W/R/L 21-27 May 2017

Dear Readers – if I’m honest, this was not the most exciting week. It felt like a week of treading water and having difficulty concentrating. (I lost an entire day to a nasty migraine, too.) Nevertheless, I have committed to these blogs, and so I humbly offer this missive to you.

WATCHED

General Hospital. The last week of May sweeps brought what should have been the culmination of some well-built up storylines, but in the end this particular fan is a little disappointed. Well, maybe a LOT disappointed. The Nurses Ball did have some wonderful moments – James Patrick Stuart’s performance was one – but overall it felt like it was lacking something. Maybe it was a disappointing lack of payoff for the Chimera storyline. Maybe it was the lack of couples coming together for the first time. Maybe it was the lack of something really driving the stories forward. Maybe it was the distracting product placement. Probably all of those things.

NCAA Softball Tournament – Super-Regionals. For the most part, the Super-Regionals didn’t provide the same excitement as the Regional tournament. Ole Miss came close to upsetting UCLA – so close – proving the upstart Cinderella team could keep pace with the old guard, but in the end they couldn’t pull it off for the crucial wins. LSU’s match-up with Florida State, higher ranked and featuring Jessica Burroughs, one of the best pitchers in the game, cold steel and lights-out, might have been a steamroll, but LSU has grit and the pulled out the wins they needed to advance. Finally, Arizona went up against Baylor – on paper, Arizona was the higher ranked team and had the most talent – but Baylor, like LSU, has grit and weren’t about to go away quietly. In the end, Game 3 on Sunday night was one of the best and worst and most infuriating games I’ve never watched as my Wildcats were behind, came back, looked like they were going to take it… and let it slip away. It was heart-breaking to see seniors like Danielle O’Toole and Katiyana Mauga not advance.

This week brings the start of the WCWS (a bucket list event for me. One day I’ll get there, I will!) There are some good match-ups. It’s hard not to like Florida to take the whole thing since they’ve been so, so good this season – they are the team to beat – but the Pac-12 teams have something to prove, so watch for Washington and Oregon to play to show they belong there and UCLA to play to remind people that we wouldn’t have softball as we know it without that program, and they haven’t lost anything. I’ll be cheering for LSU because they are one of my wife’s favorite teams, but I won’t be sad if the final features Florida vs. Oregon – that could be some great softball.

READ

Still reading Assassin’s Fate.

LISTENED

Larry Wilmore has a new podcast called Black on the Air.  It’s worth a listen, though he still feels a little rough as he gets used to the whole podcast gig.

Make Me Smart had an interesting feature about anonymous sources – who is really passing along that info we’re hearing in the news – and the keys to cracking the code journalists use for telling us about their sources.

I told you it was kind of a boring week.

Can I offer you some GIFs?

The super power I wish I had:

Relevant to all of my interests:

A reminder that love is… awesome.

Also relevant to all of my interests.

The West Wing GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

And this

See you next week, friends.

 

 

W/R/L | 14-20 May

Normally I write these posts on Sunday afternoon, but this week I decided to give myself a bit of a break so I could focus wholly and completely on editing some photographs and yelling at the TV during the NCAA Softball Regionals. I don’t regret it, even if it means the post is a little late.

WATCHED

Derek Jeter Day Ceremony – Fantastic, from the highlights of an incredible career to seeing former players on the field for the ceremony to tributes from current and former players. I love baseball.

General Hospital, which was pretty decent leading up to the Nurses’ Ball. I’m intrigued with the Chimera thing – how will it all end up playing out? Who will get hurt and who will be the heroes? As long as I get more Valentin, I think I’ll be happy. (It would be nice for Ava to get some comeuppance, too.)

The Grey’s Anatomy Finale which was very surprising. Slightly uneven, matching the rest of the season, but the Megan storyline and acting were pretty excellent, as was the clever way they ended up writing out Stephanie – though some of those scenes really had me shrieking at the TV.

The NCAA Softball Regionals which started with a bit of controversy because of Minnesota not getting a seed in the tournament, instead being sent to the Tuscaloosa regional despite being ranked in the Top 10 all season and winning the Big 10 tournament. Then several of the games were impacted by weather, delaying and even postponing games. And then, there were the shocking upsets… it made for a pretty wild weekend of softball.

Finally, late Saturday night, when I wasn’t quite ready for sleep I watched a Stevie Nicks concert I had on DVR. I love Stevie Nicks, and I really liked this kinda uptempo, contemporary version of “Stand Back”.

READ

This kinda of haunting article in The Atlantic, “When Your Child Is a Psychopath.” We all know of kids who have what in polite talk we call “issues”; there are troublemakers, there are those who act with no consequence, but we believe that every kid is, at heart, a good kid who just needs guidance, more involved parents, maybe some medication. But what if your child doesn’t fit that? What if their brains are wired just a little differently, and the teaching, training and praying doesn’t work? What if your child is a psychopath? What interventions are there for when you realize the problem is really that big? And what happens when you don’t realize until they are in jail as a juvenile offender? It’s a really good read that made me think about how we classify good and bad, what sort of interventions we need, and how this all ultimately affects how we approach crime and incarceration.

And, still working on Assassin’s Fate.

LISTENED

Both Make Me Smart and Pod Save America spent some time talking about media consolidation, spurred on by Sinclair Broadcast Groups purchase of Tribune Media earlier this month.  Fascinating stuff, and just a bit scary.  @zeynep does a MUCH better job of explaining the pitfalls on Make Me Smart, so go listen

The other excellent thing I listened to will probably make you roll your eyes. I mean, I rolled my eyes when I saw that Krista Tippett had interviewed Glenn Beck on OnBeing. Glenn Beck??? Seriously? But yes, as part of OnBeing’s Civil Conversations Project , it happened. And as it turns out,  Beck knows you are rolling your eyes at him. I found myself nodding in agreement with him about several things, frustrated with him about others, but mostly I found myself wondering – where is the line between apology and repentance? Is it enough to just be sorry? What does it truly look like to realize you were wrong and change your ways? Glenn Beck might be doing some really great things in the world, and he appears to truly want some civil conversation AND action to help human beings, from refugees to immigrants to victims of sex trafficking. He might be his own worst enemy by continuing to peddle in outrage – and as long as that pays his bills, it doesn’t look like he’s going to change all that much. Still, the conversation (or at least a read-through the transcript) is worth your time.

Speaking of forgiveness repentance, #SlateSpeak tackled that topic last week.

And that, my friends, was my week.

Be Grace-full.

W/R/L | 7-13 May 2017

WATCHED

Last week, I treated you to a rant about General Hospital and Grey’s Anatomy. This week, I only want to tell you that GH delighted and intrigued me – the Chimera! Anna/Alex/Valentin/Nina! OK, one other thing, Michelle Stafford’s portrayal of Nina was so on point this week.

And Grey’s blew me away. Pun/no pun, your choice.

There is definitely a benefit to being mostly spoiler-free for these shows, especially as we wend our way through May Sweeps and Finales.

This video caught my eye on Facebook. Watch it all the way through.

And finally – I watched a new movie on Friday night!

I loved it. It took a bit of getting used to Benedict Cumberbatch’s American accent, but I really enjoyed the plot and the script, which was peppered with humor. The acting was superb, too.  (And, of course, the mid-credit and after-credit scenes were so typically Marvel wonderful.)

READ

I kept reading The Road to Little Dribbling until I realized the new Robin Hobb book, Assassin’s Fate, had dropped to my Kindle so Little Dribbling is waiting a bit while I re-familiarize myself with the world of Fitz and the Fool. (So much awesome.) I’ve loved these books from the very first one, and this last one is so far very satisfying – though be warned, at 864 pages, I’ll probably be reading it for awhile!

LISTENED

Two particularly excellent podcasts:

Pod Save America Bonus Pod with Trevor Noah – Trevor Noah is awesome. That is all.

The Nerdist with James Corden – What a lovely conversation with James Corden, who appears to be a Very Good Guy Indeed.

OTHER IMPORTANT STUFF

Pretty excellent convo at #SlateSpeak last Thursday.

Opening Topic Tweet
Opening Topic Tweet

 

 

W/R/L | 30 April – 6 May 2017

When last we met, Dear Readers, I was in the midst of some stressful work transitions. Still lots of stress this week, and also confusion about time because I was traveling on Thursday and Friday and I kept thinking Friday was Saturday and Saturday was Sunday, so at this point just feels like I’m channeling Hei Hei.

via GIPHY

via GIPHY

I love a good GIF. Besides looking for great Moana GIFs this week, I…

WATCHED

General Hospital and Grey’s Anatomy. And I have thoughts. If you’re a fan of either of these shows, read on. If not, that’s OK, I’ll see you later in the post.

I love my stories and I am unabashedly a fan of serialized storytelling. People will say to me “That would never happen.” Exactly. That is EXACTLY why I watch Grey’s and General Hospital. Because it’s not real. Reality is pretty sucky sometimes.

I made time to watch General Hospital this week specifically because Jane Elliot, the actress who played Tracy Quartermaine on and off for 30+ years was leaving the show, and I wanted to see how they would send her off.  I had my idea of what would a super-great sendoff, but I wanted to see if that would work out.

Here’s the thing – press had already confirmed that an actor was returning to the show – presumably to help the character leave Port Charles – but I had no idea because I have been so busy and stressed that I didn’t pay attention to one spoiler over the last month for General Hospital. And let me tell you, I am a spoiler-holic. I love reading previews and spoilers for TV shows. I love them so much that I read them on TVLine for shows I don’t even watch! But I missed the crucial one about this actor & character returning, so when I watched the episode, I was completely surprised – hoping it might be so but still wondering – until he appeared. And it was absolutely perfect. Just lovely.

Which brings me to Grey’s. There are only two episodes left in this season, which has had brilliant, exquisite moments to be sure, but overall has felt a little uneven, especially with regard to the pacing of the stories. Even with a fairly extended break from December to February, it feels like there are almost too many episodes in the season, causing the pace of the plot lines to gooooo sooooo long. Grey’s always has 22-24 episodes per season, which means there’s usually a lot of hurry up and wait with developments, and the big stuff happens during Sweeps, but this season the various long-term arcs dragged through most of the season. Maybe I just prefer when arcs semi-resolve and then kick off another arc, or when something simmers along and then the pop in a little surprise that moves it along a bit, leaving you wanting a little more. This season it took 20 episodes to resolve(ish) something set in motion at the end of last season. A YEAR ago.  Meanwhile, the canvas is huge, so that some characters have little to no screentime, and I am RACKING my brain to think of two characters who have been chem-tested through the season who might start a romance, or even a previous couple on the verge of reuniting.

And let’s be honest, as much as I love all the crazy medical storylines, doctors cutting LVADs, shootings, car crashes, bombs, ferry crashes and airplane crashes, the reason I watch my Stories is for the romances. I’m a sucker for them. This is a problem General Hospital is having right now, too. We’re not heading for any great romances, no amazing weddings, not even any heartbreaking breakups that we can hope will eventually result in reunions.

Sigh.

Meanwhile, we know that there’s at least one character being added to Grey’s that will bring some drama, one character that’s leaving and the theoretical potential for one character to get added that would cause some SERIOUS turmoil, but I suspect that the timing isn’t quite right for that. Still, Shonda Shocks us all the time, so who knows? What I do know is that I’ll keep watching, because even at their not best, both Grey’s and GH are better than reality. At the very least, I get to spend an hour or so ranting about these inconsequential things and not thinking about things like healthcare laws and election hacking.

READ

I’m still reading “The Road to Little Dribbling” by Bill Bryson, in which Bryson is his usual curmudgeonly self while exploring the UK, sharing bits of history and insights into how the UK does things. I’ve been reading it and pulling up the sites he visits on Google Earth to get a sense of the geography, which has led me to lovely Google-holes learning about the New Forest and plotting my own dream trip to the UK, though I’m not sure Bournemouth will be on the list.

The other long-form thing I read was a report on the state of youth, young adult/college and camping ministries for the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t delve into a report like this, especially when I’m not directly involved in the ministries of the conference any more, but I have a short yet meaningful history with the camping ministry of the church and know several people whose time at church camp transformed them, often resulting in a call to professional church ministry in some capacity. And, my ongoing interest in faith formation makes me continually curious about how conferences and synods are addressing different audiences. So, I read it.

I have many thoughts about the report, but here’s the one I think is most salient: one of the reasons church camp is such a good thing for kids is that it creates a space where kids get to do things they like to do (equestrian, swimming, hiking, crafts, sing, etc.) within a context that also allows them to talk about their faith. It’s not surprising to go to camp with people who share your faith; it’s expected. If your family is sending you to church camp, it’s probably because they want you to have that experience. You connect with other kids who also express their faith, you’re given an opportunity to explore that faith, and you see people living out their faith – often over a period of a few years. This is invaluable to discipleship and to ultimately fostering vocations.

Our seminaries are filled with people who have come because of a meaningful experience with the Divine later in life, when they’ve already established a career, often when they’ve established a family. This encounter with the Divine changes them, and they discern a call to something different, a call to professional church ministry, and so they go to seminary.

Church camp does that for youth, and if you create and foster a supportive environment for youth discipleship that is then fostered through college, I posit that you’ll have more people discerning a call earlier in their life.

It all begins with people being willing to talk about their faith, to be a disciple, and to connect with one another because of their faith.

(I’m not even going into my thoughts about what might happen if we started talking ecumenically about how to support one another in our youth/camp/college ministries. GASP.)

LISTENED

The usual suspects: Make Me Smart, Pod Save America and Pod Save the World and one new one: Up First from NPR, a 10 minute summary of the news of the day. Super helpful.

And that was my week.

 

 

W/R/L | 23-29 April 2017

In the realm of stressful weeks, let’s put this one at the top. One of my prayers this week was “Dear God, I know you are in the Chaos, and that is where you are revealed, but today is going to be hard. Be with each of us. Help us Reveal You to one another.”

Yeah, it was that kind of week. But still, I Watched/Read/Listened, including:

WATCHED

More bingewatching of Grey’s Anatomy, more sportsball.

Grey’s was back with a new episode (yay, Sweeps!) so I watched that live. Very typically for Grey’s, it had moments of levity and fun and then crushing heartbreak that had me sobbing. And honestly, it was kind of cathartic with the stress I’ve been under.

Scandal was bananas, as Scandal can be.

READ

I finished The Sparrow. What a powerful, amazing, remarkable book. I’ll admit in the middle I was feeling a little impatient with it, but I think it might have been because of the aforementioned Stress. As I neared the end, I was delighted by the little twists. I hope if you haven’t read it, you will.

I often describe my vocation with a line from Firefly – “Just a shepherd spreading religiousity to the fuzzy-wuzzies.” Now I’ve added another line: “stockbroker specializing in undervalued companies”.

You’ll just have to read the book.

Next up on my reading list “The Road to Little Dribbling” by Bill Bryson.

LISTENED

Podcasts – Make Me Smart, Pod Save America and Pod Save The World.

And music. Specifically, bluegrass.

I’ve always appreciated bluegrass, though I’ve never been an avid listener. On Monday at work I needed to block out some noise and concentrate, so I pulled up Spotify and on a whim started listening to some Railroad Earth. Railroad Earth is a favored band among a few of my friends, so I started there, with radio based on RRE. And then I heard this song:

It stopped me. What was an Infamous Stringduster? What type of sorcery was this? I moved over to their latest album, listened to that through, and then started a radio based on them.

I’ve listened to “Gravity” about 20x since Monday.

Maybe it’s my state of mind, maybe because in the chaos, something a little new is welcome to my soul.

I’ll tell you this – the idea of music festivals fills me with dread, even though I have good friends who have invited me and would take good care of me.

The Infamous Stringdusters are so good, I might have to rethink my anti-festival stance.

Maybe. Give me a little time.

OTHER IMPORTANT THINGS

Last week I told you about the Missional Voices Gathering I watched on livestream and promised a separate blogpost about. I promise, that’s still coming, but I’m going to wait until the videos are posted so I can reference them directly.

It’s been a good week or two of stumbling on to things on Twitter that are amazing. Last Sunday night I saw a tweet from @LuthDecolonized about a webinar Decolonize Lutheranism co-founder Lenny Duncan was participating in. It was called Whose Faith Is It Anyway? Confronting White Supremacy in Faith Institutions. It was sponsored by Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism.

Wow.

It. Was. So. Good.

One takeaway I got from it – besides an immediate desire to be in the presence of these remarkable individuals and break bread with them – was that it seems that whenever a group says “this doesn’t speak to my experience of the Divine, and I’d like to talk about it” the dominant group responds with “you must be mistaken. This matches my experience. So it must be right. And it worked for generations, so why change it now?” Basically, shut up.

But if you probe for a story or explanation as to why a belief or ritual has significant meaning, it’s difficult to get people to articulate it.

We need to do better with this. I want to hear the stories about why that hymn, why that prayer, why that chant means something to you. Was it a funeral? A first communion? What do you think about when you hear it? Why does it bother you that someone wants to change the way you pray or sing?

Equally, I want to hear why that prayer or ritual makes you cringe. Why it breaks your heart. Why it’s difficult for you to hear it. I want to hear about what brings a balm to your soul

And I want us to share those stories and hear them and honor them, and create space to explore the changes. To create new & meaningful rituals together. To see where we might see and recognize God in our midst as the disciples in Emmaus suddenly realized Jesus was right there with them. The disciples in Emmaus weren’t expecting Jesus, and yet, there Jesus was – breaking the bread and sharing it. Let’s do that. Let’s walk along the road together, share our news, break bread with one another and find the Divine there.

The whole conversation was filled with remarkable wisdom and inspiration. I’m so glad I was able to watch it.

See you next week 🙂