Friday, February 26, 2010

Page from My Sketchbook - Sketchy Herman

I did this on the fly a few years back. I love Herman Munster. I love that most of the people on the show thought it was a waste of time, and now, so many years later, they have a cult following of campy horror fans. The sketch isn't very good. He's a bit thin for the character. I was just bored, but I thought I'd share.

These Made Me Laugh, and I Needed It

Culture Jamming Graffiti - Justice Is Blind
see more Hacked IRL - Truth in Sarcasm

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Bible

People making claims about scripture being black and white need to read the words in red. They make everything else grey with love.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Inspiration Tuesdays - Matisyahu

All music is spiritual to me. If the lyrics don't hold any meaning for me and the sound doesn't make me feel a certain {desired} way, then it doesn't work for me. I've often found it hard to enjoy, what most people would call, religious music. I've found some more modern, "Christian" music that's not bad, and I feel that music that is specifically religious in content has helped strengthen my spirituality.

I've found it more difficult lately to limit myself to religious music that is specifically Christian. I've found music by artists that adhere to other Abrahamic faiths just as inspiring. Matisyahu is one great example of this. He's a Jewish Reggae, often Beatbox artist with Hip Hop undertones. What shines through is his love of God.

(excerpt from King without a Crown)

You're all that I have and you're all that I need

Each and every day I pray to get to know you please

I want to be close to you, yes I'm so hungry

You're like water for my soul when it gets thirsty

Without you there's no me

You're the air that I breathe

Sometimes the world is dark and I just can't see

With these demons surround all around to bring me down to negativity

But I believe, yes I believe, I said I believe

Evangelical music often focuses on Jesus and the New Testament. I sometimes feel like their music is only focusing on one aspect of what we think of as our Holy Trinity, which is great when I want to focus on those aspects of God. Listening to Matisyahu, especially the album Youth, always leaves me contemplating God "the Father" or the "Old Testament" aspects of God.

(excerpt from Time of Your Song)

I don't need to glorify,

Ate the apple of the tree and tried to lie,

In the garden I'll remember

That's when I started to sing

I said death brings life into uncertain things

After telling some Christians about his music, they responded that they have no interest in Jewish spirituality. His music makes my spirits soar. They made me think of God in new ways, but I was also happy to find that we had things in common, times where I could clearly say, "What he's saying in that lyric, that's how I feel too." I can't understand how this is a bad thing.

(excerpt from Silence)

Bring my broken heart to an invisible King with a hope one day you might answer me, so I pray don’t you abandon me.

Your silence kills me; I wouldn’t have it any other way.

His new album, Light seems to have a little more Hip Hop influence. It also has a song that talks about unity among all people. Here's a portion of the lyrics:

(exerpt from One Day)

One day this all will change

Treat people the same

Stop with the violence

Down the the hate

One day we'll all be free

And proud to be

Under the same sun

Singing songs of freedom like

One day

All my life I've been waiting for

I've been praying for

For the people to say

That we don't wanna fight no more

They'll be no more wars

And our children will play

One day

To me, he's talking about Heaven and a God who wants to resurrect it all, to be reconciled to all things and all people. I know Matisyahu is supposed to have a different spirituality than mine, but more and more, it doesn't seem very different at all. Maybe we're just on different pages of the same book.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Randomness Inspired by My Weekend

  • One thing I won't miss about my children's early years: Their irrational fear of hair cuts.
  • There's a great place out in Imlay City that cuts hair for $5.
  • At one point yesterday my outside thermometer read 45˚. I had to shovel the driveway already this morning. I'm not sure I could live in a more predictable state.
  • Moved Gage into a 'big boy bed.' We got tired of hearing him fall out of his old bed. Cribs that claim the ability to work as toddler beds aren't good ideas. Gage started crying Saturday night. Heidi went up to find him half way under the crib. He had fallen hours earlier, fallen back asleep, and then rolled - the wrong way.
  • I had forgotten that 'Oh Crap! This might hurt' aspect of sledding.
  • My cousin, Michelle lives about an hour away. She invited us out to her place for sledding Saturday. When we got there (Owen will kill me later in life for sharing this), he says, "That took so long to get here I have to go poop!"
  • It was great to spend time with the extended family like that and see them enjoy the company of my kids so much. Kids have the power of joy. I wish I had that power.
  • Favorite quote from the movie Appaloosa: "Life has a way of making the foreseeable that which never happens… and the unforeseeable that which your life becomes."
  • Also, RenĂ©e Zellweger always ruins everything. Just look what she did to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise. Okay. Matthew McConaughey didn't help either. That was a scary movie for totally other reasons than the rest.
  • The second Twilight movie was better than the first, but that's like saying that eating ice cream is better than a root canal. Ed Wood's creations were more movie-like than the original Twilight movie.
  • Why is it that American remakes of foreign movies always lack the things that made those movies great? I know the answer! They have to make room for their Hollywood flourishes which often leads to cutting out the less formulaic, unique qualities for time purposes.
  • To the horror fans out there: Quarantine was a fine horror movie. It disturbed me because I have an unnatural fear of rabies. Rec is the Spanish movie Quarantine was based on, and it's much closer to a horror masterpiece without any mention of the 'R' word.
  • Our church, Wildwind Community Church is moving, getting their own building. They've always rented space. Ownership is exciting. Check out the website here:
  • Tiger Woods.
  • Sorry, just wanted to jump on the band wagon.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Letter to My Sixteen Year Old Self

So many things I'd like to tell you about, but I'll try to stick to the important stuff.

For starters, forget high school. I know it sucks. I know you dread every day there, but two years from now, you'll realize none of the things (or people) that are dogging you have anything to do with your life anymore. Keep being true to yourself. Don't let other people influence your sense of worth. You have no idea what great things are in store for you, things that none of those situations can detract from.

You swear too much. Stop it. It's not rebellious. It's stupid. I'm not saying don't swear, but be honest, you're over doing it.

I don't think I have to tell you how much your parents love you. That doesn't change. Even when you fight, and you will, it'll pass. They'd move mountains for you. I know you're not close with dad, but he changes. He figures out that his time with you is fleeting. You really wouldn't recognize him.

Mom is going to go through a rough patch. It'll last a few years. My best advice? Don't do anything! It's a touchy situation. It's called menopause, and a few years after it ends, she'll be happy that no one made any drastic decisions during that time.

When you're about 21 or 22, your youngest brother, Bill(y) will seem to idolize you. He'll hang out with you a lot. Keep in mind how impressionable he is. Be careful what you say to him. There'll be a day where you say some things about partying, drugs, alcohol. You're going to say the wrong thing! You're going to regret it for years! Just because you have regrets, things you never did, things you once thought wrong that you now think differently of, you don't have to share those things. Even when things do get rough for him, remember how much you love him. That love will get you through, and hopefully help him. You two are still so much alike.

I know you don't get along well with Bob(by) well right now. When you go away to college, that'll change. You guys equal out a bit. Someday, someone's going to tell you that you're a lot like Bob, especially your sense of humor. I know. I know. Hard to believe. The things is, you're more alike than you think. There are still days where you want to call him up and yell at him, but that's got more to do with love than anger. There really is no anger left between you. You're finally brothers who act brotherly. Oh yeah, he's bald now, but it's on purpose.

Kevin may still be your best friend from where you're sitting, but that's going to change. He's going to go through some things you can't even imagine. He's going to close you off because he doesn't want you to get hurt too. DON'T LET HIM DO THAT! Grab him by the shoulders, shake him, rage against him! Do whatever you have to do to be there for him! There will come a time when he won't have anything to do with you or even his family, and you will regret not being there for him when he likely needed you most, even though he told you he didn't need you. As much as you respect and understand his current distance, you will still love him like a brother.

Your cousin Jasen is still a great friend to you. Your adventures came to an end shortly after college. You grew apart for a lot of years, but you found your way back together. You talk to him a lot, but it seems like you're still disconnected in some ways. He's your biggest supporter in a lot of ways. When you doubt yourself, he seems to trumpet for you. He's a family man too, a hero of yours in that regard. He still makes you laugh in a way that no one else can.

Quit putting so much emphasis on women. Okay. I know that's impossible, but hear me out. There won't be many. Wait. That sounds horrible. There doesn't need to be many. You'll love a few, but then you're going to meet one that makes all your dreams come true, well, except for that comic book idea you have. That never really goes anywhere, but that's really your own fault. After all those dreams are met, you go on to live through some really great times that you never even dreamed of.

Get to know your Grand Fathers now. They'll be gone soon, and you'll be left wondering about what types of men they were.

A few other quick fire things:

Sleep is going to be way too important to you for a few years. Get over it.

Don't ever share any kind of rental living arrangements with any of your friends. It will seriously hurt your relationships.

Something big is going to hurt Faye. Be there for her as much as she'll let you. You still love her like a sister, but you've messed that up a lot too.

Don't get angry with Greg. You guys work together for a few years. You'll miss his friendship, and it will be your fault.

Even though Tony doesn't seem to like you at first, he'll become one of your best friends ever. Don't take a minute that you guys get together for granted.

There's going to be a big crack in your heart shortly after you decide to become a parent. You'll get through it, but not a day will go bye that you don't feel that crack.

Bend over backwards for your wife when your first born arrives. Don't give her a chance to feel like you weren't supporting her in everything she's decided to do as a new mother.

There will be heart ache, younger self. There will be days where you no longer believe you have a heart. There will be days where you rage against God, life, and the entire world around you. I urge you to reign in that anger. It really won't get you far. When things feel hopeless, you're wrong. When you think about throwing it all away, you've got to learn to get past it. What's going on won't last forever.

I've learned that you can rage against God all you want. Blame him. Deny him. Argue against his existence and demean those that believe. You can and will do all of that. But, I've learned that He loves all of us, and I've felt that love. You suspect this already. You're going to learn that, everything you hate about life and this world, God hates those things to. There's explanations for a lot of what you're feeling. There are answers. No one's explained it to you in the right way yet, but let's be honest, you've been kind of hostile about it anyway. You're going to get it one day, and it's going to be big for you. Your wife helps get you in the door, you could say, but you take the ball and run with it when the time is right. You can do all those hateful, harsh things toward God because you'll find out one day that He's more than okay with it. Whether you find Him or He finds you, it'll change your life forever, and you wouldn't have it any other way. Trust me.

I know you're not very happy. Things are going to get worse, but right now, twenty or more years later? Right now, where I am, life is fantastic.

Right now you have a beautiful wife that you love even when she's driving you crazy. You've learned to live a little more simply than you might expect, but you've also learned the value of that. You also have two beautiful sons that opened up whole new worlds to you. They can drive you crazy too, but you love them more than I can put into words.

Now the hard part of the letter. The part where I realize I could never really send this to you. Not just because it's impossible, but because, if I told you any of the before mentioned information and you acted on any of it, you might not end up where I am. I don't want to imagine what that would be like. Doing any one thing differently might change things entirely. You and I both wouldn't want that.

I'm sorry that you're going to go through a lot of hardship sixteen-year-old self, but I'm sure happy that we end up here, where I am. Hang in there. It's a wild ride, but the destination is worth it.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

2010 Scrapbook/Journal

About a year before Owen was born, I started a journal type scrapbook to keep a record of what life was like for Heidi and I. Every year since, I've tried to build and improve on the idea. At the beginning of each year, I redesign the layout. I keep a consistent look throughout, but try to separate each month in some way (usually by changing the color scheme). I try to write a new entry at least once a week. The subject matter can be just about anything that pops into my head at the time, whatever I think is important or worth remembering. I include photos, scans of any special material I want to highlight. I include movie and book reviews, quotes from various sources that I find inspirational or timely. I try to include any major news events, but I try to keep things positive when I can. The last few pages of each monthly section are dedicated to entertainment, which television shows we're enjoying, more in-depth reviews.

I do this for two reasons: The obvious being my own benefit, so I can look back on what life was like. The true motivation was to provide a record for my kids. My mother kept a small journal for much of my childhood. It's one of my prized possessions. It gives me a window into her heart and the past. It taught me a lot about her. I want my kids to know me too. I want them to understand our struggles and our triumphs. I hope it gives them some insight into the things we find important especially themselves.

I want to avoid something I encountered with my dad just a few years ago. He was telling me a story one day, and he mentioned something I found shocking, something I never knew about him. The story, which I won't go into detail about here, revealed a side of my father that I never knew concerning his rebel, teenaged past. I just kept thinking, why haven't I heard this before? Why was this side of him hidden from me? Part of me wants to avoid some of that with my kids.

I've created these journals almost exclusively in digital form. For a few years, I would print each section once a month and organize them in scrapbook type books. That's gotten too expensive for our current budget. I use page layout software and Photoshop. I get a lot of images from the internet to make things more interesting when I feel like it.

This year's journal design was heavily influenced by Target's current designs. Specifically, I liked the way the Target logo was repeated on a container of baby wipes.

If you click on the above images, you can view them closer to 100%. I don't mind you reading what's on these pages. Some of it might be somewhat personal, but I chose these pages specifically. I know what's on them.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Inspiration Tuesdays - Rob Bell

I want to get into a regular writing routine. I feel the need to stretch myself a bit. I thought perhaps a routine, a set subject matter for different days of the week might help me accomplish this. I've decided Tuesdays will deal with people, books, organizations, movies - whatever happens to inspire me regularly. These things might have to do with Spirituality, Parenting, Marriage. We'll see. Without further ado… here are some hurried thoughts on Rob Bell. Should you want more clarification, feel free to drop me a line.

Rob Bell

For about three years, Rob Bell has been a constant source of inspiration for me. It started with his book, Velvet Elvis. The title alone tells you something about the guy. He may be talking about serious things, but he doesn't often take himself too seriously.

One of the main thrusts of the book, for me, had to do with the idea that faith shouldn't be rigid. It should be open to change, open to questioning, open to the idea that we could be wrong at any given moment. The way he puts it, faith should bounce. It shouldn't be a brick wall, each piece relying on all the other pieces to survive. If you can't remove one piece without the entire thing falling apart, you're in trouble.

That was very affirming for me. I tend to question. I don't always expect answers to each question, but if you tell me I can't or shouldn't question, that tends to shut me down pretty quickly toward either you or what I'm questioning. Early in my faith, I also had trouble believing in all the individual pieces. It worked for me to temporarily ignore the things I had a problem with (Was this story literal? Global floods? Eaten by a whale?). It worked for me to put them off for future questioning. I have since had most of those pieces fall into some place, though not necessarily the traditional place.

I later started listening to Rob's weekly sermons online. I was blown away. Rob is pretty clear, he wants a sermon to be an experience. It should start conversations. It should keep you thinking and lead you to think about other things. You should walk away going, "Whoa!" He pulls this off quite often. Not always, but often.

I appreciate the way Rob looks at the Bible. It's not unique, or new, but it works well for me. For one thing, he explores the original language. Reading scripture in English is fine. You often get the overall message, but sometimes you miss the nuance. The word Abba doesn't just mean Father, it's more like Daddy. Daddy is much more familiar and intimate.

Rob likes to make connections between Old Testament and New Testament writings. He often asks, "Where have we read this before? What were they talking about in that section that would shed new light on this one?" In a lot of cases, the OT takes on a whole new light and sheds even more on the NT.

Rob also researches the time period he's talking about. The OT can sometimes come across very harshly. The way God is portrayed can easily be a turn off to anyone. If you take the time to understand what life was like back then, what other religions were being practiced, a lot things make much more sense. Things lose their harshness.

You may be reading this thinking, "Wow, Brian you sure are concerned with the details that don't necessarily mean all that much." Bell is also pretty vocal about the idea that the few answers we scratch out often lead to more questions. Some questions can't be answered. When asked whether we should believe in free will or predestination, Bell replies, "Yep." Maybe it's both. Maybe we'll never know. Maybe it doesn't matter.

Listening to these sermons, you also get to hear real life examples of people being influenced by these things. Some of the stories from his congregation are just as inspiring as any scripture based sermon. The people of Mars Hill (Grand Rapids, not the west coast church with the similar name) have done some crazy, amazing things. They don't just support the poorer areas of Grand Rapids, they move in to help change the culture there. They don't just try to teach kids not to join gangs, they take jobs working with the most troubled inner city kids. They get involved in their struggles and they experience life-changing tragedies.

The things is, these tragedies don't drive them away from the harder acts of love, it always drives home the importance all the more. Their stories show us that these acts of love aren't always about being a positive force in other people's lives, they're sometimes about transforming us into people who aren't too afraid to love. Reading this, you might be tempted to think that they put more emphasis on works than other churches, but I've never been left with that impression. In each case the works are preceded by strong convictions brought on by faith. The works are just a byproduct, love leading to love. Faith leading to circumstance.

I hear these sermons, sometimes given by Bell, sometimes added to by very personal stories, and I'm left struggling with these ideas. I'm left on the verge of tears, and in many instances, I'm left with a conviction to change myself. There are a handful of sermons that directly led to my family recycling on a regular basis. There are a handful of sermons that changed my opinion of what "turning the other cheek" means to me.

For many years, earlier in my faith, I would catch these glimpses of God, and I would hope that those glimpses were at the heart of what God was all about. Those glimpses involved love. In my life, God brought love, but there were these other stories in the Bible, these other viewpoints that Christians stereotypically followed that didn't equal love in my opinion. So, for years the studying I did, the prayers I prayed, had to do with God being all about love. Before I was introduced to Bell, that opinion was strengthened in many ways through many avenues and people. I think what I love about Bell the most is, at almost every turn, he does what he can to remind us of this: God is love. There is hope. Bell would go one further and finish up with, "Love wins."

I can get behind that message. I can't think of a point in my life where I would have been against that.

Rob's Website:

Mars Hill, Grand Rapids, MI:

Monday, February 15, 2010

Rubber Suits

  • The movie 17 Again was surprisingly good. Not as teeny-bopper or chick flickish as I suspected it would be. Our local library has been a gold mine of great movies lately.
  • My goal this week is to post at least five blog posts. Hold me to it people. Send me hate mail if I fail.
  • We took the boys to the play area at a local Burger King Saturday night. Not exactly the romantic Valentine's dinner many would hope for, but infinitely memorable all the same.
  • Gage climbed to the very top of the enclosed, twisty enclosure. He there refused to either go down the slide or climb back down. So, guess who had to crawl inside? Did I mention I'm somewhat claustrophobic? It didn't really bother me until after I decided to follow him down the tube slide. About half way down, when I realized how long the slide actually was and how dark and confining it had gotten, I suddenly couldn't breathe. Ahhh. Memories.
  • I've heard the term Philistine way too often lately.
  • My beautiful wife surprised the heck out of me this Valentine's Day by purchasing DVDs for my enjoyment. The only down side was, she grabbed one that I already received for Christmas. I returned the movie and bought her the next book in a series of books she's been reading.
  • Because I'm not a total altruist, I also found a $5 double DVD set of Ultraman from the 1960's. I used to watch this show as a kid, rubber suited monsters fighting a rubber suited, robotic looking super hero. How cool is it that the Science Patrol is wearing space helmets and ties at the same time?
  • The movie I had to return was Splinter, a great creature feature for anyone inclined to such things.
  • The other movie she picked up was the new X-Files movie. It got horrible reviews, but I believe that had to do with the plot revolving around issues of God and faith. I loved it. I love the X-Files. I know it makes me a geek, and I'm not ashamed.
  • Reading Brennan Manning for the first time. He's a great writer. He's given me a few things to think about.
  • A hug from a friend can really turn a day around.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Randomness Inspired by My Weekend

  • If you're a newer parent, my wish for you is this: May your children learn the hard lesson of vomiting early. Inexperienced children with stomach disorders is not a fun or clean situation.
  • Monthly poker with the boys rarely has much to do with poker.
  • 'Someday You'll Find Her, Charlie Brown' should have been titled 'You're a Stalker Now, Charlie Brown.'
  • I've often been confused about Peppermint Patty, whether she's a boy or a girl. I know she's supposed to be a girl, but… there are moments where I pause.
  • Further parenting advice: If you have a child that isn't yet potty trained and you're running low on baby wipes, don't think for a second that using toilet paper will be an acceptable solution. Toddlers have a sixth sense about many things. If you're out of wipes, a chemical reaction inside your child's digestive track will be triggered causing the resulting diaper fill to be larger than the diaper can hold, somewhat loose, and at the same time super sticky to everything concerned. Toilet paper, though it works on normal human beings, will not work on toddlers.
  • Other things children have a sixth sense about: Your need to use the bathroom, have "special alone time" with your spouse, important paperwork you need to concentrate on, and phone conversations that shouldn't be interrupted.
  • We're not a Superbowl type of family. We typically try to get a sitter on those Sundays so we can enjoy mostly empty restaurants and movie theaters. This year we settled for Barney and X-Files DVDs.
  • We missed church due to a sick child and the resulting lack of sleep. I tried to enjoy a Sunday morning news variety show, but a huge portion of their content was focused on football. I'm pretty sure their usual audience doesn't follow much football. I don't usually watch the political talking heads that follow either, but they too were talking football instead of politicians. Isn't this what they call schlepping for ratings?
  • If you have one sick kid but cook the usual number of pancakes on a Sunday morning, you will end up eating something hobbits refer to as "second breakfast." You'll usually end up skipping lunch too.
  • Gage still refuses to call me Papa (which is what Owen has always called me) or any other variation of Dad, Father, or Daddy. He does make quite an effort to say french fries and McDonald's. Sitting alone with him on the couch yesterday, everyone else napping, he points out the window at our car and says, "Ah-onaldssss," which means McDonald's. At first, I didn't really follow what he was saying, and every time I told him such he repeated his slurred word loudly. For about five minutes, I was laughing hysterically, which I really, really needed.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Toy Memories

Heidi and I spent some time this past Sunday sorting through our childrens' play room. Since Christmas, it's been a bit overrun and disorganized.

There were some things that were easy to part with. Most of those things made noise for no useful reason. We threw a lot of things away and sent a large number of things to various grandparents' homes. It was only fair. They had purchased most of the toys.

I didn't realize how hard it was going to be to go through some of it though. A lot of things actually had memories attached. It's hard to send away a cartoon character molded in plastic when it reminds you of one of the first times you ever made your youngest giggle. A silly happy meal stuffed rabbit was once a silly game of 'can Papa balance this on his head?'.

It was a rare moment of strength that allowed me to throw away a more recent plastic alligator chomper that Owen had very sweetly asked for during a summer zoo trip. It was broken, and I couldn't think of a way to repair it. It still stung as I dropped it into the trash can. It cost less than five dollars, but I'll always remember his considerate, non-assuming way of asking whether or not he might get such a thing for Christmas that year.

The room looks better. It's highly functional now, and we even made it harder for them to leave messy.

The boys, of course, revolted at first. They didn't like that the often unused, overstuffed toy box was now upstairs, and their organizer, once upstairs, now actually organizes downstairs. There was only one tantrum though, and it quickly gave way to a new appreciation for the functionality we had created. There were also a few questions about this or that specific toy, but in each case, those toys hadn't ever been played with. They had just sat around long enough to be familiar but without any real attachment.

All of this reminded me that, this stage is fleeting. It'll be gone all too soon. The sound of wood blocks clicking together, hotwheels and matchbox cars crashing on the floor, heroes and monsters molded in plastic… I'm going to miss it.