Work in Progress

Baseball, Seminary, Wrestling, and the Dreams and Days of one Mike Work's Angeles experience

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Late Night TV

Still up, and just watched an hour-plus of late night TV, flipping through channels before landing on MTV and the show Next.

Premise is pretty simple, along the lines of other dating shows. One person has five potential dates sitting in a van, and goes out with them one by one, with the option to cast them off at any time with one word: 'next.' For every minute a date lasts, they earn a dollar. If one catches the dater's eye, they'll ultimately get a choice: the money, or a second date.

It wasn't the concept behind the show that stunned me, but the fact that they were pairing up hetero and homo sexual couples, with MF, MM, and FF matches all represented within the hour. That's new to me. While I've seen 'inadvertent' same-sex hookups on shows like 'The Fifth Wheel,' I've never seen a dating show that intentionally set up like matches (or at least a dating show that didn't play it all up with a gag-like twist, AKA Bravo's Boy Meets Boy).

Now, I haven't had cable for four years, and haven't really watched with any frequency since the summer of 2003, but can't recall same-sex relationships receiving this sort of acceptance on tv in the past. More indicators of a very-recent cultural shift in the states over the past 2-5 years...

That's my observation.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005


Late night driving/chill session on Tuesday.
Followed by email action before i...
Through the morning.

Went to the office, sat in on a meeting.
Strategic thinking and's in my blood.
Lunch with my dad. Lots of conversation.
Hung around the building all afternoon, intaking.
Dinner with mom and Brian.
Played WebSudoku while watching Twister with mom.
She's now asleep.
I'm still awake.
Brian flies tomorrow.
I don't.

Nothing profound to see, move along now.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Hare-Brained Scheme #427

As the day comes to a close, merry christmas to all. Mine was pretty decent, even after all three female members of my family, in rapid succession, tried to wake me up...way too early. Love you guys, but please, please...don't do that again.

Tomorrow, much of the world returns to work, while i have another week's vacation. Alongside continued R&R, a few plans are on tap:

Investigate the fruits of a partnership between Wendy's and AirTran. Here's the deal. Buy 32 sodas at Wendy's before year's end, redeem for a one-way plane ticket. 64 sodas equates to a round-trip ticket.
If this could be LA to Atlanta, we've come upon something...

Is soda to Mike Work as pudding was to Barry Egan? We shall see...

Spend time with family, and connect with what friends/contacts i have in Atlanta. I grew up here, but haven't really lived in the area since high school; much has transpired, & LA is much more my home than ATL at this point...

Reading for the week will include Families at the Crossroads, Interpreting God and the Postmodern Self, A Spacious Heart, and finally finishing a first read of Exclusion and Embrace. I aim to put related thoughts and reviews on the blog, as well as relevant insights from other works recently read, specifically Alan Mann's volume on atonement and shame.

Put to paper my end-of-year reflections, which may make their way here.

Look into going over to WordPress, which may lead me to leave blogger.

Keep your eyes peeled.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas Eve(nts)

Christmas eve, and as always, i'm putting off wrapping (and making) gifts until a little while later. Not sure about the proper protocol of posting gift ideas and such, but i'd imagine that open postings merit a general 'DON'T DO THAT!'

So we blog about other matters...more along the lines of events in my life than connected thoughts (that make more sense when they're placed alongside the flesh-and-blood).

The Clemson trip Friday was great. Made the drive up I-85, and arrived around 12:30, where I met Evan outside his and Missy's apartment in Central. Welcomes abounded, and the two of us headed into Clemson for lunch, coffee, and conversation, before returning home, where his wife and a kettle-full of tea awaited, and good time together abounded. Our friend Corey popped by mid-afternoon, and we spent the next few hours chatting, surfing leaf hills, moving from apartment to apartment and thrift-store to chain-store (in the process of putting together a gift for Corey's wife Juli), eating and drinking, and generally enjoying one another's company and friendship.

It was one of those days with no well-thought out schedules and best-laid plans, but loads of fun. I love these people, and thoroughly enjoyed our time together, both the deep conversations about the challenges of life, living in community, and church leadership (especially in the transient atmosphere of a college town) and the casual joking around that is bound to take place when we're in the same room. It seems that many of my relationships are either entirely serious or entirely casual, so the friendships where there's space for both are all the more precious.

As for Saturday, spent it sleeping in, shopping, and chilling in-house. Dad was going to come over for dinner, but he fell asleep, so mom, brian, and i chowed down on ginger chicken and fried rice, with mom's banana pudding awaiting afterwards. While her cooking may not get the publicity that the "Best Burgers Ever" get on the Monk's Corner Cafe menu (they now have cold beer), it's still pretty stellah, and, if i may say so, renowned.

The time at home's been good, but the dynamics have been different than expected. Most notably, Holly's working mad hours, and is staying across town, so i've barely seen her, after expecting that she'd be a regular this week.

But we will see her in the morning...along with the rest of the fam. They may be expecting their gifts to be wrapped, so it's probably best to initiate activity on that front...

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Bowl Season

December for football fans means one thing: College Bowl Season.

Over a three-week span, fifty-six colleges will send their above-average football programs to such great sites as Las Vegas, Tempe, Miami, Atlanta, and Mobile, Alabama (home of last night's GMAC Bowl), to engage in competition against one another. This makes for some dream matchups, such as the Paterno/Bowden showdown in the Fiesta Bowl, Ohio State's battle against Notre Dame, and the national title game, to be played in Pasadena on January 4th, pitting unbeaten Texas against unbeaten USC.

Of course, it also makes for some downright mockable scenarios. For instance, is anyone at all interested in seeing whether Houston is better than Kansas, or whether Akron can beat Memphis?


Okay, let's sweeten the pot, make this game something really special...

Let's send those last two teams to DETROIT in December!

What better reward for a year of hard work than a trip to Detroit (never mind that it's a third-world city where a lot of people wear tank tops) to play football on Boxing Day?

How about a few weeks vacation instead?

As for the good guys from Clemson, they'll be in Orlando, where they'll face a Colorado team in a state of complete disarray, after a 30-3 loss to hated Nebraska, a 70-3 shellacking in their conference championship game, and the resignation of their head coach. Needless to say, we're favored, especially after a strong finish to the season, which saw two wins over then-ranked teams, including a whipping of conference champion Florida States. So a reversal of the last trip to this bowl, which saw Texas Tech crush us by 40, would be a nice way to cap the season.

The Tigers will arrive in Orlando tonight, and spend Christmas there, before playing on Tuesday. The two years I worked with the Clemson team, we had to report to our bowl site on Christmas day to unload our equipment truck and prepare for the arrival of the team on the 26th. Both times, I opened presents and headed out the door around noon, but at least i had a little time with my family; doesn't look like this year's team will have that's hoping that they're not practicing on Christmas!

That's division I football, the world in which i lived during my college days. As with the rest of the sporting world, there's some great stuff about it, and there's also quite a bit of crap in the atmosphere. I saw both while at Clemson, and it was always particularly magnified during bowl preparation. If any of my fellow managers are reading, they can probably guess what i'm talking about.

Conscious Again...

Three days into the trip, and i think i'm over the jet lag at this point, although the throat is still full of garbage. I very well may drink more hot tea in two weeks here than my family usually goes through in a year!

Thus far, i've been largely in-house, with a dentist visit and a morning at the office thrown in. Suitably low-key, and probably desirable at this stage, especially given the condition of my vocal cords.

Rented a van today, and I'll probably head up to the Carolinas tomorrow or Friday to see friends from the Clemson era. Renting in my hometown kind of stinks, but it's the only realistic option, with my car being worked on and (kind of) sold, Holly needing hers for work at the mall, and Brians' vehicle out of commission since a piston impaled the engine block in September.

That said, it's nice being back behind the wheel, especially when the roads are lined with trees. One thing i like about the south: the foliage.

Okay, Mike, sleep...think coherently (and write down those coherent thoughts!) in the morning.

Monday, December 19, 2005

And by the way...

Courtesy of Atlanta Pet Rescue, we now have this dog.
For two weeks, if not longer...

My sister loves the little cutie.
My brother believes the little pincer to be demonic.
I'm slightly bewildered.

In the South...

I knew it once i stepped off the plane and saw myself surrounded by faux-hunting gear. It's stylish here, really!

I'm currently at mom's, and i've gotta say, there's not much better than sitting around the table with my mother, brother, sisters, and a couple of friends, sharing food and laughs. Good times had by all.

After that came a longstanding Suffolk tradition of mine...a warm bath. I'm now a bit closer to getting hearing in my left ear back, no thanks to the first flight of the day, which made a brief detour through the ninth circle of hell on the way to Minneapolis. Seriously, it was not good.

That said, i'm zonked. Time to endorse a hot beverage and a couch...
Peace out,
- Mike


Flying all day today, first to Minneapolis and then to Atlanta, where family will meet me at the gate to kick off two weeks in the deep south, Christmas and New Year's included.

One odd, yet good sensation. I've lived in LA for just over two years, and have flown back in and felt back at home, but have never had the sense that i was leaving home when i left LA. I felt it today, saying goodbyes, wishing friends well and being bid farewell for the short-term, yet knowing that we'd be back together in two or three weeks, and would have much to talk about and do. Seems like home...

Other musings while at the gateside laptop port, waiting for the 6.45 flight.
- Radiohead's Idioteque is still the ultimate headphone song while waiting in line in a noisy airport.
- They say you make thirty mistakes when committing murder, and that you're lucky to remember ten. If the same holds true for ragtag packing jobs, i'm at three oversights so far. Only one that irks me at the moment is leaving my camera at home. I've missed some stellar photo-ops so far...and it's only three hours into the holiday.
- I haven't flown much this year; in fact, this is the second trip, both to Atlanta. Weird. I've always been one for traveling, new sights, people, and places, yet have done very little of it of late. This year's been one of grounding and learning to live on a different biorhythm than that of a confessed adrenaline junkie always seeking his next fix. In the broader matrix of my life, the thread's been one of moving from entitlement to appreciation and gratitude. Dare I say consecration? I believe so.

Godspeed, fellow travelers,
- Work

Thursday, December 15, 2005

David Bosch's Learning Tree

from 'A Spirituality of the Road.'
i love this stuff...

"I confess that the word 'spirituality' has always caused me a degree of uneasiness. Perhaps this has to do with the idea I, and apparently others as well, have always had about what spirituality seems to mean. By and large, I would guess, most people identify it almost exclusively with what is also known as our 'devotional life.'..

I am increasingly experiencing difficulties with this view of spirituality. Spirituality or devotional life seems to mean withdrawal from the world, charging my battery, and then going out into the world. The image is of an automobile which runs on batteries only. The batteries are charged for so many hours during the night and then the automobile runs so many miles during the day until the batteries become too weak to pull the car. For more mileage oone would have to charge the batteries for a longer period of time. Transferred to the spiritual sphere, this means: so many minutes of spiritual exercise will give me so much mileage for the day that follows. And if I find that I am run down before morning, this simply means that I have to spend more time in the morning charging my spiritual battery.

In this view, then, my 'true' Christian life consists of those so-called spiritual moments, away from the hustle and bustle of ordinary life. To be sure, all that hubbub is actually anti-spiritual, because it taps my stored-up spiritual resoruces, it drains my spiritual power away, it is a threat to my spirituality. I would, therefore, rather live on angels food only and have as little as possible to do with the things of this world...

The basic problem with this view of spirituality is that it is docetic. It is based on the idea that matter is essentially evil...I believe, however, that spirituality has to be redefined along different lines...

Fundamental to any definition of spirituality is that it can never be something that can be isolated from the rest of our lives, as the battery-operated car model suggests. 'Flesh' and 'spirit' in the Bible do not refer to two segments of our lives, the one outward and worldly, the other inward and otherworldly, as though we are spiritual when we pray and worldly when we work. No, flesh and spirit refer to two modes of existence, two life orientations. Being spiritual means being in Christ, whether we pray or walk or work. Spirituality is not contemplation over against action. It is not a flight from the world over against involvement in the world...

The involvement in this world should lead to a deepening of our relationship with and dependence upon God, and the deepening of this relationship should lead to increasing involvement in the world. Mother Teresa and her Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta are a shining example of this. Touching the poorest of the poor, she says, means touching the body of Christ. Pouring our our love on people in selfless dedication is a form of prayer. We do not stop doing the one thing before we begin with the other."

more later...

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Hotel Rwanda

I wrote the last post while watching Hotel Rwanda with the housemates. Of the multiple resonant scenes, one image and one line in particular seared themselves into my consciousness. After Paul Rusesabagina, a five-star hotel manager played by Don Cheadle, thanks Jack, a cameraman played by Joaquin Phoenix, for shooting footage of the massacre, Jack's response is, "I think if people see this footage, they'll say, 'Oh, my God, that's horrible.' And then they'll go on eating their dinners."

The contrasting image that lingers is that of Paul after he rides out into the fields and sees the corpses firsthand. The man goes back to his hotel, and attempts to get dressed and go about his day. He can't do it, and rips away his shirt and tie before falling on the floor, quivering in agony.

The massacre just became real.

One of the books that we read in Children at Risk this quarter was Good News About Injustice, written by Gary Haugen. Haugen begins the book with a recounting of his trip to Rwanda after the genocide. There he met the truth, and it became real. In part because of this experience, and the personalization of injustice, he founded the International Justice Mission, a human rights agency that rescues victims of violence, sexual exploitation, slavery, and oppression.

I'll be the first to admit that I struggle to commit to nonviolence and to non-coercive practices of power. The tougher confession is that much of the time, I don't see violence as a problem. It's an integral part of the culture I come from, and is largely part of how things are. I've been almost completely desensitized to violence, having seen it daily through various mediums, and would have to see murder close-up for the reality to affect me. As Mike Work, red-blooded WMA, my typical reaction is to shrug it off as 'something that happens.' The common correlate is to ignore the fact that a person's life was taken from them, and that this person's family and friends just suffered a tremendous loss, and that this loss was real. Life goes on.

I associate this with strength.

What if I'm entirely and utterly wrong?

What if courage is found not in shrugging off injustice and accepting it, but in looking abuse of power and violence against others in the eye, saying 'this is wrong,' and living out of that truth?

Monday, December 12, 2005

Fantasy and Imagination

Walter Brueggemann's one of those scholars who has both encouraged and discouraged me towards further study. Encouraging, in that I love his work, and resonate deeply with what he's done. Discouraging, in that i don't really see any need to write a book or ten, since he's already written most of what i'd want to say.

In The Book that Breathes New Life, Brueggemann urges the church to carefully consider our scriptures, and suggests that the danger is that we settle for private fantasy instead of imagination. He defines imagination as the capacity to entertain images of meaning and reality that are beyond the evident givens of observable experience, or the hosting of 'otherwise,' taking risks and daring to push from what we know to what we hope. I think he's onto something, and that the distinction is valuable. (FINISH THOUGHT)

In my case, following Jesus has lit the wick of many a dream in an already-active imagination, while my life's been the gauntlet in which those dreams are tested. When life gets tough, or simply routine and tedious, it's pretty damn easy to get discouraged, to say 'it'll never happen,' and relegate God-given dreams to the realm of fantasy, disconnected from our day-to-day reality.

I'd go so far to suggest that we Christ-followers even read the bible in this way, and have often been subtlely encouraged to do so. For instance, the dominant protestant views of the Sermon on the Mount all end with 'this isn't a tenable way of life.' To put it bluntly, we've learned not to believe it, and to have counter-arguments for every dreamer who asks the question 'what if this is real?'

A lot of the disconnect between the scriptures and our world is tied to the harsh realities of life, which tend to cloud out our defining reality, God's reign which Jesus spoke of and lived out. Life's tough, and it's awfully hard to see this crazy story as the way things actually are when we're knee-deep in crap. Yet these struggles tend to be the places in which strong people of unshakable faith are birthed, and in which we become people who can dream these dreams and live in them over the long haul.

On that note, i've been sitting in Romans 5 of late, reading Paul's words to a church of people he's never met:

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, throough whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverence; perseverence, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.


Sufferings produce perseverence, and perseverence, character, and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint. This new creation we patiently and actively await, it is real. Our God is a loving God, and we see this most clearly in Jesus, dying on behalf of the ungodly, the not-righteous, of those who were not at all like him.

And that's the grounding point, the point of reference that we keep going back to, and that keeps our dreams and hopes of a new world intact, when it all seems like pie-in-the sky craziness. God actually loves, and has demonstrated this for us, and when we live in that world, anything is possible. (MUCH MORE TO SAY...LITTLE BATTERY LEFT)

Saturday, December 10, 2005


Two weeks till Christmas, and the spirit of consumerism is in full force. I always notice it, especially when in Atlanta, and can usually count on one week-of late night drive when i vent my frustrations, first in the car, and then to my mom, who just has that knack of knowing when to wait up for me.

To be quite candid, i just want to puke when i contrast the significance that the gospel writers ascribe to Jesus' birth with the holiday closely connected to the events. In the end, I try to tune out the hubbub and listen attentively to the words of a teenage virgin from a dumpy hick town, who mysteriously finds favor with God, and breaks into song. Her words?

My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly;
He has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendents for ever.

May it be so.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Exam Week

That's what i've been kind of up to lately.

It's not really bad at all this quarter, with only one late night of studying, and that was last night, when jo, cara, and i got back from a good friend's short film screening across town around 10.30. i put in about two and a half hours reading dissertations and making notes for our group paper in culture&transformation, and finished my section this morning. i'm really pleased with it, and have generally positive vibes about the project experience, and its value for the future.

all that remains is to edit the paper together, print and submit, alongside my other completed coursework for the quarter. that's where things get tricky, with the card reader in the lab breaking down on the last day of finals ('s all in the timing), jacking the price of printing through the roof. when one can't print from home because of various hardware and software issues, this is a problem.

and i think i left my flash drive in a lab computer...hope its still there!