Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Thoughts on the New Year

2008 is going to be a tough year to beat.  At the start of the year I began dating my now wife Kaylene.  In May I proposed and this November we were married.  If that was not enough to set 2008 as the "best year of my life" I spent the entire summer away from work, away from responsibility and roamed across the country on my bicycle.  Seeing spectacular sights, having great conversations with both friends and strangers, and spending the entire 3 months outdoors in God's amazing creation.  2008 was truly a great year.  Which was much needed because honestly the last 3-4 years have been pretty crappy. 

 So how do I follow up this year with another good one.  Well there aren't any magic formulas or step by step instructions that will insure a good 2009 (though I'm sure somewhere out there theres probably a book entitled "2009 for dummies") I thought I would post some of my goals for 2009.  I'm not usually one for New Years resolutions, but after reading a couple other blogs on the subject and reading their lists it got me thinking.  So I'm not trying to skip out on Christmas, I just need to get back to blogging so I thought this would be a nice way to ease me back into it.

So here it is, Shawns goals for '09 (and these are in no particular order)

1.)  Bike 1500 miles.  That may sound either like a lot or not too much.  1500 miles/year would be alot for most considering they dont ride at all.  But considering I rode 5000 miles in 3 months it may seem like I'm aiming a little low.  My original goal was 5000/year.  I told Kaylene right after my bike trip that if I do that for 3 years I'm going to get myself a nice racing bike.  But then real life hit and I realized that when you work 9-10 hours a day you dont really have that much time for biking.  And when its a 20 mile commute to work its kinda hard to ride to and from work.  So my goal is 1500.

2.)  Read 20 books.  I'm already starting to see that these goals may be a little out of reach, which is typical of my personality.  But 20 books this year (comic books dont count).

3.)  Read through the Bible at least once.  I'm not usually one for this mindset, quantity over quality, but I've started to see the benifit of reading large portions of Scripture in one setting.  For example, you get a much better feel for one of Pauls epistles if you read it in its entirety at once.  Or stories in the OT, read them the way you would read a novel.

4.)  Time together.  Life tends towards busyness it seems.  I tend to get stressed when life gets too busy anyways, but now I not only have to worry about keeping myself from getting overstretched and overstressed, but my relationship with my wife (yeah, that still sounds wierd).  So one of my goal is to have one night a week as date night.  Now, date night does not neccesarily mean going out to dinner and a movie, could be as simple as a night spent at home playing a game.  But the rule is at least one night a week (and hopefully it will be more then that) spent together with nothing else on the agenda.

5.)  Get out of debt.  I hesitated putting this because money is always a sensitive issue, so I thought I'd just keep it to myself.  But its probably my biggest goal so I figured I might as well put it.  We dont have  "bad debt" (i.e. credit card) but I do have some college debt and Kaylene's car is not quite paid off.   So my goal at the end of 2009 is to not have any big dollar signs hanging over our heads.  That way if we decide to go into some sort of missions we can, or if I decide to go back to school I can, or if we decide to stay here in delaware we can begin to work towards permanetly settling in.

6.) Eat healthy.  May sound stupid, but when you eat healthy you feel better about life.  This summer not only did I exercise more then I ever did in my life (8 hours/day on a bike) but I also ate healthier then I normally do.  Your entire attitude is affected.  Even while working and living in delaware I notice I big difference in how I feel when I'm excercising normally and eating healthier (and getting a good amount of sleep but I dont know if I'll ever get to that point).  This is not something you can necessarily quantify the way the others are, so I dont know how I'll determine at the end of the year if I was successful or not, but thats my goal.

7.) Bike trip journal.  The farther I get from the bike trip the less this seems like a possibility.  I journaled on our bike trip quite a bit, and I also took a lot of pictures.   So my goal is to somehow combine those into a photo journal of sorts.  Somewhat of a book, except with lots of pictures.  And I want to make it somewhat professional looking, so I'll probably use a program like photoworks.com or something. 

Ok, those are all I got for now.  Doesnt look like any of them will beat getting married or a cross country bike trip, but 2009 should be a great year none-the-less.  

Thursday, May 29, 2008

So long for now

For the next 3 months I'll be doing all my blogging (which has been very little as of late) on www.pedal-to-portland.blogspot.com. You can keep up with Bruce, Evie and myself on our cross country bike trip on that site.

Friday, April 4, 2008

"Time" by Pink Floyd

Some of the greatest philosophers of any time period are the song writers of that particular era. Now, don't take that as a rule, as in songwriter=philosopher, alot of lyrics really have no depth to them whatsoever so don't hurt yourself trying to read into them. At the same time however, those types of songs will often tell us a lot about the current culture, which can be depressing. I love song lyrics though. Especially those of the great songwriters. Often times I'll be listening to a song and a line will catch my attention and I'll google the lyrics and read through them. The best of this current era in my opinion is John Mayer, but thats just my opinion. Greg Boyd -pastor of Woodland Hills Chuch in Minnesota- mentioned the lyrics to a Pink Floyd song entitled "Time" in his sermon the other Sunday. I found them extrememly telling, especially since yesterday I felt like I was about to collapse under the burden of what seems like an insane amount of things going on in my life right now. So I thought I'd pass them on. Also I just finished purchasing this album on Itunes because I've heard a lot of good about Pink Floyd and this album is supposedly one of the defining albums of the past few decades. So here they are, hopefully they're a good reminder to you as they were to me.

By Pink Floyd

Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
You fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way

Tired of lying in the sunshine
Staying home to watch the rain
And you are young and life is long
And there is time to kill today
And then one day you find
Ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run
You missed the starting gun

And you run, and you run to catch up with the sun, but it's sinking
Racing around to come up behind you again
The sun is the same in a relative way, but you're older
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death

Every year is getting shorter
Never seem to find the time
Plans that either come to nought
Or half a page of scribbled lines
Hanging on in quiet desparation is the English way
The time is gone
The song is over
Thought I'd something more to say

Home, home again
I like to be here when I can
When I come home cold and tired
It's good to warm my bones beside the fire
Far away across the field
The tolling of the iron bell
Calls the faithful to their knees
To hear the softly spoken magic spells

Monday, March 31, 2008

War and Peace from the mind of Calvin

Can't beat Calvin and Hobbes! Read this one the other day and really liked it. Watterson always had a unique way of making you think about some big issues differently when seeing it through the eyes of a hyper active kid.

Thursday, March 27, 2008


Just a quick note to point you to a new website I just discovered. Its www.pandora.com and is great if you like music and discovering new artists. Its a site created by the Music Genome Project, which is basically a group of musicians and music experts who came together and broke down music to its most basic forms, which they called genes.

"Taken together these genes capture the unique and magical musical identity of a song - everything from melody, harmony and rhythm, to instrumentation, orchestration, arrangement, lyrics, and of course the rich world of singing and vocal harmony. It's not about what a band looks like, or what genre they supposedly belong to, or about who buys their records - it's about what each individual song sounds like." (from http://www.pandora.com/mgp)

The way the site works is you create a free account and design your own "radio stations." You do this by first typing a song or artist and Pandora will first play that song and then continue to play songs that are connected to it via its various "genes." One of the aspects I find interesting is that you can click on a tab that will tell you why they're playing the artist/song they are. Some of the descriptions I've seen are because of it being in a major/minor key, repetitive melody, rock instrumentation, vocal centric, acoustic piano driven, guitar solo, etc. If you dont like the song that they've selected you can give it a thumbs down, which will help the station to narrow its search even more, or simply skip the song (though you can only skip so many an hour). You can also edit your station and type in as many artists and songs you want it to use as a comparisons when it looks for music. So far I have created 6 stations based on different styles/moods including blues, acoustic guitar driven, alternative, praise and worship and of course my lady singers (Norah, Corinne Bailey Rae, etc.) You can also search through radio stations that other people have created.
Its great to have it playing in the background at work or when you're just lounging around at home. Alot of times I get tired of listening to my music over and over again and want to find some new artists. This site is great for that. And the best part, its completely free. Check it out and see what you think!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Movie Review: "Michael Clayton"

Michael Clayton (George Clooney) is known as the "fixer" at one of the largest law firms in New York City. He's there to make sure that the company's name, as well as the names of its top clients, are kept clean. For example, when one of their top clients is involved in a hit-and-run Clayton is the one sent to the clients house to attempt to be the "miracle-worker" and get the client out of the mess. So what happens when a multi-billion dollar company Agrochemical, U/North, has been poisoning many of its clients. Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson) is the lawyer for the case. Arthur, due to skipping his medication combined with guilt over what he is trying to cover up for his client, has a mental breakdown, and begins to build a case against his client. Clayton now has a dilemma, does he "do his job" and cover up for U/North as well as his firm, or does he expose the problem.
Clooney does an excellent job in a hard role. The spotlight centers on Clayton as a man who has found his niche in life in a role that he does not want. His dreams are still to be the court room, and after working for the firm for 17 years he should be nearing partner status. Yet he finds himself at the in between stage. His brother, a cop, says that he is intentionally trying to confuse people, "the cops think you're a lawyer and the lawyers think you're a cop." The problem is that Clayton is one of those confused by his status. His life is in disarray. He's a divorced father and has to come up with $75,000 because he tried to escape from the life of a "fixer" by opening a bar with his brother who decided to return to his life of drugs and alcohol and leave him hanging with the bill. While Clayon is out fixing everyone else's problems his own are stacking up higher and higher.
This film was directed by the co-director of the Bourne series, who show's his diverse talent by being able to direct a film that is not filled with non-stop action. The casting for this movie was excellent, from Clooney to Wilkinson to Tilda Swinton (who played the U/North's CEO).
The movie is rated R for language. There were a number of times that foul language was used, including one time when Clayton was talking with his son. Also there was some sexual language in one scene when Arthur is having one of his spells and he describes a time he was in a whore-house. There was no nudity and no blatent sexuality. The movie had several scenes that were fairly intense, including one where there was a murder.
Overall a great movie, I'd give it a 4 out 5.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Movie Review: "No Country for Old Men"

Going into this movie I feared that I was expecting too much out of it. I had seen it win a lot of Academy Awards, had read many reviews by top critics raving over it and had anticipated being able to sit down and watch it for weeks. Despite all that my expectations were not only met but blown away. The Coen brothers took this novel by Cormac McCarthy and created a masterpiece.
The story takes place in a small Texas town that is under the careful watch of Sheriff Bell (played by Tommy Lee Jones). At the outset of the movie Jones talks about the shift in the town. While once he was able to patrol without any weapon, his town has now become over run with violence. The story centers on Llewelyn Moss(Josh Brolin), an average hard-working man with a nice life and good marriage. One day he stumbles across a carnage of bodies where a drug deal had gone wrong. Along with the bodies is 2 million dollars. Now he is a very rich average man, and intends to keep that way. Enter Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), a psychopathic killer who is determined to retrieve the money and return it to its rightful owner. The body count escalates as more and more people get in between Chigurh and Moss and the money.
The movie depicts the way greed can overtake a man, as it does Moss. It also shows the depravity of a man consumed with violence. Life means nothing to Chigurh, and he has no trouble simply eliminating those who can get in his way. The most unique aspect of this movie was the complete lack of music throughout the entire film. It adds a level of uneasiness and suspense. Also, while "No Country" can by no means be labeled a comedy, there are instances of humor that add even more eeriness.
The movie recieved an R rating due to the violence that was throughout. There was not much foul language and the only sexual inuendo was when Moss said he was going to take his wife in the back and "screw" her if she didnt stop smarting off to him. No nudity in the film.
This was an excellent movie with an excellent cast. If you watch this movie be prepared, it will leave you thinking about it for the next several days.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Today again I was faced with stories that brought me in an about face to ask myself "What are you doing with your life?" Today has been a very slow day at work, which has been all to frequent an occurrence in the past weeks, so I decided to clean up my office a little bit. My filing trays had gotten filled up with random junk that I had held on to simply because I wasn't sure what else to do with them. As I was cleaning them out I stumbled across a couple articles I had saved a year or so ago concerning social injustices in the world, and particularly slave trafficking. My heart again sank as I began to read these stories of 6-year old girls who were being sold as slaves to brothels where she would be robbed or her innocence and loaned out daily to rich businessmen so they could have a cheap thrill at her expense.
As I read this "Jesus paid it all. All to Him I owe." comes wafting out of my speakers. Frankly, I had to turn it off. I'm not one for twisting Christianity into a guilt trip, and I realize that far too often I do that to myself. But as I read those stories it was as if I was punched in the gut. If any place needs Christ, its those places. And lets not get confused, I dont mean someone to go and preach Christ. I mean for someone to go and be Christ.
Seems like I'm in another season where issues of social justice are smacking me in the face. It seems like I go through seasons of themes that I hear or see over and over again. Last week my family went down to visit my girlfriend and sister in Alabama. They are working at home that takes in children whose parents are not able, or willing, to take care of them. Most of the children come from families whose parents are in jail and HR can't find any other family members that are capable of taking care of them. I'm extremely proud of my Kim and Kaylene for what they are doing there. And I've always thought that it was a great ministry, but the full force of what was happening didnt hit me until I was down there. Until I saw the kids, and heard their stories.

This little kid, Noah, is only 2 weeks old. The Adullum House picked him up from the hospital a day or two after his birth. His mother was the victim of a rape. Fortunately, she still had Noah but decided that she did not want him. So she simply left him at the hospital.

This boy and his brother were both taken into the Adullam House when they were young. The one boy sat beside me and Kaylene in church and was a riot, made it hard for me to stay focused during an extremely intense sermon (but thats a whole other subject). Following the service Kaylene told me their story. When you wake up the older one he immediately flinches and gets scared because as a child their father used to beat them. They both have gold front teeth because they were knocked out, this all happened probably before either one was two.

I had a blast with these kids. The picture on the right is of them arresting me for "cutting the cheese" (which I assure you, I didnt). I dont think there's guys there all that often so all the boys wanted to do was wrestle. These kids are getting incredible love down there at the adullam house, but as I played with them all I could think about was what their lives would have been like without the Adullam House. And how many other kids are out there that should be in a home like this but aren't. It was a great weekend on so many levels, but this part of it was hard for me. Got me thinking about the important things of life, and how I can make a difference. Only got one shot at life, why get caught up in things that don't matter?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Let the Madness begin!

In my book, it's undoubtedly the best time of the year. Daylight savings time has just kicked in so now there are still a couple hours of light left once work is over. You can begin cracking the windows open and making it a little more bareable to be stuck in an office 10 hours a day. Its finally warm enough to start cycling again. The air just has a sense of newness about it.
But... the enjoyment of all those things must be put on hold for more pressing matters: the NCAA tourney is about to get underway. The brackets came out at 6 yesterday and by now most have already filled out their first bracket and many are perhaps onto their 10th. Over the next 4 days you'll hear all kinds of talk about which team will be the "george mason" "cinderella" team this year. Everyone will have their upset picks. And if you're like me, you'll pick way too many upsets and by the end of the first round you'll be outta the office pool.
Nothing in sports can compare to college basketballs March Madness. These games mean everything to these guys, no money (supposedly) is involved to taint it. Its pure passion for the game. I especially like watching the mid-major conference tournaments. The only shot these teams have of making the tourney, which would mean success for their program even if they lose in the first round, is winning their tournament. The energy is incredible, and contagious.
So, while I should be out enjoying the fresh air and preparing for my bike trip the next few weeks will probably in much the same place this past weekend did. On the edge of me seat in front of the tv for hours watching game after game. I don't care whose playing, especially since my Terps didnt even make the tourney, I love watching.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Movie Review: "Once"

My deep thoughts seem to be coming less and less often as of late, or at least ones thought out clearly enough to blog about. So I've decided to start adding different types of posts as well. I didn't want this to become simply a "this is whats happening in my life now blog" so I'll try to avoid those posts too often, but I'm sure they'll slip in. One thing I've decided to start posting is movie reviews. Not that I consider myself an expert reviewer by any means but, as mentioned before, I really like movies and can also tend to be critical of them. Plus the movie I watched last night was so inspirational I felt that I had to post on it.

If I were to write my "best of 2007" movie list today, this movie would top my list. For those of who like high-budget, action-packed, constant action-avoid this movie. Many descriptions come to mind after watching this movie: heart-warming, inspirational, etc. yet the word that best describes it may be "honest." The movie has a very real feel to it, you feel close to the actors. Much of this feeling comes for the low-budget filming techniques, but a lot of it is because this the actors are themselves musicians.
The story is set in Dublin, where a struggling street musician (Glen Hansard) and a flower pusher (Marketa Irglova) accidentally meet one evening. The musician is a man who labels himself as a "broken-hearted Hoover-fixing sucker." He was once in love, yet his girl ran off to London and left him alone, working at his fathers vacuum repair shop and singing for petty change outside on the streets. All of his songs revolve around this love that was lost, and he is hanging in this in-between state, not ready to let go of the past, yet not ready to move forward. The flower pusher is a young Czech girl. She is married, yet her husband stayed behind in the Czech Republic and she is left alont to raise her young daughter. She too has music as part of her life-line. As a girl her father was a concert violinist who committed suicide because of depression. Yet, before he died he passed his passion for music on to her, via the piano. She is too poor to afford a piano and merely has an hour a day to play at a local music store. These two meet one night as "vacuum-man" (even at the end to the movie he is only given the label "Guy" in the credits) is singing a song that he wrote himself. As the movie develops they begin to connect to one another, through the medium of music. One of the most touching scenes in the movie is the first time they play together. She asks him to teach her one of his songs, he begins to play and as she starts to play along with him and begins to harmonize you can see them both energized. From there the movie develops into a great love story, yet one that ends in the way most "love-story" movies do. It is deeper then simply a sexual passionate love. It is a love that enables them both to move on, whether that is together or apart.
To label this as a musical romance does not do it justice because of the many stereotypes that go along with those labels. The music is not simply a side note to the movie, it is the life of the movie. It tells the story, not only of their pasts, but also strengthens them to go forwrd. The love is not cheap, not fairybook-esque. But real, life-giving.
The movie is rated "R" merely for language. That part was somewhat frustrating. They do drop the f-bomb quite a few times, especially at the beginning. There is not sexual content of any sort.
This is a great movie, especially for those of us are passionate about music. I would highly recommend it.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

My Top 10 of the year

I love watching movies. Not the way some do, where its a nightly routine simply to fill time because their too lazy to do anything else. I hate watching a movie simply because I'm bored. And I hate a watching stupid movies. I'm not a big fan of most comedies unless I'm in the right mood and with the right people. Most people don't like my taste in movies, mainly because I like to hate on movies that they like. For example, I refuse to watch "Transformers". You can tell me how great of a movie it is all you want, to me, it looks like a stupid idea. (I also didnt grow up watching/playing with transformers). Same with the new movie "Jumper". Just doesn't interest me. I like to read up on what movies the critics like, finding the hidden movies that most people haven't ever heard of. Anyway, watching the Academy Awards sunday made me think back on what my favorite movies of the past year were. So here's my top 10 movies from last year. These are only movies that i saw so there's probably some good ones that I didn't see.

10. "3:10 to Yuma"

9. "Eastern Promises"

8. "American Gangster"

7. "Bucket List"

6. "300"

5. "Freedom Writers"

4. "The Bourne Ultimatum"

3. "There Will Be Blood"

2. "Lives of Others"

And the Winner Is.....

1. "Gone Baby Gone"

Really, the last 3 could have been put in any order. And I'm sure if you ask me on a different night my top 5 would probably be different too. But for now those are what they are. The most disappointing of the movies be far was Beowulf, I can't describe how disappointed I was. Thre were several movies that I didnt see that I wish I would have, "Die Hard 4", "No Country for Old Men", "Charlie Wilsons War".

Some that didnt quite make the cut but were still decent were: "I Am Legend", "Rush Hour 3", "Mr. Beans Holiday", "Spider-Man 3", "Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix", "Wild Hogs", "Evan Almighty", "Rocky" and "the Brave One."

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Barack Obama

I am not attempting to put my support behind Obama or say that this is the canidate that I am voting for or you should vote for. The only reason for this post is because there have been some nasty rumors going around among the Christian community about Barack. For example: He's a Muslim (which if that bothers you how come so many are voting for a Mormon?), He was sworn into office by placing his hand on Qur'an, or that he will not salute the flag and is un-patriotic. I merely wanted to point you in the direction of 2 articles that tell th truth about some of those claims. Lets not get caught up in slandering someone, especially based on false accusations.

Article in Sojourners

Interview in Christianity Today

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

As the political year kicks into full gear my frustration as a Christian American citizen grows. I've felt the desire to post something on the subject because its weighed so heavy on me as of late, yet as I set to type my thoughts my fingers are constantly going to the backspace button.

Much of the frustration comes from my background. I grew up in the Mennonite tradition. In the past Mennonites were known as those who stayed away from the political scene. Even going so far as not participating in the voting process. However, though my community was very Mennonite, it was also extremely political. And much like any Christian community it was almost exclusively right wing conservative. I remember hearing rumors that one of my teachers had "voted Democrat" and was appalled. To be a Christian meant that you were Republican, no questions asked. To be a Christian meant that the Clinton administration was the worst thing that ever happened to America. To be labeled a liberal was almost as bad as being called a heathen. The main two issues that were talked about as important were Pro-life and opposing Gay marriage.

I'm beginning to question some of the ideas I grew up with.

This is the first presidential election since that questioning has taken place in my life, and its been tough knowing what to think. My goal, as with most areas of my life, is to not be locked into a label. In my opinion, as a Christian no political party should have the church in their back pocket. We must recognize that no political candidate or party is our saviour. We cannot rely on the government to restore moral order, to rid the world of evil or to be our arm of power. Is it good to have a leader who will work towards that, most definitely. But no leader is going to be perfect. When people hear me say that I like a particular Democratic candidate they ask me how I can be Pro-Choice. There are many routes I could take in answering that question, for starters since when did Pro-life simply mean anti-abortion. While the Democratic party does not oppose abortion there are many ways that I see that they are extremely Pro-Life. Their concern for social justice, issues of the environment, their call for reform in providing health care to the underprivilaged (dont go down that trail in your comments) are just a few examples. Also, while we've had a Pro-Life canidate for the past 8 years we have not eliminated abortions. I am by no means Pro-Choice, but it is not the only issue that I decide who will get my vote.
As I have wrestled with these issues I have come to the conclusion once again that while I will take part in the political process, my influence on the world does not stop there. Unfortunately much of the church has decided to spend its efforts on pushing a political canidate, participating in marches, picketing outside of city halls. Am I saying there is not a place for these, not neccesarily. But my question is wouldnt we get farther in stopping abortions if we got involved in the life of a single mother who doesn't know how she's going survive if she doesn't have one. I know that sounds simplistic and idealistic, or perhaps we say that because its hard to follow out. So while it is important to take our vote seriously, our job doesnt stop there. Also as mentioned earlier, no political party (or nation) should have the church in its back pocket. There's a lot more i could say on that but I think I'll stop with that.

Perhaps I just talked myself in circles. But that is much the way my mind has been going as we near the upcoming election.