Dispatches from Outland
A little song. A little dance. A little seltzer down your pants. Copyright © 2003 Roy M. Jacobsen.


Friday, June 20, 2003  

Don't Put A Cork In It Department: Also on Breakpoint Online, John Fischer writes about the erosion of trust in America. In it, he notes that Sammy Sosa is asking America to believe that he grabbed that corked bat by mistake.

Sammy Sosa is asking a lot of America right now, and I believe he is asking what it cannot do. We simply cannot trust him because our public trust has been too badly eroded already by too much cork. Too much cork in Martha Stewart’s stock dealings. Too much cork in too many Catholic bishops’ cover-up of priestly abuse. Too much cork in Jayson Blair’s newspaper reporting. And everyone is already squawking about the cork they are finding in Hillary Clinton’s new book.
Fischer goes from preaching to meddling when he brings the questions down to a very personal, pointed level:
Where’s the good wood? It has to start somewhere, and it has to start small. My wife is famous, at least with me, for saying, "It’s the little things you do, not the big things you say." This is where trust is regained, in the little things we do to earn it back. This is where those who are God-fearing have an advantage, because in loving and serving God, we find something higher than the prevailing attractions—something that works on our inside motivations and decisions, and Someone to answer to who knows and can see everything. This is a sobering thought, but it can also be empowering because of His Holy Spirit, given to help us walk in a manner pleasing to God. If there ever has been a time for Christians to be full of integrity in all of our dealings, it is now.

What have you got in your hand? Is it good wood all the way through? You have to make sure it is every time you step up to the plate, because you never know when that bat might shatter.

posted by Roy M. Jacobsen at 11:14 AM
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Quotes Department: "It is worse than useless for Christians to talk about the importance of Christian morality, unless they are prepared to take their stand upon the fundamentals of Christian theology. . . . It is fatal to let people suppose that Christianity is only a mode of feeling; it is vitally necessary to insist that it is first and foremost a rational explanation of the universe. It is hopeless to offer Christianity as a vaguely idealistic aspiration of a simple and consoling kind; it is, on the contrary, a hard, tough, exacting, and complex doctrine, steeped in a drastic and uncompromising realism." -- Dorothy L Sayers.

Sayers was quoted in "Faith and Reality" by Gina Dalfonzo (on Breakpoint Online), which I highly recommend that you go read. Now.

posted by Roy M. Jacobsen at 11:07 AM
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Thursday, June 19, 2003  

Unreality Department: Heh. One of my daily reads in the comics department, Monty, has been running a parody of The Matrix this week. "It's about freeing your mind, bending the rules of physics. It's about 'the Comix." Start here.

posted by Roy M. Jacobsen at 7:59 AM
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Wednesday, June 18, 2003  

Personals Department: Dear ______,

God is good, and by his grace, he is making us all to be like his son. That isn't always (or even usually) an easy or painless process. I'm deeply moved and encouraged when I see someone *willingly* cooperating with the discomfort.

God speed.

For everyone else: What was that all about? I've been witness to acts of trememdous humility, grace, and Christ-likeness. I have seen salvation being worked out in someone's life. The details are private, but I felt that the behavior should be acknowledged publicly. God is good.

posted by Roy M. Jacobsen at 10:26 AM
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Monday, June 16, 2003  

Have a Biscuit Department: Hmmmm. I was the very first participant, but haven't done any since. Time to do The Daily Biscuit!

Summer is coming at least for those of us located in North America. For others around the globe, proximity to holiday time may vary but hey, play along.

1. On a day off work, do you act like an adult with a day ahead of them or like a child with a day ahead of them?
I guess that depends on what kind of day off work you're talking about, Willis. On most weekends, I act like an adult, with my list of projects or chores I want to get done. On vacation days, if I'm at home, I'm more like a child, letting the aimless idleness roll over me like a comfortable fog. When we're on the road, we talk about what we want to do together, half playing by ear, and go from there, so I suppose that's sort of child-like.

posted by Roy M. Jacobsen at 5:05 PM
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Divine Appointments Department: Jesus helped me shovel sand yesterday.

On Saturday, I started a project in our backyard: expanding our patio. Since the existing patio blocks were resting on about an inch of sand, I decided that I not only needed to excavate for the expanded area, I also needed to remove the existing blocks and excavate that part too. That was a bit more than I could get done on Saturday, so I went to bed weary, and planning to finish the digging on Sunday afternoon and try to get the sand moved in. (Working on Sunday. I'm a bad Baptist, I guess.) I hoped to have it done by early evening, if all went well, and my back didn't seize up from the unaccustomed labor with a Norwegian back-hoe and dump-truck (shovel and wheelbarrow).

Sunday morning, as our praise team got ready for the service, a visitor came into the sanctuary early and sat down in the back. After we finished practicing, I got a chance to meet him: His name is Jesus Ramirez, from Durango, Durango state, Mexico. He was passing through town on his way to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where he hoped to get work on a ranch owned by a friend. He needs some eye surgery (he needs to have cataracts removed from both eyes, and he also has some retina problems), and he wanted to earn the money to pay for it. But he ran into some complications along the way.

Jesus told me that he had come to the United States with enough money to make it all the way to Sioux Falls with relative ease, but that shortly after he crossed the border, he met a Mexican family who were broke, living under a bridge, and trying to get to Washington state, where they had some relatives. So Jesus helped them along their way, and he traveled with them to Washington. But that side trip took him considerably out of his way, and it also meant that he could only get as far as Fargo before he rant out of money. He wasn't worried, though. He told me "God will take care of me. God has everything."

So Jesus stowed his suitcases in the bus depot lockers, and spent the night at a local shelter. On Sunday morning, he showered, and went looking for a Baptist church. He found ours. He said that his plans were to try to find some temporary jobs to earn the rest of the money he needed to get to Sioux Falls. (He never asked us for anything; it just seemed that he was looking for somewhere to go to church.)

So I said to myself, "Self," I said, "you need someone to help you shovel. Jesus needs someone to help him get to Sioux Falls. This is not a coincidence." I talked with the pastor, and he said it sounded good to him. We maintain a fund to help people out in situations like this, so he got a bit of cash from that, and a friend heard what we were doing, and he kicked in $20. We went to Jesus and said (in essense) "We have a proposition for you." Jesus said "When do we start?"

So Jesus had lunch with my family, and then we went to work. The man loves to work, and he loves to whistle while he works. He didn't let me push the wheelbarrow; he said "You don't have a license to drive this." In two-and-a-half hours, we finished a job I thought would take me six hours. He seemed a bit disappointed when I said that was all we needed to do.

He told me that he's the baby of his family: 16 brothers and 3 sisters. (Three sets of twins in that bunch.) He told me that when his mother got most of her daily chores done, at about 3 in the afternoon, she would sit on the porch and read her Bible. He said that he didn't get what it all meant at the time, but that a few years ago, it all became clear when he became a Christian. "The Bible says when you train a child to go the right way, when they grow up, they go that way."

He wants to go back to Durango when he's had his eye surgery, and after he's had a chance to go to school. His dream is to travel back and forth between Mexico and the U.S., taking Bibles with him back to Durango. He said "People there need the Bible." He showed me the Bible he found in a Christian book store in Washington: a large-print Spanish edition that cost him $89. He said that it was much easier for him to read. He kept it wrapped in a towel in his suitcase, to keep it safe.

I dropped him off at the Greyhound depot with his ticket, some lunch, and some cash for the road. He left me with a job done, a CD of mariachi praise music, a promise to let me know how he's doing, and his thanks.

Vaya con Dios, Jesus.

posted by Roy M. Jacobsen at 11:48 AM
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Well Duh Department: In Friday's Best of the Web, James Taranto mentioned some controversy between a member of the Sacramento City Council and the superintendent of schools. (The heading is "Wobegon in Sacramento.")

The Sacramento Bee reports that Lauren Hammond, a member of the City Council of California's capital, recently "dissed" Jim Sweeney, the city's superintendent of schools. The paper quotes Hammond as follows:

"I don't doubt that Jim Sweeney loves children and had dedicated his life's career to improving education," she said. "The school district has done some wonderful things . . . but (on state tests) half the students are still below the 50th percentile. That's a problem."
Aaaalrighty, then. Half the children are below average. So what part of the concept of "average" does Hammond not understand?

posted by Roy M. Jacobsen at 8:39 AM
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Happy Birthday To You! Department: Astronomy Picture of the Day is eight years old today!

posted by Roy M. Jacobsen at 8:24 AM
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