Thursday, December 28, 2006

Culture: Who cares?

Prager's guest on the radio today is Arthur Brooks, a professor of public administration at Syracuse University, who has writtten the book Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth about Compassionate Conservatism.

His research indicates the best indicator of charitable giving and other forms of compassion (for instance blood donation and volunteer hours) are:
1 - religious commitment, the more religious generally give more
2 - political perspective, those who believe it is the responsibility of government to redistribute income generally give less.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Sports: Emerald Bowl FSU vs. UCLA

FSU and UCLA are facing off in San Francisco.

At the half, UCLA leads 20-13.

UPDATE:
FSU has been moving the ball in the opening drive of the second half.
7:09 PM PST - UCLA's defense finally slows them down but surrender a field goal. UCLA 20 FSU 16.
7:18 PM PST - ARGH!!!!!! Blocked punt for an FSU TD, FSU 23 UCLA 20.
7:31 PM PST - UCLA is able to run the ball and get the lead back! UCLA 27 FSU 23.
7:39 PM PST - FSU and UCLA both go 3 and out. FSU has good field position receiving the punt. We need DE-FENSE!!!
7:49 PM PST - Game update... after 3 quarters, UCLA 27 FSU 23. UCLA has the ball as the teams change sides for the final quarter.
8:03 PM PST - UCLA didn't do anything and now FSU is on the march. UCLA's defense needs a big play ... a sack or an INT or else FSU is going to chew up tons of clock and take the lead. C'mon DE-FENSE!!!
8:09 PM PST - FSU went for it on 4th and long and get the TD. The big wide-out was too much for the UCLA CB. FSU 30 UCLA 27. Can the UCLA offense respond?
8:22 PM PST - UCLA goes 3 and out and FSU is threatening to score again. The defense needs a huge play.
8:26 PM PST - That might be all she wrote. FSU 37 UCLA 27. 6 minutes left. UCLA's offense hasn't done anything in 4 of the 5 possession this half.
8:31 PM PST - It's over. INT-TD for FSU. It is FSU 44 UCLA 27.

What can you say?

UCLA came to play but the difference between victory and defeat can be so small and that 4th quarter was when everything fell apart. The Fire Dorrell crowd will be burning up the sports talk shows and the internets.

Bruins fans are in mourning once again. The defense that came up big against USC couldn't stop FSU.

The brain trust at FSU recognized that if you can give the QB a little bit more time, the UCLA secondary is vulnerable. Oregon, Washington State and the Cal Bears exploited it. Shockingly, USC didn't.

The FSU QB isn't the greatest passer but he had enough time for his wide-outs to get open so he could deliver the ball to them.

Also, big plays all went against UCLA... the fumble that turned into an FSU TD on the next play, the blocked punt that turned into an FSU TD and the INT for TD gave FSU the third big play of the game. 21 points on BIG PLAYS. The margin of victory is erased if those big plays are erased.

Both Dorrell and Walker go from on the hot seat to heros to on the hot seat once again.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Devotional Thoughts: The Day of the Lord

Am taking a read through of 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11.

Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, "There is peace and security," then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.

Some people believe the rapture (gathering together of believers who are alive) is the first event in a series of events in "the day of the Lord."

They cite the idea of the rapture being like "a thief in the night" event which is sudden and stealthy. I haven't read the Left Behind series of books but that the concept of a sudden rapture is the first event that sets in motion a series of events told in action adventure novels.

Suffice to say, not all theologians agree with that particular line of thought. It is an intramural debate that has been going on for a very long time and I'll not be solving this issue in this blog post!

However, I'll describe the questions I have in my mind when I think about the possibilities. Regarding "the rapture," my questions are: is it really a "secret" event? And is it necessarily the first event in "the day of the Lord?"

My other top question is this: certainly at the time of Paul writing to the Thessalonians, Paul did not believe "the day of the Lord" had arrived yet. However, between that time and now, has "the day of the Lord" began?

The reason I pose this question is due to Acts 2:14-21. Peter cited Joel 2 in his sermon. The sequence of events is thus:
(1) I will pour out my Spirit
(2) Wonders in heaven, sign on earth, etc ...
(3) Sun darkened, moon appears bloody
(4) Great and glorious day of the Lord

The pouring out of the Spirit occurred at Pentecost.

If you run a search of "signs" and "wonders" in Bible Gateway you find a few hits in the New Testament suggesting that item #2 has occurred.

So has item #3 occurred?

Some say, yes. They take the idea of item #3 as a shorthand and symbolic way of saying an event that is so dramatic that it essentially signals "the end of the world as we know it." They would say that the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in 70 AD qualifies as such a significant event.

I would suspect some might even go so far as to say that we are now living in item #4

Some would say item #3 has not yet occurred.

Regardless of whether #3 or #4 has happened, how are we supposed to live?

But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

In our modern world, the distinction between day and night isn't so great. But in the old days, what you did in the day was very distinct from what you did at night. In the day, you worked the fields if you were in an agrarian community which most people were. But even if you didn't make your living working the farmland, you most likely worked in the light of day in various crafts.

Today, you can flip on a light switch and keep working. But in the old days, it probably wasn't realistic to fire up enough light to do much work at night. I suppose if your work involved a big fire like metal working you might be able to work at night. But the point is that we are children of the day and there were good works associated with the day and we are to refrain from the bad sins that were associated with the night.

Paul also brings in an military armor metaphor with a breastplate of faith and love and the helmet of the hope of salvation.


image source:
http://www.niximperial.com/npics/2151.jpg

Faith, hope and love are the prime Christian virtues. The breastplate covers the torso which contains the vital organs and a helmet protects the head which is the most vital organ! Thus, these virtues in abundance protects the believer. Paul revisits this idea more expansively in Ephesians 6:10-18.

UPDATE: As I contemplate the imagery some more, I'm not sure if protection is the key idea. I think perhaps it is identity? When you look at the breastplate there are markings on it. Also, the helmet has a distinctive shape. Is it possible that in the Apostle Paul's mind, he sees the Christian as having a breastplate marked by faith and love and a helmet marked by hope? Thus, just as certain insignia might say, this is the 9th company of the 11th battalion of the Roman Guards, the markings of faith, hope and love marks someone as a Christian?


image source:
http://www.swordsandarmor.com/images/H13_Roman2.jpg

Lord, whether the day of the Lord is here or not, I don't know. But what I do know is that you want me to be a child of the day and of light doing the good deeds that manifest faith, hope and love. God forgive me for the many times I am not living up to this kind of life. Give me strength to put on the breastplate and helmet so I can do battle in this world with good deeds that point people to YOU. Amen.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Devotional Thoughts: The Rapture

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 is one of the passages that theologians get the rapture (gathering of living believers) from. Here are articles on the subject from a Catholic, a Protestant and an Agnostic perspective. There are many other pages on the topic, just Google it.

So what does the passage actually say?

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.

The Apostle Paul appeared to want to address the concerns of the Thessalonians who were wondering what happens to those who had already died. Paul's bottom line message is: don't worry, we will all be reunited when Jesus comes back. Makes me think of John 14.

Much energy has been spent by some theologians on the question of when and how the Coming of Jesus will happen.

One of the pastors I heard preaching on the subject said, I'm a pan-millenialist. It will all pan out in the end.

UPDATE: [ed. note - I shouldn't assume everyone knows what Millennium theology is about. One aspect of the theology of the return of Christ is what is the nature of the millennium? The idea ranges from it being a literal 1000 year (millennial) kingdom to it being a symbolic kingdom]

Indeed, I think we need quite a bit of humility when it comes to this particular theological question. My own views on the subject are subject to change but at the moment, I'm sympathetic to the view that the rapture (gathering of living believers) will be concurrent with the return of Jesus and the resurrection of believers who had already died. That appears to me to be the simplest reading of this text.

So does this mean, Christians just gather into a holy huddle and wait for this to happen?

Some skeptics view Christians as arrogant as an exclusive club. May it not be so!

Instead, we are to interact with the world and show Christ to the world. As one of my friends once said to me, we, as Christians, need to be humble realizing we are sinners before a holy God. We are to be beggars telling other beggars where to find food.

Lord, this Christmas, may people see your love in what you did in sending Jesus. When you return is up to you. In the meantime, help us who believe to be lights in the world pointing to you with humble truthfulness and extravagant love. Amen.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Science: Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1500 Years

Heard an radio interview with authors Dennis T. Avery and S. Fred Singer who have written a book with the title Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1500 Years.

Their argument is that climate studies point to periodic warming trends every 1500 years. They believe the current global warming trend is one of these cycles and that human activity only contributes marginally to the increase. They theorize that the cyclical warmings might be tied to fluctuations in the heat output of the sun thus affecting Earth temperatures.

I wonder if somebody will make a documentary on their book?

As a molecular biologist, I have only followed the global warming issues occasionally.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Recipe: Attempt at antipasto



Have a departmental Christmas holiday potluck lunch today.

The single guy chef at work, eh?!

Can you see all the ingredients?

bell peppers, roasted
tomatoes, cut in half
cheeses, goat and Gruyere
olives, pitted kalamata cut in half
capers, from a Trader Joes jar
salami, slices
red onion, chopped
garlic, minced
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing
basil
black pepper
salt

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Money: How rich are you?

I'm the 55,146,441 richest person on earth!


Discover how rich you are! >>


Check it out, it is pretty thought provoking, eh?

HT: YSMarko.com.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

World: Maps of War

A friend sent me a link to Maps of War.

Here is probably their most interesting map ...

Friday, December 15, 2006

Devotional Thoughts: How we ought to live - the quiet life

Let's take a look at 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12.

Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

I suppose it is passages like this that have led to the "Protestant work ethic?"

One wonders if the Apostle Paul were around today, would he have some sympathy for the Libertarian political party?

Now, I don't think when Paul said we should mind our own business that we ignore what is happening around us. For instance, as we live our life, we may come across someone who has a need and at that point, Jesus' Parable of the Good Samaritan should leap to our minds and we should respond.

Also, we should note, Paul mentioned, win the respect of outsiders. Paul used the word outsiders on three other occasions. Therefore, as Christians we do live within a distinct minority community but we don't retreat from the society at large. We still interact with the rest of the world and it should be our goal to interact in a way that wins respect. Now, if in doing good deeds and loving people and telling about Jesus in a honorable way fails to garner respect then we have done our best and must leave the rest in the hands of God.

Lord, help me to live in a way that reveals you to those around me. Thank you that I have a job that provides for my needs. Help me to use some of that provision for others who have needs. Help me to be wise in how I treat people outside the family of faith. Please guide me today. Amen!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Culture: How does military service affect how we view someone?

Hugh Hewitt was discussing this question in this afternoon's radio show.

The first time I heard Hewitt bring up the topic was at the Friday night session at GodBlogCon 2006 at Biola.

From my perspective, I honor those who have served and do serve now.

If I have in front of me two fairly evenly matched candidates and one has military service and one doesn't, I would most likely support the one who has served. Of course if there is a candidate who served but I completely disagree on many policy positions, I will not vote for him/her but I would respect, honor and appreciate their service.

There is something honorable and noble for someone to choose to serve in the military.

I know there is a certain segment of the population who disdain the military. However, I suspect that group is a small minority.

When I attended the UCLA vs. USC football game recently, there were military personnel in attendance. I suppose they might have been guests of either the USC or UCLA athletic program or maybe of the Rose Bowl organizers. In any case, they were in full dress uniform and on the football field being led around by some official looking individual.

What struck me was the reaction they received when that official led them off the field and into the stands.

Here we are in the middle of an intense rivalry game with fans following every play on the field carefully and guess what?

I heard applause and cheers. I looked over to see what was going on. I saw the military personnel walking up the aisle and people who were standing turned to them and started to applaud. Immediately, I got up and joined in. Others who were seated throughout our section of the stadium began to notice and they turned from watching the game, got up and also applauded.

I can imagine in a Southern California group of fans, many may not even be supportive of the war in Iraq. However, when they saw these men in their full dress uniforms walking by, they honored them.

In my mind, I might not vote for someone simply because they served but it would be viewed as a positive aspect in my consideration of them.

There is something honorable and noble for someone to choose to serve in the military.

If you have served or are serving in defense of liberty and our nation as you click on this blog, Thank you for your service!

Sports: Clips from the 2006 UCLA vs. USC game

Since I was at the Rose Bowl and I didn't bring a little television set, I've been curious to see how the game looked from that point of view.

UCLA fans were in the wilderness for eight long years and so with the victory, many fans have posted little YouTube clips and have assembled highlight mini films. Most of the YouTube screen capture films are pretty low-resolution. Here is one hosted at someone's personal site that is medium-resolution and he has edited it with some dramatic music. HT: BruinsNation where there is a link to the lower resolution YouTube version.

There is also a very high resolution video that is 600 MB described at BruinsNation.

Suffice to say, I've enjoyed watching both of them several times!

Below is a picture of the item I have on my wall to help me remember the game! Does this make me a totally crazed fan?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Sports: Thanks for the memories, Eric Gagne!

I heard that Gagne signed with the Texas Rangers for one year. Its been a tough two years for him with all the surgeries and rehab. Here's hoping he will be able to have a healthy season!

Dodger Thoughts has a nice tribute to him. Excerpt:
When Eric Gagne comes into pitch at Dodger Stadium, "Welcome to the Jungle" is blasted out of the inadequate single set of speakers behind center field, and an onslaught of blue and white cartoon Gagne heads overruns the scoreboard, in a hallucinatory montage not unlike the visions of Lisa Simpson after drinking tainted water on the "It's a Duff World" ride at Duff Gardens.

The entrance is ridiculous, and would be an embarrassment - if it weren't so wonderful. It captures what worked so well in the Wild Thing scenes with Charlie Sheen from the movie, Major League. Those scenes mocked the hoopla over a relief pitcher's entrance into game while marking a crowd's unmistakably sincere desperation and appreciation for a hero they know will bring victory home.
As a Dodger fan who attended a handful of games a year for the last several years, I can attest to the craziness and excitement of the scene Jon Weisman described.

When we heard "Welcome to the Jungle" we were almost certain to hear "I Love LA" after the Gagne left the mound.

Je te vous souhaite le meilleur pendant ton votre sejour au Texas, monsieur Gagne!

ed. note - I don't know any French! I tried to figure this out from web surfing! So dear Francophone readers, did I get it right?

UPDATE: The French has been updated on the advice of a Francophone friend.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Non-profit of the month: December 2006 - Soldier's Angels

As we enter the Christmas season with family activities, gift giving, food and shopping, please remember that there are well over 100,000 men and women overseas in our military serving in some of the most dangerous places. For each solider on the field, there are loved ones back home.

For this month's non-profit of the month blog post, I present to you Soldier's Angels.

This group is providing a number of valuable ways to support our military personnel.

Here is their story straight from the web page:
The Soldiers' Angels was started by a self-described "ordinary mother" of an ordinary young man turned hero, Sgt. Brandon Varn. Brandon was deployed in Iraq and has since honorably completed his mission and has returned back to his proud and loving family.

In the summer of 2003, he wrote home expressing his concern that some soldiers did not receive any mail or support from home. Being a caring and loving mother, she decided not to allow a situation like that to continue. She contacted a few friends and extended family to ask if they would write to a soldier or two.

Within a few short months, The Soldiers'Angels went from a mother writing a few extra letters to an Internet Community with thousands of angels worldwide and growing stronger with the addition of new members daily. With more and more merchants donating services, money and items for packages, the Angels reorganized as a 501(c)3 non-profit so all donations would be tax deductible.

Soldiers' Angels currently supports thousands of American Service Members stationed wherever we raise our Country's Flag and the number is growing daily. We also work tirelessly supporting our Wounded Soldiers, with backpacks filled with needed items , personal visits, phone calls, etc. Additionally, we send our thanks via letters and email to the military of Great Britain, Poland and Australia who serve by our soldiers side in Iraq.

Soldiers' Angels are dedicated to ensuring that our military know they are loved and supported during and after their deployment into harms way.

A community of Angels have developed projects to provide aid and comfort to our military and their families. Join the many Soldiers' Angels to ensure that no soldier goes unloved.
This Christmas as you are in the midst of the busyness, please take time to support Soldier's Angels or any number of other organizations devoted to showing support for our men and women in the armed forces and those who love them.

To all of you in our armed forces and your family and friends: thank you for your service!

Sports: BCS math

The BCS numbers.

Hmmm ...

Clearly the "humans" got Florida into the BCS championship game. The computers pretty much split between Florida and Michigan. 3 computers had Michigan #2 and 3 had them #3. As for Florida, 1 computer had then #1, 2 had them #2 and 3 had them #3.

There are some discrepancies between the computer polls and human polls: the humans had USC at #7 while the computers had then at #4, the humans had Wisconsin #5/6 while the computers had them at #10 and Oklahoma was #8 in the human polls while the computers had then down at #16.

My guess is that the computers take into account strength of schedule in a more objective way than the humans do.

Believe it or not, UCLA is ranked! They are #25 in the BCS composite due to the computers saying they are #20.

For supporters of a playoff system, the numbers are difficult. Let's say you go for a 4-team playoff. Ohio State and Florida are in. But who would you put in for the #3 and #4 spots?

Michgan, LSU, USC and Louisville are listed at #3-6 in the BCS poll. However, people might complain that Michigan and LSU didn't win their conferences. And so on and so on ...

As I see it, we are stuck with the BCS. Everyone might claim to want a playoff but I don't think there would be any agreement on how to structure it.

Politics: ISG FAQ by Dean Barnett

Dean Barnett has FAQ about the recently released Iraq Study Group report. Sure seems like the ISG wasn't going to be all that useful from the start.

I'd recommend you read the whole thing. However, if you want the highlights, below are the items that jumped out at tme.

I had assumed (my bad) that the ISG was a Congressionally sponsored project. Alas it was not. Excerpt:
Something called the United States Institute for Peace formed the Iraq Study Group after being prodded to do so by "interested members of Congress."
On how these commission often work he said this:
4) If some private group formed the Commission, why was it given such wide deference by all political actors?

That’s really a puzzler. Normally you appoint one of these blue-ribbon commissions when everyone knows what the right thing to do is but no one has the political stones to step forward and do it. So both major parties form a bi-partisan commission to study the matter and reach the conclusions that everyone with half-a-brain has already reached. In the process, everyone gets political cover.
On why this project was more or less doomed from the start ...
Because there’s no consensus among thinking people about what needs to be done in Iraq. Even on the left and on the right, there are sharp intramural skirmishes on the matter. So the Study Group’s search for a consensus was pointless.
...........
These are estimable people who hungered for a re-entry into the political limelight. For chrissakes, they arranged a photo-shoot at Vanity Fair to coincide with the Report’s release. While they may not have received financial compensation for their efforts, they received for them what is an even higher form of payment - access back to the center stage of national events.
Barnett felt is was a missed opportunity ...
... the report could have been so much more. It could have dealt with the serious menace of Radical Islam - it didn’t. It could have honestly appraised Iranian ambitions - it didn’t. It could have identified the U.N.’s fundamental uselessness - it didn’t.
.........
The Study Group thought their mandate was the same as the typical bi-partisan blue ribbon commission which is to "find" a pre-agreed upon consensus. Here, they felt the pre-agreed upon consensus was, regarding the war in Iraq: "Make it end!!!"

But problematically, the Iraq war could end tomorrow but our problems with the Islamists in Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt etc. would continue and worsen unless we forcefully addressed them. Given the prominence of the Study Group, it could have actually done a world of good and talked to people like Bernard Lewis and cautioned the country that regardless of what happens in Iraq - victory, defeat or stalemate - the struggle is just beginning.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

World: ISG report, ISG = incomplete-silly-garbage

The ISG (Iraq study group) report was awaited with much anticipation. However, it is not going over well as people are seeing it for what it is: useless.

Excerpts:
"There's only one thing worse than an over-stressed Army and Marine Corps, and that's a defeated Army and Marine Corps," said McCain, a Vietnam veteran who will become the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee when the Democrats take control of both houses of Congress in January.

"I believe this is a recipe that will lead to our defeat sooner or later in Iraq," McCain added.
......
Their skepticism focused mainly on two of the recommendations: a diplomatic approach to Iran and Syria, and an acceleration of the U.S. military's work to train and advise Iraqi forces.
.......
Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, both said they are skeptical about another of the commission's key recommendations: that the administration approach Iran in search of help in stabilizing Iraq, as part of a regional diplomatic initiative.

"I'm skeptical that it's realistic to think that Iran wants to help the United States succeed in Iraq," Lieberman said.
Dean Barnett doesn't think much of the reports. Except:
For a real indication of this report’s terminal lack of seriousness, check out the Group’s blithe ignorance regarding Iran’s malevolent intentions. “It is clear to the Iraq Study Group members that all of Iraq’s neighbors are anxious about the situation in Iraq,” opines the commission. “They favor a unified Iraq that is strong enough to maintain its territorial integrity, but not so powerful as to threaten its neighbors.”

Gosh, when did Iran become so altruistic and so unconcerned with its own interests? Last I heard, the mad Mullahs and their certifiable front-man were hell-bent on establishing a regional caliphate to be quickly followed by global domination. And yet now the Baker Commission informs us that Iran really has Iraq’s best interests at heart. Phew! What a relief.
.......
THE MOST FITTING WORD FOR THIS ENTIRE exercise is silly. Everything that Baker, Hamilton and company say rests on the assumption that our malefactors have legitimate grievances and good faith goals. In other words, not only can our enemies be trusted, their agendas are not to be questioned. (And Baker and his ilk have the audacity to style themselves realists.)
Hugh Hewitt is also down on the report. Excerpt:
Incredibly, the ISG did not consult with anyone from the democratic government of Lebanon, even as the ISG urges us to reach an understanding with Syria.

Of the 43 "former officials and experts" consulted -- including Mark Danner of the New York Review of Books, Thomas Friedman, Leslie Gelb, Sandy Berger, Anthony Lake, Ken Pollack, Thomas Ricks, and George Will -- the ISG did not find it necessary to talk with, say, Victor Davis Hanson, Lawrence Wright, Robert Kaplan, Mark Steyn, Michael Ledeen, Reuel Marc Gerecht, or Christopher Hitchens. The ISG did talk with Bill Kristol. I wonder how long that sit down lasted?

The report combines an almost limitless condescension towards the "Iraqi sovereign government," even going so far as to lay out a timetable for its exact legislative program for the next six months, with a cavalier indifference to the Syrian death squads operating in Lebanon, and the certain nature of the Iranian regime -- still, on this very day, hosting the anti-Holocaust conference.
There are no easy answers. It was always a risk that in taking down Hussein, the country would fragment like the former Yugoslavia did.

Devotional Thoughts: How we ought to live - love

Am looking at 1 Thessalonians 4:9-10 today.

Now about brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. And in fact, you do love all the brothers throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers, to do so more and more.

We often think of love as a feeling. For some people of my age, the iconic film on romantic love, love as a feeling, would be West Side Story. That feeling is probably best captured in Tonight:
Tonight, tonight,
Won't be just any night,
Tonight there will be no morning star.
Tonight, tonight, I'll see my love tonight.
And for us, stars will stop where they are.
Today
The minutes seem like hours,
The hours go so slowly,
And still the sky is light . . .
Oh moon, grow bright,
And make this endless day endless night!
However, when we think about love more carefully, we realize there is a lot more to love than emotion. After all, God commands us to love. One cannot command an emotion. Emotions simply are.

I confess to having some of the most selfish impulses that often leave me wondering if God is truly changing me.

But I suppose God is changing me because in addition to the selfish impulse is now the impulse that follows that says, you shouldn't be so selfish. At that point, I have to decide which impulse will I act on. In this way, love becomes an action and a choice and not mere warm fuzzy feelings.

May the Spirit of God bring to the fore more impulses that are less Rene centered and more God centered! And may the Holy Spirit strengthen my will to action when prompted. Amen.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Sports: UCLA vs. Florida State in the Emerald Bowl

I'm surprised to see that UCLA is a 5 point favorite over Florida State in the Emerald Bowl. FSU's losses with the exception of the Wake Forrest game had close scores. In total yards/game the two teams are evenly matched. FSU's defense in terms of yards/game is somewhat better than UCLA. For a full breakdown of the game, check out this analysis by ESPN.

I just hope the team can refocus on the job ahead after the emotional victory over USC.

After a shaky start in the 2005 Sun Bowl, UCLA roared back from a big deficit to win going away. However, UCLA in 2004 lost to Wyoming in the Las Vegas Bowl and in 2003 lost to Fresno State in the Silicon Valley Bowl in very lack luster performances.

Sports: What a fan is is what a fan does ...

What can I say?

The Bruins went from bums to being, maybe, just maybe, a legit rival again.

So I plunked down the deposit on season tickets for the 2007 UCLA Football season.

As a perk, they gave me two tickets to the Emerald Bowl.

Alas, I've already filed for my PTO at work and the Emerald Bowl doesn't fall on the right days. However, I instructed the athletic department to donate my two tickets to military personnel.

Devotional Thoughts: How we ought to live - sex drive

Taking a look at 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 today.

Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.

How do we decide what is the right and wrong thing to do?

Those with a religious conviction will cite some source as guidance. Every religion has some text that embodies their beliefs. Obviously in the theistic religions where God is more interactive, the texts are more defined as in the case of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. In the non-theistic belief systems (Hinduism and Buddhism) where God is less interactive or polytheistic or pantheistic there is a larger number of texts and even the texts that are regarded more highly do not appear to rise to the same level of authority as the theistic systems.

I was listening on the radio on the Dennis Prager show and his guest was a academic studying moral impulses. It was an interesting discussion about the traditional evolutionary psychology position that morality evolved from individuals who do good providing survival benefit for the community of at large. I'm not sure if the guest was completely behind that position because he made a distinction between the moral impulse versus the moral act. In other words, he wanted to test the "gut reaction" people had to a given scenario and not what they would actually do in the circumstance. His research group found the impulses are fairly universal regardless of religious background.

He did go on to acknowledge that how people act on the impulse can vary. He seemed to admit that it is possible that religious people might choose to act differently than non-religious people despite having the same impulse.

He also made the observation that sociopaths appear to have moral impulses but for whatever reason those impulses are completely disconnected from their actions.

Why this seemingly disconnected journey down this rabbit trail?

The next part of the passage:

It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit.

Yes, it is about sex. There is no question that the sex drive is a part of the human experience.

During the UCLA vs. USC football game, the fans in front of me spotted a television personality and called out her name: LINDSAY SOTO!!!


Fox Sports News Reporter Lindsay Soto
image source http://www.ocregister.com/newsimages/sports/2005/06/0610soto.jpg

She flashed her megawatt smile and waved to her adoring fans!

I would guess that 99 out of 100 guys first reaction was: WOW, she's HOT!

After that initial reaction, reality sets in and other thoughts like these will enter a guys mind:
(1) while she's hot, I'm not and though she might be a nice person and give me the time of day if I asked her that would probably be as far as it would get
(2) perhaps she is married already or with someone so I really shouldn't get my hopes up
(3) I'm married and should not keep thinking about somebody other than my own hot smokin' wife
(4) and yes, there is probably 1 in a 100 guys who say, nah, she's not hot and has no struggle with lustful thoughts for the lovely sideline reporter in this example.

All this to say, the guest on Prager's show might be onto something separating moral impulses from moral actions.

Certainly, in the sexual impulse realm there is a separation. The Biblical guidelines on sexual morality are quite clear. Thus, in practical terms, the hot blooded single male has impulses but his moral requirement is celibate singleness. For the hot blooded married male the impulses to stray are constrained by the moral requirement to monogamous marriage. And yes, for the hot blooded Christian male who has homosexual impulses, he is constrained just the same as the heterosexual male.

The single Christian heterosexual male has the possibility that he might meet and marry the woman who becomes the love of his life and those impulses will have fulfillment in holy matrimony. The married man who stays faithful in loving his wife is rewarded with a companion until death do they part. The homosexual male who is committed to Christian morality has impulses that cannot be fulfilled. That is a huge burden and should he fail in resisting, he is no more and no less in need of correction and restoration as the single man who sleeps around or the married man who commits adultery.

In the animal world, I heard that elephant seals practice one male to multiple females. The alpha male beats up any other males that try to encroach on his harem. At one time, that was a common practice in human societies as well.

Thus, does impulse = moral? It would seem not.

Lord, help me to live a holy life. Help me to guard my thoughts. Lord, thank you that you have created women to be beautiful. Thank you that you have brought good women into my life to bless and challenge me to grow as a man of faith. Help me to honor, care for and love them in a way that is appropriate to the relationship I have with each one thus bringing honor to you. Amen.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Life: Nothing But Nets Follow Up

A little while ago, I posted on the Nothing But Nets campaign to collect money to buy mosquito nets to send to Africa.

Rick Reilly wrote a follow up to the column he first wrote back in April.

The idea is simple: $10 allows a net to be bought and sent to Africa to save a life or two. These bed nets allow someone to sleep inside it at night and keeps the mosquitos that spread malaria away.

Here is an excerpt from Reilly's first article:
I've never asked for anything before, right? Well, sorry, I'm asking now.

We need nets. Not hoop nets, soccer nets or lacrosse nets. Not New Jersey Nets or dot-nets or clarinets. Mosquito nets.

See, nearly 3,000 kids die every day in Africa from malaria. And according to the World Health Organization, transmission of the disease would be reduced by 60% with the use of mosquito nets and prompt treatment for the infected.

Three thousand kids! That's a 9/11 every day!
..........
We gotta get these nets. They're coated with an insecticide and cost between $4 and $6. You need about $10, all told, to get them shipped and installed. Some nets can cover a family of four. And they last four years. If we can cut the spread of disease, 10 bucks means a kid might get to live. Make it $20 and more kids are saved.
Here is an excerpt from his recent follow up column:
It was the alltime no-brainer. Skip lunch; save a life. Buy the Top-Flites instead of the Titleists; save a life. Don't bet on the Redskins; save a life. Nothing to research. No government to topple. No warlords to fight.

Bless your little hearts, all 17,000-plus of you who chipped in more than $1.2 million -- enough to buy 150,000 nets, which the United Nations Foundation and the World Health Organization started hanging all over Nigeria, where kids younger than five are getting murdered by mosquitoes that come out only at night.

I know, because I saw the nets. Just got back. Feel a little bad about going without you. After all, it was your money. So let's pretend it was you who made the trip, not me.
............
And they'd play a soccer game in your honor that featured nine-year-olds who played like 14-year-olds in the U.S., on fields full of weeds and trash, with goals made of tree branches. In three games the closest thing you saw to a boy with shoes was a set of brothers who wore one sock each.

And they'd hand you the mike, and you'd try to say how blown away you were and how you wished you could raise 100 times more in donations, because already one hospital in Nigeria is saying that since the nets went up, outpatient cases of malaria have dropped from 80 a month to 50. But they'd all put their hands to their ears and go, "What?"

When you bribed the drummers into taking a union break, you finally met the people you'll never forget: the mothers. Turns out they're nothing but nuts about the nets. In fact, so many mothers want the nets that to get one, the World Health Organization requires them to bring their kids in for a measles vaccination. How often do you get two for one on diseases?

You met a mother who walked half a day to get a net. You met a woman who sleeps with her four kids under her net, maybe because she knows that three out of every 10 child deaths in Nigeria are from malaria.


Saturday, December 02, 2006

Sports: UCLA 13 USC 9

Woo hoo!!!

To think a few days ago, I almost sold the tickets!

Game ball to Dwayne Walker, the UCLA defensive coordinator for coming up with the plan and motivating the defense to a bend but don't break performance. If you saw a 9 on the scoreboard, you would have assumed it was UCLA. However, today, the defense allowed only 7 points (the other 2 was from a safety) and shut out USC in the second half. There were many key 3rd down and 4th down stops by the Bruins!

Game ball to Pat Cowan for using his feet to defeat USC. Cowan gained 55 yards scrambling and with rollouts bought himself time to make some completions. He showed the heart of a fierce competitor on a 3 and 15 scramble that netted only 7 yards but he took a monster hit that the fans in our section heard and gasped. Cowan bounced right up and trotted off the field.

Game ball to Eric McNeal who got his hand on the pass to deflect it and kept after it to gain the interception. It was 3rd down and 4 when he made the interception. If he had only batted it down, USC would have one more shot to get the first down and would have had one more minute left to score while in the red zone.

Game ball to Justin Medlock who got 7 points: 6 by field goal and 1 by PAT.

Game ball to Aaron Perez who punted. Not all of them were very good but good enough. On the last punt, he got 63 yards!

Other key items:

Penalties! USC with 9 for 56 yards compared to 3 by UCLA costing 21 yards. Some of the USC penalties were drive killers.

Rushing yards: USC got only 55 compared to UCLA's 121. Without Reggie Bush, the USC ground game didn't have a big play threat which allowed UCLA's defense to watch the wide-outs and pressure the quarterback.

Just like 24 years ago, I was on the north side end zone where the final moments of the drama unfolded. 24 years ago, USC got the ball at the far end of the field and marched down toward our seats. They got the TD but was sacked on the 2-point conversion preserving the 20-19 UCLA victory. Today, USC got the ball at their 20 with nearly 6 minutes left and marched down the field assuming they were going to win.

From Yahoo! Sports:

1st-10, USC29 5:52 J. Booty sacked by B. Davis
2nd-14, USC25 5:10 J. Booty incomplete pass to the right
3rd-14, USC25 4:42 J. Booty passed to S. Smith to the left for 13 yard gain
4th-1, USC38 4:31 J. Booty rushed up the middle for 1 yard gain
1st-10, USC39 4:05 J. Booty incomplete pass to the left
2nd-10, USC39 3:59 J. Booty passed to C. Gable down the middle for 7 yard gain
3rd-3, USC46 3:25 J. Booty passed to F. Davis to the right for 5 yard gain
1st-10, UCLA49 3:10 J. Booty passed to S. Smith down the middle for 7 yard gain
2nd-3, UCLA42 2:50 C. Gable rushed up the middle for no gain
3rd-3, UCLA42 2:01 J. Booty passed to S. Smith to the right for 17 yard gain
1st-10, UCLA25 1:50 J. Booty passed to C. McFoy to the left for 6 yard gain
2nd-4, UCLA18 1:50 J. Booty incomplete pass down the middle

3rd-4, UCLA18 1:15 E. McNeal intercepted J. Booty for no gain

We were on our feet the last 5 minutes screaming like crazy hoping against hope that the defense would keep them out of the end zone to seal the victory.

All fans were up hollering and jumping up and down, USC fans urging their team forward for the last minute victory and UCLA fans urging their team for a dramatic defensive stand. When the interception happened, it was like slow motion as I saw the UCLA fans continuing to jump up and down and screaming and hollering and the USC fans looking down silent in disbelief immobile.

UCLA 13 USC 9.

Unbelievable.

Sports: D-day U$C vs. UCLA

I'm going to the game. A few days ago, my devotion to the Bruins was wavering but after talking to a Cal Bear alum friend who said she went to every home game in a 1-10 season, I knew I had to hang my head in shame for even thinking of selling my tickets and not going to the game.

Check out this item to get a feeling for the intensity of this rivalry. The blogger quotes from the LA Times, a fellow blogger and makes a few terse remarks. Okay, it is way over the top but you get the picture of what this rivalry is about.

Here is the excerpt from the LA Times:
How best to put this?

You are not a real UCLA fan unless the thought of knocking USC out of the national title game today makes you giggle out loud in an empty room.

This nexus of neurons got you through a half-day of work Friday before you feigned a scratchy throat, went home, turned out the lights and tried to channel Tommy Prothro.

Like breathing, this is a basic, involuntary, primal, rivalry instinct.

Your season stinks, you're trying to justify the tanks of gas it'll take to get you to the Emerald Bowl, you hurt in your solar plexus and relief will come only when you see rivulets of mascara dripping down the faces of anguished Trojans cheerleaders at the end of today's joy-filled UCLA conquest.
He quotes from another blogger ...
Coach, YOU OWE THIS TO YOUR TEAM. You are leading a group of kids who have NEVER felt the pride of beating their cross-town rival. These young men have worked, sweated, endured injuries, and will gladly leave everything on the field tomorrow if YOU can find it within yourself to inspire them. Can you?

When warriors have prevailed against overwhelming odds, they didn't accomplish their miracles by being cold, calculating, and reserved. They did it by summoning every part of their souls to defeat the enemy.
Go Bruins!

Religion: YSMarko.com

Another blogger I've been visiting came about because of my recent attendance of the Youth Specialties National Youth Worker's Convention. The president of the organization is Mark Oestreicher and he blogs here.

He links to this item on why one blogger is no longer going to youth group. Something for all of us who are involved with youth to think about.

Excerpt:
Youth are more willing to 'dive deeper' than one might think. As Dr. Faith Kirkham-Hawkins (Emory professor of Youth and Religion, as well as YTI's Director) put it in a seminar she led at a N. GA Conference event, "Teenagers are showing up to youth group, and they're coming in droves. But, they're still dying inside." How good of a job are we doing at bringing them Life?
Mark relates something Tony Campolo said recently: We do not take God into places where He doesn’t exist; we join God where God is already at work. God works in mysterious ways which we often don't see. I think what we have to do is be a lot more open to saying "it might be a God thing" in a lot more circumstances than we normally would and dive in!

Culture: "Lifestyle Choices"

Another blog I've been checking into lately is Mere Comments which is a word play on Mere Christianity the famous book by C.S. Lewis where Lewis provides a thoughtful, common sense and, at times, pointed explanation of Christian theology and morality.

Here is a recent post over at Mere Comments of the pointed but common sense variety about the folly of "lifestyle choices." Excerpt:
Now there's a deadly phrase, a stupid one, actually, "lifestyle choices," to cover up the fact that not all the choices are equal, and some are dangerous. The family, and children, are fragile in certain ways and we can't ignore those ways without bad things happening.

So here's where "stupid" comes in. If we respect the delicate balance of eco-systems as we say we do (or should), why should that exclude human beings? ....

A farmer has a few "farmer-style choices": he can plant corn, wheat, soybeans, raise cows, pigs, or chickens. But other choices will undo him: he can't sow seed in November just because he wants to, and he has to sow it at a certain depth. He can't use the soybean field for tractor pulls at the same time. There is an art to his husbandry and doing the wrong things will harm his animals. They will not thrive. Anyone watching him destroy his farm and crow about his "choices" will just say, "Stupid farmer."
Indeed.