Friday, April 28, 2006

Is it safe?

MySpace Logo
So I joined MySpace in order to look at some photographs that a missions student from my church posted on her account. I run a missions webpage for the church and I told the pastor I would keep it updated.

Photos tend to make a story more entertaining and allow readers to "be there" so I thought I could get some from the MySpace account. You have to be a member to look at photos, so I created a profile in order to look at the missions student's pics.

Then today I get an e-mail that someone named "Betty" wanted to add me as a "friend" to her MySpace list. Now I didn't know anyone named Betty - other than my mother - and perhaps that should have been a clue.

When I click on the link, there is a picture of two women dressed in leather French kissing on this woman's website. Needless to say it was an unpleasant surprise.

I know some friends who struggle with addiction to internet porn, and I knew that this kind of image could lead to other things, even though MySpace says that nude photos or other porn are not allowed. So I cancelled the account. The title of this post is a link to a story about a man who was arrested after chatting up what he thought were two teenaged girls on MySpace.

When he got there, someone was waiting for him - Sheriff's deputies. Men with guns.

Why do I mention this? Because the thing about addiction is that the charge one gets from looking at porn, and drinking alcohol, and doing crack, changes your brain. It makes your wiring different. And you actually crave that charge again. And your brain starts looking for more of it when it can't get some.

The thing about porn is that it can make you unable to have real sex. Isn't that a Faustian bargain. The porn publishers tell you that it will make you sexy and will give you that charge, and then it makes you unable to have sex with a real person because you cannot maintain an erection because the real person is not like the fantasy images in your brain.

I am not a parent, but if I were, I would wonder what exactly is going on in MySpace.

Whoa Nelly!

Keith Jackson by ABC SportsSo one of the greatest sportscasters ever is calling it a day. Keith Jackson, he of the "Whoa Nelly" quotation, who used to like Popeye's Fried Chicken and Jack Daniels, who made college football the greatest sport to listen to - particularly games between Michigan State, Ohio State, USC and other football powers - has decided to retire. Keith is one of the greatest.

But he said his job was to amplify, clarify, punctuate, and help people enjoy the games he broadcast. They should write that down and chisel it into some monument somewhere.

It's no secret that Jackson is in the sportscasting Hall of Fame, and his sideman - former Miami Dolphins' quarterback Bob Griese - is quoted as saying that "in the heart of the greatest college football broadcaster of all time lies a life steeped in tradition and affection for the game of football and the amateur athletes who love it so."

Keith - along with UNC Broadcaster Woody Durham - is one of those guys who truly loved college football. You could hear it in his voice. And the Georgia-born broadcaster brought that same kind of enthusiasm to whatever event he covered. He made you want to be where he was.

His voice made watching the Rose Bowl - one of his favorites apparently because he came out of retirement before to broadcast that game on New Year's (or January 4th or whenever)- a thing to look forward. You knew that it was an important game when Keith was on the box.

So thanks, Keith both for entertaining us all these years and for setting the standard so high.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

You have got to be kidding!

Pump Gas image "Seventy One dollars!" The woman at the pump next to me seemed stunned when she saw the total for filling up her minivan. Moments before she had been concerned with wrangling her children into the vehicle. But the price of gas at this suburban Washington DC WAWA grabbed her attention.

"I never thought it would cost that," she mumbled as she got in and drove away. I could empathize. But just to be sure, I checked the pump, and sure enough, she had dropped $71.00 to fill her 23 gallon tank.

My VW Passat cost $43.00 the last time I filled up, but it takes premium. (I haven't thought of putting anything but that in the thing; when the Germans say it takes premium, I believe them. That's because VW is so proprietary that you have to use Audi coolant or the engine will blow up!)

That has made me look more seriously at trading in this gas-drinking wallet shrinker for something along the lines of a soda can with wheels. And the Passat gets an average of between 20 and 25 miles a gallon. But anything that needs replacing on it - from the transmission to a fuse - is expensive. So is it worth it to keep it or should I sell? That is the question!

But the lady at the pump can take comfort in one thing - we are not paying the highest gas prices world wide. Seven years ago when my wife an I honeymooned in France gas was five dollars a gallon.

The Netherlands has the dubious honor of having the highest gas prices in the world - more than $10 a gallon! But the pain at the pump is making me look more longingly at my bicycle and public transportation. And less favorably at the Republicans come November.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

People You meet pt. 3

Japanese Man protesting in LaFayette ParkSo the title of this post is the hyperlink to a group that specializes in Japanese people who have - according to them - been abducted by North Korea. The Group is called ReACH or Rescuing Abductees Center for Hope. They were having a concert in LaFayette Park near the White House Saturday, presumably to bring attention to their cause. But the sad thing is, very few people were there to hear them.

I originally set out to see if there would be any protests or demonstrations at the IMF or the World Bank. They are meeting here in DC, and a few years ago, there were people in the streets all weekend long. Lots of arrests, lots of cops in riot gear. I thought I could get some photos and maybe even a man-on-the-street interview or two. This year? Nothing. Barricades and buses and tow trucks and limos and lots of men in suits and nothing. A lot of cops standing around getting rained on. You could not get anywhere near the buildings, and even the delegates were having to go through all kinds of security to get in. So that was a bust.

Amica performing in LaFayette Park, April 22, 2006But on my way over there, I heard Asian music playing in LaFayette Park. I originally thought it might be more Falun Gong, like the lady who was arrested when China's President came to the White House earlier this week. So I walked over to investigate and saw this group. A man handed me a flyer to explain it all and I listened to a New-York based pop singer Amica perform her tune "Beyond Self." If you click the hyperlink you can hear it too.

But the thing is President Bush was not there to hear it. He was on his way to California to talk about fuel cells factories and alternatives to oil. So he didn't hear their concert. See the President knows that gasoline above $3.00 a gallon could very well be the straw that breaks his camel jockey's back. Republicans could lose Capitol Hill and then Dubya would have two years of what he has handed other people - frustration.

But these folks weren't concerned about fuel prices or electric cars or Willie Nelson and grain alcohol. They were trying to bring attention to missing family members. But nobody really paid that much attention to them. They had to huddle under the trees to keep away from the spitting rain.

But the sincerity of their cause was evident. At least they were willing to take it to the streets. The Borg had effectively closed down any protests anywhere else.

Earth Day 2006 DC Style

This is a shot I took of the Washington Monument on Earth Day, April 22nd 2006. I thought it looked a little funky in the foggy rain.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Africa pt. 2

Horn of Africa map by World VisionSo the rains have come to the horn of Africa, but even the much needed rain brings its own problems. Now there is too much rain in some places and the water is washing away what people have. Also the dead animals left behind by the drought - even camels were dying it was so dry - create another problem - disease. It is enough to make a statue weep.

Many of the people in this region are subsistence farmers or nomads who have herds of livestock. According to the World Food Program's Kenya Country Director, Tesema Negash, the rains bring little help. "While they have alleviated the immediate need for water, there is increased risk of people falling sick from drinking contaminated water," he said. "Livestock deaths have continued because the animals are too weak and vulnerable to diseases such as pneumonia when temperatures drop at night."

So even if the rains water the thirsty, it will take years to restore things. The herds are still dead, the plants need re-planting and the people who have died are still gone. No return for them.

The WFP Website says that since January the United States has given a total of $46 million to help the crisis in Kenya. (C)WFP Image_Bruno Stevens Photobucket Another problem the rains bring is that they make the roads impassable. So food that is available to people cannot reach them because the trucks cannot pass the high waters.

Still another problem is the human reluctance and outright evil toward one another. In Somalia, there is basically no central government. So there is no one to protect the food from roving gangs with AK-47s that steal the food or rob the people delivering it.

In Eritrea, there is actually food that is in danger of rotting because of a government restriction on aid. The UN estimated in 2005 that up to two-thirds of the 3.6 million Eritreans needed food aid. But the government there insisted that its harvest was not as bad as the UN said and reduced the number of people receiving free food aid from 1.3 million down to 72,000! That's more than a 94 percent decrease.

According to the WFP, its emergency ration includes "about one and a half cups of rice or flour, a tablespoon of beans or lentils, a spoonful of oil and a pinch of salt. It costs an average of $0.29 and provides 2,100 kilocalories - the recommended daily energy intake for active adults.

The people most at risk of malnutrition - especially women and children - often receive specially blended foods that contain all the vitamins and minerals they need to survive. They may be given this food in biscuit form or in a flour which can be mixed into porridge. The average cost of a day's ration of high-energy biscuits is $0.55."

Do the math; that's 55 + 29 or $0.84 a day! I spend more than that on one soda at work! Dead Camel by WFP

My wife says its easy for me to feel guilty; maybe it is. Maybe I have an overinflated sense of justice. And yes, it is true, that Jesus did not minister to everyone He came in contact with. But He also looked on the crowds with compassion, because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and He healed their sick. Jesus specialized in the "ragged, bleeding edges of society" so how could we not expect Him to be in Kenya, or Somalia, or Djibouti, or Indonesia, or Pakistan?

We pray for revival in the West, and don't get me wrong, people here are equally valuable, but how can we ask God to bless us when we have been blessed beyond all belief!? Should God indulge us while millions starve?

And apart from the Gospel, people go to hell. Forever.

The group Mercy Me had a song called "I Can Only Imagine" that talked about being "surrounded by your glory" and what it would be like when "All that I can do, is forever, forever worship you."

But let's flip that for a minute. What if the song were about that other place?

I can only imagine
how dark it will be,
when they toss me
in the fiery sea.
I can only imagine.

I can only imagine,
the agonizing pain,
when I cry out,
for just one drop of rain,
I can only imagine.

Surrounded by the darkness,
what will my heart feel?
Will I understand the warnings
that said this place was real?
Knowing that forever,
I'll never see the light.
But for the bounding ages
I'm trapped in burning night?
I can only imagine.

See the consequences of doing nothing are high.

Do I mean to make you feel guilty? No.

But apart from the Gospel - the whole Gospel that includes a holistic approach to people's lives, millions in Africa, in Pakistan, in Oceania and Indonesia, in India - wherever they are shut off from the love of God manifested in Jesus Christ - will perish.

That cannot be the will of God. We must not insult Him by saying it is.

Friday, April 14, 2006

A thought for Good Friday

Somalia MapSo I saw the story on the front page of the Washington Post today about the drought and famine in Somalia. I also got a notice from World Vision about the devastating drought that has crippled the horn of Africa. And I thought it appropriate that both came on Good Friday - when the Son of Man laid down his life as a ransom for many.

The article talks about people who have been killed in fights over wells. The writer - Emily Wax - writes that the situation is made even worse because there is no central government to enforce property rights - including wells - in Somalia.

The United Nations World Food Program says it has distributed 10,700 tons of food so far to 646,000 beneficiaries in southern Somalia as part of its drought response intervention. That might sound like a lot, but in a country where an estimated 2.1 million people - out of a total population of more than 10 million - are in need of emergency food and water aid, that is not much.

The thing that is really tragic from this situation is that evenDry River Bed (c) Mike Goldwater, Getty, Chrisitan when people receive aid, gunmen often force the people to surrender the food - and the water - once they leave the distribution site. Others are forced to hand over the life-giving supplies because they cannot bribe the guards at checkpoints. Militiamen killed at least six people earlier this week in a gun battle involving a U.N. convoy trying to deliver relief supplies.

Most Americans probably remember Somalia from the crisis in October 1993 when American soldiers were killed in street fighting against forces loyal to warlord Muhammad Aideed. The incident was dramatized in the movie Blackhawk Down.

But that was 13 years ago. The water crisis in the horn of Africa has been going on for more than two years. In neighboring Kenya, rains fell last week, but there is still a great need for relief supplies. Children go hungry, and thirsty every day. People line the roads to beg for water!

Christian Aid, a non-profit that is working in the region, recently had people traveling in Kenya and Somalia, and their website had a sobering thought.

Halima Alio (c) Christian Aid Caroline Waterman People do not die of thirst because our world lacks resources. We have been given a world with enough to sustain everyone, a world in which no one should have to worry about the most fundamental needs of food and water.

People are dying of thirst because of the crippling poverty brought about by the actions, as well as the complacency, of the developed world.

Irresponsible lifestyles adopted in the developed world have contributed to changing climate patterns creating conditions that are prone to drought. And lack of investment in roads, schools, irrigation and agriculture has left people vulnerable to its consequences.

So how does this relate to Good Friday? Remember one of the words that Jesus said on the cross? "I am thirsty!"

The word there is dipsayo, which means to suffer thirst. A.W. Robertson writes of this cry that Jesus did not make it mechanically. Thirst is one of the agonies of crucifixion.

And what was given to Him? Vinegar, specifically wine vinegar. You know, like Balsamic Vinegar salad dressing? That was the best they had to offer Him. Vinegar is acetic acid made from fermented sugar products. It's great for household cleaning and for other uses, but as a drink it's probably the worst thing you would want. It has an astringent quality to it that makes you recoil.

Yet He voluntarily subjected Himself to this torture and death in order to redeem us. Three days later he rose, and now He calls us to reach out to the "least of these my brothers." And we can do it for less than the cost of a bottle of water each day.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Who's the Man?

So I had a little brush with "the Man" this morning, and I escaped with a warning. But it brought up some innate rebelliousness in me that I wasn't too fond of. But it also made me question, when is rebellion true rebellion and when is it a reaction to injustice?

Along the Mall here in Washington there are some free parking spaces - near the Smithsonian museums. The thing is, you can't park there until 10:00 am. But people do. And that's what I was attempting to do (at 9:40) when this bicycle officer pedaled up. I was not the only one violating the posted sign, but I was the one the officer stopped and started to take out his ticket notebook with.

Me: "Are you going to write me up?"
Officer: "What do you think? What does the sign say - the one right next to you?!"
Me: "So can I move my car (and avoid the ticket)?
Officer: "Hey you know, DC's like Vegas, you win some, you lose some."
Me: "C'mon man; there's people that park here every day before 10:00 and sit in their cars just like I am. They don't get tickets."
Officer: "C'mon?! There's people here at 8:30 some mornings! You're not supposed to park here until 10:00."
Me: "But this happens all the time and no one gets tickets."
Officer: Have you gotten at ticket?!
Me: (Silence).

During this discussion, the officer had closed his ticket book and I was hoping that I could just drive off and leave. But I wasn't done, and I don't think he was either.

Me: "Look, can I just move and avoid this?"
Officer: (With a pissed-off, frustrated look on his face)"Go! Get outta here."
Me: "Thank you; as soon as these men (the other folks who were also parked in the same way I was but were escaping without a confrontation because the officer was busy with me) move I will be on my way."

I don't know if the officer said "have a nice day" like they do sometimes; I just wanted out. I left and parked at a meter; he pedaled off to chase away other lawbreakers.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I was the one with the problem. Granted, DC is a hellhole when it comes to parking. They have raised the rates to $1.00 an hour, and if you stay at a meter longer than two hours they give you a $15.00 ticket - even if you have paid for more time. (I think the idea behind that was to discourage federal workers from staying at the meters all day so the tourists could park there. Either way - from us or from the Touristas - the city still gets the same amount of money. It's kind of like your landlord throwing you out even if you pay your rent).

DC also wants to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a baseball stadium it doesn't need while it can't clear the streets when it snows, its schools are miserable, and there seems to be problems with potholes and exploding manhole covers. (Artist rendering courtesy of HOK/D.C. Sports & Entertainment Commission) But I digress.

The main thing is, as a Christian I am told to be subject to the Power because there is no power that is not ordained of God. The policeman "beareth not the sword (or the Glock or the ticketbook) in vain." So I was wrong, he was right, and the other folks got away (some of them even parked illegally once the officer left! But that's not the issue).

Granted no one in his right mind would tell the Taliban (or the Yemenis or the Saudis) that there are Christian missionaries staying in his house; no one would have told the Nazis there were Jews in the attic; and no one would have told Southern slave hunters that there were runaways in the chicken coop. At least I hope not. But again I digress.

But the thing that ticked me off was that I was the one who got caught when hundreds of others flagrantly violate the same parking law every day and get no tickets, no talk, and no correction. This while DC wastes money on needless projects so Congressional fatcats can have the likes of Jack Abramoff entertain them and their staffs at a baseball game.

But I did miss the ticket.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Did Ya get the number ??????

Of that train that just wrecked, cause there ain't enough of it left to identify!

I had my first and worst ever public music performance today. Thank God it was at a small retirement home, where the audience was more forgiving. It was the absolute worst thing I have had happen since I have been playing music of any kind. But at least it's over.

I was supposed to be playing Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring by J.S. Bach. What I ended up with God - and the audience - only knows. The thing is I thought I knew this piece. But obviously I didn't.

I was reluctant to perform in public anyway. I have not been seriously studying piano for very long, and Bach is not easy by any count. But my teacher insisted that I do something in public, so this was the piece we selected. I probably should have told her no, but I did it anyway.

So I worked on it. And I worked on it. And I worked on it. I spent hours trying to get my fingers to do the right notes, and I thought I had it. But today when I went to play it - it was gone! I ended up playing little snippets of it, but most of it was crap. And of course when I began to crash, I panicked, and then that made it even worse. So now not only is the piece going to hell, I can't even remember what note is supposed to go next.

So I'm trying to get out of this plane crash and all I can think about is how badly I am f***ing up! I even apologized to the audience. And to top it all off, I was the first one on the program! Oh God!

And afterward, some of the other people and my teacher are trying to explain to me how hard it is to play in public when you have never done it before, and how God loves me anyway even though I absolutely murdered this piece of music, and how it's not about performance and blahdededebalblahalblah and All I can hear is Bach spinning in his grave!

So that won't happen again. No more public performances until I get it. No guessing or hope so. But I guess screwing up is part of learning. But man what a train wreck.

Friday, April 07, 2006

On Point : The Internet's Impact on Sex and Society

On Point : The Internet's Impact on Sex and SocietyI was listening to this show on the way to work today. It featured Pamela Paul, the author of the book Pornified: How Pornography is Transforming Our Lives, Our Relationships and Our Families.

It was an especially poignant program since a Department of Homeland Security Official was arrested this week for trying to solicit sex from what he thought was a 14-year-old girl on the Internet. It was also broadcast on the day that Playboy went on sale in - of all places - Indonesia.

This program features several people who outline how dangerous this stuff is to us. A lot of users are men, regardless of what Hugh Hefner, Larry Flynt and his other fantasy-pushers want to make you believe about what women do with the stuff.

But one real disturbing fact about this program was a mother who mentioned that her teenaged daughter had logged on to porno sites and had watched really hard-core stuff on her computer. And when confronted, her daughter said "but Mom, everyone's doing it."

It also talks about how men view women and the expectations they have of women in real sexual relationships. But some men cannot have real sex - they are so hooked on porn that they cannot achieve or maintain erection in a real sexual relationship. So the thing they think they have to have has robbed them of reality.

It reminded me of C.S. Lewis's statement about temptation in The Screwtape Letters. It promises everything and delivers nothing!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

What's THAT you're saying?

Dave Image hosting by PhotobucketSo I started something new for the Raves - audio blogging. What can I say? I am a broadcaster.

So this is my first try, and since it was on a cell phone outside, frankly it's a little toasty.

But this also offers an opportunity to communicate with you, my readers, in a new way - by actually talking to you. Excuse the first effort; I promise it will improve in the future.

this is an audio post - click to play

The swirling vortex . . .

River Warning by PixelPerfect.comWe see signs like this all the time - things posted to tell us not to do or say or eat or drink something. Our world is surrounded by warnings, but the arrest this week of a Department of Homeland Security official on Internet pornography shows that passing laws and posting warnings apparently is not working. There was another case in the news where a school teacher admitted to having sex with a 13-year-old boy. There have also been allegations - unproven so far - of sexual assault involving the Duke University men's lacrosse team. What are we doing? And how do we stop?

The news was not good. Brian J. Doyle, a 56-year-old deputy press secretary with the Department of Homeland Security, was arrested at his home outside Washington. He faces 23 felony counts of using a computer to seduce a child and transmitting harmful materials to a minor.Brian J. Doyle's Arrest Photo (c) APAccording to Sheriff's Department officials who had set up the sting in Florida, Doyle identified himself using his real name, his office telephone and cell phone numbers and included a photograph of himself wearing a TSA lapel pin. He was busted and carted away from his Silver Spring Maryland home in handcuffs. He had a high security clearance, and worked for a government agency that includes people who take action against Internet predators.

His neighbors say they were surprised; his lawyer says Doyle was depressed. But what he sounds like most is an addict; someone who was hooked on this stuff regardless of how it manifested itself.

Then there was the case of Rachel Holt, a 34-year-old science teacher in Delaware who is charged with having sex with a 13-year-old student. The Associated Press reports she even allowed her victim's 12-year-old friend to watch once and gave the boys alcohol.

Blue Devil Image (c) Duke UniversityDuke University's lacrosse team coach quit Wednesday amid allegations three of his players raped an exotic dancer at a team party. Coach Mike Pressler had spent 16 years at the school and led them to three ACC titles. The players and their lawyers have denied the charges but Duke has canceled its season.

Have we all gone nuts?

I admit to struggling with my own addictions. I eat. I use food for comfort sometimes - what they call "emotional eating" at Weightwatchers. And food is one of those addictions that can be a real Faustian bargain - you don't have to snort cocaine, you don't have to look at porn, you don't have to drink alcohol, you don't have to spend yourself into massive debt - but you do have to eat or your body will die! I used to smoke - that was a big mistake. Cigarettes are one product the proper use of which will lead to a painful, miserable, awful - and unnecessarily early - death. The insidious thing is it looks like the tobacco companies knew that and planned to get us hooked on their damnable product anyway!

But I am learning to control the desire to eat for comfort. How? By learning that I am not really in control of my life. So many ofthe decisions that are made daily are the result of other people's decisions or things beyond my control. I have very little control over things, only my response to them.

And learning healthy responses takes time, because the survival skills I learned as an addict (and an abuse survivor) no longer work. But there is hope. There is a way out. Jesus said he came to preach Good News to the poor - and He welcomed those who were under the influence - sinners, whores, drunks, lepers, the sick, the helpless. And He delivered them. That is where hope lives for all addicts - in giving God control. It's a daily choice that has to be made, but thank God He also provides the grace to make it.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Cherry blossoms and Tulips

Tidal Basin Traffic Sunday April 2, 2006So we did it. We braved the traffic and the crowds and we went down to the Tidal Basin in DC to see the Cheery Blossoms this year. I had not taken Cornelia down there to see the flowers in five years. Five years! But we did it this year.

Surprisingly some of the most beautiful foliage we saw Sunday was nowhere near the Tidal Basin. It was around the Smithsonian and some of the other Federal buildings downtown. And it was well worth the trip.

I am not one of those people who enjoys Winter. Some folks I know can not wait for the first snowflakes so they can hit the ski slopes or go snowboarding. To me skiing is a good way to fall down a lot and get very wet and very cold. That's because I suck. But the apres ski stuff by the fireplace is kind of nice.

Other people love the heat of summer - going to the beach, fishing, surfing, sunbathing. That has it's place, but being too hot is not my idea of fun either. The best thing about a hot summer day to me is the cold beverage one enjoys to relieve the heat.

My personal favorite season is fall, but right now, spring has caught my fancy. And it's not just about cherry blossoms.Image hosting by PhotobucketNo it's about beauty so breathtaking that it stuns you. It makes you want to be silent in its presence and even the noise generated by a crowd of people passing you seems to fade to so much background humming.

The flowers - especially the tulips but also the violets, hyacinths, crocuses and others that are blooming here in DC are breathtaking. The deep hues, the delicacy and artistry of the Creator reflected in these little ambassadors is enough to make you want to fall down and pray.

We walked around the Smithsonian castle before going to the Tidal Basin to see the cherry trees and the sun through the tulips and the violets made the colors shimmer.Tulip and violets image © dbyrd/Image hosting by Photobucket There were arrangements of pansies and violets and dusty miller on the front lawn of the Castle that just shook me with their beauty. I must have looked like a real doofus with my baseball cap turned backward so I could get a good look at the viewfinder on my camera. But I was not a alone. There were plenty of people there snapping away at these amazing creatures.

There were red tulips with deep purple and yellow inside. There were purple tulips, yellow tulips, yellow violets (I did not know there was such a thing but there are) and daphnies and daffodils and hyacinths that made your head swim with their sweetness when you sniffed them.
Tulip © dbyrd/Image hosting by Photobucket
I was especially enamored of this one variety of tulip that was planted in front of the Department of Agriculture Building on Independence Avenue. They were just there for decoration - not any special decoration, just a decoration for the front of the building. But they were stunning. The kind of beauty that is majestic, that makes you feel small. And their silent witness to the Genius of the One who created them was humbling.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Do You Approve?

Question Mark puzzle pieceSo I was playing this game on a free site called It's called Penguin Arcade, and the object of it is to keep the penguins in this pool from escaping by knocking them back into the water with an ice cube cannon. It's mind-numbing entertainment and it is addictive. But I also found it held a valuable life lesson for me.

Once you start lobbing ice cubes at these animated birds (including puffins that fly across the screen) you accumulate points. And underneath the point scale there is the little "Smily face" you know one of those obnoxious yellow things. And it keeps smiling as long as you are knocking penguins back into the pool. But once you start to miss - which you inevitably do because the penguins start to gang up on you and try to escape three or four at a time -then the smily face turns to a face with a line in it and then to a frowny face.

And I found myself being more concerned about keeping this animated face smiling than actually shooting at the penguins. I was wanting to keep that face smiling no matter what. I was willing to lob enough ice to clog the channel if that face would just not frown at me. (The frown actually came when your life was running out, but as long as you kept knocking penguins back into the pool. you were okay).

And it made me wonder about how many times in our lives we do things just to get the approval of others. We want their smiles and their approval and we seem ready to do whatever it takes to make them happy, even if we lose a piece of ourselves - or take our eyes off our goals in life - to do it.

I found that if I focused on shooting the penguins with the ice cubes, that I didn't have to worry about the smily face because that was what it was there for, to reflect pleasure with my progress. So if I shoot more penguins, I can ignore the smily face, but if I focus on the smily face - on earning approval - then I lose sight of my goals and soon the game is over.

Maybe I'm full of crap, but it seemed like the most important thing was to focus on what I was there to do, and not seek the approval of the little yellow man in the corner. There's a life lesson in there somewhere. Make of it what you will. And enjoy the game.