Sunday, September 18, 2005

A good start

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.
But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on His law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
And whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.

Not so the wicked!
They are like chaff that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

(Psalm 1)

I shot this the other day along the creek near my house, and I thought it illustrated this Psalm pretty well. This tree is planted next to a stream of water, and it's leaf doesn't wither (at least not until autumn, when it sheds all of them). But unlike this tree, the psalm talks about us having something to do with our own spiritual health. We have to choose what we will listen to.

Have you ever encountered a true mocker -- I mean someone who is a real mocker, who derides someone else in a way that offends your sense of decency. Someone who is a scoffer, who can find the bad in anything? Or someone scornful, someone throwing shame on everyone and everything around them? Who would want to be like that?

But the choice indicated in this psalm is pretty clear -- either you are one or the other. Either you delight in being mocking, scornful, and sinful, or you delight in the law of the LORD. And it seems like we have to choose. One or the other.

But there is another scripture, which says "apart from me you can do nothing," (Jn 15:5). So that leads me to think that even the desire to do what is right is because God wants me to want that. Just as a branch can't produce it's own fruit, and a tree can't produce it's own flowers without being attached to the root system, so we have to be attached to God through Christ.

But what does that look like? How do we stay attached to the Life of Christ in us? Is it something we do, something that He does or is it a combination of both? This tree doesn't have to think about being attached next to the creek. It just is. But we are not trees, we are humans created in God's image, and we can choose. So what do you think? Where does the Life come from and how do we get it daily?

Friday, September 16, 2005

It was the best of times ....

Okay so I'm not going to steal from Charles Dickens.

I just went to get lunch and was reminded of something. Taking albuterol can make you irritable.

The guard at the Ford House Office building asked me to replace the tray that you put your keys, watch, cell phone, heart pacemaker, ear plugs, Glock 9 and other metal objects in before you go in the building.

I felt like Neo in the Matrix, wanting to have a little confrontation there by the magnetometer. There's only one problem -- Neo is fantasy, first of all, and he was armed, second of all. There was absolutely no reason for me to be irritated at this guy's request. Not to mention he had two friends who had Glocks as well.

I knew that. But on this love potion, it's the small things that irritate you. Not piss you off; not enrage you, just irritate you. Like someone making a small request but you take it WAY too seriously. But the Faustian bargain on this stuff is that I have to take it to breathe! Otherwise I can't get any air sometimes. Cornelia says I get scary sometimes when I take this crap.

Ironically, some of the side effects are:

  • nervousness
  • shakiness
  • dizziness
  • excitement
  • Being a prick to people
  • desire to beat the life out of a person ....

Oh no. Those last two are just the effects if you happen to listen to the bad voices in your head. So if you have the misfortune -- like me -- to need this stuff when the Ragweed is in full bloom, remember, that sudden surge of adrenalin will fade if you give it time. Enjoy the fall.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

You have GOT to be kidding

Hummer H3

The Hummer H3 (c) GM
So I just saw an ad for the new "smaller" Hummer, the H3 where there are four people in the desert and as they do a sort of modern dance in chairs, they lean to the left, to the right, then they float off the ground as they meditate and then -- magically - an H3 assembles itself around them and the ad reads "Let the Dance Begin" or some other lame slogan.

In my best Daffy Duck voice let me say "Now Waiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit a minute!"

This thing is GM's -- that's right General Motors which owns Hummer -- latest attempt to prove the old adage about a fool and his money. The Hummer Website lets you see the whole thing. The call it "Chairs" because the four people are dancing using chairs in the middle of the desert.

Hmmmmmmm. I wonder how they float off the ground like that? Could it be because they have no money because gas for this beast is taking their life by the gallon? Or could it be because they are so light from not eating because they are using all their grocery money for gasoline and to pay for this $37,500 gas drinking, wallet shrinker?

I get so tired of ads trying to sell us stuff we don't need for money we don't have so they can charge exorbitant interest and become Rangers in the next campaign.

If Hummer really wanted some business, why don't they roll out the properly armored HUM-VEES for the guys in Iraq? Then maybe their dance in the desert will be over soon.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

There is a Willow ...

Hurricane Ophelia by NOAAbut it won't be aslant the brook for very much longer.

Ophelia is pounding the old North State as I write this, and it makes me wonder how things are in Topsail Beach, where Cornelia and I went on vacation last year. We even joked that if a really serious hurricane every hit that area, it would be a sand island, and nothing else. And houses there are not cheap.

CNN has its weather guys and gals out in the winds, (80+ MPH) and the center of the storm is right now 40 miles East of Wilmington.

This is "only" a category 1 storm so far, but Katrina was "only" a category 1 when it went through Miami last month. Imagine standing on top of your car as someone drives down the road at 80 MPH and you get some idea of what "only" category 1 is like.

So pray for those along the coast. Hurricane season doesn't end for another couple of months.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

He is there

I shot this photo a couple of days ago when I had some time early in the morning before work. The sun was breaking through the trees and it had the autumnal glow to it.

It reminded me, ironically, of September 11th. I remember how clear that day was, how it seemed to shimmer. And of course, I remember the silhouette of an airplane crashing into the South Tower of the World Trade Center as I could do nothing but watch. I felt so helpless, even though I was watching it from Washington, DC, and was not in New York, and I lived.

Is that survivor guilt? I'm not sure. But it made me realize just how fallen the world in which we live is. It is full of people whose only aim is their own aggrandizement or their own power over others. And they use fear to try to control other people.

But in the midst of this reflection, I also remembered that there is One over whom there is no ruler. There is One who rules all men, both the just and the unjust both the righteous and the unrighteous. And just as constant as the sun coming up, He is there.

And that makes a huge difference if you really think about it. That He is there, as opposed to Him not being there. That means it is a personal universe. It was created by a person, for a person, and is sustained by that same Person. He rules it in His infinite wisdom, and He is kindly disposed towards us. Sometimes I forget that. In the tyranny of the moment, with fatigue, time pressure, and the responsibilities of just living pressing in on me, I can forget that there is One who sees and knows my struggles.

So it was good to get away to a place in the woods where I could be reminded of that. Even if it was mixed with the melancholy of a bad memory and the noise of commerce calling to me from the distance - whether by the train whistle or by the sound of cars on a nearby highway. It was good to take a few minutes by the creek and remember the Father who loves me.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Who are you?

The link at the top of this page goes to Time Magazine's 100 most influential people of the century issue. It lists some pretty important folks, including President Bush, Secretary of State Rice and Kim Jong Il of North Korea. Others on the list included Louis Armstrong, The Beatles, Pablo Picasso and Bart Simpson.
It made me wonder, how do you define yourself? What makes you significant?

The goolge dictionary defines important in two ways:

"Strongly affecting the course of events or the nature of things; significant." Also, "having or suggesting a consciousness of high position or authority; authoritative."

Now most of us would agree that presidents and princes merit such designations. And if you doubt that, try getting past the fence at the White House without proper ID or a pass and find out.

But what about you? What about me? Are we important? Do we have significance? Some might say that's a stupid question; "of course we are significant!" But do we act that way? Do we treat ourselves and others with honor and respect or do we think other people are idiots and asses because they drive differently? Maybe my perspective has been warped a little by living and working near DC, but how do you define important? Do you feel like you matter? And if so, why?

There's a passage in the Bible that refers to Christians as a "chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession." (1 Pe 2:9). This scripture refers back to a promise that God made to Israel: "Now if you will listen to Me and carefully keep My covenant, you will be My own possession out of all the peoples, although all the earth is Mine, and you will be My kingdom of priests and My holy nation. These are the words that you are to say to the Israelites."

Later, in the book of Titus, the Apostle Paul writes that: "He [Jesus] gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for Himself a special people, eager to do good works."

So that must mean that you are pretty important -- if you know Christ. If you don't, that doesn't mean that you are not significant, but it does mean that you have not fully taken possession of what you were intended to be, one of God's special people.

John's gospel clearly states that Jesus died for the world (the Greek word there is cosmos all of creation) that whosoever believes in Him would not perish, but have eternal life. (Jn 3:16). So that must mean that God thinks that you are special enough to die for. If someone thought that much of me, that tops anything that Time magazine could do by a long shot.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

That's why we pray ....

I was looking through the Book of Common Prayer tonight for something that would be appropriate for the victims and survivors of Katrina.

I know many people - in addition to those who are asking "where was the government" - might be asking "where was God?"

There have been some who said publicly that the storm was the judgment of God on the city and its inhabitants. People said similar stuff after 9-11. But I found this prayer more reflective of Christ.

Feel free to post one of your own if you are so inclined.

O merciful Father, who has taught us in thy holy Word that thou dost not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men: Look with pity upon the sorrows of thy servant(s) for whom our prayers are offered. Remember them , O Lord, in mercy, nourish their souls with patience, comfort them with a sense of thy goodness, lift up thy countenance upon them, and give them peace; through Jesus Christ out Lord. Amen. (The Book of Common Prayer, The Church Hymnal Corporation, New york, 1979)

Soccer Madness

So I got the chance to cover the US-Mexico Soccer game Saturday September 3, 2005 at Columbus Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.

This was a big deal, with a win for the US earning them an automatic berth in the World Cup. They did end up winning, 2-0, and will be making the trip to Germany, but I thought I would post some photos from the trip that weren't action from the game. So here goes.

This guy was something. I like to call him Monteczuma because of the headdress, but I don't know his real name. He was just one of several thousand Mexican fans at the game. He was waiting outside the stadium wearing this getup with Peacock feathers in the headpiece.

He looked like he was ready for some football! And you notice, his little one is just as passionate about his national team as dad is. Actually I think he probably just wants to spend time with dad; he looks too young to be embarrassed about the getup.

There were a lot of Mexican fans at this game. One reason the US team chose Columbus is because it was such a long trip for the Mexican fans to make.

Mexican fansIf the game were played in Los Angeles or somewhere like Dallas or even Salt Lake City, there was a possibility the crowd would be to pro-Mexico.

So they put the game in Columbus to try to get more American support. It worked, but there were several thousand Mexican fans who made the trip.

Sam's ArmyOf Course there were plenty of US Soccer crazies there too. The guys in what's known as Sam's Army, for Uncle Sam, were there in force. They came by my seat one time pounding a drum and chanting "Estados Unidos" just in case any of the Mexican fans were curious that the red, white, and blue banners and flags the Sammers were carrying were for Puerto Rico.

One of the really cool things that happened was that they had a parachutist literally fly in the American flag before the start of the game. It was a perfect night for a game, with clear skies and the temperature around 68 degrees.

And this guy floated down out of a crystal blue sky with a massive American flag attached to his ankle. He landed right at midfield and the crowd went nuts. It was something to see and part of the whole spectacle of the game.

In the end the US won, thanks to Steve Ralston's header and DeMarcus Beasley's goal. And now they will go to Germany next summer to represent us at the World Cup.

The stadium was jammed with 24,365 people, the largest crowd ever to watch a US qualifier at Columbus Crew Stadium. And the crowd was pretty self controlled, no fights or foolishness like that. There seemed to be two things that unified the crowd -- their enthusiasm for the game, and the lines at the porto-johns. US, Mexico, it didn't matter. Everyone had to line up.

I am not a real fan of the game, which is probably a good thing. But I noticed that people usually either don't care or are extremely passionate about soccer. There doesn't seem to be much middle ground.

On the flight back to DC, I was sitting next to a guy in a Mexico shirt who was flying all the way back to Mexico City that night because he had been at the soccer game. I can't imagine traveling that far to watch any sporting event -- at least not without getting paid to be there. But this guy obviously had the love. When I was driving home from the airport, he was facing another six hours or more before he would be home. More power to ya if you love it that much.

Friday, September 02, 2005

What to do...

The images from New Orleans, Mississippi and Alabama have been devastating to watch; what must it be like to live through it.

As part of my own personal efforts at understanding, I looked up "dealing with trauma" on the Internet and came across some information that might prove helpful.
This information is from United Behavioral Health, and while it is not from a Christian perspective, I believe some of the steps outlined here are indeed helpful for us.

These tips are for people who are helping others:

· Listen carefully
· Acknowledge feelings as normal
· Be sensitive to individual circumstances and different points of view.
· Don't respond with "you're lucky it wasn't worse." Instead, say that you are sorry such an event has happened and you want to understand and to help.
· Don't take emotional responses like anger personally.
· Respect an individual's need for privacy. If someone doesn't want to talk about the incident or their feelings, don't insist.

At work:
· Organize support groups at work to help one another.
· Offer a "listening ear" to someone who hasn't asked for help but may need it.
· Give encouragement, support and understanding with on-the-job issues.
· Identify resources for additional help (Employee Assistance Programs, mental health benefit, human resources department).

Family and Friends:
· Offer help with everyday tasks like cleaning, cooking, caring for the family, etc.
· Respect their need for privacy and time alone.
· Suggest available help
· Keep communication open -- be available and accessible.
Again these are only recommendations. Professionals are much better suited at this than I am. But these are some steps we can take to help the "least of these."

Also, the importance of prayer -- and fasting -- cannot be overemphasized.

Isn't the fast I choose:
To break the chains of wickedness,
to untie the ropes of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free,
and to tear off every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
to bring the poor and homeless into your house,
to clothe the naked when you see him,
and to not ignore your own flesh and blood?