Ever been in church and had to listen to someone - the priest or minister, or some person of some sort, over-pray? I mean, they're praying, but it goes so long that you find your mind wandering, more than once, to who-knows- what? I sure have. I find I have to repetitively chastise my mind for wondering if the Steelers will start the Bus this week while meanwhile the prayer drones on. And I don't think I'm alone. I think suffering from Overprayer syndrome is a common malady.

You go to church enough times in enough places, you're bound to run into this. There's lots of different styles. There's the Biblical Knowledge Overprayer-er: the guy who's praying about maybe one or two coherent, actual issues, but there's so much scriptural rhetoric laced in that you can hardly tell what you're praying about in the first place. "Therefore, Father, as the Apostle taught us, 'we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands...' and 'if we have any encouragement from being united in Christ,' we ask that etc etc etc...". Half the time I wonder if this guy is just reading highlighted passages.

There's the ever-popular Current Events Update Overprayer-er: this guy can actually save you from having to buy the Sunday Times on your way home. You start out praying for the peace of the world but two seconds later its the war in Iraq and the unrest in the Middle East and the earthquakes in Pakistan and India and the continuing recovery from the Tsunami and the relief efforts in New Orleans and our leaders in Washington and our leaders in the city and the poor people in our midst and those still struggling with losses from 9-11 and everyone who's died from Avian Flu and the mad cows and the UN's referendum on the price of grain in...you get my point. These overprayers have a tendency to be quite depressing, if you really listen to what they're saying - too often the focus on what's wrong in the world, and not God's redemptive work and power to heal.

Then there's the Preachy Overprayer-er. Preachers are often prone to this, for obvious reasons, but really anyone with an agenda can get rolling in this fashion. This prayer is the one that can many times go political in a hurry, and for this reason I suspect would be dangerous, if not for the very problem I'm addressing here - most of the listeners get lost in the verbosity of it all. Where they're probably most dangerous is when they are yielded on matters internal to the church itself.

Perhaps one of the hardest for me to criticize is the Passionate Overprayer-er. This person means well, with all his or her heart, 100%, all the way. But MAN. These can go longer than any of the aforementioned, and many times involve snippets of any or all of them, as well. By its very nature, the Passionate Overprayer is one that often lacks any real structure, and therefore becomes verbose for the sake of just plain old praying to pray. Its easily identified by how far it strays from what a conversation with another person should look like. What do I mean? Well, imagine you're asking your earthly father for something:
"Dad, I think I need to get an oil change."

"Well, how many miles has it been since your last one?"

"Not sure, really - they didn't give me that sticker on the corner of the windshield."

"Can you guess, at least?"

"Maybe 3000 miles? I don't know, had to be at least 8 months ago."

Now this is how the Passionate Overprayer-er would ask his earthly father, if he asked the same way he prayed:

"O Father, in your wisdom, give us guidance over this oil change, Father."

"Well, how many miles has it been since your last one?"

"Only you, great and merciful Father, know the day and the hour, Father."

"Can you guess, at least?"

"Father, O merciful Father, we can only wonder and marvel..."

See what I mean? Talk to your dad like that and he'd smack you upside the head.

I'm sure there are plenty of other types of over-prayers, but I suppose I've already offended at least a few people with certain prayer preferences just plenty. Yeah, scripture has a lot to say on prayer, and I'm paraphrasing here, with some humor interspersed, to boot. "Pray without ceasing," I know, but I think that we often mis-interpret that phrase. When the disciples asked Christ to teach them how to pray, he used roughly 60 words, total (depending on your translation). Perhaps "pray without ceasing" refers more to being in a constant state of prayer?

Like pausing to say a quick "Thank you" when your elevator goes straight to the floor you work on without stopping, or when you remember to wash the dishes so that your roommate won't have to do them (again). Or starting the morning with a quick request for enough to get you through the day. Or ending the day with some thoughts for someone else, rather than yourself. These all can be prayers in the 2 to 20 word range that put you in a state of mind that doesn't have to fight the tendency to wander. I'm not saying the public prayer doesn't have its place, when done well, on occasion. Its just that prayer is a rather personal thing, and when done by one, on behalf of the many, without being reigned in - seems to often lose its value for the sake of quantity.


Black Monday, or whatever they're calling it - apparently the day everyone gets back to work and starts their Christmas shopping on the internet. Why anyone would bother shopping anywhere else is beyond me - I don't plan on shopping anywhere else. Shopping online, I never have to leave the house, look for parking, navigate crowds, search endlessly for something they already sold out of, wait in line, wait in line again to get wrapped, forget where I parked, sit in traffic, and so on and so forth. Of course as I'm describing this arduous process that so many women seem to find worth the trouble to spend time shopping...its about the same thing I'll go through to watch a football game live. Not to mention that I'm driving to Pittsburgh to do that in a couple weeks.

My brother Jonny caught a ride back to college yesterday afternoon. We had a great week and a couple days together. He spent a few days tooling around the city on his own, we caught the G. Love show, saw the parade from the church offices...

...had dinner with the Cooke's, saw the Moma (this is Jonny and Matt appreciating one of the multitudes of boobs present there)...

...and the Met, saw Harry Potter, hit the Statue of Liberty...

...and even played poker with the guys Saturday night (I went big, tripled up on my buy in by night's end). Caught church on Sunday then put him on the road, came back and watched the games over at Ko's. I won my week in the pool and I think that means I clinch a playoff spot but the stupid Yahoo thing hasn't updated yet. Hard to see the 'burgh go down like that, especially with another tough game just 6 days out.

Never did get to those Friday links like I promised, so here's a couple or three bonus Monday links to make up for it...

The coolest clock ever.

Cool interview with the guys behind Homestarrunner.

For everyone who's ever hated not being able to get through to a real person when they need some customer service. Which is really like saying, "For everyone."


We might have learned, even from the poets, that Love is something more stern and splendid than mere kindness. Kindness, merely as such, cares not whether its object becomes good or bad, provided only that it escapes suffering. If God is Love, He is, by definition, something more than mere kindness. He has often rebuked us and condemned us but he has never regarded us with contempt. He has paid us the intolerable compliment of loving us. We are, not metaphorically but in very truth, a Divine work of art. Over a sketch made idly to amuse a child an artist may not take much trouble. But over the [magnum opus] of his life—the work which he loves—he will take endless trouble—and would, doubtless, thereby give endless trouble to the picture if it were sentient. One can imagine a sentient picture, after being rubbed and scraped and re-commenced for the tenth time wishing that it were only a thumb-nail sketch whose making was over in a minute. In the same way it is natural for us to wish that God had designed us for a less glorious and less arduous destiny; but then we are wishing not for more love but for less. You asked for a loving God; you have one. Not a senile benevolence that drowsily wishes you to be happy in your own way…but the consuming fire Himself, the Love that made the worlds, persistent as an artist’s love for his work. It is certainly a burden of glory not only beyond our deserts but also, except in rare moments of grace, beyond our desiring. We should not ask that God’s love should reconcile itself to our present impurities—not more than the beggar maid could wish that the King should be content with her rags and dirt. What we would here and now call our ‘happiness’ is not in the end God chiefly has in view: but when we are such as He can love without impediment, we shall [finally] be happy. – C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain


Thanks- giving.

Woke up early and went to the church offices with Jonny, Cisco, and the Cooke family to watch the parade - right on Broadway and 36th - good times all around. Came home and went straight back to bed for a couple hours before heading over to C&M's for a fabulous dinner. Still stuffed.

I've drummed on it a number of times in the recent past, but its been indelibly placed on my heart through the last few years: we have so much.

We've been born to incredible days - convenience, speed, and quality are paramount in everything we have - from travel to food to health care to entertainment. We have a peace and safety that, comparatively speaking, outweighs most all of the former eras in history. Our living standards continue to rise, and yet it seems like our drive to serve self rises in lock-step.

This holiday, I'd encourage you to consider giving charity rather than gifts. Having worked for corporations like Macy's in the past, I know only to well how much their fiscal year depends on the consumers coming out in droves to drop their savings on material purchases of things they feel they need. If we only knew the real meaning of the word 'need,' perhaps we'd seek to stimulate the economy in a way that actually helps those who do know real need.

Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruits of our labor. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which we brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty. - Edward Winslow, Mourt's Relation


Tonight I went to see G. Love and the Special Sauce with my brother Jonny, who's spending the week with me for his first Thanksgiving vacation from college (he's a freshman at my alma mater). Also with us was my buddy Cisco (same guy who lost the camera with the pictures of Dave Barry and me on it), who came up to crash at our place tonight and go see the parade in the morning. Which I'm still trying to figure a way out of, but haven't yet. Ah well...it will be bittersweet, seeing the parade but not being in it, for the first time.

Anyhow, G. Love was great. We were about 3 people deep from the stage, and at one pause between songs, I DEMANDED Rodeo Clowns, and G heard me, and told me he knew what he was doing up there. It was the next song he played. G is the man one of the most underrated musical geniuses (geniui?) of our generation. Also tonight I was surprised to learn how little known Jack Johnson is in NYC. Which, I guess, makes sense, but is strange all the same.

Well, tomorrow is Thanksgiving. I'll try to find some time to throw up a decent evening post, but links will be a Friday event, this week.

Be thankful...


NPR runs a weekly column/ feature called This I Believe. To find out more about it, you can read on their site. This past week featured a bold essay from Penn Jillette, entitled "There is No God." My initial ripostes, in all their un-edited glory:

I believe that there is no God. I'm beyond Atheism. Atheism is not believing in God. Not believing in God is easy -- you can't prove a negative, so there's no work to do.
Jillette makes an important point here, right off the bat. Unfortunately, he also ostracizes the rest of the God-denying community by claiming he's reached some higher understanding than the majority of the simpleton un-believers. He then proceeds to use the same circular argument that Atheists themselves use to entrench their position. He just uses an elephant instead of the oft-used Santa Claus illustration.

Did I mention that my personal heartfelt definition of the word "elephant" includes mystery, order, goodness, love and a spare tire?
He gets down to the marrow of the issue by the end of his opening paragraph: he has 'personal, heartfelt definition's for reality and all that it contains, and, simply for the fact that these definitions are his own, they therefore must be right and true. He creates an absolute, exclusive position that you must accept if you are open-minded. More on this in a minute...

...some leap of faith that helps one see life's big picture, some rules to live by. So, I'm saying, "This I believe: I believe there is no God."
He accomplished his goal - making the biggest leap of faith a person can make in this life.

I'm not greedy. I have love, blue skies, rainbows and Hallmark cards, and that has to be enough... Just the love of my family that raised me and the family I'm raising now is enough that I don't need heaven.
So he has love...but he doesn't have forgiveness:

Believing there's no God means I can't really be forgiven except by kindness and faulty memories.
How can you have love, but not really have any form of true forgiveness? Isn't that what the ultimate form of love is? Loving something that is perfect is easy - there's nothing to not love about it. Loving the imperfect - taking something with all its flaws and weaknesses, and loving it even more for the gaps in perfection that it bears - that is the essence of real, true love.

Believing there's no God stops me from being solipsistic. I can read ideas from all different people from all different cultures. Without God, we can agree on reality, and I can keep learning where I'm wrong.
And we're back to creating those exclusive points of view that we must be open-minded enough to accept. Jillette's problem is that he's so open-minded that his brains fall out. He makes the essential argument of the relativist movement itself - he claims to be able to be open to all kinds of different views, to say that what he believes is his own truth and what anybody else believes is their own truth, and everyone should agree that this is reality.

Except that can't be reality. To make that claim, that truth is relative, is to make an exclusive claim in and of itself. It necessarily says that my (David Knowles') view, an exclusive belief of a single God and single truth in this life, is wrong, because it doesn't accept other views. So the view that accepts all views must deny the views that won't accept all views - and so it defeats itself.

So, believing there is no God lets me be proven wrong and that's always fun. It means I'm learning something.
Ironic. I doubt he's very open to learning about my separate reality that believes in God. Because that would prove him wrong, and that's always fun.

No God means the possibility of less suffering in the future.
Now, even for a guy like Jillette, this is idiotic. There's one thing everyone in the entire course of human history shares - we're all going to break down and die at some point. Suffering has, relatively speaking, remained a constant throughout history. There's no getting around suffering in this life - with or without God. But, without God, there is certainly no getting around suffering in the next life.

Believing there is no God gives me more room for belief in family, people, love, truth, beauty, sex, Jell-o and all the other things I can prove and that make this life the best life I will ever have.
His last statement leads me to clarify the over-arching attitude of my response - I'm not angered or upset by what he says so much as I am, simply, saddened. To think that he, and others, truly believe that beauty, sex, and Jell-o are as good as things will ever get. To look at what's wrong in this world and shrug your shoulders and "make the best" of this life? That's an astoundingly flippant response to this life.

But that's how you have to look at the gift of life if you can't accept the reality of the One that gives the gift.

"The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God...'" - Ps. 14:1


So yeah...last Monday we were talking about what I did last Saturday, which happened to be jumping out of a perfectly good airplane. Finally got the pictures back.

Best view I've ever had of the planet.

Best view I've ever had of a plane.

Looking for terra firma.

Hey, there it is - way down there.

Ooh, I think I see Canada.

This is what you call a "life changing experience," caught on film.

This winter will be like any other - I'll get in as much time on the side of a snow-covered mountain as I possibly can. But for the first time - ever - summer won't find me yearning for the next snowfall - I'll be too busy doing this.


Smallest Lord's Prayer

Risk via Google Maps (yeah I know, I'm catching up on old links at this point)

This dude beats all when it comes to those transparent monitor shots.

Things You Never Knew Existed : Faucet Light

Dontclick.it is verrrry interesting...

Not even Google knows this one.

Mania TV is like crappy MTV, basically...but its still where television is going, mark my words.

VHEMT: scary.

Greatest Internet Moments

Finally found that awesome hurricane surfing ad from Powerade (plus some other cool ones).

The Weather Channel finally realized they needed to make it interesting to get people to watch.

One Red Paper Clip

Bill Watterson's interesting commencement address at Kenyon College.

Could it be?

Festoon lets you see your instant messager buddies.

Kazakhstan threatens "Borat" with court.

Microsoft's end user license.

Here's hoping they bring Phoneswarm to NYC. Maybe I can help...


Fun Friday morning linkery for you - last night went a little late for me, ended up going out to see Jarhead... movie- making genius - one of those movies that makes you feel like you are there, like you are beginning to understand the situation for the first time. Which isn't an easy or pleasant experience, but seemingly necessary, at the same time.

So, that's why I forgot to blog. Double dose of links today to make up for it, here's the first:

The Dialectizer - courtesy of Anna... reading the NY Times in Swedish Chef makes it so much more enjoyable.

Google Analytics is the Google link of the week. Haven't installed it yet on my site, but I'm sure that will happen before the weekend is out. Lots of Google Maps goodies this week too...

MashMap - someone finally mashed movie theaters and Google maps together.

Canada's finally catching on to the magic of Google Maps.

Wayfaring appears to be a cleaner, more user friendly, COMPLETE RIP OFF of gmap pedometer, which was developed by a friend of a friend who happens to live in Hoboken.

Map Sex Offenders - useful but kinda scary Google Maps hack.

Thrillist looks like it should be helpful in finding those speak-easy NYC insider secrets that I seek after like a crack addict. Like this place, which I had read about but only stumbled upon last Friday (sadly without reservations).

del.icio.us' import function has been down lately so I haven't been able to get my favorites uploaded even though I finally found the time this week. So instead I squandered the spare minutes on their popular media files lists: mp3, mpeg, wav, etc...

All the water and all the air - hard to believe.

Volvo Ocean Race 2005 - 2006... I want to do this.

Village Voice hits the nail on the head when it comes to one of my most regular reads - Metafilter.

Hopefully you can find a working link to the video this guy talks about - its freakin awesome.

Factbites is supposedly "Where results make sense," but I haven't played around with it to verify that yet.

FlightAware is cool. Too bad the terrorists have internet access.

More to come this evening...when and if my day ever comes to an end. Brother Jonny gets in tonight to spend the week with me, so there should be plenty of watching Anchorman and whatnot...


In the course of my regular internets trolling, I recently came across the Harry Potter Legal Age Countdown Clock. Why anyone would be so obsessed with that pasty-white bad-haired pansy is beyond me. But it got me thinking. Why isn't there an Hermione Granger countdown clock?

Now before you chastise me for pedophilia, I strongly suggest you see the movie Beautiful Girls. Ok, that just didn't sound...right, but seriously, see the movie. In it you have the 30-ish Timothy Hutton beerily toying with the idea of waiting around for a few years to pursue a relationship with the 15-ish (and incredibly astute for her age) Natalie Portman. Me, I'm not even close to 30 yet, and Emma, she's like...what, 15? So...yeah. Frown on it now, but its not such a bad thing when I'm 45 and she's 30, right? Not even close to Larry King proportions.

And so, Keira Knightly, the gauntlet is thrown down. You have approximately 880 days to wed me, otherwise I bequeath the honor to Emma, who, while debateably of slightly lesser beauty than yourself, will always be younger than you.


"Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the LORD your God has commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor the alien within your gates, so that your manservant and maidservant may rest, as you do. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day."

The commandment to observe a day of rest was quite the revolutionary commandment for the Israelite people. There was no prior mandate in existence that commanded anyone to rest on any given day of the week. In essence, God was commanding the nation of Israel to cut their economic productivity by a full 1/7th when compared with the nations around them. Egypt, Babylon, Assyria - none of these nations had any limits on the number of days they could work in a week. Israel was forced to trust in God to provide where they had cut back in order to honor Him.

Perhaps just as revolutionary - ever notice how the verses go out of their way to repeat the fact that slaves should not work? No longer were the wealthy and powerful the only people in society that had the privilege of rest. The rest taken by the slaves would prove to be a regular reminder to the people that they were freed from slavery in a place where no rest was given. Here too the Israelite nation would have to trust in God to provide in those areas that they sought to honor Him by limiting their ability to produce.

We face the same dilemmas in today's day and age, they just have a different face. We have to learn not to work through the weekend because the client proposal is due first thing Monday morning. We need to be able to miss the 7:00pm meeting if it means not seeing our wife and kids in the evening. We must learn to say "no" to the opportunities to work hard enough to keep our performance level on pace with those who choose not to place limits on their work. And this means developing the deep faith and trust in God that he will provide in the areas that we limit our careers in order to properly honor Him.

Our lives are centered around our work - what we do for a living defines who we are. And so we are forced to ask ourselves the question: do we trust in ourselves and our own ability to work hard and long enough, or can we see our need for help, and rely fully on Him who is able to do "exceedingly more than we ask or imagine?"

7. As it is the law of nature, that, in general, a due proportion of time be set apart for the worship of God; so, in His Word, by a positive, moral, and perpetual commandment binding all men in all ages, He hath particularly appointed one day in seven, for a Sabbath, to be kept holy unto him: which, from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, was changed into the first day of the week, which in Scripture, is called the LordÂ’s Day, and is to be continued to the end of the world, as the Christian Sabbath.

8. This Sabbath is then kept holy unto the Lord, when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering of their common affairs before-hand, do not only observe an holy rest all the day from their own works, words, and thoughts about their worldly employments and recreations, but also are taken up, the whole time, in the public and private exercises of His worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy. - from The Westminister Confession of Faith, chapter 21


So, umm, yeah. I had a weekend. Not just any weekend. Probably the best weekend I can remember in my adult life. Had a nice dinner in SoHo with a work pal when I finally got out of the office. Freeman's was a 2 hour wait, tried getting into La Esquina without reservations, ended up at their cafe around the corner. A very nice night.

Saturday I had to be up early. We had to drive upstate to do what we were going to do. Which happened to be jumping out of an airplane. Which happened to be a land-mark day for my life. From an email to a friend about the jump:
...when you're outside the plane, its not like falling, its like flying. the ground is so far away and you have no frame of reference up there to make you feel like you're falling. you can see the curvature of the earth - its a hazy blue line where the horizon just kind of fades away. the mixture of the adrenaline and the rushing air and the complete freedom is like NOTHING i've ever felt before. it was really a life-changing experience for me, there's no way to put it into words. all i knew when i finally hit the ground was that i want to do it again, and often. the next thought was disappointment that i waited this long in my life to get started skydiving. and i'm a person who tries really hard to not have regrets.

The picture above says it best, click on it to see the bigger version. I got it captured on DVD and the stills are being developed, so more pic's to follow. I have a lot on my own camera which I may get around to uploading and linking to at some point.

When the adrenaline dissipates in your system, you come down a bit, and I was quite tired, but couldn't find time to sleep Saturday evening before heading into the UWS for a party with Keller...where I was way to tired to get any kind of groove on.

Sunday was church, youth group, and hanging with Dave to watch the games and catch evening service.

Then I crashed, which is exactly what I'm going to do right now.


Its Veteran's Day - hopefully you can find a way to honor those who have fought and died for your freedom today.

Here's a good read to remind you why you should. Good luck getting through it with dry eyes.

Freakin late nights in the office are killer. So, Thursday linkery is brief, so I can get back to work, now that I'm home. Yay.

We have a theme this week, for a change - this week is cool stuff to do, or about, NYC. Nice theme description, I know, right? This is by no means a complete list, just a couple quick things I could drum up in a few minutes of NYC browsing. But some of these will lead you to many more places... Anyway there's lots of other links this week, so tomorrow will be a general links post to boot.

Thanks to work I didn't get to go to the Vendy Awards tonight. Not that I had anyone to go with.

Hoping to catch Yo La Tengo this year for one of their annual Chanukah shows here in the 'boken. Need to find company for that too.

400 links about NYC, from MUG.

My wonderful sister recently sent me the link to listen to my favorite radio station from my days in Pittsburgh (this station is still 10 times as good as anything in NYC). Ok so this one isn't about NY. But at least you can listen to it here.

Overheard in New York
...can be fun but use at your own risk.

HopStop - Subway/Bus directions for the city.

Menupages rivals Citysearch when it comes to tools to use to find your next location for an evening out on the town.

Top of the Rock is now open.

Oh and Ask Metafilter's recent best question/answers on how to assimilate to NY (disclaimer - haven't been able to finish reading it yet myself).


My buddy Dave and I are headed to Pittsburgh for the weekend of December 10th-11th to see the Steelers host the Chicago Bears (and to meet lots of my sister's young cute friends, but primarily for the game). I found some tickets for us over Craigslist, and the guy who's selling them asked that I have someone meet him in person to exchange cash for tickets. He happened to want to meet right around the same part of town that one of my best college friends, James, lives, so I asked James to handle the exchange for me...and in the course of our Google Talk conversation, the topic of manliness was raised, one way or another...

David: well...to your point...i probably have the honor of being the only man who works in the west village to EVER buy steelers tickets...

James: a fair point, but you do LIVE in Hoboken.

David: you can lord that over me when you finally move to Manhattan. until then you still live in pittsburgh.

James: and have never bought Steeler's tickets...what does that say? There is an LSAT logic problem in there some where...If David lives in Hoboken but works in the West Village and buys Steelers' tickets is he more or less manly than James who lives in Ben Avon and works in Pittsburgh but has never bought Steelers' tickets.
Since David and James, both go by David and James instead of Dave and Jim, they are probably both not very manly.

David: classic.

Not much more than that for tonight, but I can say that Thursday links is going to be a plethora. I may have to start limiting links to only those of highest quality. I just found a lot of time to surf in between huge spurts of work this week...its been weird. Not finding time for much outside of work as I have to be in the office ridiculous hours...but I seem to find at least some personal time on my hands while I'm there...to be used selectively...

To Adam he said, "Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, 'You must not eat of it,'
"Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat of it
all the days of your life.

It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.

By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground...

I've said it before and I still stand by it - work is a punishment from God for our sin. Its one of the very first punishments God laid on us, for our very first sin. Most times work isn't so bad that I resolve myself to a bitter and negative evaluation of work, but then when its going on midnight and you're still in the office...it gets tough. You begin to despise the punishment the same way a child forced to do some chore in return for his disobedience loathes the castigation itself.

I remember stacking cords of wood as a child, out in the cold and wet, by my self, stacking wood higher than my own head. Normally it wouldn't have been such a bad thing - just another chore. But in this particular instance I was out there stacking on my lonesome as a retribution for some wrong I committed and cannot begin to recall. And I was full of hate. Not at God, or even at my parents - I knew what I had done was wrong and that I deserved the punishment. No...I hated the wood. I hated the trees and forests that it came from, I hated the cold that necessitated our buying and stacking and burning of it in the first place. I even hated the dump truck that brought the wood for leaving it in such a mangled pile, so far from the barn.

But this isn't the attitude towards work that Paul calls us to:

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

My pastor has touched a few times lately on how the Jews, when in captivity, were called upon by God, through his prophets, not to rebel against their captivity, but rather to embrace the city to which they were taken captive - to engage in it and work for its prosperity and peace. They were called not to maintain as much distance as possible, but to become deeply involved in the city and to work for its betterment...to be prosperous in their punishment.

We're all going to have to work in some form or another, sooner or later. And, as a punishment for sin, we don't necessarily have to 'like' the punishment...but we do have to find the balance that still causes us to do our work with all our heart. We never have any excuse to do anything but our very best in the work that we are called into, because even though our labor is a punishment, it is one from a God who has ordained His divine purposes, even in our condemnation.


Holy cow. Missed a Friday post and then missed yesterday as well. There goes my regular posting endeavors, right out the window. Can't be long as I'm back in the West Village working crazy hours, but here's the story:

Friday was a virtual seminar, then a real local seminar, then taking off with the high schoolers for an evening hockey game on our way up to young life camp. Fun game, long drive, we got to the camp around 1 in the morning. Saturday we woke up and did our deal as the volunteer work crew - weed whacking, leaf blowing, wall building, and in the afternoon we manned the ropes course.

Sunday we headed back early to try and drop the kids at their respective locations before the marathon cut off all ability to do so. Home for a while, watched the marathon, then back to the UWS to watch the Steelers game with Dave, then hit evening service. Home, unpack, crash.

Yesterday was into the office, worked til MCM, then out to Mercury Bar to catch the first half of the game with Dave and Cregan.

So there's your typical Monday-here's-what-I've-been-up-to post. On Tuesday. But I did get the camera out a couple times this weekend, so there are visuals to come.


The big news today, of course, is Google Print going live (ie. no longer beta). Times article here. Over 10,000 books scanned and counting, from Harvard to the New York Public Library, to Oxford Uni...and its only just begun.

Also in the news is Netflix's settlement with some dude named Chavez. I'm sending in a letter to opt out. I'm opting out, as should you, if you're a Netflix member. Why? Because if at least 5% of Netflix's customers don't opt out, prices are bound to go up.

Define irony.

What to get for the person who has everything this holiday season? An underground city in England.

Semapedia - The Physical Wikipedia...looks interesting.

Abortion in America
. Sad, shocking, good to know and understand.

MSNBC is airing the nightly news online now. Another big step in the eventual total fusion of television/cinema with the internet.

CostumeCritic - just in time for Halloween next year.

Angry While Drinking is the next Crying While Eating. Classic.

The Google Face Game

Random Chuck Norris Fact: Top Thirty Facts (language warning and severe hilarity warning)

Speed Typing Test - how fast are you?

World's Greatest Art Thefts

Remember a couple weeks ago when I posted about that guy who throws up word bubble stickers on different posters/pictures around NYC, then comes back to see what people write in the bubble and take a picture? Apparently this one has been up for a while and everyone's afraid to write something. Classic.

San Fran made with Jello. Awesome.


Did you know that to drive from New York City to San Francisco should only take you about 2 days, if you go straight through? Hoboken to Sacramento (take about an hour off the total commute) is about 1 day and 23 hours, according to Google Maps, so I just did the math in my head. Interesting. That's not all - you're on basically one road the whole way - I-80. I've traveled a good stretch of I-80, I've seen every mile of it between NYC and the middle of Wyoming, plus every mile of it in California and a few in Nevada and Utah. But I haven't done the whole thing, complete.

Some day I'm going to make that drive.

The world is changing. We have different cares than people had just a couple hundred years ago. I live on the eastern coast of the American continent, the majority of my family resides on the west coast, a good 1/10th of the planet away from me. But my concerns aren't whether I will ever see them in this lifetime, or whether they'll get my written correspondence sometime this year. Instead, I'm wondering why dad can't respond to my text message in 5 minutes, and I'm busy making sure that my flight back home lands me at a convenient hour at JFK. Its interesting.

It doesn't have to do with just long-distance travel, either. We pace in front of the microwave these days because 45 seconds just seems like a ridiculous amount of time to actually heat food in. We wait a few seconds for an internet page to load with information that would have taken us hours or even days in a library to find, 10 years ago.

Instead of worrying if the rains will come and the crops will survive, we sit in dilemma at the drive-thru over whether the value meal is a better deal than ordering a few items off the 99 cent menu. Or we compare the price of the organic veggies to the chemically treated ones, if we're on the healthier side. Either way, we certainly don't have the time to spell out the word "through."

Random, I know...but I'm going somewhere with this. We still have concerns. A couple hundred years ago, people woke up early, worked hard all day and late into the night, caring for themselves and their family and trying to provide the best that they could. Today, we do the same things. Except now, its done primarily from behind the safety (for lack of a better expression) of a desk. Now we don't worry that the buffalo will herd in the right direction or the nets will find fish. Now we track the company's earnings or pray sales will exceed plan.

Somehow, for all our advancements, we haven't come that far. Technology has completely changed the world we live in, but it hasn't changed us. We feel like we accomplish more, but for all the extra things we may get done, we haven't extended our lives that much further. We can tell someone we love them a little faster. That's all.

Nothing ever changes. We'll always be too busy, life will always be too fast paced, and the inbox will always be full.


I've been leading a study on the spiritual discipline of 'giving' with the high school youth group I work with at my church. Each year, we focus on 7 Checkpoints (see the book by the same name on my side-bar for more info on that), the second of which is Spiritual Disciplines. Giving has been an interesting topic for us to focus on under this heading, because it truly is a discipline. I would even argue that it is perhaps more of a discipline than prayer or reading your Bible, because we are not specifically programmed against these things.

Almost everything about the human experience, however, programs us to be in a "get" mode. We're all out to get ours. Get rich or die trying, as 50 cent would say. Getting is such a pervasive mind-set, especially in modern day America, that even the earnest Christian has his particular rationalizations (as if he is so much better than a rap star). We want to provide for our family, give security to our loved ones, be successful in our careers and pursuits. All well and good things, but also all too often used to mask the cultural drive to get, get, get.

Harpers.org recently noted that "Three quarters of Americans believe the Bible teaches that 'God helps those who help themselves.'" The truth is, as Harpers went on to point out, exactly the opposite. God is concerned with those who go against the natural tendency to grasp, and instead discipline themselves to give:
"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' -- Matthew 25

I was discussing this topic I've been leading at the youth group with some friends this evening, and one of them raised the question as to whether we had laid out any kind of plan for giving or practical methods to encourage the kids we work with to be more giving. Fact of the matter is, we didn't. And I'm OK with that.

While we do organize volunteer work weekends helping clean up local parks, or the Young Life camp upstate, and babysitting fundraisers to give money to the church's vision campaign, and other opportunities for the kids to practice giving, encouraging new behaviors isn't the place to start when you are talking about a discipline. We can discipline ourselves to do almost anything, but I firmly believe that any true, permanent life change must be first initiated by a change of the heart, rather than a change in behavior. A change in behavior is just that - a change in behavior. Generally speaking, it won't motivate you to keep that behavior in its changed state, it won't encourage you in the desire to maintain that change. A changed heart is what accomplishes that.

How can our hearts be changed to truly know deep down that "it is more blessed to give than to receive..."? By seeing the ultimate gift that God gave us in His Son. With Christmas around the corner, this is an easy topic to picture in one's head, but it has to be a topic that we more constantly allow to permeate our hearts. To become more like Christ with a heart that continually looks to give away, rather than to take, requires that we see His work on the cross, His ultimate gift of life to us, at the ultimate cost to Himself, and simply respond joyfully to that gift, by giving what we can to those around us. Not giving what we can spare. But giving what we can. And if Christ considered his life something not too precious to keep to himself...what in this world can we hold back on giving away?

I'll never forget, my sophomore year in college, a cool upper-classman dude named Andrew Telup who not only was one of the only other skaters on my campus, but also gave me the time of day. One day I was over in his room, and I had been complaining about how my old backpack broke and I didn't have money for a new one. Heck, I didn't even have a way to get out to the Outlet Mall and get one, even if I had the money. Andrew rummaged around in his closet for a minute and produced a backpack. Not just any backpack, a cool skater backpack (it was a Shorty's pack, and if you ever skated, you know just how cool it was). He handed it to me, and I looked at it and told him I didn't have anything I could give him for it. He just smiled, and said, "Freely I have received...".

Only a changed heart can drive us to truly, "freely give." Freely giving means giving without stopping - not placing limits on that which you give. We bring nothing into this world, and we certainly can't take anything with us. We need to stop being so concerned with what we can hold on to in our brief lives, and start finding out how much blessing God has in store for those who can give without holding back.
Charity - giving to the poor - is an essential part of Christian morality: in the frightening parable of the sheep and the goats it seems to be the point on which everything turns...

I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc., is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditure excludes them...

For many of us the great obstacle to charity lies not in our luxurious living or desire for more money, but in our fear - fear of insecurity. This must often be recognised as a temptation. -- C.S. Lewis


Go STILLERS. Headed over to Dave's to watch the game tonight as he's been quasi-laid- up with the knee surgery he had last week. Big Ben connected with Heath "Bar" Miller (yes, I made that up myself) for not one but TWO TD's - and Steeltown won on a last-minutes drive to score a field goal that put them ahead with too little time for the Ravens to respond. BJ showed up in the 4th quarter, haven't seen him since Danielle's wedding (when, ironically, Dave and I were watching a Steelers game together), so that was cool. Kind of weird to be watching a 'burgh game with the pastor of my church. But it was a good time. Dave and I are talking about driving down for a home game in late November or early December, which should be fun.

Got murdered in my fantasy league this week, so that was fun. Way to go, Eagles. Sunday was one of the 5 "fifth Sundays" - church operates on the standard accounting calendar, and so every other month or so, there are 5 Sundays in the month. The youth group volunteers to usher for those Sundays. I'm the captain of that whole shenanigan, and I must say these kids have it down to a science. My job is to keep them quiet during the sermon, basically, because they're standing around in the lobby with nothing to do. So, we did that...and also, I might mention there was a presentation during the service of the check that the youth group was able to donate to the vision campaign, thanks to some fund-raiser work we've done. Over 2 grand, not to shabby for a bunch of punk kids. And, as you've already noticed, the camera made it out for a rare appearance. That's the Publisher's Clearinghouse-sized check there in the background on stage. No great pictures were taken, but I like this one because it gets the stage and the check, some of the congregation, and a couple of our girls ushering, all in one shot.

After ushering we finished up our final lesson on the Spiritual Discipline of giving, around a large table at Dallas BBQ. I think their food is crap. Came back to the 'boken, watched the Gint's throw a shut-out, went back in for evening service - great sermon on culture - I plan to type up the notes this week (also in the irony category - one year ago today I was talking about typing up sermon notes, among other things).

Before that was Saturday, which was mainly college ball, laundry, and queso. I wasn't feeling well so I spent the day with the couch.

This week is more work, as ever - I'll try to update the blog with the projects I've been chasing lately, none of which I've landed yet. I'm way behind on a ton of reading I need to knock down as well so that effort begins in large part tomorrow.

Oh, and happy November. Where did this year go?