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

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Without Love, We Are Nothing

Without love, all of humanity's achievements are hollow. Without love, civilization is meaningless. Without love, government and politics are tyranny. Without love, religion oppresses or terrorizes. Without love, everyone is out for her- or himself alone. Without love, ever soul twists and darkens. Without love, every action rings false. Without love, parents are savages. Without love, children die. Without love, we are nothing.

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I thought as a child, I reasoned as a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 (NRSV)

Paul really knew how to say it.

I was reminded of all this at Barley Sheaf community theater in Lionville, Pennsylvania, last night watching the poignant new play, Love-Nothing.

Live these verses. Change the world. LOVE

Friday, January 29, 2010

Parents: Authority In Context, Please

It always makes my skin crawl when people lift biblical passages out of context for their own purposes, especially when it involves parenting. Parents prone to this bad habit will point to the book of Genesis and the discussion of humanity's job to rule as an excuse to become petty dictators at home, subjugating those who they should be nurturing and teaching with love and encouragement (discipline is necessary yes, there have been days when I felt I said nothing but no to one of my children all day long ... and felt rotten by day's end). When this happens, parents become twisted and skewed in their child raising approach, becoming rigid and controlling, demanding much and raising the bar of expectation to heights they themselves could never reach.
In doing this, such parents have inappropriately lifted God's call for humans to have dominion away from the biblical call for humanity to serve (each other and God's creation). These joint calls go hand in hand and only work properly when we use them together. If you're going to say, "The Bible says..." make sure you keep what the Bible says in context. Our dominion is tempered by the equally strong mandate that we serve. As the Dictionary for Pastoral Care and Counseling, page 825, states (yes, a favorite tome of mine as you have correctly guessed by now) "Service describes the biblical model for understanding the very nature of God, who in the form of Jesus Christ became the 'suffering servant' to redeem humanity." Parents, we are all called by God to self-sacrificing service with our children. Our authority needs to be tempered with the following questions (no, not "What would Jesus do") "What serves my child best?" "What will allow this child to most fully develop?"

Keeping those biblical verses in context is tricky, but as you can see, it's worth the effort. In this case, it puts the brakes on our desire to rule, tempering it with the call to serve. There will still be days where it feels like you say no all day long, but when you do you can comfort yourself with the knowledge you are also serving your child as well. On those days, "suffering servant" will take on a whole new dimension

Good luck parents and God bless you.

(Yeah, the picture is me and my son in matching outfits given to us years back by my brother and sister-in-law. I wanted to break up the somewhat stern tone of this piece a bit.)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

See Procrastination: Space

See for an important editorial on the American space program and why we need to move forward and return humanity to loftier realms than Earth orbit. It is written by Jim Slade, a science news correspondent who covered NASA from its earliest days well into the space shuttle era.

This is a serious editorial well worth taking time reading.

(Image of the Ares rocket that might take humanity back to the moon courtesy of NASA)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Sloggin' Thru Blogging: Seeking Guidance

There are no doubt many tricks about blogging I have yet to stumble upon. The most pressing of them for me, however, is how to find readers who actually need the children's book my site promotes. If anyone out there in the wide world knows the answer and can steer me in the right direction, I'd love to hear from you. I'm seeking parents who have one child and are expecting another (or have just had a second child). Michael and the New Baby is written and illustrated to help relieve the fears of that first child concerning the second child's arrival, assuring the first that she or he will continue to be loved and wanted in the family. Thanks for the help. And, of course, thanks for stopping by.

Perspective ... Step Back From Arguments

It's time to get a grip. As I pointed out in "Time Out," we're becoming a really antisocial bunch. We offend way too easily and allow arguments to divide us into many, many camps and factions. Arguments over petty issues have ended friendships and split churches. I'm going to let Mr. P.T. Barnum* put the whole situation into perspective by relating a story about what happened in the little New England church he grew up in back in the early 1830s.

There was but one church or “meeting house” in Bethel, which all attended, sinking all differences of creed in the Presbyterian faith. The old meetinghouse had neither steeple nor bell and was a plain edifice, comfortable enough in summer, but my teeth chatter even now when I think of the dreary, cold, freezing hours we passed in that place in winter. A stove in a meetinghouse in those days would have been a sacrilegious innovation. The sermons were from an hour and one-half to two hours long, and through these the congregation would sit and shiver till they really merited the title the profane gave them of “blue skins.” Some of the women carried a “foot-stove” consisting of a small square tin box in a wooden frame, the sides perforated, and in the interior there was a small square iron dish, which contained a few live coals covered with ashes. These stoves were usually replenished just before meeting time at some neighbor’s near the meetinghouse.

After many years of shivering and suffering, one of the brethren had the temerity to propose that the church should be warmed with a stove. His impious proposition was voted down by an overwhelming majority. Another year came around, and in November the stove question was again brought up. The excitement was immense. The subject was discussed in the village stores and in the juvenile debate club; it was prayed over in conference, and finally in general “society meeting,” in December, the stove was carried by a majority of one and was introduced into the meetinghouse. On the first Sunday thereafter, two ancient maiden ladies were so oppressed by the dry and heated atmosphere occasioned by the wicked invention, that they fainted away and were carried out into the cool air where they speedily returned to consciousness, especially when they were informed that owing to the lack of two lengths of pipe, no fire had yet been made in the stove. The next Sunday was a bitter cold day, and the stove, filled with well-seasoned hickory, was a great gratification to the many, and displeased only a few.

This was the "burning" issue of the day. Seems silly in hindsight. So many of our burning issues and intense arguments do upon reflection. Thanks P.T. for the perspective.

*You can find this little gem and many others in The Life of Barnum: World-Renowned Showman.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Two Quotes to Help You Face Monday

The quotes to help you face Monday comes from Henri J.M. Nouwen, a spiritual writer, whose wonderful little book Life of the Beloved is an uplifting, inspriational read exploring God's love for all God's children everywhere. He wrote the following for everyone to remember, to believe, and the be blessed by:

We are God's chosen ones, even when our world does not choose us.

In the second quote, Henri encourages us all to bless others and show them they are special people, which will definitely help improve our Mondays:

To give someone a blessing is the most significant affirmation we can offer.

I'll start: May you and those you love and care for have a wonderful week secure in the knowledge you are all much loved and chosen children of God.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Time Out!

I was in one of the big box stores (to remain nameless for oh so many reasons) when it happened. I was waiting at the self-serve computer operated check outs. There were several of us bunched up in the middle between the registers, following the unspoken rule of the line, quietly waiting for one to open when a new guy shows up. Rather than follow bunch up etiquette, he jumps in line right behind one of the registers.

The guy behind me points this social faux pas out ... loudly and in no uncertain terms.

Line jumper guy laughs him off and says there's no rule about this. (Actually he's wrong here. Cultural norms are rules as far as society is concerned ... but I digress.)

Now we have the classic clash of personalities you see when driving. The guy behind me was the type who pulls into the other lane as soon as the Lane Closed Ahead sign appears. Mr. Line Jumper Guy was the type that rushes all the way up to the lane closure itself and then pushes his way in. The guy behind me was also the type who would do just about anything, possibly including denting fenders, to keep the other guy out of the open lane if given half the chance.

I was smug as another register opened up, I was next, and I took it. Line Jumper guy would have to wait. That was enough for me. But not for the guy behind me.

When I left, the verbal battle was escalating. Name calling was getting ugly and personal.

As a parent, if they'd been kids, I'd have given them each a time out.

Reflecting on it later, we all need to take a personal time out. The human society is getting way too tense, way to wired, way too sleep deprived. We're goin' nuts. We all need a time out!

Note added 9/15/12: As the election season ramps up this is more true than ever. Wealthy individuals are paying for heated rhetoric and are bold in lying about the opponent they feel will profit them least in the 4 years ahead. Division and discord to get their way is par for the course ... and if we end up in tense disputes like the two gents listed here, they couldn't care less ... as long as they get their way. Step back, take a deep breath, a time out, and don't play their game, please! If we can't remain civil, we don't have a civilization worth the name. 

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Writers: Enter Contests to Hone Skills

If you find yourself in that awkward place where you'd really like to be writing in a certain genre but can't quite bring yourself to do it, try this. Enter a contest. Enter a contest that requires short entries. Contests are fun, have the potential for reward, the allure that comes from knowing someone has to read your work, AND best of all, contests all have deadlines. That'll get the ol' juices flowing and before you know it you've started writing in that genre. Don't expect to win but enjoy the process. After that, it'll be easier to keep writing in that genre. Who knows, you might get hooked on writing for contests. Then on to magazines. After that, the sky's (and your talent's) the limit!

Here's a contest I entered at Fiji Island Mermaid Press. An artist had made some quick drawings and your job was to come up with a story to accompany the drawing. I submitted two entries, each for a different drawing. Here's my favorite, although not a prize winner. Oh, by the way, the talented artist who made the drawings is Marti Haykin.

Thinking back now, Bob could clearly see his mistake. It was all rather embarrassing really.

Bob had been off for a weekend alone at his hunting camp. Actually it was just an open glen in the mountains he'd found years ago where he liked to go and hide from the world. Still, living in a rural community, saying he was going hunting gave him a lot more "country road cred" than admitting what he really did. You see, Bob liked to go out in the back woods and get back to nature, all the way back, Dances With Wolves back. Mind you, he'd never found a herd of large herbivores to run with while naked like Kevin Costner, and he half figured he'd get trampled or culled from the herd by wolves or something if he tried, still Bob liked getting naked in the woods.

So there he'd been, relaxing in the early dusk by his campfire just inside the pine grove at the east end of the glen, enjoying his nakedness while the Deep Woods Off kept away all but the most desperate mosquitoes, when it happened. Have you ever noticed that life-changing events just love to sneak up and give you a swift kick in the butt just to keep you off balance? Well, to be honest, neither had Bob - but reflecting back on it from his high perch, holding a banana, Bob understood that to be the case.

Looking up sleepily at the first stars appearing in the summer sky, feeling small but comfortable with that feeling since it was Bob's closest companion, he was surprised to see one star pull itself free of the firmament and begin to swell in size. It grew from star size to planet size to moon size to Glinda the Good Witch's bubble size to Close Encounters of the Third Kind mothership size in no time at all. At first Bob was annoyed at the pedestrian nature of what must surely be a dream. Naked, alone, alien spaceship hovering overhead - all he needed now was the appearance of his high school history teacher, a frail sour man well past retirement age, in leather to make this dream complete. Then a log in the fire popped, an ember struck Bob's foot, he shrieked at the pain, jerking back and overturning the lawn recliner he'd been lying in. Sure, Bob liked getting back to nature but nobody relaxes naked in a pine grove without something to sit on. That would be damned masochistic and that wasn't one of Bob's faults. Disentangling himself from the recliner, which seemed hell-bent on pinning him like a zealous wrestler, it occurred to Bob that this was all too lifelike and painful for even his most vivid dreams.

Looking up again, Bob watched as a massive spiral staircase lowered into the very center of the glen. Bob was impressed, it was a nice touch. Usually, Hollywood motherships had ramps or transporter beams or such but Bob had never imagined a starship with a graceful, spiraling staircase. Very MGM circa 1940. And the massive alien woman who glided down that staircase, a full fifty feet of vertical elegance in motion, cape artfully billowing behind her, wow, what a touch!

Approaching Bob from across the glen, she smiled and batted huge, Betty Davis eyes at him. When she arrived, she knelt gently before him and spoke softly in that perfect English only aficionados of the BBC can cultivate. Bob was swept away by it all, enraptured.

"Hello Earthman," she said. "Come with me and I will make you a banana daiquiri?"

Well, she didn't have to ask Bob twice. He was flattered beyond belief. Nobody had ever offered Bob anything. So how could he refuse? Wondering how alien mixed drinks would taste, Bob allowed himself to be swept away by the voluptuous extraterrestrial.

Now, here he was, reflecting on the vagaries of the English language from his perch high atop alien glassware totally inappropriate for daiquiris (how gauche) in front of a tacky Thomas Kincaid motel art backdrop in what he believed to be an interstellar comedy club.

The only question that remained for Bob as his backside chilled to the temperature of crushed ice was, under the circumstances, whether Bob was performance art or - a beverage?
To see the entry that won, go to the Fiji Island Mermaid Press website, run by impressive print artist Marc Snyder, and check out each entry: Then go find a contest of your own!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Sloggin' Thru Blogging: Social Network Discovery

I have found a way to be social in blogging that has worked to link me to others in the "blogosphere" and generate some response, new blogger. It has taken many months and much trial and error. However, I recommend joining Facebook if you already haven't and through Facebook joining NetworkedBlogs. Once your blog is part of NetworkedBlog's network, go to the discussion forum and answer a few of the discussion topics/questions you find there. Take a look at the other respondent's links to their blogs, leave them comments, and follow their blogs. With a little time and effort, you will discover others will begin to follow you as well and comment on your blog posts. The biggest trick here is that it takes some time and effort. You need to set aside a block of time to be social, to be positive in your responses, and to respond soon.

J.S. Brooks Presents now celebrates passing the 1,000 readers mark (although some of those are me checking on the blog's progress I admit) and almost 400 pages viewed in a month, which is another milestone for this blog. Celebrating the little things keeps blogging interesting and enjoyable. Much the same could be said for daily life I suppose.

Thanks to everyone who has stopped by and who has decided to follow this blog and to comment on the posts. Your attention has been most appreciated. Hopefully you'll like what you read in the future.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Comic Books Reflect Changing Times and Attitudes

I was cleaning out a closet and ran across these two artifacts of an earlier age: two G.I. Joe comics that told of changing times. In The Adventures of G.I. Joe No. 3 Secret Mission to Spy Island we see a clean shaven Joe in military uniform agreeing to undertake a risky mission to retrieve stolen Pentagon documents from Spy Island. Joe can't reach the documents but finds missiles that might be unleased against the US (could Spy Island and its missiles have been a reference to 1960s Cuba?). Joe's solution: set a timed bomb to detonate the missles after he has escaped the island. End result: every nafarious spy on the island goes up in a giant explosion and the island sinks beneath the waves. This is the 1960s G.I.Joe, a soldier and man of decisive action.

In G.I. Joe Adventure Team "White Tiger Hunt" (the very next comic in the series) we now have a bearded Joe who wears the gear of an adventurer. There is no military goal here. Instead there is a white tiger "terroizing a village along a tropical river." Joe's mission, hunt the tiger down and bring him in alive. This is a very different Joe, a 1970s Joe. Vietnam had changed the attitudes of many parents. They no longer wanted their boys playing with soldier toys, including action figures, and Joe was transformed. Military missions were replaced with peaceful adventure.

Surprising what history you'll find in the closet.

To see G.I. Joe's rival in 1966, go the the Captain Action commercial:

How Do Children Grieve?

So, you have to tell your child a loved one has died and you wonder how your little one will respond. According to the Dictionary of Pastoral Care and Counseling (p. 476), you can expect your child to experience three phases in the natural grieving process:
A. First your child may protest. He or she cannot believed the loved one is dead and tries, possibly angrily, to regain that individual.
B. Pain, dispair and disorganization comes next, when your child realizes the loved on is truly gone and not returning.
C. Finally, comes blessed hope, when your child begins to reorganize her or his live without the loved one who has died.

There are some other reactions to death a child may also experience. Grieving is never a clean, orderly process. These other reactions include:

A. Denial
B. Bodily Distress: loss of appetite, nightmares, anxiety, etc.
C. Hostile reactions to the deceased: how could the beloved have done this to me?
D. Hostile reactions to others: if you'd taken better care of the one who had died, he or she would still be with us!
E. Replacement: seeks affections of others to replace the affections of the dead.
F. Assuming mannerisms of the deceased
G. Anxiety
H. Idealization: the child stresses only the good qualities of the lost person, ignoring the dead person's true traits.
I. Panic
J. Guilt

Some of these reactions happen immediately at the time of the loved one's death. Others may be long delayed, and some may never come.

Support your child as he or she grieves. Be present, be loving, be patient. Don't worry all that much about what you say. Think back to when you were small and upset. Do you remember what your Mom or Dad or other caregiver actually said? Or do you remember the feeling of being held close while you sobbed?

May you and your family feel God's presence and love for you all in your time of grief.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Helping a Child Deal with Grief and Loss

There are times in parenting where you feel like you'd rather hide under the covers and wish a situation would just plain go away rather than face it squarely. I wrote Michael and the New Baby in response to my son's fear of soon being an older brother at age six. That was child's play compared to telling a child someone beloved by them has died. (Remember, back in Genesis, God did not want God's children to gain knowledge and understand their own mortality. Having been a parent for a while now, I understand that much better than I ever did before, and sympathize completely!) I faced that unhappy and dread situation some years ago when I had to tell my kids their grandma (my wife's mother) had passed away. We'll get back to that.

First some basic information: kids have heard a lot more about death than you'd like to think. Pictures and stories of death drip from televisions, radios, and newspapers daily. You can be careful but you can't entirely stop a child from overhearing at least some of these dire stories. Then the pet dies, or distant relation, or political or religious leader and children hear about it some more.

According to the Dictionary of Pastoral Care and Counseling (pp. 475-476), there are three stages of understanding children have about death. In short: from 3 to 5 children are likely to deny death's permanence. They consider death like sleep and since they die and rise every night and morning, why shouldn't everybody else? From 5 to 9, children accept the concept someone has died but don't understand this is a universal event that everyone experiences personally eventually. Finally, at age 9 or 10, like Adam and Eve, children discover they too are mortal.

Back to my situation: what did I do? I told my children as gently as I could that their grandma had died and was with God now. I kept it to a level understandable by young children with six years separating them. It wasn't easy. For a while I worried that there might have been a better way, especially as my children's tears flowed and I held them through it. I won't go into detail, some things are too personal for a public forum. I stayed with them while they wept. We grieved together. I stayed close to let them have my comforting presence despite my own distress.

Here's what the DPCC recommends clergy do, and I recommend it for parents as well:
1. Do not avoid the topic of personal death (denial never helps)
2. Do not discourage emotions of grief
3. Do not tell a child a euphemism, half-truth, etc. Honesty, though painful, is best.
4. Do share your religious convictions as to faith, God, immortality, prayer, and death.
5. Surround the grieving with supportive people who will model God's love and presence for them.
6. Remember that the process of adjustment to the loss takes far longer than the funeral to occur.
7. Be human: express your own emotions of grief. Don't be afraid to shed a tear when dealing with a child in pain.

It isn't easy to do, telling a child a loved one has died but it can be done well. Be gentle, be honest, be present. Pray before, during, and after the event. And please, carry with you the certain knowledge that others have walked the dreaded passage you are currently walking or are about to travel and we all have great sympathy for your and your loved ones in this time of trial. You will pass through this, your loved ones will pass through this, you all will walk in the light again. God is with you. We who have gone before you are with you. God bless you and guide you in what you must do.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Moment of Prayer, a Call for Action

My prayers go out to the people of Haiti. May help arrive soon and in many forms after that terrible earthquake.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

In the Running I Guess

J.S. Brooks Presents is proud to announce that NetworkedBlog has rated this blog 27 (or was it 28?) out of 50 blogs under the "childrens book blog" (under 20 followers) category. Some kind soul gave us a 5 star rating to boot. Aw shucks. We're blushing. And Thanks!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Parents: Simple Props Fire Young Imaginations

When I was little, I was a big Superman fan ... this is back in the day before dark, angst ridden heroes and anti-heroes. One day, my parents, brought home a prop that opened up a whole world of possibilities. With a quick change in my room, there were no phone boothes in our house, I was the Man of Steel. This led to memorable hours of active, tearing about saving Metropolis from crime. I wrote about it in the open of a sermon last year:
"As I was researching the verses for today’s sermon, I was struck by the way Jesus just didn't match people's expectations for a Messiah there by the river Jordan. He just wasn’t the sort of character people thought they wanted to lead them. He wasn't the conquering king or muscle bound, sword swinging hero people felt comfortable hanging their hopes and dreams on. He wasn't the sort little kids were going to pretend to be when they played at heroes and villains. But then, humanity has a long history of backing the wrong leader and imitating the attractive but all too often unreliable role model. For me, when I was little, one of my heroes was Superman, the Man of Steel. Now there was a hero a little kid could look up to. He could bust through walls, bend guns with his bare hands, melt stuff with heat vision, defy overbearing adults at will (always an impressive attribute to a little kid), and fake people out simply by putting on a pair of glasses. If you started wearing glasses when you were little like me, you know exactly how impressive that last characteristic is! But best of all to me was, Superman could fly. Just a quick "Up, Up, and Away" and he was gone. Oh yes, I was a big fan. I watched all the episodes, I built the model, and best of all I had the costume. Put that costume on and your imagination just soared as you swooshed and skidded your way around the house in your socks, cape flapping, and arms held out in proper Superman aerodynamic flight pose. It was easy to get carried away by it all. The makers of that suit came to understand just how far a hero-emulating little kid might go and they put a small cautionary note on the side of the suit's shirttail. It read, "Remember: This suit won't make you fly. Only Superman can fly." That little warning really put a damper on things, especially the first time you took the costume out of the box. Much of the guidance and many of the actions of Jesus are a lot like that little warning. Jesus tempers our wilder imaginings and calls us away from our more grandiose worldly plots and plans. In fact, Jesus' ministry blazed a trail for us all that continues to defy our expectations. We are called to servant-hood and community in a society that idolizes conquest and rugged individualism. Jesus and the life he calls us to live just aren't what we expected."
For those of you who are old enough, Bob Keeshan (a.k.a. Captain Kangaroo) wrote in Growing Up Happy (I highly recommend it for new parents, whether you knew the good Cap'n or not) that allowing a child to grow their imagination was a wonderful gift. So, if you want to grow your child's imagination, never mind the high tech toys and battery operated or electic powered games, just get 'em a simple prop. That Superman suit kept me and my brother imagining for hours. Six years apart, we each got our chance to wear the red cape and play the hero in the very same suit. It now rests in a place of honor in our parent's home, a reminder of all those hours spent saving Metropolis and growing an active imagination, one that would eventually allow me to write a children's fiction story to help my son with a difficult passage. All those hours of imaginative play eventually led to Michael and the New Baby. Give your child the chance, give her or him a simple prop and watch 'em go!

Up, up, and awaaay!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

One Terrorist Goal is to Sow Fear: Resist!

Do you want to be a member of the terrorism resistance force? Do you want to resist the gnawing fear and alienation sown by terrorists' acts? You can. You should. You must! Here's one step you can take. Be counter-cultural, be anti-terror, get to know your neighbors. Grow a sense of civil community in your neighborhood. Encourage others to join the battle. Encourage everyone you know to put down the cell phone, get off the social networking pages, unplug the iPods and MP3 players for a while and make face to face contact with everyone around you. It's a lot of work, sure, but here's why it's vital and part of a sane resistance movement.

The Dictionary of Pastoral Care and Counseling, pages 430-431, defines fear as "A rational reaction to an objective identifiable external danger, which may involve flight or attack in self-defense." However, the Dictionary goes on to define fear grown to excess, fear gone haywire, the very fear terrorists are trying to sow, "In neurotic anxiety, by contrast, the emotional arousal is just as strong but the danger is internal, neither identifiable nor shared as a common threat by others in the situation."

Terrorists want us to generate our own internal terrors. They can't be everywhere at once but they'd love us to think they are. They'd love us to wonder if the new neighbor down the street is one of them and for us to pull back into our shells...something we in the West have become very good at...and quake in terror, to freeze up and do nothing, to become bitter and cynical and divisive in our social lives and in our politics.

This was illustrated well in an old Twilight Zone episode, "It Happened on Maple Street." Unexplainable things began to happen on Maple Street and soon the inhabitants of the street were living in fear and at each other's throats. When chaos broke out, one instigator of the inexplicable events turned to the other and asked if this could happen anywhere. The response was, "Of course, there are Maple Streets everywhere." Terrorists want us all living on Maple Street, fearful, isolated, violent. Deny them!

Proactive steps in denying fear: the first I've stated, get to know those around you. Befriend others and know that they are not terrorists. Develop community and community activities to strengthen those bonds of friendship and love. Another step is to let others around you know that you are there to support them. You are present with them and ready to help and they need not feel isolated and alone and afraid. Doing these things, you provide everyone in your community with a reality check. Together you discover that there is no terrorist in your midst and that you are stronger together than you are alone. Fear diminishes to normal levels and trust blooms, outreach begins, terrorism is fought peacefully and socially. If you are of a religious orientation, pray for each other and worship in your local churches. There you will grow another strong community and again be able to defend against terrorism. Offer to pray for and with those who are fearful if they so desire. Help them to get their fear under control. Strengthen people's understanding that God is with them, God is present for them just as you are, and God offers them the beautiful gift of grace. As stated in Romans 8:38-39: "neither death, nor life ... nor anything else in all creation can separate us." Once these things are done, you will have come far in resisting terrorism in the community where you live.

Resist today! God bless you and keep you. I, for one, stand with you. Now, excuse me, I have to shut down the computer, step outside, and join the resistance.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Keeping Young Children Happy in Public

You want to take your younger children out with you to a restaurant but you're afraid the wait will drive them nuts and then they will drive everyone around you nuts. You want to take your small children on a long drive but dread the "Are we there yet?" question you'll hear every five minutes after the first half hour. You think you'll never see a restaurant better than McDonald's or Pizza Hut again (not that I have anything against either of these fast food establishments mind you). You're afraid you'll never see relatives that live more than a few miles down the road in their lifetimes. You feel trapped. Try this.

Get your children engaged in a game my wife and I oh so originally called "Can You Find." All you do is look around, pick out an object in the public place or along the highway and ask your child "Can you find the red flower?" or whatever your eyes land on. Start with easy things and as your child gets good at finding those, start selecting objects that are a little harder to find. To keep things fair, alternate between yourself and your children, allowing them to select objects and ask you to find them as well. It's a great way to pass the time and you'll be surprised how much there is to choose from.

If you're playing this game in a public place (please not in the library or movie theater during the show when silence is required), one of the great moments comes when you notice other people starting to play along with you. They try not to let it show, but soon enough the eyes of other adults are sliding around the room trying to find the object as well.

Simple as it is, this game allowed us to eat out at places other than burger joints and kept our kids happily waiting in line for the movie or riding down the highway until they nodded off. Hope it works for you too.

If you have other methods (like whipping out a copy of my book Michael and the New Baby and keeping kids engrossed -- hey I've got to plug this thing sometimes), please let me know. Passing your methods along will give other parents some much needed freedom! It's all in a good cause, so don't be shy!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Lunar Lava Tube May Be Astronauts' Home

CNN reported January 2, 2010, that a large lava tube on the moon in the Marius Hills region may be suitable for a long-term colony of lunar explorers. The cave created by the lava tube, plunging straight into the lunar surface, measures roughly 213 feet wide by 260 feet deep. This large hole in the ground would provide ample protection from both meteor strikes and harsh UV rays from above and wildly changing temperatures at the surface.

While NASA seeks to return to the moon by 2020 and have a temporary base established there within five years of first arrival, cave dwelling is not currently on their horizon. Ice deposits at the moon's pole are far more interesting to the American space agency at this time.

It is interesting however to note that future lunar explorers surrounded by high tech equipment and habitats may find the cave dwelling lifestyle of our ancient ancestors to be the best strategy for life in a harsh environment.

The more things change, the more they stay the same, as they say. Wherever they decide to stay, I hope humanity returns to the moon soon, this time to stay and move on toward more ambitious destinations.

(Apollo moon mission image and moon base concept image courtesy of NASA)

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Parents: How to Keep Kids Sane on Long Trips

As kids get older and you take long car trips, invest in a portable DVD movie viewer or a car with one built in. When you have this equipment available to you, have your children review the movies you have and pick out movies for the road trip. The criteria that we find most useful is to pick out movies that have a lot of dialogue so that the front seat passenger and driver can share in the fun more fully. Our children are teens now and here are a few movies that work for us with lots of dialogue to keep those who can't see the pictures engaged (and awake while driving ... most important don't you think?):

Driving Miss Daisy

Waking Ned Divine

A Christmas Story

The Incredibles

Monsters, Inc.

Ironman (there are a few explosive stretches and flying sequences without dialogue but they are limited)

The idea is to pick movies together and enjoy them as a family on the road. It helps pass the time and creates a group activity during those long hours rolling down the highways and byways.

What say you readers? What dialogue heavy movies would you recommend?

Update: Recent movies for kids, perhaps younger, worth checking, even if the dialogue isn't as profuse would include:

Wreck It Ralph
Road to El Dorado

The Avengers for older kids.

For the more adult audience with great dialogue, I'd include Lincoln.

Michael and the New Baby Goes High Tech

J.S. Brooks Presents, the blog promoting my children's book Michael and the New Baby, providing writer's advice and experience from a writer himself, opinions, parenting tips and experiences, and whatever else occurs to me whenever I have time to write, is now part of the high tech communication world. I've now got a high speed connection.

Sometimes it seems a little glitchy for no reason I'm sure of but it might have to do with my 6+ year old computer. We shall see. The good news is, more writing will be done faster. The bad news is, more writing will be done faster. Yee haw!

So far, I have to say, one benefit of a high speed connection is that I can nurture my inner nerd with free episodes of "Star Trek" (The Original Series) whenever I darn well please. The special effects can't hold a candle to those of the new Star Trek movie, but returning to much loved old episodes is like being reintroduced to old friends you haven't seen in many years.

Sloggin' Thru Blogging New Year

It's just a few months short of a year since I started blogging to shamelessly promote my children's book: Michael and the New Baby. Being a new year, it's time to assess. Here's what I know: the experts say it takes a blog 6 months to 1 year to take off ... provided you write almost constantly. Well, I don't have the time to write constantly and the blog has yet to take off. I've got a few months left, but a long way to go. So, intrepid new blogger, write a lot, making sure you don't have a degree you're trying to complete while working full time while having a family life. Blogging apparently takes a heck of a lot more time and dedication than this author has available to make it work well. I wish you luck.
Related to this, the more you write, the higher your blog appears on the search engine listings. So write often and well. Still, remember, millions are doing the same, some making their living at it. Keep your expectations modest.

You also need to know that while many people stop in to see one article, they won't often read another. It's the nature of the beast. People want to show up to pick up on one particular article, glean a little info or entertainment and move on.

Short articles are best. People don't care to spend much time with a blog, not nearly as much as they would with a magazine article. Can't say why, but I feel the same way myself.

Also, don't expect response ... unless you are tremenously charismatic or tremendously controversial. I'm neither, the first by accident of birth or something and the second by choice. Neither comment nor mere button click opinion. This was surprising to me, but I'm gettin' used to it ... darn it! Prove me wrong this year, I dare you. If you crave response, set up a Myspace or Facebook account. You'll get more response from your friends than you will from anonymous blog readers.

Thanks to all who have stopped by in the past year. I'm hoping you'll return in the near future with many of your friends. I'll try to write some stuff worth your time and effort coming by. See you again soon ... I hope!

Writers: Never Burn Your Bridges

Let me tell you a story ... Once upon a time there was a writer who penned dramas for his church. This scribbler had enjoyed success having a series of short monologues published by a Christian drama publishing house. Encouraged by that early success, the writer sent a one act play to the same publisher. This publisher asked the writer to wait 6 months for this work, something for Easter, to be reviewed in the proper season. He agreed and waited (and tried not to be anxious). The play was rejected in due course. The author was disappointed, but being familiar with rejection, he swallowed his pride and thanked the editor and the publishing house for their consideration in a professional manner. One year later, the same publishing house and editor wrote to the once disappointed writer and asked to publish the very same play, which will come out this year.

You can see the end result, the advertisement for the play, here:

The moral of the story is to never, ever burn your bridges with a publisher or an editor (no matter how disappointed you become). You never know what your professionalism will do for you in the future. But, as you can see, editors and publishers remember the professional folks and turn to them again. They also remember the writers who acted like childish jerks and write them off. No matter how much it hurts dear writers, be professional, be polite, treat them as you hope they will one day treat you. You never know where it will lead.

Have a fruitful and well published 2010.

Happy New Year from Michael and the New Baby

Okay, so the last few months of 2009 were bad months from writing on the ol' blog. Sorry about that intrepid readers, whoever you may be. With luck 2010 will be a better year ... but I'm still a part time seminarian and full time writer, editor, father, and husband. It makes things tricky. That said (excuses made), I'm wishing everyone around the world a happy new year filled with peace, love, and the meeting of all life's basic needs. Hoping the new decade will not be defined by tragedy and warfare but by better times, a more peaceful world, and a greener humanity.

J.S. Brooks