December 2007

 My favorite moment, from my favorite movie…

In It’s a Wonderful Life, George Bailey is about to set sail, literally and figuratively, pursuing his dreams of travel and adventure and pursuit of all that lies outside the little town of Bedford Falls.  After his father suddenly passes away, and George delays his trip to tie up some loose ends at the Building & Loan (the family business, a mortgage company that tries to help families through tough times), the Board of Directors informs George that, unless he stays on as Executive Secretary, Mr. Potter will take over and dismantle the business.  In that single moment, George’s eyes show a man who instantly knows that his lifelong dreams will remain just that: dreams.

I absolutely love this movie.  Many people think of it as just a nice holiday classic, but I’ve come to identify with George and his struggle between dreams and responsibility.  When George sets aside his hopes and dreams, to do what he knows others need him to do, it takes an angel (and visions of what everyone’s life would be like without him) to realize just how wonderful a life spent serving others really is. 

In my own version of this story, I once had to make a choice between two colleges, with the resulting choice pointing me towards (what I hope has been) a life spent putting the needs and concerns of others ahead of my own.  And, while I certainly won’t claim to be shoving Mother Teresa off her pedestal, I believe God has used those years since that fateful plunge to better the lives of many children, youth, and families, in many countries. 

Sometimes, we carry around dreams and hopes for how our lives might play out, only to find that the world needs us to take on other roles.  Every Christmas pageant needs a Mary and a Joseph, but they need a bunch of shepherds, too.  The past few years, as I’ve paused from what I imagined would be a career in youth & family ministry, God has had me playing shepherd.  My current resume has a lot more about my work with special-needs kids and, lately, little kids, than my career aspirations of middle- & high-school  church mininstry. 

The funny thing is, I’m beginning to see how the world might need me in those roles, more than it needs another youth ministry wannabe.  The power of just being a stable male in a kid’s life cannot be overstated, especially in our divorce-weary culture.  And, for some time now, I’ve longed to see more churches truly raising up life-long disciples, rather than another wave of consumers that think church is cool (until it gets boring, that is…).  The special-needs thing is an area that I’ve sort of fallen into ass-backwards, but have had the chance to acquire skills & experience that can really help a lot of frustrated parents out.

So, as I continue with my plan to board that cattle ship to Europe, then get my engineering degree from the state college, I’m hearing God suggest to me that it just might be OK to stick around and run the Bailey Bros. Building & Loan instead.  Of course, sometimes letting go of our dreams is just what needs to happen before we can be really good at them, so I’m going to keep heading in the direction I feel He’s been leading me for some time.

At any rate, I’m still waiting for someone to set me up with Donna Reed…


About a week ago, my roommate and I were having one of our usual intellectual chats (probably revolving around football or mac & cheese, but I don’t recall), and he presented a bit of a puzzler.  He said, “What would happen if you put a letter in the mail, with the recipient address in the return address spot?  Would you need a stamp?” 

My curiousity was piqued…

I had no immediate answer:  although I had heard of this kind of thing online, I couldn’t precisely say how it would play out.  Obviously, it wasn’t a widely-practiced tactic, or the USPS would have gone out of business years ago.  But, according to the rules of the system, it should work.  And extensive research (consuming the better part of FIFTEEN MINUTES) drew a blank, including a conspicuous absense of related discussion on the USPS website (do I smell a cover -up?).  You see why this otherwise-irrelevant issue created such a fuss.

That evening, I posted this question as a note on my Facebook page, in an attempt to draw other finely-tuned minds into the fray.  The discussion immediately turned to queries of “What’s your address?”, as people wanted to try this thing out for themselves.  I thought, “Hmm…we may have something here.  Perhaps this truly is the dawn of discovery for free-mail rebels such as ourselves.  Or perhaps people are just really bored.” 

The discussion carried on for several days, with no resolve to the virtual tug-of-war of theories for how this would play out.  Yes, it should work.  No, they’ll just toss the letter.  Only one way to find out!  Then, in an unprecedented showing of maturity (or, at least, lack of immaturity), a friend casually suggests, “Hmmm….my first thoughts were not if it works, but about ethics….”  Oh, yeah, that.  Right. 

Now, I wasn’t actually condoning cheating the USPS out of badly-needed funds.  But I was kind of dwelling on a really silly issue, and letting my thoughts drift off to obsequious, pointless places.  And, yet, scientific inquiry, in my view, is never a wasted venture:  exploring the unknown rarely results in said unknown revolutionizing our lives, but the process of discovery just might. 

So, I looked it up online again, just to resolve the whole thing in my mind, and discovered this link.  Turns out, others have tried it, and it works occasionally, but usually your letter just gets chucked.  A few days later, I even met a guy who works for USPS; he’d never heard of such an idea, but laughed about it, and said you’d just get billed $0.42 on the other side.

In conclusion: you can, but don’t.  And the Sun rises on a new day…

Fellow Narnia nerds, behold!  The new trailer for Prince Caspian (arriving at a theater near you May 16, 2008):

Looks like a good one.  I’ve been re-reading the Chronic (what?) cles of Narnia series over the past couple years (great travel reading), and have enjoyed revisiting one of my favorite childhood reading journeys.  As an adult, it’s easier to pick up on the theological undertones Lewis slips in there; and, as an immature adult, it’s just fun reading about swords and lions and stuff like that.

From what I’ve read (mostly, on the website linked above), the Disney-backed producers of this series are bucking the storyline chronology a bit, in favor of the most realistic production schedule (sounds fair: the kid actors will only be kids for so long, and are needed as kids for three of the films).  The Horse and His Boy takes place during the storyline of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (when the Pevensy kids are reigning Kings and Queens); The Silver Chair occurs long after their reign, but includes their Earthly cousin; The Last Battle (up next on my reading list) has the kids as being a bit older, and includes the cousin again; and The Magician’s Nephew is the pre-Pevensy history of Narnia’s creation.

Therefore, the next movie would be The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (my favorite of the bunch), to be released in 2010.  It’ll be interesting to see whether Disney continues to white-wash the overpowering Christology of the books, in the name of creating a kick-butt action movie series.  The Creation & Heaven symbols of the coming films (should they go ahead and do all seven) will be hard to dodge, but easy to sanitize. 

In the name of the Lion, I hope they take the high road…