Saturday, April 28, 2007

World: Displace Me in 15 Cities in the USA 4/28/2007



The Displace Me event seeks to raise awareness of the plight of children in Northern Uganda where a civil war has raged for 21 years.

Here is a background report on the civil war.

Here is an item from PBS Newshour on the latest diplomatic efforts to resolve the civil war.

Displace Me rallies occurred in 15 cities in the United States. I went to the one in the Los Angeles area at the Pomona Fairplex and met up with some people from my church's youth group. Here is the event description on the Fairplex web page:
On April 28, Invisible Children will host a nationwide event called “Displace Me” to raise awareness about the Internally Displaced Persons’ (IDP) camps and the effects of the 21-year war in Northern Uganda. Invisible Children is a media-based non-profit organization dedicated to inspiring and educating youth around the world, creating lasting social change. The Fairplex is one of 15 locations across the U.S. that will bring together thousands of youth to imagine for 24 hours what it’s like to be one of the millions in Uganda who have been displaced due to the war. Say “Displace Me," and leave your home to bring them home. Everyone who comes to “Displace Me” will be asked to bring the following: enough cardboard to build something the size of a small tent, a sleeping bag, a 1.5-liter bottle of water (with an airtight seal, to be collected upon entry,) a box of Saltine crackers (yes, they need to be Saltines, with sealed packaging, also to be collected upon entry, and a current photo of yourself wearing a white t-shirt with a red X. Event hours are 3 p.m. Saturday - 10 a.m. Sunday.
In regard to the cause and scale of the displacement camps, quoting from Resolve Uganda:
The toll of this crisis has been massive, not only on the people of northern Uganda, but also on the surrounding region. The LRA is currently wreaking havoc in three countries, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan, and causing widespread instability. The Ugandan government’s strategy of moving northerners into “protected villages” has turned into a displacement nightmare for 1.7 million people – over 80% of the region – who now live in squalid camps and lack access to basic resources. According to recent reports, 1,000 people are dying each week as a result of camp conditions. Again, children have been the primary victims. One-half of those displaced are under fifteen years of age and more than a third of boys and one-sixth of girls bear the scars of forced soldiering and sexual slavery in northern Uganda. For many years, upwards up 40,000 of these children “commuted” up to two hours every night to sleep on town streets to avoid abduction.
The Invisible Children movement of which Displace Me is one event was started by three young filmmakers from California who went to Uganda in 2003 and produced the documentary, Invisible Children: Rough Cut.

They decided to spread the story with modern media technologies and to mobilize people to take action by donating to relief work in Uganda and exerting political pressure for a resolution of the crisis. The rallies in 15 cities provided the organizers opportunities for speakers to share about what is happening in Uganda and to show videos to further educate and motivate the participants to take whatever action they can to bring relief and peace to the troubled region.

The large size of the events draw media coverage allowing the message to spread further. Here is a Kansas City Star feature story of the Displace Me rally in Kansas City.

The event even caught the attention of the White House as each of the 15 locations saw a video message from First Lady Laura Bush commending the activism of the youthful movement and describing some of the initiatives pertaining to Africa the Bush Administration has taken.

Probably one of the most moving moments at the event was the 21 minutes of silence to recognize that the civil war has raged for 21 years. The speaker encouraged the participants to be silent and reflect on the situation and what one wants to do about it and to pray for Uganda and all involved if they were inclined to prayer.

For me, during that time, the images of the suffering children from the videos would float in my mind and I would ask God to help people in the region and around the world to do whatever they can to bring peace, healing and justice to that trouble region. As I prayed, I could not help but think of other troubled places in the world where death and suffering is caused by war. Our hearts were both angered and saddened as we contemplated how much sorrow there is in those places and we resolved to do something about it.


Click on the image to see a larger version.

Here is a feature story on the event on the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin.

At the moment, there is a ceasefire in Uganda and negotiations are taking place. Camp residents are cautious but hopeful.

Wouldn't it be something if sometime over the year, the war came to an end and the people can go home to the countryside without fear and displacement camps will be no more?

Let's pray and work to make it so!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Life: A friend is off to Afghanistan ...

... and has started a blog to share the experience. Don't know how often he will get to post but will be checking back now and then to see what is happening and will excerpt over on this blog.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Devotional Thoughts: My life is like bland oatmeal

Taking a look at Job 6:1-7 this morning.

Then Job answered and said:

Oh that my vexation were weighed,
and all my calamity laid in the balances!
For then it would be heavier than the sand of the sea;
therefore my words have been rash.
For the arrows of the Almighty are in me;
my spirit drinks their poison;
the terrors of God are arrayed against me.
Does the wild donkey bray when he has grass,
or the ox low over his fodder?
Can that which is tasteless be eaten without salt,
or is there any taste in the juice of the mallow?
My appetite refuses to touch them;
they are as food that is loathsome to me.

Could you be this honest with God?

What is Job saying here?

It is poetic and draws much from the life and times of his world.

How would we say it today?

I'm totally freaking out as all my troubles have piled up so high.
My troubles would be heavier than all the sand on a southern California beach.
I feel as if God is trying to kill me!
A dog who spends a day at Chateau Marmutt will wage his tail.
A dog who gets her Eukanuba will thrive.
So don't mind me if I am too upset to eat. My life feels like bland oatmeal and tastes like flat soda.

A few weeks back, I had the chance to hear Prof. John Goldingay share his perspective on Proverbs, Job and Ecclesiastes. One interesting point that come up was the whole idea of what can we say to God?

We concluded with this idea: you know the marriage is over when the couple stops talking.

Indeed, a big part of the life of faith is about interacting with God however imperfectly. Whether is it Abraham "bargaining" with God, Jacob wrestling for the blessing, Peter's impulsive statements, Martha scrambling around or doubting Thomas.

Lord, I sometimes have my list of complaints. Thank you that I'm allowed to bring them to you. Lord, you help me to put my situation into perspective with your Scriptures and the peace you often grant to me as I pray. I have friends who have cancer and I pray for them right now. Give them grace to endure. If their life is nearing the end, then give them peace and hope in you. If they are to remain in this world then give them strength to endure for however long and if possible perhaps even remission. By life or by death may they know your love and the love of family and friends. Amen.

Non-Profit of the Month: April 2007 - Walk Now and Race for Hope

Actually, two non-profits in this month's post.

Have a friend who works with a school district. One of the conditions she sees in some (too many) students is autism.

Walk Now is being held in various cities on various dates to raise funds. Check out the page to see if there is one in your city that you might participate in or support someone who is.

Here is the cause in the words of my friend:
I am participating in WALK NOW to help find a cure for autism. Autism is the second most common developmental disorder in the United States affecting one in every 150 children born today. Despite some promising discoveries, the cause of autism is unknown and a cure does not exist. Research is crucial. Every 20 minutes another child is diagnosed with autism. Not only must we find ways to improve the quality of life for children and adults with autism, but we also must find a cure, and soon.

WALK NOW is our chance to make a difference in the fight against autism by raising money for autism research and heightening public awareness. I see and evaluate young children with autism on a daily basis so this is close to my heart.
.....
Cure Autism Now has been committed to finding a cure for autism since its founding in 1995. The organization is one of the leading private funders of biomedical research in autism, providing nearly $39 million for research grants, education, outreach and scientific resources, including the establishment and ongoing support of the Autism Genetic Resource Exchange (AGRE). All donations from WALK NOW support Cure Autism Now's mission to find the causes, effective treatments and a cure for autism. In 2006 WALK NOW raised $6.5 million for autism research.

Please join me in my fight against autism. Thank you for making a difference in the lives of the more than 1 million Americans living with autism today.
Another friend of mine works at a school and here is his story about his participation in the Race for Hope:
I will be participating in the Brain Tumor Society's 10th Annual 5K Race for Hope in downtown DC. A teacher and a parent from our school community are getting together a team of people to participate in this race and would love your support. Proceeds from the race go toward brain tumor research. Our team is called the Drew Nealley Team. For those of you who aren't members of the Grace Episcopal Day School community, Drew was a first grader at Grace last year. Drew had surgery to remove a brain tumor during the school year, but a week before school started this fall, we lost him. I will be racing in his memory and honor.

I will also be running for a teacher at our school that had a brain tumor removed this pass summer and she will be participating in the race in May with the rest of her family, as will Drew's family and many teachers and families from our school community. I invite you all to support us by going online to Race for Hope and donating to The Drew Nealley Team. Better yet, if you are in the area, please feel free to join us on the team by signing up online and spreading the word about the race.
Check out these two events and please consider supporting these efforts:
Race for Hope
Walk Now

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Sports: What are realistic expectations for Coach Howland and UCLA?

Howland took over a program that had ran off the road. The first year was miserable but that was understood. In year two, the Bruins probably got one of the last at-large spots in the NCAA and lost in round one. Fans were happy and hopeful. The third year brought Bruin fans an unexpected surprise, not only a Final Four but an appearance in the National Championship game. Alas, Florida was too much. This past season was Howland's fourth year at the helm and the Bruins got to the Final Four where once again the Florida Gators blocked the road.

So what next?

UCLA fans are hoping for a National Championship sometime within the next few years. Winning the title is the goal of all the big program coaches.

When you think of coaching in the modern era (Wooden is an era unto himself!), the biggest name without doubt is Krzyzewski. He has been Duke coach for twenty-seven years! He has lead the Blue Devils to 10 Final Fours and 3 National Titles.

Thus, what are realistic expectations for Howland and UCLA?

If Coach K is the modern era top coach, roughly speaking to match his success, one needs to bring the team to the Final Four once every three years and winning a title once a decade.

Will Bruinsnation be happy with that?

Looking down the list of other "big name" programs, how have they done in the modern era of the NCAA. I'm defining modern as the 64-team field. In recent years, it has been 65 teams but the point is that realistic National Championship aspiring teams need to win six games to cut down the nets.

Besides Duke, North Carolina has been the biggest contender with two National Titles and seven Final Fours. Kansas is next with one National Title in six Final Fours. Arizona, Florida, Kentucky and Michigan State are all tied with four Final Four appearances with Florida and Kentucy winning it all twice and Arizona and Michigan State with one win.

What level of success is Howland going to have over the next few years?

What is going to be enough to keep the fans from running him out of town?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Culture: 24 - 11 to midnight

We find out what the Chinese want in exchange for Audrey: a bit of hardware circuitry on the suitcase nukes.

Implausibility alert: although one never wants high tech military weapons to fall into the hands of other people, it would be poor engineering to put anything in a device which would compromise all your other high tech gadgets.

President Palmer is starting to look ill. We could see this cab coming down the street with its doors open. By the end of the episode he is on the way to the hospital and the VEEP is once again in charge.

Chloe gets the info Jack needs to get the circuit but Morris finds out and gets Chloe to confess to Buchanan and as such warns Doyle to stop Jack which they do.

Jack asks the President for permission to make the exchange for Audrey and promises to destroy the circuit with C4 explosive if necessary. Palmer realizes that would mean that Jack would be killed and gives the green light.

Meanwhile back in DC, the President has a stroke on national television during a press conference and the Vice-President takes over based on the 25th Amendment. His first order is to cancel Jack's mission. Naturally, Jack complies ... NOT. He leaves Doyle by the side of the road. It's 12:00.

Culture: 24 - 10:00 to 11:00 PM

The missile is on its way to un-named Middle Eastern country. The gambit plays off as they admit that one of their generals is behind Fayed's nuclear terrorism so Palmer calls off the missile. We then find out it didn't carry a nuke.

With the info about the general, CTU fakes an escape plot for Fayed and use the general's name to try to get Fayed to lead them to the remaining two suitcase nukes.

The final act of the nuke recovery has Jack single-handedly killing off all of Fayed's aides and then in a hand-to-hand fight sending Fayed to the afterlife.

We have some hours left .... soooooooo .... Audrey Raines (Kim Raver) appears!

The Chinese faked her death and have held her prisoner awaiting an opportunity to use her to get something from the USA.

Implausibility alert: though it makes for great drama for Jack to follow the bad guys all on his own, I would guess in real life, it would only take 10 seconds for him to inform *somebody* *anybody* that he was following Fayed through the side door of the tunnel!

Monday, April 16, 2007

News: Horrible day in Blacksburg, Virginia

When I was writing in my blog this morning, I hadn't turned on the radio. At that time, I would have heard a little bit of news of a shooting incident in a dorm at Virigina Tech.

As I drove to work, I did hear just a short news item on it. It was a crime story and unfortunately, all too common, but nothing more than that for news editors deciding what to put on the air.

As the workday unfolded, the news came out that a second shooting had occurred and it was something of terrible proportions.

As of this afternoon, reports are that 32 were murdered and 29 hospitalized. The gunman was reported to have committed suicide. Law enforcement officials are investigating but for the moment it appears the two shootings are related but that could change as more facts are ascertained.

What is there to say after the horror of such a violent act?

How can one express the outrage and sadness at the total senselessness of what happened this morning?

Lord, don't know how to pray right now. Am just so angry that someone would hold so little regard for life to do something this awful. Can only ask that you will bring comfort to the family and friends of those who were lost today. Help strengthen the arms of good hearted people in the Blacksburg community to hold up those who are now hurting beyond comprehension. Lord, have mercy. Amen.

Life: What to say when bad things happen to good people? Part I

With my recent reading and writing about Job, I've been pondering that age old question.

The "academic" part of the formulation is actually quite straightforward:
If God is
(1) all good
(2) all powerful
(3) all knowing
yet (4) evil and suffering exists
then therefore God is not (1), (2) or (3) or some combination thereof.

As a lay person, I know that the traditional response has been the invoking of Free Will.

Christian theism could not survive (and who would want that kind of god anyway?) the repeal of point #1.

I haven't read Rabbi Kushner's famous book on the subject. However, from what I'm told, he concedes point #2.

Recently, there has been a movement called Open Theism within Christianity that gives ground on point #3.

I don't know to what extent I'm willing to wade into this theological swamp.

But I want to go back to the original question, regardless of one's theological framework, what do you say to someone who is in Job's shoes?

Nick over at Reflecting had to answer that question as part of a class paper. I'm sure he has, as a part of being in ministry, had to deal with that situation in one form or another and certainly will in the future. The assignment took the form of writing a letter to a mother who has lost her child after a short and painful life of 18 months.

Be sure to check it out and see what you think.

My reaction was that the pastoral, human and emotional connection is very strong in the letter. The theological aspects (citations of Open Theism authors) are controversial and complex and I'm not in a place to offer any discussion on that aspect as I'm still in progress in developing my thinking.

I will say that my exposure to thinking on this subject has been influenced by Christian journalist and author, Philip Yancey, in his book, Disappointment With God. His writings do have an open theism tint though I don't recall Yancey using those exact words.

What do you all think?

UPDATE: As a blogger, this space is where I often work out my thinking and feelings about things. Am going to take a crack at writing a letter much as Nick has though I'd be writing from the perspective of an ordinary follower of Jesus who is sitting in the pews trying to offer some thoughts to another believer. And I'll try to write an essay on a conceptual level as well. As those go live, I'll put in links here.

UPDATE: Part II of this post is up.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Music: How much money would Joshua Bell make playing in a Metro Station?

A really fascinating article in the WaPo about what happened on January 12 when world renown violist Joshua Bell played music in the L'Enfant Plaza Metro station in Washington DC during the morning rush hour commute.

He played several of the most difficult and beautiful works for solo violin on his $3.5 million dollar 1713 Stradivari violin.

To read what happened, go here. There are also 4 video clips highlighting the story.

HT: Deceptively Simple.

Blogs writing about this article.

BTW: Joshua Bell made $32.17 in 43 minutes.

Here is the online chat with the writer of the story.

Culture: Jackie Robinson #42 for the Dodgers


Image source:
http://www.americaslibrary.gov/jb/modern/jb_modern_robinson_1_e.html

60 years ago, Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball.

Over at Dodgers.com is a whole bunch of features about the celebration of that historic moment and about a life well led.

Ceremonies at all games played tomorrow, April 15, will be held in recognition of Robinson. Most notable will be the wearing of uniforms with the number 42 on them by players who wish to honor Robinson in that way. The number had been retired by the MLB with only players who already were using number 42 allowed to continue wearing it. As of today, only Mariano Rivera is in that group. Of the honor he said:
As a minority, I feel honored wearing the No. 42 and carrying the legacy that Jackie Robinson left. I wear it with good pride. That's the way it goes. All the guys retired or left, and I'm still carrying the number. I feel blessed for that.
The idea of wearing 42 came from Ken Griffey, Jr.
It's just my way of giving that man his due respect. I just called Bud (commissioner of baseball Selig) and asked him if I could do it. He made a couple of phone calls and said, Yeah. We had a good conversation. It was about me wearing it on that day, and only that day.
Each jersey used in the remembrance will be auctioned and the proceeds donated to the Jackie Robinson Foundation. Quoting from their "about the foundation page:"
The Jackie Robinson Foundation (JRF) is a public, not-for-profit national organization founded by Rachel Robinson in 1973 as a vehicle to perpetuate the memory of Jackie Robinson and his achievements. Serving as an advocate for young people with the greatest need, the Foundation assists increasing numbers of minority youths through the granting of four-year scholarships for higher education.

The Jackie Robinson Foundation provides much more than financial support. While each Jackie Robinson Scholar receives up to $7,200 a year in financial support, they also become an active member in the Foundation’s unique Education and Leadership Development Program, which is an extensive mentoring program that includes attendance at workshops, assignment of a peer and a professional mentor and placement into summer internships and permanent employment.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Music: Salonen hands baton to Dudamel

The big news in the LA culture scene is Esa-Pekka Salonen, LA Philharmonic's music director, announcing his plans to retire and devote his time to composing.

At the same press conference, Board of Directors President Deborah Borda and Salonen introduced the new music director, Gustavo Dudamel.

Dudamel, 26 years old, signed a 5-year deal that will start with the 2009-2010 season.

Here are a few excerpts from the press release:
Of the appointment Dudamel said, "Almost two years ago, I made my United States debut with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and from the first moment I stepped onto the stage, I felt a special connection and deep feeling from the players. They are wonderful. I am very honored to be chosen to succeed the great conductor/composer Esa-Pekka Salonen, who has been so warm to me and has given me so much support. Family is very important to me. Now my musical family includes Los Angeles, along with Venezuela and Gothenburg, and these three will be my musical homes and the focus of my musical activity. Playing with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in the magnificent Walt Disney Concert Hall is a great privilege and I look forward to many happy years together."

Esa-Pekka Salonen stated, "Almost two decades ago, the Los Angeles Philharmonic took a chance on a young fellow from Finland who was at the beginning of his conducting career. Over the ensuing years we have all grown together. It is with love and pride that I regard all we have accomplished. As hard as this is, I know now that the right moment has come for me to step down as Music Director at the end of the 2008/09 season. It will come as no surprise to anyone that I wish to dedicate myself more fully to composing. I could not, indeed would not have made this decision unless I was confident that everything was in just the right place and balance. The LA PHIL is widely regarded as one of the leading symphony orchestras in the world. We have never been stronger. And now, the right successor has been found. Gustavo Dudamel's remarkable talent, intelligence and energy are the absolute right match for the orchestra and Los Angeles. While I intend to continue my relationship with the LA PHIL, I am peaceful and joyous about the artist to whom we will pass the baton. There could not be a more forward looking choice."
..........
Dudamel was born in 1981 in Barquisimeto, Venezuela. He studied violin at the Jacinto Lara Conservatory with José Luis Jiménez and later with José Francisco del Castillo at the Latin American Academy of Violin. In 1996, he began his conducting studies with Rodolfo Saglimbeni and during that same year was named Music Director of the Amadeus Chamber Orchestra. In 1999, along with assuming the Music Director position of the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra, he began conducting studies with José Antonio Abreu, the Orchestra's founder. Dudamel regularly collaborates with Sir Simon Rattle, Claudio Abbado and Daniel Barenboim.
Welcome to LA, Dudamel! A huge shout out to Salonen for so many years of great music!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Politics: A billion here and a billion there ... your tax dollars at work

Image source: http://finance.yahoo.com/taxes/article/102817/How-Your-Tax-Dollars-Are-Spent

Saw this item on what happens to our tax dollars. A few highlights:

This year the federal government expects a haul of about $2.7 trillion -- give or take a couple hundred billion or so, depending on the economy, corporate profits and Wall Street and of course, how honest everyone filing a return is.
......
In fact, all government payments to individuals amount to about 58 percent of the budget. That's twice the share of the budget such payments claimed 40 years ago. And the percentage continues to climb -- giving those pushing reform of such entitlement programs a powerful argument.
......
You might think a fifth of the federal government's total spending is a lot to put into defense. But in comparison to some earlier periods in our country's history, it's actually a smaller share. During President Ronald Reagan's defense buildup, the military claimed 26 percent of the budget. And at the height of the Vietnam War in 1968, 46 cents of every tax dollar Americans paid was for defense.
.......
And when all is said and done, the $2.7-trillion tax revenues aren't enough to pay all of Uncle Sam's bills. This year, the federal government will spend about $200 billion more than it will take in.

Next year, the deficit will run about $300 billion. Coincidentally, that's just about the same amount that the government figures it's being stiffed by individuals and companies who don't pay all the taxes they owe, either by intent or by error.

Devotional Thoughts: A rock in my shoe

Took a little time off from Job but am back to it with Job 5 this morning.

Job had finally spoken in chapter 3 and then Eliphaz replied in chapter 4 and continues here in chapter 5.

Call now; is there anyone who will answer you?
To which of the holy ones will you turn?
Surely vexation kills the fool,
and jealousy slays the simple.
I have seen the fool taking root,
but suddenly I cursed his dwelling.
His children are far from safety;
they are crushed in the gate,
and there is no one to deliver them.
The hungry eat his harvest,
and he takes it even out of thorns,
and the thirsty pant after his wealth.
For affliction does not come from the dust,
nor does trouble sprout from the ground,
but man is born to trouble
as the sparks fly upward.

Eliphaz sounds like a realist! People get what they deserve. He believed that fools get what they deserve. Their kids get endangered, people steal their food and trouble just follows them like stuck toilet paper.

The not so subtle implication is: Job you got problems because you deserve them!

Eliphaz continued ...

As for me, I would seek God,
and to God would I commit my cause,
who does great things and unsearchable,
marvelous things without number:
he gives rain on the earth
and sends waters on the fields;
he sets on high those who are lowly,
and those who mourn are lifted to safety.
He frustrates the devices of the crafty,
so that their hands achieve no success.
He catches the wise in their own craftiness,
and the schemes of the wily are brought to a quick end.
They meet with darkness in the daytime
and grope at noonday as in the night.
But he saves the needy from the sword of their mouth
and from the hand of the mighty.
So the poor have hope,
and injustice shuts her mouth.

Eliphaz says you got to turn to God and he will set everything right. We all have a sense of the way things are and should be and find the above is generally true. Eliphaz's observations generally hold true: fools usually do get into trouble, the wicked get their just desserts and that God is good to the downtrodden. But ... we see enough exceptions to have out doubts.

I suppose those who don't believe in God might see Eliphaz's positive spin as wishful thinking and that life is just one big dice game and a spin of the roulette wheel.

Eliphaz continues to give correct sounding religious answers ...

Behold, blessed is the one whom God reproves;
therefore despise not the discipline of the Almighty.
For he wounds, but he binds up;
he shatters, but his hands heal.
He will deliver you from six troubles;
in seven no evil shall touch you.
In famine he will redeem you from death,
and in war from the power of the sword.
You shall be hidden from the lash of the tongue,
and shall not fear destruction when it comes.
At destruction and famine you shall laugh,
and shall not fear the beasts of the earth.
For you shall be in league with the stones of the field,
and the beasts of the field shall be at peace with you.
You shall know that your tent is at peace,
and you shall inspect your fold and miss nothing.
You shall know also that your offspring shall be many,
and your descendants as the grass of the earth.
You shall come to your grave in ripe old age,
like a sheaf gathered up in its season.
Behold, this we have searched out; it is true.
Hear, and know it for your good.

Do we disagree with a word spoken here by Eliphaz?

Those who believe God to be fair and just and a helper of people would counsel the same as Eliphaz.

But ...

Job is sitting there sickly and sorrowful as he has lost everything and everyone in his life. The "deviation from the norm" always bugs us. We always need a reason for everything. Why is it that we feel like we got a rock in our shoe when stuff goes wrong?

If the "game" of life is just a hand of poker then you play what you got, bluff or fold 'em. We have no just cause to complain.

But for some reason deep within there is the sense that things aren't the way they are supposed to be. Is this the cost of free will?

And what to do with the silences of God?

Do we need constant reassurance that God is out there?

We live in the era of modern communication. We are never far away from reassurances that we are loved by others. Beloved friends and family are an email away, a phone call away, a hop in the car or a ride in the plane.

Not so long ago, loved ones could be separated for various reasons and the only link between them would be pen and paper and mail service that could take weeks. Did loved ones doubt the solidity of their beloved's love? I'm sure they did on occasion and how much joy there must have been with each communication!

We might shout, God has the best technology after all, God is God, so why doesn't God send a daily or even an hourly message to us to let us know God cares?

I don't know.

Why did it matter to God that Job was a righteous man? Why did God believe that Job would demonstrate trust in God even amidst loss and suffering?

I don't know.

Lord, Job's trust in you meant something to you. By extension, my trusting you and living my life rightly matters to you. I do often wish for a burning bush or an angelic visitation or a booming voice from the sky. I haven't gotten any of those things. But I have Jesus. You have preserved his teachings and deeds. His life, death and resurrection is exhibit A pointing to your concern for the affairs of this world. And you have found other ways to let me know you are out there paying attention. And you have asked me to join you in doing work in this world. Help me to be faithful in that even if at times I have doubt. Amen.

Life: More about me

At the top of this blog is this brief about me blurb:
Culture, travel, sports (Dodger, Bruin and Anteater fan), politics and the life of faith. Random ramblings (but hopefully thoughtful!) on the passing scene by a Christian 40-something single male molecular biologist American of Asian ancestry.
So here goes with a bit more elaboration in the odd chance anyone is actually curious!

Culture


I see the occasional movie. My four-star rating system (0 = bad, run away! 1 = only if you are really bored! 2 = okay movie with some good moments 3 = solid film making 4 = a classic!). Some films that would be 4 star in my book: Casablanca, Schindler's List, Star Wars, E.T., Dr. Stranglove, North by Northwest, West Side Story, Amadeus, Sound of Music, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Patton, A Bridge Too Far, Chariots of Fire. I tend to favor action-adventure movies. I'll see the occasional drama or comedy.

I enjoy classical music and have a subscription to the Los Angeles Philharmonic at Walt Disney Concert Hall. I'll usually make one or two visits a summer to the Hollywood Bowl.

In terms of television, I am a fan of 24! I followed West Wing pretty closely but I don't think I saw every episode. Of old classic TV that I grew up with: MASH, Mary Tyler Moore Show and the Six Million Dollar Man.

It is here, I have to confess, my name is Rene and I'm a Star Trek fan! I grew up on the reruns of the Original Series and eagerly watched the Next Generation. I was much less enthusiastic about Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise.

Travel

I enjoy travel!

Go here for a list of travelogues with photos.

Future travel plans?
I hope to visit all the Presidential Libraries. I'd also like to visit all the MLB stadiums. I've got 20 more states to visit. Hope to set foot on every continent in my life time. Live in North America, have visited Europe three times, Africa once and Asia once. Where to go in South America? Maybe Machu Picchu? Australia is pretty far but someday! Antarctica is really expensive but perhaps the final one in my sunset years?

Sports - Go Dodgers!

Grew up a Dodger fan in Los Angeles. As a kid, the Dodgers of the 70s got beat in the World Series by the A's (1974) and the Yankees (1977-1978). Finally in 1981, the Dodgers beat the Yankees 4 games to 2 after dropping the first two games.

In 1988, the Dodgers won the championship 4-1 over the A's. Indeed, I was at home watching the game when Kirk Gibson hit the home run! Certainly, one of the great moments in sports history.

I like visiting baseball parks when I have the opportunity.

Sports - Go Bruins!

Been following UCLA basketball actively since 1980 the year before I started attending UCLA. Wooden won his last National Title in 1975 when he retired. I don't think anyone thought it would take 20 years before UCLA basketball would climb the mountain again to win it against Arkansas in 1995.

UCLA football has provided me with two incredible at the game memories. UCLA held on for the win in 1982, 20-19. The final series of plays was at our end of the field when USC drove the length of the field to get the TD but were denied the victory when the 2-point conversion was foild by the QB sack! In 2006, UCLA pulled off probably the biggest upset ever in the history of the rivelry when they held on for a 13-9 win against #2 ranked USC. The game saving interception happened at the end of the field and on the hashmark right in front of the section I sat in!

I also follow the UC Irvine Anteater basketball team as I went to UCI for graduate school. The team is part of the Big West which is a 2nd tier mid-major conference in men's b-ball. I hope to live long enough to see the Anteaters make their first NCAA tournament!

Politics

I remember vaguely watching the television coverage of the 1972 presidential elections. That year, President Nixon won a 49 state victory over Senator McGovern. Since then, I've followed presidential campaigns. I cast my first presidential vote in 1984 and I cast it for President Reagan who won a 49 state victory over Vice President Mondale.

Having lived much of my life in California where ballot propositions are a big part of the political scene of the state, I've tried to keep an open mind about issues and not be swayed overly by emotional appeals.

I registered as an Independent voter until 1996 when I wanted to have a chance to vote in the Republican presidential primary. I have to say though I can't even remember who I voted for! I might have cast a protest vote for Steve Forbes who was championing the Flat Tax but wasn't going to win.

Am center-right politically. Am generally skeptical of the ability of government to solve problems (my libertarian instincts) but realize there is a role for government which should be limited. See here for more about my political perspectives.

Life of faith

I was introduced to Jesus when I was in junior high school. The next big step occurred in high school, on Good Friday in 1980. When I was talking with the church secretary about my journey of faith, she asked if I had ever called on Jesus to be my Savior and committed my life to Him to be my Lord. I said, well sort of. She said, why don’t we pray about that now? And, indeed, that night I prayed and it was as if the curtains were pulled open and the light came in and I felt a sense of peace and joy.

I’ve sought to live by Micah 6:8 and Matthew 6:33. In addition to providing practical guidance for day-to-day life, I believe Christian faith provides the best explanation of why humans are the way we are. The creation of God was beautiful and good. Despite the world and humanity being marred by sin, beauty and goodness persists to some degree feeding our sense that the world isn’t quite the way it should be and spurring our longing for restoration. Indeed, because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, we have hope.

I’ve enjoyed opportunities to serve others in behind the scenes ways and have participated in Bible teaching in several of the churches I’ve been a part of.

For all the flaws of the institutional church, I am a part of one. I believe God has placed me there to serve and be served so that I may grow into greater Christ-likeness. The church I'm at is honest about the messiness of our lives yet is striving to place Jesus at the center, to hear His instruction through the Bible and to grow in loving others.

I'll periodically add more information in this about me section in the days ahead!

Disclaimer: This website is not affiliated with any organizations or institutions to which I am a part of. As such, opinions expressed are my own. Links to other web sites in my posts or in ads (placed by Google) do not necessarily constitute endorsements of the contents of those sites. Definitely welcome comments so please feel free to do so. However, spam or inappropriate comments will be removed as soon as I find them.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Music: Track 44 of Handel's Messiah

Handel's Messiah. Probably one of the most noted works of music of all time.

Just like the song Amazing Grace is instantly recognizable so is track 44 of Handel's Messiah.

Whether it is sung with a large professional choir accompanied by a world class orchestra or by a church congregation joined by an organist and two trumpet players, the majesty and magic of these words cannot fail to move.

Track 44 is the Hallelujah Chorus drawn from Revelation 11:15 and Revelation 19:16
Hallelujah! for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ: and He shall reign for ever and ever. KING OF KINGS, LORD OF LORDS.
Gives me both the chills and a thrill of hope whenever I hear that great chorus!

The Book of Revelation is at some level very hard to understand especially if you try to assign every detail to some specific point in human history or current events.

On the other hand, if one takes a thematic approach and let the details go slightly out of focus and allow them to be shading in broader strokes then the book becomes more accessible. As the pastor who I once heard preaching in the book of Revelation would say the great themes are "Jesus is going to win" and "Things aren't as they appear to be."

"Things aren't as they appear to be"

I suppose as linear thinking Americans, it isn't easy to live with the tension that Jesus would say, "Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand" and would say pray, "Thy Kingdom Come."

We can and do look around and wonder, the kingdom is at hand? Things don't look so good right now.

I'm sure to the early Christians who had to hide and flee from persecution, they may have wondered, what did I sign up for when I said I will follow Jesus?

Today, in some parts of the world, being identified as a believer in Jesus could be dangerous.

The Kingdom is described by Jesus as yeast and a seed. It sure doesn't look like much but it changes things. Being devoted to Jesus should change us. And as we are changed, we will impact others around us.

But it starts with the resurrection. The Etch-a-sketch of our lives has been shaken up because of the empty tomb. The resurrection of Jesus changed the course of history.

"Jesus is going to win"

Jesus' resurrection is victory!

It is easy enough for some people to say, oh, yeah, Jesus resurrected in that he died and his spirt went back to be with god because he was a good man. But if that is the case, what is the point? Why all this hoopla about Jesus then? What is so special about that? People have been dying and going to heaven for eons.

No, something more happened on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Jesus death was no ordinary death. Jesus resurrection was not just his spirit returned to god. Rather, there was a theological significance to it that changed us and the situation on the ground.

St. Paul puts it rather clearly in this famous passage about the resurrection. Excerpt:
if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.
Because the tomb is empty, we can sing:
The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord.

Elsewhere: Stuff I've come across

Skyepuppy has this fun little item about what folks in North Dakota do for fun! If we wind up doing something like this in Los Angeles, we know the world as we know it will be coming to an end soon!

American Minister in the UK is feeling his age. I have to say, I had a similar moment with the junior high folks when some of the students were talking about flying squirrels and I said, you know there was a cartoon character named Rocky who was a flying squirrel and there was a moose named Bullwinkle. They had no idea what I was talking about!

Yahoo's Movie Mom, Nell Minow has a blog. Here is her interview with Michael Apted the director of Amazing Grace which recounts the struggle to end slavery in England. I saw the film and highly recommend it. It is a movie story about how a small number of committed people can make a difference in the world. William Wilberforce's dedication was remarkable. Also, an outstanding performance was given by Albert Finney who played John Newton the slave ship captain who changed 180 degrees upon following Jesus, who wrote the song Amazing Grace and was a mentor to Wilberforce.

Here is a video item that might sting us in the church. HT to ThinkChristian.



And here is another YOUtube.com item that puts advertisement beauty into persepective. HT: Think Christian again.

World: This blog is banned in China!

Saw this item over at Ridgecrest Blog. He used this web page to test if his blog is banned in China.

Naturally, I ran it too and believe it or not, this little blog is banned!

I do wonder if the block is at the level of the domain name. The censors may just block everyone on blogspot.com?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Sports: Afflalo to try for NBA

No surprise that UCLA's 2-guard will forgo his senior year to enter the NBA draft.

Thanks AA for 3 exciting years and all the best in the road ahead!

Bruinsnation is commenting as well along the same lines.

Music: Handel's Messiah, Easter Changes Everything

Continuing to share some thoughts invoked by reading through the lyrics of Handel's Messiah.

Tracks 40-43

Psalm 2:1,2 (Acts 4:25-26), 3, 4 and 9.
Why do the heathen rage, and why do the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth rise up, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against His Anointed, Let us break their bonds asunder, and cast away their yokes from us. He that dwelleth in the heavens shall laugh them to scorn; the Lord shall have them in derision. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.

Jesus is constantly under attack in every age?

Today, the attacks are in the form of things like the Da Vinci Code where the life of Jesus is mutated into something completely different than what the Gospel's record and the Early Church proclaimed. There are some who even go so far as to say Jesus never even existed. Around Easter and Christmas, there are usually one-hour TV specials and special features in popular magazines proclaiming the latest theories of "Who was Jesus really?" And there are those (Dawkins and Harris) who say that Christianity is not only false but the source of evil in the world.

Indeed, Christians should speak up and make a defense for the hope that is within us.

The Psalm 2 imagery is of God as the ultimate King who laughs at the machinations of kings of this world. As one pastor I heard while preaching the Book of Revelation said, "Jesus is going to win." Those who oppose a holy and righteous God doing deeds of evil will be nothing more than clay pots against the mighty scepter of a just Messiah.

Culture: Who am I?

Recently, one of the games we played at our youth group involved putting the name of someone in the pop-culture on the forehead such that the wearer can't see the name. One then asks yes/no questions to gain clues to the identity.

Can you guess who I am?

Am I a man? No.
Am I a real person? Yes.
Am I in the news? Yes.
Am I a political figure? No.
Am I a sports figure? No.
Am I in the movies? Yes.
Am I pretty? Yes.
Am I funny? Yes.
Am I this person? Yes!

Did you guess correctly?

Monday, April 09, 2007

Life: Easter and the death of death

With the my recent reflections on Easter, one of the things I think about is the death of death.

Indeed, people who trust in Jesus still die. But with Jesus Christ's resurrection, that is the not end.

Over the years, I have watched various people I know face death with faith in Jesus. Some died quickly and unexpectedly. Some died slowly.

It may be morbid to think about, but I hope when my time comes I will be able to go through that inevitable part of life with the same faith and grace I have seen.

I'm generally reluctant to post personal items on the blog or to mention other people.

However, on this occasion, post-Easter, I felt like sharing about an email I got from a friend who is keeping friends and family from all over posted.

At times it is difficult to read these emails. But there is encouragement from this believer in Jesus who is living to the fullest while dying. To respect privacy, I'm editing the latest email down so confidentiality is maintained. Obvious, people who know this person would probably be able to figure it out from this blog post but otherwise I think anonymity should be maintained.
I am overwhelmed by your thoughtfulness, friendship and love. You are sustaining me through this phase of my life and I deeply appreciate your fellowship. Each day is a different day; some better than others. Overall, I am finding myself spending more time in bed and running out of breath more easily. I have oxygen and have been using that more frequently when my cough acts up.

Right now, I still don't look or act like a hospice patient in that I'm pretty mobile and independent.

Since I'm still pretty functional, pray that I will make good use of my waking hours and not waste them just waiting to die.

Pray for those I know that haven't trusted in Jesus yet that they may come to know the Lord and that I would be diligent to intercede for them as well.

With gratitude for your love and concern ...
If you would, please pray for this friend. Thank you.

Music: Handel's Messiah Aftermath of Easter

Handel's Messiah has three parts. Part I describes the expectations, birth and life of the Messiah. Part II covers the death and resurrection of the Messiah. Part III expresses the victory of the Messiah and its benefits for those who trust in Him. By the way, Handel wrote the music for Messiah but it was Charles Jennens who selected and arranged the Bible passages that form the libretto for the oratorio.

For the past few days of the Easter week, I've been sharing the lyrics to part II of the Messiah and so here goes to track 36-39.

With the Messiah's resurrection, what next?

Psalm 68:18 (Ephesians 4:8)
Thou art gone up on high, Thou hast led captivity captive, and received gifts for men; yea, even for Thine enemies, that the Lord God might dwell among them.

This part is an Air for Alto and the voice and words invoke the imagery of an ancient triumphal procession.

When an army wins a battle, they come home to a victory celebration and the conqueror who led them brings home the spoils of war and gives them to the people. Those captured in battle are also paraded.

There are many metaphors to describe the mission of Jesus: bringing light to a dark world, finding the lost sheep, helping the blind to see, giving living water to the thirsty and many more and in this case, the image is a military one of doing battle to free us from captivity.

Whatever metaphor one chooses to describe it, this is all Good News!!

The Chorus appropriately then sings ...
Psalm 68:11
The Lord gave the word: great was the company of [the preachers].

An aria for Soprano then extols the beauty of these messengers ...
Romans 10:15 (Isaiah 52:7)
How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!

The Chorus then returns to joyously tell that these preachers go to all the world!
Romans 10:18 (Psalm 19:4)
their sound is gone out into all lands, and their words unto the ends of the world.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Music: Easter Sunday and Handel's Messiah

Continuing to look at Handel's Messiah.

Will keep posting until I reach the famed Hallelujah chorus (track 44).

On this Easter morning, am walking through tracks 32-35

Psalm 16:10 (Acts 2:27)
[But] thou [didst] not leave [his] soul in hell; neither [didst] thou suffer Thy Holy One to see corruption.

Resurrection changed everything.

It all started in Bethlehem. Captured in the carol:
O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight

From the humble beginning in a feeding trough in a small village to a quiet Sunday morning with an empty tomb, the mission was accomplished. From dark night to bright morning, from fears to hope, from death to life, from slavery to sin to liberation.

The Christian "meta-narrative" of God's relationship to man is about creation and liberation. Before Jesus, it was Creation as recorded in Genesis and Liberation as told in the Exodus. In Jesus, Liberation in the Incarnation (Jesus life for our righteousness and his death for our sins) and New Creation in His resurrection!

And so because Jesus is NOT in the tomb ...
Psalm 24:7-10
Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of Glory shall come in. Who is the King of Glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of Glory shall come in. Who is the King of Glory? The Lord of Hosts, He is the King of Glory.

All shall acknowledge him as the Lord and King!

Just as the angels have done so all along!

Hebrews 1:5 (Psalm 2:7) and Hebrews 1:6b
For unto which of the angels said He at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? "Let all the angels of God worship Him."

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Music: Handel's Messiah and the Saturday Between Good Friday and Easter Sunday

As I look over Handel's Messiah, I think track 31 is the place that sort of describes the Saturday between the the Crucifixion and Resurrection. I was thinking of including it in the Friday mediation because it could fit there too. Track 32 belongs with Sunday and Resurrection

Isaiah 53:8b
he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of [Thy] people was He stricken.

Jesus was taken off the Cross and prepared and placed into the tomb.

One of the most iconic works of art is Mary, the mother of Jesus, holding the dead Jesus.

Michelangelo's Pieta (1499), St. Peter's Basilica
Image source: http://faculty.cua.edu/johnsong/hitchcock/pages/pieta.html

On Saturday, what did it feel like to be Mary?

Would she replay in her mind all she saw on Friday?

What did it feel like to be Peter?

He had promised to die for Jesus and he had denied Jesus and Jesus was dead.

What did it feel like to be any of the followers of Jesus?

Did they meet together and talk about what had just happened?

Did any of them think about the times Jesus talked about dying and rising from the dead?

On Saturday, their thoughts were on this: he was cut off out of the land of the living...

I wonder to what degree they thought about the second half: for the transgression of Thy people was He stricken?

I wonder to what degree they thought about what Jesus said in Mark 8:31 and in other places: He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.

Were they simply lost in grief and forgetting all Jesus taught about the bigger picture?

I could hardly blame them.

On Saturday, their thoughts may well have only been about the last images from Friday.

Image source: http://www.uga.edu/cc/stations/station14.html

Life: The Bright Side of Free Will

So on Friday nights, I'm often with junior high students from my church.

It is an interesting age. Prior to that age, kids tend to be like sponges taking in everything they hear more or less without question. But something happens when kids hit 12-14! They begin to wonder a bit about what they hear. But then again their attention spans aren't real long so if the subject is complex they might follow for a a little bit and then like a gust of wind sweeps in and their minds are elsewhere.

So last night, somehow, we got on the subject of free will. And, just like most adults I've had conversations about this subject, the focus quickly went to the dark side of free will and the persistence of evil. One of our adult leaders tried and eventually got them to think about the other side of free will: love.

It was interesting to see how it took several tries to get the group to go down that road and see the logical consequences of the bright side of free will. For just for a few moments, they were grabbing onto it and that was exciting to see. Of course, shortly after that, their minds flew off in another direction. But for a few moments here and there they were on track and those are the teachable moments we pray for and live for!

It was a good Good Friday evening with the students.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Music: More Handel's Messiah and Something Entirely Different but Still Sort of Related

Something completely different to start off.

Its funny but it contains truth and so here goes ...



Am getting more acquainted with the famed Handel's Messiah during this Holy Week.

Track numbers 29 is a recitative for tenor. Slow and sad and deliberate we hear Psalm 69:20, [Thy] rebuke hath broken [his] heart; [He is] full of heaviness. [He] looked for some to have pity [on Him], but there was none; neither found [He] any to comfort [Him].

The tenor then continues to track 30 in this air for tenor utilizing Lamentations 1:12, Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto [his] sorrow. . .

What did it feel like to be Jesus?

He knew his mission to restore us. Back in track 26 (Isaiah 53:6),All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way, and Jesus wants to bring us back.

And what happened?

Most who heard his message and saw his miracles did NOT believe!

Why?

How many people say, I'd believe in God if I saw him?

Yet, when they saw Jesus they saw God and still ...

In the end, the question for us is autonomy: am I god or is something else god or am I really going to let GOD be GOD?

And so how did it feel like to be Jesus?

To want restoration and see the lost sheep not know they are lost and even if they knew they were lost still running in the wrong direction?

Indeed, Jesus was the man of sorrows.

Me, one person on a rebellious planet of 6.5 billion people.

The earth, one planet revolving around a star that is one star in a galaxy of 100,000,000,000 stars.

The Milky Way Galaxy hurtling through the universe where there is at least 100,000 galaxies.

Jesus, God, creator of the universe become flesh, came to find me.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Sports: Florida news and other things

ESPN is reporting that 4 of their starting 5 will go NBA. Completely understandable. The window of time an athlete can make lots of money is often pretty narrow as injury can always strike and the move from college to NBA isn't always so easy. They got themselves 2 National Championships and it is time for them to cash in for the themselves and their families.

Donovan is staying on as coach at Florida. From what I heard, his loyalty to Florida was pretty strong and the opportunity at Kentucky wasn't worth it.

Meanwhile, Bruin fans await Afflalo's decision. I have the feeling he is torn by loyalty to the teammates and his realization that he might not get better as a player unless he goes to the NBA. In college, very often he will be the best player on the court and he needs the challenge that the NBA offers him for his long term growth as a basketball player.

Am trying my hand at fantasy baseball at a new web page, Rotohog.com. In addition to the usual stat collecting you have to buy and trade players in an open market to raise money to improve your team. Am totally clueless so if you are a fantasy player, what is your top 3 to 5 tips to improve my languishing team, the Los Angeles Lemurs?

Politics: WaPo on Pelosi's Diplomacy

The Washington Post is no friend of the Bush Administration.

However, in today's editorial, they issued a beat down on Speaker of the House Pelosi's recent visit to Syria.
HOUSE SPEAKER Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) offered an excellent demonstration yesterday of why members of Congress should not attempt to supplant the secretary of state when traveling abroad. After a meeting with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, Ms. Pelosi announced that she had delivered a message from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that "Israel was ready to engage in peace talks" with Syria. What's more, she added, Mr. Assad was ready to "resume the peace process" as well. Having announced this seeming diplomatic breakthrough, Ms. Pelosi suggested that her Kissingerian shuttle diplomacy was just getting started. "We expressed our interest in using our good offices in promoting peace between Israel and Syria," she said.

Only one problem: The Israeli prime minister entrusted Ms. Pelosi with no such message.
........
The really striking development here is the attempt by a Democratic congressional leader to substitute her own foreign policy for that of a sitting Republican president. Two weeks ago Ms. Pelosi rammed legislation through the House of Representatives that would strip Mr. Bush of his authority as commander in chief to manage troop movements in Iraq. Now she is attempting to introduce a new Middle East policy that directly conflicts with that of the president. We have found much to criticize in Mr. Bush's military strategy and regional diplomacy. But Ms. Pelosi's attempt to establish a shadow presidency is not only counterproductive, it is foolish.
HT: Drudge.

Hopefully, some sanity will return to the Democrat leadership on the Hill. There once was a time when we are beyond the water's edge, partisanship was put in the back pocket.

Music: Handel's Messiah and its Easter Portions

As part of Holy Week, I'm trying various ways to encourage more reflection on my part on the great events this time commemorates.

Continuing the look at Handel's Messiah.

I'm listening along with a CD to the work. I found this performance in a music store a few years back and bought it as it was the complete work and at a budget price.

Let's look at track numbers 27-28.

Psalm 22:7-8 (Matthew 27:43)

All they that see [him] laugh [him] to scorn: they shoot out their lips, they shake their heads, saying: He trusted [in God] that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, if he delight in him.

On the Cross, Jesus suffered on our behalf.

Looking on the Cross, the people mocked.

From the Cross, Jesus would speak seven times.

As I listen to the Psalm 22:7-8 sung on the CD, I'm drawn to two of the 7 sayings of Jesus on the Cross.

First of all, Matthew 27:46 - "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" which means, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

This statement from Jesus is a quote from Psalm 22:1 which is part of the Psalm that Handel uses here to describe the derision Jesus experienced.

Jesus appropriating Psalm 22 is profound. The Psalm is a gut wrenching expression of the feelings of abandonment by David. Jesus who had walked with God throughout his life, now bore the sins of humanity on the Cross experienced the isolation we all know because our sin has separated us from God.

The second saying on the Cross that leaps to mind is "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" from Luke 23:34.

The carnival atmosphere of the crowds deriding Jesus stands in stark contrast to the actual meaning of what was happening. The old saying goes, "Things are not what they appear to be." And indeed, what looked to be God's defeat at the death of Jesus was the defeat of sin and death and the beginnings of restoration.

One final thought, I'm drawn to this morning.

Handel utilizes this from Psalm 22 ... let him deliver him, if he delight in him.

Paraphrasing, Let God deliver Jesus, if God delights in Jesus.

Mark 1:9-11 tells us: In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opening and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased."

Matthew 17:5 described the last part of the Transfiguration (when 3 of the disciples for a brief moment glimpsed the glory of Jesus): He (Peter) was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him."

And indeed, Jesus would be raised from the dead on Easter Morning.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Life: Taize

Ever heard of Taize?

It was new to me as this evening in an ongoing effort to explore different expressions of the Christian faith, I found myself attending a Taize service to reflect on Jesus during this Holy Week.

In the order of worship sheet, I found out that Taize is a community of faith in France.

Their mode of worship is to encourage contemplation and slowing down and turning down the noise level of life. To be honest it was quite jarring to my million miles an hour racing mind!

In poking around the web page, I came across these thoughts on the value of silence:
Sometimes we are apparently silent, and yet we have great discussions within, struggling with imaginary partners or with ourselves. Calming our souls requires a kind of simplicity: "I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvellous for me." Silence means recognising that my worries can’t do much. Silence means leaving to God what is beyond my reach and capacity. A moment of silence, even very short, is like a holy stop, a sabbatical rest, a truce of worries.
.........
When we are agitated and restless, we have so many arguments and reasons not to forgive and not to love too easily. But when we "have calmed and quieted our soul", these reasons turn out to be quite insignificant. Maybe we sometimes avoid silence, preferring whatever noise, words or distraction, because inner peace is a risky thing: it makes us empty and poor, disintegrates bitterness and leads us to the gift of ourselves. Silent and poor, our hearts are overwhelmed by the Holy Spirit, filled with an unconditional love. Silence is a humble yet secure path to loving.
During the service, I found it difficult to corral and push out the door all the noise in my mind. Only toward the very end did I reach a point of surrender and say to God, you are Great and I want to release all my anxieties to you.

The service ended and I was back on the go.

I suppose I should a encourage myself during the typical day to have some "holy stops?"

What do you think?

Music: Lyrics to Handel's Messiah

I enjoy classical music but I admit that about the only part of the famed Handel's Messiah I know is the "Hallelujah Chorus."

To see the lyrics of the entire work, go here.

This musical work is most often heard around Christmas. However, there is a section of the work that focuses on the Passion.

Since this is the week when those (me included) who call Jesus the Lord and Savior reflect on the Passion, I thought I should finally take a closer look at the Scriptures Handel choose for the Messiah.

In Part II of the work, Handel musically takes us through the Passion of the Christ. Here follows track numbers 22-26.
John 1:29
Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world.

The Christian faith has its roots in the Jewish tradition. The Exodus story is recalled in the Passover when the Jews enslaved in Egypt put lamb's blood over the door as a mark so the angel of death would passover their home in the 10th plague against Egypt.

The Christian faith is centered on Jesus as the Passover Lamb. Jesus' death pays for our sin. And just as God took the enslaved Jews out of Egypt, Jesus rising from the dead in victory frees us from enslavement to sin and death and initiates the Kingdom of God in newness of spirit and life.

In the days ahead, I'll post more from the Scriptures Handel used. To end this post, here are the Scriptures where we gain a picture of the suffering that Jesus would endure on our behalf.

Isaiah 53:3-6
He is despised and rejected of men: a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. . . [He] gave [His] back to the smiters, and [His] cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: [He] hid not [His] face from shame and spitting.

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows. . . . . . . He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him,

and with His stripes we are healed

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Devotional Thoughts: Job, you have instructed many ...

Checking out Job chapter four this evening.

Previously, unknown to Job, Satan and God discussed Job's faithfulness. Satan believed if Job's health, family and possession are taken away, Job would turn against God. God doesn't think that will happen. Job is left in sack clothes and ashes. Three of his friends show up and they don't say anything for 7 days. Job finally speaks in chapter 3 lamenting his situation.

In chapter four, Eliphaz responded to Job ...

Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered and said:

If one ventures a word with you, will you be impatient?
Yet who can keep from speaking?
Behold, you have instructed many,
and you have strengthened the weak hands.
Your words have upheld him who was stumbling,
and you have made firm the feeble knees.
But now it has come to you, and you are impatient;
it touches you, and you are dismayed.
Is not your fear of God your confidence,
and the integrity of your ways your hope?

This sounds a lot like, physician heal thyself!

I suppose there are times when you tell someone, snap out of it! I don't know if Job's situation is one of them. In the scale of loss one can experience, he has pinned the needle. These kinds of changes are difficult on anyone. Check here to see how much life change you are facing.

Remember: who that was innocent ever perished?
Or where were the upright cut off?
As I have seen, those who plow iniquity
and sow trouble reap the same.
By the breath of God they perish,
and by the blast of his anger they are consumed.
The roar of the lion, the voice of the fierce lion,
the teeth of the young lions are broken.
The strong lion perishes for lack of prey,
and the cubs of the lioness are scattered.

Today, we look at the animal kingdom and think, oh, the warm fuzzy nice animals. But the reality is that lions either eat somebody or they starve to death!

And so we look at our lives and figure, the innocent will be vindicated and the bad guys punished. This is true often enough that we expect it. But it is not true often enough that we feel outrage!

Nonetheless, Eliphaz felt the need to emphasize that the innocent don't perish.

He continues with the corollary thought ...

Now a word was brought to me stealthily;
my ear received the whisper of it.
Amid thoughts from visions of the night,
when deep sleep falls on men,
dread came upon me, and trembling,
which made all my bones shake.
A spirit glided past my face;
the hair of my flesh stood up.
It stood still,
but I could not discern its appearance.
A form was before my eyes;
there was silence, then I heard a voice:

"Can mortal man be in the right before God?
Can a man be pure before his Maker?
Even in his servants he puts no trust,
and his angels he charges with error;
how much more those who dwell in houses of clay,
whose foundation is in the dust,
who are crushed like the moth.
Between morning and evening they are beaten to pieces;
they perish forever without anyone regarding it.
Is not their tent-cord plucked up within them,
do they not die, and that without wisdom?"

So what is the answer to Eliphaz?

Can mortal man be in the right before God? Can a man be pure before his Maker?

Eliphaz is arguing:
(1) If the innocent don't perish
(2) If no one can be right and pure before God
Then ...
(3) Job you aren't innocent which makes sense because no one is right and pure before God anyway!

Eliphaz is right up to a point. But Job did offer sacrifices for the sins of his children. I would assume he would offer sacrifices for his own sins too. Thus, to the extent possible, he sought to be right with God and pure before God.

But the fact remains: Job has lost everything. When bad things happen, we assume it is sin. It might be - when one drinks and drives terrible things can happen. But then again, sometimes bad things happen to people through no fault of their own.

Its an existential question we all face. We like a tidy explanation and it bugs us when there isn't one.

Lord, help me to seek you. Help me to be discerning about the things that happen in my life. Some of the things, I really do need to take responsibility for. But some of them ... it might really be that it isn't my fault. So for the things I can do something about, please give me the strength, the will and the wisdom to correct. And for the rest, help me to give it over to you. Amen.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Culture: 24 - 9-10pm and the 25th Amendment

Wow, that was some twist and turn 24 we all know and love!

Okay, in DC intrigue, the Cabinet was knotted 7-7 on declaring the President incapacitated.

According to the Whitehouse.gov there are 15 cabinet members. Thus, the tie vote the writers of 24 dreamed up is possible because in a crisis not all cabinet members might be available for an incapacity vote.

Alas, the writers of 24 made a huge boo-boo ... Karen Hayes, national security advisor, who cast the tying vote is not a cabinet member!

The Veep's chief of staff obviously forgot her Con Law class materials. She didn't need to dream up the false testimony that the Veep had no intention of reinstating Hayes as a cabinet member. The AG should have pointed out Hayes couldn't vote. The Supreme Court would have laughed that the White House Counsel's office didn't catch that boo boo before waking them up at 1 AM (I presume the 24 time clock is Pacific Time) and gone back to sleep!

All in all a huge blunder by the fact checkers at 24!!

Meanwhile back at CTU, Doyle, Nadia and Milo all make nice to fight the bad guys.

Gredenko loses an arm to lose the tracking device but comes to the end of the road underneath the Santa Monica Pier. Meanwhile, Fayed is captured and looks to be in for some tough times in the next episode.

Didn't see the Tom Lennox Jujutsu move coming. Way to go!

Saw the losing the arm thing (Chase did that in the end of was it season 3?) coming once I realized they were tracking Grudenko with something surgically put into his arm.

And then there is the surprise at the end! Whoa, really didn't see that one coming!

Then again, I'm pretty slow about these things so maybe it wasn't such a shocker!

Culture: 24 - 8-9pm

Okay, tonight, yet another episode... what's next???

So here is a recap from the last hour, last week...

They quickly resolved the question of whether or not Nadia was the mole in CTU. Morris certified the device found at the drone pilot scene was indeed authentic and was the means by which they tapped into CTU's systems thus clearing Nadia who shares a soap opera moment with Milo.

With the drone pilot dead, there are no leads but Chloe comes to the rescue by picking up a phone call from Gradenko to Mark Hauser who is a security consultant to a nuclear power plant. I wonder if this would be a violation of the current laws on tapping cell phones without warrants? I suppose under the circumstances POTUS would issue the necessary orders for CTU to tap anyone they think they have to and have the AG figure it out later.

On the implausibility alert ... you got to be amazed at President Wayne Palmer's powers of recovery or the doctor's medical skill!

BTW, did Tom Lennox say the nuke they were going to lob into UNNAMED Middle-Eastern country was a 300 kiloton tactical warhead?

IN the bad old days of the Cold War, the USA and USSR kept both tactical nukes and strategic nukes. The tactical ones would be used on the battlefield and were relatively small. The strategic ones were meant to destroy ICBM fields and wipe out cities. To read more than you would ever want to know about USA nukes go here. Anyway, it would appear that trigger happy VEEP is ordering a sub to fire a Trident nuclear missile which the web page I just cited (if the info is accurate) would be either 100 or 475 kilotons. Maybe the script writer checked a different web page!

The episode ends with the VEEP asking to talk to the AG to invoke the 25th Amendment, section 4. Just another day in the White House bunker ... as the sands of the hourglass are the days of our lives ...