Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Christmas is Coming! (the goose is getting fat)

It's not a literary masterpiece, and it arrived in my mailbox in the form of a forward, which drives me NUTS... but for all that, it's thought-provoking and a good reminder that no matter what you think about the war, there are men & women in Iraq risking (and all too often, losing) their lives... on both sides... but that's another post for another day...

A Different Christmas Poem
(the email forward gave credit to Jeff Giles, but snopes says it was actually written by Michael Marks)

The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light,
I gazed round the room and I cherished the sight.
My wife was asleep, her head on my chest,
My daughter beside me, angelic in rest.
Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white,
Transforming the yard to a winter delight.
The sparkling lights in the tree I believe,
Completed the magic that was Christmas Eve.
My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep,
Secure and surrounded by love I would sleep.
In perfect contentment, or so it would seem,
So I slumbered, perhaps I started to dream.

The sound wasn't loud, and it wasn't too near,
But I opened my eyes when it tickled my ear.
Perhaps just a cough, I didn't quite know, Then the
sure sound of footsteps outside in the snow.
My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear,
And I crept to the door just to see who was near.
Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night,
A lone figure stood, his face weary and tight.

A soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old,
Perhaps a Marine, huddled here in the cold.
Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled,
Standing watch over me, and my wife and my child.
"What are you doing?" I asked without fear,
"Come in this moment, it's freezing out here!
Put down your pack, brush the snow from your sleeve,
You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve!

For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift,
Away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts..
To the window that danced with a warm fire's light
Then he sighed and he said "Its really all right,
I'm out here by choice. I'm here every night.
It's my duty to stand at the front of the line,
That separates you from the darkest of times.
No one had to ask or beg or implore me,
I'm proud to stand here like my fathers before me.
My Gramps died at 'Pearl on a day in December,"
Then he sighed, "That's a Christmas 'Gram always remembers.
My dad stood his watch in the jungles of 'Nam',
And now it is my turn and so, here I am.
I've not seen my own son in more than a while,
But my wife sends me pictures, he's sure got her smile."

Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag,
The red, white, and blue... an American flag.
I can live through the cold and the being alone,
Away from my family, my house and my home.
I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet,
I can sleep in a foxhole with little to eat.
I can carry the weight of killing another,
Or lay down my life with my sister and brother..
Who stand at the front against any and all,
To ensure for all time that this flag will not fall."

"So go back inside," he said, "harbor no fright,
Your family is waiting and I'll be all right."
"But isn't there something I can do, at the least,
"Give you money," I asked, "or prepare you a feast?
It seems all too little for all that you've done,
For being away from your wife and your son."
Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret,
"Just tell us you love us, and never forget.
To fight for our rights back at home while we're gone,
To stand your own watch, no matter how long.
For when we come home, either standing or dead,
To know you remember we fought and we bled.
Is payment enough, and with that we will trust,
That we mattered to you as you mattered to us."

Did anybody else watch CSI: Miami on Monday night? It had a lot of interesting things to say about recruiting, about civilians, about Iraq, and about family. It just makes me glad to think that our soldiers won't be abandoned and reviled in the way that troops coming home from Vietnam were... even if it's not a matter of right & wrong, but rather what's "hot" and what's not. If Hollywood wants to make supporting the troops fashionable, more power to 'em.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

My Mind's Mediocre Malaise

To state the obvious, it's been a while since I've posted. What have I been doing, you might ask. Nothing much. Trying to study for an exam that I'm not even sure I want to pass. Whew. How do you decide what to do with your life? I enjoy engineering. I enjoy teaching people. I enjoy doing research. I think I'm at least passable at all three. Does that mean I should get a Ph.D.? I look around and the majority of people I see with Ph.D.'s seem to be so specialized that they can win acclaim and honor from the academy but may not be able to tie their own shoes. I hate impracticality. The idea of calling seems to just complicate matters more. As a Christian, I desire for my work to be redemptive to this world and its inhabitants. I want to wisely use the gifts I've been given to accomplish those goals. Sometimes it seems like a far jump from the pad of engineering graph paper in front of me to something that grandiose.

My general funk is probably not improved by the fact that iTunes has come across Chandra's collection of angsty chick rock. Anyway, I don't know if these musings are worthy of the "Publish Post" button, but I think I'll hit it anyway. Hope I didn't harsh your mellow.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

They'll Break Your Heart...

Sigh.

At least Notre Dame got a well-deserved beat down. And we're still on our way to Jacksonville. To play Wake Forest. Wake Forest?!?

I hope Georgia's star freshman QB implodes the way ours did. So sad.

Such is the life of a Yellow Jacket fan.

Monday, November 20, 2006

All Things Football

Sigh. Football season is drawing to a close. And while this means that the most exciting games are coming up (and that Christmas is on its way!), it's still a bummer. Saturday was the last home game, which we won quite handily. We're on our way to Jacksonville, and hopefully (the critics are liking our chances) the Orangey-Floridian theme will continue. We might just play a BCS bowl for the first time in (I do believe) 16 years. The pundits are putting us up against Louisville. Not sure how I feel about that... it's a nice neutral opponent, but I sure would love another crack at Brady Quinn and the stupid Irish. Would we get our butts kicked? I don't think that's a certainty at all. We did excellently in the season opener (that seems so far away now!), and Notre Dame's 10-1 record is a bit misleading. Michigan beat the snot out of them, Michigan State nearly pulled off the upset, and their wins over 1-10 Stanford, 2-9 North Carolina, and 3-8 Army aren't that impressive. Which is not to say that we haven't had our share of small teams to thump (winless Duke and AA Samford certainly come to mind, not to mention that we didn't do too well against UNC), but NOTRE DAME ISN'T OHIO STATE, PEOPLE! OSU has also had their share of games this season against sub-par teams, but in each game, they have resoundingly THUMPED the competition.

I'm willing to say it: this season, Notre Dame has been as inconsistent as we are. Bah. Jerks. KaMichael Hall would eat Brady Quinn for lunch. Ooooooh, the hype around Notre Dame and their BCS #5 ranking makes me unreasonably angry. Moving on.

On Friday, we had the weird but fun experience of North Georgia High School football. We went with our friend Lacey to Blue Ridge to see her hubby Michael filming the game. It was like being home again, except a little more "Deliverance" and a little less "Hee-Haw." It felt weird cheering for the all-white Fannin County Rebels against the predominantly black Manchester (who won, by the way). I found it amusing that Fannin County had nicer uniforms, a nicer band, were bigger, etc. etc. than Manchester, but still weren't that good. Before anyone blasts me for knocking North Georgia, High School football, or the South in general, let me just say that I enjoyed it, I wasn't particularly offended, and it was fun to see folks enjoying themselves and not worrying about traffic, building codes, or pollution. The two things that freaked me out the most were: 1) UGA paraphenalia EVERYWHERE, and 2) how much it felt just like our home stadium back in rural New Mexico. Badly bleached hair, tons of eye makeup... no smell of cows, though. I'll count my blessings. Mooooooo.

Well, in just a little while, football season will be over, and I'll find something else to obsess over. Because I'm not talking football during the off-season. Certainly not discussing Calvin Johnson. Especially not during the NFL Draft.

CALVIN, DON'T LEAVE US!!! auuuuuughhhhhhh

Monday, November 13, 2006

Cheater, Cheater, Pumpkin-eater

I'm stealing Laura's idea/last Sunday's Bible study icebreaker question...

In the fall, I love the

sight of the crowd at Bobby Dodd stadium as the players run onto the field...

smell of nutmeg and eggnog...

sound of AP's "Behold the Lamb" cd...

taste of pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce and stuffing and leftover turkey sandwiches and... and... and...

feel of crunching through piles of leaves on a walk with my best friend...

So what have the Cranes been up to? Our friend Katherine got us amazing seats at the Miami game: 5th row up, right above the players' tunnel. Whoo hoo! She caught #6 Pat Clark's glove (I was so jealous!) after the game. It's a disturbing sign of my personality that I coveted a sweaty glove...

Choir practice has started up and we're having a blast. I had a slight panic attack last night when I thought that the finale for The Amazing Race was the same night as the Christmas Celebration, but it's a week earlier; so everything's okay. Priorities, people!

What I do love about Choir practice is that the emphasis is on speaking (or singing) the gospel, not on having a performance. It helps me not be so prideful about my singing abilities. It's a good reminder that whatever gifts God has given to a person, he does so that he might be glorified.

We helped to host a baby shower for Team Redd & the Frazers... that was a lot of fun! It was no typical shower, mind you! We watched the game (we didn't play very well, but at least we won; and that means we're on our way to Jacksonville for the ACC Championship!), had a finger football tournament, and ate large amounts of meat, in addition to the usual present-opening, cutesy-cake-eating, girly-squealing good time you might expect to see at a baby shower.

And in case you were wondering, there are few things more wrong, yet more entertaining, than putting a crumpled up ball of masking tape on your cat's back, right between the shoulder blades where he can't really reach. I'm such a mean pet parent.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Battle Continues...

So apparently yet another high-profile pastor has landed in the center of controversy. Do I think the pastor did solicit sex from a male prostitute? I don't know. I'd like to belive not, especially since he is so adamantly denying it. And of course I hurt to think of someone living such a double-life and undoubtedly hating himself somewhere deep inside.

I have to wonder, though... if he is struggling with this, and if he had or did own up to it, what would be the Evangelical community's response?

It's a tough question. Even tougher is the question of how much has our current religious system in the Western church made it difficult for someone in a high position of authority to resist temptation and have a circle of accountability partners? There seems to be such an emphasis on having your crap all together. No one wants to be led by someone who struggles with these things.

At one of his shows, Matthew Perryman Jones once said that we minister to people out of our brokenness (or something to that effect). Whatever else I may think about the edgy style of Mars Hill Church, I LOVE that Mark Driscoll is so vulnerable with his congregation. Here's my controversial statement of the week:

Churches should be somewhere where someone who is struggling with pornography, homosexuality, transgendered issues, abortion issues, and all those other "shocking" things, can find healing and hope for redemption.

How that is played out varies from church to church and community to community, but if we as a church body are not providing resources for all of us to dig out our sins and junk and hurts, then that's a problem. No one should have to suffer in silence. Ever. Least of all the men and women who have taken on the daunting task of leading Jesus' sheep full-time.

Praise God for his never-failing mercy and grace. May he protect us all from ourselves.