Tuesday, January 31, 2006
Yesterday, a former postal employee opened fire at a 24-hour postal service sorting facility in Southern California. Six people were killed, along with another person being critically wounded. After the onslaught, the shooter turned the gun on herself. I guess this reminds us how "going postal" is more than a cliché.
Do you still believe that "guns don't kill people"?
Monday, January 30, 2006
"Democracies don't go to war; democracies are peaceful countries."
- President George W. Bush, 12/19/2005
I guess this means that once Iraq becomes an honest-to-goodness democracy, it won't decide to unilaterally invade foreign countries based on false pretenses. After all, real democracies don't do that sort of thing.
...just like America, right?
Saturday, January 28, 2006
Today was a good day for me.
After fighting endless feelings of frustration, anger and disappointment, I earned a good friend back today. I admit, it was an awesome feeling.
You see, we spent so much of our time silently going at each other's throats for different things, that I couldn't see him as anything but an opponent. He'd betray me, I'd betray him. He'd silently tear me down, I'd silently tear him down. We were getting nowhere. It got so bad that rather than seeing him as a brother in Christ; another sinner saved by grace, I saw him as my arch enemy. Worse yet, I didn't even care.
But, as I try to walk closer to Christ, I think that it's imperative for me to resolve any issues that I have with others, whether they're willing to meet me half way or not. This guy was no exception. So, we talked, joked, and laughed. We shared our frustrations with each other, apologized, and resolved to make things different -- well, more like better -- between us.
Now, I'll be the first to admit that one of the most pressing issues about our relationship, is not gonna go away. But, this only challenges me more to rise about it. It challenges me to accept God's offer of healing; even if it's not delievered the way that I think that it should be. As I mentioned in a previous post, God's methods of healing don't always fit our 'best case scenario'. But, God knows what's best for us even more than we think we know. That said, I'm not going to ask God to change the 'situation' between us. Instead, I'm asking Him to change my heart; to change the way I view and respond to it. That way, even when the 'situation' is still right in my face, at least it won't have to weigh on me any more.
I think that it's safe to say that we've made our peace. But now comes the hard part. You see, making peace is not always difficult. It just requires parties who are willing to forgive one another. The real challenge comes with living at peace. People can talk a mean game about how 'changed' they are. But it's not until they can live out that change in their life, that they've really accomplished anything. This is a victory that takes days, months...years of growth to fully realize.
But for now, I can find content in knowing that the two of us have, at least, found restoration.
And I feel good about it.
The Matrix was only a movie. Please don't try crazy stuff with motorcycles. Let's review this, shall we?
Friday, January 27, 2006
Truth be told: I don't claim to have all the secrets of success. But, I can tell you that one of the worst things you could ever do is to piss off Oprah Winfrey. She's like an empire all to herself. You should never do anything to remove yourself from her graces. James Fey knows that all too well.
A couple of weeks ago, Oprah was on Larry King when she declared, to the rest of the world, her support for Fey and his newly released book, A Million Little Pieces; an autobiographical account of his life. This book was added to Oprah's Book Club; which almost spelled instant success.
If only he had been smart enough to list the book as fiction.
Admist speculation from the literary community, it's now officially that his book was apparently a sham. Readers nationwide are pissed; with Oprah being the ringleader. She had him on her show this week and completely grilled him. Now, I'm not the biggest fan of Oprah (in fact, I really don't like her at all), but I completely understand why she'd be upset. This guy manipulated her into subscribing to his story. He played off of her trust, exploited her ever-so-valuable endorsement, and -- essentially -- made a fool out of her. He can now be dubbed "The Man Who Conned Oprah".
I wonder if he'll write a book about that.
Thursday, January 26, 2006
I was hurt pretty bad recently. I won't go into the details of it but, let's just say that I felt like I was cut pretty deeply. In my distress, a good friend challenged me to read and concentrate on Psalms 147:3. It's a pretty significant passage:
"He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds..."
Many of us, though we may not always admit it, are harboring some sort of pain. Whether it's a small cut or a deep wound, we've all experienced hurt on some level. Pains come in all different forms and degrees. It just depends on the person and the circumstance.
Let me ask you: Who's responsible for making our pain go away? Is it the people who inflict the pain on us? Oh, if it were that easy! The truth is: as the ones being hurt, we hold the most responsibility for making it go away. We are the ones responsible for walking to, opening, and stepping through the door of healing. The problem is: many of us (myself included) try to find too many excuses not to walk through the door, largely because we're afraid to see what's on the other side. I think that we start to believe that the wound really wasn't all that bad in the first place or that the scab on our wound is good enough to stop the bleeding. We've shed enough tears. We've done enough healing. We're OK!
But, little do we realize, we're only bottling our hurt, we're not eliminating it. By not dealing with our pain -- especially the deepest, most devestating parts of it -- we are seriously compromising the healing that God wants us to have. Sorta reminds me about how Tylenol works. It's a pain reliever not a pain killer.
In order for us to experience absolute healing, we must give our problems, our pains, and our circumstances to God, the ultimate pain killer. As the passage I cited earlier says, God can fix the brokenness in our lives. He knows -- with exact certainty -- what we need to overcome the hurt that we experience. But, the only condition is: we have to allow Him to work...without us playing the role of the "backseat driver". From what I've been told (and from what I've sort of experienced myself), this process can actually be just as painful as the original hurt we feel. So, many times we avoid involving God as much as possible. That's when things go even further south.
As Christians, we must remember that in order for God to let loose His healing on us, we must first deliver our pains to Him. Also, we must be willing to accept His presciption -- no matter how bitter the pill is or how expensive we think it is. God is the one with framed diploma on the wall; not us. He's the one who graduated from medical school with flying colors, not us. He's the certified M.D. Not us.
The Doctor is in. No appointment needed...
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
So President Bush admitted to personally authorizing thousands of potentially illegal wiretaps. The funny thing is, he doesn't plan to stop. Now, add to that, launching a preemptive war, a super invasive Patriot Act, attacking any whistleblowers who come foward with uncovering evidence, cronyism, secret agendas, bullying around some of the privacy buffs like Google, and a blantant abuse of power.
As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words...
A friend of mine (You know who you are. Thank you for blessing me...) sent me an interesting mediation from Bishop T.D. Jakes called "Let It Go for 2006!" You may have heard of it. I did some looking around for it and it's pretty popular. In it, Bishop Jakes identifies circumstances where we, as Christians, have to let go of various people and things which cause more harm to us than good. While his mediation was indeed powerful and challenging, I find myself having a hard time putting his words into action. To do so requires me to make a lot of changes in my life.
I’ve discovered that I’m a creature of habit. Sadly, I’m the type of person who tries to avoid constant adjustment to things in my life. My ducks have to be in a row. Occasionally though, one seems to go astray. While I don’t usually panic about it, it does, at the very least, cause considerable discomfort for me. Even though I don’t have my entire life set in stone, I admit that I don't often welcome spontaneity in my life. This is major problem of mine.
You see, I believe that life is composed of three specific constants; you live, you die, and (gulp!) things change. It's almost inevitable.
Why, then, are we so afraid of change? Why does everything need to be in order before any movement takes place? Why are we so afraid to let go of certain people and things?
I believe that it’s because we enjoy being comfortable. When everything is going well -- our job is in tact, our love life is in order, our money is right, etc. -- we don’t have a care in the world. It seems to be the greatest time of our lives. But how many times have you heard someone say how thrilled they were to fix that unexpected flat tire in the cold (like I just did recently), or to have their heart broken by a loved one, or to get laid off from work with bills due and a family to support? Probably not that often. Instead, in those situations we grumble, moan and complain; largely because we wanted things to stay as they once were. We create comfort zones for ourselves and want to stay in them…regardless to where they are. As long as things are running smoothly for us, we’re “A OK”.
What's bad about this is that comfort zones are not safe havens from change. Why? Well, because there is minimal growth in comfort zones. They only lead to complacency and self-satisfaction. Change provides the necessary instability to force us ‘out of the box’ and into the sovereignty of God. Change is the alarm clock that we need to jar us from self-sufficiency to total dependency. In other words, we no longer rely on definitive routine; but rather on an uncertain dependence on God. Change shows us that we are not in control. In Ecclesiastes 3 (made famous by the Beatles), we are reminded that life is full of changes and that there is a time for everything. When it comes time for us to hand control over to God, we must be able to do so. There are no trump cards to play; no “get out change free” cards; no way to ‘skip’ a turn.
I think that the solution to this whole thing is to expect change. The more that you expect change, the less stressed you are when it actually comes. Most of the time, we are stressed out because we were unprepared for the disruption of our safe atmosphere. But if we understand that change is good for us and helps us to stay focused and dependent on God, I believe that we will begin to enjoy even the uncomfortable times. Those are the times when God can deliver us from our weakness and deposits that much needed strength in us.
Am I ready to make a change?
Where do I start?
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
At the root of all power is wealth. With sufficient wealth a country can afford a strong military while still making the domestic investments (in roads, schools, medical care, scientific research, etc.) that keep citizens productive and the economic pie expanding. High taxes impede growth, but so do high deficits. Living off your credit cards is as bad for your country as it is for your family. In the long run, there is simply no way around it–bad fiscal policy is a threat to a nation’s power. Most American presidents have understood this. Ronald Reagan (the questionable president that he was) raised taxes to assuage the mounting deficits caused by his previous tax cuts and defense increases. Further budget discipline by Reagan’s successors, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, left America at the end of the 20th century with a booming economy, unrivaled military and diplomatic power, and revenue surpluses.
Then along came George W. Bush.
In one term, he has wiped away one of the Republican Party’s few appealing characteristics–its concern for fiscal discipline. Bush and his advisers firmly believed that taxes should go exclusively and consistently in one direction: down. At the same time, they were determined to exploit America’s military dominance more copiously. Neither the recession of 2001-2003, which drained away much of the surplus, nor the 9/11 attacks altered this view. Instead of focusing our military and diplomatic resources on al Qaeda and Afghanistan, the president chose to invade Iraq without broad international support and against the advice of much of the national-security establishment. Instead of reversing the tax cuts or even raising taxes, as all previous presidents had done in wartime (and most patriotic Americans would have probably supported the idea), Bush continued to cut them. And instead of imposing spending discipline, the president allowed the GOP-controlled Congress to abandon the “pay-as-you-go” budget principles revived by his father while failing to veto even the most ridiculous spending measures.
These reckless fiscal and military policies are destined to undercut America’s wealth and power for years to come, regardless of who would have won this year’s election. But, since Bush won a second chance, we could be in for something far worse: the beginning of the end of American greatness.
No amount of dire warnings or severe criticisms dissuaded the president from pursuing reckless fiscal and military policies in his first term. Therefore he is unlikely to suddenly change his mind since the plurality of voters validated those policies by supporting him in November. He has no doubt interpreted a second term as a mandate to make their tax cuts permanent and, in all probability, to significantly reduce taxes on capital gains.
How, then, will he respond when the deficits skyrocket even more? I can think of three ways, none of which is particularly easing: First, he will try to reintroduce the “reform” agenda he began in his first term but largely put aside. This agenda, as more than one Republican has pointed out, is really about unraveling social insurance. From privatization of Social Security to tort reform to Health Savings Accounts to a variety of innocent sounding changes to small business–what holds the Bush reform agenda together is a desire to undo the social safety net. These changes would further undercut the middle class and put our future at risk as health and education outcomes deteriorated for more and more people. In this second Bush term, however, Democrats will not be as shell-shocked as they were in the first two years of the first George W. Bush administration, and they will block most of Bush’s reform agenda. Frankly speaking, I can’t imagine that Democrats will do business with Republicans after WMD, No Child Left Behind, prescription drugs, etc. A second-term Bush administration, then, will probably be no more able to enact radical changes to social programs than the first one was.
The next option to control spiraling deficits would be to enact large budge cuts across the board. This would wipe out many discretionary spending programs and push all sorts of costs–Medicaid, juvenile delinquency, mental illness, and education for starters–down to the local level. Property taxes would either rise way too quickly creating a middle class revolt–or governors and mayors would hold the line and radically cut services for the most disadvantaged. The political fallout from these severe cuts in social spending would be enormous–which is why no Republican, from Newt Gingrich to George Bush, has ever been able to make big cuts in the programs they claim to dislike so much. Thus, it is highly unlikely that in this second-term George Bush could create cuts in spending sufficient to do something significant about the deficit.
That leaves option number three: Carry on the tradition of the first term and simply assert that massive spending cuts are not needed because tax cuts will be sufficient to grow our way out of the deficits. But robust economic growth eluded the Bush team for most of his first term. Job creation has been slow and the recovery halting–giving rise to great cynicism about George Bush’s campaign claim to have “turned the corner.”
In a second term, growth will be even more elusive because it will be affected by something the American presidency has no control over: the accelerating growth of the gargantuan Chinese economy driving up global demand for oil. The rate of growth in global demand for which will have doubled by the end of 2005 in just one decade compared to the rate of growth in the 22-year period before it. Demand-driven increasing energy costs will not go away. Expensive energy makes everything we make and buy and drive expensive, too. And yet the Bush administration can’t see beyond oil. I don’t buy into the conspiracy theories of the left, that Bush and company are out for the oil money. But it is clear to me that the mindset of oil men is totally inadequate to leading us out of an oil-dependent economy. If Bush is reelected, the failure to wean us from dependence on foreign oil will rank high in the reasons why the Bush administration presided over the beginning of the end of America’s wealth. In short, there are no signs that George Bush in a second term would be able to correct the fiscal mess he created in the first term. Moreover, the Bush deficits will run up against another looming financial crisis. Sometime in the decade after a second Bush term, the Social Security Trust Fund will begin to pay out more than it takes in. Everyone knows this is coming. Another Clinton era veteran, Rob Shapiro, predicts that by the end of the second term the market’s horizon will begin to take in the Social Security and Medicare crisis. With huge additional spending burdens in the context of a huge deficit, the capital markets will presume that Washington policymakers will take one of two economically detrimental paths: inflate their way out of the bind or raise taxes. One Wall Street Democrat predicts a 25-basis-point increase in interest rates every three months well into the future.
By the end of a second Bush term, our nation will be poorer, and poor nations have trouble leading the world. So do nations that no one believes. Preemption is not necessarily a flawed strategy; it is only flawed if the judgment about the immediacy of the threat is wrong. The public, the press, and the Democratic Party–all of whom gave the president the benefit of the doubt on Iraq–will be hyper critical and suspicious of further claims that some nation is about to do us harm. The failure to find WMD and the suspicions aroused by recent announcements of “new” terror threats that turn out to be three years old are beginning to have a boy-who-cried-wolf effect. Who will believe President Bush when he tries to mobilize the country to go to war against an aggressive and nuclear Iran or an out of control Kim Jong II? Once lost, trust is hard to regain. Even if Kerry won the election, he would have had to face problems if he finds that he has to take the country to war. But no one will face suspicion the way second-termed President Bush will and that could lead us into a situation where we don’t fight when we should.
America started the 21st century with great wealth, great power, and great moral authority in the world. But in the “twinkling of an eye”, Bush took us from budget surpluses to budget deficits, from a military that was feared to a military that is exhausted and stretched to the breaking point, and from a country that could lead the world to a country that invokes doubts at home and abroad. We are at the beginning of what may be a long war on terror. This means that we need all aspects of our power–our military power, our economic power, and our moral power—well in tact. Bush has squandered all of them in his first term. Sadly, it will only worsen in this second.
Monday, January 23, 2006
You would think that the pain and suffering that we experience would teach us a little about the pain and suffering of others. But, too often, it doesn’t.
You would think that having a loved one face life-threatening violence would cause us to stop exposing others to life-threatening violence. But, too often, it doesn’t.
It seems to me that knowing the fear, pain, confusion, and hurt that is associated with our suffering would move us in a way so that we would never want to see another human suffer. But, too often, it doesn’t.
As we continue to hear stories of lost U.S. lives in Iraq, you would think that we would all finally open our eyes to the horrific nature of violence and destruction. Yet, many Americans are still being supportive of the President and his war. To them, I ask: isn’t it a bit hypocritical to ask God to bless our nation while supporting agendas that perpetuate violence and hatred toward others? Granted, most war supporters are not violent themselves, but they surely can’t be following Jesus’ lead when it comes to loving the enemy.
Something seems fundamentally wrong when we sing “God Bless America” and offer up prayers, while -- in the same breath -- we vocalize support for an agenda which sends kids off to foreign lands to kill [or be killed by] the "enemy". It’s kinda like saying, "Please God! Help my team win!” while you're breaking the leg of your opponent’s quarterback.
Does God only hear America’s prayers? Does God hear the prayers for our nation’s deliverance, while completely ignoring those who live opposite of our views? If God hears our prayers knowing full well our potential for sin, who’s to say that God doesn't also hear the prayers of those who differ from us?
If we are going to pray for our nation, I think that God also expects us to pray -- with the same intensity -- for others, including our enemies. Too often, we don’t. I wonder how that impacts God’s decisions. I suspect that He’s telling us "Dude, I know you love your country and everything, but you’re not the only place on the planet. How ‘bout sharing some of those prayers with other people? And, yes, that includes those cats you don’t like…”
As a nation, we need to learn to pray for our enemies. I believe that this is a significant mark of spiritual maturity. How mature is it to pray for those you dislike with as much passion and fervor as you would for those you love?! While we beg for God to bless our nation, we should remember the Iraqi woman who just lost her husband and daughter in a gunfight. While we pray for a family member or friend to come home safely, we should remember to pray for that young Iraqi fighter who's about to go on a suicide bombing mission. Simply put, we should seek to transform our views of the world and, especially, the way that we live. Our prayer lives should not only be for our own healing…but for the healing of the world.
May God continue to bless America.
But may He also bless:
Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Anguilla, Antigua/Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burma, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Congo Dem. Republic, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Fiji, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Ivory Coast, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kiribati, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Marshall, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia, Moldova, Monaco, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nauru, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, North Korea, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Palau, Panama, Papua-New, Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Rwanda, San Marino, Sao Tomé and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, St.Kitts e Nevis, St.Lucia, St.Vincent e Grenadine, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Togo, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Ukraine, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vatican City, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Vietnam, Western Samoa, Yemen, Yugoslavia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
Friday, January 20, 2006
So, another NBA player went into the stands.
This time, it didn't accompany a brawl.
NY Knicks forward Antonio Davis was suspended for 5 games for going into the crowd after witnessing his wife being involved in an altercation with another spectator. This is a bizarre example of how far the NBA will go to prove a point. This time, a player will feel the league's wrath simply for trying to protect his family. Crazy, huh?
According to new league rules (stemming from last year's "Malice in the Palace" between the Indiana Pacers and the Detroit Pistons), any player who leaves the court to enter the stands for any reason will be subject to punishment. Apparently, protecting one's family is included.
The truth is: I don't know what happened. On the one hand, some folks say that the spector was hassling Davis' wife. Others say that she instigated the event (incidentally, the guy is planning on suing the Davis family. You figure it out...). All I know is there was conflict, which Davis saw and, as a result, tried to do whatever he could to keep his wife safe.
I know that the league has to keep their rules. They can't and shouldn't bend them for anyone. But, let's keep it real here. The expectation that a player will stay on the court if his family is being attacked is not only unrealistic, but it's also irresponsible on the league's part. Changes need to be made.
For one, how about more security? With spectors literally feet away from the players, having additional security wouldn't hurt. Secondly, how about isolating the players' families in one area. That way, incidents like this won't happen. We all know that in hostile sports environments, it's not just the players who get the harassment, but the families as well. Finally, the league needs to modify their rules to punish based on the level of severity. Antonio Davis threw no punches, made no assaults, or caused no scenes. There's no way you can convince me that a 5 game suspension (resulting in about $625,000 lost in salary) was reasonable punishment for going into the stands simply to protect your family...especially when security was asleep on the job.
The NBA's attempts to clean up its image is only hurting it more.
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
I don't the author of this quote, but someone once said "In order to have friends, you must first show yourself friendly."
Sometimes I wonder how true that really is.
Lately, I've been struggling with what it means to have friends. We talk pretty glibly about friendship and toss the word around pretty freely. But do we really know what it means?
Are friends simply people with whom you associate? That can't be it. I associate with my co-workers all the time; and they're not really friends. Are friends people with whom you have close and intimate relationships? I'd like to say so, but - as I've learned - even the most intimate relationships have limitations. So, if friends are not shaped by association or by the level of closeness/intimacy one has with another, what exactly does the term mean? The truth is I really don't know for sure.
What I do know is that friendship isn't some made-up concept. Even though I can't seem to put my finger on what really makes a friend, I won't completely rule out the fact there is such a thing. After all, the Bible tells us about the characteristics of friendship. There wouldn't be passages out there to support a non-existent term, would there?
Jesus reminds us in John 15:13, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." What do you think that means? Does that mean that the only way for us to really validate our friendship for someone else is for us to die for them?! Actually, I think that's exactly what it means. But don't out and jump in front of that train for your friend just yet.
I think that when Jesus used that phrase, He was suggesting that friendships requires sacrifice. It means that we must experience the death (or, at the very least, the minimizing) of our self-centered, "It's all about me" approach to dealing with others. It's about stepping outside of what makes you 'comfortable', and being able to give yourself to the people you love. The key to this is giving, without the expectation of receiving. If those people are willing to reciprocate that same philosophy for you, then I believe that you have a true friendship, as defined by Jesus.
I think that's why my true friends list is getting pretty short. Sure, there are lots of people out there that I know and whom I love, but there's only a short list of people for whom I'd sacrifice myself and my comfort. Not only would I gladly go through the fire for them, I'd go through it with them.
Except, what happens when I get the feeling that they're not willing to do the same for me? Am I selfish for thinking that they should, especially if I do it all the time?
Have you ever felt like you were giving, giving, giving, while your friends were only taking, taking, taking? How do you handle it?
I'm interested in anybody's thoughts on this one...
For MLK, Jr. Day, a few classmates and I decided to help a local community group by participating in a food drive for Hurricane Katrina relief. Those who volunteered were put together in teams who could work on various activities throughout the day.
There was one guy in the group who really pulled a foul number on the rest of us, or so I thought. He had promised to work a three-hour shift toward the end. About forty minutes into his first hour, he informed us that he was leaving to work on an assignment for class. At that moment I lost all respect for this guy. Here we all were; devoting our time and energy to helping others and this idiot decides that his other engagements are more important. I mean, it wasn't like we didn't all have the same assignment to do. The nerve of this guy! I mean, how inconsiderate can a person be?!
That night, I was sharing this story with another Christian in one of my classes. I mentioned to her how selfish and inconsiderate I thought this guy was for not contributing to our efforts. I went on to juxtapose him to greedy and selfish celebrities who would rather do for themselves than for others. I promised her and myself that I would never be like this guy. After all, I’m generous and giving, while he’s selfish!
My classmate looked at me and said, "You know. You often complain about how the church judges other people because of their differences. What makes you any different with this guy?”
At that point, it felt like someone pulled the covers off me and I was completely naked! Here I was with a gavel in one hand and a noose in the other shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”. It didn't take me long to realize that I was playing the role of the judge, jury, and executioner. I was in conflict with this guy because of our differences…or what I perceived to be our differences. Worse yet I was trying to form an "Amen Corner"; getting others to join me in my defamation of this guy.
She pulled out her Bible (I know that I'm in trouble when this happens) and turned to Romans 14. In this passage, Paul instructs us on how to live with one another without criticizing each other because of our differences (especially religiously). He knew that we could not function together in Christ while focusing our attention on what we perceived were the weaknesses of our brothers and sisters. She pointed out to me that I was in conflict with someone else because of our differences. After hearing that, I felt even more ashamed. As if that were possible...
Do you ever wonder why we judge people? I think it has to do with the perception of power that we have over other people. That perception of power then gives us a false sense of security. We find security in believing that we’re right and they’re wrong. That sense of security then leads to us having a false sense of superiority. When we feel superior to them, we don’t have to face our own issues. We say "They have to come up to my level. I don't have to go down to theirs..." By making them the enemy, we don’t have to love them and we can drop bombs on them whenever we want.
However, this is not the way of Jesus. Go back to the story of the adulterous woman (found in John 8). Jesus told the woman who should have been stoned for her sins, [Since no one can condemn you] “Neither do I condemn you. ” Jesus was able to incarnate God’s grace for sinners and express it because of His amazing acts of acceptance. We will never be healthy Christians until we accept our brother and sisters (even if we think that they are weaker), shift the focus onto our own shortcomings, and to eliminate our un-acceptance of people who are different. In doing so, we are making sure that we’re not the person in the crowd who is casting the first stone.
Sunday, January 15, 2006
Have you ever played a part in shaping someone else's destiny without really knowing it? I suppose that we all have at one point or another. A conversation with a friend helped me to identify one of those times:
Meet Agent "J". J is a really good friend of mine. In fact, I really consider her a role model. I'm truly in love with her story. I'm gonna digress for a moment here, if you don't mind. Please, bear with me for a second:
J came from a pretty affluent family. But, tired of living off of her parents and wanting to be viewed as an adult, she transfered to Northwestern University at the ripe age of 19. She moved away from her family, her friends, and -- essentially -- everything she knew. With about $300 to her name and living out of hotels, she eventually got into Northwestern and made her mark there. She managed to pick up a good job at Pfizer and worked her way through school; graduating 11th in her class. From there, she took a job in L.A., where she was accepted into UCLA for graduate school. It was there where she met her boyfriend, turned fiance', turned husband. Together she and her husband, a sports doctor ($$$), just purchased a gorgeous home.
In a matter of six years, she's gone from being a spoiled 'daddy's girl', to being a poor and struggling college student, to being a successful and accomplished woman. Riches to rags, and back to riches. On top of that, you can now add future mother to her resume'. I tell you: I couldn't write a book this good.
Now getting back on track...
In a recent conversation, J gave me the news about her pregnancy. I went on to tell her how extremely proud I was (while being secretly envious) of her and all of her accomplishments. Of course, she blew it all off (I neglected to mention how incredibly humble she is; one of the things I love most about her). In response, she went on to say something pretty enigmatic to me -- at least it was at first. She said:
"I wouldn't been in this situation if you and I were together."
Now, just to clarify: her comment wasn't as heartless as it sounds. To put her statement into the right context, let me mention that, prior to that, I asked her if she ever thought about what would've happened if she and I had gotten together. That's when she made that remark. From my understanding of her response and her tone, she was merely pointing out that she wouldn't be in the situation that she's in right now; had she been with me. She never said whether her position would be better or worse. So, in that respect, I totally agree.
At one point in our relationship, we grew pretty close. Though we hadn't offically become a 'couple' we were just short of it. But eventually I made the decision to cut it off with her so that I could pursue another girl. Essentially, I flaked her for someone else. As a brush of irony, the person who I flaked J for wound up flaking me for somebody else! How's that for a kick in the eye!
Well, as it stands, J is doing extremely well; career, family, and otherwise. I'm not doing too badly, though there are some serious voids in my life which, for the most part, don't seem to have hope of being filled any time soon. Voids like this make me wonder: what if I had taken the other road down destiny's path? What if my heart convinced me to go the other way?
Monday, January 09, 2006
...an entire generation of elites to go.
It's official. Tom DeLay has called it quits. In the face of his campaign finance scandal, he has given up his position as the House Majority Leader. In a related story, Jack Abramoff, a major lobbyist for Delay pled guilty to fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy to bribe public officials.
But, I'm not celebrating.
Corruption is systematic. It's not going away just because a couple of people got caught. Also keep in mind that any punishment they receive will probably be considerably less significant than other criminal folks who aren't so well connected.
I hate politics.
Sunday, January 08, 2006
These are lyrics from the song "Faithful" on Common’s tight CD Be (If you haven't copped it yet, I strongly recommend you get it. It's a winner). Although I realize that God has no particular gender, this song still made me wonder just how we would treat God if God were female. What would change about our perceptions?
Would we be quick to put away the dominant images of God's power? How would this effect the treatment of women throughout the world, religions and otherwise? How would the conservative body of the church deal with the idea that God isn’t some white dude?
Frankly, it wouldn’t surprise me too much if there were people in the church who would refused to worship that type of God. In fact, they would probably reject the whole conept of God, altogether.
This leads me ask you: What if God was whatever you didn’t like? If you can’t stand gay people, what would you do if you discovered that God was gay? Or black? Or white? Or Asian? Or Hindu? Or Muslim? Or Christian? How faithful would would you be?
Friday, January 06, 2006
So...Conservatives have just hit us with a big "revelation" about idea of the extraordinary rendition program: apparently, since it was done during Clinton's administration, it is perfectly acceptable for Dubya to do it as well. For those of you in the dark about this whole "extraordinary rendition" thing, it's where foreign nationals are shipped from the USA to other countries for the purpose of torture and interrogation. This torture and interrogation is [allegedly] used to gather valuable information about terrorist plots, hidden agendas, conspiracies, etc.
First of all...duh! It's no secret that all of this nonsense has been going on under Clinton (although it probably went on under even more presidents, but I digress...) So, I won't even try to cover up for him. Even the freakishly surreal ACLU has noted this. But, as a writer points out in his post from Running Scared: Observations from a Former Republican:
"Let us assume that everything alleged here is true. Assume that Clinton directly ordered the CIA to conduct renditions and to send terror suspects to foreign nations to be tortured. Does this in some fashion make it acceptable for Bush to do so?... Bill Clinton was unfaithful to his wife and had relations with a young intern. Does this mean that if we suddenly found George W. Bush playing footsie with some Georgetown coed in a DC motel that it would be just fine?"
To put it another way: if Bill Clinton jumped off a bridge, would conservatives follow him?
My issue is simply this: extraordinary rendition is illegal and flat-out wrong. It was illegal and wrong when Clinton did it, and it's illegal and wrong whenever Bush does it. Just because Clinton or any other Democrat does something immoral doesn't make it okay for the Republicans to do the same thing...and vice versa. Come on, people! How many times do I have to tell you that "two wrongs don't make a right"?!
The only viable way for the "But Clinton did it" defense to work is if people start believing that there is no such thing as law, morality, or right and wrong. They'd have to believe that our country has no real and objective standards by which we govern ourselves. Essentially, we would have to think that there is nothing out there -- but self-justifying partisan power games -- that allow us to do whatever the hell we want. Scary thought...
The only thing that this nonsense proves to me is that Republicans are the true champions for post-modern moral relativism.
Thursday, January 05, 2006
Just when I thought I've seen it all, Pat Robertson opened his mouth again and proved that being crazy is ceaseless.
This nutcase was at it again this week when he made comments on his show asserting that God was somehow unleashing his wrath on Israel and its Prime Minister Ariel Sharon for their withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. Robertson said that the stroke that Sharon suffered was divine retribution from God because of his role in "dividing God's land".
I'm left to wonder if Pat can stop being crazy for two minutes. C'mon! Just two minutes...
How many times do I remind this idiot to stop attributing things to God?! We don't know why God allows for things to happen. The Bible constantly reminds us that His thoughts are far beyond ours! Secondly, who the hell is Pat Robertson to suggest what God should do?! Would God really take the advice of a conservative nutcase?!
I think that the movie Bruce Almighty reminded us that it's very, very fortunate that we're not God. Then again, was it Robertson who reminded us of that? I forget which one was more comedic...
Wednesday, January 04, 2006
The heavily underdogged Texas Longhorns just defeated the Trojans of USC in the Rose Bowl for the National Championship. Who would've thought?! My congratualations go out to the Longhorns!
While I was definitely pulling for them to get the upset, there are a few things about the whole thing that have me a bit unnerved:
1. This is the same Texas team that handed my boys from Ann Arbor their a$$ last year at, you guessed it, the Rose Bowl.
2. Texas is getting honored by being put on a special-edition package of Wheaties. The last college football team to have this honor was the 1997 Nebraska Cornhuskers who shared the championship with my beloved Wolverines from Michigan. Did we get any recognition?! Uh..hell no.
3. Finally, Dubya was probably pulling for them to win. I hate that he now has something else to celebrate. Anything that makes Dubya happy makes me sad. I guess I need to pray on this one.
Nevertheless, this doesn't negate the fact that they played a great game against a great opponent. If you didn't catch the game, I feel sorry for you. You missed a classic.
Tuesday, January 03, 2006
For any language geeks out there, I need your help!
I've been stuck on the word "insurgent" for a long time now. I feel that the way the media subjectively uses certain words brings a certain connotation to them. "Insurgent" is one of those words.
I looked up "insurgent" on Dictionary.com and came up with the following:
Main Entry: in·sur·gent
1 : a person who rises in revolt against civil authority or an established government; especially: one not recognized as a belligerent
2 : one that acts contrary to the established leadership (as of a political party, union, or corporation) or its decisions and policies
So, given this definition, let's compare it to how we've defined the "insurgents" in Iraq. I mean, these guys are painted as next to evil.
When I read the definition of this word, I think about Nat Turner and other abolitionists, or activists like MLK and Malcom X. They fought against political and social oppression from an 'established government', and yet were considered heroes and martyrs.
I don't know exactly where I'm going with this. But it feels like there just has to be more to this Iraqi "insurgency" than just hatred of the US and our "freedom". I mean, for well over two years, people have sacrificed themselves by becoming human bombs. Are they killing themselves just to show the world how much they hate our freedom? Probably not. So, they are obviously fighting for a cause. In this case, they're protesting the idea of being invaded by another nation.
**Note: please don't misinterpret this and think that I'm implying that our soliders are evil. I'm talking about the powers that be who have orchestrated this foolishness of a war. Just because I think that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and co. are idiots does not mean that I don't support our troops. Take that, O'Reilly!**
Anyway...people like Malcom X and MLK died standing up for what they believed in, and we would call them heroes. Is it not fair to objectively call these people who are fighting against a country who have invaded their lands under false pretenses (what ever happened to those silly WMD's?!) "heroes" as well? Granted, insurgents use violence to prove their point (and against innocent people, no less) . But, they are simply proving their point.
"Hero" has an honorable sound to it; while "insurgent" sounds like a disgrace. But is there a such thing as a "heroic insurgent"?
Sunday, January 01, 2006
Here are my predictions for 2006:
- Despite the moronic Republicans in the Congress, Democrats will lose the midterm elections.
- The country will experience another whopper of a hurricane season.
- Saddam Hussein will continue to be confused with Osama bin Laden.
- There will be another physical altercation at the Source Awards.
- The Bush Administration will start bringing a few troops home just before election time.
- GM will file for bankruptcy.
- The unlawful NSA spying scandal will occupy the media for another month, then fade away.
- Michigan will win a BCS bowl game.
- Katie Holmes will have a nervous breakdown and go back home to live with her parents. Shortly after that, Brittany Spears and Kevin what’s-his-name will break up. Boo hoo hoo...
- Gas prices will rise above $3 per gallon.
- Nip Tuck will be cancelled after its fourth season.
- The GOP leadership will be remain clueless.
- Somebody I know will either get engaged or file for divorce.
- Howard Dean will say something stupid.
- BET will continue to be culturally degrading to black folks.
- New Orleans will continue to be inadequately rebuilt.
- The Detroit Pistons will avenge their 2005 Finals lost to San Antonio and win it all 4-2.
- MTV will have an episode of Punk’d where the President is told that Osama bin Laden has been found.
What are yours?
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you."
Jeremiah 29:11-12; New International Version
"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD. "Thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon Me, and ye shall go and pray unto Me and I will hearken unto you."
Jeremiah 29:11-12; King James Version
"For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome. Then you will call upon Me, and you will come and pray to Me, and I will hear and heed you."
Jeremiah 29:11-12; Amplified Bible
"For I know the plans I have for you," says the Lord. "They are plans for good and not for disaster,to give you a future and a hope. In those days whe you pray, I will listen."
Jeremiah 29:11-12; Student's Life Application Bible
There you have it. Four different translations of the same verse; each one striking a chord with me. Instead of making a resolutions that I will eventually break by next week, I want to claim this passage of Scripture as my mantra for the New Year. When things get tough - and I know they will - I hope to be blessed by these words. This passage reminds me that, whatever happens, God is still in charge.
Peace and blessings to you this year!