The Thirty Minute Blogger

Exploring Books and the Writer's Life, Faith and Works, Culture and Pop Culture, Space Science and Science Fiction, Technology and Nostalgia, Parenting and Childhood, Health: Physical and Emotional ... All Under the Iron Hands of the Clock and That 30 Minute Deadline

Monday, April 18, 2016

Wise Words for Living Life

Pastor Barbara Brown Taylor wrote the moving book Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith. She speaks of stepping aside from all the busyness involve din ministry to truly regain her faith. I read portions of the work during my hectic seminary years and am now returning to it as a minister to regain her powerful perspectives. She speaks of a puzzling passage in Luke where Jesus speaks harshly of what people would have to give up to follow him. There is all sorts of commentary on this dealing with rabbinical exaggeration to make a point, etc., but I really appreciate Barbara's take on this issue. She writes:
In Luke's gospel, there comes a point when he [Jesus] turns around and says to the large crowd of those trailing after him, "Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple" (14:26), Make of that what you will, but I think it was his way of telling them to go home. He did not need people to go to Jerusalem to die with him. He needed people to go back where they came from and life the kinds of lives that he had risked his own life to show them: lives of resisting the powers of death, of standing up for the little and the least, of turning cheeks and washing feet, of praying for enemies and loving the unlovable. [Italics added.] That would be plenty hard enough for most of them.
That is plenty hard enough for most of us, but would be lives well lived if that is what we did. Especially in an age when the strong man demagogue is becoming the favored personage in Western countries around the world. Especially when school children are coming to imitate the bullying ways of such demagogues. We definitely need people who will resist such powers that be and the death they bring, who will stand up for the little guys and gals, the powerless and the least, who will serve and pray for enemies as well as friends, who will be patient in a volatile age and show love even to those society casts out or ignores time and again.  

Words to Remember Before Arguing

Have you every gotten into an argument knowing from the get-go that there was no way you were going to change your opponent's mind. The whole thing, point by counterpoint, was a complete waste of time that wasn't going to get either of you anything other than extremely frustrated, suffering from high blood pressure? Yep, been there, done that. It's extremely ill-advised, even if it is the exercise of choice on every social media comments section, or so it seems.

Before entering into another fruitless fray, remember the words of wisdom from Proverbs 20:3:

"It is honorable to refrain from strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel." 

Words to live by. They could save us all many hours to be more wisely spent.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Flowers for Dementia Sufferers

My wife and I stumbled across a simple truth recently.

I get to visit people in nursing homes regularly. It is part of the work I do. Recently, the two of us dropped off a live Easter lily featuring multiple blooms to a lovely lady suffering from slowly advancing dementia. She was uncertain about some things, but the beauty of the flowers drew her out. Also, she knew just what to do with them, asking if they'd need anything more than simple watering from time to time.

Flowers have a magic about them. Just as the music of childhood and early adulthood does for someone suffering from cognitive issues. If you are caring for a loved one who is slowly slipping away as their minds drift with advancing years, head over to the florist or the grocer. Scoop up some flowers, fresh cut or in a pot, and take them along. The person you are delivering them to will not be the only person to have their day brightened by the bouquet.

Disclaimer: I have no medical advice to give, just this simple observation. I also offer my support as you go through this difficult time with a loved one. Make sure to take good care of yourself as this situation is very taxing on a caregiver, especially when problems faced cannot be solved.

Roses for a Drunken Spring

Saturday, April 9, we had snow on the tulips and daffodils. It's a drunken spring.

So, let's pause and consider the promise of what lies ahead when the weather decides to even out a bit. Roses.


Gents, let me take you aside here: these are grocery store roses, a dozen for under $10 in our region. They are a great deal, they open beautifully, and they can keep you from being a schmuck in the eyes of your significant other. Okay?

Okay ladies, yes, this works for you too if your significant other appreciates flowers and doesn't feel threatened by them. 

Lousy Labeling Limits Lives

How we decide to identify others, what labels we attach to them, can either help them or destroy them. The Bible warns us not to judge others or we will be judged by our own less-than-generous labeling. It's a powerful warning that should be heeded.

It works this way. If a group of people label someone a loser, that group of people have begun a label-fulfilling prophecy. If a group (the group can be just one person too) decides an individual can't succeed, that group will make NO ATTEMPT to help that person when he/she is struggling. They've already decreed that person a failure, so why both.

See how corrosive this is? See what evil this can bring about.

If instead, the same group labels someone a success, that group will go out of their way to help that person along. It is a nasty cycle.

It is all too easy to fall into it. I almost did so just now, beginning a rant about politics that would have included labels galore. But I won't. I'll go back to the biblical warning: As you judge, so you shall be judged. The measure you give will be the measure you receive. I'm going to work hard to avoid labeling others, and myself, negatively, giving folks the benefit of the doubt and helping them along their way whenever I can. It's not an easy job, but it's a far better one than passing caustic judgment and sitting back to try to make it come true. No thank you. I don't want to be judged as such an ungenerous soul.

Wishing you a negative label free day.

See also: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2016/04/stories-told-change-lives.html

Stories Told Change Lives

As far back as there have been humans, there have been stories we've told ourselves and each other. They define who we are and the world around us. It has been said, time and again, that if a culture does not have a word for something, for that people whatever it is does not exist. Such is the power of the word.

The power of story is stronger. The stories we tell about ourselves are strongest of all. When it comes to how we perceive ourselves, there are no Dragnet style "Just the facts, ma'am." We weave the facts of our lives into a story. That story can be uplifting or can drag us down into endless, Stygian depths. If we tell a story of our lives in which there is a positive note, despite failures and defeats and agonies, then we will live the life we perceive. If we focus on our joys, how they define us, how every setback and strengthened us and given us wisdom, we will thrive (I do not suggest here that we will become what culture defines as success ... a billionaire with multiple homes, a yacht, etc. ... but we will become happy human beings, with positive outlooks, who can set fear aside in favor of joy, anxiety in favor of love. Tell the right story and we'll treat each other as we wish to be treated, we'll take the time and spend the talent to assist others in this life rather than avoiding them in suspicious terror. Tell the right stories and we won't seek out a strong man type who appears to have all the answers but is actually just telling us that awful, timeworn, tale of terror about how bad everything is without him at the helm, that twisted soul vying for power based on fear of people unlike himself. Don't fall for it.

Further, parents, the stories we tell our children about themselves and their families will set them on a healthy or harmful road. Those stories are vital to young impressionable minds. Tell good stories to and about your kids. Don't weigh them down from the start. Give them wings instead.

Finally, to tell ourselves positive stories, we have to short-circuit that horrible little voice in our heads that says we are no good, we are awful people, we are total screw-ups and will never amount to anything. Replace the little S.O.B. with someone far kinder who rejoices in our triumphs and is there to help pick us up when we fall.

Stories are powerful things. Let the narrative of your life be a positive one, for your own sake and for the sake of people you love.

See also: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2016/04/lousy-labeling-limits-lives.html

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Space Station Live: BEAMing up to ISS: A Detailed Discussion



Bigelow Expandable Activity Module headed out toward the International Space Station aboard the Dragon cargo module attached to the historic Falcon 9 rocket whose first stage made history, successfully landing on the robot barge in choppy seas. If this BEAM module actually works well over the next two years (once it is successfully attached and inflated ... which hadn't yet happened at the time of this writing), it could change a lot about how we explore deep space and protect our astronauts on the surface of other worlds. Enjoy.

For a NASA animation about the BEAM attachment and inflation, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2016/04/beam-installation-animation-flew-april.html

For more on the successful Falcon 9 barge landing, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2016/04/spacex-sticks-landing.html

Friday, April 8, 2016

Captain Action Toy Commercial from IDEAL - 1966 Captain Action TV Commer...



With superheroes all the rage on TV and in the movies, let's pause for a momentary flash back to the 1960s and one hero who could be so many superheroes all at once. Yes, Captain Action, Created by Stan Weston (who also helped originate G.I. Joe) and released in 1966 by Ideal to wage economic warfare against that fighting Joe and for the allowances of kids everywhere. Playing Mantis reintroduced the character and a number of his costumed alter egos in the late 1990s to limited success.

We now return you to your regular time period.

If you want to see some posts on the competition from the 1960s and '70s, see the G.I. Joe posts, including: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2010/09/gi-joe-commercial-1960s-hasbro.html and http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2010/01/comic-books-reflect-changing-times-and.html

BEAM Installation Animation: BEAM Flew April 8, 2016 on a Dragon



On April 8, 2016, SpaceX made history by sticking the landing of the Falcon 9 first stage on the drone barge in choppy seas. The Dragon cargo module also headed for the International Space Station with a Bigelow BEAM inflatable habitat module to attach to the ISS. This will be the first inflatable habitat seriously tested for endurance and viability as a lightweight, compact habitat for deep space exploration by the ISS crew. History could be made yet again, depending on how this technology once considered by NASA and dropped but picked up by Bigelow fares over the next two years. Time will tell.

For a more detailed discussion of Bigelow's beer-keg-shaped inflatable module and what will be done with it, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2016/04/space-station-live-beaming-up-to-iss.html

SpaceX Sticks the Landing

Image courtesy of SpaceX
Friday, April 8, 2016, the history of rocketry changed forever. The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket's first stage successfully launched and returned to stick the landing on the drone barge in choppy seas. It was a heart-pounding approach, with the first stage coming in fast and at an angle as it approached. At the last possible moment, the reusable rocket righted itself and made a perfect three point landing. For a couple seconds there I have to admit I waited for that first stage to do a slow roll over to one side or the other in those choppy seas, but she stood tall on the deck and remained upright. Now, the Falcon 9 has been proven to be able to return on land and sea both, making it possible to recover rocket stages on a variety of trajectories at launch. Further, landing at sea instead of returning to land uses less fuel and will be far more efficient. If this can be repeated regularly, and become routine, the cost of heading for the high frontier will be greatly reduced. Congratulations to everyone at SpaceX for making what was science fiction, science fact. What a great day.

To see the landing yourself, go to: https://www.facebook.com/SpaceX/videos/10157303507665131/