31 December 2011

Roger's 2011 Look-Back Good Book Canon

It was an average reading year - the usual bell curve of quality and interest. In no particular order, let me give you the 2011 Look-Back Good Book Canon:

Ghost Country, by Patrick Lee (HarperCollins, 2011) - A nice “near” science-fiction. “Near” sci-fi is set close to the current era in time and culture. Close Encounters of the Third Kind is the first movie reference that comes to mind. Patrick Lee postulates a multi-dimensional doohickey that delivers objects that defy known physics and materials science, and he deals with nice speculative political overtones. If you like sci-fi, it’s fun.

The Strange Schemes of Randolph Mason, by Melville Davisson Post (Hyperion Press, 1975) and The Man of Last Resort; or, The Clients of Randolph Mason, by Melville Davisson Post (G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1897) - The canon consists of things I discover or even reread in a year, not just what is published then. Melville Davisson Post was a West Virginia author of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His character Randolph Mason was a lawyer of great learning and stiff philosophy, who shamelessly applied the strict rule of law to achieve spectacular results. Members of the bar and law students will find a lot to enjoy and talk about here. Those outside that community likely would find it boring.

How to Build a Fire: And Other Handy Things Your Grandfather Knew, by Erin Bried (Ballantine Books, 2010) - They have a COMPASS AP for iPhone. No kidding. A picture of a magnetic compass appears on the screen, and the user is supposed to feel like Daniel-Damn-Boone. It’s sickening. Bried teaches skills that we have forgotten because we are lazy. Those skills work even in a power outage.

West Virginia: A History, by Otis K. Rice and Stephen W. Brown (The University Press of Kentucky, 1993) - This is a local thing. If you are going to be involved in business or government in West Virginia, knowing how the state’s unique culture has developed is helpful.

Inside the Giant Machine, by Kalpanik S. (Center of Artificial Imagination, Inc., 2011) - This author was an IT manager with Amazon. Have you ever wondered how Amazon has achieved the spooky ease with which it fulfills orders, gives relevant recommendations and expands products? A lot of it is in the IT. The author also dispels the notion that CEO Jeff Bezos is a benevolent Spirit-of-Christmas-Present. Amazon is the same kind of corporate eat-your-own-young culture that is found in lots and lots of other successful businesses.

Science Matters: Achieving Scientific Literacy, by Robert M. Hazen & James Trefil (Anchor Books, 2009) - We don’t know shit about science. Hell, we BRAG about that. Oh, I don’t need to know how to do anything on my own, I’ll just sell stuff on eBay, buy real estate with no money down, and let the worker bees take care of the rest. Much of reality is science. A poor understanding science is a great weakness, and we are already paying the price.

The Fifth Witness, by Michael Connelly (Little, Brown and Company, 2011) - Here is a “lawyer novel” of top quality. It’s a story of a trial lawyer (the same protagonist as in The Lincoln Lawyer) who gives a reasonably accurate and awfully interesting view of the thought process of trying a difficult case.

Self-Reliance, by Ralph Waldo Emerson - There is a reason that some things are considered “classics.” “Old” isn’t enough, or we’d all still be reading Wilkie Collins. (Who’s that? Quod erat demonstrandum.)

Do The Work, by Steven Pressfield (The Domino Project, 2011) - Pressfield does really great historical novels. (E.g., Gates of Fire, the story of the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae.) This is a short motivational work on getting off your ass and doing the work. I’ve purchased several copies to give out.

2030: The Real Story of What Happens to America, by Albert Brooks (St. Martin’s Press, 2011) - The author could have played this one either as scary near sci-fi or as a predictive social work. He chose the latter. His conclusions and predictions are logical. On this course, the 20th Century was the LAST American Century. This is valuable for those who actually give a shit.

Hellhole, by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson (Tor, 2011) - Good, solid, old-fashioned science-fiction is alive and well and still being written today.

License to Pawn: Deals, Steals and My Life at the Gold & Silver, by Rick Harrison (Hyperion, 2011) - The TV series Pawn Stars has made the gloomy and glitzy pawn shop more socially acceptable. This is by the proprietor of that shop, and is informative about that business, about some general commercial principles and about human behavior.

Colonel Roosevelt, by Edmund Morris (Random House, 2010) - This is the long-awaited third and final installment of Edmund Morris’ three volume biography of TR. (The first two are The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt and Theodore Rex.) Have you taken a look at what passes for heroes these days? Less than 3 divorces, 2 or fewer rehab stays and no felonies, and you’re in. TR was the real thing.

The Final Storm: A Novel of the War in the Pacific, by Jeff Shaara (Ballantine Books, 2011) - Jeff Shaara has continued writing “you are there” accurate historical novels in the tradition of his father, Michael Shaara (The Killer Angels).

Eyewall, by H.W. “Buzz” Bernard (Bell Bridge Books, 2011) - This is a first novel of a retired hurricane hunter pilot. I like books that take you to worlds that I’m totally unfamiliar with, and this does it.

A Book of Burlesques, by H. L. Mencken (Alfred A. Knopf, 1916) - Another newly-discovered oldie. H.L. (Henry Lewis) Mencken was a curmudgeonly satirist-humorist-columnist for the Baltimore Sun. His writings pass the test of time.

Absolute Monarchs: A History of the Papacy, by John Julius Norwich (Random House, 2011) - One would think that a history of the 265 (or so) popes would be deadly dull. And yet, it is the eldest continuous political/religious office on Earth, and has been fraught with great stories of naked power.

God, No!: Signs You May Already Be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales, by Penn Jillette (Simon & Schuster, 2011) - Penn Jillette is (mostly) an brilliant and outrageous guy. His commentary on atheism is worth the trouble for anyone to read. I didn’t abandon my faith after I read it, but I enjoyed the living hell out of it anyway.

Strong at the Break: A Caitlin Strong Novel, by Jon Land (Forge, 2011) - Land has written adventure novels for 30 years. The “Strong” novels are an excellent example of a fairly new angle, the use of strong and believable female protagonists. I don’t know if this sub-genre will become more attractive to women readers than the run of the mill adventure yarns, but there’s a possibility.

How Starbucks Saved My Life: A Son of Privilege Learns to Live Like Everyone Else, by Michael Gates Gill (Gotham Books, 2007) - Another worthwhile reread. Gill was a fat cat rich guy who was fired and left high and dry by his huge Madison Avenue ad agency. This is a transformative story, where he gets a job and Starbucks and learns what’s actually important. Hint: A Mercedes in the garage ain’t it.

The Race (Isaac Bell), by Clive Cussler and Justin Scott (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2011) - For 30 years, Cussler has written the Dirk Pitt novels and co-written at least three other series. The Isaac Bell series is set in the early 20th Century, a unique time for a hero-centered adventure novel.

Built for Adventure: The Classic Automobiles of Clive Cussler and Dirk Pitt (Putnam Adult, 2011) - Cussler is a prolific collector of classic automobiles, and he has woven some of them into his Dirk Pitt novels. Built for Adventure is a visual treat for lovers of old cars & engineering. This is the only "coffee table book" that I've purchased in years.

Only Time Will Tell (The Clifton Chronicles, Vol. 1), by Jeffrey Archer (St. Martin’s Press, 2011) - Archer really hit a slump after his stay as a guest of Her Majesty. It could be that he is back on track with a promised multi-volume history of families through the 20th Century. Shades of Ken Follett here.

In My Time, by Dick Cheney and Liz Cheney (Threshold Editions, 2011) - Dick Cheney has gotten a terrible rap. I don’t know the guy, so I can’t say how justified that is. But after hearing the guy’s own story, I regret forming a negative opinion based solely on hearsay. This is good history.

Supreme Courtship, by Christopher Buckley (Hachette Book Group, 2008) - Another reread. If you need something to brighten you up, go for a Christopher Buckley novel. The guy is outrageous. In this one, the President cannot get a decent nominee past the Senate for a Supreme Court vacancy, and so he nominates a “Judge Judy” type as a sort of joke. She’s confirmed, and the whole thing is just delicious.

The Litigators, by John Grisham (Random House, 2011) - After each of the last six or seven Grisham novels, I’ve sworn I wouldn’t read another. My problem usually has been that he has written one chapter too many and brought the stories to ridiculously improbable conclusions. The Litigators is Grisham’s best since The Firm and A Time to Kill.

Muzzled: The Assault on Honest Debate, by Juan Williams (Crown Publishers, 2011) - Juan Williams said on Fox that he was nervous around Arab-dressing guys in airports, and NPR canned him because he was intolerant, racist or some such bullshit. Muzzled is a bit repetitive, but still a strong call for reason in public discourse.

The House of Silk: A Sherlock Holmes Novel, by Anthony Horowitz (Little, Brown and Company, 2011) - The Sherlock Holmes character has become trendy for I-wish-I-could-write-that-well authors. The problems with those contestants range from inaccurate period language to sex-violence-horror focus that is foreign to Conan Doyle. Horowitz brings off Conan Doyle well, and is the first Holmes by someone else I’ve read that is worthwhile.

The Jones-Imboden Raid: The Confederate Attempt to Destroy the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad and Retake West Virginia, by Darrell L. Collins ( McFarland & Company, 2007) - Here again is a purely local tome. The Jones-Imboden raid was a well-planned, so-so executed attack on the B&O Railroad bridges in Western Virginia which were, in the Civil War, a critical east-west transportation link. A battle in our home town is still remembered, and it is always interesting to read about what has happened on ground you have walked.

No. 9: The 1968 Farmington Mine Disaster, by Bonnie E. Stewart (West Virginia University Press, 2011) - Here is another local interest book, but it still has widespread value. The 1968 mine explosion was eminently avoidable, and Stewart does a nice job on both the technical and human details.

Heaven is For Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back, by Todd Burpo and Lynn Vincent (Thomas Nelson, 2011) - Oopsie, how did this one get in here? Well, it will be the next book in the church book group discussions. That’s why I include it. And I must say, I have a problem. Heaven is For Real is a really cute story and in a macabre way it’s uplifting and encouraging. But it is hugely improbable, scripturally shaky and patently absurd as a factual account. My problem is that if I attend the book group and open my mouth, I may be burned at the stake. Is there a Roger-Doppelganger out there willing to attend?

New Coastal Times, by Donna Callea (Self-published ebook, 2009) - This was one of the real delights of the year. Callea is an independent author who has done a very nice job with a post-apocalyptic theme. The publishing industry is changing. It is MUCH harder for a merely good writer to become published. Publishers are looking for writers who already have a following to boost their own marketing strategies. It could be that a lot more real gems are going to be found in the indie world.

Three and Out: Rich Rodriguez and the Michigan Wolverines in the Crucible of College Football, by John U. Bacon (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011) - WVU brethren: If you’ve already decided that Rich Rod is Satan’s Spawn, don’t bother. Bacon makes short work of the WVU debacle (and he’s very critical of West Virginia), but the great bulk of the book is a description of how Rich Rod got royally screwed by the Michigan Men.


21 December 2011

One Hour Dry Cleaning and the Shroud of Turin

I have awakened to the joyous news that well-qualified scientists now believe that the Shroud of Turin is authentic.

Authentic what?

The Shroud of Turin is a large cloth consistent with those used to wrap bodies in the Middle East in the first century. On the cloth, there is a negative image which appears to be that of a bearded man who fits the generally accepted images of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ. Some contend that this image also depicts the wounds suffered by Jesus as set out in the biblical account of the crucifixion.

There has long been some controversy over whether this is the authentic burial shroud of Jesus of Nazareth, crucified in Jerusalem (at the town dump, actually) some time between A.D. 25 and 35. (Archaeologists insist on using “C.E.” for “common era” rather than “A.D.” for Anni Domini. Po-tay-to, po-tah-to.)

Some years ago, the Vatican permitted scientists to test (and destroy) a very small part of the cloth for radio carbon dating. The test showed that the sample tested was made from plant fibers which were harvested around the year 1300. (When plants or animals die, they cease taking in new carbon. The isotope Carbon 14 decays at a known rate, and how much carbon 14 is present gives a reasonably accurate estimate of age if the object is within a few thousand years old.)

The current claim that the Shroud is authentic is based upon a negative result and a theory. First, the scientists say that they cannot duplicate the image on the shroud by any currently know method. Second, they believed that the tiny sample tested years ago was from a patch used to repair the shroud, apparently around 1300.

These new conclusions are welcomed by many Christians who see this as anything from some welcome corroboration of Jesus to irrefutable proof of the historical accuracy of all parts of the New Testament, including those involving the supernatural.

To my brothers and sisters in faith: Come on, folks, if we end up making this some kind of a defining event, we're going to look like idiots.

Authentic WHAT?

Well, if the scientists are correct, it is a first century burial shroud with an image on the cloth put there by some process which they cannot now explain or duplicate.

That’s all.

It may indeed be the burial ground Jesus of Nazareth. The image may be on the cloth due to some flash of angelic light or something equally magnificent and holy.

Or not.

Or even if it’s authentic, it may be somebody else’s burial shroud with an unexplained image on it. It’s not autographed and it hasn’t come with a certificate of authenticity. Or we would have heard about it by now.

Even then, I would have to wonder. Every other commemorative doodad you can order off of TV or the Internet comes with a “certificate of authenticity.” It says, “This here’s an authentic doodad.” Is the certificate, well, authentic? Beats me.

Our faith would be pathetic if we needed the Shroud of Turin, the one true Grail, The Robe, a video, or any other physical manifestations in order to believe. And if we don’t have that, what do you plan to do, my fellow Christians? Say, “Oh, gee, must not be true! We’re outta here!”

As long as I can recall having read things about the Shroud, seldom have I read anything that was not shot through with “confirmation bias.” That’s just a label we put on the phenomenon celebrated in an old song lyric from the 60s, “A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.”

Those opposed to faith embraced with confirmation bias the news of the radiocarbon dating. “Aha, you superstitious nitwits! This proves that your whole Jesus thing is a fairytale.” And now, boy, are they getting their comeuppance: “Aha, infidels! They were testing the wrong part of the cloth! This proves that the whole Jesus thing from virgin birth to ascension into Heaven is objectively true.”

People really are this dumb. The truth of the matter is, it just doesn’t matter. There is an objective truth out there. What physical manifestations there ever were are hidden by 2000 years of deterioration. The rest of the objective truth is not subject to quantitative or qualitative analysis by any scientific process we now have.

In truth, not a whole lot of the obvious mystery of this universe is subject to any sort of rational analysis.

Attached is an image from the Hubble space telescope. The Hubble is able to see fainter objects in greater detail than any other telescope in history, because it is outside of the atmosphere. This particular image is known as the “Hubble Deep Field.”

There were parts of the sky which, so far as astronomers knew, were vacant. And so astronomers picked a little tiny postage stamp sized piece and pointed the Hubble at it for many days in order to collect enough of the extraordinarily faint light to make an image, in case there was anything there. To their drop dead amazement, they saw the attached photograph which shows some thousands of heretofore unknown galaxies.

Based upon the population of galaxies in that little postage stamp the sky, these astronomers extrapolated the data to come up with a rough estimate of how many stars there are in the known universe. Their rough estimate? 70 sextillion stars. That’s 70,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. That’s a lot of stars.

Okay, lovers of science – explain that one.

For that matter, people of faith – explain that one.

Is it starting to make sense that there are lots of questions out there for which we do not have any answers, let alone answers that can be proven by a junior high school science project?

That’s why it’s called Faith. There is some part of our mind that accepts our faith, or you can call it spirituality or whatever you want. And, darn it, we are right. Or we are wrong. Or I don’t know. Or I want my mommy.

That’s why it’s called Faith.

I don’t care what the shroud of Turin is. I don’t need it to be “real” to prove my own faith to me. I don’t need some confirmation so I can stick my thumbs in my ears and waggle my fingers toward unbelievers with a “Nyah, nyah, nyah, you’re going to Hell and I’m not!”

It just doesn’t matter.

How many times do I have to make the point? Eye on the ball, people. Eye on the ball.

Mizpah! (Thanks, Oce.)

17 December 2011

A Christmas Miracle?

A reader cannot escape titles like “A Christmas Miracle”’ around this time of year.

There is a formula for those stories. It is Christmas time. Someone is having some sort of really big problem. God intervenes through some kindly agent, and something highly improbable happens which brings peace, love and cookies. Ideally, the reader will smile and tear up a mite.

Hey, I have no problem with formula. Look where formulae got Dickens and Michener.

What I offer you today is A Christmas Miracle with a question mark. I will lay out the facts of what actually occurred. I have always wondered if this was indeed A Christmas Miracle or A Christmas Darn-wasn’t-that-a-bunch-of-coincidences-that-worked-out-really-great.

I almost stuck in a “you decide” there. If you want to, go for it. But you are in no better position to make an objective judgment than I am.

The end of the story: I worked as an EMT and paramedic for many years. Most of that time we were an all-volunteer company which ran about 5000 alarms a year. (Later, that call volume necessitated converting to a career service.) West Virginia was a leader in EMS training and we put people on the street who were, for the time, very well-trained.

(Son Tim the Paramedic made a joking offer for me to go help him with paramedic testing today. The only skill I still have with any competency at all is in reading field EKG’s for dangerous dysrhythmias. But the treatment standards I know for dealing with them are nearly 25 years out of date. Believe me, EMS people today are much better trained than we were “back in the day.”)

It was a in December 1976. Three of us, John, Lee and I, picked up two patients from a motor vehicle accident, a young mother and a baby. We took them to WVU Hospital, the only trauma center in the region. After some weeks they both were released to continue normal lives. The doctors at the trauma center said that we got them there just in time. Had they arrived minutes later, they would have had really, really bad outcomes.

That part of the story really is not a big deal. We did what we were trained to do. When a trained singer sings a song well, that’s nice but not stunning. When a decent golfer makes a good drive, ditto. (When I make a good drive, it’s a fluke.) If an artist paints a nice picture, that’s just what they do. Just not a big deal.

The story, the miracle part, lies in how and when we got into position to do anything at all.

The accident took place at the county line, far from any rescue station. No ambulance could have gotten there within 15 minutes of being called. That would have been too late for these patients. We were on scene within about 3 minutes of the accident, and that’s what made the difference.

Several unusual things had to happen, in order, to put to us on that accident scene at the right time.

a - There had to be a special duty day at the station.

In 1976, the company was only four years old and was still in pretty rough rental quarters. Let’s see, an example of pretty rough – A couple of times, a particularly troublesome rat met his/her demise in the middle of the night by gunshot. If the neighbors called police, they would walk him on a bunch of totally innocent looking guys. That’s what I mean by rough.

We had a new chief, and he called for a G.I. Party to spiff the place up. A dozen of us showed up and were working around the crew on duty, painting and so forth.

b - A random emergency call had to come in.

The on-duty crew went out on a call.

c - A particular type of call in a particular place had come in.

Our station was in Fairmont. The iron-clad rule was that we were to transport any patient to the nearest available hospital, which was almost always Fairmont General. This second call was for a patient with some kind of mental health or addiction issue. The patient was located in the part of the county toward Morgantown, where West Virginia University Hospital is located. WVUH was the nearest facility which treated mental health/addiction issues at that time.

But we had that darn rule. So the way such a call typically would go was that the patient would be transported to Fairmont General, and a half an hour later Fairmont General would call us back to take the patient to Morgantown. But rules are rules, right?

d - It had to be as us who answered the call.

Those who know me might suspect that I chafe a bit over pointless rules. The three of us, dressed like painters (or bums), took the call. John and Lee likewise weren’t total by-the-book guys. I remember nothing about that call other than it was some mental health deal and we decided, screw the rule, we’ll transport this patient directly to Morgantown. We were sure we’d catch hell for it, but we didn’t really care very much. We wanted to get the painting done.

e - The charge nurse in the WVU Hospital Emergency Department was Ann, a member of our rescue company. She had to be on duty.

f - The Emergency Dept. wasn’t very busy. Ann room was a good friend to each of us, and so we had time to talk a bit. She had to be free, which was unusual in a large university hospital.

g - We had to take our time goofing off and talking to her. We sat in the communications room and shot the breeze for about 15 minutes.

Let’s see, that’s seven things that had to happen for the day to end well. From this point, the day was on automatic pilot and things just unfolded as they should.

We left the hospital and returned by the interstate toward Fairmont. About a mile from the County line, a car on the other side of the road flashed its headlights at us. It being a week from Christmas, we figured they were saying “Hi,” so Lee who was driving gave them about five cents worth of red lights from the light bar. Over the next 30 seconds, several more cars flashed headlights at us, and we started to wonder. No random bunch suddenly gets the Christmas spirit, so we figured something was going on. And if it was something that would cause people to flash their lights at an ambulance, it probably was something bad.

So I felt the rig pick up speed and about the time we were approaching Mach 1, John piped up from the back that Lee we might want to flick on the red lights. We crested a hill and could see the bridge at the county line on our side of the road. Traffic was at a dead stop.

A note here – I drive a lot. West Virginia has nice interstate highways. I will come to a dead stop on the interstate maybe twice a year. This is not the Washington Beltway. When you stop on an interstate in West Virginia, something bad is happening.

As we got closer, we could see two mangled cars. I called in to dispatch, asking if they had been notified of a bad accident at the county line. The dispatcher replied in a very deep base voice, “Negative, 23." As we pulled to a stop, I told dispatch, “You do now, send me everything in the station.”

A state police trooper (who became and still is a good friend) was on scene. He was an old ambulance man and he had quickly triaged the five patients. He pointed us to the two who needed immediate treatment and transport. I took the baby, John took the adult, and Lee turned the rig around for a quick trip to the trauma center.

A lady came along who identified herself as a nurse, and I put her in the ambulance with the baby after we discussed what needed done. (The Lord loves a volunteer, remember?) The baby was crying and while that’s disturbing to a lot of people, believe me, it is music to an EMT’s ears.

John had drafted a couple bystanders and was packaging the adult. I helped him finish, we loaded and in something under 5 minutes of getting to the scene, we were hitting Mach 2 going back up the interstate. There were limited things that EMTs could do in those days on a trauma call and we did them like we were supposed to. We arrived, the patients were swept into the trauma service, end of story for us.

But if we hadn’t been on that call or had left WVU Hospital earlier, the happy ending just wouldn’t have happened.

Here, a Christmas Miracle story is supposed to make a firm conclusion of divine causation. I’m not smart enough for that. I’m going to leave it there. I’ve seen no burning bushes nor heard any ethereal voices explaining what happened.

I have my theory. You now have the facts. Make of it what you will.

Pippa passes.

04 December 2011

For the People of Central Christian Church -- So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright

Not often do I target a blog post. But these precincts are more appropriate to share some thoughts, because here it is easy to quit reading them and even to say out loud that Roger is wrong.

By the way, it doesn’t bother me in the least when people tell me to my face that I’m wrong. Often, I am. And even when I don’t think I am, that good old First Amendment gives everybody the right to think and say that I am. It seems to bother people, however, to give voice to their disagreement at times. That’s okay, too.

After a four-year stint, Pastor Josh Patty has moved on. We all wish him well. I'll miss him, but he knows darn well that my reach extends to KC, so sooner or later some sort of gag will show up courtesy of moi.

I’m concerned that this whole search-for-the-new-pastor thing is taking on some kind of scary life of its own. And I’m also concerned that lingering disagreements about how former pastors or, for that matter, other people in church have done things in the past are getting in our way.

And so, some lessons!

(“And who is he to be teaching us lessons!?” Just a guy who pays attention and tries to learn things when life beats him about the head and body. And I’m not alone in that, we have a lot of savvy people at CCC.)

Lesson No. 1: Keep your eye on the ball.

Every beginning has living right within it an ending. The first time Josh walked through the door at Central Christian, it was guaranteed that there would be a last time he walked out the door. The same goes for every pastor the church has ever had. The same goes for me. The same goes for you. Pages in the book – you turn them.

A discussion of anything from the past which has present pain makes little sense. I’ve checked those beautiful new calendars that Karen has been selling. I really checked them over thoroughly. For the life of me, I cannot find a rewind button.

Quick, let’s do a prayer test! Right now, while you’re reading the blog, get out your watch. I want you to do an eyes-open test prayer. Look at your watch and pray with all your might that God will slow down the passage of time to 10% of the current rate. That should be easy, I’m not asking to stop time, let alone throw it into rewind. Remember, pray real hard! Ready? Go!

No, really – go!

Hey, obviously, you didn’t pray hard enough. Let’s give it the good old college try this time. Sacrifice something, burn a $20 bill! Ready? Pray!

Darn. What happened? The God who knows the falling of the sparrow, who created the DNA molecule, who put us around a star powered by nuclear fusion, He didn’t pull off a little thing like slowing down time when requested by really Godly people?

Well, no. I have no idea why. I’m nowhere near that smart. I just doubt that this particular prayer ever works under these experimental conditions.

With the assumption that is part of “The Plan,” what can we draw from that?

How about, don’t fret over the past, It’s DONE.

That doesn’t mean we ignore lessons. Josh was around when there were a lot of innovations, some of which were his idea. No doubt we'll keep some and alter others. I would like to keep the Tenebrae service. If we do, yippee. If we don’t, there’s not enough interest, and I’ll live with it. Not a big deal.

What else? Beats me. And if it takes until June to figure that out, no worries. If it turns out we don’t have the time, that means something wonderful will have happened and we didn’t need the time anyway.

Lesson No 2: See lesson no. 1. This isn't rocket science.

God bless the people who are doing the pastor search.

That being said: Relax. On the universal scale, it’s small stuff.

Do we need a committee to search for a dependable God? Nope, we got one.

How about a Committee to find us a Savior, a Christ? No, we already have the only one we’ll ever need.

Holy writ! We need the revealed word of God in English in our hands so we can become a little smarter in faith. Let’s get one of those, let’s appoint a committee!

Oh, yeah, that’s been done, too.

Music, that’s a hot button! We need music! A committee, committee! Oh, okay, I guess the hymnals do have a lot of pretty good stuff in them and we seem to have an abundance of really good musicians who are bringing in even more good stuff.

Maybe one of Christ’s messages is we don’t have to feel so serious and intense all the time.

Relax. Listen to the message. Feel Christ's message.

Just sayin’.

A touch of lyrical poetry from my misspent youth:

So long, Frank Lloyd Wright.
I can't believe your song is gone so soon.
I barely learned the tune
So soon
So soon.

I'll remember
Frank Lloyd Wright.
All of the nights we'd harmonize till dawn.
I never
laughed so long
So long
So long.

Architects may come and
Architects may go and
Never change your point of view.
When I run
I stop awhile and think of you.

So long, Frank Lloyd Wright
All of the nights we'd harmonize till
I never laughed so long
So long
So long.

To borrow from my brother Oce, Mizpah!