Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Soldiers of Christ

I'm always interested in articles about megachurches and this one's a doozy; Soldiers of Christ by Jeff Sharlet. It has the old run-for-the-hills,-the-martians-are-coming feel that you usually find in these articles, but reads kinda like a novel and is just about as long as one. It's about New Life in Colorado Springs...I've never been to New Life, don't know anyone who has, and I know better than to believe everything journalists have to say about big churches...but Sharlet's interactions with individuals from the congregation really set this article apart others I've read about Megachurches.

Here's an excerpt:

On any night of the week in Colorado Springs, if one knows where to look, one can join a conversation about God that will stretch late into the evening, regardless of workday schedules to be fulfilled the following morning. Some of these are cell groups, spin-offs from New Life or from the city’s other churches, but others are more free-form. On a Thursday, I joined one as the guest of a friend of a friend named Lisa Anderson. Lisa is an editor at the International Bible Society. A few nights before, after I bought her several rounds of mojitos, she had promised to send me Our City, God’s Word, a glossy New Testament produced by the IBS and included a few weeks before as an insert in the local paper. (To unanticipated effect; the city’s Jews, as it turns out, were not pleased to find New Testaments in their driveways a few days after Hanukkah.) The cover image of Our City, God’s Word is a surreal photo collage in which the Air Force Academy chapel—a row of silver, daggerlike structures that is probably the cruelest-looking church in America—is superimposed over office buildings and snow-draped Rockies. “Colorado Springs is a special place,” declares the introduction. “The Bible is a special book.”

Lisa’s Thursday-night group met in a town house owned by a young couple with two children, Alethea (which means Truth), age three, and Justus (which means Justice), age one and a half. The father is assistant to the president of The Navigators, a conservative parachurch ministry, and the mother works for Head Start. Also in attendance were two graduates of the Moody Bible Institute and Lisa’s boyfriend, a graduate student and a writer for Summit Ministries, a parachurch organization that creates curricula on America’s “Christian heritage” for homeschoolers and private academies. There was also a gourmet chef.

When I walked in, an hour late, they were talking about Christian film criticism—whether such a thing could, or should, exist. Then they talked about the tsunami and wondered with concern whether any of the city’s preachers would try to score points off it. When I mentioned that Pastor Ted already had, they cringed. I told them that at the previous Sunday’s full-immersion baptism service, Pastor Ted had noted that the waves hit the “number-one exporter of radical Islam,” Indonesia. “That’s not a judgment,” he’d announced. “It’s an opportunity.” I told them of similar analyses from Pastor Ted’s congregation: one man said that he wished he could “get in there” among the survivors, since their souls were “ripe,” and another told me he was “psyched” about what God was “doing with His ocean.”

“That’s not funny,” one woman said, and the room fell silent.

James, an aspiring film critic with oval glasses and a red goatee, spoke up from the floor, where he’d been sitting cross-legged. “You know that Bruce Springsteen song on Nebraska, about the highway cop?” he asked. He was referring to a song called “Highway Patrolman,” in which the patrolman’s brother has left “a kid lyin’ on the floor, lookin’ bad” and the patrolman sets out to chase him down. Instead, he pulls over and watches his brother’s “taillights disappear,” thinking of “how nothin’ feels better than blood on blood.”

“He can’t arrest his brother,” James said, and quoted the song: “a man turns his back on family, well, he just ain’t no good.”

“I think that’s how it is,” James continued. “That’s how I feel about Dobson, or Haggard. They’re family. We have loyalties, even if we disagree.”

I told James about a little man I had met in the hallway at New Life who, when I said I was from New York City, said, simply, “Ka-boom!” I told him also about Joseph Torrez, a New Lifer I had eaten dinner with, who, when describing the evangelical gathering underway in Colorado Springs, compared it to “Shaquille O’Neal driving down the lane, dunking on you.” Torrez had said, “It’s time to choose sides,” a refrain I had heard over and over again during my time in Colorado Springs.

“So which is it?” I asked. “Which side are you on? Theirs? Are you ready to declare war on me, on my city?”


“Then choose.”


“We can’t,” Lisa interrupted, from the corner.

“We can,” said John, another Bible Society editor. “We do. Just by being here.”

Mother and Child (or something like that)

I didn't feel like painting when I got home from Steph's on Sunday so I did this instead. I sketched it out of a Mary Cassatt art book I got at the library. Steph's first response was "is that a guy?" Philistine!

Monday, May 30, 2005

What are You Lookin' At?

For those of you who stop by from time to time looking for new posts - Gotcha! Nothin' new here.

Tiley invited me to put a couple paintings up in the exhibit for the Arts Conference and the deadline is tomorrow so I'll be otherwise occupied until Wednesday.

If you are bored and don't know what you will do with yourself until then I highly recommend checking out the blogs linked in the sidebar. There are some very chatty people there (yeah, Friar Tuck, I'm talkin' about you!) and Kay-Do's podcasts are pretty stinkin' cool.

As Steph would say, "Peace Out, Yo!"

Saturday, May 28, 2005

What are you up to this summer?

I'm really looking forward to this summer and here's why:
  1. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
  2. the Arts Conference
  3. Taking a train to New York
  4. Visiting Noah at Fort Drum
  5. Aunt Ann's wedding
  6. Boston and Concord (I love Concord!)
  7. Many visits to the park with Malachy
Okay, now your turn. What are you looking forward to this summer?

New Survey

Check out the new survey at the bottom of the sidebar. I really wanna know!

Friday, May 27, 2005

Mental Illness and Church Attendance, Head Scratcher of the Day

WebMD has a new article up about a study that showed a correlation between church attendance and good mental health. The article lays out the findings of the study thus:

"The higher the worship frequency, the lower the odds of depression, mania, and panic disorders," says researcher Marilyn Baetz, MD, of the University of Saskatchewan in Canada.

And, here's the kicker, Dr. Baetz then offers this theory to explain the findings:

"A psychiatric disorder is a BIG thing," she [Dr. Baetz] tells WebMD. "It causes you to search for what's going on, for meaning and significance. Pushed to their limit of their own personal resources, the illness causes people to search for answers outside themselves."

Fibromyalgia and My Life Story

As many of you know, in 2002 I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. At the time I had recently been promoted to a management position at a jewelry store, was volunteering as a stage manager at Impact, leading a bunch of beautiful high shcool students in a small group, and living with my sister in our own little apartment.

Because of the effects of this chronic illness, my life was flipped over and all those things slipped out of my grasp. The first thing to go was stage managing, then the small group, then about ten hours a week at work, then the apartment, beause I could no longer afford it, then church attendance, any time spent with friends, and finally the job. I found myself at the proverbial rock bottom in February 2004; unemployed, living in my parents basement, and completely out of touch with the people and the church that I love.

The good news was that I had no place to go but up. It was time for a fresh start. In Yancey's book Where is God when it Hurts? he talks about Joni Ericson Tada's struggle with God after she was paralyzed. Her mind kept coming back to Jesus' promise that he came to bring life, and life to the fullest. Either Jesus had lied or there were possibilities for her life that she had never imagined before. She decided that she was going to hold God to his promise.

I'm now on the journey to live the full life that Jesus has promised me, and what a journey it has been! In July of '04 I was watching a late-night infomercial about eBay and suddenly felt certain that God wanted me to sell paintings on eBay. At this point, you could count the number of paintings I had done on two hands, but I was filled with hope, which is something you don't take for granted when you have a chronic illness. By August my art 'career' was up and running. More than 70 of my paintings are now featured in private collections throughout the US and as far away as Germany and Spain.

I'm an amateur's amateur and my paintings don't make a lot of money, but they have given me so much joy, allowed me to meet so many wonderful people, and opened my eyes to all the possibilities that exist in my life.

One of those possibilities is to fulfill my life-long dream of being a published writer. I finished my first children's book earlier this month (I use the word "finished" loosely, the thing seems to want to morph into a chapter book and I don't know if I'm gonna let it.) As embarrassing and scary as it is to talk about, I'll try to keep you all updated on the progress of "My Book."

There is no cure for Fibromyalgia. It effects me in some way every single day of my life. It has shaped the life I have now and will continue to dictate the way I live my life for a long time to come. Maybe in the future I'll feel more sorry for myself, maybe less, maybe I'll be more lonely, maybe less, maybe I'll be on disability, maybe I'll be a successful children's writer...right now I'm just trying to claim the life Jesus promised, and live it in a way that shows love to the giver.

Newsweek article about Fibromyalgia

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Cat at the Window

This one's a few months old. It was a lot of fun to paint, but I think I would like it better without the cat. The photo I was using as a reference showed a cat looking out a window on a sunny day and I changed that to a winter night without changing the light source from front to back. Oh well, live and learn!

[I was nervous about putting this one up but Steph encouraged me, saying "the cat's ugly, not your painting." That's a good one, I'll remember that in the future!]

 Posted by Hello

It is transparent watercolors on Arches 140lb. Measures about 8" wide by 11" tall.

New Community

New Community was really intense last night. Helena (the Australian with the amazing voice) was supposed to lead worship but then Tuesday night, after rehearsal, she went into premature labor and Wednesday morning they did an emergency c-section. The twins were born very tiny, I think they both weigh about a pound. (If you can, remember them in your prayers.) So as the service opened Bill gravely explained what had happened and asked the congregation for some grace because worship was going to be a thrown-together deal.

Then Greg got up and, fortunately, didn't try to just change the subject. He talked about visiting Helena and the babies in the hospital, and seeing them behind the glass wall being attended to by doctors and nurses, attached to all sorts of machines. That was it for me, the faucets opened and I pretty much sniffled through the rest of worship. When something like this happens all your illusions of self-sufficiency get stripped away, and you realize that we really must rely on God for everything.

I think we did a couple of Chris Tomlin songs and Holy, Holy, Holy and I don't remember what else...but it doesn't really matter what songs...what made our time together remarkable was the reminder that we can rehearse until our fingers blister or our voices crack, but if people don't enter into worship stripped down of their pretenses and earnestly seeking God, then it is just a show.

Yeah, yeah, I know that 's no giant revelation, but you don't always see it demonstrated the way we did last night.

The message was intense too! Bill was talking about evangelism, which always seems to put him on another plane of existence. He never gets tired of talking about it and we never get tired of hearing him talk about it. There was laughter, spontaneous applause, collective gasps and tears, one man couldn't contain himself and shouted encouragement from the mezzanine - and all this in response to one graying, very conservatively dressed man standing directly behind a podium talking about something we've heard him talk about 1,000,000 times.

After the service we sat down in the front row to check out y'all's blogs on Steph's laptop and wait for Mark to finish tear-down. It was weird, sitting in the front row always puts me in mind of my stage managing days at Impact, but everytime I cast my gaze up from the laptop to the stage, I'd experience a little jolt at how stinkin' big the thing is. It goes back for a mile, up for a mile, and the people walking around it look like dolls. I never thought I'd describe the lakeside auditorium as intimate, but compared to this stage, it's stage is like a cozy corner booth!

The cavernous black hole to the left is the stage! Thanks to www.crossroadsblog.com for the picture. Posted by Hello

Strangely though, from the stage looking out, the new auditorium feels much closer than the lakeside. Kudos to the architects I guess.

Calvin Spoof

Seeing Calvin all over the news got me feeling nostalgic, so I dug out this Calvin application spoof that the school paper put out in '97;


Statistical Information (mandatory)This information may be sold to various corporations; proceeds enable us to send every prospective student at least ten copies of every admission brochure.

Marital Status: * Single * Married *Engaged *Promised *Opaled *Pinned *Desperately seeking Christian mate *Not looking (need not apply)

Citizenship: * U.S. Citizen * I'm not an American, but I want to be, because it's the greatest country in the world.

Birthplace: *Pella,IA *Grand Rapids, MI *Holland, MI *Bellflower, CA *Ripon,CA *Lynden, WA

Native Language: *English *Ebonics (need not apply)

Ethnic background: *25% Dutch *50% Dutch *75% Dutch *100% Dutch *Frisian (may qualify for Melting Pot scholarship) *French Huguenot (bienvenue, huh?)

Other colleges you are applying to: *Redeemer College, eh *Dordt College *Hope College (i.e. at risk of losing your election) *University of California at Berkeley (i.e. at risk of losing our election, need not apply)

Church name: (Please circle all that apply) 1st 2nd 3rd 4th Immanuel Community Rehoboth Maranatha Bethel CRC

Youth Pastor's Nickname: *Skip *Flash *Rog *Mr. Bean *Bubba *Joey joe joe bob shabadoo

In a token effort to develop a more diverse student body, Calvin reluctantly offers the Melting Pot and Salad Bowl Scholarships. Selection for these awards takes into consideration the student's ethnic, cultural, political, consumer, emotional, spiritual, psychological, sexual and socioeconomic background in addition to academic, driving and prison records.

Would YOU like to be considered a melting pot or salad bowl student? *No *Yes
  • Drop the Van in your last name
  • get a tan
  • try a different clothing venue than Abercombie and Fitch
  • dye your hair
  • say aloha to everyone you meet
  • pierce your belly button
  • wear bell bottoms)

  • The Melting Pot Scholarships are among Calvin's top scholarships. Selection is based on a seperate scholarship application form. Would YOU like to be sent a melting pot scholarship application form? If so, please answer the following preliminary questions in order to gain eligibility:*

  • Have you ever talked to a black person? Hispanic person? Asian person? Pacific Islander? Canadian? First nations? How did your Reformed perspective shape this conversation?
  • Have you ever gone on a missions trip for at least 3 days in a third world country (New Mexico and Mississippi count)? Are you prepared to lead a chapel service on the experience? Please include a copy of the form letter you sent out on your return describing how the experience transformed your life.
  • Have you ever sung a spiritual in your high school choir? (Kum Ba Ya and The Lion Sleeps Tonight count. Shine Jesus Shine does not.)
  • Have you ever danced the Macarena? Can you walk like an Egyptian? Do you know the chorus to La Bamba? When the song "Alabare" comes up on the overhead, does it make you want to do the Macarena?

  • *If you really are a person of colour, please send a 5x7 photo of yourself, preferably studying on a sunny lawn, so we can use it in our next brochure.

    Wednesday, May 25, 2005

    Fear and Loathing Unto Death? Maybe Tomorrow.

    This Time Isn't One Of Them by Bill Mallonee

    there's a time for listening to the thunder
    there's a time for cleansing all the sins
    there's a time when i'm slowly going under
    this time isn't one of them
    no this time isn't one of them

    there's a time when joy is so elusive
    out of your grasp and three sheets to the wind
    there's a time crying is conducive
    this time isn't one of them
    no this time isn't one of them

    most of my life's been like a wedding
    the moment where the bride and bridegroom kiss
    sometimes i can believe all that i hope in
    this moment feels like one of them
    this moment feels like one of them

    four riders appear on the horizon
    systems and superstructures will explode
    peace will be a word for hypnotizers
    this time isn't one of those
    no this time isn't one of those

    that holy life should count for something
    those blessed words ever be recalled
    remember well who has really loved you
    to be loved is the best of all
    to be loved is the best of all
    to be loved is the best of all

    (you can find that one on To The Roof of the Sky

    Malachy and I are goin' to the park, see ya later!

    Nacho Mama's ABC

    I have no idea what I was up to Friday night, but it must not have involved ABC 'cause I missed this one...if anybody saw it I'd love to hear what you thought. If you didn't, here are a couple of links:

    20/20: The Resurrection

    or, if you wanna know what CT magazine thought of it:

    CT Weblog

    Pimping the Parade of Cats

    I feel a little like a sell out, pandering to the baser instincts of a Politics obsessed blogosphere for the sake of some traffic...oh well, I'll get over it!

    This article isn't strictly about politics, it's about the church and politics. And talking about the church in America and Willow in particular was always part of the plan.

    This one's called Why Don't Area Evanglicals Have More Clout?

    It's some more fine reporting byCathleen Falsani at the Sun Times.

    Here's an excerpt:

    The Rev. Bill Hybels, pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, the largest evangelical congregation in the Chicago area and one of the largest in the nation, describes his church as "a unique mixture of Republicans and Democrats."

    "Chicago evangelicals have historically been hard to peg," said Hybels, who in recent years has brought former President Bill Clinton and Republican stalwart Oliver North to speak to his congregation about their faith.

    "You would have whole groups of evangelicals to the right of where we are, and you would have whole groups of evangelicals to the left of where we are," he said.

    Bill Hybels and "The Gatekeepers"

    "Gatekeepers" is the nick name of a group of eight Chicagoland pastors who are working together to bridge the divides that exist within the church. They were featured in a couple of articles in the Sun Times in February. For those of you who might have missed it, I've included links.
    Below are just a couple of excerpts:

    Evangelicals have a growing imprint in politics and across a wide swath of American culture. Still, some evangelical Christian leaders worry that people have the wrong idea about them, equating "evangelical" with "conservative," "Republican," "reactionary" and "judgmental." That's among the obstacles the Gatekeepers say they face, even as they attempt to navigate their own differences in doctrine, worship style and vision for their ministries...

    "If this group really does come together for some great causes, it will represent hope that diverse yet Christ-honoring groups can come together and span some of what used to be thought of as uncrossable chasms," said Hybels, who describes his massive congregation as largely "centrist evangelicals." "I think some evangelicals have put too much emphasis on what Christ's followers are against, as opposed to what are the great causes that we should get up early in the morning and be motivated to give ourselves to because of the love of Christ?"

    And what would those causes be? "First would be the poor and the oppressed," Hybels said, ". . . the hungry, the homeless. Right next to that would be bridging the racial divide. Certainly, it would be AIDS. Lack of education. It's the classic causes that Jesus talked about in the Sermon on the Mount."

    Tuesday, May 24, 2005

    Mom's Hospital Adventure '05; Over Before it Began

    Thanks to everyone for keeping Mom in your prayers. Here's what's going on: Mom spent the night in the hospital Sunday night, but by Monday morning was having severe anxiety and wanted to go home. Her doctor told her she could go and continue her antibiotic regimen at home, but that surgery was pretty much inevitable. That was fine with her, but she didn't realize that at home she wouldn't be getting pain medicine, because the doctor didn't want it going through her colon. So she was happy to be home for a couple hours on Monday and then began to doubt the intelligence of her decision to leave her nice pain meds. By the end of the day she was in acute pain and burning up with a fever. We paged the doctor, and were considering going back to the hospital, but he told her that the antibiotics should kick in soon and urged her to give it 48 hours. 48 hours is a long time when you are in that state, but just a few hours later her fever broke and today she has felt much better. Thanks again, I know she appreciates everyone's concern.

    Malachy in his Baby Einstein Saucer

    Posted by Hello

    Sunday, May 22, 2005

    George Bush at Calvin College

    W. Where?!

    No, this isn't a fancy Photoshop trick, this is George Bush giving the commencement address in a little corner of the world where I scrubbed toilets five days a week for two years.

    If you look very closely you'll be relieved to see that the school motto has been returned to Latin. "Cor meum tibi offero, Domine, prompte et sincere." [For all of you who didn't spend way too much money to take a semmester of a dead language at an old fashioned school, that means "My heart to you I offer, Lord, promptly and sincerely"]

    Back in my day, the administration (of calvin, not US) made the mistake of replacing all the old seals with new English ones, little anticipating the wrath they would incur. Old Dutch people from across the nation finally had proof that the school really was going to hell in a handbasket. Obviously, if God intended mottos to be in English, he wouldn't have invented Latin.

    Below is a great shot of the field house where I boogied down to Rollercoaster of Love, moshed at a Jars of Clay concert (to the youngsters out there...never mind, there's no excuse), stumbled across a gang of lesbians peeing in the shower at an Indigo Girls concert, and played Dodge Ball in the coolest class ever, "Games."

    I don't know how well you can see this...the student on the left has a W sticker on his cap, and the student on the right...I'm sure you can make that out. As I promised, I'm not going to talk about politics, but I will say that I think this photo says something important that all of us in the church need to be incredibly sensitive too.

    Mom's Hospital Adventure '05, Part I

    Steph and I went back to the hospital to sit with Mom before visiting hours were over. She was wearing one of those oxygen tubes in her nose and sitting on the edge of her bed looking looking confused and much older than her 54 years. We got her to sit back in her bed and pray with us and soon we were all feeling much better.

    Her doctor was not able to come by to talk to her today and the e.r. doctor was, as Steph's e.r. doctor was last time we were there, quite vague. Her nurse, Grace, was a little more helpful. She said Mom will probably be in the hospital two or three days as they administer high doses of antibiotics and do some more tests to determine if surgery is needed. She brought Mom a veritable feast of clear liquids; jello, applejuice, gatorade, 2 cups of ice, a popsicle and can of sierra mist. Mom was practically giddy!

    Tomorrow I've got to get a painting framed and in the mail for a charity auction I promised to participate in, but I'm pretty much free the rest of the day, so I'll be able to spend some time at the hospital and I'll keep y'all updated.

    Strange Day

    Mom is in the emergency room so your prayers would be appreciated. It looks like a pretty straightforward case of diverticulitis, but we're still waiting on test results...

    It's been a busy day today. I spent the night at the Stangers' and Malachy woke me up with his crying at 5:30am (only three and half hours after I finally managed to tear myself away from the computer.) At 7:30 Steph and I left for church. Rather than go to big church (which was doing a married people/single people thing) I decided to go to Promiseland, grades 2-3, and see first-hand what Steph does there.

    It was awesome! I used to volunteer as the stage manager at Impact and expected something similar, only on a smaller scale. Wrong! Audience participation seems to play a huge part in the message-half of their program (the second half is dedicated to small groups) so the rehearsal was more about working the team up to a contagious frenzy than nailing down cues and ironing out transitions. As the teacher, Sandy (she's good!), and a student helper, shouted, danced and sang their way through the rehearsal, my sister, back in the booth, shouted, danced and sang right a long with them. It was so fun!

    The first program started at 9. They are learning the 5 Gs so they started with some really high energy marches (it's a camp theme) to help the kids remember the first two Gs covered; Grace and Growths. Steph told me that usually they would do some worship songs at this point in the service. They then calmed down (just a little) and dove into the fruits of the spirit. After Sandy and her helper went back and forth describing a few of the fruits a couple of highschool students came up and did a drama about two boys who get lost in the woods at camp. After this the kids were asked to identify which fruits were exhibited in the drama and then were dismissed to small groups.

    I am so glad I got to see this! Now I know why parents around church are so bonkers over Promiseland.

    We left right as the 11:15 program was starting because we found out Mom was going to the hospital. We spent several hours there and came home to take naps, but my stupid blog addiction got the best of me.

    ...Dad just called. Dr says the diverticulitis is severe and Mom may need surgery, so he is admitting her. Mom has had more surgery than anyone I know. She put off going to the hospital for eight days because she was afraid that this would happen. Please keep her in you prayers.

    Saturday, May 21, 2005

    Kitten Painting

    This is an acrylic version of a watercolor I did a few months back. She's supposed to be laying on her side and looking over her shoulder, but I think that might have been more obvious in the first version.

    kitten Posted by Hello

    Amber Painting

    As opposed to the previous watercolor paintings, (see Couch Cat, Napping Cat, and Gray Cat) which were all a mix of transparent and opaque paints, this one was done entirely in transparent watercolors. You can really tell the difference. I find the transparent to be frighteningly unpredictable over large areas (like backgrounds) but my opaque backgrounds always dry much too dark. They remind me of one of those cheesy black-velvet numbers!

    Anyway, I like this one. It's based on a photo I got at Wet Canvas of a cat named Amber. She reminds Steph and I of our fat, grumpy girl, Gracie.

    amber Posted by Hello

    Lost Civilizations, Part II

    Okay, I trudged through a little more of Graham Hancock's Heaven's Mirror last night and am back to update y'all. When he gets into his imaginative use of astronomy (the three pyramids at Giza would have formed a mirror image of the belt of Orion on the morning of the Spring Equinox 10,500 years ago and Angkor in Cambodia looks kinda like the constellation Draco yada yada yada...) my eyes glaze over, but I found some slightly more convincing evidence that at least one of these sites covered in his book might date back to a much older civilization. It was the ancient site of Tiahuanaco in the Andes. Here are some excerpts from that interesting chapter:

    "Tiahuanaco's biggest riddle concerns its age. The range of approximately 1500 BC through 900 AD considered by most achaeologists has been challenged on the grounds of the geology of the site, showing a relationship to Lake Titicaca that last prevailed more than 10,000 years ago. Above the serpants on the side of the Viracocha figure in the Semi-Subterranean temple there are representations of an animal species resembling Toxodon - a large hippo-like animal that became extinct in the Tiahunaco are more than 12,000 years ago. And on the eastern side of the Gateway of the Sun there is a representation of an elephant-like creature, perhaps the New World proboscid Cuvieronius, which also became extinct 12,000 years ago. "

    He supplemented this with his usual astrological mumbo-jumbo and some bizarre and totally inconclusive tidbits:

    "At the Puma Punku...there is a block that has been calculated to weigh 447 tonnes. Many others are in the range of 100 to 200 tonnes. The principal quarries were 60 kilometres away, where all Tiahuanco's andesite came from, and 15 kilometres away, where all its red sandstone came from."

    "Another mystery is that spectographic analysis of one of the very few surviving clamps [used to join the megaliths] has shown it to consist of a most unusual alloy of 2.05 per cent arsenic, 95.15 per cent copper, 0.26 per cent iron, 0.84 per cent silicon and 1.70 per cent nickel. There is no source of nickel anwhere in Bolivia. Furthermore, the 'rarely encountered' alloy of arsenical nickel bronze would have required a [portable] smelter operating at extremely hight temperatures."

    One of the problems of this book is that it tries to imply connections between just about every archeological mystery known to man. That makes it pretty incredible, even for someone like me. Still, I love a good mystery and this book is filled with 'em.

    Friday, May 20, 2005

    "Diary of Willow Creek" by an Anglican Priest

    I was surprised when I first heard that 50% of Europeans who attend WCA conferences are from Mainline denominations (as opposed to Evangelical). Many of the Americans from the Mainline denominations appear hostile toward Megachurches, so I wondered who these European attenders are and how they view Megachurches.

    Recently I discovered this article which helped me get to know at least one of them a little better. Her name is Janet Chapman and she is a priest in the Anglican church. The article is a kind of travel log of her trip to the Leadership Summit in '04. It's charming and well written with some very astute observations and I've linked to it below.

    Diary of Willow Creek.

    Willow Creek in Business Week

    A recent edition of Business Week featured some interesting articles about megachurches, including Willow. Below is a side bar included in that edition. Kinda weird seeing the numbers laid out like that, like seeing your mom in her underwear or something.

    Posted by Hello

    Link to an interview with Bill.

    A recent article in Mother Jones proposed that one of the distinctives of Willow Creek was its desire to create a brand that would appeal to men, the "unchurched harry." I suppose if you want to say something new about a church that has been heavily studied for more than 20 years you sometimes have to make things up. Willow Creek is one of the foremost proponents of women's roles in the church today, and anybody who has attended for any length of time knows that the reason he's called the "unchurched Harry" and not John Smith or Mr. Doe, is because Harry rhymes with Mary, the essential second half of the equation.

    Anyway, that was just one article and I wouldn't have mentioned it except now that crazy idea seems to be catching on. Business Week references that idea in their article as if it's established fact. For that reason I'm taking their characterization of Joel Osteen's church as a "prosperity gospel" church with a grain of salt. But overall their coverage was better than most secular magazines I've seen attempt the subject, and the angle, megachurches as businesses, was interesting.

    Couch Cat Painting

    This is the latest version of a painting I did a few months ago. I wanted to try it this time using a combination of opaque and transparent watercolors. The first time I did it I only used transparent and wasn't happy with the washed out appearance of the background. This background doesn't look washed out, and it makes the cat's shape pop nicely, but it is a lot darker than I intended and if I ever do this painting again I'll try to go for more of a middle ground. It measures about 8" x 12"
    Posted by Hello

    Lost Civilizations or a Bunch of Bologna?

    The rain has stopped! Cross your fingers, knock on wood, whatever...

    I went to the library on Tuesday and had to pay a $14 late fee before they would let me check out any more books. They probably have a poster in back with my face on it! I got two art books; one was cowboy art (go figure!) and the other was Mary Cassat. I also got two Graham Hancock books about lost civilizations.

    The last time I read anything by this guy I was in highschool and, apparenlty, much more gullible. This time around his arguments seem very convuluted. For example, here is evidence presented on why the Mexican city Teotihuacan could be the result, not of native Mexicans, but a great ancient civilization whose inhabitants were scattered across the globe after a devestating natural disaster more than 10,000 years ago:

    "Thus the centres of certain structures are 72 [the number of years in an astrological precession] STU apart, or 36 STU apart (half of 72), or 108 STU (72+36), or 216 STU (108x2), or 54 STU (half of 108), or 540 STU (54x10), etc....Is it a coincidence that the standard unit of measure used in the temples of Angkor in Cambodia yields the same sequence of numbers?"

    Um, well, even if it's not a coincidence all it proves is that the Camobodians were also aware of the astronomical phenomenon of precession, which any observant peoples could have been. The fact that many ancient cultures viewed the movement of the stars across the sky as significant is hardly surprising - astronomy, after agriculture and husbandry, is probably one of the earliest acquired enterprises of any civililization.

    However, as I mentioned in the sidebar, I'm not a cynic. I will read on, maybe he's got more than the old "how could mexicans, asians and africans been so advanced without help?" argument to go on. We'll see.

    Thursday, May 19, 2005

    Signing Off!

    It's been raining since we got out of NewC last night and my right shoulder and hip are killing me. My FMS is usually much better in the warmer months, but this rain is as hard on me as the cold. I'm going to take some pain killers and go to bed early. Take care everyone, I'll see you tomorrow!

    New Community

    Dropped Malachy off with mommo and poppo last night and met Steph for New Community. I got there early so we could catch up on Purpose Driven Life for small group on Friday but got distracted showing her my new blog and the poor girl is still on Day Two. Those first few chapters are real snoozers.

    There was a guest worship leader named David Lubben. Apparently it's his second time here, but I must have missed the first. He reminded us a little of Aaron, but had a more child-like quality to him. He appeared to be barefoot, which takes guts to do in front of Bill. Folks seemed a little distracted during the first half of worship (I think we were all a little giddy from the nice weather) but he really got everyone's attention when he told the story of how God saved his marriage. Steph and I even teared up a little.

    They played a promo for Summit...that thing oughta get an oscar for best short short film! Made me want to go to Summit and I don't even have the gift of leadership! However, I am planning on going to the Arts Conference in June. I don't do production any more, thanks to the FMS, and I don't think there are any break outs for writers or painters, but Act I sounds like it's going to be great. Nicole Nordeman, National Geographic-guy, John Ortberg...all good!

    Mike gave the message. What I like most about Mike, and there is a lot to like, is his contagious enthusiasm for the Word. You can't walk away from one of his messages without realizing that the Word really is our food and drink, that it is what we hunger and thirst for, that it is what fills us up and keeps us going.

    Afterwards we ran into Doug and Jen and reminisced about the good old days; working eleven hours every Sunday, using up all our vacation days for Blast and Sandblast, watching people we loved moving on to other things...sigh. Obviously God had other things in store for us, and I wouldn't go back even if I could, but I do miss the little family that we all were back in those days.

    Speaking of the old family, Brett and Chad are coming over for dinner on Monday. And we saw Joel at NewC a few weeks ago. Must be something in the stars.

    One Week Anniversary of U2 Vertigo Show

    Today is the one week anniversary of seeing U2 at the United Center. It almost didn't happen. The tickets sold out in the blink of an eye and we were never able to scrounge up the small fortune required to get tickets from a broker, so we resigned ourselves to the idea of trying to hit the second leg when it came around. Well, unfortunately, those tickets went on sale while Steph was in the hospital for her gallbladder, and we missed out again. So we decided to show up at the United Center and see what we could get.

    At past shows the streets have been lined with folks waving tickets in the air, but not so this time. Will call didn't have any thing but singles when we got there so we just paced the sidewalk trying to look obvious and hoping someone would approach us. Eventually we came across a couple standing out in the cold wearing short sleeves and sandals. We figured they wouldn't be out there shivering unless they were looking to buy or sell, so Mark struck up a conversation and it turned out the couple they were coming with had a death in the family and they were trying to get their money back on the tickets. So we got two seats in the 200 section for ticket price, and figured Steph and I could sit together and the guys could take their chances on singles. We went back to will call and were almost done buying two singles when a pair in the 100 section suddenly opened up. I have no idea how we got that lucky, the show was still 30min away! So we got four great tickets at ticket price the day of the show!

    (I would recommend this tactic to anyone, we may try it again for leg 2.)

    I've been to Zoo TV, Pop Mart and Elevation I and II. Nothing compares with the spectacle of Zoo TV, nor the raw emotion of Elevation II (post 9/11) but this show was really solid, with some great thrills (I never thought I'd hear An Cat Dubh!) and well worth the money! This was the fourth Chicago show and Bono's voice was a little worse for the wear, but the nuts in our section were singing loud enough to make up for it! (One of the worst things is going to see a band your crazy about and sitting with a bunch of zombies!) I thought the guy behind us was gonna have a fit when "bad" started, and the middle-aged woman next to me was so jubilant she nearly knocked me over! It was a party for sure.

    Napping Painting

    Opaque and transparent watercolors, May '05. Was trying to paint this and watch Everybody Loves Raymond at the same time. Bad idea! Had to rework the shadows of the sheer curtains about four times! Posted by Hello

    Wednesday, May 18, 2005

    Tuxedo Cat Painting

    Tuxedo Cat, acrylic on 140lb watercolor paper, May '05 Posted by Hello

    Gray Cat Painting

    gray cat in opaque and transparent watercolors, may '05 Posted by Hello

    Cats on Parade

    It's Wednesday afternoon and Malachy is napping so, rather than waste any more time on Spider Solitaire, I thought I start a blog. Everybody is doing it, right? When I hear the word "blog" I immediately think of politics...well, not this blog! I suppose "to avoid politics" doesn't make for a rousing mission statement though. Maybe, "to share my paintings of cats with the whole wide world." Yeah, that starts to get the blood pumping..."come one, come all, to see the kitty cats! Fat ones, skinny ones, yellow ones, black ones on a never ending parade!"