Author Archives: Phil Soen

Adams family and Munsters agree that…

So here’s a quick question for you: which show was better The Adams Family or The Munsters? Very bluntly, I have always been quite partial to The Munsters! Setting preferences aside for the moment, what strikes me about both of these shows is there similarity. What’s so interesting about this genre of show is that both shows present families that dwell comfortably in a world of death and decay. To the average viewer, this appears to be horrifying and yet utterly intriguing. The average viewer inhabits a world in which desperately attempts to conceal death and prevent decay, and yet the Munsters/Adams family do not hide it nor does it appear to be an object of terror. For them, death and decay are not only real, ordinary, but even considered prestigious achievements. The underlying question presented in both shows is: since death is an ordinary part of reality, is it good or bad? This question is perhaps the great Riddle encoded in every story, philosophic text, and religious expression. So, what is the answer?

Don’t let them eat mug cake!

So, last night my wife (Emily) and I were hankering for a before bed snack. This tends to pose a dilemma for us because we are committed to frugality and health. Our commitment to health precludes acquiring or keeping foods such as cookies, candy, and donuts. And our commitment to frugality keeps our pantries relatively empty except for what we need. But, our desire last night overcame both of these commitments. We decided to try out something called “mug cake” (apparently, a snack choice that has become somewhat popular). Mug cake is a kind of instant cake that one bakes inside of a mug placed in a microwave. As we begin to indulge in our mud cake, I remembered a snippet from the sitcom “Roseann”. You may or may not remember Rosanne, but it was a show starring Roseann Barr and John Goodman who portrayed a working-class lower income family that exhibited all the classic adventures and tensions of an ordinary family except with a unique so-called “white trash” style.

This was the story I remember. In the show, Roseann and her husband acquired a microwave for the first time. This newfound kitchen appliance proved to be a novelty for Rosanne. In this snippet that I remember, Roseann relays one of her success stories with the microwave to a friend. She said something like this: “so last night I made a chicken in my microwave. It tasted like shit, but it was so hot no one could tell the difference.”

So, I relayed this soundbite to Emily as we were finishing our mug cake, and this elicited a good laugh from her. I think Rosanne’s assessment resonated true with our circumstances well. The only thing microwave seem to do is produce really hot food without actually producing a good food product.

So, what does this incident with Emily mean? First, no matter what anyone recommends, do not produce, consume, or even think about making mug cake. If you want a cake, make it honestly by patiently enduring the legitimate process of baking. Second, we lost self-control to our more worthy commitments and we paid the price with seared tongues and giant knots in our stomach. Third, stories are not just pieces of entertainment but also interpretive mechanisms for making sense of experience. It had been years since I had seen that clip from Rosanne, and yet it reemerged at a moment that was very similar to that story. The stories closely resembled one another – both Rosanne in my story revolves around food failures with microwaves. And, Roseann’s story interpreted my own and gave me words to articulate my own experience. Plus, what I found so lovable about that show was Roseann and John Goodman’s ability to maintain comfort in the midst of social and economic discomfort. It was a show that exposed many Americans hidden insecurity about their actual place in society. Bravo!

Popular literature and primary sources

It is perhaps to the great advancement and success of popular literature that pastors and cross-cultural workers (a. k. a Missionaries) spend so much time reading popular literature as they work their way through the rigors of the professional ministry. But how much richer and deeper would the preaching be if more time was spent in primary sources, the Bible for starters, but also the readily accessible literature of Rome. Roman authors can be purchased at a great price and are not cryptic writers!modern_livius

How your Bathroom Scale Can Make You Wise!

So, where does one ordinarily encounter the truth? What are some things that come to mind – Laborious effort in a laboratory –a process of rigorous dialogue, which is maintained over time within a Greco-Roman context. Is truth only obtained in an extraordinary manner, place, time, or means? What if truth were really an ordinary feature of your experience?

Your bathroom scale tells the truth. Sorry. Continue reading

What Makes a Coffee House?

A couple of weeks ago, my friend David suggested that we go to a certain coffeehouse called College Grounds (not its real name). David was extremely excited about going to there. He said to me, “you’ll love this place.” I did not. It was not a coffee house.

A coffeehouse welcomes all without qualification, not just one class of clients. Continue reading

Why Erotica is not the only frustrating kind of story

If you were to go to Amazon and type in the word DESIRE, you would turn up a pulsating set of fictional books simply focused on erotic connection. However, desire is not merely a special feature of erotic literature, but the selling point of every human story, however mundane or sexually charged it may be. Stories are narratives about characters that possess, live with, struggle, and, in many cases, satisfy their desires. Consequently, stories can prompt our own desires, which can quickly turn into a frustrating experience. Continue reading

Stupid Guy: Movie Going and Motivation

I don’t know about you, but the ideal mandate for me is going to a movie with a couple of guy friends, and then head straight for the IHOP. I can take or leave gun shows, Irish pubs, etc. For me, a movie and a pancake dinner is about as good as it gets. This is precisely what me, Seth, and Nicholas decided to do one night. Seth and I chose the latest romantic comedy (I can’t remember if it was a Jennifer Aniston, Jennifer Lopez, Natalie Portman, whatever!). We were excited about our choice, but Nicholas wasn’t. He explicitly expressed his disappointment as we went into the movie, during the movie, and after the movie while we were waiting for our pancake dinner. Continue reading

“Mama doesn’t have powers!”


A couple of days ago, the girls were playing outside and, in a moment of opportunity, they decided they would plant flowers. This is the way they carried out their plan. There was a large pot filled with dirt next to the doorway of the apartment – the plot originally housed some type of tree or greenery that my mother-in-law had yet again purchased for us and we had yet again neglected it unto death. The pot no longer housed any greenery, but merely existed as an inert inanimate object, which they girls interpreted as their opportunity. They took some of the dirt and placed it in cups and claimed to have planted seeds within the dirt. At some point, Samantha picked up these cups and spread the dirt all over the front porch. Well, this resulted in all kinds of unforeseeable messes until Emily could take it no longer. This morning, in a spontaneous frenzy of activity, Emily quickly brushed up all the dirt from the front porch. She did this while the girls were waiting in the car to be transported to their appropriate destinations. This afternoon when Anastasia and Emily came home, Anastasia noticed that the front porch was clean and she said: “the porch is clean. Who did this?
I replied, “Mama.”
“How?”
“With powers,” I explained.
“Mama doesn’t have powers,” she insisted. Continue reading