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, October 27, 2012

Observing a Time of Silence to Mourn a Loss

J.S. Brooks will fall silent for a time as we mourn the passing and celebrate the life of a beloved family member. A person of strength, truth, and love, a much loved child of God whom we will miss greatly but whom we know is now in the arms of our loving God. We will meet again one fine day.

I'll leave you with a passage from Brian D McLaren's Naked Spirituality to consider before I go:

As we approach our death, we will have our walk on the beach [this passage speaks of Jesus meeting several of his disciples on the beach after Jesus' resurrection], our opportunity to say yes to God even in death. We will see that life itself is a gift that we are in the end asked to let go of for the sake of others. We will relinquish our space here so someone else may fill it; we will vacate our room so someone else may have a place to stay. We do this in love for future generations, just as past generations did for us, trusting that we will receive an even greater gift of an even more wonderful life for having relinquished this one. Will we say yes?
[Author speaking of his own death] And my yes of surrender and trust will allow me to let go of this life and fall not into a bottomless pit of darkness, but into love, into light, into God, into the company of all our ancestors who are upheld in God's love, into a fullness of life that I cannot even imagine now. That falling will be a rising.
Someone very close to me has given that final yes. As I write this with tears of grief for my loss, for my family's loss, clouding my eyes, my grief is tempered by knowing where that final yes has taken her. She is now rising in the love and joy of God.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Station View of Hurricane Sandy -- Pass 1

 Hurricane Sandy is headed our way in southeastern Pennsylvania. Our hometown site has some practical advice and some level headed predictions. They state we should expect between Monday and Wednesday to receive 5+ inches of rain, possibly 2+ days of power failures, and 70 mile an hour winds. Will it happen? Who knows for sure. But here she is from the ISS headed our way.

The weather channel says if it converges with that cold air mass coming south from the great white north we could be in for an unpleasant "hybrid" storm that could be the worst of a very long time. The advice is put away any outside objects that could become projectiles, remove window screens for the same reason, get your necessities for a couple of days without power, and prepare for some weather enforced family time.

At the local grocery, while talking to the pharmacist and a worker in the bakery, I found out that the bottled water was already gone ... but they had a special order coming in tomorrow. So, it'll be a busy day at the stores as bread, toilet paper, and water fly off the shelves. Batten down the hatches and hope they're wrong. I have to say, though, it was unsettling to hear a Weather Channel forecaster say that the track of this hurricane and the possible convergence of several unsettling air masses into a "Frankenstorm" (just in time for Halloween) was something that had not been seen before.

This reminds me of the warning scientists have been providing for years concerning global warming. They state that weather events will all be more severe as the planetary temperatures rise. As for deniers, many places around the world shake their heads in disbelief as the deniers in the US rail on against this human-made threat. Why are they so certain it really exists? Simple, they're suffering from the consequences already. Our turn is coming soon enough, I imagine.

So, here's hoping everyone in this storm's path will stay safe and come through this unscathed. May the storm tracks change and those various weather systems miss each other. If not, hold onto your hats.

If the power stays on, I'll keep you informed on what happens around here when the storm hits ... or doesn't. Stay safe, folks.

If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at:

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Coming Down the Mountain for the Sake of Others: Good News From Christianity

In seminary I was taught that 51% of today's churches in America are wrapped up solely in self-care. They do not reach out into the community around them in any way. It is as if their church is a mighty mountain top retreat into which they remove themselves from the world to await Jesus' second coming. They do not come down to serve. However, in doing so, they miss the opportunity to help themselves while helping others.

God isn't finished with us yet. And so the Spirit of God says, "Come on. Let's go. Follow me. Follow me down, deeper down and deeper in. For the sake of others. And for your own well-being too." And when our hearts say yes, we enter into the next spiritual practice, the practice of consecration and commitment, surrender and submission.
It surprises many people to hear God call them down. We think God is up. We're trained by the ladder of success to think it's for climbing, not descending. But God's mobility is opposite to our own. ... God-in-Christ [came] down to a poor and humble woman, down into her womb, down into a stable, down into hay. And that's just the beginning. When Jesus comes of age, he doesn't climb a mountain and live above the fray in a contemplative cave or commune. No, after a brief period in the wilderness, he moves continually down into the mess of human history. He moves down into the struggles of human politics and economics, down into the ugliness of human ignorance and misunderstanding, down into the horror of human injustice and bigotry, down even into the tragedy of human violence and murder. 
For a while, it was all the rage to ask WWJD, "What would Jesus do?" This short passage makes it quite clear what Jesus has done, what Jesus does, and what Jesus will do. Jesus stands among the poor and outcast and calls for us all to come down. Today 20% of the U.S. population self-identifies as totally unaffiliated with any religion. These folks range from the spiritual but not religious to the atheists. That number will continue to grow unless the people who make up the churches today, head God's call to come down and follow Jesus down into the strife and struggle that makes up so much of human existence. As the author states, God calls us down not only for the good of others but for the good of ourselves. Come on down and help yourself as you help others. You'll need to keep asking yourself WWJD to keep your bearings in the struggle, but I believe you'll find it well worth your while. Come on down the all the volunteer organizations helping others in your community for a start. Help yourself, help others, and bring God joy. Come down.

If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at:

Friday, October 19, 2012

For Halo Fans: Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn

 The crew bringing the new Halo 4 video game to market in November have seen to the creation of a live action video series entitled Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn. The actors and crew have put together a compelling and well made series of short episodes. This is the first of three available as of this writing. New episodes will show up every Friday on YouTube. I recommend you subscribe to Machinima Prime to keep up with the new episodes. These are great little cliff hangers. Enjoy.

If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at:

Where No Shuttle Has Gone Before: Space Shuttle Endeavour's Nightmare Commute Through Los Angeles

 Endeavor's last and nearly most difficult adventure ever. The real challenge came from those heat tiles, which are great at absorbing high heat but terrible at absorbing even small impacts. So LA cleared the roads, the curbs, and the electric lines for Endeavor's final mission.

If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at:

Voter Defiance in Southeastern Pennsylvania

It was inspirational to see the turn out in southeastern Pennsylvania at the end of September at the Department of Motor Vehicles. The back half of the room was packed with individuals of many ages and races waiting (patiently or not) to get their official, state approved photo ID so they could vote. The front half of the room was filled with determined drivers renewing their driver's licenses (mine would have expired on November 6 and I was making sure it would be renewed well before that important day). Both groups expressed a determination NOT to be turned away from the voting booth on November 6th. Of course, Pennsylvanians had an unusual gauntlet dropped before them by Republican State Representative Mike Turzai, who had stated in a surprising fit of raw honesty how Pennsylvania's voter ID law (supported by many Republican and few if any Democratic politicians) would "will allow Romney to win presidential election" in our state. 

This was prior to the court judgment that the law could not be enacted in time for this election in November. Still, I for one hope the turnout at Pennsylvania's DMV's will continue to surge ahead in preparation for round two on this issue after the elections. The future of the law is in doubt, but the determination of Pennsylvanians to never be turned away from the ballot boxes around the state is alive and kicking. It looks like Pennsylvanians will defy the apparent intent of this law to turn away many of the state's poorer and older citizens, groups the lawmakers in Harrisburg seem to think are all on the Democratic side of the ticket. 

Oh yes, one more thing. This Pennsylvania ruling apparently came down too late for several large organizations to change their mailings to customers. If you receive mail stating you must have photo ID to vote in this election in the state of Pennsylvania, do not be deterred. It's not true. Go vote, whichever side you choose to vote for, just make sure you get out and VOTE. 

If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at:

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Newly Discovered Planet Nearby: A fly-through of the Alpha Centauri system

 Science and science fiction continue to converge. The Europeans have discovered a small, roughly earth-sized planet circling close to Alpha Centauri B, one of the stars in a two star system. It is only an astronomical stones throw away at 4.5 light years. Astronomers hope that with the finding of one small planet around this star, other, more habitable planets may be found there as well. Here's hoping and waiting to see what else turns up. Now if we could only develop warp drive or a jump gate or hyperspace engines, we'd be in business.

If you'd like to see a run down on sci-fi books, films, TV shows, and comics that use the Alpha Centauri system as a first port of call from earth, follow this link:

If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at:

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Laughter is Okay, Really: Good News from Christianity

I've been reading a wonderful book, Jesus Laughed: The Redemptive Power of Humor, by Robert Darden. Author Darden exposes a long history of dour theologies meant for the best but producing the worst. Laughter and humor were long felt to be an uncontrollable and highly suspect behaviors associated with the unwashed masses and certainly not behaviors for the saints of the church. Long did theologians and priest and ministers proclaim that Jesus himself never laughed and Paul spent much of his time weeping through life for the ills of humanity. Life was grim and only improved when you died. Laughter was sin. Humor odious. To quote the author,
You control humor the same way you control anything in the religious world--you declare it a sin (maybe even a mortal sin) or call it heresy. As one Christian writer who could be very, very funny when he wanted to, G.K. Chesterton, put it, "Every heresy has been an effort to narrow the church."
This has left many church congregations in the unenviable position of sitting stolidly through Sunday services, limited to an occasional polite chuckle at a ministers very tepid joke. This is especially true in largely Caucasian churches (our brethren of color have livened things up, much to their credit, in many cases) and we have been aptly labeled, "the frozen chosen." Fortunately, such does not need to be the case anymore. As the author states, some churches are seeing the light and looking on the light side of life, to paraphrase The Life of Brian. To all those whose lives have been negatively impacted by this sour outlook, I apologize in a way that dates me, "Well, Excuuussseee Meeee!"

We can be merry. There is humor in the Bible if you look for it. There is joy aplenty and reasons for joyful noises of all sorts, including laughter. There are brilliant books written to help pastors lighten things up, including The Gospel According the Peanuts and The Gospel According to Doctor Seuss. I recommend these both to anyone who wishes to see Christianity from the lighter side. This is not a brand new thing either. George Macdonald, a writer of the 19th century much admired by J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis declared in 1871,

I wonder how many Christians there are who so thoroughly believe God made them that they can laugh in God's name; who understand that God invented laughter and gave it to His children. Such belief would add a keeness to the zest in their enjoyment, and slay that feeble laughter in which neither heart nor intellect has a share. It would help them also to understand the depth of this miracle. The Lord of gladness delights in the laughter of a merry heart. 

Who am I to argue with such logic. As also pointed out in this wonderful little book, Jesus' first miracle was turning water to wine at a wedding and thereby spreading joy and laughter to the wedding couple and their guests. The first miracle brought joy with it and we who claim to follow Jesus should spread joy and laughter wherever we go. When I attended the Comic Con convention last week, I was struck by the enthusiasm, friendliness, and joy of the participants and found myself asking, why can't church be like this? Why can't we Christians be like this? Well, the good news from Christianity today is that we can, we should, we must. All good things come from God and laughter well used can be a very good thing. So, go ahead, laugh. Who knows where that will take you and who you might inspire.

If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at:

Felix Baumgartner's supersonic freefall from 128k' - Mission Highlights

Here's Red Bull's take on the jump they funded. Great views from the capsule and from one of the cameras on Felix's suit. I expect more impressive videos to come as they edit the whole footage. One of the key moments comes when the atmosphere becomes thick enough for Baumgartner to control his descent. In the footage you see him go from spiraling in to a controlled delta flight position.

Congratulations to everyone involved.

If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at: