Tuesday, February 21, 2012

LET'S PLAY ILLUSTRATION- The game where I give you a scenario and you tell me what spiritual analogies can be drawn from it.

Last week Camp Maranatha received its first heavy snowfall of the year. It was the sort of snowstorm that comes down overnight, burying the mountain in silence. We have had an unusually mild winter here in Idyllwild so the snow storm was all anyone was talking about in town the next day. It was interesting to note all the various associations that the word “Snow” held for people. For example, to the snow plow operator snow meant income, but for the person who needed their driveway plowed it was an expense. For children, snow meant sledding and snowball fights, but for the elderly it was a slippery walk. For local business owners, snow was “white gold” because it brought tourists up from warmer climes down below, but for the CHP officer that influx of motorists on icy roads meant more traffic collisions. You see, even though we all would agree on the definition of the word snow, “crystals of ice formed from water vapor in the air,” it can still hold many different associations for us depending on our experience, perspective, or even our personality.

Monday, February 20, 2012


Earlier today I telephonically contacted a very close relation of mine who, over the course of our conversation, described the BFZ as being "sassy," "wacky," "always pushing the envelope," "over the edge," and "around the bend." That sounded more to me like a description of Lady Gaga then the BFZ. I have always viewed this corner of the internet more as Wally Cleaver than Eddie Haskell, but perhaps I am blinded to the truth of my own public image. Do those descriptors fairly capture the essence of the BFZ?

I guess what I want to know, although I am afraid to ask-

Am I sassy?

Say it aint so.

Sunday, February 19, 2012


Oh yeaaah!
You come true.
Just like your baby
You're made by
(Jack, my 4 year old son, pictured here with his homemade guitar he made with a rolled up book and a rubberband. Sarah, my wife, overheard the above snippet of Jack Poetry while he was wandering through the house singing to himself and strumming away on his "guitar.")

For other installments of Jack Poetry click here.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Daytona 500

For many, the biggest sports day of the year has come and gone. However for me, it is on Sunday February 26th. That's right follks, the Daytona 500. While I'm a firm believer in the greatness of NASCAR, I have not been a very good apologist for the sport. When people ask me why I like NASCAR, I struggle to give an answer. When something is as great as NASCAR, how can I give a simple response? So for my first post in the Bummer Free Zone, I'm going to give 5 reasons why NASCAR is great (in no particular order).
#1 In NASCAR, you are not just cheering for clothes. In other sports, I have favorite teams, but I really don't know anything about the players on those teams. I just cheer for the team regardless of who plays for the team. It's hard for me to get very excited about that. In NASCAR, you root for an actual person, and because of the high amount of access to the drivers, I know a decent amount about my favorite drivers (Jeff Gordon in the Sprint Cup Series and Morgan Shepherd in the Nationwide Series).
#2 In NASCAR, you get to watch your favorite driver(s) every race. In other sports, there are 30 or so teams in a league. That means almost every game does not involve my favorite team. I can barely stand to watch baseball when my team is playing, there's no way I'm watching teams I care nothing about. In NASCAR, I know Jeff Gordon will be in every single Sprint Cup race. I don't have to wonder if I'll get to see my favorite driver on the weekend, I know I will.
#3 NASCAR begins each race with an invocation. I'm not saying NASCAR is a "Christian sport," but how often do you hear this on t.v.?
#4 NASCAR races almost always have an exciting finish. In other sports, the outcome is often known before the final minutes. In NASCAR, it is impossible to know who will win until the final llap. Even if the leader has a big lead, there could always be a yellow flag that will bring the field together at the end.
#5 NASCAR folks are easy support. Generally speaking, they are more down to earth than people in other sports. You don't hear about NASCAR folks getting arrested for violent crimes. With a few exceptions, you don't really hear anything negative about people in NASCAR. Plus, their commercials are awesome.

-- Chad, The Fellowship of the Octogon

Friday, February 17, 2012


"If you go into the boy's locker room in high school, sometimes it's a little…powerful…the odor in there. So I was thinking about the fact that, you know, we weren't washing our stuff enough."
President Obama during a recent address in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

I'm gonna drop some truth at Lake Manor Chapel in Chatsworth, CA on March 4th at 9:30 am.

Monday, February 13, 2012


1. I think it's kind of interesting that there is no product on the market designed to retard hair growth. There are loads of miracle cures for baldness, but none that will stop hair growth. Who has time for a haircut? Have you seen the prices they're charging these days? There is a need for such a product. I can imagine it now- "With just one application of Tate's Miracle Hair Jelly (not available in Oklahoma, Puerto Rico or Washignton D.C.) you can schedule your next haircut for sometime next year." I wouldn't be surprised to learn that such a product already exists but the Barbers are keeping it under wraps. In fact, if I go missing you can bet it was the barbers. I'm told that if you get too close to the truth they'll go all Sweeney Todd on you.

2. I think God created the earth with fossils in the ground. It's possible that dinosaurs never actually wandered the earth.

3. I have never folded a piece of paper evenly into thirds. There must be some trick I'm not aware of, and until I learn it a perfect tri-fold will continue to elude me.

4. I like how excitable Brady Barr is.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

It's warm under the covers
Though it's cold throughout the room
Lying close are we two lovers
In our blanketed coccoon
The wind may howl through the streets
And the snow may fall in heaps
But all of that's beyond the sheets
And safe, close, warm we sleep.


In the pearly light of early day
After a night of drizzle and drip
I stepped out onto the path
Behind the hotel and strolled along
Between the waxy green hedges
Until I came to a place that
Smelled like coffee and breakfast.

Thursday, February 9, 2012


5 mattresses, 10 sheets, 11 pillows, 15 blankets= a rockin good time!!!

Mr. Mom

For the remainder of this week Sarah is up in Chico, CA with her sister who is in a family way and fixing to pop any moment. Sarah wants to be on hand to help out, and I'm doing my part by holding down the fort here in Idyllwild. This morning I woke up to no less than three of my children howling "I want Mommy!" Lucy escpecially, sweet little Lucy, is having a hard time with her absence. I have found her a couple of times alone and crying. More than once since Sarah pulled away yesterday has the front of my T-shirt absorbed dark splotches of Lucy tears. She's Mommy sick.

I've decided on a twin pronged strategy of structuring the day and continuously advertising the upcoming events I've planned. To some extent I'm embracing the weirdness of not having Mommy around. Tonight we're planning on constructing a "Super Bed" in the living room, which is to say we're going to push all of the furniture to the side and combine our mattresses side by side to create the largest bed in the world. I plan on sleeping in the "Super Bed" for the remainder of the week, with my heart-sick progeny all around. This morning a breakfast of pizza and strawberries welcomed them to the world. We have a fishing trip planned for either Frdiay afternoon or Saturday morning or both.

I'm aware though that I have all of you at my disposal. What are some other ways that I can help my Mommy-Sick little kids and make the time fly for them? Do you have any memories of Mr. Mom moments from your own childhood? Have any of you men-folk ever filled such a span of days in a creative way? Do you ladies have any tips for how best to care for my little Lucy without dialing up Mom on her cellular phone device every hour?

I eagerly await your advice.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


Pax Romana ("Roman Peace" in Latin) is a term historians use to describe a period covering most of the 1st and 2nd centuries A.D. During this time much of the known world was connected by a single government, a single language, and a road system. Relative peace throughout the Roman empire and the ability to travel unmolested from Hadrian's wall in Britain to the Euphrates River in modern day Iraq aided the spread of Christianity (portrayed above as a mold growing across the face of the ancient world). This has got me thinking about the age of the internet. There is no doubt that social media sites and the internet in general are ushering in a new era of connectedness, but could this represent kind of a Pax Zuckerberg? Waddaya think?  (I read yesterday that if Facebook were a nation it would be ranked as either 7th or 8th in size overall.) I tend to view the rise of the internet as a shadowy and vaguely sinister thing, an invasion of privacy, a great collector of information, intent on unknown purposes. (Sometimes I feel as if the whole world is on the verge of vomiting.) Perhaps the internet is even a necessary precursor to end-time events prophesied in the Bible- maybe so, but on the bright side it undoubtedly represents an incredible opportunity for the spread of the gospel today. These very words I am typing here could be accessed and read by someone in Moscow (assuming they could read English), and that connection is so easy today- no air fare, no travel time, no passports.

Pax Zuckerberg!!! (I might have to rethink my abstention from facebook.) Go ye into all the nations and make disciples of men.

Monday, February 6, 2012


Have you ever stood on a moon-dappled limb?
Up near the top where the trunk tapers slim?
Where you cling to the bark with a white-knuckle grip
As it pitches and rolls like the deck of a ship?

Have you ever sat where the mourning dove grieves?
Looked out on a view that's framed by the leaves?
Where the comings and goings of things here and there
Are plain to your sight from so high in the air?

Have you ever slept in the riotous trees?
Have you been rocked to sleep by the force of the breeze?
Have you laid out your roll in the quiet recess
Of a woodpecker's hole or an old robin's nest?

Sunday, February 5, 2012


Super Bowl Sunday is a de facto national holiday. I'm of the decided opinion that it should become a de jure holiday, but Americans don't really need our elected officials to make it official to make it so. The true measure of an American holiday is how much money is spent and not tiny black print on a calendar. (Just ask National Boss Day, Oct. 16th) The market has declared today a holiday, and the good people of our fair land have responded with a hearty cheer of approval and with an opening of their wallets. Super Bowl parties are a hot or not sort of affair. "Are you watching the game today?," people will ask, and many who have zero interest in football will answer in the affirmative. Even people who have not watched a single football game all year, and frankly think football is boring and ridiculous, will find themselves attending a Super Bowl Party today.

I'll be attending a Super Bowl Party today as well. A bunch of folks from my fantasy football league are gonna get together at my friend's house. However, there is an inherent problem with every Super Bowl party I have ever attended. Watching football and socializing are an awkward pairing at best. I think it is basically impossible to do both at the same time. I attended one party where they put the game on mute, and another where they kept turning up the volume higher and higher to compete with all of the talking and laughing. I've also seen football fans and party fans separate like water and oil into separate rooms once the game starts only to be rejoined at halftime. At some point during every Super Bowl I have ever attended I find myself wishing that I was back home on my couch watching the game in peace and at a normal volume. I like getting together with people and I like watching football, but I don't like trying to do both. I think you have to go into the annual Super Bowl party with your priorities in line. Choose either  football or socializing and stay the course. I typically choose being a good guest and socializing, good manners require that to some extent.

However, next year, when the Redskins are in the Super Bowl, I will neither attend or host any sort of Super Bowl gathering. Most people think that if the Redskins were in the game I would throw a big bash, but quite the opposite is true. That day will find me in front of my own TV, on my own couch, within walking distance of my own refrigerator watching the game with a grim, respectful silence that will undoubtedly be punctuated at intervals by groans of despair and shouts of triumph. Today's Super Bowl is just another game, but next year it will be serious business. I will want to be alone.


In the morning
When the grass is wet with dew
In the morning
I'll walk the fields with you
In the morning
When birdsong fills the air
In the morning
I'll tell you if I dare.

Saturday, February 4, 2012


I first announced February 18th as the BFZ's national holiday here, but since then I have failed to follow up with any helpful suggestions for how the citizens of the Bummer-Free Zone, my beloved readers, should observe this holiday. So I throw the question open to you for you are all wonderfully creative people. How should we observe this holiday and make it meaningful. I'm thinking moonlight pie, but otherwise I got nothing. Any suggestions?

Friday, February 3, 2012

Out of Control

I ran a red light a few weeks back. Driving home from a frustrating third set of beach volleyball, already 20 minutes late for my next engagement, I approached a familiar intersection on auto-pilot.

"What's that guy doing, pulling out in front of me?"

I looked up, saw red, pounded the brake in shock. The other car had stopped in the middle of the intersection, too close to miss. Releasing the brake and hitting the gas, I swung the wheel hard left, then right, careful not to over-correct. An instant later, I was through, and pulled into an apartment complex to shake off the adrenaline. I still feel the lingering effects of my strained back.

There was no excuse for what I did: no impairment, no external distraction. I'd never seen that light turn red before, so in my haste, I looked right through it. I was, without a doubt, utterly negligent -- guilty of passing a traffic signal, possibly liable for my fellow motorist's dry cleaning bill.

Now imagine just one small change to my scenario: a woman, walking her dog, crossing the street with the light.
Suddenly my successful swerve turns into a nightmare, a life cut short by a moment's inattention. My negligence becomes criminal, worthy of investigation, and my guilt -- as perceived and as punished -- will be exponentially more intense.

That massive difference in responsibility and pain has nothing whatsoever to do with my actions. It's attributable instead to what philosophers call moral luck, an admission that the perceived morality of our actions depends, in large part, on circumstances completely outside our control. "Luck," of course, is a neutral term for the academy; as a Christian, I see it as an expression of God's will, whether perfect or permissive. Either way, the result is that earthly guilt often seems capricious, dependent on whether the weakest moment comes at the worst possible time. On what vice happens to tempt me. On what you're offered at a party. On whether Josh Hamilton's genetic code
can ever handle moderation. On whether Joe Paterno's bosses did their jobs.

This principle applies equally to some of the good we are able to do. Take
Eric Hemenway, for instance. Hiding from a warrant after a drunk-driving hit and run, he saw a boy slip below the surface of a lake. He was there, so in he leapt to save a life. He gave a false name to the newspaper, but once his proud, oblivious grandmother read the story, she wrote in and demanded a correction. Word got back to the sheriff's office, and a deputy called Eric. "You left the scene at the hit-and-run, but you didn't leave the scene at the drowning. Go take care of this." And Eric, drunk driver, life saver, spirit and clay, got another chance at redemption.

In a very real way, every careless driver is equally guilty. Each endangers life in the same way. It is a vitally important thing, legally, to hold people accountable for the consequences of their actions, for the harm they have actually caused. We are not relieved of the responsibility that is ours. Only let us not, in foolish pride, look at any so fallen as beneath us. "Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall." All it takes is a moment.



As a former member of Vermont's Law Enforcement Community I found this article hilarious. It's also amusing to me that this occurred at the Correctional Facility in St. Albans, which is the very city where I used to protect and serve.


In a surprise press conference this morning Joshua Tate, President for Life of the BFZ, endorsed Governor Palin in the ongoing BFZ Republican Primary. Palin, who is currently trailing Mitt Romney and Ron Paul with just four days left to go, is hopeful that the endorsement will help her close the gap. Following the President's announcement a tense moment ensued when CNN's Chuck Berlinsky asked if "the BFZ primary is even relevant at all?" The exasperated President sputtered impotently before shouting "Your Mom's not even relevant, Chuck!" Before Berlinsky could respond, however, BFZ security personel pounced on him, tackled him to the ground, and subjected him to atomic wedgies and indian burns.  Berlinsky was then transported to a local hospital where he was diagnosed as being "extremely annoying," "kinda lame," and "not relevant at all" by a team of Doctors there.

Meanwhile, Tate resumed the press conference asking if there were any other questions. The assembled press was surprisingly silent, which the President interpreted as hushed, reverential awe. Before sauntering away from the podium, Tate flashed the peace sign and said "Vote Palin!"

Thursday, February 2, 2012


Whenever my wife, Sarah, is talking on the phone I play the game of trying to figure out who she is talking to. Sometimes I can tell by her tone if she is familiar and comfortable with the person. The length of the phone call is also a helpful determinant of Sarah's familiarity with the caller. Only a practiced ear can pick up the subtle differences in Sarah's tone when she's talking on the phone. Sometimes I can eliminate newer friends by references she makes to her past. Other times I can eliminate older friends by references to her present. I listen attentively for her to drop the name of a common acquaintance, or a place, or a memory, and slowly by process of elimination I'll narrow it down to a few suspects. She never identifies her callers by name. It's very frustrating to me when I can't identify the caller. When this happens I catch Sarah's eye and whisper "Who are you talking to?" Why do I care? I don't know, but I do...that much is undeniable. I care. I'm curious. I simply must know who she is talking to. Usually Sarah gives me an annoyed face, as if to say, "Stop being so nosey," or worse "Leave me alone! Can't you see I'm on the phone?"

I am far more considerate of people who may be eavesdropping on my phone conversations. I always begin by loudly identifying the caller for all the world to hear. I think you'll agree that is the polite thing to do. For example, "Greetings, (insert your name here)! How are you doing?" I'm sure that etiquette experts would agree with me on this one. It's simply rude of Sarah not to identify callers by name to curious individuals who may be listening in. Don't you agree?


For decades El Cornadi was the premiere restaurant catering to Hollywood's elite. The original owners, Mario and Maria Vesponi, had built the restaurant to resemble exactly the country church in Cornadi, Italy where they had been married. They even went so far as to have clippings of the ivy that grew up its walls shipped to Hollywood. Exact replicas of the art and stained glass windows from the church's interior were  commissioned and installed at great expense to the Vesponi family. Inside the restaurant, heavy medieval-looking wooden tables, surrounded by seating which vaguely reminded patrons of church pews, were spread out between the grand columns. Modified confession booths, illuminated by candle light, allowed for intimate dinners for two. No one could say exactly if the restaurant was designed as an homage to the Vesponi's Catholic roots, or if it was intended to be slightly sacreligious. People tended to see in the restaurant what they wanted to see. One local newspaper called Mario Vesponi "The Pope of fine dining" and his restaurant "a temple to the gods of food." Another critic quipped "It was convenient to have a confession booth handy after being enticed by Mario and Maria into the sin of gluttony." Vesponi himself was a member of the local Catholic parish and frequently allowed the church to use his restaurant for fundraisers and other special occasions, often at no charge. On Christmas Eve, the Vesponi's were famous for opening their restaurant to the area homeless who ate for free. El Cornadi specialized in rustic Italian food- simple and satisfying- but the ambiance and elegant surroundings lent a certain mystique to the dining experience which transcended the mere act of eating. As the restaurant's fame spread, Hollywood's elite began to notice, and before long El Cornadi was the place for the who's who of  Hollywood to gather, except on Christmas Eve of course.

Pablo Martine had worked at El Cornadi since he was 15 years old. He started out as a bus boy and dishwasher in the iconic restaurant's kitchen before becoming a waiter. He would eventually rise to become the chief waiter, a post he held until his death at 65. As chief waiter he had the privilege of waiting on some of the most famous men and women in the world. Occasionally even heads of state and world leaders would dine at El Cornadi. Pablo would stand against the wall next to a statue of the virgin Mary, hands behind his back, staring straight ahead, at attention. The patrons who he was serving would forget he was there until they needed something. In the 47 years that Pablo waited on tables he kept a little known secret. He possessed an amazingly accurate memory. At the end of his shift he would document the events of the night- everyone he waited on, what they ordered, as well as what they talked about. He had begun this practice to better familiarize himself with his regulars. He believed in doing his job with excellence. So he would pour over his notes studying the people who he served. Often times a guest would return for the first time and be surprised that Pablo remembered exactly what they had ordered and what they preferred to drink from their last visit even though that had been months, even years ago. "Will you be having the Tortellini a la Panna again, or would you like to try something else tonight?" He would also keep abreast of who was feuding with who and made sure they were seated well away from each other. Everyone felt like a regular within a visit or two. Pablo remembered everything, and it made the El Cornadi's guests feel as important as they imagined themselves. He remembered the names of wives and mistresses alike but never confused the two. He was a huge part of the restaurant's success. He was also the proverbial fly on the wall to many private moments and conversations.

Before long his notes began to extend far beyond merely what the guests ordered. Soon he was neurotically recording entire conversations which covered the mundane as well as the juiciest tid-bits of Hollywood gossip, sometimes even state secrets and criminal confessions were included in his notes. No event or conversation eluded his steel-trap memory or documentation. At the close of his shift he would go home to his small efficiency apartment on Palm View Avenue and habitually, almost compulsively, type out his recollections.  Occasionally he would refer to handwritten notes he had collected over the course of his shift. Most often he wrote mechanically, simply chronicalling the conversations and minutiae of the night. At other times he would depart from the style of a historian concerend only with recording facts and would write with a surprisingly elegant touch about en event he had witnessed or what someone was wearing that night. He was a good writer.

Over the 47 years Pablo served as a waiter at the El Cornadi his extensive collection grew. He had neatly organized his writings by month and year in loose-leaf binders. They represented his life's work and they filled his apartment until he was forced to rent storage space to house it all. A separate booklet contained a handwritten list of the names of his various guests. There were very few newsmakers who did't eventually dine within earshot of Pablo. For easy reference he had neatly entered next to their names the dates they had come to the restaurant. Before heading home he would take a copy of the next day's reservations, and after typing out his notes that night he would drive across town to his storage unit so that he could reacquaint himself with each guest's history. The storage unit was lined with floor-to-ceiling book cases, and in the middle of the floor there was an overstuffed leather chair, a lamp and a small table. On the table sat a photo album containing pictures of Pablo with sports figures, busness leaders, playboy bunnies, movie stars, musicians, and political figures.

Pablo never took a vacation. He never bought a house. He never married, and he had no family. Toward the end of his life, as he was dying from stage-four colon cancer, he drew up a will donating his life savings of $1, 500,000.00 to a local Catholic charity, and he willed the contents of storage unit #54 to Samantha Waters, a celebrity biographer and gossip writer who was known to occasionally dine at El Cornadi. In fact, in 2007 she had dined at El Cornadi with a baseball player with whom she was having an affair. She would be surprised and ashamed to find Pablo's mercilessly accurate account of their dinner. That page would forever go missing from Pablo's official record, a sinful act of desecration which would have killed the old waiter if he had still been alive to witness it. Waters was less kind to the other people mentioned in Pablo's writings. She would eventually write a book entitled "Dish," which served up the juiciest and most sensational of Pablo's memories to a public which had forgotten how to blush.  It instantly surged to the top of the NYT's best seller list and served as the basis for the Hollywood blockbuster, "Pablo."

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


I remember when, as a young boy, I opened the door of our family's station wagon as we were speeding down the highway. My Mom barked at me from the front passenger seat, and I quickly let the door shut claiming it had been accidental, but for a moment I had seen the blur of the pavement and felt the wind pushing against the plane of the door. It was no accident. I got what I wanted.


I have made my last addition to the fellowship of the Octagon for this year. Chad Irving, has agreed to take a room in the Octagon as a BFZ contributor. Per his request his vespa will be rainbow colored.

Chad, I'll have my man show you to your room. I took the liberty of stocking the mini-fridge in your room with flavored water and little chocolate doughnuts. Enjoy!