Devotional Thoughts: Hosanna = save now

Am looking at Matthew 21:1-11 tonight.

Jesus is about to arrive at Jerusalem.

There is an interesting little story of Jesus telling the disciples to go look for a donkey. One Bible teacher I heard on this topic speculated that the donkey might have belonged to Mary, Martha and Lazarus' family. It is possible as they lived in Bethany which is very close to Jerusalem. The text in v. 1 refers to Bethphage which is believed to be close to Jerusalem as well.

Certainly, if a total stranger showed up saying, hey, lend me your donkey, it would seem odd that they would obtain the donkey just by asking for it. So perhaps Jesus was getting a donkey he knew of. On the other hand, it could be the powers of suggestion a la Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars - Episode 4 - A New Hope, "These aren't the droids you are looking for. Move along."

Anyway, Jesus obtains a donkey which is a symbol of humility and rides into Jerusalem in triumph.

In the New Living Translation, v. 9 is rendered, "Praise God* for the Son of David! Bless the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Praise God in the highest heaven!"*

In the footnotes, the * says:
Greek Hosanna, an exclamation of praise that literally means "save now."
Some didn't know Jesus (v. 10) and asked, "Who is this?" To which some answered, "It's Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee."

The irony is striking. The crowds were cheering for Jesus here and saying, "SAVE NOW." But by the end of the week, Jesus would be dying on the Cross. I wonder how many in the cheering crowds wound up cheering as Jesus was crucified? I wonder how many of the people who shouted, "Save Now" realized that that was exactly what was happening on that Cross those few days later?

Makes me think of the classic hymn, O Sacred Head.
O sacred Head, now wounded,
with grief and shame weighed down,
now scornfully surrounded
with thorns, thine only crown:
how pale thou art with anguish,
with sore abuse and scorn!
How does that visage languish
which once was bright as morn!

What thou, my Lord, has suffered
was all for sinners' gain;
mine, mine was the transgression,
but thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior!
'Tis I deserve thy place;
look on me with thy favor,
vouchsafe to me thy grace.

What language shall I borrow
to thank thee, dearest friend,
for this thy dying sorrow,
thy pity without end?
O make me thine forever;
and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never
outlive my love for thee.

Culture: Libertarian take on Intelligent Design and Public Education

Intelligent design is in the news these days.

Interestingly, there were three links on the main page of the Cato Institute.

Each one was written at a different point in the recent legal developments regarding Intelligent Design and Public Education.

This one was written after a court ruled the stickers in Georgia were unconstitutional. Here is an excerpt:
Lynn Hogue, a Georgia State University constitutional law professor, made clear that the issue is bigger than just a "critical thinking" controversy. "Anti-evolutionists can take their case to the pulpit, but they have no business making it in public school classrooms through stickers in textbooks paid for by taxpayer dollars."

Of course, a very large percentage of the people living and paying taxes in Cobb County are Christians. Why is it acceptable to force them to use their tax dollars to teach their children something to which they strenuously object, but unacceptable to place a sticker on textbooks that asks other people to consider, even for a moment, beliefs contrary to their own?

That question gets to the crux of the problem: No matter how divergent their views and values, all Americans are forced to pay for public schools, no matter what the educators teach.

But how can millions of people get what they want out of a one-size-fits-all-so-deal-with-it system? The answer is that they cannot. And the fight over evolution is just one of numerous struggles precipitated by a system for which all must pay, but only a select few control.
In another essay probably written around the time of the Dover Pennsylvania case, Cato's position is the following:
We're fighting because the institution of public schooling forces us to, by permitting only one government-sanctioned explanation of human origins. The only way for one side to have its views reflected in the official curriculum is at the expense of the other side.

This manufactured conflict serves no public good. After all, does it really matter if some Americans believe intelligent design is a valid scientific theory while others see it as a Lamb of God in sheep's clothing? Surely not. While there are certainly issues on which consensus is key - respect for the rule of law and the rights of fellow citizens, tolerance of differing viewpoints, etc. - the origin of species is not one of them.

The sad truth is that state-run schooling has created a multitude of similarly pointless battles. Nothing is gained, for instance, by compelling conformity on school prayer, random drug testing, the set of religious holidays that are worth observing, or the most appropriate forms of sex education.

Not only are these conflicts unnecessary, they are socially corrosive. Every time we fight over the official government curriculum, it breeds more resentment and animosity within our communities. These public-schooling-induced battles have done much to inflame tensions between Red and Blue America.

But while Americans bicker incessantly over pedagogical teachings, we seldom fight over theological ones. The difference, of course, is that the Bill of Rights precludes the establishment of an official religion. Our founding fathers were prescient in calling for the separation of church and state, but failed to foresee the dire social consequences of entangling education and state. Those consequences are now all too apparent.
The third link is a press release just after the Dover ruling was announced. Cato said:
"Today's Intelligent Design ruling by the U.S. District Court in Harrisburg will be perceived as a victory for supporters of evolutionary theory and a defeat for I.D. advocates and creationists," says Coulson. "Such perceptions are shortsighted. The Pennsylvania ruling will do nothing to end the battle over the teaching of human origins that has plagued public schools since the Scopes trial of 1925. It, and all the other cultural and religious 'school wars' that divide our nation, will rage on unless we do something about their root cause: our one-size-fits-all government school system.
As a matter of First Amendment religious establishment clause legal analysis, have these judges taken a hyper sensitive view?

The rules appear to be: does it establish religion? might it coerce the participants? is there endorsement of religion? is it a breech of neutrality?

In my view: no, only if one is hypersensitive, no, maybe.

Seems to me that ID advocates do raise some of the scientific problems to evolutionary thought. In particular, I have found the problems in chemical evolution (abiogenesis) to be quite substantial. Also, the Cambrian explosion, the dramatic increase in the diversity of living things in a relatively short period of time, seems difficult to explain with the evolutionary model.

I wonder if the pro-evolution side objects to teaching those details?

However, I have found the attempts to quantify and apply to biology the design inference concepts (irreducible and specified complexity) to be somewhat weak at this point. On this front, I think the ID side hasn't been able to counter-punch the evolution side very well.

But I suppose Cato's statements really aren't concerned about whether the cases were rightly decided. Or for that matter much concerned with the scientific validity of the ID critique of evolution. Rather, their interest is in public policy and they feel the hot button debate would all go away if education were privatized.

Here in Los Angeles, there is tremendous frustration with the public school system.

Teacher burn out is very common. And the ones who stick it out often feel the system is so out of control.

I wonder how many percent of children are in private schools or are home schooled?

Families who opt out of the public school system still pay taxes to support the public system so they are "double paying" for education.

Seems to me that some kind of voucher system would make sense so parents have the option of opting out without going broke. Or perhaps public school systems could have some kind of sliding scale tuition where those who are poorer pay much less and those who are wealthier pay more.

I really admire the teachers I know who are trying their very best to teach kids.

But perhaps it is time to re-examine how we do education at a big picture strategic level.

Sports: Bruins sweep Oregon schools

UCLA 63 OSU 54 in a solid win on the road.

Winning on the road is usually about defense and rebounding. UCLA out rebounded the Beavers 36-24. UCLA also held Oregon State to 35% shooting.

Devotional Thoughts: Jesus and healing

Am looking at Matthew 20:29-34 this morning.

Jesus is faced with the usual huge crowds and two blind men call out to him, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!"

Jesus notices them and says, "What do you want me to do?"

They say, "We want to see!"

Jesus healed them and they started to follow Jesus.

This is part of what Jesus did while on this earth.

Go all the way back to Matthew 4:23 when Jesus started to travel around Palestine. He was described as doing three things: (1) teaching in the syngogues (and later more or less where ever there was a crowd), (2) preaching the good news of the kingdom and (3) healing.

Healing is the most straightforward. Blind can see again. Lame can walk again.

But humans have other needs besides the physical and medical and Jesus addressed them.

What is teaching?

Jesus explaining how to live a right life. He would draw upon the Hebrew Scriptures which all Jews would have some familiarity and give its meaning. The Sermon on the Mount would be an example of this.

What is preaching the Kingdom?

God is the King and many of Jesus' parables are on this theme. Jesus would often say, "The Kingdom of heaven is like ... "

This is good news for those who want a relationship with God. Jesus points the way to that relationship.

One challenge in America today is that there isn't universal acceptance of the morality described by Hebrew and Christian Scriptures. As a Christian, I want to live a right life to please God and so others can have an example. In our world today, my life might be the only "Bible" some people will see. That is a humbling position to be in because I know I'm a flawed person. Nonetheless, it is my goal to live a good life pleasing to God and beneficial to those around me.

Another challenge is the concept of god. All the polls say Americans believe in god. But what is this god that people claim to believe in?

I suppose there are two kinds of "god" that people might believe in. One type is the cosmic clockmaker. God created the universe and has left the room. This kind of god would be unknowable and we are left on our own.

The other kind of god would be a cosmic creator as well but also concerned with contact with the creatures in that creation. This kind of god would be knowable to some extent. Christianity describes this type of God. In Christian belief, God has been finding different ways for us to know God.

And the most direct intervention by this God was the sending of Jesus to teach, preach and heal.

Lord, help me to live my life so that my actions and words point to Jesus. Help me to be like Jesus such that my actions and words "teach" about the right way to live, that my actions and words "preach" about the good news that we can know God and that my actions and words would "heal" the wounds and meets the needs of those you bring into my life.

Devotional Thoughts: Growing in giving

A break from the usual devotional thoughts from Matthew.

Instead, for some reason, I'm thinking about financial giving as an act of worship and service to God.

I know some people have very strong views about 10% (the tithe) while others say it is a guideline and a worthy goal for those giving less than 10% and certainly not an upper limit for those who are able to give more.

I think the amount is less crucial than the character development that takes place while deciding to give.

When I say character development, I am thinking of four phases of growth. Step one would be going from not giving at all to giving some amount. At this stage, the giving might still be with some reluctance but it is a starting point. If I'm giving 0% then it is growth to start giving 2%. Step two growth would be to give cheerfully. Okay, I once was giving 2% with some grinding of teeth but now, I am cheerfully doing so. Step three would be to up the percentage. For instance, I could look at my budget and decide to increase my giving to 4%. I think step four in growth in giving is to do so sacrificially. In this setting, I look at my monthly budget and I decide, I will forgo this or that so I can give more.

Lord, help me to be grateful for all you provide. Give me growth in giving to your work and the meeting of others in need. Please work in my heart so that I will learn to give more with cheerfulness and sacrificially.

Sports: Bruins hang on for the win

UCLA goes on the road and takes the victory at Oregon 56-49.

With the Cal Bear defeat of the Washington Huskies, the Bruins stand atop of the Pac-10 with a 6-2 record. Washington, California, Arizona and Stanford are right on their heels with three losses.

Saturday's game against Oregon State will be a big test for the Bruins as the last two losses for the Bruins were weekend games after a weeknight victory. In the loss against Washington on Saturday January 14, they ran out of gas in the 2nd half. In the loss, last Saturday, against West Virginia on January 21, they had a bad 1st half. In fact, going further back into the schedule, the Saturday January 7 game was a 1-point win over ASU. The week before that, on Saturday December 31, the Bruins lost to the Cal Bears.

Politics: Theology and Foreign Policy

A friend of mine sent me a link to this essay on Iran. Here is the key quote:
Iran's president is a disciple of the Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah-Yazdi, an obscure Iranian cleric who preaches a radical strain of Shiite liberation theology. Ahmadinejad, like his mentor, believes fervently in the return of the Mahdi, or Twelfth Imam — a second coming that many are convinced will occur as a result a regional conflagration.

It should come as no surprise, then, that Ahmadinejad is actively courting a crisis with the West.
I have little familiarity with Islamic theology. Thus, I went to the internet to check out this idea. The material in Wikipedia says the following:
According to the Islamic view Jesus (Isa, in Arabic) is not the Son of God, but was a prophet and will return to Earth. It is believed that Jesus never died and he was not crucified; instead he was raised into heaven still physically alive, where he lives now. At the time appointed by Allah, Jesus will physically return to this world, and together with the Mahdi will end all wars, and usher in an era of peace. The messianic era comes after Jesus kills ad-Dajjal, the antichrist figure in Islam, and defeats his followers.
I went to Google to see if I could find a web page that is explicitly a Muslim page. I suppose the Wikipedia page could be written by a Muslim and is a fair representation of the doctrine. In my seach I found this page where it says of the Mahdi concept:
The questioning by Munkar and Nakir, and the punishment of the tomb, are realities; so also are the signs of the end, such as the slaying of the Dadjdjal by `isa.--Between death and the resurrection on the Last Day men will be questioned in the graves by two angels, Munkar and Nakir, and rewarded or punished. Various signs of the coming of the Last Day are also mentioned. These are popular beliefs, based on Tradition and not on the kur'an, but they have been incorporated into the creeds [cf. `adjab al-kabr]. Among the Shi`a special emphasis is laid on the Return (radj`a [q.v.]), i.e. of the Mahdi and of a limited number of very good and very bad people; this is for the punishment of the latter and the glorification of the household of Muhammad (cf. D. M. Donaldson, The Shi"ite Religion, London 1933, 236 f.). This return to earth before the Last Day, though "a preliminary judgement", is to be distinguished from God's final judgement.
If indeed, the current leader of Iran subscribes to these ideas then it may well be rather difficult to steer him away from a confrontation over the nuclear programs in Iran.

From a "realpolitics" point of view, there appears to be little the USA can do about the Iranian nuclear program.

An air-only military strike to destroy the nuclear program would probably only be partially effective.

In 1981, Israel hit the nuclear reactor at Osiraq. This strike was a serious set back to the Iraqi nuclear program.

The Iranians obviously fear such a move by Israel or America so they have probably built their facilities deep in the ground to survive such a strike. It also wouldn't surprise me if they have dispersed it in as many locations as possible with decoy locations.

Thus, an air-only military option may set back the Iranian program but inflame the passions of the region.

Of course, in DC and Tel Aviv, they might be receiving back channel communications saying: in public, we will have to vigorously criticize your attack on Iran's nuclear program but please know you have our thanks.

The other military option would be to invade the parts of Iran where the facilities are suspected. Only the US military has such capabilities. However, that option would be difficult to execute given the strained military resources due to the Iraq conflict.

Also, from the Iraq experience, we have learned the limits of intelligence gathering. Of the suspected sites in Iran, how many are actual sites? How many locations in Iran would military teams have to be sent? If the US military is strained by Iraq, then how much more difficult would it be in Iran, a much larger country?

Thus, we are left with diplomatic options and those don't promising either.

The most rosy scenario would be for the Iranian leadership to so bungle their managment of the country that they are ousted by the people. Hopefully, the new leaders of Iran would then say why waste billions of bucks on nuclear technology and abandon the program.

Devotional Thoughts: A life of service to others

Am looking at Matthew 20:20-28 this morning.

James and John and the mom of James and John came to Jesus and asked, "Will you let my two sons sit in places of honor next to you, one at your right and the other at your left?"

I don't know about you but the word that came to my mind was chutzpah!

Anyway, Jesus responds to them, "You don't know what you are asking! Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of sorrow I am about to drink?"

Indeed, the request seems all the more bold in light of the fact that Jesus had predicted his death in Matthew 20:17-19. I suppose maybe the James and John heard the part about raised from the dead and figured that Jesus was going to set up the Kingdom right away. So a positive spin would be to say they had great faith and that they heard Jesus talk about the suffering part and felt it would be worth it. On the other hand, sometimes, we only hear what we want to hear and they skipped over the suffering part.

The other disciples heard about the request and they were indignant.


Maybe they felt, drat, why didn't I ask first? James and John are always beating us to the punch! Or maybe they felt, those two guys sure have a lot of chutzpah to ask for something like that! I'd really be curious to know what impetuous Peter had to say about the whole thing?

Jesus then like a good football coach calls over the team and uses this as a teachable moment and says:
You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
You have clicked over to this blog for whatever reason, I hope you'll consider what was said by Jesus. Don't be content with just knowing the Jesus of greeting cards, Hollywood movies and pop culture.

If you don't believe in Jesus but are curious, take some time to read about what he said and did by reading Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in the Bible.

If you already believe in Jesus, are you finding some ways to serve others?

If you believe in Jesus and are trying to serve others, keep on keeping on and God bless!

I need to be the first person to listen to my "preaching" and put this into practice!

LA Dining: Korean BBQ - Dong Il Jang

My latest is up at LA.foodblogging.

I was happy and content after dinner!

Dong Il Jang Restaurant
3455 West 8th Street
at Hobart
Los Angeles, CA 90005-2517
(213) 383-5757

LA Dining: Rooibos Tea Time

Not exactly food (can go with it) and not LA but it is in

Certainly a lot of the Asian teas have gotten press for their health benefits.

Rooibos is from Africa and there are claims for it being healthy stuff. reader Cathy tells us there is a store in LA devoted to African Red Tea!

I'll have to check it out!

Science: Space, the final frontier ...

Really good news for NASA in the successful recovery of Stardust. Hopefully, some good and interesting data will come from the comet and stardust they collected in the aerogel.

I have to confess though, the project did remind me of the sci-fi thriller, Andromeda Strain!

Tuesday, the launch of the New Horizons probe to Pluto had to be scrubbed due to high winds. They will try again Wednesday.

Meanwhile, an astronaut from the space shuttle program is in the news for his comments about the vehicle. My feeling is that perhaps it is time to retire the ships and devote money to the replacement.

UPDATE: Wednesday's launch of New Horizons has been delayed. According to the NASA web page, the problem was a power failure in Maryland where the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory flight control center was operating on backup power. Mission managers decided not to fly under these circumstances. An attempt will be made to launch on Thursday. The launch window is open until February 14.

Devotional Thoughts: If Jesus is the answer, what is the question?

Am looking at Matthew 20:17-19.

Jesus once again predicts his death and resurrection.

Some people will claim that all of this is invented.

Certainly, that is the idea behind The Da Vinci Code.

So the options are invention or it really happened?

The empty tomb is evidence in favor of its reality. Christianity collapses if Jesus is found dead and buried somewhere. Christianity has staked its survival on this ridiculous claim.

If you wanted to invent a religion would you stake everything on something like that?

Another thing to consider is that conspiracies tend to work "top down." One has to have tremendous amounts of power to foist a conspiracy on people. Hence, ideas of powerful alliances of business and government in notions of Illuminati.

UPDATE: For the record, I think the idea of the Illuminati is entertaining in an X-file-ish sort of way but I don't believe in that conspiracy.

Christianity started in the obscure backwater occupied territory of Palestine in the Roman Empire. The first few generation of believers were hardly in a position to foist a conspiracy.

But back to the main question. Jesus died and rose from the dead and it was necessary.

As Christians say, Jesus is the answer.

But what is the question?

What are you and I going to do when we die and face God with our sins?

If you aren't asking that question, then Jesus is irrelevant, a conspiracy or quaint foolishness.

If we are asking that, then Jesus is the answer.

UPDATE: I'm not sure if the reader (see comments section) was disappointed because he/she is a Christian and feels I didn't make a strong enough case for Jesus. Maybe so. I wish I had the clarity of thought and snappy writing of a C.S. Lewis. Nonetheless, I'll make the case for Christ in my own fumbling way and helpful advice would always be welcome.

Of course, perhaps the commentor doesn't believe in Jesus. In which case they think Christianity is a fabrication. They are entitled to that opinion. I simply do not share that view.

Sports: UCLA basketball limping

Went to my first basketball game this season. Unfortunately, they lost to the Huskies.

They did have the lead but they seemed to run out of gas as the 2nd half wore on. Also, down the stretch it was clear that Farmar wasn't able to do much on his ankles.

The starting lineup had 3 freshman (Roll, a Moute and Wright). Abboya subbed in at center and power forward but tweaked his knee in the middle of the first half and didn't return. Hopefully, he will be able to return for tomorrow's game against USC. Fey and Hollins got in a few minutes but aren't quite in game shape yet. Rubin also subbed in for a few minutes. Freshman Collison got a lot of minutes.

There is a huge logjam in the standings with many teams with two losses. Hopefully, the Bruins will be able to get healthy very soon and be able to stay in the top tier of the Pac-10.

Devotional Thoughts: Day Laborers

Am looking at Matthew 20:1-16.

The Kingdom of Heaven is compared to a man hiring workers for his vineyard. He hires at 9AM, noon, 3PM and 5PM.

At the end of the day, he gives all the workers a day's wages.

The ones who were hired earlier complain.

The owner replies, "Friend, I haven't been unfair! Didn't you agree to work all day for the usual wage? Take it and go, I wanted to pay this last worker the same as you. Is it against the law for me to do what I want with my money? Should you be angry because I am kind?"

Jesus then gives the punch-line: And so it is, that many who are first now will be last then; and those who are last now will be first then.

People come to have faith in Jesus at different points. Some make that commitment early in life while others make that decision much later. But in the end, whether one has an early start or a late one, the start is only possible by the gracious invitation of Jesus.

And so the early believers like the 9AM hires have no basis to complain.

Thank you Lord that you have called me to be one of your workers in this world. Help me to see your kindness at work amidst my fellow workers whether they be new ones or old ones!

Sports: Shipp out for season

UCLA's small forward is done for the season. Bozeman who filled that spot while Shipp was recovering earlier in the season is also out. I'm not sure who is going to take the 3 spot.

Some experts had UCLA as a team with Sweet Sixteen potential. Shipp was an important part of that puzzle.

I suppose UCLA might have to run a three guard offense with Farmar, Afflalo and Collison with Abboya, a Moute, Mata and Wright taking the two front court positions. I suppose in some occasions when the Bruins need a little more size they will have three of their "big" guys (they are hardly big by most standards) in and go back to two guards.

We shall see what Howland sends out tonight.

UPDATE: UCLA escapes with a 63-61 victory over WSU!

UPDATE: Mata will be out six weeks due to a fractured knee. Mata was the undersized but aggressive presence in the middle with seven-footers Fey and Hollins out due to injury. In the WSU game, freshman Roll took the 3 spot for Shipp. Freshman Wright will probably take the 5 spot for Mata in Saturday's game against UW.

Culture: Postrel on Megachurch Christianity

Postrel takes aim at Megachurch Christianity.

Today's suburban Christianity is all about accessibility. It's been dumbed down.

Now I'm not a Christian, let alone an evangelical. If megachurches want to play bad-to-mediocre rock instead of great hymns, that's their business. But the spread of Christian pap does have spillovers, not the least of which is that devout Christian faith no longer brings with it a deep familiarity with what's actually in the Bible, as opposed to a few verses from the preacher's PowerPoint.
Megachurch Christianity may hone organizational and business skills, but it isn't teaching believers to think about abstractions or communicate in higher than "everyday" language. No wonder megachurches combine their up-to-date media with fundamentalist doctrine. It fits well on PowerPoint--no paragraphs required. Leaving aside the validity of what they preach, today's most successful evangelicals are spreading pap.
In the U.S., after all, religion is the freest market. But I'm not against the system; I'm all for it. As institutional responses to modern life, I find megachurches fascinating and productive. (I even had nice things to say about their architecture, which, while purely functional, is more interesting than its low-church Baptist predecessors.) But the most successful product is not necessarily the best on all dimensions--or on the ones I care about. And criticism is also part of the system.
Quite a few zingers there!

I've been a semi-regular reader of her blog and I have read The Future and Its Enemies. She does get on her horse occasionally!

My reaction is that I agree and disagree. I agree in that there has been a big move to making Christianity more accessible. I disagree that it is a bad thing. At least in some circumstances, accessibility is a good thing.

I think part of the "dumbing down" is simply that people come into the church today from a different starting point than perhaps in the past. If the level of Bible literacy is low as a starting point then talking about the depth and breadth and richness of Christian theology and history would simply go over the heads of the people.

St. Paul said in I Corinthians 3:2, I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able.

And St. Peter said in I Peter 2:2, Like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation.

There is definitely a time and place for keeping it simple and in a phrase, getting it to the ground where sheep can get at it.

However, I agree with her that we are losing something by not having more depth. Once we get the basics down, we need to be reminded of the basics regularly but we should also be "pushed" and "stretched" to explore the richness that Christianity offers in the depth of theology and beauty of its expression in less familiar parts of the Bible and in classic literature and songs written by giants of the faith from the past.

St. Paul said in Ephesians 1:18-19, I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.

Politics: Check out

Liveblogging of the Alito hearings.

So far, from what I've read, heard on radio reports and end of the day TV stories, it would seem that Alito is doing fine.

Devotional Thoughts: Why Devotional Thoughts?

If one is a devoted follower of the LA Dodgers, you go to the sports page to check on how they are doing.

If you are a devoted fan of a certain movie star, one will go to see the latest movie she/he is in.

Well, if one is devoted to God then how much more should I seek out what God has revealed to us in the Scriptures.

Am not nearly as consistent and disciplined in reading and meditating on the Bible as I like but I try. And blogging about what I read is one way to encourage myself to think a bit more about what I'm reading.

I try to read from the Psalms on a daily basis to start and end my days. The Psalms in the Hebrew Scripture are poetic devotional thoughts from all experiences of life. There are Psalms that leap for joy and others that express frustration and despair. God isn't shocked by anything we might say and the Psalms tell us we can be that honest to God.

I also try to read from some other part of the Bible. I'm currently reading through Matthew and so blogging about it helps me focus on some key ideas.

Anyway, hope you find some encouragement and insights from the sharing.

Sports: All eyes on Rose Bowl

I am 0-3 so far in BCS bowl game predictions.

USC's offense is one of those where you can't stop 'em you can only hope to contain 'em. USC's offensive brain trust this year has erased memories of Norm Chow, offensive genius.

USC's defense is suspect. Notre Dame and Fresno State showed some holes.

Texas offense is on the arm and legs of Vince Young. The Pac10 doesn't have QBs like that and so it will be interesting to see how USC's defense responds. If they pull back they risk giving him too much time to pick at the secondary which is what happened with Fresno State. If they go after him and don't get him, then he can run or pass as he likes. But of course if USC's pass rush traps him then it could be a 56-17 outcome.

Texas defense is key. If they get blown off the line then White and Bush run wild and again we look at a 49-10 result.

My guess though is that Texas defense comes to play and pushes the score down into the 20s and it will come down to the final possession.

How about a field goal deciding the game for either side? Or a game winning TD for a come from behind win?

Final score 27-24... USC.

UPDATE: Terry Bowden over at Yahoo! Sports is saying a late game score as well except he thinks it will be Texas standing at the end and the score will be in the thirties (35-32).

UPDATE: 6:18 pm, the two sides have shown their arrogance by going for it on 4th down and both sides failed. USC's pass rush has been ineffective so far. Young's mobility has been the only thing Texas has going offensively. On the other side, USC could have been up 17-0 if USC opted for the field goal instead of going for it on fourth down on one drive and if Bush didn't fumble on the other drive. Texas fans have to feel good to only be down 7-3 at this point.

UPDATE: At the half, 16-10 Texas!

UPDATE: An instant classic!

USC's offense is one of those where you can't stop 'em you can only hope to contain 'em. You usually win when you score 38 but not tonight.

USC's defense is suspect. Going for it on 4th down late in the game means you don't trust your defense to hold the other team.

Texas offense is on the arm and legs of Vince Young. No doubt he was the difference maker.

Texas defense is key. If they get blown off the line then White and Bush run wild... Bush got 82 yard and White got 124 yards and did some damage but it could have been worse because if they get more yardage that means USC is on the field longer and Texas offense is off the field longer and USC wins.

As a UCLA alum and fan, I have to tip my hat to both programs for a tremendous contest.

Culture: Hmm, there must be a lot of Giada fans out there!

I've noticed an increase in blog traffic.

Most of it has been driven by searches that pulled up this post about Giada De Laurentiis.

That post has been up since April 2005 and I didn't see much traffic to it until recently.

I wonder why?

I suppose maybe her program on Food Nework - Everyday Italian is getting even more popular?

Or perhaps Google's rating of this blog on this particular search for some reason has risen?

The other blog post that got lots of hits at one time was a review of the film Exorcism of Emily Rose.

@ the movies: Munich

2.5 stars out of 4.

Thumbs up but be warned it is very violent and an emotionally draining movie to watch.

In 1972, Palestinian terrorists took Israeli athletes as hostages during the Olympic Games in Munich. German commandos attempted a hostage rescue at the airport but all the hostages and terrorists were killed.

The film has us see the hostage drama unfolding on ABC News by having us watch as the people of the time watch on television. I was old enough to have seen it on television so it was a bit spooky to see the footage again.

The story then moves into the inner circle of the Israeli government where they decided that covert teams would be sent to assasinate individuals Israeli intelligence identified as being part of the Munich hostage plot.

Lynn Cohen as Prime Minister Goldia Mier discussing the plans to find and kill the terrorist planners.

Eric Bana stars as Avner who is assigned leadership of one of the teams. He is "taken off the books" of the Israeli government and given access to funds in Swiss banks.

Eric Bana, Mathieu Kassovitz, Ciaran Hinds, Hanns Zischler and Daniel Craig star as the hit team the film follows.

The film then follows a pattern of the group planning the killings, the actual hit where something inevitably goes awry and then post-mortem where practical problems and moral doubts are discussed.

As an action film, Spielberg has a Hitchcock-like ability to keep you on the edge with camera angles and inpeccible timing. The killing set pieces are gritty, potent and stomach turning to watch.

As a film of reflection, the strongest message that comes across is the toll such missions take on decent people like Bana's Avner. It is a classic tale of how does one fight evil without becoming evil in the process?

The geopolitical discussions that take place here and there from the mouths of various team members and people they meet are fairly predictable. If anything, at times, it come across with a little too much moral equivalence.

One wonders to what degree the hunt for Al-Qaeda and other terrorists looks like what happens in this movie. In the news these days, we hear about some terrorist leader killed by Predator drone or in a raid of a hideout. What we aren't told is how the information is obtained to know where to send the drones and which places to raid. The film shows that getting that kind of information involves giving money and trusting unsavory people of unclear loyalties.

A very hard movie to watch and emotionally draining but effective.

I gave the film 2.5 stars out of 4. It could have gotten 3 stars but I think Spielberg didn't use effectively the scenes he shot recreating the Munich hostage taking and the failed German commando rescue. He broke those scenes up into flashbacks and dream sequences. I think that muddled the event that precipitated the premise of the story of the film. If the film led off with the terrorist plot, it would have provided a full force "punch in the face" such that the events that followed would be in better context.

Sports: Its now college basketball conference play - Go Bruins!

UCLA is 11-2 overall and 1-1 in conference play.

The Bruins should finish in the upper half of the Pac-10. Wining the conference is unlikely as they have some deficiencies on the team - they are a donut of a team - nothing in the middle.

At the 1 spot, Farmar is in his second year. He is doing well but he has an injured ankle which is preventing him from playing his full potential and ankle injuries are often nagging ones. Collison, the freshman is getting more minutes to give Farmar a break and so far he seems up to the task.

At the 2 spot, Afflalo has been terrific and leads the team in scoring.

At the 3 spot, Shipp is finally recovered from off-season surgery and is getting the rust off and seems poised to develop further from his freshman season last year. His backup, Bozeman, was starting while Shipp was recovering and was doing a solid job. Unfortunately, Bozeman has injured his shoulder and it might be season ending. He has been the hard luck Bruin having lost one season already to knee surgery.

At the 4 spot, Aboya was projected to start but like Shipp he too had surgery and is now back trying to find his place in the rotation. He is sharing time at that slot with Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, a fellow Camaroonian. a Moute has been the rebounding machine for the Bruins and will likely to keep getting serious minutes.

At the 5 spot, Mata, 6-8, is getting minutes because Fey and Hollins, the two seven footers have been injured most of the season. Mata isn't much of an offensive threat but at least he is willing to mix it up underneath. Getting some minutes is Wright, a 6-8 freshman.

Coach Howland's original plan was probably to start Farmar, Afflalo, Shipp, Aboya and Fey. Bozeman, a Moute, Hollins and Mata were to be the backups with significant minutes. Collison, Wright and Roll would be worked in occasionally to give these freshman some experience. Thus, it seemed on paper that the Bruins had depth on their side. But with Farmar's nagging ankle, Shipp and Aboya recovering from surgeries, Bozeman possibly out for the season, Fey and Hollins injured, the original plan is pretty much in tatters.

Nonetheless, I think the Bruins should be very competitive in the Pac-10. I'm forecasting them to go 13-5 in conference play finishing 3rd or 4th in the Pac-10. I don't see Washington or Arizona winning the Pac10 title with less than 3 losses.

Heading into the October international break

LA Galaxy have dropped two in a row and in both cases their defense was the culprit. As a result, they go into the MLS playoffs in fifth pla...