Seriously In Fun

March 13, 2012

First some news, then some notes from being in fun. In news, we’re continuing to improve the howardmacy.com website, at least hoping that the changes are for the better. For example, now you can actually read the Red Nose Training Manual on the site. This could change your life. Recently, a retired couple, both spouses with stellar careers, read it for the first time. Even with their life successes, I could see that they wondered what greater heights they might have reached had they harvested the manual’s wisdom decades earlier. I’ve also heard from Rudolph the Reindeer, a professional red nose user, that even he has picked up some good tips from our manual. Even though it’s not for advanced users, it includes something new for almost everyone.

My book Rhythms of the Inner Life, about the Psalms and the spiritual journey, is now available as an e-book for Kindle, Nook, and iBook (and soon for Google and Kobo). Whether they consider its $3.99 price as accessible, modest, or cheap, we’re hoping many readers will enjoy having it. You can use links on our website to find Rhythms at your favorite e-book site.

I try to be in fun even when I’m being serious. When I attended the Justice Conference 2012 at Portland’s Oregon Convention Center, I gathered new insights and grew in hope – all in all, a wonderful gathering. But being in fun bolstered me, too. After a challenging morning of thinking of practical ways we can apply the Bible’s command to love our neighbors, I started toward a lunch break only to discover we shared the Convention Center with another group whose theme was “Love Yourself First.” A friend explained that the second group was to help women learn more about looking good, especially in denim fashions. The tasty irony is that both groups apparently lived out the principle, “Puzzle your neighbor.”

Imagining mischievous architects or designers gave me another in-fun moment. The Oregon Convention Center offers grand spaces and clever design throughout, even in small details. In my visit to one of the men’s restrooms, however, a prominent artistic feature surprised me. The tiled wall included, over each of the urinals, a large photo of one of Oregon’s free-flowing waterfalls, most found in the Columbia River Gorge. A bit more disturbing, the bottom of the Wahkeena Falls photo includes a woman in sunglasses, staring out and smiling. Admitting that I see funny, I’ll bet I’m not the only guy who’s noticed the waterfalls and onlookers. Even more, I imagine that somewhere a designer is still grinning that his (or her) mischief in design made it all the way to the final product.

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Turkey Calls

March 5, 2012

L. L. Bean Company just sent me their new Hunting catalog. That’s not quite odd; we’re such good friends that they send me all their catalogs – Summer, Men, Women, Children, Home, Christmas, Fishing, Outdoor Gear, and more. But I don’t know much about hunting, except for a few boyhood misadventures I don’t talk about. I don’t need a gun-cleaning kit or, I’m pretty sure, an ambush jacket and pants. Some stuff I don’t need was missing, including AK-47s and deep woods lingerie (maybe that doesn’t make sense in camo anyway).

I smiled, though, to see that William Penn made the Bean catalog. It offered Quaker calls for people who hunt turkeys – the William Penn Slate Turkey Call, the William Penn Twin Hen Cherry Box Call (the prettiest one, I thought), and the William Penn Cherry Owl Hooter. Probably the Pennsylvania company that makes them wants to trade on the Quaker reputation for integrity and quality. I’m glad, and I grin proudly that Beans didn’t offer Baptist Hooters. Then again, maybe Baptists don’t do hooters.

The catalog also showed practical gear for pets. For example, to train hunting dogs they offer Dead Fowl Scent Kits in the choices Quail, Waterfowl, or Grouse. These kits take scent sophistication to levels well above ordinary road kill. The catalog also pictured a Pet Tie-Down device, but it doesn’t look like it would work on top of your car. All in all, this grand collection of hunting gear both entertained and dazzled me.

When catalogs and other uninvited stuff shows up, I often choose being in fun over being annoyed. Fun works better. And I do hope my friends in Freeport will send me Deep Woods Gear and all their catalogs this year.

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Better Beef and Bible

February 28, 2012

One highlight of my checkered past is serving on the pastoral team at Reedwood Friends. It gave me wonderful colleagues and a chance to reconnect with Portland after stints in Indiana and Massachusetts. Early on, when I needed to snag some supplies, I tried to call Better Book and Bible, a reliable store in my memory. So I looked for them in the phonebook. All I could find was “Better Beef and Bible.” A loud guffaw wasn’t enough. Curiosity made me drive to their shop.

The store itself, tucked between other city businesses, was modest but spacious. The middle was open, the ceiling high. On the left, I saw a butcher’s display case full of steaks, ribs, chops, burger, and sausages. The guy behind the counter wore his white outfit and almost white apron authoritatively. On the far facing wall, several shelves boasted Bibles for sale – varied versions, some boxed, some not, some with genuine leather covers, some with looks-like leather  covers, which, of course, I believed were genuine, too. This is the Bible after all. I already owned a Bible, so I didn’t look too closely. Besides, I didn’t really want to know if the covers were fresh.

I’ve come to enjoy discovering shops that offer odd pairings of goods and services. I suppose it happens a lot in small places, but it still entertains me. In Newberg we have “Sam’s Barber Shop & NW BBQ Co.” I haven’t tried the BBQ, but Sam gave me a nice haircut once. And a quick shampoo scrub washed the Chili Joe’s Hot Smoky BBQ Sauce right out. Some double-duty businesses make you cautious. Would it be safe to patronize the “Computer Repair / Karaoke Systems” place? How about breakfast at the hilltop “restaurant and auto parts” café? Would the ball-bearings omelet be safe and tasty? I’ve only seen it in a cartoon, but I’d probably avoid the dockside “Ken’s Bait and Sushi.”

Maybe you would like to create new business ideas for fun or to carve out a new market niche. For example, the guys who run “Midget Motors” in our town are pretty normal size. But they wouldn’t have to be. Or in farm country, how about opening a one-stop “Tractor and Tofu”? Without revealing your business secrets, perhaps you could share some ideas or places you’ve seen. Actually, sometimes, even when they make people laugh, unlikely combinations actually work. Like “Carpenter and Messiah.”

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The Joy of Boggling

January 13, 2012

Margi and I almost maxed out on wonder when we went to an IMAX theater and put on 3-D glasses to watch a movie about the Hubble Telescope. We saw close-ups of a nursery galaxy full of baby starts. Stars spilled out of the screen towards us. At one point the narrator explained that Hubble was showing us a star 13 billion light years away, very near the beginning of the universe.

Modern star pictures fascinate me; I sometimes stare at a greeting card depicting the “photogenic Whirlpool Galaxy, M51 (NGC 5194).” Galaxy photos amaze me, overwhelm me. I’m boggled enough traveling “scenic” roads showing the Cascade string-of-pearls volcanoes, the amazing Columbia River Gorge, and the powerful Pacific Ocean. To imagine all of this as just a small dot in an expanding universe filled with billions of stars and galaxies makes me wonder with the psalmist, “When I look at the stars, who are we humans that you even give us a thought?” (paraphrase from Psalm 8:3)

It also makes me feel stupid. I need a course, “The Universe in 10 Easy Lessons,” or a book, Black Holes for Dummies. So two recent stories about really smart star experts cheered me up.

The first story reported that a Nobel Prize in physics was awarded to Saul Perlmutter and two colleagues who discovered that the universe, powered by “dark energy” (!), is speeding up as it expands, rather than slowing down. Perlmutter thinks that seeking knowledge is “part of what it means to be human.” But, even as an elite astrophysicist, he adds, “As soon as you consider any of these things, your mind is boggled. I think you have to enjoy having your mind boggled.” I was comforted and amused to consider the joy of boggling.

The other expert is astronomer J. Xavier Prochaska. He, with colleagues and a basement full of computers, finally succeeded in finding 12-billion-year-old, “pristine clouds of primordial gas, conceived when the universe was a very young, dark and lonely place.” (Lisa Krieger in bostonherald.com 11/11/11) Apparently, the primordial gas hydrogen reveals itself by blocking light that we would otherwise see. So Prochaska observes that he does astronomy “backwards,” studying “light that doesn’t get here.” What cheered me was his jest, “We get excited about nothing. When it was immediately clear that nothing was there, that really floored us.”

Perhaps being boggled and laughing a bit in the tension between grand achievement and bumbling along can help us keep our perspective and our joy. Maybe I should write a boggle.

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Typos Reveal Hidden Truths

December 22, 2011

You can learn a lot as a teacher, especially if you pay attention to the unexpected insights and new truths that students offer in their tests and papers. Of course, some surprises are so shocking that you wonder if you’ve failed completely. But others open new vistas and prompt hearty laughter, both welcome in late hours when the piles of papers are deep and breeding. I’ve almost missed the joy of reading papers this fall, but my colleagues in the Department of Religious Studies at George Fox University have generously shared newly revealed truths. I thank them. They’ve also reinforced my conviction that often you need to giggle, not just whistle, while you work. In these examples, most arise from typos and bad proofreading, though, even with that caveat, some gleam with potential.

In describing the “swoon” theory, one of the several explanations people sometimes use to dismiss Jesus’ death and resurrection, she wrote that Jesus only “fainted on the cross and then fell into a deep comma, only to reawaken and escape from the tomb.” That is one serious comma! Period.

Another student was eager to have youth learn some of the old hymn favorites like “The Old Rigid Cross.” Still another included a reference to a newly discovered Jewish sect, the “Pharmacies,” that kept track of and harassed Jesus. So the “Sadducees and the Pharmacies” led in this effort. I suppose the Pharmacies would be good companions, too, to the Pharisees, who committed themselves to strict purity.

In writing of the expansion of the early Church, another student referred to the “Genital Mission.” Now many of us know about Paul’s missionary travels to the Gentiles, but this is a new insight. I’m not sure this theory is completely wrong either, since Paul had devout Jews following him around and telling Christian converts that yes, they must indeed be circumcised.

Finally, I learned of the work of the great Reformer, Martian Luther. Since the name was spelled this way consistently throughout the paper, I can only assume that we are learning of a previously unknown hero of the faith. For all the good the German guy did, he left some gaps. Maybe Martian has been sent from one of the 2,326 potential alien worlds (= earth-like) that have been discovered with the Kepler Space Telescope.

So from unexpected sources, including here, you can find hidden truth revealed. Keep checking back; you never know when we’ll light up your life.

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Living in Fun

"Walking Cheerfully" is place to think out loud about how to use and enjoy humor in positive, life-giving ways. We’ll explore how following Christ in all of life can shape, not scuttle, laughter and creative play. What might it mean to laugh with others as you would have them laugh with you?

Probably the other most common posts will be "Finds in Fun." I first learned the phrase “being in fun” from Tom Mullen’s Laughing Out Loud and Other Religious Experiences. He points to the playfulness of children, who are readier to laugh and to see the silly than most adults. Living each day “in fun” often makes us laugh as we slog through a nearly endless supply of things odd, silly, klutzy, and preposterous. The stories here are mostly from my own ordinary, “in fun” days.

Fun Nooks and Crannies

There’s “Humor in the Bible,” and these posts explore where it is, how to find it, and what to do with it. It’s one way of thinking about how to read the Bible well.

Since a lot of us spend big chunks of time at work, the “Humor at Work” posts will suggest ways to stay sane and happy, to get along with cow-orkers, and to use humor to do good work.

I’m a book-pusher at heart, and some of my best friends push books, too. I even know some folks who read. So “Fun Books” posts will tell about books that are funny and help us think about humor.

Sometimes I’ll brag on some of the friends I’ve been given or share some photos I’ve enjoyed taking. Maybe you’ll laugh, maybe not, but they’ve brought joy in my journey.

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