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May 29th, 2015
07:57 pm
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Wednesday Hodgepodge: 27-29 May 2015

Okay, should've done this Wednesday, but I was busy.    :)

The Wednesday Hodgepodge is courtesy of From This Side of the Pond.

1.  Did you do anything 'memorable' this past weekend?

Friday and Saturday, Jane & I took a little mini-vacation.  Nothing big ... just drove an hour west for an overnight trip to celebrate our 21st wedding anniversary a week late.   We stopped in Grand Ledge, Michigan, and wondered "why did they name it that?".   At breakfast the next morning, our B&B companions said "oh, yes, they have interesting ledges there", so we went and explored them.   Really neat formations in the riverbanks.

2. Ronald Reagan is quoted as saying-
"Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same."
Your thoughts? Do you somehow acknowledge and appreciate the freedoms you enjoy? Did your upbringing contribute to that sense of appreciation? If you're a parent, are there specific things you do to pass on this sense of responsibility and appreciation to your own children in regard to the freedoms they enjoy?

I'm not sure how one conveys the appreciation of freedom, other than by enjoying it, and by enjoying others enjoyment of it.  (Even if that means others voice opinions with which I strongly disagree.)

3. Loudest noise you've ever heard?

Um.   Not sure.   Guess I've never heard anything that memorably loud.

4. What was the last thing you ate that might be considered 'junk food'? Did you enjoy it?

We've got a big bowl of M&Ms in the dining room right now ... occasionally, I grab a handful.   But I'm not finding them terribly satisfying these days.

5. When was the last time you were somewhere the crowd felt 'packed in like sardines'?

Probably a year ago ... riding the Metro in DC during cherry blossom season.   We hit the underground Metro at a moment which was so crowded that they were yelling at passengers to quit coming down the escalator, because there was absolutely no room left on the platform.

6. Are you organized when it comes to packing for a trip? Do you make a list weeks in advance or toss items in last minute? Are you a carry-on only sort of packer or do you need an entire suitcase for your shoes?

I used to be a list-maker, because my mother was a list-maker.   These days, I think I've internalized most of the lists.   I want to pack weeks in advance, but these days, I just don't have the time.   I've learned to become much more modest in what I take.

7. What was the last sporting event you attended in person? Did your team win? Did you care?

Last year, at the AP Computer Science Reading, a large group of us attended a Cincinnati Reds baseball game (the reading was being held in Cincinnati, right downtown, within walking distance of the stadium).    That's been one of the neat social aspects of the APCS Reading over the last 11 years ... we've always found an evening to go see a baseball game.   It used to be minor-league games when we were in remote places (Clemson, Trenton, even Louisville), which was even more fun.   Alas, we won't get to take in a ball game this year; we're in Kansas City, and the week we're there is the week the Royals are playing on the road.

8.  Insert your own random thought here.

I'm about to start three weeks of random traveling.   I'm simultaneously excited, and a bit anxious that my cache-a-day streak may end up coming to an end.   (1177 days and counting ...)

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May 20th, 2015
10:27 am
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Wednesday Hodgepodge: 20 May 2015
The Wednesday Hodgepodge is courtesy of From This Side of the Pond.

1. Did you make someone laugh yesterday? Was it intentional?

Probably, though I don't keep track.   I have a fairly dry sense of humor, which comes out all the time.  Yesterday ... I think I showed my wifetthis meme from Facebook which caused her to chuckle.

2. What's a simple question with a complicated answer?

My life is full of them.

Seriously ... I'd pick the question "what is a computer"?  I teach two different classes that give extremely different answers to that question.   (And next academic year, I'll teach them at the same time.)

3. Rhododendrons or have to choose. Are either currently blooming in your yard?

Flowers ain't my thing; I wouldn't be able to pick either one out of a lineup.

4. May 21st is National Waitstaff Day. Have you ever worked as a waiter/waitress? How would you rate the experience? What was the best/worst part of the job?

Never worked as either.

5. What fashion trend for women should be outlawed? How about one for men?

Hey, if I manage to get a pair of socks that match, I'm doing pretty well.  I'm pretty useless when it comes to judging fashion trends.

6. Name a writer who inspires tell us why.

I admire the crisp, clear, witty writing of Aaron Sorkin.   I don't have formal training in public speaking, but I love the way he puts words together to convey an image or an idea.

7. What well known quote or saying sums up your plans for today or this week?

"Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." --Matthew 25:40

8.  Insert your own random thought here.

Today would have been my sister's 43rd birthday.   (She died at the age of 15.)   I don't think much about her at all, but today I was struck ... I wonder what she would have been like at this stage of life.

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May 13th, 2015
11:34 am
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Wednesday Hodgepodge: 13 May 2015
The Wednesday Hodgepodge is courtesy of From This Side of the Pond.

1. When is your next big deadline? What's it for?

Informally, I'm trying to get a crapload of assessment paperwork done by the end of May ... mostly because I'm going to be a nomad in June.

2. May is National Barbecue Month. Do you prefer cooking indoors or out? What's the best thing about a barbecue? What's the last thing you cooked on an outdoor grill?

My cooking skills are rather ... um ... limited.   I can open a box with the best of folks, but I've never learned the art of actual "cooking".   But we did get a gas grill a few years ago, and I will cook on that from time to time.  (In part, it's because it's easy; marinate the chicken overnight, throw it on the grill, take it off when it's done.)

3. What is one thing on your "never again" list?

I was Moderator of the Faculty Senate for a year ... and then, six years later, volunteered to do it again.   Neither experience was bad, but ... I've done my time, and I've stranded myself professionally as a result of doing that.

4. What's something that annoys you about people your own age? Something you love about your generation?

I'm annoyed by all the incessant "look at how silly those young people are" snide remarks.   I spend my life working with those young people.   They live in a different world than I do, and they're gracious enough to invite me into it from time to time.   If you take the time to listen, you might learn something.

I'm not sure what I love about my generation; I don't feel like I'm a part of it.

5. Lilac, iris, hyacinth, pansy...your favorite purple flower?

Lilac.   We had them at our wedding.

6. Whats a song that always calms you down?

I don't have a single touchstone song like that.   Of course, I don't tend to get really riled up much, either.

7. What's the last thing you donated?

My time ... helping out at church with lots of stuff.

8. Insert your own random thought here.

I need to quit dreaming about receiving external recognition for what I do, and find reward in the doing.

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May 6th, 2015
09:52 am
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Wednesday Hodgepodge: 6 May 2015
The Wednesday Hodgepodge is courtesy of From This Side of the Pond.

1. What's a phrase your mother often said to you? If you're a parent, is this something you now say to your own children?

About the only one I remember is "rassenfritz".  It's her version of a "safe swear word".    No, I don't use it ... I've adopted other safe swear words.  :)

2. What is a scent you associate with your mother or your childhood home?

Sorry ... can't think of one.   Of course, remembering a smell is tricky.

3. What's an activity you remember always doing with your mother (or someone who was a mother figure in your life)?

I don't remember any particular activity.   Though I do remember a number of late-night conversations about life.

4. Flared jeans, maxi dresses, and jumpsuits are 70's fashion trends back this spring. Are you on board? Which trend would you be most inclined to try? For the men...flared corduroys, wide-collared shirts, and floral prints...what say you?

As I've said before ... if I've got a pair of matching socks, it's usually a pretty good day for me.   I do have a couple of Hawaiian shirts that I mostly bring out for the AP Reading ... closest thing I have to a "floral print".   I could probably embrace them if need be ... stylistically, I think I've approached the point where I'm embracing the "I'm a weird professor" aesthetic.

5. May 6th is Teacher Appreciation Day and also Nurse Appreciation Day. Is there a nurse or teacher  you have especially appreciated along the way? Tell us why?

For me, "that teacher" is Dr. Jerry Smith, my high school vocal music teacher.   He was a brilliant teacher, to be sure --- more than that, he was a leader of people, young and old.   I still find myself calling my students "sir" and "ma'am" when I call upon them in class --- that's something that he did, and somehow got embedded in my brain long before I ever thought about being a teacher.

6. If I came by your house, what would I find on your frig door?

Any number of magnets acquired over the years (some with photos attached), a couple of shopping lists ... I think that's about it.

7. Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana made her royal entrance on Saturday, May 2nd. On a scale of 1-10, how much attention did you give to all the news coverage? 1=Who's Charlotte? 10=sat glued to the telly, cuppa in hand.

About a "2", I guess.   I saw the news items in my Facebook feed, but mostly because it mattered more to other people in my Facebook feed.   I'm not anti-royal ... I'm just not into celebrity worship much anymore.

8.  Insert your own random thought here.

I am slowly starting to realize that, even though my professional prospects for advancement are horrible, I am starting to receive some tangible recognition for what I do contribute to my workplace.   It's something ... and I have to remember that when "the voices in my head" try to tell me otherwise.

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April 22nd, 2015
10:53 am
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Wednesday Hodgepodge: 22 Apr 2015
The Wednesday Hodgepodge is courtesy of From This Side of the Pond.

1. Have you ever had to wear a uniform? If yes, tell us more. Did you love it or hate it?

I can think of three things that might qualify, though it's a bit of a stretch.

  • In high school, I was in the top-level choir for three years.   We wore formal attire for concerts: ladies in formal dresses, men in tuxedos.   I remember hearing our choir director talk about it once.   He said "when you put a young high school boy into a tuxedo, he stands straight up, his shoulders move back --- in short, he immediately stands in the best possible position for singing."   It did have an effect on all of us.   It was special.

  • Growing up, I was in in a church that had lots of choirs (kids, teens, adults); all of them wore choir robes.

  • Now, I'm a professor, and I have a set of formal academic robes.   They don't get used much (only for ceremonies), but they're really cool.

2. April 22nd is Earth Day. What is one thing you do personally to be a good steward of planet Earth?

Probably the most obvious thing is recycling.   We got into the habit in various student housing before we met, and we still do it today.
3. Brown rice, quinoa, or couscous...your healthy grain of choice? How often are one of the three on your menu at home?  Given a choice between white rice, brown rice, wild rice, and fried rice which would you go for?

Not even sure what quinoa is.   Probably couscous, though we tend only have that with particular meals (Jane makes a wonderful grilled salmon which we pair with couscous and a mint yogurt sauce.)   As to the rices ... they're all good.

4. In your opinion, who has the best job ever?

I'm jealous of the professors here who have been here for an eternity, and can simply come in whenever they want, do whatever they want, and leave, with no consequences.

5. What's a situation in your life currently requiring patience?

Well ... that, really.   My research program is dead, and I don't know how to start another one.   I'm trying to look around for ideas, but I really have no idea how to start a new research program from scratch.   I'm trying to make myself "available" for inspiration to strike, but ... after a couple of years, it ain't happening.   And when I see others having marvelous success, it's hard not to be jealous --- even though I know that I'm called to live my own life, not someone else's.

6.  Do you live your life around days of the week? Explain.

I'm not even sure what the question means.   I don't live for the weekend, or hate Mondays, or whatever.   Each day has its own unique challenges.

7. In a nod to the A to Z challenge happening around town this month, what 'R word' best describes your April?

Restless.   Non-teaching terms are hard for me ... I get so used to reacting to the latest urgent time demand that I'm not sure how to use my time when I get to choose how to spend it.

8. Insert your own random thought here.

I watched CitizenFour yesterday.   It's a compelling documentary.

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April 15th, 2015
10:36 pm
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Wednesday Hodgepodge: 15 Apr 2015
The Wednesday Hodgepodge is courtesy of From This Side of the Pond.

1. Speaking of April 15th...what's the most 'taxing' thing you've done recently?

Probably the drive home from vacation.  5-ish hours on the Ohio Turnpike, trying to stay awake while everyone else in the car sleeps.   Eating horrible salt-and-vinegar potato chips because the sour taste usually brings me back to alertness.

2. When did you last take a taxi somewhere and where was that somewhere?

Oh, gosh ... probably three years ago, when our family spent Spring Break in Chicago.  At the advice of a number of folks, we took the Amtrak to Chicago and used taxis to go everywhere in the city (i.e. all the museums).

3. What's something you can do today that you couldn't do a year ago?

You know, I'm not sure I can name anything.   I suppose that's sad.

4. How often is chicken (in some form or fashion) on your menu at home? Which of the following would you most like to see on your table tonight...a chicken salad sandwich, your mom's fried chicken, a Chick-fil-A meal, Cracker Barrel's chicken n' dumplings, a roast chicken dinner with all the trimmings, or 'hold the chicken, I'm a vegetarian'...?

Quite often; it's one of our staples.   Mom didn't make fried chicken, so ... probably the chicken-n-dumplings, mostly because I don't get that particular incarnation that often.

5. What was your favorite television program when you were a kid? What characters do you remember the most?

M*A*S*H.   I can remember watching up to 5 episodes a day, bouncing around the various broadcast channels.   Hawkeye is the most memorable, of course, but I remember them all.

6. What was the last piece of 'art' you made?

About a month ago, my wife & I took our oldest daughter out for a Japanese Hibachi dinner.   Seated at our table was a young couple with a toddler who was a bit fidgety.   My one "go-to" trick: I know how to take a square piece of paper and turn it into an origami rabbit.   I made it for the toddler to help with entertaining him during dinner.

7. What frustrates you most about the Internet?

Urban legends ... and more.

Lately, I've discovered a disturbing trend.   Someone posts an urban legend, a half-sourced fact, a bold-faced lie.   I post a correction with sources ... and then the original poster responds with the equivalent of "the greater truth still stands".   Sheesh.  You can't build "greater truths" on the foundation of little falsehoods.

8.  Insert your own random thought here.

Everyone else in the house is stressed out of their gourds.   I'm supposed to be using this time to rest and recover and rejuvinate.   *headdesk*.

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April 8th, 2015
06:04 pm
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Wednesday Hodgepodge: 8 Apr 2015
So, my friend wildirishrose80 has been doing this weekly blogging prompt for awhile.   I thought I'd give it a shot.   (Why?  I don't know.   Just feeling weirdly introspective, I guess.)

The Wednesday Hodgepodge is courtesy of From This Side of the Pond.

1. Besides left over Easter goodies, what's something currently kept in a basket at your house?

One basket in the living room used to have a bunch of the media center remotes in it.   But then it got cleaned out, and ... I'm not sure what's in it now.

2. 'The greater danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.' ~Michelangelo Buonarroti
So which one are you...the one who aims too high, or the one who aims too low? Have you ever seen The Sistine Chapel? Did you know Michelangelo's surname prior to answering this question?

I honestly can't say.   Which probably means that I'm aiming too low.  (No, I've never seen the Sistine Chapel, and no, I didn't know his surname.)

3. April 7th is National Beer Day. Hmmm...wonder how that's celebrated? Do you like beer? Have a favorite? If you're not a beer drinker do you have any recipes you enjoy cooking that call for beer?

Being a teetotaler ... I do enjoy a good root beer now and then, but it's pretty rare.   Mostly because you don't find it on-tap in a lot of places.

And I'm not the chef in the household, so ... I don't have any recipes at all, much less ones that call for beer ...

4. When did you last travel somewhere new? Tell us where? How'd it go?

Last month, I traveled to Kansas City for the annual SIGCSE CS educators symposium.   It was ... okay, I guess.   Nothing wrong with the conference venue or the program.   It's just ... some years I come back with tons of inspiration, and some years I just come back with a list of things I ought to look at one of these days.   This year, it was the latter.   But it was nice to hook up with some old friends and make some new ones in the community.

5. The value of _________________________is greatly overrated.

Equity.   We use the words "equity" and "fairness" as if they're the same thing, and they're not.

6. What's a pet peeve of yours when it comes to restaurant dining?

Ordering something, only to discover that it's unavailable.   Happened several times over the last couple of days to my poor wife.

7. It's Poetry Month...share a favorite poem, either the title, a few lines you find meaningful, or the whole kit and caboodle.

Oh what I would do to have
The kind of faith it takes to climb out of this boat I'm in
Onto the crashing waves

To step out of my comfort zone
Into the realm of the unknown where Jesus is
And He's holding out His hand

But the waves are calling out my name and they laugh at me
Reminding me of all the times I've tried before and failed
The waves they keep on telling me
Time and time again, "Boy, you'll never win!"
"You'll never win!"

But the voice of truth tells me a different story
The voice of truth says, "Do not be afraid!"
And the voice of truth says, "This is for My glory"
Out of all the voices calling out to me
I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth

8.  Insert your own random thought here.

We went with the family today to the Pittsburgh Zoo.   Not for the first time, I found myself attracted to the sea lion exhibit.  On land, the sea lion is an ugly, lumbering monstrosity.   In the water, the sea lion is an elegant, graceful, powerful swimmer --- because that's where the sea lion belongs.

There are far too many days that I feel like the sea lion on land and not the sea lion in water.  

Current Mood: pensivepensive

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January 4th, 2015
10:55 pm
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2014 Year End Meme
Been three years since I did one of these.   Feeling the need ...

1.  What did you do in 2014 that you'd never done before?

Completed a 1000-day streak of finding geocaches.  (The streak is still active.)   Walked out of a meeting.   Took a week-long road trip with the family around Lake Erie.

2. Did you keep your New Year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I don't make New Year's resolutions.   Too much false guilt in my psyche already.

3.  Did anyone close to you give birth?

Not particularly close.   Well, one friend did earn her PhD, which is awfully close ...

4.  Did anyone close to you die?


5.  What countries did you visit?

Canada (with the family).

6.  What would you like to have in 2015 that you lacked in 2014?

A sense of purpose.

7.  What date in 2014 will remain etched upon your memory?

None really stand out.

8.  What was your biggest achievement of the year?

The aforementioned geocaching streak.

9.  What was your biggest failure?

The research agendas I had been pursuing died stillborn.

10.  Did you suffer illness or injury?

No.  It was a good year from that perspective.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Probably all that gasoline on our family road trip.

12.  Whose behavior merited celebration?

Two colleagues at church stepped down --- for all the right reasons --- and allowed us to say a proper "goodbye" to them.   A few others stepped forward to take on increased leadership roles, and are doing wonderfully.   My parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.   Jane & I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary.  Several teens at church stepped forward to join the praise team.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

Most politicians.  I used to be such a news junkie.   About all I can take anymore is my Facebook feed --- and even that is questionable.   There are others, but public discretion requires me to stay silent.

14.  Where did most of your money go?

I wish I knew.  Home repairs.  Car repairs.   Vacation.

15.  What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Geocaching, maybe?   Beyond that ...

16.  What song/album will always remind you of 2014?

"Oceans", perhaps ... seemed to be everywhere for awhile.

17.  Compared to this time last year, are you:

1. Happier or sadder?
2. Thinner or fatter? Fatter.
3. Richer or poorer? Hard to tell.   Feels poorer, but that can be deceiving.

18.  What do you wish you'd done more of?


19.  What do you wish you'd done less of?

Wasting time online.

20.  How did you spend Christmas?

One week with her family in PA.   New Year's day with my family.

21.  Who did you spend the most time on the phone with?

Mostly my wife, I'm guessing.

22.  Did you fall in love in 2014?

Still with my first love.

23. How many one night stands in this last year?

None.   Of course.

24.  What was your favorite TV program?

Marvel's Agents of SHIELD.

25.  Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?

Too strong a word.

26.  What was the best book you read?

I can't think of a book I read for myself in, like, ever.

27.  What was your greatest musical discovery?

Finally learned the name of one of the songs I loved from long ago: "Mountain Dance" by Dave Gruslin

28.  What did you want and get?

Waders and a headlamp (for geocaching).

29.  What did you want and not get?

A research agenda.   A raise.   A feeling that The Powers That Be give a #@$! about my work.

30.  What were your favorite films of the year?

Saw a number of films, but I'm hard pressed to pick a "favorite".   X-Men, maybe?

31.  What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

46.  Can't remember .... I think we went to dinner with the family, but that was about it.   School day for everybody.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Knowing what I'm supposed to be doing.   Being excited enough about something to drive me out of bed in the morning and into the world to work on it.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2014?

Slovenly.   I'm paying less and less attention to personal appearance these days.

34.   What kept you sane?

"Kept" requires actually being sane in the first place, but ... God, family, church.

Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Maybe Hadi Partovi.   I dunno ... I'm not into celebrity worship, and I try not to spend time being jealous of others.

36.  What political issue stirred you the most?

Colleges kicking Christian groups off-campus in the name of "diversity".

37.  Who did you miss?

Church friends, gone but not forgotten ...

38.  Who was the best new person you met?

Hashtag.  :)

39.  Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2014.

Caring about a job more than the person who gave you the job is foolish.

40.  Quote a song lyric that sums up your year?

Code Monkey have every reason
To get out this place
Code Monkey just keep on working
See your soft pretty face
Much rather wake up, eat a coffee cake
Take bath, take nap
This job "fulfilling in creative way"
Such a load of crap
Code Monkey think someday he have everything even pretty girl like you
Code Monkey just waiting for now
Code Monkey say someday, somehow ...

Current Mood: discontentdiscontent

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November 5th, 2014
09:38 am
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A call to humility and grace on the day after elections
Today, the elections are over.   In my social media feed, the winners are gloating, and the losers are crying "we are doomed!".

And so, I call on all reading these words to act with humility and grace towards one another.

If your candidates won last night: mute your celebration with sober judgment.   Now, your candidates must do more than win votes: they must lead.  Another national election will happen in two years; if your candidates fail to lead, they will be replaced just as easily as they came to power.

If your candidates lost last night: mute your sorrow with sober judgment.   The tougher task now falls to you.  It is not enough to say "you are all wrong"; it falls to you to say "here is a better way".   You have two years to make your case.

And to all of us, I say: we are citizens of one country.   Those who voted against your candidates are your brothers and sisters, your mothers and fathers, your sons and daughters.   They may disagree with you, but they are not your enemies.   They are your family.   Let us treat each other accordingly.

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November 3rd, 2014
10:02 am
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A call to prayer on Election Eve: pray for your "enemies"
[I wish I could take credit for this idea ... but I first heard this idea from Karen Byrne six years ago.]

Tomorrow, the United States holds a national election.   All members of the House of Representatives will stand for election, plus about a third of the US Senate, many state governors, and untold numbers of state and local officials.

This year, for whatever reason, I've been struck by how bitter this election cycle has been.   The airwaves have been filled with bitterness, rage, hatred, half-truths, guilt by association, and generally a focus on "winning" and "losing" rather than ideas.   Sitting down with my ballot on Saturday was a uniquely painful experience.  I will be very happy when Wednesday rolls around.

But before that happens, there is tonight.   Election eve.

I call upon you tonight to take some time and pray.   But not in the way that you might think.

Don't pray for "your side" to win.   Don't pray for "God's will to be done", while implicitly thinking that "God's will" is for "your side" to win.

Instead ... pray for the "other side".

I'm not asking you to pray that the "other side" will win.  I'm asking you to honestly pray for them.   Pray that God blesses them.   Pray that God gives them wonderful, unexpected, glorious gifts of grace.   Pray that God gives them wisdom and peace.

Why?   Because it's right for us to do so.   And because many of those on the "other side" will lead us.

  • "I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness."   (1 Timothy 2:1-2)

  • "But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,that you may be children of your Father in heaven."  (Matthew 5:44-45a)

And, perhaps, because if we all start praying for those with whom we disagree, perhaps we'll quit seeing them as ... well, as "them".   

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