A digital commonplace for a Regular Guy called Charlie Pharis

Category: General (page 1 of 121)

Thankful Friday…

Ooh! Ooh! Two posts…in the same month! And on the same day!

As I was writing the ol’ Morning Pages this morning, I began to think of how Fridays are the perfect time for reflecting on The Week That Was, The Weekend That Is To Come, and The General State Of Things In This Life As We Know It. (Looks more epic if you capitalize it like a title, no?)

Anyway, there are several items that make me thankful today, even in the midst of—especially in the midst of—these topsy-turvy times in which we are called to live. Here we go. Add your own if you’re playing along.

  • Gooey, cheesy ziti al mondo at our favorite reliable American Eye-talian joint is better when it’s shared across the table from My Favorite Hoosier. Oh, and keep the rolls coming, please.
  • Playlists. Yeah, yeah…I know. More AI-generated “music” than real artists sometimes. But I’m very thankful for the people who have the knowledge and the time to curate and share their playlists. Right now, for instance, Tsh Oxenreider’s “Deep Work” is powering this blog post. Thanks, Tsh!
  • And finally, this story showed up in my Twitter…I mean…X! feed. The original feature was in 2021, so I don’t even know if Caitlin and Street Brew Coffee are still a thing in Toronto, but it sure made me smile out loud this morning. Turns out Caitlin is still pumping out coffee and good vibes!

Remember (he says to himself)…you’re pretty much going to find what you’re looking for. This quote from Katherine May’s Enchantment is a sound observation…

Enchantment is small wonder magnified through meaning, fascination caught in the web of fable and memory. It relies on small doses of awe, almost homeopathic: those quiet traces of fascination that are found only when we look for them.

So today, dear both of you readers, make your Friday a day for looking for and finding The Good Stuff that’s all around, the Stuff That Makes Your World Wonderful.


Photo by Clark Young on Unsplash

It’s all about the details. The little things matter.

Is the colon aligned vertically when representing time? Or is it sitting on the baseline in the default position? Did you even notice? Did you change it? What about the dash between times? Did insert the n-dash or just settle for the hyphen key and call it good? What about the kerning? Did you follow the style guide?

Did you take the time to make the shadows realistic on the composite image? Or did you just duplicate the layer and position it somewhere in some sort of alignment? Did you think about where the light would actually hit? Did you make the shadow black instead of a gradient of grey-blue?

Did you check your spelling? Your punctuation? Did you leave the passive voice, or did you even think to re-read the copy?

Did you leave the piece of paper towel on the restroom floor? Did you send the thank-you note? Did you remember your customer’s name?

The details do matter. The little stuff does count. The little things do add up to big things. And if you do the little things consistently, it will become a habit. And the habit will become excellence in practice.

Another Friday Afternoon…

143/365:DiaryCreative Commons License Magic Madzik via Compfight

Afternoons seem to be the worst times, and even more so lately. Especially Fridays. Today in particular, for some reason. So rather than waste a lonely afternoon, I thought I’d try to add to the regular challenge of writing something, anything, in the hope that something good or thoughtful or productive might work its way to the top. Here goes…

  • It’s Saint Patrick’s Day. That means it’s time to wear the traditional color and display the time-honored symbol of Ireland. You know…blue and the harp. You didn’t see that one coming, did you? Well, of course not, because everyone knows the color is supposed to be green – emerald, specifically – and the the symbol is the shamrock. Right? Except, of course, the color most associated with Saint Patrick is blue and the harp is the universal sigil (see Guinness, for instance).
  • Nightnoise is providing the soundtrack for this lonely Friday afternoon of Irishness. Playing right at this moment is the classic At the End of the Evening.
  • And don’t you wish Nightnoise and Windham Hill were still around?
  • From my Moleskine: “Sometimes I feel like I have some of the sensibilities of an artist (substitute creator, designer, whatever floats your boat), but none of the skill.”
  • That Nightnoise album is from 1988. Serendipitously, I watched two movies from that year last night: Working Girl and Big. Iconic and cliché 80s flicks, but still enjoyable, and still a couple of my favorite diversions.

We Like Christmas, Yes, We Do Redux…



(The latest hullabaloo over Starbucks and the plain red Christmas cups reminded me of this, one of my favorite posts from ten years ago. It’s not exactly the same situation, but it’s related and relevant today. By the way…does it really rise to the level of “hullabaloo” if one publicity-seeking moron raises a stink about a non-issue? I don’t think so. Some of the links may be outdated. You get the idea. Be gentle.)

We like Christmas, yes, we do –

We like Christmas, how ’bout you?

First of all, let’s get one thing straight, since it is an indisputable, undeniable truth of life in the world in which we live: Opinions are like…navels! – everybody’s got one. The corollary to that truth is, of course, that you are entitled to my opinion, whether you asked for it or not. And vice versa.

OK, with all that out of the way, let’s tackle this whole battle over Christmas/winter-holiday issue, shall we?

The great Alabama Christmas classic notwithstanding, this is not a peaceful Christmas time. Just about everywhere you turn, it seems somebody’s getting their stockings hung and their bells rung because of Christmas, or winter holiday, or whatever. As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly, when they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky, so are stories of retailers, schools, governments and whomever else discouraging, disparaging, or outright forbidding the recognition of Christmas flying through our media to our inboxes.

Now, I’m neither an intellectual nor spiritual giant. Nor do I play one on TV. But I’ve been thinking about this issue, and here’s what fell out of my Moleskine this morning. Your mileage may vary…

How should we as believers – not just “cultural Christians” – respond to the “Great Christmas Wars of Aught-Five”?

How about this?

Don’t go out of your way to “offend” others.
And don’t go out of your way to be “offended” by others.

  • We can honor and serve Jesus. How can anyone – a government, a school, a company, a retailer – keep you and me from honoring Jesus? The simple answer: They can’t. If it were suddenly “illegal” to celebrate Christmas, would it stop me from celebrating His birth, His life, His completed mission, His forever reign? If it were suddenly “illegal” to name the name of Jesus, would it change my faith in, and relationship to Him? If it would, then there may be more serious issues than a store clerk’s mandated cheerful greeting. Remember, Herod couldn’t keep the Wise Guys from Back East from searching for and honoring Jesus.
  • We can offer the best gifts we can in the spirit of Jesus. In my neck of the woods, at least, there are very, very few people who will be truly upset or offended by someone sharing a genuine token of love, concern, and caring, whether or not they themselves observe the Christmas holiday. The coffee you buy for the next person in line, the packs of chewing gum and/or Hot Wheels cars you give out to those around you, the yard you rake, the limbs you pick up, the groceries and diapers you provide, the mission offering…all these simple gifts better reflect what Christmas is all about than yapping about someone “taking Christ out of Christmas.” Very few people will not respond to selfless acts of love and service. After all, for “offense” to really happen, there has to be the intent to offend. How about you and I sanctify Christ in our hearts, and live out our hope in practical, caring ways? How about we leave the rest to Jesus and His incredible power to move into our neighborhood and bring good tidings of great joy, glory to God, peace on earth, and goodwill to men?
  • We can refuse to be offended by those who – for whatever reason – choose not to participate in the best part of the holiday season. Suppose we just refused to take offense when the culture at large dishonors or ridicules our faith? In America, at least, we have the right to express and practice our faith. But we don’t have the right to not be offended. Seems to me our world is becoming more and more like the world the first-century Church faced. To be sure, there is open hostility toward Jesus and toward His apprentices. But there always has been. (Here’s a clue: There always will be!) But on the whole, we’ve got a pretty wide-open opportunity to talk about Jesus and our faith in Him. The problem is, we need to learn to compete in the marketplace of ideas – realizing the possible consequences – just like Peter, James, John, Paul, and others did. Just like those guys, we don’t have the luxury of having our position accepted and validated “just because.” If our faith, our ideas, our paradigms won’t stand up to a little give-and-take, maybe they aren’t adequate for eternity, either.

We can enjoy our celebration. And we can offer the watching world a positive witness to our Lord.



Creative Commons License Matt Preston via Compfight

If you were Joseph or Daniel, or any of the other prophets who could interpret dreams, you might’ve had a field day with my night last night.

I dreamed about pie. I dreamed about making pies. I dreamed about taking pies to some girl across the street.

I dreamed about war. I dreamed about leading a battle against an Asian army. Japanese, I think. I dreamed they were attacking a house in my neighborhood. At least, I think it was my neighborhood. They had grenades. They launched one into the garage. I rolled it back out before it exploded. They were hiding behind a wall of some sort, and I convinced my guys to charge the wall and it tumbled down on top of the bad guys.

I dreamed about the great ritual in our tribe, “preaching in view of a call” (or as one of my seminary colleagues described it, “in lieu of a call!”) in some church in Cobb County.  I think it was Cobb County. I did well, but they didn’t want me.

I dreamed about a former staff member. I dreamed I had to ask him directions to the home of one of my former church members. So I could drop off a pack of diapers. At the baseball field near his house. I don’t even think there is a baseball field near his house, but there was one last night in my dream.

I dreamed I dreamed a dream. I dreamed a lot and I really don’t know what any of it means.

I Thought About…

"thinking" by Riccardo Cereser https://flic.kr/p/bT2t4

“thinking” by Riccardo Cereser https://flic.kr/p/bT2t4

I thought about Robin Williams, and how all of us could be him. I could see how the pressures and difficulties of life – especially a very public life – could get the best of someone. I don’t think I could or would kill myself, but I can see it.

I thought about Hemingway and pencils, about a kid named Paco. I remembered the great opening sentence of “The Capital of the World,” and the hundreds of Pacos who showed up in Madrid to find forgiveness from their fathers. I remembered how John Maxwell telling that story made an impression on me.

But I had forgotten the second sentence:

But this Paco, who waited on table at the Pension Luarco, had no father to forgive him, nor anything for the father to forgive.

And that sentence made an impression, too. In fact, it left a mark for some reason. It made an impression because it seems in my limited experience, to be the epitome of a Hemingway sentence, true, direct, and to the point.

I thought about Barbara Brown Taylor. And I listened to part of her recent sermon at Second-Ponce. Again, I had the thought that while we probably wouldn’t see eye to eye theologically, she takes seriously the text of the Scripture. She doesn’t bring her outline into the pulpit, she talks the Word. She’s having a conversation, telling a story, engaging the text and the congregation. Her preaching probably wouldn’t pass the muster of most SBC preachers today. And it might not fit neatly with the therapeutic, life-event, felt-need teaching we have assumed to emulate.

I thought about Mt. Everest, and photography, and typefaces.

I thought about Anna and Andrew, and Mark and Alison.

I thought about extension cords and projector kits, color palettes and iPad connectors.

I thought about money, and the lack of it, and I thought about life and the brevity of it.

I thought about joy and how it seems to have long since left and is determined to stay away.

I thought about cursive handwriting and why mine is so illegible. I thought about sentences and words, and how I wouldn’t be able to decipher what I wrote in my notebook the day after I wrote it.

And I thought about quitting while I’m ahead, quitting while I’m behind, and dropping out of the race altogether.

I thought about a bunch of other things, but that’s enough for today.

Sunday Night Unwind, 03.11.12…

For some reason, my ‘go-to” Sunday Night Unwind soundtrack has been Hillsong lately. I’ve got iTunes cranked up, and all the Hillsong stuff I have is rocking along. Did I mention we need a chick worship leader?  🙂 Anyway, here’s what’s going on in my little insignificant corner of the universe…

  • Last week started out pretty good, but ended up being the gnat bite week from H-E-double-hockey-sticks.
  • From Thursday on, it seemed like one little thing after another happened. There was nothing major, but those little gnat bites get pretty annoying when they start adding up.
  • Broken glasses. Busted doors. Kitty eye infections. Impromptu encounters with Cherokee County’s finest. Nasty floors. Changed locks. You get the idea….
  • Top all that off with last night, when I got a decent amount of sleep, but woke up feeling as though I’d been running all night long. Is it possible to sleep without really resting?
  • Today at The Crest was pretty interesting.
  • We’ve been in a series called Jesus in the Present Tense, dealing with the great “I Am” statements of Jesus in John’s Gospel. Today, we took a break to promote our tribe’s annual Easter Offering for North American missions.
  • Had some video vignettes of folks who are planting churches throughout North America. My most interesting “hmmmm” moment came from this guy, who came from South Africa to the United States because of his burden for dying churches and lost people. In America? Wait…aren’t Americans supposed to be “the missionaries?”
  • We’re tenants now, in the property we used to own, and that – as you can imagine – is pretty awkward. And getting more so as the weeks go by. We need to get busy looking for a new place to call home. And pronto!
  • I used to believe the conventional wisdom that said if you pay for something yourself, you’re more likely to take better care of it than if someone gives it you you. Apparently our new landlords and erstwhile tenants didn’t get the memo. Aren’t Army guys supposed to be clean and neat? Don’t they learn to police the area, etc.? Isn’t there such a thing as KP anymore? And whatever happened to the famous “commitment to Christian excellence in education?” (Insert your own link here. It shouldn’t be too hard to find.) And why are there bricks and concrete blocks in the refrigerator? Just wondering out loud here…
  • For some reason, this line from National Lampoon’s Animal House comes to mind more often these days.
  • Oh, and how about that commitment to excellence in grammar, too?
  • Did I mention that the lovely and gracious Mrs. Just Charlie has Apple fever? I mean a bad case!
  • If you want to help ease that condition, one of these will do the trick. And one of these. Oh, and since it’s small, how about one of these, as well? 🙂
  • How do you go about making a large traditional worship space (think pews, etc.)  more intimate when it only contains  relatively few people? Our space will seat 175-200 and we have less than 50 currently. Just wondering…
  • I started reading Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr,Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas this evening.
  • I’ve been thinking about “hard things” for the past couple of days. And as much as I hate to admit it, I’ve failed at so much simply because I quit or backed off when the going got tough. It’s hard to do the right thing sometimes. It’s hard not to give up or give in. It’s hard to follow God’s lead when you’re discouraged and just going through the motions. It’s hard not to quit when it seems everything you try fails. It’s hard to keep going when it seems you’re on your own without a lot of support. It’s hard! Now at age 50-something, I’m wondering if it’s too late to strengthen those muscles.
  • Speaking of muscles, my commitment to exercise and health has been one of those areas. I’m getting back to it. As tempting as it is, you can’t live on what you did six years ago.
  • Same with reading and learning.
  • Same with meaningful spiritual habits.
  • All things being equal, however, God is still great and He is still good, and He’s not done with us yet!

Sorry for the pity party. Move along if you’re in the wrong place. If you’re where you’re supposed to be, an extra prayer or two would be appreciated.

A famous Jim Cymbala quote to bring a merciful end to tonight’s Unwind…

I despaired at the thought that my life might slip by without seeing God show himself mightily on our behalf.

Peace. Good night!

Testing from the CrackBerry Again…

We’re in the middle of a bunch of thunder and lightning, so I turned my desktop computer off. Here I am with my trusty Curve, seeing how it works with the old blog. This is just a test…nothing to see here…move along now…these are not the droids you’re looking for…:-)