Monday, December 20, 2004


It's funny what catches my heart, and when, and how:

I had a dream in time gone by
When hope was high
And life worth living
I dreamed that love would never die
I dreamed that God would be forgiving...

I had a dream my life would be
So different from this hell I'm living
So different now from what it seemed
Now life has killed the dream I dreamed.
A song. (Anyone know where this is from?)

"Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life." Proverbs 13:12

Thursday, December 16, 2004

here's to the end

For those who know (or care), 2004 has been, without question, the worst year of my life, and recently included the worst day ever.

Here's to another year rapidly approaching - may 2005 be NOTHING like 2004.

Grace & Peace

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?!

“It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:30)

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

funny, that

Funny how when someone pisses you off, they are wrong for pissing you off, and when you piss someone else off, they are wrong for interpreting it wrong and are being stupid for being mad about it.
(from a nascent friend.)

(thanks to StaciMichelle for posting this cartoon.)

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

that's not normal

I recently watched a film in which, during a dramatic scene, a young boy of 9 or 10 witnesses his uncle (and several bad guys) get killed. My first thought was, "Wow. That kid's going to need a lot of therapy." This got me thinking, because in the vast scope of human history, it is only recently that this level of violence has not been witnessed by a large number of us, children included. Now, I'm not saying that witnessing the death of a loved one is somehow "good," or is part of the "natural order" of growing up, but you have to admit that it puts certain things in perspective.

I don't know what it is about modern America, but we seem ready to send ourselves and our children to therapy, onto medication or into clinics and hospitals for the strangest of reasons. Perhaps we sucked our thumb for too long time as a child or were ridiculed by our peers as adolecents. Parents, educators and psychologists seem to believe that children are so fragile that not enough affirmation as a child is enough to drive every one of us to psychosis. Even serious events like the death of a classmate or the serious illness of a relative warrant "code-red" emotional triage. And that's probably a good thing. I'm sure every school district in the nation has a plan to respond to the psychological needs of students in the event of a serious campus event.

But what did we do for all those years of human history when those responses weren't available? When men routinely went off to battle and didn't come home? When women and children directly witnessed wars, famines and plagues? Those that survived managed to make it to adulthood and become contributing members to society, with families and careers despite the devastation of their childhoods. We can't be as emotionally fragile and we're sometimes made to appear

So, what is "normal"?

If normal is defined by what is most common, then from the standpoint of human history, it is much more normal to experience tragedy than to avoid it. And more than history, this type of evil continues today around the world with famine, genocide, rape and more. From an evolutionary perspective, humanity must have adaptations that allow us to deal with tragedy at this level, or we never would have survived as a species.

If normal is defined by what is most healthy, then it becomes a bit trickier. From a Biblical perspective, God obviously didn't create us (in the Garden) to experience tragedies of this magnitude. So perhaps tragedy is not normal. On the other hand, humanity fell with Adam, and God has sustained and healed us throughout generations without the help of professional psychology or a cocktail of SSRIs. Some people might simply argue that evidently every generation before us really was messed up, and no one could have been truly happy. I'm not buying that so easily. And let's be honest, although depression and suicide have been around forever, growing up in a less violent culture doesn't seem to help much. The Swedes haven't fought a war in years, and they have among the highest depression rates worldwide.

[Note: This is the part of this blog where I will likely get myself into trouble]
Part of me thinks that we've become a society of pansies, who scream at the first sight of blood and have become so sensitized to pain that we freak out when we encounter it. We believe we have a right to lead a pain-free life, and feel put-upon when tragedy occurs. We've come to believe that we're so fragile that we can no longer handle the tragedies that every generation before us in history considered a natural part of life.

Another part of me thinks something more insidious is going on. Psychologists and psychiatrists have an incentive to make us believe that we're irreperably messed up, because it benefits their bottom line. So they continually feed us this line, no matter what we say about our childhood or past. But more than that, if we can convince ourselves that everyone is "messed up," then no one needs to feel inferior to anyone else, because really, we all need counseling. Anyone who doesn't admit this is seen as even more messed up with their delusions of invincibility. We make ourselves feel normal by assuming that, in fact, no one is. (this is similar to the argument made in "The Incredibles." If everyone is "special," then no one is). We're told that any little character flaw reveals our deeply held neurosis - that we can't even recognize our issues because we've become so blinded by our pain or bottled it up so tight. The strength of this arument is that it is impossible to escape. Once it is proferred, any denials only reinforce its truth! It's the Salem Witch Trial argument in a modern form.

So on Pearl Harbor Day, take a minute and remember the real tragedies we experience. The brave men and women at Pearl Harbor that not only survived, but in many cases became heros, and I bet most of them made it through without large doses of Paxil or years in a counselors chair.
Grace & Peace

Friday, December 03, 2004

These hallowed halls?

The following quote comes from a thought provoking article featured in this week's Economist (linked above):

"Academia is simultaneously both the part of America that is most obsessed with diversity, and the least diverse part of the country. On the one hand, colleges bend over backwards to hire minority professors and recruit minority students, aided by an ever-burgeoning bureaucracy of “diversity officers”. Yet, when it comes to politics, they are not just indifferent to diversity, but downright allergic to it."

As someone who recently graduated from a prestigious, and reflexively socialist, university, this type of analysis smacks of the obvious. But it might not be as clear to many of my culturally enlightened illuminati (new word for this ad hoc intellectual posse that seems to have developed), even though many of us left college much more liberal than we entered it. It's as difficult to be conservative in an agressively liberal institution as it is to be an evangelical in an atheistic one (perhaps more difficult, especially if you happen to be a conservative evangelical instead of a liberal one, as is the unlikely norm among Christians in these places).

It's hard to explain if you're not used to seeing it. A quick read of the article might give you a glimpse. I imagine that it's a varient of good ol' fashioned prejudice. And prejudice of any stripe is concerning.

I realize, of course, that it's bizarre to consider myself an "oppressed minority" as a "conservative Christian white male." But in reality, that definition puts me on par with the likes of Satan, Karl Rove, and Hitler as far as most Yalies are concerned. Even Stalin gets a better rap. Think about it...
Grace & Peace

Recently Reading
I am Charlotte Simmons
By Tom Wolfe

Thursday, December 02, 2004

who knows why?

I am currently spinning what is likely the most random mix collection ever assembled. There's only one thread tying all these songs together, and I'm not telling...
  1. Changes - 2pac
  2. The Luckiest - Ben Folds
  3. Color Blind - Counting Crows
  4. Blue in Green - Miles Davis
  5. Out of the Woods - Nickel Creek
  6. Hold Me Now - Jennifer Knapp
  7. Goodbye to You - Michelle Branch
  8. It Takes Love - Grits
  9. Your Love is Extravagant - Darrel Evans
  10. Your Body is a Wonderland - John Mayer
  11. If You Could Only See - Tonic
  12. I'm Sensitive - Jewel
  13. Song for a Winter's Night - Sarah McLaughlin & Jewel
  14. Somewhere in Between - Lifehouse
  15. In Your Eyes - Peter Gabriel
  16. Everybody Hurts - R.E.M.
  17. Fire and Rain - James Taylor
  18. Never Fit - Gandalf Murphey
  19. Light up my Room - Barenaked Ladies
  20. I'll Be - Edwin McCain

Take care of yourselves, and each other...
Grace & Peace

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

a weltanschauung apparatchik

I am a moderate grammer nazi - if "moderate" and "nazi" can be used in the same sentence. [Edited to add: correction by the spelling nazi, "grammar." Whatever.]

I distinguish this specifically from a spelling nazi, becuase I tend to use words like "tonite" with a certain gleeful abandon. I also consider myself moderate, because I am sensitive to the conventions of style (form following function) and open to convincing on most points. I am also highly permissive of elipses, parenthesis, and many of the overused iterations of modern communication, especially in instant messages, mostly because I consider them effective communicators of emotion, and more accurately represetative of verbal communication. I'll admit to overusing them myself from time to time, and of being afraid to be the man who "throws the first stone," as if I don't have regular grammer slip-ups myself.

The issues that bring out my inner nazi tend to be noun-verb agreement, singular-plural agreement, and certain, more archaic conventions like the correct use of the subjunctive in phrases like "If I were..." (I must give credit to Brilau for driving this point home in college.)

But for sheer fastidiousness, few people beat this man, who has written several volumes on the correct and modern uses of the English language (dare I say, the "American" language?) But in the article referenced above (NOTE: NYTimes articles require free registration) the author uses several foreign words to convey his point, and also, I believe, to indicate his linguistic superiority over his subject and readers.

When are foreign words appropriate in an English language composition?

Is it acceptable for someone to critique another's use of the English language using several prominent foreign language words? I know that the philosophy/theology world tends to use foreign words (biggest culprits here: Latin, Greek, German and French) to express particular theological concepts that have no English equivalent. However, I have noticed a certain "creeping" of these words into the regular parlance of our small band of illuminati. I'm distressed, because I feel that this not only makes us look like intellectual snobs, but huge dorks as well! There's a grey area as well, because the words listed in the title of this post are in the dictionary, though most of us have no idea what they mean.

So what do you think? Am I right to be skeptical of so much creeping "polyglottalism" in my own vocabulary and in others? Or is it simply a fait accompli as folks move up the educational ladder? I await your thoughts...
Grace & Peace

Sunday, November 14, 2004

A few thoughts I am happy to share:

"The Incredibles." SUCH A GOOD MOVIE! Smart, witty, philosophical, with clean animation lines and a great story. Definitely geared toward the adult audience. If Ayn Rand did Disney cartoons, it would look something like this. (I may have to blog more on this later.)
(The link above is the NYTimes excellent review. Note: NYTimes articles require free registration).
Is anyone else as psyched as I am about Up, Lummox!'s return to the blogosphere? After a three week hiatus back in October, my buddy DOB has been blogging with a vengence for the past three weeks, and I'm simply left in awe. During his absence, several friends of mine (that DOB has never met) contacted me to ask when he was getting back to delivering his opiate to the masses. Ahhhh....
If you enjoy a good laugh and are amused by the inane back and forth of what passes for today's "dating scene," you really must check out 50 Bad Dates. The author's witty and sarcastic observations make me grin and snicker (yes, grin and snicker) every time. I look forward to her thoughts all week (which reflect, at turns, both Bridget Jones and Sex & The City, but with a decidely fresh flair).
Speaking of Bridget Jones, Kristin Gore's book (yes, the daughter of the "Internet Inventor who would be President"), Sammy's Hill, is surprisingly amusing. I almost never read fiction, especially popular fiction, particularly by obviously partisan Democrats...and certainly nothing in a genre disturbingly labeled "chic lit." However, I stumbled across it in Barnes & Noble at Newport on the Levee, and perused the first chapter over a Grande Mocha Valencia (my indulgence beverage of choice, with more calories than most Thanksgiving dinners). It was one of the only times in my life that I can ever remember laughing out loud at a book! The other customers were eyeing me warily, and one even came over to see what I was reading. The "Bridget Jones goes to Washington" feel is certainly cliche, but the exaggerated life of the novel's protagonist is so dead-on that I just couldn't stop laughing. If you've ever worked in DC or know someone who has, chances are this will the strike your funny bone. Unfortunately, by the last third of the novel, the witty and eccentric story line degenerates into predictable mushy romanticism and too much big-picture politics, while it was the funny close ups of the lead character, Samantha Joyce, that really made the book so worth while. In the end, I couldn't bring myself to buy it, but I've been reading one chapter each week (or two or three) over my Saturday cup of coffee. Pick it up if you're looking for some light reading, but don't feel like you have to buy it, and for goodness sakes don't tell anyone I've read it!
Finally, I would like to re-clarify (for those that are unaware or have simply forgotten) that my nom de plume is taken from a character I once played in a high school musical, and not from any delusions of grandeur that I may have about my status or authority. I re-iterate; I have no advanced degree, no teaching positon of any kind, and generally know little about much.

Assumptions to the contrary on your part are both foolhardy and likely dangerous to your health and well being. Proceed with caution!
Recently Reading
Sammy's Hill
By Kristin Gore

Friday, November 12, 2004

voter fraud?

At the risk of opening up Pandora's Box, the above link connects to an interesting article in today's NYTimes (not exactly a longtime friend of the Republican Party) about the "voting fraud" rumor mill. (Note: NYTimes articles require free registration).

I will excerpt only three short (and revealing) quotes:
  • "Clay Shirky, an adjunct professor in the interactive telecommunications program at New York University, suggests that the online fact-finding machine has come unmoored, and that some bloggers simply "can't imagine any universe in which a fair count of the votes would result in George Bush being re-elected president."
  • "We know this was an emotional election, and the losing side is very upset," said Daniel Hoffheimer, the lead lawyer for the Kerry campaign in Ohio. But, he said, "I have not seen anything to indicate intentional fraud or tampering."
  • "A preliminary study produced by the Voting Technology Project, a cooperative effort between the California Institute of Technology and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology...found "no particular patterns" relating to voting systems and the final results of the election. "
Well, that sounds pretty definitive to me. But hey, what do I know?
Currently Reading
A Grief Observed
By C. S. Lewis

This is not rocket science

Okay folks, this is not rocket science. As any gas station attendant can tell you, a receipt is necessary for a credit card purchase. You sign the receipt, and you get a carbon copy to keep.

Why can't we do the same thing for electronic voting? You make your vote, the machine prints out a receipt. You reveiw the receipt and sign it. You get a carbon copy for yourself. This is decades-old technology that would eliminate all these problems, and would stop giving Kerry supporters false hope (I mean, we're still looking at at 3.5m popular vote difference here). I just don't see why all this is so complicated.
Grace & Peace

Monday, November 08, 2004

The rage of the drowning man

As always, this man is my hero for dispelling some common myths, and getting it right about what's important in the recent election victory. Click here for his brilliant insight in full.

(If you're dog tired of election jabbering, this may be your time to sign off. No offense taken. However, if you've only heard one side of the story, please read on...)

The official story of throngs of homophobic, Red America values-voters surging to the polls to put George Bush over the top is MYTH. Here are a few facts worth absorbing:
  • Evangelicals made up the same share of the electorate this year as they did in 2000. There was no increase in the percentage of voters who are pro-life.
  • Bush did better this year in 45 out of the 50 states. He did better in New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts. That's hardly the Bible Belt.
  • The President did particularly well among white Catholics, winning 56 percent of them compared with Mr. Kerry's 43 percent, despite Mr. Kerry's being the first Roman Catholic nominated for president since John F. Kennedy in 1960.
  • Bush did better with people older than 60 than Mr. Kerry did. Mr. Kerry did worse with that age group than Mr. Gore did.
  • He increased his share of the vote among women, Hispanics, and even city dwellers significantly from 2000, and made slight gains among both Catholics and Jews.

Here's a paragraph worth excerpting at length:

"The same insularity that caused many liberals to lose touch with the rest of the country now causes them to simplify, misunderstand and condescend to the people who voted for Bush. If you want to understand why Democrats keep losing elections, just listen to some coastal and university town liberals talk about how conformist and intolerant people in Red America are. It makes you wonder: why is it that people who are completely closed-minded talk endlessly about how open-minded they are?"

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

though I am tired...

Though I am tired, it is a good day.

Not much to say. Let the numbers speak for themselves.

The real winner, of course, is the American people, who turned out in record numbers and awarded the first solid popular vote majority since 1988.
One sad bit of news. This man ran a great campaign and was a great candidate. Though he lost, he is a true gentleman and has earned my respect.

Monday, November 01, 2004

why America

"America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great." -Alexis de Tocqueville

This quote was not written by an arrogant American, but by a Frenchman in an era when people were not afraid to say that a country might not be merely great, but also good. God is not the mascot of the Republican party. God is not a Democrat. God is not even an American, which may surprise some of you. But there is one thing I can say with certainty; God hates the murder of the innocent - whether in Darfur, Iraq, urban Los Angeles or in abortion clinics all across the country.

I read that the Iraqi death toll may approach 100,000. But we have the blood of 40 million unborn human lives running through every street in America. It stains our hands and faces and we cannot escape it no matter where we may go. We may have turned our backs on God, but in His incomprehensible grace, He has not yet turned His back on us. Someday He will answer the cries of the innocents, and woe to anyone alive when a Just and Awesome God brings a nation to account.

"Through your own fault you will lose the inheritance I gave you. I will enslave you to your enemies in a land you do not know, for you have kindled my anger, and it will burn forever." Jeremiah 17:4

We have lost our ability to speak truth because we do not believe that Truth exists. We have lost our ability to fear God. So we fear nothing.

Please, I urge you to realize the power of one of our most important gifts and VOTE.

Vote prayerfully, vote powerfully, and perhaps there is still time left to worry whether America may yet return to be great because she returns to be good.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

when we settle

I have a friend who always wanted to be a rock star. Pretty common, right? But this friend was good. I mean really good. By the time he was in high school, he was playing regularly around town, the darling of several older music "veterans," and had girls fawning over him the way most boys that age only dream about.

And you probably think you know how this story ends - that he tried after high school, but couldn't quite get it together, so now he plays coffee houses with the money he makes from a low-end job, and pines for the days when he "was somebody."

But that's not quite it. Because this friend went to college, married a beautiful and talented girl by the time he was a junior, and now teaches high school science at a reputable boarding school in the South. And he never touched his music again.

It's like one day he just moved on. And he swears to me that he's happy. He has a wonderful life with his wife and new baby daughter. He has a responsible job, is respected in his community, and his wife stays home to raise their family. Sounds like the perfect life.

But I just don't get it. How could someone that loved music so much, for whom music was their passion and life, just move on like that? How is it possible, when I saw him feeding off the inspiration of the music, and the adoration of the crowds that mouthed his lyrics like he was some kind of Jim Morrison? Can someone's priorities change that much that the old things that mattered so much simply don't matter at all anymore? Is he really happy....really, way down deep, or has he somehow buried that old passion so far down that he doesn't even remember it anymore, and he's mistaking his contented, secure life for happiness? Has he really somehow "settled" for the easy road?

When someone says they're happy with their life, can we really believe them?

I mean, at one level, who am I to say otherwise? He certainly seems happy, and he has a lot to live for and enjoy in life. But part of me is so uncomfortable with the whole idea that someone can just change like that.

I guess I'm just skeptical of people who feel like they "change" dramatically at random stages of life. One example that always comes up - at 17, a lot of us thought 35 was old. But now that we're 25, we all say, "nah. 35 isn't old. I just didn't see that when I was 17." Well, I'm of the opinion that I did see that at 17, and really, 35 is old (or at least middle aged) and I should just be okay with that and age gracefully. (For those that are interested; in my rubric 0-20 is young, 30-50 is middle aged, 50-? is elderly. And I plan on keeping this rubric till I die.) Another one that comes up quite a bit is "oh, I thought I was in love before, but I never really loved anyone until _______" But in this case, the old standby "I always thought ______ made me happier than anything in the world. But I'm even better now, doing _______, than I could have imagined" is the one that makes me concerned.

Because I never want anyone to settle. I never want anyone to give up on their dreams and aspirations for the sake of security (or anything else!), and cover it up by insisting how happy they are with the way life turned out. It's especially difficult when the person really seems happy, or has really convinced himself that he's just as happy (or maybe happier) with his family, working a respectable 9-5, than he ever might have been inspiring people with music.

Is it actually settling if the person really does feel happy?

So why do we settle? And should I even care? Because it's true that things happen in people's lives, things that are unexpected, and I'm sure everyone's priorities change at one time or another. Everyone I know with kids says that it's impossible to understand true love until you've had children. So I guess this must be true, even though the love for a spouse is so intense I can't imagine anything approaching that. God certainly wants us to find contentment in Him and not in the "stuff" of life. But what about the idea of a "calling?" Can you miss your calling and still be truly happy?

All these questions running around in my head, and I can't help but feel sorry for a guy that insists that he is happier than he has ever been in his life. Then I remember how inspired I was just watching him perform. And I know how much he lived for the opportunity to move people with his music, and I just don't understand how he could give it all up and never look back. I guess I just don't understand life sometimes...what a complicated mess.
Grace & Peace-

Thursday, October 21, 2004

a seredipitous Boston "fan"

I hate the thought that I might be digressing too far into the "humdrum daily routine" element with this posting, but a small story will illustrate my incurable excitement at the Red Sox recent World Series berth.

The company that I work for, Carlson Software, recently held it's annual meeting here in Maysville, KY. We brought in employees from all over the country, Los Angeles, Houston, Sarasota, Atlanta, and Boston.

One of the cool kitsch items at this meeting was a new Carlson Software hat, which, as hats go, is a real winner. Unfortunatley, all the hats were gone before my good friend BR was able to obtain one. He complained ceaselessly for two weeks at his lack of a Carlson hat, and just when I thought it hopeless, I ran across a small stash hidden away in the back of our storage room. I sent BR the hat, along with a note explaining my remarkable find, and considered the whole thing done.

Imagine my surprise two weeks later when a beautiful, high quality Boston Red Sox hat arrives in my mail, with a nice note. You see, BR is a lifelong Bostonian (with the accent to prove it) and a diehard Red Sox fan. He encouraged me with the hat to become a Sox fan, telling me, "for sure. This is our year."

So I started following Red Sox baseball, more out of curiousity than anything else. But the intruigue and sheer intensity of the recent ALCS has cemented my nascent Red Sox enjoyment (dare I say "affection"?) and propelled me into the ring as a Sox fan - even getting into arguments with various Yankees fans I run into. I've been staying up late all week to see the incredible games (all 14 innings the other night) and real baseball history in the making. Whatever you think about the teams, this is good baseball.

So, I'm incredibly excited about the Red Sox heading to the World Series this year, with the chance to end the "Curse of the Bambino" once and for all, and with their first World Series in 86 years...yes, 86 years. But a part of me feels a little guilty about this whole situation. Here I am this new Red Sox fan, enjoying and celebrating success, when thousands of Red Sox fans have been waiting year after disappointing year for a victory like this. There might be an 80 year-old man out there that waiting his whole life for this opportunity! So part of me thinks that I don't really deserve to celebrate with the "true" Red Sox fans...but I do it anyway. I just keep my enjoyment to myself, and compliment BR and all the legions of year-after-year diehards out there on their determination and the success of an incredible team. They deserve this...
Grace & Peace

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

taking sides

P.J. O'Rourke, correspondent for the Atlantic Monthly and regular contributor to NPR and The Weekly Standard has done it again. This short piece had me rolling on the floor laughing. It is a five minute read at most. Lighten up your day and enjoy it.
Currently Playing
Whole EP
By Pedro the Lion

Monday, October 11, 2004

good times

Oh, how I would love for THIS to be true. And for it to totally blow up. Be the "October Surprise" or whatever. Please.

If you really enjoy political satire, JibJab is definitely for you. Plenty of fun for both sides of the aisle, and their new creation is perhaps more fun than their last! Good times, indeed.

who's your grandma?!

So much to write about. So little time.

NEWS FLASH!! The new single off the upcoming U2 Album ("Vertigo") absolutely kicks ass. Looks like the rockin' boys from Ireland have done it again. Can't wait to get ahold of the record. Check it out here.


Tuesday, October 05, 2004

the Worship experience

While I'm not as well versed as some people, I believe that my own unique backgound (not merely evangelical, but also a strong charismatic bent) might shed some light on a different perspective.

Frankly, I think Christians use the word "worship" loosely, like english speakers use the word "love." Clearly I don't "love" raspberry chocolate truffle ice cream in the same way that I love my closest friends - the emotions are much stronger with the ice cream - but I use the same word to describe both. Similarly, people often use the word "worship" to describe many different things: a life attitude toward God (as in, "I want to have a worshipful life"), an attitude of the heart (having an "attitude of worship"), but also the physical act of singing that goes on in a service ("this is the worship time").

At first glance this does not make a lot of sense, unless you impose a more fundamental definition on the whole thing, something like "an offering of adoration and devotion." In that light, the "act" of worship (the singing) becomes an offering, and so do all the other definitions used for worship. Viewed this way, the "worship" element of a church service is distinguishable from the Word and Sacrament by virtue of it's objective: the worship is what we present to God - an offering of adoration and adoration. This is why worship is often called "praise."

This type of adoration has roots back to the earliest Biblical narratives. The Old Testament is full of examples of Israelites singing the praises of God. Miriam (Moses' sister) sings an entire song of praise after the Israelites cross safetly over the Red Sea. David danced before the Arc of the Covenant when it returned to Jerusalem, and the entire book of Psalms is a compilation of songs of devotion to God, often sung by the people in a religious context. I imagine that these songs were deeply personal and emotional, and evoked a strong personal response in the singer that helped draw the singer in to that posture of worship before God.

This is essentially what bothers me so much about "traditional" worship - its complete lack of emotion. I'm sure this is not true in all situations, but in every traditional service I have attended, the "worship" segment is a bunch of people singing in a musical style they have no familiarity with, their heads buried in a book to read the lyrics, and no sense of any emotional connection to what they are doing. If there is real emotional connecting going on, it is well hidden. The most you can often get out of people is that they enjoy the comfort of tradition, or the sense of continuity with songs they sang as children. The Bible is full of so many wonderful worship stories - of hands raised and people clapping. I just can't see Miriam passing out hymnals to everyone and having them sing in an old-fashioned style a song of celebration.

This is why evangelicals (and charismatics especially) revel so much in worship, and experience such a strong connection to the divine in the act of worship. It seems that God somehow wired us to experience music emotionally (and emotively). Any musician will tell you that it is hard to really sing from your heart and not experience a powerful connection with the subject of your song. Charismatics often say that they experience God's presence more strongly in this
context than anywhere else. While "emotionalism" is always a concern, it's hard to fault that kind of passion and zeal. Those Christians who have never experienced the overwhelming presence of God in worship - where you often can't even speak, or the tears just won't stop coming, or all you can do is smile - while obviously still "Christian" in every objective sense, are missing out on a powerful and potentially life-changing element of the Christian life. It's not
"required," but would you set out to build a house, and limit yourself to only 1/2 of your tools?

These are my thoughts, and I'm happy to discuss them with anyone...let the castration begin.

Grace & Peace

Where is human nature so weak as in a bookstore?--Henry Ward Beecher

Monday, October 04, 2004

Once again the same

I recently took's Personality Test. It's pretty amazing, takes about 20 mins, and is a lot of fun. I first took this test back in 1999, and then again in 2001, and got the same result both times. Recently I learned that the test had been updated, and the site somewhat altered, so I thought I would take it for the 3rd time, to see if my diagnosis would change.

Same result. Which is amazing considering how much the test has evolved over time! Every time I read their conclusion I think, "Wow. It's unbelievable how well they have me pegged." Same goes for several of my friends who have also taken the test. It always describes them better than I could do, and I know them pretty well!

In my recent period of self-reflection, it has been very important to take a good, clear look at myself, and to try and see myself the way others do. It's not always a pleasant experience, but it has certainly challenged me. I recommend you give the test a try, and let me know your results! I'm interested to see how you all turn out, and I'd love to keep a running list of the results. Here are mine (see if you don't agree that they describe me to a "t"):

Dominant Extrovert Abstract Thinker (aka POLITICIAN)

Like just 5% of the population you are a POLITICIAN (DEAT)--forceful, outgoing, and forward-looking. You are strong-willed and extroverted, so you enjoy interacting with other people. You aggressively pursue your goals.
Your creative style of thinking allows you to come up with unusual arguments and original ideas that appeal to others, but behind it all is an analytical mind that never forgets the bottom line. While some might see you as manipulative, your close friends know you are a talented person who deserves the best in life.
Whatever. You are manipulative. Whether you use your power for "good" or "bad", it's up to you. If you're confused what good or bad means, ask a HEALER. Like EXPERIMENTERS, you have a propensity for cheating.
Currently Playing
Rainy Day Music
By The Jayhawks

Saturday, October 02, 2004

it's a mad, mad world...

You know that the world is weird when Iowa, Kansas, Louisana, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virgina and Wyoming all have Democratic governors...and California, Connecticut, New York, Minnesota, Massachusetts and Vermont all have Republican ones! What's up with that?!

Currently Reading
Crime & Punishment
By Fyodor Dostoevsky

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Who's your grandma?!

From a very good friend who ought to know:

website of the day:

Of course, not to be confused with:

Don't forget to watch the debates tonite! (9pm EST). Not that you'll be able to avoid them, seeing as how they're on every major news network as well as NPR and PBS! NBC even moved The Apprentice to Wednesday night (this week) to avoid conflicts.

Mad Props

Mad props to the folks at Merck for volunteering today to immediately pull the arthritis and pain med Vioxx from the worldwide market after data from a clinical trial showed that the drug produces an increased risk for heart attacks and strokes (sheesh!).

Scary? True, but you've got to give them credit. It is safe to assume that these folks may actually have a soul after all? I'm probably overly optimistic...

As a good friend would say that his uncle would say, that Matt Drudge would say, "Developing..."

The Senators Return!

No, not John Kerry - fortunately for all of us he is still on the campaign trail, preparing for tonight's big debate. But the Montreal Expos have officially selected Washington, DC as their future home. The Washington Post article linked above (may require a quick registration to view) suggests that the Expos could be playing in Washington by April 2005, in a brand new stadium less than a mile from the Capitol Dome!

I, for one, think this is fantastic, and am psyched about the nation's pastime returning to the nation's capitol - the thought of an errant homerun ball hitting a congressman on the head makes me giddy (and probably wouldn't hurt their intelligence much).

The only question now is what to name them. The "Washington Senators" played in DC for years, but that franchise (and the old name) is owned by the Texas Rangers - yes, President Bush's old team - and it's not likely that the word "Senator" inspires the same awe that it did 50 years ago. I think the "Expos" deserve a new name, since they haven't played well under their current one in years. I suggest the Washington Capitols (with great nickname potential - the 'caps'), but other suggestions have included the Washington Water-Gaters, among others. Any ideas from the peanut gallery?

Currently Reading
On Paradise Drive
By David Brooks

Sunday, September 26, 2004

a short post script

We are all endebted to brilau for pointing out this groundbreaking social commentary from a national news source. At least we know that our nation's most brilliant minds are tackling society's tough issues.

For some really serious thought, this is a fun place to look. Don't get lost in there.

Currently Playing
Out There Live
By Dar Williams

my only "liberal" issue?

So, not to blaze off into completely unrelated territory, but the whole "runaway drug pricing" thing is really bothering me. I have (until this point) resisted the urge to say anything because my knee-jerk conservative tendencies whisper sweet nothings in my ear and tell me that everything must be okay in Pfizer-land, otherwise the U.S. wouldn't have the amazing range of healthcare options that it does.

But a series of damning revelations about drug companies has finally tipped me over the edge, and I'm furious with the way these companies manipulate public opinion, especially those of people like me who want to believe them, and generally give them the benefit of the doubt.

Unfortunately for me, I'm now in quasi-independent land, which is a terrible place to be, because I realize that all of the prescriptions (pun certainly intended) to fix the drug industry will only make things worse...but I'm getting ahead of myself.

The biggest lie that drug companies want you to believe is that drug pricing is directly related to a research motive rather than a profit motive. But drug companies are consistently among the most profitable companies in the US (Fortune 500). Now, me being me, I don't see a problem with this as long as these companies are producing world-class research and innovative treatment methods from their high profit margins. No reason to punish the companies just because they're successful, right? If we did that, no one would want to create innovative treatment methods, and the U.S. is certainly cutting edge. That's the beauty of a market economy.

But what really pisses me off is that most of the cutting edge research for new drugs and treatment methods is publicly funded at universities or research labs! This stuff is funded by taxpayers and then co-opted by drug companies to be marketed at exorbitant prices to the very people who funded the research in the first place! If this is not perverse, I don't know what is.

Most of the "research" done by drug companies is for "me-too" drugs (not my term). Me-too drugs are company specific versions of drugs already on the market (for example, Lipitor is 1 of 6 drugs of the same kind that have been on the market since 1988). When Viagra came out and was wildly successful, every drug company decided that it needs its own version...that is where the high profits are going (that and large yachts in the Caymans). Drug companies also spend millions upon millions of dollars convincing people that they "need" new me-too drugs that weren't even on the market until recently! (anti-depressants or erectile dysfunction medication) Granted, depression is a serious illness and warrants research (I won't comment on erectile dysfunction), but what did the world do for thousands of years without these medications?! We found alternate ways of coping rather than medicating ourselves at the drop of a hat, and we certainly managed to reproduce alright (to the current level of 6 billion people on the planet)...Okay, I know I'm opening myself up for some legitimate criticism here, but somebody's got to say it!

The worst part of it is that the solutions are even worse than the problem. You can't price-regulate without companies simply moving their operations elsewhere. If the government negotiates lower prices, it is not a fair negotiation. The US government is so huge that it can simply impose its will on the drug companies. And let's be honest...we could buy cheap drugs at Canadian prices if the US government were willing to subsidize health care to the degree that Canada does! It's not that Canada magically has lower drug costs...they're subsidized! This book recommends regulating drug companies like a "public utility." But let's think about the public utilities around the country. Would that really be a step up? I mean, really??

The only solution I can see is for the US government to limit access to publicly funded research conclusions to those companies who agree to limit their profit margins on drugs developed from that research. This way, companies can decide to keep their profit margins high (opting out of the government research results), and develop drugs themselves by whatever methods they choose. But if they want to benefit from the money of US taxpayers, they have to re-examine their fiduciary responsibility to their shareholders and decide that profit can't be their only motive. I imagine that faced with such a dilemma (given the currently weak research going on at drug companies) most of them could "see their way clear" to reducing their profit margins on those drugs developed from taxpayer driven research. However, if drug companies are willing to do this, I think the US government should support these companies and protect their patents around the world. Oftentimes, these companies are robbed of their intellectual property by nations who simply steal the rights to drugs and manufacture them generically for their own populations with no compensation to either the US or to the drug makers. This only makes the problem worse. In other words...let's just be fair, to the companies and to US citizens.
Grace & Peace

Saturday, September 25, 2004

unrequited love

'Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.

Alfred Lord Tennyson, In Memoriam, 1850, line 27, stanza 4

The overcast sky brings this year's early Autumn to the "shallow south," and my cup of coffee is inviting pensive reflections on recent Autumns past. Together they bring to mind the oft-quoted lines of Tennyson, and I am tempted to reach back through time and shake the man thoroughly to try and dislodge exactly what he meant. Do you really mean that?? How in the world can it be true?? Have you survived love lost?

Is unrequited love better than no love at all...?

Clearly more than academic, this question shakes my foundation, and serves as the reason (excuse) for my weeklong writing hiatus. Rest assured, I have five postings in draft form on every topic around, but in the face of personal anguish, these intellectual considerations seem ephemeral and cold. So I offer a quick glimpse into my own highly-personal musings (which I swore I wouldn't). Because, without understanding (at least in part) where I am, and what the hell I'm doing here, I can't address with a clear mind anything else.

What I really want to know is the answer. I find myself the keeper (the victim?) of unrequited love - and it devastates me. Like a tragic game of Hot Potato, I wish I could pass this off...but the time is run out and there's no one else around.

Love is, at its best, a glimpse of the divine. It illuminates the Trinity, the very inner workings of the Godhead, in ways the uninitiated can only imagine. When you love (the truest of all verbs) it is impossible not to see in this union a glimpse - a shadow - of divine communion. It is breathtaking and life altering, and I don't think humans were created in the Garden to have that level of intimacy taken, or ripped, away. Such is the tragedy of the Fall, and we are all so weak...

But unrequited love is perhaps the most perverse. Love is not meant to rest or stay put. Like water it flows, first from above and then steadily downward until it reaches down to the depths or is returned above. And like water, when love gets trapped with no outlet, it stagnates, becomes polluted, and unpotable. How can you possibly love someone that does not love you back? The very essence of love somehow necessitates an exchange, a flow, back and forth that is self-reinforcing and indescribably affirming and satisfying. Doesn't unrequited love somehow become a selfish thing, attempting to satisfy a pure longing with a cheap imitation, when the object of your love does not receive or return this love? Is it even love? Or is unrequited loves somehow supremely selfless - the ultimate sacrifice - continuing to give (or at least offer) despite all evidence of ever receiving anything in return.

Is unrequited love ultimately selfless...or selfish?

But maybe I don't have a choice. It is not like love was never returned to me at all - not like I always loved from afar. It was shared, then denied. And it is not like I can simply turn it off just because I am "supposed" to now. Would I even want to? That which invites the most devastating and the most uplifting moments of life should not simply be discarded once it has been birthed. Just because it is a little worn or a little used. Why would I ever pretend that love is not what it is, and what it will always be until the end, or attempt to substitute one love for another, as if each love does not have its own unique DNA that cannot be replicated?

So I am bound to the course that I am's not like I have a choice. I just wish I knew where the hell I am going, and how the hell I got here, and why I can't turn down the volume just a little bit, enough to concentrate on something else for a minute because it is blasting in my head and I can't seem to get a thought in edgewise.

But Autumn is always melancholy and full of too many memories. So I'll sit and drink my coffee and welcome the changing leaves and try to love like there is no tomorrow. Because who knows? Maybe there isn't.

Grace & Peace...

Sunday, September 19, 2004

not to be too obtuse, but...

Since my postings tend toward the ridiculous with their overweening sense of self-importance and gravitas, I thought I would shift gears early on and give you a taste of the lighter side of me that doesn't take himself too seriously. These are some of the best in the blogosphere (aka the "blogging industrial complex") that I have discovered over the past several weeks.

I ran across the first link on the blog of a good friend of mine from California (also new to the blogosphere). I can't remember where the second came from, but in the interest of journalistic integrity, if I found the link on your blog, let me know and I'll post a credit ASAP.
  1. is written by a guy who ran across a digital camera memory card in a taxi cab. In order to find its owner, he has been posting pictures online and making up stories to go with. You have to appreciate the humor in that. For the voyeuristic among you (or for those addicted to reality tv - hey, there's real pathos there! Real, unscripted emotion!), this is for you... (Edited 9/22 to add: APPRENTLY THIS LINK IS NO LONGER AVAILABLE BECAUSE LAME IDIOTS LACK A REASONABLE SENSE OF HUMOR)
  2. is the ongoing adventures of a "good girl in search of a good date." The true story of the ups and downs (mostly downs) of the absurd dating world. If that doesn't get you by itself, the title of her most recent posting (I wannna bone a Zamboni Driver) definitely should.

Much more to say, but the gorgeous weather outside beckons, and my bicycle is feeling lonely. Grace & Peace...

Currently Playing
By Elliott Smith

Friday, September 17, 2004

What we hold in common

Lately, my free (and not so "free") time has been spent reading various weblogs, emails, articles and other various pronouncements on issues ranging from a difficult reading of Ephesians 5 to the linguistical merits of Ebonics. This weblog world is a new one for me (see the disclaimer below), and I find myself at turns both overwhelmed by the enormity of this new world, and frustrated by the opinions that I read. The frustration stems from several things:
  1. I feel instinctively that the people expressing these opinions should be the very people that agree with me (sociologically, religiously, demographically, etc.), and I find myself mystified at why they do not. While I am used to being in the minority among strangers, it is unfamiliar territory among like-minded friends. (much more on this later...suffice it to say that my comments will likely include many references to the word hermeneutic, so stay tuned for some exciting intellectual pomposity).
  2. Because these people "should" agree with me, I feel not only pressured to articulate a reasoned defense about topics on which I am not an expert, but also that the "majority influence" of this environment intrinsically places the burden of proof upon me to reassert what is inevitably the "traditionalist" opinion.
  3. I think the majority do not always realize the pressure they are exerting, and likely don't intend to exert. Or maybe I exert all the pressure on myself, and it's my own damn fault. But it's hard to hear conclusions I consider misguided from the very people I lean on for support, and not feel the desire to step in and say something. This "us" vs. "them" mentality develops, and I feel like "we" are always on the defensive, and the only ones ever forced to retreat.
  4. There have been several times in the past where merely mentioning a position immediately gets me labeled a "chauvanistic judgmental bigot." These leaves me somewhat gunshy of even expressing an opinion.

This being said, I want to take a step back and reflect on how much we actually have in common. I'm not interested in provoking an argument, or even tendering a "debate. " I doubt you are either. I'm merely looking to join the dialog, and it is excellent to see so many intelligent people wrestling with such tough issues. I just wish I had a few more people "in my corner."

However, with a sense of compassion and fellowship, this kind of discourse can only build us all up. And, I hope it does exactly that. In fact, that's really all I want. So I intend to proceed with that mindset - that your opinions aren't meant to attack me, and that mine are likewise not meant to offend you. And I am really not a chauvanistic judgmental bigot...

So, if I seem harsh, or come across as abrasive (which is virtually guaranteed), just let me know. Chances are I'll ratchet down quickly, and usually I don't intend to come across like I do. Although, I wouldn't be me if I didn't send a few barbs now and then, and I expect nothing but the same from you. Grace & Peace...

Monday, September 13, 2004

An (in)auspicious beginning

ATTENTION! Please read the following advisory warning before continuing through this feeble attempt at a weblog:

There are so many problems with this whole endeavor. Of course, the main problem is simply overkill - the brute fact that everyone and their mother now blogs like a fiend. There is simply not enough time to keep up. No one actually has the time to read everyone else's blog.

And I always end up coming to new trends late. I didn't own a pair of cargo pants until they were on their way out. I still don't own an .mp3 player or a digital camera. (to be fair, I had a digital camera at one time, but it's gone now). The only reason I got a cell phone is because I went to France and it was literally the only way to communicate.

However, there may be cause to hope...and for this hope I jump in (belatedly) with both feet. The main impetus is the fact that so many fabulously intelligent people (some of whom are my illustrious amigos) are contributing to a dialog of which I wish to be a part. Specifically, some recent publications full of insightful introspection of some of the "great matters" of our day (20-somethings circa 2004) have left me desperately wanting a forum to air my thoughts within the confines of this group, but with the possibility of a wider audience.

THEREFORE, here is my "mission statement" regarding this blog (such as it is):

I will not use this space to air the intimate details of my life (too emotional, too personal), nor the banal practicalities of daily existence ("went to the store today," etc.) . To the extent that I do decide to comment on the day-to-day matters, it will be limited and relevant, or at least confined to a specific time and place.

What I would like to do is use this space to expose the ruminations of my convoluted mind to some lux et veritas. I hope to comment on important topics with whatever perspective I may have, and "join the debate" mentioned above. I remember once deciding to use my diary for this very purpose...organizing my thoughts around some important ideas, but I could never move beyond the painful intimacies of my personal life that are so much better suited to the diary format. But for someone ostentatious enough to think it's necessary to start planning for my memoirs now, this might just be the perfect format.