Thursday, October 30, 2008

another reason to say 'No!' to Starbucks

I don't like Starbucks. One of my goals in life is not to go there which is really not a hard goal to accomplish. Apart from reasons like a profusion of waste (paper cups, plastic lids, plastic stirrers, napkins, etc), poor quality of their coffee, and a lack of cleanliness in most S'bucks I've been to, Jo recently told me another reason to not support S'bucks. Every S'bucks leaves their water running. In order to keep their water tasting fresh, they leave it running all day long. All day. Not 10 minutes or half an hour, but all day long. Jo confirmed this with her friend Mary who worked at S'bucks for a long time. Its common operating procedure. So she's decided to stop giving her money to them. She's not asking all her friends to boycott. She's not going to stand outside the nearest one with signs. But she is considering the big picture regarding how she spends her money and what she's supporting.

So Jo's not asking people to boycott S'bucks and neither am I. Its easy to blog "Boycott!!" or shoot off a mass email saying, "Boycott Starbucks!!" But instead I'd rather see us be people who think about what we do with our money. The latest Relevant magazine has several articles about this in its latest edition. It doesn't look like they've got the articles on their web site yet, but probably will have them there soon.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

economic woes

As a result of outrageous inflation in Zimbabwe, this whole stack of bills is worth $100. Yes, one hundred American dollars equals this entire pile of Zimbabwean dollars. And you thought our economy was bad! Click the photo to see more.

Monday, October 27, 2008

a couple of good movies

Rescue Dawn
Yesterday I watched
this film which is set in the Vietnam era. I actually finished watching it the same day I started, something that is quite rare for me these days. I did have to watch it in 3 segments, but I watched all 2 hours of it in the same day. Anyways, Rescue Dawn stars Christian Bale (the latest actor to play Batman), Steve Zahn (he's been in lots of stuff), and Jeremy Davies (Saving Private Ryan, the TV series Lost - he plays Daniel). It chronicles the true life story of a Dieter Dengler, an American pilot in the Vietnam War era. His plane gets shot down over Laos and he is taken captive and then put into a small prison camp with other POWs. Dieter creates a plan to bust them out. Christian Bale (the big star in this film) is a great actor, and I enjoy Davies' quirkiness, but the acting I really appreciated was done by Zahn. He really shows his versatility here. This is a great film especially if you're interested in war stories.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Despite the clunky title, this is an excellent movie. It's a long one (160 minutes), but worth watching. If you like Westerns you'll like this one. The title pretty much explains what the movie is about. In short, it focuses on the James Brothers (Frank and Jesse) and their gang of bandits and leads up to the assassination of Jesse. The storytelling is excellent, character development is well done, the acting is great, and the visuals are really geourgeous. The film is set in the 'Old West' so we get to see lots of mountains, Old West towns, farmsteads, etc. It stars
Brad Pitt, but like Rescue Dawn (above), I was impressed more by the 'lesser star' than by the big star. Casey Affleck (Good Will Hunting, Oceans 11,12, & 13) is one of those actors to keep your eye on. He will be one that keeps getting better and better (unlike his brother Ben).

I also saw
Max Payne starring Mark Wahlberg in the theater. If you're thinking about dropping 9 bucks on this one, hang on to your cash and see it on DVD. I love Mark Wahlberg, but this film seemed a bit flat and the plot a bit thin. Its not bad, but it wasn't fantastic either.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Mike (a.k.a. "way outside my comfort zone")

Before you start reading, know that this post will be a long one. Okay, I warned you.

I got back from Chicago on Friday evening. Jo and the girls had gone to see her folks because I was out of town and I had intentionally not arranged for someone to pick me up. I decided to take public transit home because I was in no hurry. So there I was waiting for the bus when a guy walks up and sits on the bench near me. He asked me if I have change for a five dollar bill. I looked and didn't have change, but thinking he needed a dollar for a transfer (in Philly you need a transfer to get from one bus/ trolley/ el/ train line to another) I gave him a dollar and said, "Take this, consider it a gift from God."

Then he (Mike is his name) started chatting with me, telling me he was from Seattle and that he'd come to Philly to try out for a new NBA D-League team, the Erie Bayhawks, a farm team of the 76ers. Apparently a guy Mike had met before at a tryout in Reno a few months ago told him to call him if he came to Philly and Mike could stay with him. But this guy hadn't been answering his phone either before Mike left Seattle or at the moment when he had just arrived in Philly. So Mike kept trying to call with no answer so he was stuck. He wasn't exactly sure where he needed to go for the tryout, didn't have enough money for a hotel, and didn't know anyone is Philly. His plan was to go to Center City Philly and figure something out. When he asked if the buses at this stop would take him to Center City, I said no, but the train would take him there.

Here's where we get to the 'way outside my comfort zone' part. During this whole time, the Holy Spirit was pressing hard on me, telling me I needed to let Mike stay at our house. I quickly started making excuses but the Spirit would not let up. So I let Mike walk away to go find the train, but the the Spirit was still pressing. So after a few minutes of excuse making, I yielded to the Spirit, left the bus stop, and went to find Mike. When I walked up, he looked at me like, 'what?' So I asked what he planned to do when he got into Philly and he had no clue. I invited him to come stay the night at our house. He looked at me again with that 'what?' look and said, "Really?" and I said yeah.

As we sat waiting for the bus, he was talking to his girlfriend on the phone telling her that I was going to let him stay with me. She must have said something like, "Mike, what did you do to make that guy let you stay with him?!" because Mike said to her, "I didn't do anything at all; this is totally God!" And after that the conversation turned even more toward spiritual things. He'd already asked some questions that I answered in such a way that made Mike know I am a follower of Jesus. So as we were waiting for the bus, he asked me more even questions which led me to tell him Jo and I had been missionaries, we now work for the mission, etc. Mike then started sharing with me about the church he's been going to for the past 6 or 7 months. He told me that whenever he's there, he feels God's Presence. And then he asked me about my tattoos, always a popular topic of conversation when other people see them. Turns out that he had recently gotten his first tattoo, praying hands with the word 'Faith' above them. So the more we talked the more we connected on the topic of God and spirituality.

Eventually the bus came and we got on. About a hour later, after a bus ride and a transfer to the trolley and walking 1/2 mile, we got to our house at about 7:45pm. Long story short - we went to get Chinese food, then got on the computer to figure out where he needed to go, then both went to bed because Mike planned to get up early the next morning. Mike wanted to get an early start because he was going to have to take a combination of trolley, subway, and train to get to the tryouts, which turned out to be in New Jersey about 45 minutes away by car. So he was up early and out the door by 7am.

As Mike was leaving on Saturday morning, my parting word to him was, "Mike, God wants you to put Him first." As he walked out the front door, he told me he would call to let me know how things turned out. He also told me he wouldn't forget how I helped him. I've heard that line from people that I've helped in the past so I wasn't extremely hopeful about hearing from him, but sure enough, Saturday night, I got a call from Mike telling me he'd gotten to the tryouts okay and that he was in a hotel near there with another guy. Then he actually called me again yesterday afternoon. I missed the call because my phone was on vibrate and I didn't notice he'd called until I was about to go to sleep. But I'll give him a call today and see how things went.

He flys back to Seattle tonight and plans to spend today sightseeing in Philly. So please pray for Mike after you read this. And if you read this after the day its posted, please pray that Mike would yield himself completely to the Lord Jesus. Pray also that his church will really shepherd him towards full trust in Jesus.

The big thing I've been learning over the past few years is learning to hear the Spirit and obey immediately. I'm sad to say that I have disobeyed lots of times, making excuses to justify my disobedience. But this time, I had no excuses.
Jo and the girls were out of town so Mike would be no threat to them. The worst thing that might happen is that he would attack me in my sleep and rob me of the little bit of cash that I had. I knew I could keep Mike out of some trashy hotel, homeless shelter or worse, off the streets of Philly (where there is more than one murder per day). Although I hesitated at first, the Spirit was insistent and thankfully I relented. Jesus is teaching me how to usher in the Kingdom little by little and in this whole event, the Kingdom came in a small way.

I learned first hand about true hospitality by inviting Mike to stay with me. God brought somebody across my path who urgently needed some serious hospitality. He used me to minster to the 'stranger and alien'. Its funny because I'd just given a talk at Moody about what it means to be spiritual. I'd framed it in the context of holistic ministry and that caring for person in one fashion (physical, spiritual, etc.) is to care for the entire person. I'd encouraged the students to help those who need help, be a friend, house the homeless and do other Jesus type stuff. And the Lord called me out on what I'd just shared and gave me an opportunity to practice what I had preached. Having Mike at our house wasn't a hardship and I was blessed by spending time with him.

I also have been realizing that my car separates me from people. Getting out of my car and either walking or taking public transit puts me in contact with people. And since we who follow Jesus are in the people business, leaving my car behind occasionally is a good things. But its not about whether I drive or get to my destination some other way; its about intentionally putting myself around people. Because ministry rarely happens when I'm riding in the car (or sitting on the sofa for that matter).

Lastly, I'm not sharing this story to lift myself up or get pats on the back from people. I write this because I'm rejoicing over what happened and to encourage you the reader.
And by the way, if you're trying to picture Mike, he's African-American, about 6'2" or 6'3" and totally dresses like a basketball player (baggy pants, hoodie, etc).

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

I forgot my pants

No this is not about a dream I had the other night where I forgot my pants (although I do have those from time to time). This has to do with reality. I am writing from Moody Bible Insitute in Chicago where I am representing my missions agency at Moody's yearly missions conference. And I forgot my pants.

When I was packing yesterday morning to come here, I packed everything else I needed: nice shirts, my nice shoes, toothbrush, soap, underwear, socks, some books, a fleece jacket in case it gets a little chilly here, and even dental floss. But somehow I forgot to pack any pants. I realized it a couple of hours after I got here. I wore a pair of jeans to travel out here, but I have presentations to give and Moody requires that we not wear jeans.

I had a seminar to give at 11:30 this morning so I decided to go buy some pants at the nearest Salvation Army. As I was just about to leave campus to go get some pants, I bumped in to a student that I met here 2 years ago. We chatted briefly then I said, "I'm going to ask you something weird. What size pants do you wear?" He isn't my exact size, but it was worth a shot. He said "yeah sure, come to my room" so I went and tried them on and they fit well enough. A little snug in the waist, but long enough and they looked nice enough to stand in front of people and talk.

When I went to do my seminar, I introduced myself like this: "Hi, my name is Jamie. And these are not my pants." My seminar went well by the way.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Go Pigeon! Go Pigeon!

If there was ever any doubt that Pigeon John is the single most talented hip hopper/ most fun guy on the face of the earth, here's proof. Go Pigeon!!!

The Pigeon John Dance

Live @ 103.1 FM

Live on the Tom Green Show

Thursday, October 9, 2008

a few movies I've seen recently

Vertigo, Rope, and Rear Window
All of these are Alfred Hitchcock films and all of them star Jimmy Stewart. Until I saw these, the only Jimmy Stewart film I remember seeing was Its a Wonderful Life. But he is/was a diverse actor with a lot of talent. I'd also not seen a Hitchcock film before, not that I remember, so I thought I would go to one of masters to see how a film should be done.

All three Hitchcock films are great. Vertigo is one of the all time classics films and Rear Window is great too, but Rope was my favorite of these three. It is great because of the technique Hitchcock used to shoot it. He shot the entire film in one apartment set. And instead of doing lots of cuts and edits, he filmed it in 10 - 15 segments. So there are only 4 - 5 edits in the entire film. Which means the actors would act for 10 - 15 minutes straight rather than having lots of small cuts. I can only imagine how many takes it took them to get through each segment.

Iron Man

Compared to other comic book to film adaptation disasters that I've seen (like Daredevil and Ghost Rider), its purely amazing. In general, its one of the better comic book films made, not as good as Blade or Constantine, but definitely as good as the first two X-Men. This is a great movie even without knowing anything about the comic. Robert Downey Jr is so awesome in this film. And I love Terrance Howard who plays James Rhodes (you can also see him in Hustle & Flow, Crash, two of my favorite films). It took me a while to recognize Jeff Bridges. See it!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Marimba Ponies

My supervisor Dennis shared this with me. This video starts out all cute, then goes into straight up amazing. This group of Japanese kids aged 4 - 12 are awesome!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

3 things

Just when I thought Christian marketing and retail couldn't get any more ludicrous, I saw this today. In case you can't read the text at the bottom of the photo it says 1 in 3 Trinity Energy Drink. The website describes at as "Fused with the Fruit of the Spirit." Yes, now we have a 'christian' energy drink. Seriously? Words can't express how much this bothers me.

Okay, that was something I hate, now here's something I know I would love. I mean 'Love' with a capital 'L'. Its called the 'Fatty Melt.' It is made by sandwiching a hamburger patty between 2 grilled cheese sandwiches!!! I think this rivals the Krispy Kreme bacon cheese burger. Why didn't I think of this before?

Lastly here's a really great site called Every Monday Matters. It has 52 activities for each Monday of the year for people who want to make a difference in their world. I think this is an awesome idea. Check it out!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

stay together for the kids

Here is an excerpt from a really awesome article:

Separation Anxiety: It’s a National Epidemic, So Why Do Couples Continue to Divorce?
"Having watched all four seasons of Intervention, I find myself fascinated by the common denominators among addicts. In most cases, the addict has suffered a severe trauma sometime in his life, and three such traumas surface more than the rest. The first two are sexual molestation and close proximity to a killing...But perhaps the most common trauma experienced by the show’s addicts is divorce..."

If you're intrigued, you'll find the rest of this article in Salvo magazine. Salvo is a really great magazine by the way.