Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Voice Crying in the Wilderness...

Unfortunatley, Ron Paul makes way too much sense to be taken seriously by the American Congress, or for that matter the American people. Our last President, and our current President have conspired/are conspiring to fix the economy using the very same strategies and means that provoked the current, unprecedented crisis. God have mercy on America, and the global markets dependent on her health.

Swiss Rhythmic Precision

What happens when you combine "djembe joy" with the watch-like precision of the Swiss? See for yourself. (HT: Jay Barfield)

Two Wrongs Don't...

Ouch. 'Nuff said.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


Well, today I was finally able to try out my new skate-skis (a Christmas present from the saints at Trinity Church.) Wow. What a hoot! Skate skis utilize cross-country-esque skis propelled forward with an ice-skating-esque stride. Very fun actually. Ellen, aided by the Nordic blood flowing thickly in her veins, did quite well, and was very soon zooming around the track. I love that woman!

They Say It's Your Birthday...

'Twas a wonderful evening: Guitar music; psalm-singing; gourmet cheese, fruit, chocolate and wine; Billy Collins' poem "Forgetfulness"; Steve Martin's "Changes in the Memory After Fifty"; a speed round of Trivial Pursuit and Tri-Bond; stories galore; much laughter and a few tears; and all shared with people who love us (not the way a boy loves ice-cream, but rather the way God loves a sinner.) So far 51 is lookin' pretty good. My cup runneth over, yea verily.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Penelope Goes to Traffic School

Savvy comedians draw upon the half-dozen or so "characters" that we all have in our lives (Note: It is very likely that you are a "character" in someone else's life.) To provoke us to laughter all they have to do is identify the annoying flaw, exaggerate it a bit, and "Voila!" something between a knowing chortle and a belly laugh results. A frequent target of the comic's barb is the self-absorbed character who is never content to share the spotlight with anyone else, and who always has a story to top the one that was just told by any poor slob who dared to garner a shred of attention. So the Dilbert Comic strip has "Topper", Brian Regan has "Me-Man" and SNL has "Penelope."

"Penelope Goes to Traffic School" (thanks Bargers!) is a clan Helsel favorite for two reasons. 1) It is a very funny sketch in its own right. And 2) If you ever feel that someone is acting "Me-Mannish" all you have to do is mimic Penelope's uber-unique vocal-pattern saying "I'm saltier than you" to give "Topper" the bum's rush.

To watch the video click on the title above. Enjoy it. Hold it up to yourself as a mirror. And pray for the Lord to put to death in you any remaining bits of "Penelope."

And, for the record: I'm saltier and best friends with all the Muppets.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Boy and His Snowkite

As my old pastor used to wryly observe, "Who has more fun than people?"

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Book Review: Glittering Images

A while back a fellow CREC pastor recommended Susan Howatch's book, "Glittering Images", the first in her "Church of England" series. I just finished the book a couple of days ago and can recommend it to you with a few caveats.

The book is set in mid-twentieth-century England and centers on the life of an up-and-coming priest in the C of E. In this book Howatch displays a profound understanding of the human psyche, true spirituality and the devasting effects of sins such as hypocrisy, sexual immorality, father-hunger and deception. The book could also be considered a primer on Biblical counseling as pictured in the minstrations of the Fordite monk Jon Darrow.

The book is well-written and filled with many a plot twist and/or suprise revelation with a satisfying development of the "glittering image" theme from beginning to end. I was in "story" grip" by page 50.

The caveats: If this book were a movie it would probably be rated "R." However, having said that, the steamier scenes were neither gratuitous nor pornographic, and one could argue "necessary" to the proper development of the story. I would also take exception with what seems to be portrayed as the Biblical qualifications for a man in the ministry. But, even with these misgivings, I would still recommend the book to the mature, discerning reader. Entertaining, and lots of "grist for the mill." A good reminder that life is messy, sanctification is long, slow and hard. And that true healing comes through prayer, honesty, humility, repentance, forgiveness and self-denying love.

2012 The Movie

This coming July Hollywood is going to "bless" us with another version of the coming global apocalypse. This time drawing on the ancient Mayan culture's belief that the world will come to an end in 2012. This causes me to scratch my bald little pate for at least two reasons.

Firstly, why does the world ascribe so much wisdom and foresight to a pagan culture renown for its obsession with bloody rites of human sacrifice?

And secondly, although it is easy to understand the world's fascination with the endless stream of "end of the world" scenarios, why does so much of the Church share the world's preoccupation with apocalypse? The world envisions man destroying the planet and its inhabitants and grows tired of trying to stave off the inevitable. Worldlings muse, "Well, apocalypse is indeed horrible, but at least it will bring peace to our troubled planet."

The world neither understands God's promise to redeem the whole world (Romans 8:20ff) nor does it understand redeemed-Spirit-filled-man-in-Christ as the instrument of that redemption. And lacking promise and means it much prefers the quick and painless suicidal-bullet of apocalypse.

And sadly, much of the modern Church agrees with the substance of this scenario. The earth is "going to hell in a handbasket." Man is the cancer, not the answer. So Jesus is coming back to destroy the world and take his people to heaven to live with him (Question: Where in the Bible does it say that we will spend eternity in heaven?) The Church much prefers this "easy way out" to the hard work of gradual, global and generational redemption. She prefers the apocalyptic destruction of the nations to the demanding labor of discipling of the nations. She prefers the few months required for cosmic apocalypse to the several millennia required for cosmic redemption.

Think about it. If the redemption of the creation described by Paul in Romans 8 means the destruction of the creation. Do you really want to be redeemed?

I partied in Y2K and will party in 2012. Because I share in neither the pessimism of Mayan prophets, the pessimism of modern "earth-firsters", nor the pessimism of Christian "Last Days" doom-mongers. Because, according to Paul, Jesus will not return until all of his enemies have been subdued beneath his feet (1 Cor. 15:25) and I very much doubt that will happen in the next three years. Three millennia maybe. But three years? Me thinkest not.

Hollywood will probably make a bundle on this apocalyptic tale of distress and doom. But it will pale in comparison to the mega-bundles made by their Christian counterparts over at LastDays Inc. And sadly, in 2013, having forgiven the false prophets their pathetic prognostications, most of us will be ready for more of the same. Hey, wait a minute! Aren't false prophets a sign that the End is near??? Sound the rapture alarm!!!!!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Djembe Joy

As someone once noted: "Scratch a guitarist and you'll find a frustrated drummer." A friend of mine has loaned me his djembe (an African drum) while he finishes law school in Virginia (thanks Jess!!.) What a hoot (the djembe, not the guy.) Color me "scratched and found." To paraphrase Eric Liddell (in Chariots of Fire) "When God made me, he made me rhythmical, and when I drum, I feel His pleasure." This video does not feature djembes, but it does portray the bodily joy of hitting objects that go "boom" and "kack" and the communal joy of doing in concert with others. Enjoy.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

R.I.P. Uncle Rex

My uncle Rex died last Wednesday after a long battle with a rare disease. Rex was the only brother of my mother who died when I was eleven years old. He was a graduate of my alma mater, Queen Anne High School. And in his senior year won a state championship title by running a 4:21 mile. The summer after my mother passed away, Rex took me on a 300+ mile bike-ride down the Oregon coast. At the time I thought my uncle did this because I was such a cool nephew. It wasn't until years later that I was able to correctly understand his desire/intent to help me through a very dificult time. Typical Rex. Helping and teaching in a way that made you feel like you were helping him.

All who knew Rex mourn his passing and look forward the great reunion "on the other side." I am thankful to have been shaped and molded by my Hollowell heritage. My love of story and off-kilter sense of humor were bequeathed to me by both sides of my family, but especially from the Hollowell side. Rex will be remembered by all as a man who loved God, his wife (my aunt Joan) and his children and grandchildren intensely; a man who thought clearly and demanded the same of those around him; a man who (like his Savior) felt called to mock and expose those who abused their positions of authority; a consumate teacher who could make even subjects like Logic and Philosophy come alive to his students; a man who preferred walking to driving, solid oak to chipboard, and Saabs to Fords (i.e. he liked the "good stuff" enough to sacrifice and save for it.) Rex will be remembered fondly for his dry wit, ready retorts and disarming sense of humor.

But the legacy that I most cherish, will longest remember, and by God's grace emulate, is Rex's indefatigable thankfulness. In the iron-grip of MSA (Multiple Symptom Atrophy, a disease with ALS/Lou Gherig's Disease-like symptoms) Rex was ever the cheerful and thankful soul. As my aunt Joan commented early on in the disease's progress, "It's taking from him his two favorites activities in life - walking and talking." And yet every time anyone asked him how he was doing, his reply, invariably was a happy, albeit laborious , "Won...........der..........ful." A wonderful word displaying a profound understanding of God's wonderful grace uttered by someone whom all will remember as a wonderful man.

It just occurred to me that Rex's passing, as painful as it is, has completed and accomplished a long awaited reunion, long delayed by disease and death. Rex's father (my grandfather) Homer, died when Rex was very young. Rex's sister (my mother) died when Rex was 32. Rex's mother (my grandmother) died just a few years ago. This little family, formed by God, and for a time deformed by death, has been wonderfully reformed in heaven. I sure hope that this reunion is being "taped" for our enjoyment later on. O death, where now is your sting? Where is your victory?

Obituary:HOLLOWELL, Rex Leon
Passed away the evening of the 7th of January after a long battle with MSA. He is survived by his wife Joan; son Sean; and daughter Staci. Rex was born in Kansas in 1939 to Marie and Homer Hollowell. After the early passing of her husband Marie went to work as a house mother at a local college. This led to a job at Seattle Pacific University. Rex later attended Seattle Pacific where he and Joan met. Following his graduation from SPU Rex attended Edinburgh University Seminary for a year. He returned to Seattle to marry Joan and pursue a Master's Degree in Philosophy from the University of Washington. A teaching opportunity at Spokane Falls Community College brought the new family to Spokane where he enjoyed a 32 year career teaching philosophy. His extended family includes Sean's wife Darcy and their two girls, Cecilia and Ada, and Staci's husband Eric. A celebration service will be held at Hamblen Park Presbyterian Church.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Joy to the World!!!

One of the things I love about the Christmas season is the way that Christians get so wonderfully (and Biblically) optimistic about the progress of the Gospel in and around the world. For a short time the Bride of Christ parks her doom-and-gloom "Last Days Madness" favoring instead the sentiments expressed in words like "He comes to make his blessings flow, far as, far as the curse is found." If you would like a confirmation of the hymn writers declaration, then feast your heart on this article written by an atheist about Africa's need for God.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Ode to a Snowboard

O, Arbor snowboard no longer mine, how did I love thee? Let me count the ways.

Our modern society is oft obsessed with ugliness and just as often unable to manufacture a product that works well. But every once in a while providence brings to us an object in which form and function, art and engineering, poetry and practicality are wonderfully wed and fantastically fused. My Arbor snowboard was just such a thing. It looked as good hanging on the wall of my study as it performed under my feet as I carved lazy S's down the snow-covered runs at Mission Ridge. Unlike many snowboard topsides, it did not display a single knife, chain, demon, issue of blood, skull, flame or scantily-clad vixen. Neither was it defaced with a cacophony of mismatched colors or delirium-inspired graphics. My sweet-old-school Arbor had a Hawaiian Koa-wood top. 'Twas plain and simple with a small "Arbor" logo near the top of the board. In the four years that I rode this board there was only one outing that someone did not stop me to comment on how beautiful the board looked. "Wow!", "Niiiiiice" and "Sweet-old-school" were the most frequent unsolicited observations.

After my mountain bike accident last summer and the resultant shoulder-separation, I happened to hear on the radio that the number one Emergency Room producing sport in the nation was, you guessed it, snowboarding. That bit of medical trivia, the increasing creakiness of my bones,and my own concussion three years ago (and subsequent toboggan ride and ambulance trip to the ER) convinced me to sell the board to someone whose recuperative powers exceed my own (heavy sigh.)

Good-bye sweet board. Long may you run. Long may you run.