Friday, August 5, 2016

A Few Things...

Goodness, it's been a while. Life really gets out of hand, doesn't it? You get on top of things and think "this isn't so bad after all!" and then you fall off the wagon again. Oh well. I guess that just jives with all the sayings about life, doesn't it?

Anyways, in this time we live in here in the USofA, there's an awful lot going on. Some good, and some bad. I wanted to take a minute to discuss some of the things that ave been on my mind lately and get it written down. I don't always (*cough*hardly ever*cough*) get many comments back on these things, but those of you who know me know I love to talk about things, so feel free to comment and discuss any of these items!

1. SPACE EXPLORATION!!!! So much to talk about here! Juno made it safely to Jupiter, so it's only a matter of time before we start getting some CRAZY awesome information about the biggest non-solar body of our local space! SO COOL! Also, a private company has gotten permission to run some moon missions, so we're going back to the moon! Also, SpaceX has made some immense progress on their reusable rocket program, so the days of having to pay a small fortune to put satellites in space is almost gone!

2. The 2016 Presidential race... Oh boy, way to follow up on a cool thing, huh? *Sigh* As an American, I feel it's my civic duty to have reasons for any decision I make, be it voting or abstaining from voting. And honestly, as much as I hate to admit it, I might not vote this year. I don't want to vote for a candidate I don't believe in. I loathe having to be in this position, but there's seriously no other option I see. I will summarize my opinions on each option briefly:

-Trump: Oh boy, the elephant in the room (hyuck hyuck, Republican joke hyuck hyuck). I agree with him that something needs to be done about the trajectory our country is taking, and I think he has some interesting ideas on how to do it (they may not be feasible or even actionable, but they are interesting). I think his ideas about reducing our reliance on foreign labor by increasing job opportunities for inner-city people is interesting, and perhaps even warrants some consideration. I don't like his xenophobic tendencies, especially his divisive racism and hatefulness, but there are some things I agree with. For example, his insistence that the Russians and Chinese need to be treated with respect, not disdain, I wholeheartedly agree with. They didn't become super-powers for no reason, and treating them like children only alienates ourselves.

-Clinton: My feelings for Madam Clinton are pretty strongly in the negative. I think the results of the email scandal are preposterous. The fact that the FBI's statement is basically, "Well, if it was anyone else..." makes me really frustrated with our justice system. We cannot deny that it's biased in favor of rich white people. This case proves it in the most potent way. I'm not saying she needs to go to prison for life, but the idea that she gets off scott free for grossly negligent handling of sensitive information is, for me, the ONLY reason you need to not vote for her. If she did it once, she'll do it again. She's already learned that there are no consequences.

-3d party: If the Libertarians ever had a year to shine, it was this one, and they tried. Gold star for them. Sadly, it looks like they've got absolutely zero traction. While, morally, I disagree with some of their attitudes about drugs and other issues, I personally think it's the church's job to attempt to alter our moral compass, not the government's job. I think an "all things allowed without injuring others" kind of government is fine, but requires the church to step up and be the moral voice (and all God's children said "but that's wooooork. I don't waaaant to. It's too haaaaard! Waaaaaaaaaah!")

3. The Rio Olympics: Oh Rio. You had such promise! Such colorful culture! Such beautiful geography! *Sigh* Such poverty. Such corruption! Such violence! Such poop-water! I read something the other day about how the Olympic Village is built on top of an old mass-grave for slaves. I think that encapsulates the Rio games well. A shiny and showy exterior built on the oppression and bloodletting of poor innocents.

I hate to end on a sad note, but those are the big talking points I've had bustling around my brain recently. So now they're bustling around yours too. Leave a comment about something you want to hear my opinion about. I have opinions about everything! :-)

Monday, January 25, 2016

Lesson from a baby

The other night, I had an experience taking care of the baby that stuck in my mind.

She had a long day, and it was time to get ready for bed. She started to get a bit fussy, which was just further proof. So I started to get her ready for bed: changed her diaper, put her in warm pajamas, made a bottle. All the usual things.

She got fussier and fussier through the whole process, and I knew why. She was hungry. But I knew that, if she ate a nice big bottle, she'd be ready to go to sleep, so I wanted to make sure she got a clean diaper and comfy pajamas so as soon as she fell asleep, I wouldn't have to wake her. But she just wanted her meal.

And it occurred to me, how much we, as Christians, behave the same way. We're so focused on our immediate desire that we can't recognize the long term benefit gained by patiently waiting on God.

We scream and cry and carry on, oblivious to the plan God is weaving for us. And it's not that what we've fixated on is bad. Shiloh wanted nourishment. She needed it. We also put our immediate needs above God's plan.

And perhaps there are more metaphors we can dig out here. Just like my daughter getting her diaper changed, we have to have our sins stripped away; wiped clean by the sacrifice of Christ. And as I am learning, this process has to be repeated a LOT. We must confess our sins continuously to keep our hearts clean.

Furthermore, just as warm pajamas prepare a baby for a long night sleep, we must try to to prepare for the long night ahead of us. By studying the scriptures and learning all we can from life (meditating on the underlying truths of our daily lives), we allow God to speak to us and prepare us for our journey through the dark.

Of course, it's just part of our limitations as mortal beings. But maybe, just maybe, an awareness of our condition can help us to be more patient in waiting for God to bring it all together for our good. Maybe if we try to remember that the bottle is coming, we'll be more content to get our diaper changed and our pajamas on :-)

((There you go, spiritual lessons from poopy diapers, fuzzy pajamas, and warm bottles))

Thursday, January 14, 2016

"Go out into the world..."

"And legislate the gospel."

Something about that seems off...

hmmm....

Oh, right! Silly me!

"Go out into the world and enforce the gospel."

No, that still doesn't look quite right.

Oh right, it's:

"Go out into the world and PREACH the gospel."

It seems that a lot of Christians have forgotten what our job is. It's not to make Christianity the law. It's not even to make sure our laws are the same or nearly the same as the Ten Commandments. Our job is to share the Good News of Christ's death and resurrection.

Legal homosexuality does not change that!

Legal drug use does not change that!

The gender/race/religion/party of our elected officials does not change that!

Our job is the same no matter what, and our job is to preach the gospel.

When we get so spun up about the state of our legal system, or the policies our government supports, or the number of Muslim immigrants into our country, we lose sight of what our actual job is. We get so focused on the things that mean nothing to our mission, that we give up ground on our actual mission.

I am called by God to share the message of His death, burial, and resurrection with all sinners. We are to be a light in the darkness, not a light in the lightness! We cannot truly shine for God unless we find ourselves surrounded by darkness. The fallen nature of the world should make us rejoice, because the Light of Christ will shine all the more brightly through us.

Just some thoughts...

Thursday, August 21, 2014

What we deserve....

So, I'm on vacation this week, and while watching the TV today I heard a commercial that piqued my interest.

"... so get the healthcare you deserve..."

It made me chuckle at first, but then I thought about it some more and it bothered me. I guess maybe I'm just to naive, but I've not ever really believed that my generation deserves the "Entitlement Generation" moniker that is so often applied to us. But this has shifted my view a little bit, because it's really made me aware of the issue.

It just made it so clear how often people use that "deserve" term. It's weird, because deserve has such a different meaning than I think people realize.


Deserve - Verb - do something or have or show qualities worthy of (reward or punishment).


See, deserve implies having done something. Having earned something, even. When viewed in that light, that commercial moves from being a humorous testament to the vanity of a few of us to something frighteningly elitist.

See, the implication is this:


You're being kept from the healthcare you deserve!

How?

Well, there's like... paperwork you have to do... and... complicated things... Oh, and doctors can't video chat all the time.... yeah...

But that just looks to me like what happens with any large system...

Yeah... but... OH! You deserve better because you work hard!

But I don't necessarily work in a field that makes me need better.

Yeah, but things are so expensive...

 Well, that's true I suppose...

See! You deserve better!



See, what their argument boils down to is that healthcare is inconvenient, and you deserve convenient healthcare. Not that we'd like convenient healthcare, because I'm sure we all do, but that we deserve it. As though there is something different about us that means we deserve better healthcare than, say, children in Africa. Or people in Central America. Oh, and all the other third world countries. Where in the heck do we get off feeling we deserve better than them?!

As long as there are people in this world who have NO healthcare, I do not DESERVE anything better. I should be happy, and content, and grateful for what I do have, which is a lot! 

I guess my point is this: be grateful for what you have! Realize that what we have here is greater than what basically anyone else in this world has. And before you go around talking about how much better you deserve, be thoughtful of those who, though thy deserve better, have nothing.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Nye vs. Ham...

So first of all, hats off to both parties. Both are men I respect very much, albeit for different reasons. Nye is a great man of science who is passionate about his work, as well as making sure that young people develop an interest in science, so that we as a society can continue to progress. Kudos to him! Also, it's really hard to explain science in ways that average people understand, so again, kudos to him.

Much respect to Ham as well. He is unashamedly open about his faith, and that takes real guts. We saw the sort of reactions that often accompany such staunch devotion to what you believe. I hope that, should the roles be reversed, Ham would not resort to mockery and belittling (although Christians historically have stooped to that.).

Now, I'm not going to come out swinging on who was right or wrong or any of that. I'm a Christian and I  believe that the Bible is the source of all ultimate truth. That's not to say I hold the same unwavering viewpoints as Ham (though many of them I do), but rather that I base my beliefs on what I read in scripture AND what I observe in the world around me (*gasp* the two aren't incompatible?!?)

No, my review is from a communications point of view. Who was the better communicator in the debate?

So, seeing as he went first in the debate, I'll start with Ken Ham.

Well, if his goal was to come across as unflinching and unwavering in his devotions, he succeeded. He seemed to have 3 to 5 target points that hey hit... and hit... and hit some more... and hit again... once more for good measure... and once more for being mean to his mother. Ham drilled his talking points, to the point where I, as someone who agrees with him, got tired of it.

This is a problem on two fronts. Firstly, it tires the audience. If the audience knows what you're likely to say, you've lost them. You need to hold their attention by presenting new information or hinting at things you may pull out of your hat later. An excellent place he could have done this was with his list of alternative dating methods. He displays a list of maybe 50 or so alternatives, but never... discusses... any... of them. He could have mined that vein for all it was worth. Every time the dating issue cam up, he could have used 2 or 3 completely different methods as references, but he didn't.

Secondly, it becomes really REALLY hurts your credibility (ethos). If the audience feels like they've heard all you have to say 10 minutes into your 30 minute presentation, you lose a LOT of credibility. The audience no longer sees you as someone they can learn from. If they know what you're going to say before you say it, they see you as, at best, an equal, and at worst, a simple person. Even really brilliant people can fall into this. The saying "familiarity brings contempt" applies to public speaking as well; if your audience is too familiar, you lose them faster because they can guess where you're going.

Something he did very well on was the Q&A time. He did many things right, but two were really excellent. His, "well, Bill, there's a book that talks about [x]" quip was awesome. It was one part cheeky and 3 parts arguement. On the one hand it's a humorous thing, which Nye sort of had cornered the rest of the debate. Get the audience to laugh, and they listen to you a little more readily. Secondly, though, it really sold his "look, I have an answer" point. He didn't have to ramble and explain and maneuver. He simply had to point to a verse and cite it. Now, Nye can debate credibility of scripture all he wants, but from the basic speaking point of view, referring to your primary citation is a great move.

Now for Bill. Nye:

Though he did well initially, he gave in eventually to the temptation to belittle. A good example is his insinuating that Ham believes Noah had superpowers. Ham never said that, or anything like it. Nye decided to try to make it look ridiculous, which is a perfectly fair tactic in debate, but you have to pull it off in a way that makes your opponent's point look ridiculous while presenting yourself as reasonable and logical. Nye went a little to far with his jab, and ended up looking kinda mean or silly.

One thing Nye did very well was pathos, or emotion. He made the audience laugh, he tugged the "think of the children" string many times, and he repeatedly played the "reasonable man" card, which worked very well for making him look moderate (when in reality he's not). The audience was much more in tune with him than with Ham, because he had better pathos appeal. Now, that being said, you can't win a debate with ionly pathos appeal.

So, from a communications point of view, who won?

Well, first, kudos to Ham for his definition of terms tactic. In classical debate, that nets him huge points, especially because Nye never really addressed it. In classical debate, that means Ham's definitions stand as what we judge by, which puts many of Nye's arguments on shaky ground.

That said, Nye won. Like, by a lot.

The question of the debate was "Is six-day, 6000-year-old-earth creationism a valid explanation of origins in today's scientific climate?"

To which Ken ham said:

"We need to define terms because the terms have been hijacked and we're being brainwashed and manipulated to believe evolution because textbooks misuse words. Naturalists are filling our kids heads with their beliefs and trying to inhibit ours. Christians are scientists too! Here's a lot of them! See! They can talk about their discoveries! Oh, and inventions! Christians can invent too! And carbon dating is wrong and doesn't prove anything. Oh, and Answers in Genesis is great and wonderful and awesome. Thank you."

Bill Nye on the other hand provided piece after piece of evidence that (in his mind) disprove creationism. He presented evidence, discussed it, and moved on to more evidence. It was great! I actually learned a bit from his presentation, and saw some new pieces to consider how to address in my own theology; questions I hadn't heard asked before.

Eventually, when he was really tacked down on some of the issues, Ham started to talk about actual physical evidence, but it was at best 15 or 20 percent of his debate. Considering the question of the debate, he should have come out swinging REALLY hard on the evidence front (and there is lots of evidence!).

So yeah, that's my opinion, take it as you will. Again, lots of respect to both of them. It was a good debate and, as a communications student, quite a neat chance to see in action the things I've talked about.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Why can't I write?

Wow, so I've already murdered one of my new year resolutions:

Write more.

And, that wasn't just in the sense of writing my blog more. Honestly, I really meant it as write ANYthing more. Stories, letters, notes, poems, blogs, whatever. Just write. I used to really love it. I used to sit in school when I'd finished my work and write all kinds of stories. Never got very far, to be honest, but I loved the process of creating.

I had one story I'd made about these kids growing up on colonial Mars. They'd been shipped off to a military academy and the story picked up in the capstone battle simulation: a three week long mass-battle in a 10km terraforming arena. It was fantastic, by far some of the most fun I've ever had writing. I wrote about 75 pages, and that was hand-written! I let a friend borrow it over a weekend and that weekend their apartment burned down. Go figure.

Ever since then, I've had trouble getting more than 5 or so pages into a story. It's like I reach a point where it feels like there's no point in going on. But I want to change that. I've recently been goofing off with my sister and writing short-story type things, and it's re-kindled my love for writing. I'm wanting to pick up a story and write. I've got a lot of ideas, but unfortunately, many of them are very VERY close to others' ideas, so I want to be careful not to tread on. But recently I've hit upon an idea.

Perhaps writing about the OPPOSITE of another work would be an interesting place to start. For example, perhaps instead of writing about a dystopian future where mankind is opressed and beset by countless enemies, I might write about a utopian society where mankind are the masters of all and must learn how to wield that power responsibly.

I like that idea, and I think I may start writing again because of it. Which brings me to the thrust of this post:

Would you guys be interested in seeing excerpts of what I'm writing? I probably wouldn't post them frequently (but, you know, I post here SOOO much already :)  ), but it might be a neat experience to share my creative mind and get constructive input AS I write instead of AFTER I write.

What do you think?

Thursday, January 16, 2014

An amusing yet poignant story...

So, a few weeks ago, our pastor shared this story, and I've not forgotten it. Thought I'd share :)

A member of the local Baptist church comes into the atrium one Sunday, 15 minutes early, as usual, heads through the line for free coffee, as usual, says "good morning" to the greeter and deacons, as usual, and heads through the double doors to get their usual seat near the rear of the auditorium. Not so far back as to look like they need distance from the speaker, but not so far forward as to be too close, either.

Well, what shock and surprise truly comes to our devout Baptist friend then to see, of all things, a BUM sitting in their spot! He's dressed in, well, honestly the term rags might be a bit generous, and his hair looks as though it's not been washed in weeks. Oh, and the SMELL! This must be some poor whino who's stumbled in here expecting the afternoon soup kitchen.

Being, as I've said, a devout Baptist, our friend makes an effort to welcome the guest. "Nice to see you."

"Nice to see you as well. I'm glad you're here today. I've heard this message should be pretty good" says the stranger, flashing what must be intended as a kind smile.

"Ahh...." manages our friend. "Well, you see, I, um... don't mean to be rude but... Well, you see, I usually sit here."

The man puzzles for a moment and then seems to get what's going on. "Oh, you mean in this exact spot! I thought you mean in the room here! How silly!"

Our friend smiles and nods. "That's fine. No harm done."

The two look at each other awkwardly for a minute or so.

"Oh... you want me to move..." says the stranger.

Our friend nods.

The stranger motions them to lean close and, though it's fairly disgusting, and our friend decides not to mention it to his friends later, he complies.

"You see, I'm expecting someone today. There's a man coming in today, been homeless for almost ten years, who ran from God many years ago. I want to be here to talk with him."

Our friend adds 'crazy' to the list of descriptive adjectives they'll use to describe this man at prayer group.

"Oh, sorry," starts the stranger, "I forgot to introduce myself. I'm Jesus."

Our friend just stares...

"You know, the Christ... Prince of Peace, Almighty God, Yahweh..."

*blink*blink*

"Well, Jesus, I'm sorry bu you've taken my place."

A sort of sadness seems to seep into the strangers face. With a look in his eyes that almost makes our friend weep, he simply says:

"Well, I've taken your place before, and you didn't seem to mind then..."




Wow, that gets me. like, really gets me. Ouch! Right in the conviction! How often do I do that?! How often do I get so set in my ways that I blatantly ignore the voice of God! Sometimes it's tradition. Sometimes it's schedule. Sometime's it's habit. Sometimes it's sin. Sometimes it's carelessness. But all too often, it happens. *shudder*

See, this hits me really hard because I'm weird. Well, some of you might think i'm weird, some of you may suffer the same affliction as me. When I hear/read a narrative, I see it. My imagination spins it into a visual. And man alive, what a potent visual this story begets.

To imagine looking into the eyes of God, the One who made me... the One who DIED for me!... and having the impertinence to insist on going my own way and ignoring His loving admonition to be better!

*sigh*

Such is the human condition I suppose. But whenever I think of this story (or even that last line), I silently purpose to myself to try harder to listen to Him. As I suppose we all should.