Of bubbles, bread, seeds and cookies

by the Night Writer

One of the characteristics of the dearly remembered housing boom was the sprouting of “McMansions” in former cornfields or alongside golf courses. These were very cool looking homes and we enjoyed touring these during the Parade of Homes, especially those listed at $1 million or more.

It made for an afternoon’s diversion and fantasy, but you had to wonder at some of the value represented. A salesperson was showing us around one $750k model townhome and as we were admiring the well-appointed family room the resident in the home that shared a common wall flushed the toilet. We knew this because we could clearly hear the water running through the pipes and the tank refilling. This is not an unusual experience when you live in an apartment or a townhouse, but not a big selling feature if you’re going to spend $750k. Other times we’d tour a million dollar home with Ben, who is an experienced carpenter, and watch as he pointed out subtle mistakes in fit and finish. In one case there was painted over evidence of a load-bearing wall not doing it’s duty, likely as a result of a problem with the foundation.

I think of these things, and foundations, in the burst residue of the housing and mortgage bubble as the entire economy sags like the wings of a great house falling toward the basement because the center-beam wasn’t set as well as you might think. It’s the latest demonstration of the Biblical exhortation to build your home on solid rock and not on shifting sand. Of course, the Bible is using the house as a metaphor, as am I. Let’s review Matthew 7:24-27:

“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.

“But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”

Doesn’t that sound familiar, and in more ways than one? Allow me to extend the metaphor into an analogy: today’s economy is the rain, and the effects of it in our lives are the floods, and the wind is the additional adversities that come to challenge our faith and make us doubt what we are standing upon, or whether the rock is enough to save us.

We have to build with storms in mind, an outlook almost completely lacking in the latest run-up as people seemed to assume that storms had become extinct and that those sets of conditions would continue in perpetuity (just as some now assume the current situation is forever). What is the housing bubble, or any bubble, all about but value driven by high expectations rather than intrinsic worth, or the greater fool theory? In those conditions you’re not building a foundation on a rock; you’re not even building it on sand which can at least be heavy — you’re building it on something as flimsy and as easily popped as a bubble. And great is the fall.

Return to Sderot

The latest situation in Gaza reminded me of a post by Yaacov Ben Moshe from Breath of the Beast entitled Welcome to Sderot that I wrote about back in June. In it he described the constant, dripping, pressure of Hamas attacks on Israeli villages in range of rockets launched from Gaza, and how both Hamas and the Israeli government appeared to use a macabre calculus on how much violence could be tolerated. At the time I compared this to the grim irony of the West being willing “to trade blood for peace, to cut off fingers and feed them to dogs under the table so as not to upset the place-settings.”

As it now appears that the Israeli government has decided enough is enough, and is prepared to shrug off the ignorant pressure of “world opinion” in the same way they have been shrugging off the random missile attacks, it is worth revisting Yaacov’s penetrating essay:

Sderot is an Israeli town within range of Hamas rockets and the victim of the leadership policies of both the Israeli government and that of Hamas that requires a macabre calculus of acceptable losses that keeps both groups of leaders in power … while killing Jewish civilians. Hamas knows that launching rockets on a slow but steady basis, but killing only a few at a time will maintain its political power base with the jihadis, satisfy its foreign sponsors, while not seriously exposing itself to all out countermeasures from Israel.

Simultaneously, Israel’s government tacitly accepts a handful of deaths as being below the threshold of requiring dramatic and deadly response, knowing that it will be pilloried by foreign public opinion and seen as the aggressor if it does so. Ben Moshe cites JINSA (Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs) Report 781:

“For Hamas, the key is to keep the rocket attacks below an understood threshold and Israel’s response will be tolerable, precise and produce minimal collateral (Palestinian) damage. The Hamas pattern is to fire one, two or three rockets at Sderot. Wait a few days and do it again. Injure two, three, four Israelis. Kill one or two, but not more than that – this week. Increase the range and accuracy of the rockets incrementally. Hit Ashkelon, but just once. Then wait. Hit a shopping center, but if no one is killed, the Israeli response is unlikely to threaten Hamas rule. If Israel does retaliate, the world will probably be more annoyed by the “disproportionate response” than the original rocket attack.”

As I was reading, though, something was bothering me. I was still stuck on the seemingly more limited issue of the terror involved. Who are these people who are being killed by the rockets? How do they live knowing that, only if some, unspecified number of them of them are killed and maimed, will their government be moved to do something about the terror under which they live? This dangerous and painful situation is only partially a product of the Arab/Islamist dream of annihilation of Israel. It is made possible by a combination of ruthless internal enemies (e.g. the far left peace movement), clueless dupes (e.g. Olmert, Livni, et al) and shortsighted erstwhile foreign “friends” who do not understand the reality of the threat. This motley assortment of fools and instigators hold Israel’s defense establishment, her regard for her own citizens and, indeed, her very moral, civic, ethical and intellectual integrity hostage.

The people of Sderot listen for the sirens all day and all night 365 days a year and all must wonder if today is the day that a rocket will come through the ceiling in a busy dining hall or a kindergarten classroom or a high school auditorium and finally be “enough” to force the government to use the power it has always had- but may not always retain- to eliminate the threat. They wait for the government to act. They pray for the rest of the world to recoil in horror. They face each day with bravery and hope. Just like the people in Jackson’s story, they are hostages.

Do you believe that it is about The Nakba or The Occupation or The Settlements? Do you allow yourself the fantasy that there is a way to stop the madness- a sacrifice big enough to satisfy this ravenous cult?

Then what did the innocent victims die for on 9/11- or Madrid- or London- the Darfur? This is part of the same grotesque lottery that has been going on for 1500 years. In spite of the sacrifice of the innocent victims of 9/11, it is all too easy for us to deny that we are hostages too, but those “zero beings” from the Islamist void will not be happy to delete only Israel. They have “selected” them for annihilation first but it is nothing personal, you understand, just a sacrifice to prove there is no value to human life. There is no value to anything that does not affirm the spiritual vacuum of Islamism. It is not because they worship Allah, nor is it is that they believe Mohammed was a prophet. It is that they believe that he was the only prophet, that they know the absolute truth and that it is their mission to ignore (and destroy) all evidence to the contrary. If you believe in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, they will not rest until they destroy you too.

The Jihadists are not interested in cease-fires or peace. They are happy to tell you what they want. They want the world to live under Shari’a law. They believe that anyone that doesn’t want that is sub-human and deserves to be killed. This is nothing less than another confrontation with the evil of fascist, totalitarianism, and that is a beast whose hunger cannot be sated with souls, nor can its thirst be slaked with blood. The lottery they are holding is to determine not if you will be destroyed but when you will be destroyed. We are all citizens of Sderot — its just that most of us don’t know it yet.

Just desserts in an appetizer world

For the world offers only the lust
for physical pleasure,
the lust for everything we see,
and pride in our possessions.
These are not from the Father.
They are from this evil world.

(1 John 2:16, NLT)

Earlier this month I happened across an article about a study looking at the impact the media has on health. The study was actually a consolidation of some 173 different research projects over the past 28 years that looked at lifestyle links to bad health in children and adolescents.

Media Bombardment Is Linked To Ill Effects During Childhood
Washington Post
December 02, 2008

In a detailed look at nearly 30 years of research on how television, music, movies and other media affect the lives of children and adolescents, a new study released today found an array of negative health effects linked to greater use.

The report found strong connections between media exposure and problems of childhood obesity and tobacco use. Nearly as strong was the link to early sexual behavior.

Researchers from the National Institutes of Health and Yale University said they were surprised that so many studies pointed in the same direction. In all, 173 research efforts, going back to 1980, were analyzed, rated and brought together in what the researchers said was the first comprehensive view of the topic. About 80 percent of the studies showed a link between a negative health outcome and media hours or content.

The average modern child spends nearly 45 hours a week with television, movies, magazines, music, the Internet, cellphones and video games, the study reported. By comparison, children spend 17 hours a week with their parents on average and 30 hours a week in school, the study said.

While the study was looking exclusively at children, this isn’t a problem exclusive to children, of course. The appeal of media is entertainment; entertainment attracts eyes and whatever attracts eyes is going to attract advertising, and advertising deliberately sets out to stoke our appetite for what feels good or looks good or that we absolutely have to have. And ever since Eve first cast eyes on that juicy apple our appetites have gotten us into trouble. There’s even an old saying about one’s eyes being bigger than his stomach, referring to someone who has bitten off more than he can chew, or has more on his plate than he can digest.

It is not an uncommon failing that our lust often outpaces our wisdom, which tags along behind like a troublesome little brother shouting, “Hey, wait up!” or perhaps like Boo-Boo timidly suggesting, “The Ranger isn’t going to like that, Yogi,” as our hero launches into another misadventure in quest of a “pick-a-nic basket!” Jane Austen would not be dismayed today to learn that “Sense” still outpaces “Sensibility”.

I’m not talking just about food, either. There’s hardly a “crisis” in our society today not caused by our unchecked appetites. We have an increasingly obese population packing on pounds as we pound down the pomme frites (believe me, I know whereof I speak); we over-extend ourselves financially choosing rewards over reason, all as the rate of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) goes up every year while the supposed adults shrug their shoulders and say, “What are you gonna do?”

Now you didn’t need me to point out those things in the previous paragraphs, or to suggest that something’s just not right. We all “know better”, yet things always seem to get out of hand. Why? Because we’re living in an appetizer world and all too often wind up with our just desserts.

We like to think we’re sophisticated and impervious to the countless advertisments bombarding us everyday, yet this is the air we breathe and the water we swim in. Most of the media messages we see, and almost all of the advertising, is in one or more quadrants of the “You know you want it/gotta have it/deserve it/you can get it easy” matrix, driving a nearly insatiable hunger that goes beyond mere calories, rendering restraint as something quaint and to be ridiculed.

Well, self-restraint, anyway. External restraints are all the rage today as those who would scoff and say abstinence is unnatural and impossible will turn around in the next vote in the legislature and ban smoking and then cast their eyes on the grease merchants. Self-government is the highest and purest form of government and the hardest to achieve because it threatens all other forms of government and these fight back and they play for keeps.

Those who would seek dominion over us will tell us to have sex with whoever, whenever and however but we can’t be trusted with what we put in our bodies or how we spend our money and everyday “we” prove them right in our greed and excess because everyone else is doing it. Conservatives like to say that the government should learn to live within its means like the average family does, but how can that be when the average family itself is over-leveraged? I heard a speaker say recently that people aren’t using credit now for luxuries or splurges but to cover the bills for the necessities.

If we don’t govern ourselves someone else will be glad to do it and even be embraced for it, at least initially. Why is there always so much interest in the latest diet? Because we all want an easier way to lose weight other than eating less and exercising more and hope springs eternal that some outside agency, or eating plan, will come in with its rules and make us thinner or better over night. The mortgage crisis was created by programs that portrayed home values as a Big Rock Candy Mountain of paradise and finance as being nothing but whip cream and bon-bons — and then Hansel and Gretel are shocked when they wind up with a tummy-ache and find out they’re trapped. Then the government steps in and says, “Oh, you foolish children, look what I have to clean up” and we bob our heads sheepishly and say, “Yes, Mum” without asking who set the table in the first place.

The government is now our financial diet plan but rather than trying to restrict our intake it seeks to pour more money into the candy store, hoping that it is a rising tide that will lift all boats when in fact it is a a rising tide of obligation that levels, rather than lifts, all debts. The water rises but now all of us will be up to our necks.

Area Couple Enjoys Abstinence!

This is Ben and Faith. Hi! Earlier today the Night Writer directed our attention to an article about a couple who had waited until their wedding to kiss (hubba hubba! btw). They are both abstinence instructors in the Chicago area schools and they decided together to match their words and their actions. It sounded great to us.

Then we dipped our toesies into the Comment section. There were some supportive and congratulatory comments left by folks. And there were all manner of derogatory comments. Huh? Now just what would the fine readers of the Chicago Tribune have against a couple who waited until marriage to do… um, marriagey things? NW is going to get into some particulars about the logical fallacies, ad stupidem attacks and just plain silliness that some peeps took the time to type. For our part, we just wanted to write this post to chuckle.

Chuckle? Yes, you heard what we said. You see, we haven’t kissed yet and we are having a great time! How is this possible? Can future husband and wife have a good time without, uh, “having a good time”? You’d better believe it! But you’d never know it from most of those comments! If we trusted all of those comments to reflect reality then we’d both be weird perverts who are mentally disturbed or gay or, (wait for it)… just like Hitler! I kid you not. There was this one dude who busted out the Nazi argument to try to dis abstinence! Ich bin ein Berliner! Ja!!!

Now that’s all pretty silly, right? Of course it is. For our part, for the time being, we are getting to know each other better and better. We are learning to laugh, to pray, to talk, to worship, to compromise, to collaborate and to complement each other. In short, we are spending time learning how to be best friends. Fear not! The loverly stuff will take care of itself when it’s time.


Night Writer here. As Faith and Ben said, I have some commentary on the, um, commentary that accompanied the original newspaper article. It seems some people have had some very strong, very negative reactions about two people with an alternative lifestyle getting married according to the dictates of their conscience. As I write this there are currently 290 comments on the original three or four paragraph article. Many are positive but most aren’t, and the negative ones seemed to fall into a few common buckets. You can read them individually for yourself, but in the name of tolerance and diversity, allow me to address these comments here by theme or by representative quotes.

How can you really know a person without physical intimacy? (Related: what if they’re a bad lover, or hiding something, what if your sex drives aren’t compatible?)
This is the obvious response, and one raised in the article as well — shouldn’t you try something out before you “buy” it? Of course, if you buy the logic that not having sex before you’re married is a sure recipe for marital trouble you’d naturally have to believe that having sex before marriage is a major factor in today’s record-low divorce rate. My experience is that sex may make you physical, but it hardly makes you intimate. In fact, once sex enters the relationship it clouds your ability (or even your desire) to properly evaluate your partner’s character, personality and long-term goals if doing so could interfere with getting sex. Rather than taking the time to talk out important issues, or raise questions about troubling actions or statements by the other person, you keep quiet so as not to cause a fight that might mean “no sex tonight.” At the very least, you take up time that could be invested in finding out what the other person is really like.

The physical passion will eventually wane to some extent but the person’s character and personality will stay the same. A person’s inherent witchiness or sloth, ambition (or lack thereof), the number of kids s/he wants, the way s/he treats others — all can be missed during the “interview” process while you’re focusing on immediate gratification.

The question, at heart, is a good one but it is missing the crucial point. It is important to find out in advance “who” your partner is, how s/he performs under pressure and if you’re “compatible”; these are all things, however, that are better revealed before physical intimacy takes place. Sexual compatibility ultimately comes from knowing you have a partner you trust and understand, and who trusts and understands you. And let’s not forget that the most important sex organ is the brain. Good sex — no, great sex — begins long before you ever get into bed.

Why don’t they allow themselves to be alone or to kiss — don’t they have any self-control? Does abstinence mean ‘no kissing’?
Wise people know that good intentions are often overcome by passion and “weak moments” are often the result of negligence or poor planning. The solution is simply to not put yourself in situations where temptation can easily have it’s way; not out of fear of the act, but out of wisdom and a firm and common understanding of what is really important to each of you. Kissing doesn’t necessarily have to be a part of abstinence, but it does tend to inflame the passions and natural desire you have for one another. Making a habit of it continually raises the stakes and lowers resistance, making it more agonizing to back away.

I’m reminded of the scene in Oh Brother, Where Art Thou:

Delmar: Gopher, Everett?
Everett: No thank you, Delmar. I’m afraid one-third of a gopher would only arouse my appetite without beddin’ her back down.

How many times can you go into Old Country Buffet and confine yourself to the appetizer table before you can’t help but rush over to the main courses and desserts? And the best way to avoid speeding tickets isn’t to buy a radar detector, but to not speed in the first place.

Why deny our human desires just because of some invisible guy up in the sky / religion teaches us to fear and deny the physical / God made us to enjoy sex!
Setting God aside (for the moment), there are very good natural as well as supernatural reasons to be careful about sex, such as unintended pregnancy, sexually-transmitted diseases, abortion, child support and invitations to appear on the Jerry Springer Show. Then there’re all the “exes”: ex-wife, ex-gf, ex-bf and extraordinarily complicated holiday schedules. Have you ever noticed that “ex” is two-thirds of the word “sex”?

Perhaps a loving God, not an angry one, really wants the best for us and would like to see us avoid all these ugly complications so he offered some rules on how to use the free will and other gifts he gave us in ways that enhance our life and our ability and capacity to help others.

“Why do we reward this kind of behavior by making celebrities of these fanatics? These freaks have no business anywhere near our youth!” Yeah, don’t they know that we’re supposed to be making celebrities of all those bed-hopping actors, actresses, heiresses and rock stars! The nerve of some people!

“Let’s be honest he’s gay or he’s lying. She’s definitely a flake, so good luck with that. They both need to grow up!”
I’m continually amazed at the number of psychics, mind-readers and psychiatrists trolling the comment sections of newspapers and blogs; nearly as many as those with the special ability to make up statistics on the spot.

“It scares me that these people are teaching our children about important issues of sexual health.” It scares me that there are people out there who can’t abide someone daring to tell their children, “No.”

The Perspicacity of Hope

The following is the text of a message I delivered to our monthly “Inside Outfitters” men’s group; a group that typically includes 50-60 men of all ages from Minnesota Teen Challenge a faith-based residential drug and alcohol recovery program.

Somewhere or another I heard someone waxing eloquently about having the audacity to hope. Those seemed to me to be strange words to combine since the definition of audacity includes references such as “reckless” and “rash”. While hope may be criticized or extolled, mocked or encouraged, it is not reckless or foolish. Hope is also both dangerous and endangered and the times we’re living through seem almost engineered to crush hope.

This suggests to me that hope has never been more important, or more of a threat to the status quo. Rather than “audacity” we should endorse the perspicacity of hope. What do I mean by that (literally, what do I mean)?

A little romance

Some have asked what kind of of writer I’d like to be, and my answer is, “Well compensated.” Fact is, I’m still trying a few things out but there does seem to be a lucrative market for Romance fiction. Sure, I wouldn’t want to put my real name on it (speaking as a guy who’s blogged for almost four years under an alias), something dashing like, oh, Roman Teeque. Let’s see…how hard can it be?

Rolf drew her to him. Though his embrace was tender, his arms around her were like the branches of the mightiest oak; she marvelled that the giant could be so gentle.

“I would do anything for you,” he breathed. His voice was sunlight through the trees, falling on her in a forest clearing. His scent was of exotic spices and of the tradewinds that had first brought him to her. She looked into the eyes that were as blue and cool as a spring-fed mountain lake. They were still waters, yet she could see the leviathan stirring in the depths, sense it rising in passion. Her lips parted almost of their own volition. But no…

She tossed her head, shaking her titian hair and put her hand to his broad chest, as if to push him away. Instead it lingered. Looking to her hand, she whispered, “Would you climb the highest mountain?”

“Aye,” he said, “and reach up and bring you back a star as well.”

“Would you swim to the bottom of the deepest sea?”

“Yes, and bring you the brightest pearl, though Neptune himself hold it in his briny hands.”

She felt a shiver from the very core of her being. “Would you…would you pick up your socks?”

“Actually,” he said, “Mom’s always done that for me.”

Dang, that’s harder than I thought.

Fish House Economics: bail-outs and eelpouts

I once lead a group of men up to Lake Mille Lacs for an ice-fishing weekend. Ice-fishing isn’t necessarily a thrill a minute, or even a thrill an hour. To wile away the time when we weren’t clubbing eelpout or steeling ourselves for a trip to the satellite, I devised a poker tournament.

The concept was simple. Each of the ten guys received $2500 in scrip to use for betting. At the end of the weekend we would use the scrip we’d accumulated to bid on prizes that I brought along. Scrip changed hands at a moderate rate for the first hour or so as we played conventional games such as five card draw and seven card stud. Then someone suggested a hand of “in-between”.

For those not familiar with this type of poker, it is a very simple but diabolical game that calls for very little strategy but generates huge pots and sudden betting reversals that deliver the kind of belly laughs that normally accompany watching another guy take an unexpected shot to the – umm – mid-section. The way it works is a player is dealt two cards face up. He then bets any amount up to whatever is in the pot at the time on whether the next card will be “in-between” the two cards (a card the same value as one of the first two dealt counts as a loss). Sometimes a player would get a deuce/king split and brazenly bet the pot, only to see another deuce or an ace turn up (hilarity would ensue). He would then have to pay the amount in the pot, which fattened it up significantly for the next guy who got a wide split and an opportunity to bet on a “sure thing”.

This soon became the game of choice among our group, and it wasn’t long after that before our first guys tapped out. Since it was hours until dawn and the fish were fasting, “loans” were quickly arranged from the people with a big stack to those less fortunate so everyone could continue to play. Soon enough, the once wealthy were borrowing from other players as well so everyone could “stay in the game.” Some effort was made to keep track of who owed what and to who, but it rapidly became so convoluted as to be impossible.

By the time we were ready to leave, even the guy who had the biggest stack at the end still owed many times that to other players, who themselves owed many of their neighbors. As we tried to reconstruct the transactions I got the idea to add up all the “loans” that had been passed around. Even though there was still only $25,000 in actual scrip, the total of all the loans was easily more than ten times that. The only way we could have settled every thing was for me to go back into town and hit the Kinko’s to photocopy more scrip!

I don’t know what made me remember this story.

Filings: Man on the Street

by the Night Writer

One morning last week I was walking the five blocks from the train to my office, pretty much just thinking about the day ahead. As I waited at the first corner with a crowd of pedestrians for the light to change, an older black man standing in front of me turned around and looked at me, then said, “God bless you.”

“And God bless you, too,” I said, a little surprised but not really uncomfortable even though I could smell the strong scent of alcohol coming from him as he turned back around. I know from the times I’ve spent with the guys in the Teen Challenge program how much they hated, when they were on the street, how people wouldn’t look at them because of their color, or their raggedyness, or both. Since then I’ve tried to make it a habit to acknowledge people with my eyes when they cross my path.

The man was standing with two other rather scruffy looking guys. He turned to me again as the light changed and the crowd moved across the street, the two scruffy guys and my fellow pedestrians subtly leaving a bubble around me and my new friend as we got the inevitable request for money out of the way (which I declined). He then started a rambling description of his birthday being January 1, and how nobody believes that, and how Jesus walks with him, and nobody believes that either. “Do you you believe Jesus walks with me?” he asked.

“I believe Jesus lives inside us,” I replied.

“Does he live inside you?”

“Yes, he does.”

He went on talking about Jesus following him everywhere. By now Jesus was the only one who could have been in spitting distance of us. I was feeling very much at peace, though, interjecting a comment every so often to let him know I was listening. We got to the corner where my office is and my friend was asking me if Jesus walked beside me. I told him that I believe Jesus said he would never leave us or forsake us, that he would be with us everywhere we go. Then I got bold, though I still felt peaceful.

“I believe Jesus is walking beside you,” I said. “The problem is, you’ve been taking him into a lot of places he doesn’t want to go. I wonder,” I said, “what would happen if you started to follow him for a little while instead of having him follow you?” For the first time in our conversation he was still and quiet. I put out my hand. He took it.

“I believe you when you say you were born on January 1. I believe that is a symbol from God that you can make a new beginning, but you don’t have to wait for your birthday.”

There at the corner of Washington and Marquette I put my other hand on his shoulder and began to pray out loud, thanking God for the man’s life and for bringing us together and for the plans that God had for him. I prayed that God would open doors for him that no man could close and that he would close doors that no man could open. I said “Amen” and dropped my left hand. He stood there with a surprised look on his face.

“Thank you,” he said, softly. Then louder, “Thank you very much! God bless you!” Then he turned and walked away.

Now I harbor no illusions that that interlude will turn that man’s life around, but I know God has done greater things. Neither do I have any doubt that I was supposed to meet that man that day. As for myself, I got quite a lift from the unexpected meeting, and I wondered at the peace and confidence I had felt. I hadn’t been self-conscious at all about anyone else around us, or put off by the man’s appearance or condition. Believe me, that is not my usual demeanor! I felt at first as if I had just done something the way my pastor would’ve done it, and then I realized that perhaps I had done it the way Jesus would have — without a thought or care but for the man he had just met.

That may all be very nice but I also realized that, while I likely won’t know the impact I made on the other guy, that God wanted to show me something. I, too, am guilty — in both thought and actions — of taking Jesus into places sometimes that perhaps he doesn’t want to go. In fact, I can go hours without even being aware of him beside me. As the morning went on I was simultaneously buoyed by the experience and humbled that I was able to experience it. I didn’t really grasp the biggest lesson, however, until yesterday when it finally dawned on me.

The experience felt great and was stimulating because it was different, out of the ordinary. It finally hit me, yesterday, that in fact it shouldn’t be that out of the ordinary at all. Jesus didn’t spend a lot of time in church, but was usually out walking, going from one place to another, meeting the people he was supposed to meet, touching their lives with his presence. The same Jesus walks with me, wanting to do the same thing if I will let him; not by preaching sermons or trying to get people to say a prayer so they can be “saved”, but simply touching their lives with a word or a touch that communicates his love for them, showing — as Romans 2:4 says — “the goodness of God that leads people to repentance.”

I want to feel that lift that I felt that day much more often.

You’re so Favre, I bet you think this post is about you

At first I didn’t post on the Brett Favre saga becuase I didn’t want to be late the party. Now it appears that this is going to drag on for months yet, and by writing now I can still squeeze a few paragraphs into the first 10% of all the words that will end up being written.

Frankly, the story is barely newsworthy in terms of being shocking; you’d have to be FEMA not to have seen this one coming. Aside from the annual off-season “maybe I’ll retire, maybe I won’t” strokefest, this latest move is vintage Favre for anyone who’s followed #4’s on-the-field exploits.

“Triple-coverage? What triple-coverage? I’m Brett Favre – I can put the ball in a Junebug’s back pocket!” Whooosh. “Dang!” Similarly, while “miscalculation” might be hard for Brett to say, it isn’t a foreign concept to him. “Retirement papers? I didn’t file no retirement papers! I’m Brett Favre – they’ve got to take me back!”

The moves made by both the Packers and Favre have been just as predictable.

Farve: “I maybe, possibly, might want to come back, but you didn’t hear it from me.”

Packers GM Ted Thompson: “Naah, naah, naah, not listening! I’m on vacation! I’m rearranging my sock drawer! Brett who?”

Favre: “It’s all just rumors taken out of context, I don’t know how Chris Mortenson could have intercepted my text messages.”

Thompson: “Of course we’d welcome Brett back, as long as he’ll wear a helmet really made from cheese and confess that he was the one that killed Dan Devine’s dog. There might be a problem, though, because we’re all sold out of #4 jerseys and I told the staff not to order any more. He might have to wear #78, which also happens to be the number of times we’ve been down this road with Brett in the past.”

Favre: “Help! Help! I’m being repressed! Come see the nonsense inherent in the system! Want to see me cry again?”

The posturing by both sides is just as transparent. The Packers will act as if they’d gladly take Favre back as their back-up quarterback, knowing there’s no way in hell Brett will accept that, while Favre will say he’ll come back knowing that there’s no way in hell Thompson wants the nightmare of Favre in uniform on the bench while a young quarterback takes his lumps. The team could conceivably punish him by trading him to a non-contender, but that is nearly as empty a threat as bringing him back as a bench-warmer. What non-contending team would trade for Favre and his salary, especially knowing that Brett won’t want to be there. Even potentially contending teams will be hesitant to give up much, especially if it means Favre having to learn a new offense. You should also keep in mind how much Favre has whined about having enough talent on the team in recent years; even if the Packers can find a trade partner (which they have the technical capability to do), Favre will pout his way out of that situation as well, probably forcing another trade that will make the Packers’ moves blow up in their face. In the Packers’ favor is that trades take time and that’s something that Favre and most teams don’t have if he’s going to go somewhere new and be ready by the start of the season.

Ultimately the Packers and Favre know he has the leverage and can force his release just by continuing to be the pain-in-the-butt prima donna he already is. Thompson also knows that the Vikings would be a prime landing space for Favre given that the team is merely an established quarterback away from being a serious Super Bowl contender, and that Favre would relish the opportunity to play the Pack twice in the coming year. There’s not much Thompson can do to prevent it, except muddy the waters by proactively accusing the Vikings of tampering, especially since Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell was Favre’s former quarterback coach. I don’t know what hard evidence Thompson could have to support his claim unless he’s got the power to subpeona phone records. Perhaps it was this transcript from a tape that was mysteriously found in the pocket of Bill Belichek’s hoodie:

DB: Hey, Brett, it’s your ol’ buddy, Darrell.

BF: Who?

DB: Darrell Bevell, your old quarterbacks coach.

BF: I had a quarterbacks coach? Who knew? I think I knew a guy named Darrell who caddied for me for awhile.

DB: Ha-ha, always the kidder. I’m just calling you up like good buddies do, to talk about huntin’ and fishin’ and such.

BF: Do tell.

DB: Of course! I wouldn’t dream of having you tampered with, unless of course it was by Jared Allen; man, can that boy hunt! You know, we should get together. I think you’d like our West Coast off-, I mean, you ought to check out the west coast of Lake Minnetonka. Good fishing out there. Super, in fact.

BF: Hey, thanks, Darnell…

DB: It’s Darrell.

BF: Oh, yeah, Darrell. The thing is, I don’t know if I’m going to have any time. Michael Strahan has also retired, and him and me got a contract offer from FOX to go around the country re-enactin’ the time I fell down so Michael could set the single-season sack record.

DB: I remember you like bowling. We’ve got a good group of, um, bowlers over here. You know Kevin and Pat, and we got that kid we call, “All Day.” Next time we get together I’d be happy to give you a ring. Uh, hello?

BF: Sorry, Merrill, I accidentally dropped my phone. I had this itch I was trying to scratch.

Tune into ESPN tomorrow (and the day after that, and the day after that, and the day after that) for the latest developments.

Gone into the night

by the Night Writer

When my wife became a police chaplain we knew we could expect some tense calls in the middle of the night since chaplains are commonly called on for death notifications. We didn’t expect that the first call she received would be for someone we know.

Joe was the kind of guy for whom guardrails were invented. Life had thrown him a few curves and he had a tendency to get a little wide through these at times, drifting out on the edges where the traction can be treacherous. The same age as me, he was whippet thin and had a look about his eyes that suggested a dog that had been kicked too many times. There was no doubt he had been.

Kick a dog, or a man, often enough and he can get mean. That wasn’t Joe. There was still a level of optimism, trust and forgiveness in him despite all that he had been through. Some of it was the rub-your-neck admission of the things he knew he had brought on himself, and some of it was a faith that things were inevitably going to get better. He loved his wife, he loved his kids, he loved riding his motorcycle.

His father left home when Joe was two; he didn’t see him again for more than 30 years. Once when he had had the opportunity and inclination to do the same thing he pointed his bike toward the open road, but couldn’t, wouldn’t do it. Bad company and bad choices had often been his reality, but there had also been a share of good choices when he said, “I’m turning around.”

Including that most important time, that time when he looked into Hell and said, “I’m turning around.”

Monday night was a lovely night for a ride, and one of the few things he could afford right now. He and a friend set out into the darkness and at some point he found one last, non-metaphorical guard rail. His shattered wrist watch said 12:15. Our phone rang not long after. Another chaplain had received the original call-out and gone to the house, but when he arrived Joe’s wife had asked for Marjorie.

Today a wisp of a song played through my mind, over and over. An older song, sung by someone who shares my name, called “Midnight Wind”.

There are dreams that fly in the midnight wind
Souls that cry in the midnight wind
Lovers who try in the midnight wind
You and I in the midnight wind

Sometimes…you can see, feel the edge coming. And sometimes it drops away from you without warning. You, and I, in the midnight wind.