What's davintosh? Mostly just the random ramblings of a hopelessly distractible… Hey, what's that?

Outlook

Filed under: Fun!,The Deep — dave @ 2:52 pm 2013/03/11

I stumbled upon this bit of prose & thought I’d stick it up here:

Outlook

Greed

    My life is full indeed of gloom.
    I’ve naught , you see, just this small room.
    I need more wealth – that’s misery.
    What joys in great renown! What glee!
    The mace and throne I long to own.
    No crown too grand for me alone.



Contentment

    My life is full indeed!
    Of gloom I’ve naught, you see.
    Just this small room I need.
    More wealth? That’s misery.
    What joy’s in great renown?
    What glee the mace and throne?
    I long to own no crown.
    Too grand for me alone.





The Pessimist

    That deep red rose – I see its thorn.
    I just ignore the scent that’s borne.
    To me it’s nothing. I deplore
    Those scratches that I got before.
    I just complain about the pain.
    A lot I think of beauty’s gain!



The Optimist

    That deep red rose I see,
    Its thorn I just ignore.
    The scent that’s borne to me -
    It’s nothing I deplore!
    Those scratches that I got -
    Before I just complain
    About the pain a lot,
    I think of beauty’s gain.





Degradation

    This skid row bum will win no more.
    He’ll strive and lose in his sad war.
    On gin he’s hooked – that demon booze!
    And now he’ll loudly sing the blues.
    He’s chased away all hope today.
    Will Spring have cheer? No – more decay.



Redemption

    This skid row bum will win!
    No more he’ll strive and lose.
    In his sad war on gin
    He’s hooked that demon booze.
    And now he’ll loudly sing,
    The blues he’s chased away.
    All hope today will spring:
    Have cheer – no more decay!



— Mary Youngquist

It’s all in the punctuation, and perspective. Or outlook.

Heavenly Envy

Filed under: Faith & Worship,Personal Growth,The Deep — dave @ 11:52 pm 2012/02/28

I went to a funeral for friend this afternoon. He died at age 55. A month or so ago I attended the funeral for a guy I hung out with in high school; he died at 50. I still feel like I’m too young to be burying people that are close to my own age, but I guess it’s a natural part of life. Our bodies aren’t meant to last forever, at least not our earthly bodies. Our heavenly bodies… Now that’s another story altogether.

I don’t know when it started, and I don’t know if I’m the only one with this problem, but at funerals I often catch myself being slightly envious of the one who has passed away… That should probably be qualified a bit more; envious of fellow Christians who have passed away. Envious because I know (if only just a little) the glory they enjoy after leaving this life behind. Meanwhile I’m still stuck in this aging old tent. Our bodies, like tents, aren’t made to last for ever nor for long-term habitation. Try as I might, mine will only last another 40 years or so longer, tops (probably less.) But I have consolation that as this body moves toward its end, a new life is developing that will one day be fully realized in the presence of my Lord:

So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Although I am admittedly anxious to get to that celebration, I have no intention of hastening my date with eternity. I am content with God’s plan for my life, whether His exit plan for me involves a fatal run-in with a cement truck tomorrow, or a long convalescence through my 70′s or 80′s or 90′s… I’ll live the rest of my days in gratitude for the blessings He’s sent my way, especially for the loving wife and great kids that I so don’t deserve.

But still there’s that, something… that envy that makes me long for the things to come. It’s a hope for things to come; not a hope, as in “I hope it will happen”, but a hope as in something that is sure, yet is just out of reach and will arrive at a time I don’t know. As C.S. Lewis so aptly put it,

We cannot tell each other about it. It is the secret signature of each soul, the incommunicable and unappeasable want, the thing we wanted before we met our wives or made our friends or chose our work, and which we shall still desire on our deathbeds, when the mind no longer knows wife or friend or work. While we are, this is. If we lose this, we lose all.

That’s right; while I am, this — that built-in longing for what has been promised and will be — just is. I can’t wait for Heaven, but I will.

Casey Who?

Filed under: Just Stuff,The Deep — Tags: , , , , — dave @ 4:34 pm 2011/07/06

I’ve paid about zero attention to the Casey Anthony trial, so all I knew of it was the little tidbits that I caught before flipping the TV or radio to another station when the name came up. The jury yesterday returned a verdict of “not guilty”. Unfortunately, the end of the trail won’t be the end of the endless prattling about Casey Anthony and the suspicious death of her daughter, Caylee.

Since the verdict was announced, I’ve heard way more commentary on the trial than while the trial was still ongoing, and most people seem to be convinced that she did indeed kill her daughter — that’s the most logical explanation for the circumstances surrounding Caylee’s disappearance and death and Casey’s behavior — but the prosecutors failed to prove it to the jury. She did mess up by lying to the police, and will serve some time for that, but once that’s accomplished, she’ll be a free woman.

Or will she?

She knows what happened, and whether she acknowledges God’s existence or not, He knows what happened, and will one day sort things out with her. Whether she comes to terms with Him before that day and seeks forgiveness… That’s her story, and something we are not privy to. He’s definitely hoping that she’ll seek His forgiveness, and we should hope & pray the same for her, as we should for everyone.

In God’s economy, all sin — whether it’s killing an innocent like Calee Anthony or the hateful thoughts in my head toward the idiot who cut me off on the way to work this morning — carries an equal punishment; death and eternal separation from God. But no matter what our sin, should we seek forgiveness for our actions and our condition through Christ Jesus, we will be forgiven. Yes, if Casey did indeed kill her daughter, she can be forgiven, just as I have been forgiven for the sin that once ruled my life and the sins that I continue to commit. She can be forgiven just as Jeffrey Dahmer was forgiven for the sin in his life. Just as you can be forgiven.

We as a society grade each other much differently than does God. We like to categorize and rank our own sins and those of others according to degrees of ‘badness’, then dole out punishments according to where those societal sins fall on our scale of badness. God treats all sin the same, but holds us all to a single standard; Holiness. Casey Anthony was found not guilty, but that is not the equivalent of innocent. In the eyes of many, her sin is as egregious as it gets — murder of her own child — compounded by also getting away with murder. Because of that societal judgment, the remainder of Casey’s life will be far from easy, in spite of the “not guilty” finding. Sure, the morbid curiosity surrounding the outcome of the trial will likely bring her much celebrity and a lot of money — interviews and maybe a book or movie deal — but she’ll always be a pariah.

But what really confuses and saddens me following the whole circus of a trial is the level of hatred for Casey Anthony, and the hypocritical double-standard it brings out in many people. Popular opinion says that she is a cold-hearted monster because she killed her daughter, and deserves much worse than she’s getting following the trial. But isn’t it more than a tad ironic that thousands of children are slaughtered every day in abortion clinics across the country after their mothers exercise their supposed right to choose? And we as a society barely bat an eye at the carnage. It’s likely that Casey Anthony made essentially the same choice as millions of other women before her and thousands more every day; Casey’s sin is that she made her choice later than what is socially acceptable (and acceptable by the laws of the land.) She is simply a victim of bad timing, right?

The photos we have of a doe-eyed Caylee Anthony are everywhere to remind us of the precious life that has been lost, probably at the hand of her mother. But because there are no photos of the millions and millions of children that have been killed through abortion and ignored by society, we have difficulty envisioning the beauty of those children, but they are no less precious than Caylee. And lacking some visual or physical connection with them, wrapping our minds around the enormity of that loss is somehow beyond us. Out of sight, out of mind; but the loss is no less real, and I believe much more damaging to our society than we will ever know.

Edit: Turns out I’m not the only one making the Caylee Anthony and abortion connection; Rush Limbaugh: Casey Anthony Not Guilty of Very Late-Term Abortion (July 6). Jenny Erickson on The Stir: Is Abortion Age Discrimination?, and many others.

Update: I just happened across this post when looking for another, and coincidentally, she will be officially done with her incarceration and probation at midnight tonight. Will be interesting to see how things progress. Or not.

Damnable Good Works

Filed under: Personal Growth,The Deep — dave @ 9:05 pm 2010/08/06

This is a post that has been in stuck in my Drafts for quite some time; I probably started it just a few days after last summer’s Leadership Summit at Central. Considering we just finished day two of this year’s Global Leadership Summit, I figure it’s time to finally finish it up!

One of the speakers that I found most interesting & engaging was Dr. Tim Keller, whose message was entitled Leading People To A Prodigal God. His talk dealt with bringing renewal — or revival — to the Church, and used Jesus’ parable of The Prodigal Son, but went at it from an angle that was totally new to me, and completely surprising.

And that message has since been challenging me in my faith in surprising ways. Some recent developments at our church have brought the lessons learned from Dr. Keller’s talk back to mind, so it seemed like it was time to put the final touches on the post & hit that big blue PUBLISH button.


Most often when I’ve heard the story of the Prodigal Son invoked, the focus is on the younger brother; how the father welcomed him back after leaving home & squandering his portion of his father’s estate. Typically the story is used as a salvation narrative; a parallel of the life of a wayward person, encouraging him to repent and return to God the Father. God is the Father who will welcome back with open arms anyone who has seen the error of his ways and returns ‘home’. God is the Father who not only waits anxiously for all to return to Him, but waits, ready to rush out to meet them. It’s a great story and a good way to reach some people, but according to Dr. Keller, that angle perhaps doesn’t use the story in the way that Jesus intended.

Keller instead focused on the elder brother… His reaction to the return of the wayward younger brother, his reaction to his father’s actions, and his relationship with their father & the things that motivated him to stick around when the younger didn’t…

Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing… He was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him! …

The elder son wasn’t exactly happy with dad’s decision to celebrate the younger son’s return. Not only was he jealous that the fatted calf had been killed and the prodigal had been given fancy gifts, the way he saw things, dad was giving away — or rather throwing away — money that rightfully belonged to him. The younger brother had essentially told his father that he was tired of waiting for him to die and demanded his part of the inheritance — a third of the family’s property — and now every penny of it was gone. Anything that remained of the estate would fall to the elder brother when the father died, so dad was essentially spending the elder brother’s money on this worthless, no-good younger brother, who had stolen the family’s wealth & good name, and didn’t deserve anything more from the family than a cold shoulder.

Keller pointed out that the bigger issue with the elder brother was that his attitude reflected the same greedy heart that caused the younger brother to demand his inheritance early, except the elder brother went about it in a more socially acceptable manner. Even though his manner was that of the obedient son, his reaction to his brother’s return showed that he was there primarily for the money. His obedience wasn’t motivated by love or devotion to his father or family… He said to his father, “I never disobeyed your command.” In his mind, obedience was merely a condition of gaining his inheritance, and his father owed him, big time. He hated his younger brother because he was weak & undisciplined, and unworthy of even what he had got; he had cheated his way to an early inheritance, had blown it all, disgraced the family, and was now back, smelling of pig manure, begging for forgiveness. Their father should have whipped him good and sent him packing.

One important detail Keller pointed out that I had previously missed was that Jesus told the parable in response to the grumbling he overheard from the Pharisees & scribes; before Jesus began this parable, they were “… saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” (Luke 15:1-2) The Pharisees & scribes were people who saw themselves as superior to the ‘sinners’ that Jesus hung around with, and couldn’t imagine how a man could be of God and still want to hang around with people like that. The scribes & Pharisees were very much like the elder brother; obedient and deferential on the outside, but who were “full of greed and self-indulgence” (Matt 23:25) on the inside. The scribes & Pharisees weren’t likely to be crawling back to God seeking forgiveness for their wayward lives; their lives were perfect, just ask them. In fact, the kingdom of Israel was better because of them, and God should be grateful to have them help keep people in line. They had worked hard and denied themselves to be closer to God, and God owed them big time for all their sacrifices… If only all those low-life sinners could get their acts together and be as good as them… Or better yet, if God would just do the right thing and blast them all with fire & brimstone, all would be well with the world.

In the final analysis, the good deeds that they thought were bringing them closer to God were in actuality hindering their relationship with God. They misunderstood the basic fact that God cares less about what we do than about why we do what we do. He cares more about how we relate to one another and less about our adherence to a list of rules. And if we are being truly honest with ourselves, much of what we do that makes us consider ourselves Christian is similar to what the scribes & pharisees did in their day to set themselves apart from the average Israelite.

The Bible tells us that our “righteous acts are like filthy rags;” even the good things I do are tainted with sin and selfish motivations. I often do good things because deep in my heart I’m looking for a payback, either from God or from the people who might notice how good a person I am and give me the pat on the back I don’t deserve. I started writing this paragraph with ‘we’ and ‘us’, but decided that I’m just as guilty as anyone else in this; even more sometimes. I need to repent less for my wrongdoing than I do than for the reasons behind my rightdoing, and concern myself with being overwhelmed by my own damnable good works.

How does all this tie into revival in the Church Universal and the church local? We as Christians do a lot of stuff in the name of the church that has nothing to do with being Christians. We worry and fret and fight and argue over petty little crap while the world around us goes to hell. In our self-righteousness we look down on others who aren’t as good as we are or don’t do things as well as we do or don’t believe rightly, according to whatever denominational checklist we follow; they just don’t measure up. Of course we’d never admit that to anyone, and most will have a hard time admitting it to themselves. We have a mental yardstick that is our measure of how good we are, and we’re constantly sizing people up against our own yardstick. But God doesn’t measure us against each other, he measures us against his True and Perfect standard — straight-up holiness — against which none of us measure up. It’s only by Jesus’ cleansing blood and God’s mercy that we can be made right with God.

For true revival to begin in the Church We need to get past the morality of Christianity and believe the Gospel — the Good News — more deeply. The Good News, plain and simple is that Jesus came to save sinners. And that includes all of us, from the most depraved criminal to the best of the best. Because “… He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things — and the things that are not — to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.” (I Cor. 1:28-29). We’re here for God’s glory. It’s God’s show, and we’re working against him when we try to make it our own.

Because we suffer the same problem as the elder brother, those damnable good works get in the way of the Church doing what she is supposed to do. Jesus Christ is the perfect example of what the elder brother should have been and what the elder brother should have done. When I examine my own life, I know all too well how far short my efforts fall when compared to that standard. I’m not a bad guy, but I have trouble with my temper at times. As a family we give enough to charity that it garners scolds from every financial advisor we’ve spoken to, but I wonder whether the money goes to the right places… And do I really give enough? For a middle-class lifestyle in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, we make a decent income, but when I compare that to the rest of the world, we’re in the top 0.69%. I guess we do what we can and follow God’s leading as best we can, but most important is that we love the Lord our God with all our hearts, souls and minds, and love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

And finally, how does this relate to my church’s current situation? It’s too long a story to relate here, but the short of it is a lot of people in our church have behaved badly for the last four or five years because of some leadership issues at the church. Many people left the church to attend other churches, and still others have stopped going to church at all. Recent events have drastically changed the leadership landscape at the church, and some people are starting to return. In talking with others who have stuck with the church through it all, there is a little underlying animosity towards those who are returning, and I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t some of that in me as well, but I wonder how much of that is from the elder brother in us, in me.


I found a video blog/devotional on Dr. Keller’s message on the Generation Axis Blog, from Jon Peacock (apparently that blog is from Willcreek?) Don’t know if what he says adds much to what I’ve said, but it’s good to hear that the message hit home with someone else as well.

snip

Edit: Unfortunately, the devotional I mentioned above has disappeared from the net; the video is gone from Vimeo and the blog is completely gone, just an empty page in its place. For what it’s worth, here is another post from Tim Schraeder that I think is similar to what I mentioned earlier. I also stumbled across a page on Redeemer Presbyterian’s site where Tim Keller’s Two Prodigals message is available as an mp3 download or a CD you can order. Unfortunately (again) the message isn’t free; $2.50 for the download or $12 for the CD. The title of the sermon differs a bit from the My post may be a reasonable facsimile, but hearing it from Dr. Keller still may be worth the cost of admission.

The World Is Bigger Than The Internets

Filed under: Family,Geek,The Deep — dave @ 9:02 am 2010/07/09

I thought it interesting to read about how Finland has just decreed broadband Internet access to be a human right. And they’re serious. Reading between the lines, perhaps the Fins are trying show just how important communicating via the Internet has become… I don’t know if Finland has a Bill of Rights similar to that of the US, but to me, elevating what is essentially a public utility to equal status with, say, the right to life, does more to diminish other truly legitimate human rights.

That made me think of a conversation I had last weekend with some family members; I was bemoaning the difficulty of talking with or exchanging email with my daughter Emily, who is spending some time in Gambia. She’s waiting to be granted access to their system, which sounds to be pretty minimal, with dialup Internet connectivity that’s as reliable as the country’s landline phone system, which isn’t. The relatives all seemed kind of amazed that getting Internet access wasn’t a higher priority there — “she should’ve been able to bring something with her to stay connected, right?”

Well, Gambia isn’t exactly the technological center of the universe. Things in the Third World run at a much different pace. People there don’t have Twitter or Facebook; they actually sit down and talk with each other to find out what’s going on in their lives. Mail (of the snail variety), complete with hand-written letters, is a welcome surprise, rather than a nuisance that’s tossed without being opened. Food is purchased for the day and prepared as needed, and people share cooking duties & meals to lighten each other’s loads and have some face time over a meal. When Yvonne & I went to Cameroon a few years ago I thought it was like stepping back in time a few decades. And in a lot of ways, it was nice. Very nice.

Here in the USA one gets the feeling that the world revolves around the Internet, and in some ways it does. Here. But the world is much too big a place to be encapsulated in an html or Flash wrapper, and there still are places in the world where people have never seen a computer, much less have access to one or to broadband Internet access. Here in the US most everyone is connected with their computers and Crackberries and iPhones and iPads and whatever, but do we really do any better at communicating with each other than the Third World?

The Skeleton At The Feast

Filed under: Faith & Worship,Personal Growth,The Deep — dave @ 3:55 pm 2010/06/19

Of the Seven Deadly Sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back—in many ways it is a feast fit for a king.

The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you.

Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC

So very true. I see many people who harbor huge grudges against others, and those grudges only harm the one who carry them. And I do the same. I’ve been dealing with some bitterness lately, but I’m the one who is getting poisoned by that bitterness. Unfortunately, that poison has spilled over and also affected my family… Innocent parties in the whole deal, and totally undeserving of the harm I caused.

This all came up in a conference at our church this weekend, Freedom in Christ. One of the things that was discussed at length was the necessity of forgiving people who have wronged us because, as Buechner said so eloquently, anger and bitterness and grudges and chips on the shoulder harm the angry, bitter, grudge & chip carrier much more than the people at whom those nasty thoughts are directed. I’m happy to report that I’ve forgiven some people that I should have forgiven a long time ago, and the freedom I feel from granting that forgiveness is… truly refreshing.

Just Another Day

Filed under: Family,Fun!,Just Stuff,Personal Growth — Tags: , — dave @ 12:13 pm 2010/01/04

About this time last year I made a list of No-Year’s Resolutions*, so I thought this might be as good a time as any to review how I did on them.
* In case anybody missed the intended sarcasm, my No-Years Resolutions were an attempt at reverse psychologizing myself into actually improving instead of… well, the opposite.

My first one was to Gain weight. I’m thinking at least 40 pounds. Just more of me to love, right? I’d have to say I failed at this one, which is good; pretty much kept my head above water is all. I haven’t weighed in for a few weeks, but last time I checked I was still tipping the scale at about 235 or so, which is about where I was this time last year. The problem is that even though 235 isn’t ‘morbidly obese’ or anything, it’s still about 50lbs heavier than what I weighed when we were married, and it sure ain’t 50lbs of muscle. I get tired just thinking of hauling that much extra weight around wherever I go. Will 2010 be the year I finally hack off that spare tire? I sure hope so, and I’ll be giving it some concerted effort.

Next up, Not even think about exercising. I’d resolve to quit exercising, but I can’t very well stop if I’m not doing it in the first place. Total waste of time. Well, I thought about it, and did some, but nowhere near a regular exercise regime. Still need to work on this one. P90x? Maybe. Or maybe just haul my butt out of the recliner & get on the treadmill on a regular basis.

As for the Read less, and I’ll hide my Bible. Quiet time? Devotions? Spiritual disciplines? Who needs them? item, I’d have to say it was a draw. My Bible reading time & spiritual discipline has been at about the same low level for several years now. Not a good thing.

Watch more TV. I might even break down and get cable. From what people at work talk about, I’ve been missing some good stuff. Success here, I think. But that’s probably more an issue of not keeping track of my tube time. I didn’t buy cable, but I did break down & buy the digital converter box so the TV would at least continue to work. That’s given us a little more TV content to choose from, but I still end up kicking myself for staying up too late watching stoopid TV shows. Like My Name Is Earl… A little self-control? Please?

Procrastinate more. Then again, maybe I’ll wait & do that next year. I am happy to report that I don’t procrastinate any more. I don’t do it any less either, so I think it’s a draw on this one too. Or… heck; I’ll finish this one later.

Another failure; Take up a new habit: Maybe drinking. And smoking would be good too. And as long as I’m at it, I’ll start hitting the casinos. No smoking or gambling, but I did break down & buy a 4-pack of Guinness a while back, and paid a visit to Monks in October, but I’m not exactly a closet alcoholic.

An abject failure on this one! Spend more time at work. In 2009 I got five weeks of vacation time at work, and as of the last paycheck I had about 90 hours of PTO left until my anniversary in April. If I work it right, I may not even have any time left to cash out when this year’s allotment is rolled out!

Fail! Spend less time with the wife & kids. That only deepen any emotional attachment to them, which interferes with #7. I can say that I have spent more time with the family, and it has been good.

Well, this one could probably be considered something of a success; Take a vacation to someplace important: like to see the largest ball of twine. The only ‘vacation’ we took was to Kentucky to see Bryce’s graduation from Basic Training. We spent a little extra time there and visited Mammoth Cave, the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace Memorial, and the Coca-Cola Memorabilia Museum; none of which measure up (down?) to the largest ball of twine, but weren’t really high on the excitement meter. Yvonne pulled a week in Peru on a medical mission trip last summer, and plans to go back later this month, but I just hung out with the boys that week.

coke_museum

This one was another failure; Stop going home for lunch or bringing a sack lunch to work: We all need to do our part for stimulating the economy, and fast food restaurants play an important role in that, right? I didn’t keep count, but I know I spent a lot less money on fast food lunches in 2009.

And another failure; Quit giving money & time to charity. It’s time to let someone else develop character in that way. Gave way more to charity this year, plus I added a volunteer gig to hosting & maintaining the website for Groove Inc., even though Ian decided he didn’t want to participate in Groove at all this year. Oh well, they can use the help.

This one might be considered something of a success; hit the mark in a way… Sell my car and buy a mid-’70′s Camaro or Monte Carlo with a really loud stereo system, mag wheels, air shocks and wide tires in back. I’ll also need to grow a mullet to complete the image. No mullet, but I did manage to buy not one but two ’80-something BMWs. Neither has an impressive stereo system nor mag wheels, but both do have alloy wheels, and the latter one has some pretty wide tires all around. The problem is that the earlier one had a lot of issues and needed a lot of work (and still does) which kept me from getting around to some home improvement projects… If I had it to do over again I’d probably have held out for an e28 in better shape, but I really like these cars, in spite of the little niggling problems with them! Did I say ‘no mullet’?

Fail. Shower and change clothes once a week, whether I need it or not. A guy has to do his part to to reduce water usage. In fact our household is using more water than ever, since Caleb reached the age where a daily shower is pretty much a necessity for the health and well being of those around him.

Fail here too. Cash out my 401k accounts. The markets are going nowhere fast, and just think of the fun I could have with all that money. Although I was sorely tempted to do just that on a number of occasions, and still think it might be a good idea. Not to have fun with the money, but maybe to use it to pay off our mortgage and invest in something that might actually appreciate and not be available for the Washington bureaucrats to eventually seize to bankroll Social Security, Medicare and the mess they’ll end up making with their health insurance reform legislation.

Success on this one I’m afraid. Stay up later still every night. Think of all the late-night TV and web browsing I can get done instead of sleeping. Most days at work I feel like I’m spinning wheels anyway, so showing up half asleep shouldn’t affect a thing productivity-wise. It’s not uncommon to find me dragging myself to bed between 1-2am, then back up at 6:15 to get a head start on getting the boys up for school. Part of the problem though is that if I go to bed earlier I end up getting up earlier, without much gain in sleep time. Not sure if what I have constitutes a sleep disorder or what… Maybe time to retire our 24 year old mattress and get something that won’t have me waking up with aching shoulders & hips multiple times a night.

So there it is. I can’t say the reverse psychology worked, but at least it was at least different (if not better) than the typical “I resolve to do better” type list. I could probably keep the same list for 2010 (is that “twenty-ten” or “two-thousand-ten”?) since I still have some work to do. Hmmm… Maybe I’ll decide on that later.

The Church Feminine

Filed under: Faith & Worship,The Deep — dave @ 2:27 pm 2009/10/21

Had a slightly disorienting experience last weekend… Emily was up for an award at Augie, so we went to the Viking Days Chapel Service on Sunday morning, held in the Elmen Center. During the service, the only male involved in the service was Rob Oliver, the college president, who opened the service with a brief welcome message. That was it. Everyone else — other than the male members of the band and choir performing for the service — was female. The procession involved only women… The Scripture readers were women… The preaching was done by a woman… Communion was served by women… The service sounded pretty much like any generic Lutheran service I’d attended in the past; a liturgy very reminiscent of that followed by Catholics every day around the world, which is probably why it seemed strange to me that it was all women. There was no big deal made of the absence of the Y-chromosome that day, but it was noticeable. At least by me.

Augustana College “is a selective, private, residential, comprehensive (liberal arts and professional) college of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America;” the ELCA tends to be a bit more on the liberal side of the scale than any of my church experiences. Female pastors have been ordained and leading churches in the denomination for quite some time, and now the denomination even “partnered gay and lesbian pastors to be ordained and called to serve churches. Previously, the ELCA allowed only celibate homosexual pastors.” Given that, an all-female chapel service shouldn’t have been surprising.

I guess the older I get, the more difficulty I have with things like that; things that are done differently than what I’m used to. When I was growing up (in the Catholic church) only men & boys were involved in leading Mass. Thinking back there were on occasion women (nuns) leading some songs in some of the Masses, but for the most part it was priests and altar boys. Since my day, I understand things have expanded to allow girls or boys (now called “altar servers”), but I’ve been away from Catholicism long enough that that’s outside my experience. I’ve now been a member of a somewhat traditional Baptist congregation for nearly all my adult life; there, women are involved in the worship services and the denomination has ordained women as pastors, but the church has fairly rigid guidelines as to the role of women in ministry. I can recall only one time that a ‘sermon’ was delivered by a woman at that church, and that wasn’t well received by a number of people in the congregation. These days, I think women are allowed to teach Sunday school to kids, but it’s got to be a guy teaching a class of adults. I don’t know if that’s actually in the rule books anywhere, but I’ve heard that from a couple of sources; it would come as no surprise to me if it were true.

The ELCA has pretty much declared that Paul’s admonition against allowing women to teach men is an anachronistic holdover from a time and society where that sort of thing wasn’t acceptable (they seem to have gone to an extreme though with the homosexuals in ministry issue) My own church is of a decidedly different mindset, one with which I’ve grown more comfortable over the years. I didn’t really have a problem with the church service on Sunday; it didn’t make me uncomfortable, it just took me by surprise I guess, because all the things that I had become so accustomed to seeing done by men in a Catholic Mass were being done by women. Like I said; just a bit disorienting. A bit of disorientation is maybe a good thing because it makes us think about the things we take for granted, and wonder if there are valid reasons behind the way things are.

It’s funny that we as Christians tend to pick and choose which Biblical teachings we hang onto, anachronistic or not — for example, you won’t find many people in Christian circles arguing that we start worshiping and enjoying a day of rest on Saturdays instead of Sundays, even though nothing in the Bible gives clear direction that changing the Sabbath to Sunday was something we should do. It’s something that was done ages ago to honor the day that Jesus was raised from the dead, but… The Old Testament is pretty clear; “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” And Saturday has always been the Sabbath.

But anyway… the whole women in ministry thing is one of those contentious cognitive dissonance subjects that we as a church don’t really talk much about, because some people feel pretty strongly one way or another, and because many others (me included) have conflicting feelings about it, and just don’t want to make waves. One day though, it’ll all be made plain to us, but for now, we muddle along pretending we know what we’re doing.

The Cicada Killer Wasp

Filed under: Home Life,Just Stuff,Personal Growth,The Deep,The Kids,The World — Tags: , , , , — dave @ 11:01 pm 2009/08/20

For the last few summers we’ve had some scary looking bugs in our yard. Thankfully, they’re just scary looking, and nothing to really be afraid of, provided you’re not a cicada.


A female cicada killer wasp in flight, approaching a prospective nest site.

The lifecycle of the cicada killer wasp sounds like something out of a Ridley Scott movie… The female cicada killer wasp hunts down a cicada and stings it to paralyze it. When the cicada is safely immobilized, the wasp carries the cicada back to its burrow — a hole dug in loose soil. The cicada is placed in a dead-end chamber of the burrow; the female then lays a single egg (sometimes two) on the still paralyzed but very much alive cicada, and seals up the chamber. When the egg hatches, the larva gnaws through the exoskeleton of the cicada and feeds on its internal organs, saving the nervous system for last so as to maximize the length of time that the cicada remains alive. Gruesome, no?


The same female digging in the loose dirt for a new nest site.

The female cicada wasp killers are very large; up to 2 inches long. I’ve had them buzz by my head a few times and the sound is pretty unnerving if you’re not expecting it. The males are supposedly much smaller, but I can’t say that I’ve seen any.

Very scary looking, but very cool. It’s this kind of thing that makes me really question the theory of evolution. The evolution of physical body parts is only part of the equation; what about complex behaviors like this? So the larvae that just happened to leave the nervous system for last gained an evolutionary advantage over the others? And how did that “just happened” get passed on to the progeny of those lucky larvae? Nah; not buying it. I wouldn’t need to believe in an omnipotent, omniscient Creator to know that something like that doesn’t happen by chance.

God makes some cool stuff!

So That’s Why The Internet Is So Disfunctional!

Filed under: Personal Growth,The World — Tags: , , , , — dave @ 11:58 am 2009/08/14

“By the mouth of a fool comes a rod for his back,
but the lips of the wise will preserve them” – Prov. 14:3

I was reading from Proverbs this morning, and that verse made me think… that first line explains in part why discussion forums on the Internet don’t work very well. When I was a kid in school, if someone lipped off, said something stupid, there were consequences. If what was said was stupid enough, or the kid was just a little obnoxious but persistently so, the consequences often involved a good beatin’; the proverbial “rod for his back”.

Even in adult life, when people are talking face to face they tend to be more civil than the discourse you usually find on the Internet. People tend to be incredibly rude in what they write in comments on blogs, on YouTube, in discussion forums, emailed correspondence, etc… On the Internet, there is a level of anonymity and an unnatural buffer between the ‘speaker’ and the ‘hearer’ that makes people say things they wouldn’t necessarily say in person. It’s a lot harder to be a jerk when you can see your victim’s reaction, or be subject to their temper.

I’d like to think that I’m above that. That I’d not say anything here or in a forum or in an email that I wouldn’t say to someone face to face, but I know I have. And once it’s out there it’s difficult if not impossible to retract. So I guess the solution is to be more self-disciplined in what I write and say, no matter whether I’m online or sitting across the table from you.

Now, how do I get that message across to the rest of the Internet?

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