1) Well, the big news from Bucherland this week is that Max and Xavier went back to school today. We celebrated the end of summer yesterday by heading out to the Allen County Fair where the boys proceeded to ride rides, eat food not good for them, and ask to play every single game on the Midway. Neither boy was all that interested in the larger rides - although Max did ride the Gravitron - but they did the smaller ones over and over again.
We bought a "string" ($10 for all the rides you could ride Noon to 5pm) for Eli, but our independently-minded 3 year old hated having something on his arm, so he ripped off the string about ten minutes after we put it on him.... of course making it worthless. Thus he spent the rest of the day eating snow cones (with his daddy, who also loves snow cones).
In any event, even though I can't stand fairs (I worked part-time as a "Carney" selling corndogs the summer Aimee and I were married... let's just say I got a lifetime's fill of county fairs), it was a nice way to see the summer out, cushioning the blow of no more long days of playing in the sprinkler, Mr. John's woods, and riding their bikes on Sandy Lane.
2) Was up until 2am watching Olympic table tennis last night, which is really the lowest of lows. For those who don't know, the Official Father of this blog is a table tennis (I learned very early on to never call it "ping pong") fanatic. Every Christmas The Official Mother gives the Official Father a video copy of that year's Table Tennis World Championships. It's like 2,467 hours of nothing but table tennis, and the OF watches ever hour, sometimes repeatedly. We've just learned that for the remainder of December, and all of January, unless Ohio State is playing, that if we are at his house, we'll be forced to watch non-stop table tennis action. You can't imagine how painful it was to realize that, despite being exhausted in the wee hours of the morning, that I couldn't go to bed until I saw if it was either the Canadian or the Brazilian player that won the match, making it into the field of 64. That's when I knew these Olympics need to end, soon, so I can get my sanity back.
3) Just finished doing some worship planning for the coming fall, and as we look to our next series, "The Marks of Discipleship", I stumbled on a song that will compliment the theme scriptures for the five week series. Sara Groves isn't your typical contemporary Christian artist. While most Christian artists, it seems to me, are intent on writing the next great praise song, stating over and over how great the Lord is, Groves isn't afraid to look deep within, expressing her doubts, questions, hopes and dreams as it relates to faith. I've been impressed with the variety of musical styles she's been willing to embrace, and the depth of theological thought in her lyrics. "When The Saints" is a song she wrote after spending the better part of a year helping Katrina victims, and then getting involved in a ministry that attempts to free slaves of the sex trade in the nation of Rwanda. As we think about following Jesus, and what the effect of pursuing him should be on us, I could sum up message no better than the lyrics of that song. Here's a YouTube video that looks like a powerpoint presentation a church group (not ours) who went to Haiti put together for their congregation at home. I know not one person in the video itself, but I understand why they chose Sara's tune. Hope you enjoy it, but more importantly, I hope you feel the depth of her conviction as she sings a definition of what a "saint" is.
4) This weekend, Shawnee UMC lost it's oldest member. Dorothy Gaulker died at the Lima Convalescent Home early Monday morning. We just celebrated her 100th birthday not more than a couple of months ago. I can tell you that despite her declining health, the joy she conveyed on that special day as we sang some of her favorite songs and ate ice cream and cake, was identical to Xavier's - my six year old - joy on his birthday. I won't forget that smile when we sang "Happy Birthday" anytime soon.
Godspeed, Dorothy. May you rest in peace with your Savior in paradise.
5) If you get bored, and maybe want to rent a movie, I have an unusual suggestion. I can't remember if I actually posted some thoughts I had on the juxtaposition between Kevin Costner's character in "Swing Vote" and the title character in Frank Capra's "Mr Smith Goes To Washington", but on the recommendation of the New York time's film critic, I recently wrangled up a copy (via Free Movies on Demand) of "State of the Union" by Frank Capra. Given the political climate, and the full range of emotions I'm hearing as people reflect on this upcoming presidential election (everything from despair to the most optimistic hopefulness), Capra's movie (which I watched while taking a break from my Olympic obsession), now sixty years old, is an interesting look at how the political process wears on the democratic ideal (which was also his main theme in "Mr. Smith..."). Click here for A.O. Scott's three minute review of the movie, which features a couple of scenes that express ideas that are as pertinent now as they were when the movie was first made. A Capra classic featuring Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn, and Angela Lansbury (who, unlike in "Murder She Wrote", didn't leave a trail of dead bodies in her wake).
6) I've been watching this version of the USA Olympic basketball team, and I'm wondering.... is the difference between this team's performance and the last three or four that were so awful, a matter of talent or attitude? I mean, I don't think this team is all that deeper than the one that lost in 2006 World Championship. In fact, three of the main players - Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, and Duane Wade - were were on the team that was humiliated by Greece in that tournament two years ago. But that 2006 team, and the others before it who got their clock cleaned, seemed more intent on marketing themselves as individuals than the 2008 team, which just seems to want to destroy everyone in their path. Kudos to Jerry Colangelo who did a great job of getting guys to play on the team, not intent to use the experience as a marketing tool to sell more of their shoes, but out of a sense of pride to represent their country, and to a lesser degree, the league they all play for... a league has been much maligned as being short on people that play fundamentally-sound ball. Gets me that much more excited for the upcoming NBA season.
7) Aimee and I have been married 18 years, as of yesterday. While we've had our ups and downs over the years (she reminded me that during dinner on our 15th anniversary, we did a year-by-year synopsis of our marriage, deciding that 8 of them had been pretty good and 7 not so much) we make a great team. I love her much more deeply than so many years ago when we exchanged vows, two kids having no idea what we were really getting ourselves into. After 18 years of moves, jobs, houses, kids, kids, kids, kids, good days and bad, she is truly my partner, lover, and friend. I am blessed indeed.
I love you, my love, very, very much.
8) Last night (while, once again, breaking from table tennis) I watched Charlie Rose do an interview with Rick Wagoner, CEO of General Motors. For those who didn't hear (or didn't care), GM's talks with a Chinese company to sell Hummer fell through, sending the stock into yet another tailspin. Click below to watch the interview:
Wagoner's professional obituary has been written so many times over the last eight years at GM that it's hard to imagine how in the world he's survived as CEO this long. If its worth anything though, he impressed me last night. When the hour was over I felt like GM had a fighting chance to remake itself and remain competitive throughout the world. In fact, I had no idea that the company was growing at such a rapid rate all over the world, suffering poor sales only in North America. Given that they aren't alone in misjudging how quickly oil prices have moved the preference of the American market, they seem no better or worse positioned to succeed than anyone else. Particularly if they get the albatross of retiree health care and pension off their backs (if only the West Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church would be so lucky) by 2010, they'll be in great shape to start winning back market share.
Of course all of that means nothing if the company doesn't have the cash to withstand this economy (which is what the sale of Hummer, and I imagine eventually Saab is all about). Good interview, though. Can't wait to see what Bob Lutz has to say tonight.
9) I was riding my motorcycle back from Fort Wayne Sunday (after doing some pre-marital counseling with a couple who I'll be marrying in Indy on Labor Day weekend) when I saw a body laying on the ground, underneath a T-Shirt on the side of US 33. As I headed west earlier in the day, I had seen a guy in a white t-shirt walking east and wondered, as I sped past the body alongside the road, if this might be that same guy.
Vaguely remembering another story about a priest and levite passing another man laying on the side of the road, I turned around to see if the guy was OK. Fortunately, he was.
He told me, if you can believe this, that he had left Fort Wayne that morning intent on walking to Columbus, Ohio. The only thing he carried with him was a (now empty) bottle of Gatorade. Also, to make the journey, his choice of foot ware was a pair of flip-flops. I offered him a ride to Van Wert (and, I was thinking, a shelter near that community), and he hopped on the back of my ride. Over the course of the next twenty miles, Aaron told me a somewhat convoluted tale involving getting tossed off a train, shot at on a bus, and all this being caused by a dead cell phone battery.
I just kept moving east.
When we reached Van Wert, he told me that if I could get him to WalMart, he could buy a quick charge for his phone which would, in turn solve all his problems and eliminate the need to walk to our state capital. When I dropped him off, I asked him if he needed any more help (thinking he was probably broke), but he flashed some green in his wallet at me, and told me I had already given him what he needed... which was evidently a ride to WalMart.
Why a WalMart in Fort Wayne wouldn't suffice, I have no idea.
I dropped him off. He thanked me profanely and profusely, and then told me he'd be praying for me. I told him I'd be praying for him too. So if you have the time, lift up a prayer for Aaron the Flip-Flop man. I've a sense he could use every prayer he can get.
10) Isaac Hayes, rest in peace.