Thursday, June 19, 2008

Akeelah and the Bee

This is a fun and moving film about an eleven year old girl's quest to get to the national spelling bee. At first she has no interest in doing a spelling bee, but others who see her great talent encourage her and with the help of a coach (Lawrence Fishburne--I think he's awesome), she starts to develop more confidence and works hard to compete with students who are older and have had more privileged upbringings.

Now awhile back, I would have thought watching a movie about kids spelling would be the most boring thing ever. But one night I saw the national spelling bee on TV, and I actually enjoyed it. It was really fascinating to see these kids and the gift they have. And too, this movie is about more than spelling--it's about relationships, healing after loss, developing confidence in one's self.

One of my favorite parts of this movie is when various people in Akeelah's family (even the gang banging brother) and people in the community help Akeelah study, and then when she makes it to the bee, them watching her on TV and rooting for her. I thought it was cool how everyone rallied around her.

Skee Ball

Skee Ball is awesome! I love playing it when I go to an arcade. You roll balls up an inclined lane trying to get them to go into holes to get scoring. Different holes have different scoring values. If you can get balls into the holes with high point values, you can get a high score and earn lots of tickets which you can then use to buy cheap prizes. I can end up playing Skee Ball for a long time; it's very addicting for me.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


I have always preferred McDonald's to Burger King and other similar burger joints. Though I don't recommend a steady diet of McDonald's (which will lead to obesity), there are many delicious foods, and having some of these things once in awhile is a treat. McDonald's fries are the best. I love the cheeseburgers, Big Macs, fish fillets, and chicken nuggets. For breakfast Egg McMuffins are great or any of the sandwiches on biscuits. The iced coffee drinks they have now are pretty good (and a lot cheaper than Starbucks), and Shamrock shakes they have around St. Patrick's Day (and apparently offer even beyond that now), are tasty. There are just so many things I like there! I still get Happy Meals sometimes which is good for portion control, plus you get a toy. The one thing I really don't like from McDonald's is the McRib sandwich. I got one years ago, and it was lousy, and I've never been able to bring myself to have another one since, though so many people love them!

Joe Heller The Press-Gazette, Green Bay, WI (6/12/08)

"Say" John Mayer

By John Mayer
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Take all of your wasted honor
Every little past frustration
Take all of your so-called problems,
Better put 'em in quotations

Say what you need to say [x8]

Walking like a one man army
Fighting with the shadows in your head
Living out the same old moment
Knowing you'd be better off instead,
If you could only ...

Say what you need to say [x8]

Have no fear for giving in
Have no fear for giving over
You'd better know that in the end
It's better to say too much
Then never say what you need to say again

Even if your hands are shaking
And your faith is broken
Even as the eyes are closing
Do it with a heart wide open

My friend Caryn and I were just discussing this song recently. She was talking about how she doesn't care for the song, that she doesn't like how redundant the chorus is. Though I can see where she's coming from, I really dig this song. I like it musically, and I like the message of this song. There are too many people who put off saying things that are important. Like, "I love you." Like "I'm sorry." Like "I forgive you." Sometimes it takes a lot of courage to say what you need to say. But life is short. And it's better to take a chance and speak your heart. I agree that, "It's better to say too much, than to never say what you need to say." Good words to live by. This song is from the movie The Bucket List, which I look forward to seeing.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Ocean's Thirteen

The third in this series of movies, this features the same ensemble cast from Ocean's Eleven and Ocean's Twelve (minus Julia Roberts). Al Pacino is also in this movie as Willy Bank, owner of a large hotel and casino. The gang conspires against Bank to make him lose money and the sought after five diamond award after Bank strongarms Reuben in a business deal leaving Reuben crushed and ill. I like that the setting is back in a casino, and it is fun to watch the elaborate plan of the gang unfold.

Monday, June 16, 2008


In this video game, the player maneuvers Q*bert, an orange creature with a tubular nose, around a pyramid. The purpose is to jump on the squares changing them to a certain color. The formations change, and later on it gets more complicated because if you hop on a square a second time, it goes back to its original color, so you have to be strategic in where you hop. And complicating things more are creatures who will cause you to lose a life if they touch you, like Coily, the purple snake. It's also possible to accidentally cause Q*bert to jump off the edge of the pyramid, which of course results in a lost life.

When I was a kid, I had Q*bert for the Atari 2600 (the game came out in '82 originally). A few years ago, I was thinking about this game, and thought it would be so cool to play it again, but I couldn't find it. Then I was at the store the other day and found it for the computer. Q*bert lives! I'm having fun playing again, but it's taken me awhile to get used to controlling him again.

Nothing says 80s like Q*bert!

Deuteronomy 8:17-18

17 You may say to yourself, "My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me." 18 But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today.

This passage really struck me yesterday when I read it, because I think there are a lot of people who think they take care of themselves and deserve what they have because they work for it. But like the passage says, it is God Who gives people the ability to work. God is responsible for all the good things we have. We can do nothing without Him, and would have nothing if it weren't for Him providing for us.

"Wake, Awake, for Night is Flying"

"Wake, awake, for night is flying,"
The watchmen on the heights are crying:
"Awake, Jerusalem, arise!"
Midnight hears the welcome voices
And at the thrilling cry rejoices:
"Oh where are ye, ye virgins wise?
The Bridegroom comes, awake!
Your lamps with gladness take!
With bridal care
Yourselves prepare
To meet the Bridegroom, who is near."

Zion hears the watchmen singing,
And all her heart with joy is springing;
She wakes, she rises from her gloom.
For her Lord comes down all glorious,
The strong in grace, in truth victorious;
Her star is ris'n, her light is come.
Now come, Thou Blessed One,
Lord Jesus, God's own Son.
Hail! Hosanna!
We enter all
The wedding hall
To eat the Supper at Thy call.

Now let all the heav'ns adore Thee,
Let saints and angles sing before Thee
With harp and cymbals' clearest tone.
Of one pearl each shining portal,
Where, joining with the choir immortal,
We gather round Thy radiant throne.
No eye has seen the light,
No ear has heard the might
Of Thy glory;
Therefore will we
Sing hymns of praise and joy to Thee!

Text and Tune: Philipp Nicolai (tr. Catherine Winkworth)

I have always loved the music of this hymn. And the words give wonderful imagery of our victorious Lord, the Bridegroom, coming. There is no need to be afraid of end times; we know by faith in Christ we are ready for our Lord's coming and have so much to look forward to. We can't begin to imagine how awesome heaven will be, but we can take comfort right now as we go through the struggles of everyday life, that since we have faith in Christ, His victory is ours, and we will reign with Him.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Ocean's Twelve

This 2004 film is the sequel to Ocean's Eleven and features the same great ensemble cast (including George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, etc. Though this movie was criticized by people, including some of the stars who appeared in it, I enjoy it. Like Ocean's Eleven, it's a good caper film. It's fun and very enjoyable; not sure why people didn't like it.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

I love how this passage speaks of how we need to be surrounded with God's Word all the time, and remembering it and speaking of it all the time and wherever we go. God is very clear here in saying parents need to be spiritual leaders and teachers of the faith to their children. Unfortunately, a lot of parents today aren't assuming that role. Churches need to build up and equip parents and teach them how to be those teachers of the faith to their children.


A cannoli consists of a tube filled shell of fried pastry dough filled with a sweet, creamy filling, usually containing ricotta cheese or Mascarpone, blended with some combination of vanilla, chocolate, pistachio, Marsala wine, rosewater or other flavorings. Sometimes chocolate chips or cherry pieces are added. It's interesting to get cannolis from different places, cause everyone seems to put their own spin on it. Very tasty!

Anheuser-Busch Brewery--St. Louis, Missouri

At the Anheuser-Busch Brewery in St. Louis, you have the opportunity to see how its products are made. Even though I am not a big beer drinker, I have enjoyed visiting the brewery. On the tour, you see the brewhosue, the beechwood aging cellars, the packaging facilities and so on. And I really enjoy seeing the Clydesdales. Those over 21 get complimenatary samples of products after the tour.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Amazing Grace (Movie)

This 2006 movie is about William Wilberforce, a Christian, politician, and abolitionist who was responsible for steering anti-slave trade legislation through the British parliament in the 18th/early 19th century. The title refers to the hymn "Amazing Grace" written by John Newton. In the movie, Wilberforce goes to Newton several times for guidance, and the hymn is an inspiration to Wilberforce throughout the years. This movie is very inspiring. Wilberforce had such faith, determination to make the world better, and compassion for all people.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

"Hope to Carry On" Caedmon's Call/Rich Mullins

I can see Jesus hanging on the cross
I can see Jesus hanging on the cross
I can see Jesus hanging on the cross
He came looking for the lost

And Love has come
Love has come
Love has come
And it's giving me hope to carry on

I can hear Jesus saying, "Father forgive"
I can hear Jesus saying, "Father forgive"
I can hear Jesus saying, "Father forgive"
What a thing He did

And Love has come
Love has come
Love has come
And it's giving me hope to carry on

I can see Love
Love is all I want to see
Love can make a beggar rich, it can set a prisoner free
I know He can do it for you
And God knows He did it for me

I can see Love
Love is all I want to show you. Love,
Love's the only way to go. And love,
Love is all a man might need to know
Yes, I know

You know Peter put away his sword
I can see Peter puttin' away his sword
I can see Peter, he put away his sword
He won't fight no more

Love has come
Love has come
Love has come
And it's giving me hope to carry on
Gotta carry on

What an awesome song speaking of the hope we have in Christ! Rich Mullins wrote this song and performed it originally. And I really enjoy the Caedmon's Call version of it. Great message and music.

Rich Mullins version
Caedmon's Call version

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article XX Good Works (paragraph 87)--Philip Melanchthon

"As the saying goes, at the top of his voice, Paul cries out that sins are freely forgiven for Christ's sake. 'It depends on faith,' he says, 'in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed' (Romans 4:16; see also Romans 3:24-25). If the promise were to depend upon our works, it would not be sure. If forgiveness of sins were to be given because of our works, when would we know that we had received it? When would a terrified conscience find a work that it would consider good enough to reconcile God's anger?"

Gateway Arch--St. Louis, Missouri

At 630 feet, the Arch is the tallest national monument in the United States. It is part of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial site. The Arch weighs 17,246 tons and was made with nine hundred tons of stainless steel. It is really fun to ride in the little tram up to the top and look out over the city. Looking at it from a distance, it looks so narrow on top, like people wouldn't be able to fit up there! I have been to the top a couple times. The Museum of Westward Expansion at the Arch is pretty interesting--you can learn all about the history of the west, Lewis and Clark, and American Indians. The Arch is such an awesome icon.


Airplane came out in 1980. This is one of those silly spoof movies. It spoofs mostly disaster type movies, but also some others too. There are many funny moments in this movie, but trying to tell them here wouldn't really get the humor across--you just have to see it. When I need something really silly to watch, something you can just laugh at and not think too much about, this is one of the movies I go to. And through the years, I've found different things funny different times I've watched the movie.

The dialogue probably everyone remembers from Airplane:
Ted: Surely you can't be serious.
Dr. Rumack: (deadpan) I am serious. And don't call me Shirley.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Psalm 145

A psalm of praise.
Of David.

1 I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name for ever and ever.
2 Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever.
3 Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom.
4 One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts.
5 They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty, and I will meditate on your wonderful works.
6 They will tell of the power of your awesome works, and I will proclaim your great deeds.
7 They will celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.
8 The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.
9 The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.
10 All you have made will praise you, O LORD; your saints will extol you.
11 They will tell of the glory of your kingdom and speak of your might,
12 so that all men may know of your mighty acts and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations. The LORD is faithful to all his promises and loving toward all he has made.
14 The LORD upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.
15 The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time.
16 You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.
17 The LORD is righteous in all his ways and loving toward all he has made.
18 The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.
19 He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them.
20 The LORD watches over all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy.
21 My mouth will speak in praise of the LORD. Let every creature praise his holy name for ever and ever.

Today I spent ten and a half hours at the hospital with a family whose 5 year old boy was having a tumor removed from his spine. It was a roller coaster of a day with lots of emotion. I'm glad I could be with the family, and remind them of God's promises to little Dakota and to all of them. And Dakota made it out of surgery okay. In fact, the doctor felt the surgery went better than expected. There are still some question marks as to therapy he'll need and so on, but right now we all rejoice that he made it through the surgery. When I came home I opened up my Bible to psalms, and read this one. It reminds us God is gracious and compassionate, that He is always near to us, that He upholds and lifts up, that He watches over His children, that He is faithful to His promises and loving. God is so good!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

A Child's Laughter

A child's laughter is such a sweet, sweet sound. Children can laugh hard at the simplest things, and they are so carefree and uninhibited. These particular children pictured are very special to me. The top pic is Joshua, Cassie and Berto's little boy. And the pic under that is Jonah, Michal and Sam's little boy. I love spending time with these kids. And when they laugh, I usually laugh too. We as adults need to remember how to laugh like children do!

Mint Karaoke Cookie Ice Cream (Edy's Slow Churned)

Every one in awhile, I get a craving for mint chocolate ice cream. I saw this the other day, and decided to try it--it's mint with chocolate cookie pieces. And this slow churned ice cream is half the fat and a third fewer calories than regular ice cream. Tastes like regular to me! I think it's very delicious and, I can feel better about having this as an occasional treat.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Union Station--St. Louis, Missouri

St. Louis Union Station was once the largest and busiest rail terminal in the world. It now has many stores, restaurants, and a hotel. This is a fun place to go as there are novelty kinds of shops, St. Louis souvenir stores etc. There is a Hard Rock Cafe, Landry's, and Houlihan's just to name a few. And the Fudgery is awesome--not only do they make fudge, they put on little shows getting the people who are watching to participate in cheers, songs, etc. You can see some beautiful architecture at Union Station too. Definitely worth visiting.

Friday, June 6, 2008


Hummus is a dip or spread made from cooked, mashed chickpeas, blended with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and garlic. It is wonderful on pita bread! It's popular throughout the Middle Eastern world. And there are many varieties of hummus at my local grocery store, so I am glad for that!

Ben (6/6/08)

Double click to enlarge.

St. Louis Bread Company (Panera Bread)

Though this restaurant goes by Panera in most places, it is still St. Louis Bread Co. down in the St. Louis area since that's where the main headquarters is. I originally started going to this place for bagels and lattes (they used to have an awesome House Latte). But I started trying various sandwiches there and loved them, and they also have great soup and salads. My favorite thing to do is to get the Pick 2 (you can pick from soup, salad, and sandwich). I usually get the Broccoli Cheddar Soup and the Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich. Good stuff!

The Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article XII Repentance (paragraph 88)--Philip Melanchthon

"...consciences cannot be made at peace unless they know it is God's command and the very Gospel that they should be firmly confident that sins are forgiven freely for Christ's sake, and that they should not doubt this. If anyone doubts, he charges the divine promise with falsehood, as 1 John 5:10 says. We teach that the Gospel requires this certainty of faith."

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Fried Ice Cream

When I'm at a Mexican restaurant, sometimes I have to have this for dessert. It is so tasty. Here's a recipe I found from the Food Network website. I'll have to make it sometime, though a lot of time is involved to make it!

Fried Ice Cream
Recipe courtesy Emeril Lagasse, 2001
Show: Emeril Live
Episode: Ice Cream Rules

1 quart vanilla ice cream

1 cup crushed frosted cornflakes
1 cup sweetened coconut flakes, or 1 cup chopped walnuts, or 1 cup cookie crumbs
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons sugar
Vegetable oil, for frying
Hot chocolate sauce, optional
Whipped cream, optional

With an ice cream scoop, form 4 large balls of ice cream. Place on a waxed paper lined sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Freeze for at least 2 hours. In a bowl, combine the cornflake crumbs with either the coconut, walnuts or cookie crumbs (or any combination). Spread the mixture in a shallow dish. Dip the ice cream balls in the crumb mixture and freeze for 30 minutes. In a bowl, beat the eggs and sugar. Dip the coated ice cream balls into the eggs, then roll in the crumb mixture, coating completely. Freeze for 1 hour. (If necessary, or for a thicker crust, roll again in eggs and crumbs until the balls are completely coated.) Heat the oil in a large pot or fryer to 400 degrees F. One at a time, lower the balls into the oil and fry until golden brown, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Remove from the oil and place in a dessert bowl. Drizzle with chocolate sauce and whipped cream, as desired. Repeat with the remaining ice cream.

"Over and Over" Nelly and Tim McGraw

Over and Over (Featuring ...
By Nelly
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This was one of those songs that stuck in my head from the first time I heard it. What makes it so cool is having musicians from two widely different genres performing together--Nelly the rapper, and Tim McGraw, the country musician. The combo works, and it's a lot of fun to listen to.
Listen here.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

St Louis, Missouri

St. Louis is sometimes called "Gateway to the West" since many people migrated west through St. Louis via the Missouri River (first leg of the Oregon Trail) and other wagon trails.

I first visited St. Louis with my friend Caryn and some others when we were in college. Then in 2000 I ended up moving down to Southern IL (12 miles east of St. Louis) when I was called to serve at my church. I enjoy being close to St. Louis. There is a lot to do there. There are many great restaurants. There are museums like the Art Museum and Science Center, the Zoo (and the cool thing is unlike Chicago, you can get in free to these places in STL). The Botanical Gardens are beautiful. There's the Fox theater which has a variety of plays and shows, and the Muny--the outdoor theater. A tour at the Anheuser-Busch Brewery is fun. And of course there's the Arch. St. Louis is a nice city. There are a couple things I could do without--the humidity down here and the Cardinals! But other than that, I dig STL.

Check out what St. Louis has to offer: