Monday, July 31, 2006

Now it's personal.

firing an M-4 carbine (c) defenseindustrydaily.comA friend of mine and a classmate at school is getting set to deploy with his military unit. I'm not entirely sure where he's going, but it brings the whole conflict (in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Middle East) into focus for me. He wrote on his webpage a couple days ago:

We spent all day yesterday at the range to brush up on our firearms skills, which will be very helpful in prep for the ten full days of firing we will get in Georgia, mainly with the M-4 Carbine (primary weapon) and the Sig Sauer 9mm (secondary). Should be a tough four weeks total as we'll be in hot August GA weather with level 4 body armor for most of the time from what I understand. Hopefully I'll have internet/email access while I'm down there so I can post and talk to friends and family.

Makes the common everyday stuff we bitch about seem a little small, huh?

Friday, July 28, 2006

Good fences make ....

a path. Sometimes we need fences. Some people call them boundaries. I didn't have many as a kid. I am having to learn to build them now, and it's not the easiest process in the world. Sometimes when you have been functioning in dysfunction for a long time, starting to get back to "normal" feels disquieting. To yourself and to others.

I have been reading a couple of books about spiritual abuse, and about boundaries. One thing that keeps coming back to me is that I cannot say "yes" unless it comes from my heart - not because someone else thinks I "ought" to.

So I have had to make some decisions. I realized there's a lot of F****ed up stuff inside me and I keep looking to redo life through a series of toxic situations. Work, church, the way I relate to myself and others.

So I have to step away from some things for a while. And I have to learn not to care what other people think. So many times we try to get approval from others and we lose ourselves in order to get it. I got to the point where I didn't want to do that any more.

But that doesn't mean it will always be easy. But my wife is reading a book called A Shepherd Looks at the 23rd Psalm. One thing it mentions about the passage that "he makes me lie down in green pastures," is that sheep will stay in the same place until someone leads them away. They will literally eat ruts in the earth - even when there's nothing in them - and stay there because it is familiar. Sounds like some relationships I've been in.

But the Good Shepherd is too loving to let his sheep eat dirt in ruts. And another thing the book mentions is that once they get to the green pastures, even the old ewes will kick their heels at the rejoicing of being in a new pasture. Boy am I looking forward to that.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Redemption, part one

Amy Grant (c) Realitytv.comThe evil that men do lives after them;The good is oft interred with their bones - William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar

I came across an article about Amy Grant's new album release later this year. Amy has a new disc called Time Again ... Amy Grant Live . It's a further sign that things have turned - that the pain she has lived through is healing.

I have a friend who is friends with Amy, Michael W. Smith, and Amy's former husband Gary Chapman. She was one of the people who knew directly that Amy and Gary were going to split up back in the 1990s. She told me about it, and having been divorced earlier in my life, I could relate to the pain. It's tough - tougher than a spouse dying because if they die, at least you can say to yourself "well, they're gone; that's it."

Amy is now married to country crooner Vince Gill, and they appear to be very happy together. And that's what struck me about the article announcing her live album release - that nobody mentioned their past. I thought that was kind of cool, and it reminded me that the grace of God is a country the boundaries of which stretch an awful lot farther than we think.

Many times preachers will try to scare people into doing what they want with a kind of "God's gonna getcha" philosophy of preaching. It usually has to do with hell, damnation, and eternity - all of which are real. But someone going to hell is a tragedy, because it means they missed the abundant provision for redemption that is available.

And believe me, we ALL need redeeming. I have done some terrible things in my time - okay, so I haven't murdered anyone, but I have been a pretty rotten guy. And I know some rotten guys. And I know some rotten women, too. But that's not the point - we're all rotten. That's what Jesus meant when he said "I haven't come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." The idea is that no one can earn God's favor, because no one is good enough.

That's why a Redeemer had to be provided. And that's what Jesus is and brings - Redemption.

And that redepmtion doesn't just stop with what is called "getting saved" - coming to rely and trust in Jesus. The redemption is much wider than that, encompassing all of life.

So maybe I'll get a copy of Amy's new DVD. I know my wife will enjoy listening to another high-profile singer who knows about redemption - Sandi Patti - at the Women of Faith Conference. Sandi's another one who can tell you the border of God's grace is a long way away. So maybe ol' Will Shakespeare was wrong; maybe the evil that men do is the thing interred with their bones.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

I have called you friends

chain gangIt was the kind of news you don't like to hear. A former colleague of mine - a professing Christian - has been convicted and sentenced to a year in jail for possession of child pornography. It made the papers today.

I worked with this guy for several years, and I knew he had been "allowed" to retire from the Federal government after being caught with porn on his computer. The last thing I said to him was "get the help you need." I hope he does. For now, my friend will have to serve his time in jail. From there, who knows.

I hope the church can get past his past and see that Jesus has not given up on him, as He does not on any of us. We all have chains that need to be removed; some of them are just more visible than others.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Now that's just sick....

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingI'm at the gym the other day trying to sweat off a few pounds on the stair climber and the treadmill and other trainers and what does ESPN have on the tube? The Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest for this year. Again, this guy, Takeru Kobayashi, won the thing by eating 53 3/4 hot dogs in 12 minutes. To watch this guy cram Nathan's dogs (and the buns) in his grill in 12 minutes was something else. It was like watching a car wreck.

I have to watch what I eat. I can't eat just anything and hope to stay in my clothes. And I have to work out - at least three times a week just to maintain my weight. But I love good food. So to see these dudes - and ladies I might add - shoving dozens of hot dogs down their throats and dipping the buns in water or lemonade or something else to help them choke down the sausages, was a bit much.

There was an American guy - Joey Chestnut - who ate 52 dogs and a diminutive woman known as "the Black Widow" aka Sonya Thomas who ate 37 of the frankfurters.

Bread for the World International and the World Food Program say that of the nearly six-and-one-half billion people in the world today, 852 million people across the world are hungry, up from 842 million a year ago. Of that total, more than 16,000 children die from hunger-related causes--one child every five seconds.

The World Food Program has a map that shows some of the places in the world that are most in need of food aid. It's telling, and it's in color.

WFP also has something called "Counting the Hungry" which is an interactive tool that illustrates and illuminates the world hunger problem.

I wonder what it would look like if on our computers, every five seconds we had a graphic where a child's face turned to a skeleton and disappeared. And we couldn't get rid of it. It just stayed there. I wonder how long we would watch - or God help us if we would become hardened to it and not even notice after a while.

Look, I don't want to sound condemnatory; I was just repelled by watching Kobayashi stuff his grill with enough food to feed a village - even if it is crappy food. Some say the problem is not a food problem - we have enough to feed people. The problem is distribution of the food we have. But I have to ask myself "what have you done to solve the problem?"

Now THAT's a thought bumper sticker
I had seen this bumper sticker on a car on the Beltway several months ago. I laughed out loud to see it, because it conveyed a truth that I think I need to learn. So often it is easy to complain, to whine - to bitch - but not have the courage to do something about it. I finally got one of these stickers, and the accompanying t-shirt, this week.

I was on an errand to get a piece of equipment for work when I came across a buxom young blonde in a spaghetti-strapped top with this slogan on it. She was standing near the E-street Theatres on 7th St. NW in DC, and I told her "I have got to have one of those. How much are they?"

The young woman, who was wearing camo pants, the t-shirt, boots and gold eye shadow, smiled and said "they're free, but we ask for a donation."

Seems that is an artistic farm commune in West Virginia. The Washington Post did a slide show and story on it in the January 22nd Style section this year. I tried to look it up on Washington I also found an on-line article from Washington City Paper, which you can read here. Also there is the Wikipedia entry here.

But what did fascinate me was the philosophy embodied in the bumper sticker. (I know - simple ideas are on bumper stickers - like "My Karma ran over your Dogma"). But something about the phrase stuck with me - stop bitching, start a revolution.

The phrase apparently has a whole series of workshops and other stuff that go with it, but the idea is pretty simple and that's what appeals to me about it. Stop bitching - stop complaining, stop thinking that somebody else is going to make your life work, stop thinking that your being screwed up is somebody else's responsbility to fix, OWN your life.

Start a revolution - a revolution is something that upsets the status quo, it confronts the way things are and says "let's do something different." I like that.

(NOTE: My agreeing with the slogan in no way implies an endorsement of the philospophy of Wulf Zendik, the Zendik Art Farm, its affiliates or associates. I have not read Wulf's book, nor do I necessarily support the ideas contained therein; however, I do think he came up with a cool phrase).

Okay so now that the NSA can call off its watchdogs ... apparently the Zendiks started a commune in West Virginia to live out their philosophy. Wulf Zendik wrote a book AQuest Among the Bewildered which is largely autobiographical in its content when he lived in Paris and California in the 1950s. He was part of the beat generation, and mingled Christian ideas with Buddhism and beat philosophy. You can see photos of Wulf, Arol and others at the commune here.

PLEASE! PLEASE! PLEASE! Make sure you spell the name right. If you happen to type in Zendick you go to a porno site that features "adult entertainment." And that's the LAST thing I would want to point you to.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Say what?!

Osama Bin Laden (c) der SpiegelSo news reports say that Osama Bin Laden has been downgraded from the CIA's most wanted list. The reported mastermind of the 9-11 attacks on the United States has apparently been downgraded because Al-Qaeda is no longer considered the organized threat that it once was. The CIA says most of the organization's senior leadership has been wiped out, and it's structure is so fractured that it is not the threat it once was. I think they just handed the case over to this guy.