Monday, March 30, 2009


I got to preach in church yesterday. It went well, I suppose. People seem to have liked my sermon, whatever that means. Of course, there are standards for measuring how "good" a sermon is--is it focused on the text? Is it well organized? Is it well delivered? Is it interesting? etc. But there is only one thing about the sermon that really matters, and it is not in the preacher's control. It is whether the people in the congregation heard God's word addressing them. It's whether the Holy Spirit spoke to open, listening hearts.

Presumably, that's more likely to happen if a sermon is "good" according to more or less measurable standards. But having people come up to me and say "nice sermon," "I enjoyed it," "good job," etc. is kind of a let down. I don't really care if people liked the sermon--I care about whether they just heard me speaking (which would be a waste of their time) or if they heard God speaking to them. Perhaps it's a good thing that I will never know "how well I did" by the only true measure of success in this regard ...

Friday, March 27, 2009

A Prophecy Fulfilled?

Back in my teenage years, my family went on a roadtrip to Bryce Canyon in Utah. I believe it was on this trip that we actually went horseback riding (something that still amazes me, considering how little money my family had in those days). One of the guides struck up a conversation with me over the course of which I mentioned I wanted to study theology.

"Oh," he said. "That sounds like a difficult subject. I mean, wouldn't you have to learn about all kinds of different diseases?"

"Um, what?" I was confused.

"You know, like all the different diseases, that trees can get."

Ah. He thought I'd said "treeology." That I wanted to study "treeology."

Well. A few weeks ago, Brandon and I were discussing trees--Giant Redwoods and Giant Sequoias, to be precise--and I got out a little handbook on trees that I'd picked up who knows where and started reading it. And I discovered something: trees are fascinating. So now in my spare time I am studying "treeology."

I have to go now, but more on trees later! I promise! They're so interesting!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Fast Food Fish Sandwiches, part 2

We had a buy-one-get-one-free coupon for the Carl's Jr. fish sandwich--the "Carl's Catch." I was so traumatized by the previously mentioned fish sandwich episode (and being rather a coward), I asked Brandon to take a bite of his sandwich first and tell me if it was safe. In fact, it was quite good! Strangely, as I bit into the Carl's Catch sandwich, I remembered what the Famous Star tastes like--exactly the same, except, well, except that it has mayo and pickles instead of tartar sauce, and a burger patty instead of battered, deep fried fish morsels. But there's something about that Carl's Jr. bun, and perhaps the oil they use, that's really distinct, apparently.

The "Natural Cut" fries are delicious, also!

Why I'm Fasting for Lent

Boring Preamble:
It's the 28th day out of the 46 in Lent. (Wait a minute, you say, I thought Lent was 40 days. Actually, it's 40 days not counting Sundays. And thus, whether one keeps the fast on Sundays or not is controversial.)

Lent is a little more than halfway through, and even though Brandon and I have not been taking our fast all that seriously (we decided in advance to break it for a few special occasions), it is beginning to get tiresome. So I thought it would be good for me to reflect on why I'm doing this.

A few years ago, we found out that the Eastern Orthodox give up eating meat, dairy, eggs, fish and oil during Lent (pretty much--their rules are actually more complicated, but there's no need to go into that now). We were so impressed by their show of self-discipline, we decided to try giving up just meat, dairy and sweets. We found it was miserable, but possible. And then for some reason we decided to do it again the next year. And again this year.

Actual Reflections:
Anyway, I think the fast is a good idea because, although in theory I value moderation, I don't actually practice it. I greedily put more food on my plate than I need. I eat too many sweets, and if the food is really good, I eat past the point of fulness.

I tend to forget that fasting in Lent does not warrant gorging myself all the rest of the year. The need for self-discipline does not end on Easter Sunday. I am disciplining myself more austerely now so that I can continue to discipline myself, but more leniently, after Lent is over.

I must say, now that I've written it out, the idea of eating moderately all the time sounds very bleak and awful to me, and in fact, that's not what I value at all. My true ideal is eating moderately most of the time, and then totally pigging out on a few special occasions (e.g. Easter, Thanksgiving, or an unspecified day on which I may be able to eat fried clams at Woodman's of Essex again).

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Last Friday, as my last hurrah of eating solid food before the oral surgery, we went to Burger King and McDonald's to sample and compare their fish sandwiches (both on sale on Fridays in Lent*). The McDonald's fish sandwich was delicious! The "lightly steamed" bun was tender and sweet, the proportions of cheese and tartar sauce were just right, and even though the sandwich had been sitting under the heat lamp, the fish actually tasted pretty fresh and flavorful--and it was clearly a nice thick filet, not reconstituted fish product.

Then we moseyed over to the Burger King next door for course two. Oh, if only some merciful angel would have appeared at the door, flaming sword in hand, to turn us back! Alas, we entered, to our doom. I cannot describe the horror that awaited us. Or I would rather not describe it, as even the memory is almost enough to make one gag and retch.

As Brandon said in its defense, the sandwich was a good idea--unlike the McDonald's Filet-O-Fish, the BK Big Fish is quite large, with shredded lettuce and a generous amount of tartar sauce on both top and bottom. The breading on the large "fish" patty was also crisp and delicious. but the "fish" product inside! It was the most disgusting thing I can remember ever eating. It was maybe slightly less gross than eating someone else's snot. The gooey, translucent sight of it made me think of wallpaper paste. I think it might have had a slight fish-like flavor, but I may have just charitably imagined it.

Anyway, the sandwiches were only $1.50 each, but I'd say in reality they're worth about -$1.50. Meaning, if someone were to come up to me with a BK Big Fish and say "Give me $1.50 or I'll make you eat this sandwich," I would hand over the cash without hesitation. And if you have any idea how miserly I am, you would understand just what a disgusting sandwich the "Big Fish" must be.

*Only in select locations.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Why Are Holes So Creepy?

I just had my wisdom teeth (all four) removed on Saturday. It hasn't been too painful so far--and as long as I don't get an infection, it should only get better from here.

I noticed last night that the stitch that was holding the gums shut on the lower right side of my mouth has come out. I can now peer into the (kind of) empty socket. There are some creepy looking bones in there. In fact, I was so disturbed by peeking into that little hole just before bed, I had trouble sleeping.

What exactly is so terrifying about emptiness--and particularly about gaping holes in one's mouth, or any other part of the body? Being a Calvinist, I'm inclined to think it has to do with the essential bankruptcy of our souls, the gnawing emptiness inside that we're too afraid to face.

But I wonder what a Jungian analyst might say about the creepiness of holes ...