Friday, October 29, 2004

The ultimate endorsement

It finally came! al-Qaida has openly endorsed the Democratic Party! Some may down-play it. A numbskull will unthinkingly blather "we brought this on ourselves," not even realizing that he is agreeing with a terrorist and his verdict--not realizing that what he is looking at is an open endorsement of Kerry from the biggest terror group the world has ever seen.

Think I am jumping to conclusions? I don't. If Michael Moore can be idolized by terrorists and then release his film to them so they can use it for propaganda purposes, why shouldn't the party he supports be endorsed by the likes of al-Qaida?

Hey, I'm on a roll! How about more conclusions and more connections: Moore sat next to Jimmy Carter in a seat of honor at the party convention! There you go; a Nobel Peace Prize winner is endorsed by terror! Something odd here? No, not if you are informed and get real news from ABC, CNN, NBC and SeeBS (please excuse the more appropriate acronym)! "Mainstream" (i.e. urban) America doesn't seem find anything wrong here, why should you?

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

And to top it all off

Going back to last weekend, I decided to edit one of my emails to some friends and post it so my own thoughts can be more thoroughly explained. It's long. It's hairy and wordy in some cases, but if you really feel like reading what I think about this whole topic, this is about as good as I have time for.


Every time I meet a new Christian friend, I am scared to death of talking politics with him/her. I am ever fearful of running into one of two possibilities:1) They are "God is not a Republican" Christians. I am thoroughly incensed every time I read or hear something like that, because I know it is usually just an excuse for ignoring worldview so you can support the candidate you "feel" like supporting. It is Kerry supporters and the so-called "undecided" who chant this.

Seriously though, there is a fundamental problem with this line of reasoning that people ignore. Most who say the line in question don't know what it means to be a Republican. In some ways, I don't even know what it means to be a Republican! I don't because it changes slightly from year to year and no candidate reflects it completely--AND, most importantly, I am not quite finished reading this year's Republican Platform! Do you know anyone who has read any of the party platforms? The line in question is completely dishonest in sounding like it is unbiased. If you try to get at what could be the honest implications though, all you are able to discern is just that God hasn't joined any political party. How interesting. Now tell me something I don't know. The only implication other than what we see at face value is that Republicans are somehow guilty of honoring God in their basic values (and platforms) and therefore...oops, maybe they got the impression that God would be more inclined to bless them... Yes, I think that line should be amended to "God is not a Republican--he's a relativist."

2) They are conservative Christians who will not vote unless Jesus or maybe Billy Graham (or RC Sproul if you are reformed) is on the ballot. I am equally incensed by this kind of thought. The biggest issue I have with it is that many Reformed people subscribe to some form of it. There are many ways I can respond to these ideas. One is the argument that we are not trying to win converts with the ill-named "bully pulpit." I've already gone on at length about my views on "religion in politics" and the Church's role (most have probably forgotten what I said, like me), but even more than this whole issue, I think these people should understand just how important it is to come down from their high-horse and actually take a stand for a party which does professes the moral principles we profess. I have seen some pretty scathing people saying that any Christian who votes for Bush is either ignorant or not a Christian. IMHO that is akin to saying that anyone who doesn't write-in "Jesus Christ" on their ballot is either ignorant or not a Christian. I seriously believe that we risk failing in our duty to keep the "second" commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves if we fail to do what we can to influence policy, or vote, or what-have-you. By this, I simply mean that by voting and/or influencing policy, we are very physically looking out for our neighbor.

And now, in summary, this is to show you why I am so fearful of talking about these issues with believers I do not know well: If they think one way, I do not want to be contentious and find cause for interrupting our fellowship. I think I am wrong to be dishonest about my true beliefs and convictions, but on the other hand, I do not want to cause a stumbling block in the life of a brother or sister in Christ.

It's stunning, if you ask me, to see Christians actively campaigning to get other Christians to not vote for George W. Bush. It's so easy to see that the man is no hypocrite about what he believes. If he happens to differ about some things--oh, well, I guess we will have to deal with it while we enjoy the fact that there is no funding going to overseas abortion clinics since he took office....

More of the same

Most of you are familiar with Chuck Colson and perhaps even read a bit of his work. I'm not an avid follower, anymore than I'm an avid follower of any particular news agency, but I do appreciate his simple language and clear points. His latest piece is kind of along the same lines as what my last post touched on.

I am not sure about his meaning near the end when he says that the Church lost its place in the culture because of "disengagement." If he means that the church stopped voting and therefore lost its place, then I'd have to say that is a little simplistic. If he is referring to a larger disengagement, encompassing the decline in leadership and standards, then yes, he is most certainly right. He makes a good point over-all so I won't pick him apart anymore than I have to.

Monday, October 25, 2004

My mind is eased, my hand is stayed

I suffered from what some might call a kind of temporary insanity over the weekend. It started when I sat down on Saturday night and started to berate myself for not writing something sooner (on the latest email group I joined) in response to one of the most frustrating views that some Reformed Christians hold: That anyone who votes for George W. Bush is either ignorant or not a Christian. They support such a thesis by pointing to some of the things that Bush has or hasn't done over the course of his entire political career, saying that this makes him worse than many other more liberal or "pro-choice" candidates. I'm always more than a little put out by such assertions because I find it an irresponsible position--one which ignores the consequences of inaction and the resulting failure to love our neighbor as ourselves. It also ignores the fact that one party is openly supportive of freedom and Christian values and if we do not support good wherever we find it, we might as well be supporting evil.

This particular weekend's insanity was all the more galvanized by an email which came on the previously mentioned email group. Keep in mind that the group is a Church based, albeit private group, dedicated to theological discussion. Current events are also not off limits so I'm sure that the email in question was meant to be covered under that category. There are certain rules, though, which are to be adhered to in all being the full identification of the sender, and their church affiliation. This message was simply a cut and paste copy of what looked like a news article. This is the link which will take you to the exact source and article.

I was simply appalled that someone had sent something like this, a blatant propaganda piece, in simply syndication style. No explanation, no context, just a subject line which was pretty much the headline for the article; and I just sat there fuming, hoping I would not blow my top in my inevitable response.

Yes, I did respond and I'm glad I did for several reasons. I communicated a good amount of anger--without being overly rude (I hope I wasn't anyway, assuming these are all brothers and sisters in Christ). All of the feedback I've gotten so far is positive and some other people were good enough to point out some very basic lunacies in the piece on their own--something I was glad I didn't have to do. It was encouraging and I also got the feeling I wasn't alone; there are plenty of other sensible people around me and I don't have to get all worked up. I'm thinking about writing a critique anyway, about some of the views I suspect might be represented on the group. While it is a little late in the game, I'm hoping that if people see the proper value of such a discussion in reformed circles, it could generate some equally valuable thoughts.

Ultimately, it would probably be wiser of me to settle down and stick to thinking about my more immediate issues like school, family, church, work, and, of course, basic sanity. Anything else should be considered low priority...and maybe I'll remind myself again tomorrow after I have started or finished a draft on this topic...

Friday, October 22, 2004

One half in a thousand

Yes, I'm keep busy. I'm taking advantage of a class cancellation to provide a minor update on yours truly.

I'm still working away at what classes I have and also brooding over next quarter's menu. I know I will most likely be working on the newspaper--a thought I really don't relish. I'm not horribly fearful and angry, but neither do I relish the thought. I just don't really know what it will be like ultimately. I know I am better prepared then I would have been if I had not gone to Whatcom and worked on the Horizon for so long. It was a good training ground in some ways. In other ways I am just better set up to handle a reporter's plate of goods than I was then. There was such a limit to what I could handle because I was not driving at the time. I couldn't cover much off-campus material. Now, I fully expect to be running around with not a bit of solitude--well, maybe there will be some time to stop and breath but not enough by my standards!

But now...

I am working. That is another important issue. It's something I can't stop doing at this point, no matter what I have to give up as a result. Weekends are for work now, not study and certainly not recreation. The most recreation I get at this point is just talking to friends wherever I happen to find them--at church, at school, other writers, old friends from Whatcom... Of course, the ultimate source of recreation (how could I forget!) is writing about things unconnected with a school assignment--you know, like right now!

I'm not too concerned. Each day is a learning experience from the Lord just as literally as the classes I take. I'm beginning to consider my morning time with Him as the most precious time I spend. It doesn't matter what homework there is to dive into--there's a passage in God's Word waiting for my prayerful consideration every morning. I should not keep it waiting till I have made some progress in my other studies. It's amazing what confidence is granted to someone, if only they just draw nearer to the source of all Wisdom and Grace. He gives so freely and all there is to be done is to ask with all the humility I am capable of expressing...

Folks, I may be going through the motions here at Western, but I hope I never, ever claim to have done anything or be anyone at the end of my journey in this institution. If were to come away with that perspective, I would have failed to learn the deeper lessons which God teaches as we, by Grace, run to Him in our times of struggle and trial. Humility... I sometimes feel like this is a concept completely lost in my twisted, sinful way of thinking. How can I even talk of humility without taking pride in the very act of recognizing my own sinfulness? I'm sure I'm not the only one to be confronted and befuddled by such a minuscule glimpse of the depth of our sin.

"Not one person in a thousand claims to be perfect. Not one person in a thousand understands the seriousness of not being perfect..." -R.C. Sproul

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Contract complete

Tonight I went for the second time to watch and discuss an R.C. Sproul video series on God's Holiness. That's not what I'm going to talk about in this post--maybe later. I only happen to mention it because I was on the way home when I decided to take the long rout. I was actually planning on hitting the Barkley Starbucks before they closed because the Sehome one was really crowded. I've never taken anything but the direct rout home from Western so this was really random...and I'm glad I ended up doing so.

I had just turned onto Lakeway Dr. at about 9:10 p.m. when I noticed a line of people gathered on the side of the road with flags and candles. I didn't know what it was all about but I made a split-second decision to turn off into a parking lot and see what was up. I did so and approached one flag-bearer with my question. She said it was because the hearse of the local Bellingham soldier, killed in Iraq, was going to be going by soon. I was thrilled--a little disappointed that my study time was going to disappear, but thrilled none the less. Leaving was not an option so I made a phone call home from the Mexican restaurant on the block to let them know what I was doing. They already knew about it. I discovered upon farther questioning that it had been advertised on the radio all day. Sigh...

Well, I stood there and chatted for a little bit. Someone loaned me a candle which had a random tendency to go out at weird times. I found myself itching about the fact I hadn't known ahead of time and not being able to at least bring a flag. I wanted to get a picture, write about it, save the moment for all it was worth. All I could think about was the fact that in a few minutes the remains of a brave young man would go by and the only way I could honor him was to just stand there respectfully. I had to stifle the urge to salute when the hearse finally did travel slowly by on its way to the cemetery.

As it passed by, I looked down...only to see that my candle had blown out yet again.

My friend who hosts the Bible study I was heading home from, is also a Journalism major. Most ironically, she had just finished doing a front page story on this soldier--yes, she even ended up interviewing his mother who works at Western. I'm glad I got the chance to be there when he came home for the last time. From all that I hear, he had only been in Iraq for less then two months and would have completed his three-year contract at the end of his tour in Iraq, which was going to be short.

It's late, though... I'm really tired and I don't think I can stay awake to finish this post with any kind of special dignified ending, so I'm no going to try...


Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Coffee Speak (translated)

Concerning the cynicism of the last post, here is a little optimism to add to the mix. Just for the record, coffee is a wonderful thing and I am not very picky about it (proven by the fact I still study at Starbucks). While I am still in a bit of a quandary about some of the things I have heard in that place (I mean some would blow your mind, they are so long!), I have found at least one good resource for basic Coffee Speak interpretation and one ok Coffee Speak interpretation.

To be quite honest, though, I think someone needs to get a little more familiar with the Starbucks dialect--which is much too sophisticated even for these resources.


Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Coffee Speak

"Double, grande, whip-whip, non-fat, decaf, white chocolate mocha…"

You know, I thought I had a pretty good command of the English language, and maybe I do. Maybe what I hear so often from the Starbucks baristas is actually not a rightful part of the English language! Yes, I like to think of this as a different language. After all, what could it possibly have to do with me? I walk into a place like Starbucks and ask for coffee. Only once has someone asked me what kind of specific brew I preferred! I gave a kind of blank look and refrained from telling them what was really running through my head: Wow, there's actually an alternative to stuff I've been drinking--the stuff which tastes worse than burnt. Hmmm, maybe there is hope for this place after all!

Now, don't get me wrong--I do appreciate a place like Starbucks for the whole product they offer: a low-key, open, convenient, coffee shop with good business sense. I just don't know what to make of the stuff they serve. I hear some people tell me they like the "specialty drinks" ... The what? OH! That must have something to do with the strings of unfamiliar vocalization that I so often mistake for a foreign language! I guess I understand--up to a point. I understand that I don't have time to learn a foreign language while also working and taking classes down the road from this coffee shop. I understand that I will just have to put up with the one or two of the pathetic "basic brews" they offer to illiterate students like me.

Till then, I will not worry that my morning brew doesn't come with a charming, or rather, a fantastically long description. You tell me what the difference is between a wet or dry cappuccino, a caramel latte or a macchiato...or even better: a coffee or a COFFEE!


Wednesday, October 13, 2004

And the debate rages

NOTE: I don't often get political on this blog and I don't know if it interests anyone who reads it. However, I can't help but talk about some things. The following is one of those things.

As I sit down to write in Wilson Library at Western Washington University, there is a dramatic scene which continues to unfold--even as I take a break from participation--in the square outside. There was plenty which led up to it, and it happened at the initiation of the College Republicans.

It started innocently enough. Some of the CR club took the time to chalk it up in the area assigned for that purpose in the square. Their messages were naturally all pro Bush--they made it BIG and it covered a lot of space! I took the time to check it out in the morning (having known it would take place) in between some of my classes and I was impressed.

Little did the students know who walked over those chalk words and images, that this was simply a prelude to the day's main attraction; no, I'm not referring to the presidential debate tonight. It was about 11:00 am when the Veterans Against John Kerry arrived and set up shop in the square! Yes, I also knew this was going to happen and planned on being there at least part of the time. We had been told that they were expecting to draw a lot of controversy so the CRs wanted to have some supporters on hand. I stopped by at the beginning when nobody had really noticed them yet. Naturally, there wasn't much going on. Christy, the club president was there, just standing by. I said hi ad headed off to class.

I really didn't know how long they would be there so I didn't know if I could make it back again. I needn't have worried...

On my way out of one of the buildings along the edge of the square, I noticed out the window that there was a crowd now. I hurried over. I was a little worried when I first approached because all I could see was a very large student standing in front of the display (almost physically blocking a portion) with an audience of his own. As I would later determine, this was not an audience but a group of people who were busy "debating" on this and that. I couldn't really tell what he was talking about because he was so loud and dominating it really distracted from anything he may have been trying to say.

I came closer in and noticed several other "debate circles" formed up in various spots around the display and the Vets. I looked around for Christy and finally located her. By this time the large student was over in front of her and it was then I also realized she was the primary person countering the whole gathering storm. Now to fully appreciate this, one has to understand that Christy is by no means a person of size except perhaps a noticeably small size! Here she was, standing her ground as this "large" (for lack of a more colorful word) student towered above her and simply wouldn't stop "talking." I mean, you got the impression he was afraid to stop in case some might follow through on the vague--yet inflammatory--rhetoric he spewed. After various claims that Christy was a contradiction (because she supports Bush), in the same way that a Jew supporting Hitler would be a contradiction, he finally started including some details.

It was the abortion issue he was referring to. This was also where I finally joined. Christy's attempts to find out why abortions were so needed over adoptions were thoroughly ignored--so I asked him when he thought life began. He said he didn't know and what he believed didn't matter--just as long as he didn't impose his belief on the choices others make. So I pressed on and told him that it wasn't a matter of belief because science has virtually proved that life does begin at conception and no one publicly denies it anymore. He backpedaled some, tried to change the subject some, but I wasn't done and I was starting to get my sea legs under me!

I asked him when he considered it murder to kill a child. He continued to try to change the subject. I pointed out to him that if he didn't draw a line SOMEWHERE, he would ultimately deny that murder has any definition--after all, maybe life begins at twenty; we just don't know so what gives!

Oh well...

He ultimately didn't answer me even after I asked him why he didn't just kill someone like me because I might not be living yet. And yes, I mentioned the fact that John Kerry believes life begins at conception and yet supports abortion--oops, I mean a right to choose murder.

One more funny before I sign off... There was a rather boisterous guy who was more difficult to debate because he was even less courteous than anyone else I'd "talked" with up to this point. He actually stuck to the military service issue for a while. In between his bouts of shouting over my head into the crowd, I responded to whatever I could. At one point we started talking about Yale and I called him on his rather hurried claim that Bush somehow was a bad student. I mentioned that Bush had a higher GPA than Kerry and he started laughing at that till I asked him what he meant by saying Bush skipped out on classes. How did that translated into a higher GPA? That's when he really put his foot in it!

He said that Bush had special privileges at Yale (sounds like the argument about the military records). I asked him who gave him special privileges and how. He said "well duh, the skull and bones of course." I almost lost it in a fit of laughter. Ok not quite, but almost anyone who knows anything about skull and bones (not too many) knows that both Bush AND Kerry were BOTH members! Sure didn't seem to help Kerry's grade! I won't get into the whole "bonesman" issue because I can't claim to know what skull and bones is (there's too many different stories for me to know).

I kept talking to various people till I finally figured I'd better get some study done. That is, after all, what I think I came here for in the first place.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Working and singing in presidential fashion

NOTE: If this post reads a little like I'm rushed, I apologize! I am rushed because I should have been in bed a while ago.

We started our church Young Peoples meetings this Sunday evening and it went well, all things considered. We had elections and as it turns out, I am president for another year... I don't think I considered that possibility enough before the meeting or I might have tried to push a "term limits" rule through before the elections started. I don't mind really. I can joke all I want about term limits or what have you, but I when it comes down to brass tax, I love playing an important part in something like this. I've already learned so much and it is great to get stuff done as efficiently as possible. We've got so much to work on this year that I can't fully imagine how important that simple concept of efficiency will be! Our church will host our federation's youth conference next summer, and our small youth group choir will also produce our second album as well... That's just the tip of the iceberg (excuse the cliché).

Monday was the start of a new pattern. For one, I started a new job. It's not like a job in the sense that I have to try really hard to keep it working for my schedule but it's a job none the less and for that fact I am grateful! I'm helping my uncle Paul (a contractor/home builder) on some small tasks which are available. It's nice to be earning something again. Tomorrow I won't be working so I can get some much needed study done--that's how flexible uncle Paul is! I'm really thankful and hope I can really be useful.

Monday was just a short job and when I got home at about 6 p.m. I remembered that we had our first choir practice for Handel's Messiah a 7! That is with a local choir in Lynden. Things just continue to pile up! The practice went well, though, and I'm all excited at the prospect of singing this section of music for the 4th time (or is it the 5th--I don't remember). I will never tire of it--it's just not possible. My favorite piece is "Worthy is the Lamb." I love the simplicity and import of the words taken straight from Revelation.

I had better take advantage of what little time I have for sleep now.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Apples in the infield

I think my experiences as a college student are entirely unique! Not only am I pretty ditzy, forgetful, and careless, I also get to live at home! The home aspect is the real reason for the difference of experience.

You see, my first two weeks at Western where spent just like that--at Western. It was convenient to stay there in the afternoon and work on reading assignments in peace and quiet--away from any of my own distractions at home. Life didn't continue in that way, though, going into the third week. I started not driving as much and taking the bus. Being dependant on a bus to get me home creates a greater tendency to go home early. It's just a matter of mindset--if I have the ability to jump into my car at any time of the day and drive home or anywhere for that matter, then why should I even worry about transportation? I don't think about getting home. Now, if I am taking the bus, I have a perpetual alarmclock in my head, giving me constant updates on when I will get home if I take the bus now, or the next hour...or the next...etc. It's a little harder to just sit down and read in such a mental state--so I don't end up doing much on campus.

When I do go home and those distractions do occur...

Just last Thursday, my cousin Jesse--who is the closest thing to a younger brother I have--was over and we, as usual, got out the ball and mitts. A little infield practice is just standard for us. We start easy enough, gaining power and distance as we work away at our velocity, accuracy and skill with grounders, not to mention the diving catches! It's all very fun and we savor every perfect bullet throw we can snag. Thursday's session was not too long; Jesse had homework and I was getting together with Jason and Jackie that night, so we only spent half an hour on it. The apples on the side lawn made for a perfect conclusion to our afternoon exertions! We both selected one of the beautiful, crispy spheres remaining on the dwarf trees and plopped down on the soft tepid grass. As might be expected when eating the prime of the apple produce for the year, we both agreed that these particular apples were the best we had ever tasted. What good fortune to be eating the tastiest apples in the world after such a satisfying bout of exercise! This is what makes my college experience so unique! What other college student gets to eat apples in the infield?

Monday, October 04, 2004

Science: a lost concept

I just got finished reading a great post by my good friend Robert. His blog is on my list as "Maestro Murphy." Be warned that he has a way about him. He can make the most complicated issues come into sharp focus without even trying it seems.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Small lessons

It was just ten minutes ago. I was driving home from church later than usual because of some special activities. Beka was in the car with me and everything was hunky-dory I guess. Then it happened.

I will not provide any of the details for obvious reasons. Suffice it to say that the raccoon was a very large and stupid one; there was no missing the thing. Since it happened very fast, I'm having trouble recalling my initial visceral reactions. I think I heard a sort of hallow laugh from myself. Rebekah didn't bother faking anything--just an honest high pitched groan which lasted for the next few hundred feet of pavement.

I hadn't even pulled into our private road, though, when I started to realize just how intense my reaction was becoming. I was truly disturbed by the whole thing. I was becoming a victim of my imagination, and I knew it was not right. True, it was just an animal and I never had a problem making that distinction. It was me which was making me feel this way. At this point I think I'm over it because the whole buzz of the actual experience is gone.

I only bring this up because I like to think I can deal with surprises--emotional surprises too. This was one such surprise and I can at least say that I have learned something from the whole thing. It seems my initial reaction is more constrained. The real thing I should fear is my own deep thoughts which tend to follow. It's a very ironic thing too, because I tend to turn to such thoughts to find objectivity and emotional safe-haven. Isn't it amazing how these little personal security devices of ours will so easily betray us. It serves me right for thinking I was such a level-headed guy in the first place!

Lesson hopefully learned--moving on...

Saturday, October 02, 2004

And speaking of Númenor...

For myself, I would see the White Tree in flower again in the courts of the kings, and the Silver Crown return, and Minas Tirith in peace: Minas Arnor again as of old, full of light, high and fair, beautiful as a queen among other queens: not as a mistress of many slaves, nay not even a kind mistress of willing slaves. War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend: the city of the Men of Numenor; and I would have her loved for her memory, her ancientry, her beauty, and her present wisdom. Not feared, save as men may fear the dignity of a man, old and wise.
The Two Towers

That's one of my favorite quotes from the Lord of the Rings. I lost it for a while, not remembering the exact placement in the story. While I was in New York, I had a little time to jump into the text again the weekend before coming home. I found it and was able to copy it down.

The Taint debate

It's really too bad. I had looked forward to posting something last night but I'm afraid I ran out of time while tainting some friends of mine via messenger. I'm told I am a very effective tainter, and that my new nickname should rightfully be The Taint. Taken out of context, I know that sounds a little off the wall. So far I am only seen as such by those who, to this day, remain untainted by my immortal wit!

Anyway, life at Western continues at a good clip. I had the opportunity to watch the first presidential debate with the College Republicans on Thursday evening. There were about 30 of us there and I know that is not the extent of the conservative population here. It was mentioned that a "conservative coming-out day" on campus could be a good thing. I can only imagine how fun that would be! There have been other colleges to do it so it's not entirely without precedent. Mainly it was just good to start making connections with some potential good friends. I'm tired of not knowing many people. My tainting ability may well grow rusty with so little fresh use!