for being too good

Some 9-year-old kid has been banned from playing baseball because he has a 40mph fastball, and is just too good for his age group. He throws strikes...he isn't hitting batters. But the other teams are forfeiting, because he's "too good." His parents are making incendiary remarks because he's being "punished" for being good at baseball. Most of us would probably read this article and say, "This is ridiculous."

Then again, I wonder if it's fair to apply the same logic to tax strategies. It really bothers me that Obama wants to tax successful people more. I think it kills the incentive to succeed. I'm definitely a fiscal conservative.

I generally steer clear of politics on my blog, but I thought this was an interesting situation to compare. Is it ever appropriate to punish those who succeed because they are successful? What about areas other than finance?

Some schools have stopped giving awards to students with best GPAs or performances, because they don't want to hurt the kids' feelings who don't score as highly. Isn't it good to have to learn that you can't always win, or be good at everything?

Thought the article was interesting. I'm also interested in what you think about it.

Playing for the Day School

This morning, I got to perform for the day school. It's music day, and they had asked me to bring a guitar and to sing some songs with/for them. Of course, I had to go all out and bring along my electric guitar, amp, and effects pedals, too. They were amazed and amused by the "wah wah" pedal, by the word "humbucker", and by the delay (echo) pedal. When I used the chorus pedal, one boy said it sounded like the monsters under his bed. We sang Yellow Submarine, On Top of Spaghetti, the Hokey Pokey, and I Like To Eat Apples and Bananas. I also played a tid bit of Led Zeppelin's Rain Song and Black Sabbath's Planet Caravan to let them hear some of the sounds that guitars can make.

Many of them raised their hands to tell me, "My dad has a guitar" or "My dad doesn't have a guitar." One boy's father works at Gibson, so I knew he would be familiar with guitars. When I got out the electric, his mouth and eyes were wide open. It was comfortable territory for him, I guess.

I hope they'll bring me back next year. These little ones are so much fun.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Use Your Allusion: Forth Bridge

The Forth Bridge was built in 1890 on the east coast of Scotland. It is a cantilevered railway bridge across the Firth of Forth, linking Fife and Lothian together. As you can see in the pictures, it is really quite an impressive piece of engineering and design.

Apparently, the bridge has always required constant maintenance. So at least for Scottish people, to allude to the Forth Bridge is to allude to a never ending project. A common expression is, "I'm painting the Forth Bridge," because as soon as the workers finished painting it, they would have to start painting it again.

Sometimes this allusion is used of government legislation when, for example, by the time the legislation gets agreed upon, approved, and passed, it is already outdated and pointless.

It's Nacho Cat: Ladder

Nacho has always loved things that she can climb on. In our old house, we used to have an awesome huge attic. But every time you pulled the steps down to go up there, she would hear it from wherever she was, then come racing over and straight up to the attic. It was like a big pink insulated playground.

When our next door neighbors were moving, they were showing their house, and a couple of different times when the real estate person was letting the people see our neighbor's attic, Nacho would come running into the garage and up in our neighbor's attic. That has kept me a little nervous when I see people around us moving. She would be easy to miss.

Several weeks ago, I decided to be Mr. Macho Handy Man and change out some of the light fixtures in our house. We didn't like the ones that were here when we moved in, so we got a new chandelier for the dining room and a new ceiling fan for the living room. In order to reach the ceiling--which is rather high--I borrowed a large ladder from church that they use to change the words on the marquee.

Nacho very quickly found her way to the top of the ladder. Coming down was a little less pleasant for her, but she had to kind of hop it a little at a time. I've never seen her loose her balance or fall, though.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Michael Phelps is returned to his tank at Sea World

If you have been watching the Olympics, and really need a laugh today, please read this article at the Onion. A true classic.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

What better birthday present could you ask for?

I had some exciting news when I got home after church. My cousin Laura and her husband Matt just had their second child! Her name is Maggie Ann, and she was born on my birthday! I believe she weighed in at 7Lbs 13oz.

This seems to be a trend in my family:
Matt and Laura share a birthday
My grandparents share a birthday which is also their anniversary
And now, Maggie and Mark (Me) share a birthday. This fact will very quickly elevate her status in my list of preferred cousins. :-)

When Maggie gets older, I will have to school her in the wonderful music of Led Zeppelin, and teach her about their lead singer, Robert Plant, who also shares our birthday.

Pretty cool!

Going To Church Is In Your Best Interest

I want to share an idea that's been on my mind for a long time: I'm convinced that everyone ought to go to church.

Even if you don't believe a single Biblical miracle ever happened; even if you don't intend to practice what you listen to, and you're only there to sit through a service; even if you think it's boring, going to church is in your best interest.

As a Christian, I believe that Christians ought to attend congregational gatherings regularly because to be part of the "church" is to be part of the "assembly." (Ekklesia means "called out," and was a common word for assemblies, both christian and secular.) Assembling is integral to what Christians do. Christians who never assemble with other Christians by their own choosing have little right to claim they are part of the "church" ("assembly"), at least as the New Testament terminology goes. But that's not a soapbox I'm here to stand on today.

For now, I want to set all the doctrine, rules, and pastoral fiats aside. Also, I know plenty of people can tell stories about crazy congregations that are overly negative or outlandish, who have damaged people in some way. I'm not talking about those places. I'm talking about your basic, generally positive, Christian worship assembly. I'm not wanting to talk about why you have to go. I'm wanting to talk about why it's good to go. Especially if you have a family, there are a number of benefits that you enjoy as a church goer aside from anything spiritual.

Here are some benefits you will enjoy from being at church that you will miss out on for not going:
  • If you go as a family, it is at least 1 hour per week in this hectic, crazy world that you and your family can do something as a family. Statistically, you greatly diminish your chances of being divorced, as well as the chances of your children becoming delinquents by simply going to church as a family once per week. (Note to dads: Sending the wife and kids to church while you play golf is not the same as going with them. But going as a family will strengthen your family.) Also, you have more opportunities to talk to your family after you've heard a lesson together. "What did you think about what he said?" "I liked this point." "I didn't agree with this point." At least you'll be talking!

  • It gives your family a chance to make friends with other families that care about being good people. If you must have friends, why not try and make some that will make a good impact on you? Granted, Christians are not perfect people, but at least they're committed to trying to be better than they are.

  • It will be at least one hour per week that you are not being bombarded with the standard filth that you encounter on television or the internet. Most atheistic people who deny the Lordship of Christ will still acknowledge that Jesus was a fantastic teacher and ethicist. Getting 30 minutes per week of information, advice, and encouragement about living a good life must surely be good for you. Even if you don't believe the Bible, you cannot deny its ability to make positive changes in people's lives. (OK, so you can deny it, but you would be wrong to do so.)

  • It gives you an opportunity to know people from age groups and social circles that you wouldn't otherwise interact with. It is important to know that all humans have intrinsic value as people. There are people both old and young that you will encounter at church that would have no other connections to you.

  • It gives your children a great chance to practice their manners and improve their social skills. Having to meet and greet people of all ages is good for them.

  • It gives your children an opportunity to learn how to behave themselves in an environment where they should be quiet and listen. A child who has always gone to church and has learned to sit in an auditorium quietly has a huge advantage when it's time to sit in a classroom and learn.

  • If your children are with you, it is one hour per week where you know they aren't doing something bad or mischievous.

  • If the church is active as it should be, it will provide you with opportunities to help make a positive impact on your community. I know my congregation is active in providing needed help and resources to families who have hit hard times. We deliver baskets and gifts during the holiday seasons to help families who cannot afford some of the luxuries most of us enjoy at these times. We sometimes volunteer our efforts to simply help pick up around the neighborhood. Why not get involved in some things that all people can acknowledge are good and wholesome?

  • It gives you a chance to develop your musical talents. I know so many people who have become great singers because they've been able to sing in their assemblies. The practice of community music has basically died in our culture...we think only professionals have the right to sing and make music, so rather than learn to play and sing, we just play CDs and MP3s. The practice of communal music lives on primarily in the church. Show up and sing, and enjoy the beauty of the lyrics and the melody. It doesn't matter how you sound...the people aren't coming to listen to you anyway.

  • It helps you develop personal responsibility by showing up voluntarily at a place you don't have to be. If you live life only doing the bare minimum of what your boss requires and you never learn to be a volunteer, how will you grow as a person? Wouldn't we all agree that a cheerful volunteer is the kind of person that everyone wants to have around? Choosing to go to church then fulfilling that decision is good practice in setting and achieving goals.

  • When really bad times hit your life--and they hit everyone's--you will have a solid network of people to rely on. It is so much better to face your problems with the love and encouragement of other people, rather than having to face everything on your own. You buy insurance to financially bail you out of bad situations, but having a lot of Christian friends is great emotional insurance. A true Christian friend will be there for you when the going gets tough.
These are all things I perceive as benefits of showing up for church each week. What are some of the other reasons that you think of?


So today I'm turning 28. It sounds really old just to see it in writing. The other day, I came across a book that I ordered as a senior in high school (10 years ago) which I filled out with basic information about myself, my friends, and my hobbies. Since I use this blog as a journal, I guess I might as well share some details of my life. This post will be a time capsule for me. If it bores you, don't feel obligated to read it.

Presently I'm 5'11", weighing 190. I've finally started to get a few gray hairs this year; mostly on the sides. I've been working as a minister now for almost 5 years, with the last year and a half at the Old Hickory church of Christ. I've been happy here, just as I was happy in Rose Bud. The people here have been really good to work with; especially the teens. We're about to move up a new group in September of younger teens, and I'm curious about how the group dynamics will change as the group becomes younger on average.

I've been married for four years. Still no kids. Last year we had to get rid of our pet dog, Dora, but we still have our Nacho cat. We've enjoyed living in our home at the edge of Wilson Co. We're close to several nice shopping places. I think marriage has continued to be better every year. I feel like we're always arguing less and laughing more. Carolina has been very supportive of me, and has been good about getting involved in her own little ways at helping at church. She learned a lot about working with little ones while we were at Rose Bud, and she's continued to use that here. Her class is usually full of kids, and they all seem really attached to her.

As far as my hobbies go, I am still passionate about playing guitar, watching movies, and playing certain video games. Unfortunately, I seldom have time for any of these. If I can squeeze anything in, it's usually guitar. I'll have to admit I've really felt a void in not being able to ever perform anymore. In high school, that was one of my main goals in life, and I really enjoyed doing it. Then again, I don't know when I'd have time to practice with anyone. I feel that this is an area of my life that has become somewhat wasted. I worked tirelessly to acquire skills at this for several years, but now I can't seem to find a time or a purpose for those skills--other than the occasional Youtube video. Not to mention that I also own a vast amount of equipment. When my degree is complete, I suspect this will change some.

My grad school consumes the majority of what would otherwise be free time. I've completed 45 hours of my 84 hour masters of Divinity degree at HUGSR. By the end of this semester, if I pass a Hebrew test, with my other classes, I hope to bring that total up to 57. I still want to do a PhD, though I'm uncertain of where I'll do it, in what I want to specialize, or whether I will realistically be able to put the time into completing it.

I've always believed in setting goals. It definitely helps when you write them down. My personal goals for the future are:
  • To complete my MDiv
  • To exercise more, and with regularity
  • To pray and meditate more, and to include my wife more when I do
  • To start writing songs again
  • To have at least one song published in a hymnal in my life
  • To have at least one book published in my life
  • To become moderately fluent in Spanish
Perhaps in the future, I will have updates about some of these items. I'm sure that whenever we start having children, that will create a whole new set of priorities.

I appreciate everyone who makes time to stop by my blog. I've found blogging to be very therapeutic, and helpful to me in a variety of ways. I intend to continue doing this for the foreseeable future.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Monday, August 18, 2008

Farewell to Manuel

I just got an e-mail and learned the very sad news that my friend Manuel passed away after having some sort of accident at his daughter's house. He was such a pleasure to be around, and we really have enjoyed getting to know him whenever we have been in Monterrey, Mexico. He was a construction machine, and consistently outworked most of us. I believe he was 79 years old. He will be dearly missed by us, and especially by the Los Nogales Iglesia de Cristo where he was a member. I hate that I won't be able to work with him again, but I am glad that I got to know him these last two years.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Use Your Allusion: Pooh-Bah

Pooh-Bah is a character in Gilbert and Sullivan's comic opera The Mikado (1885). When a cheap tailor named Ko-Ko was given a rank as Lord-High-Executioner, many officials refused to serve under someone who had been a peasant. Pooh-Bah was so haughty that he did not mind continuing to serve, so he accepted all of their positions as well as all of their salaries. Whenever Pooh-Bah shows up anywhere, it means most of the towns officials have shown up, as he carries the titles. Hence, Pooh-Bah was designated Lord-High-Everything-Else, because his titles were too numerous to mention every time someone addressed him.

It is still common in modern performances of the play that when at some points his titles are enumerated, in addition to those scripted, people will add many more modern references to jobs that he might hold as a source of humor.

When you now call someone a Pooh-Bah (sometimes spelled Poohbah), you are saying they are either a very self-important person, or someone who holds many offices at the same time.


So apparently two guys in Georgia claim that they found Bigfoot, and that they are going to reveal convincing DNA evidence along with the carcass today in Palo Alto, California. I'm convinced this must be another hoax, but part of me really wants it to be true. Even better, what if he really had a personality like Harry and the Hendersons?

I'm sure there will be updates after they reveal their "finding", but for now, here's a link where you can read more about it.

My prediction is that it will be a hoax. Anyone else want to make a prediction?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Phone systems

Of all of life's little nuisances, there are few things that bug me more than calling a business with a simple question, and not being able to speak to a human being, no matter how hard I've tried to get through to one. Even if it's Abu in India with customer service, I prefer Abu over R2D2's numerical options.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Lip Syncing and CGI in the Olympics

I found this article pretty shocking. If this stuff has been on the news, I just haven't seen it yet. Apparently, in the opening ceremonies, this little girl's flawless performance that everyone has been raving about was actually sung by a more portly young woman. Some Communist official thought that even though the girl's voice is perfect, nobody wants to have to look at a fat kid in the Olympics opening ceremony. So she was recorded, and the cute girl lip synced it in front of 91,000 people. Reminds me of C&C Music Factory when they had the slim attractive lady in their video singing, "Everybody Dance Now!" which was in fact a much larger black woman's voice whom they didn't want to put in their video.

Also, some of the televised fireworks where they appeared to be making foot-print explosions approaching the arena was previously created using CGI to make sure that everything appeared completely flawless.

The Chinese guys in charge find it puzzling why this bothers anyone, and see no problem with anything they did. I think this highlights some of the intrinsic differing worldviews that the Chinese have compared to the West. We really do not share the same basic moral assumptions about a number of things.

I'm curious what direction this will all go from here.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

ESV Study Bible

It seems that different kinds of study Bibles are rolling off the presses in great numbers these days. I have really been wanting an Archaeology Study Bible for a while, and may get one before too long, but what I'm immediately more excited about is the ESV Study Bible.

I grew up using the NIV, and when I hear the Bible in my head, the NIV wording is what my mind follows. But for people who use anything other than an NIV, its wording is often difficult to follow along, so for preaching and teaching I made the swap a few years ago to the ESV. It is still a beautiful, easily understandable version, but it is more literal than the NIV. Fortunately, it is also much less stiff than the NASB. I've been happy with it, and with some of the positively gorgeous options they've come up with in terms of its covers, it seems to be rapidly growing in popularity.

Though I've been preaching and teaching from the ESV, I have continued to use my NIV Study Bible as my primary source when I begin research. It has remained--in my opinion--the best Bible for someone to buy who wants to know a little more but isn't ready to purchase multiple commentaries on every book. For its conciseness, it is very insightful.

Though I've been interested in some of the angles that study Bibles take, I have been anticipating the ESV Study Bible for a long time, which is coming out in October. Rather than being a slightly updated version of an older study Bible, as there is a revised NIV SB edition, this one is a completely fresh take on everything.

Throughout the Bible will be lots of full-color illustrations, including some current satellite photos of some of the areas under discussion. They have a great website describing its features, so rather than retype them here, I would encourage you to go and take a look at what it will include. I'm putting the example here of the illustration of Solomon's Temple. They have several passages available for free download including the entire book of Jonah. I can't wait to get one!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Tips for Dealing With Life's Burdens

I got this list in a PreachingNow e-letter I get. I thought it was worth passing on...


Accept that some days you're the pigeon, and some days you're the statue.

Always keep your words soft and sweet, just in case you have to eat them.

Always read stuff that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.

Drive carefully. It's not only cars that can be recalled by their maker.

If you can't be kind, at least have the decency to be vague.

It may be that your sole purpose in life is simply to be kind to others.

Never put both feet in your mouth at the same time, because then you won't have a leg to stand on.

It's the second mouse that gets the cheese.

When everything's coming your way, you're in the wrong lane.

Birthdays are good for you. The more you have, the longer you live.

Some mistakes are too much fun to only make once.

We could learn a lot from crayons--some are sharp, some are pretty, some are dull, and some have weird names, but they all have to live in the same box.

A truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Song Leader Revolution

My friend Jared made me aware of this Youtube video. For those of you who have spent most of your life growing up in the churches of Christ, I think you will find it highly entertaining.

Friday, August 08, 2008

I know you're thinking about it

Ok. I know it's been on your mind. "Mark's birthday is coming up August 20th, and I want to give him lots of cool stuff, but I wonder what he wants?"

My Wish List
Problem solved. :-)

And yes, I will be turning 28 this year. Pretty hard to believe, actually. I'm getting dangerously close to 30.

Use Your Allusion: Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot

Guy Fawkes (1570-1606) was a Catholic extremist who gathered with a band co-conspirators to try and blow up James I and his parliament on November 5, 1605. Fawkes was not actually the leader of the group, but because of his experience with both military and explosives, he was in charge of executing the plan. Their effort, now known as the Gunpowder Plot, was stopped before it happened when they were discovered by the authorities in the cellar of the House of Lords with barrels of gunpowder, which Fawkes was presently guarding. Fawkes, along with seven of his co-conspirators, were tried and executed.

Now when people allude to Guy Fawkes, they are calling someone a clever schemer or secret conspirator. If someone alludes to a Gunpowder Plot, they are referring to an unsuccessful attempt to remove someone from power.

Several years ago, Guy Fawkes would have been a much more obscure allusion to mention, but after the movie V For Vendetta came out (2005), the Guy Fawkes masks, featured in the movie by the character V who was also a conspirator against the government, became a popular Halloween costume.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Tacos Rojos. ¿Por que?

So we went to Taco Bell last night, and when I get home and eat my food, my crunchy taco has a red shell. I'm wondering why. I felt like the Oompa Loompas were supposed to jump out and start singing, "You got a taco rojo!" And give me a golden ticket to explore Tommy Taco's magic meat factory. But I just ate it. I hope it wasn't worth a lot of money or something.


Today got off to a really good start. I have been planning to dedicate this entire semester to refreshing my Greek and Hebrew skillz so I could pass a couple of exams at the grad school which would give me 12 hours of credit; 6 for Greek and 6 for Hebrew. My advisor is Dr. Black, who encouraged me that I should go ahead and let him give me the Greek exam over the phone. So I did, and I passed. When I got to work this morning, I had 39 hours, but as of now I have completed 45/84 hours for my MDiv. Cha-CHING!

Now I will start working on refreshing my Hebrew...

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Happy Birthday Carolina!

Today is Carolina's birthday. It's been a real blessing to have her in my life. We met in January of 2000, and it's hard to believe we've known each other for 9 years now!

This song goes out to you...