Saturday, December 28, 2013

America's Obsession with Convenience and the Demise of Quality

About 80% of the time I eat at a fast food restaurant (an average of once a month) I wonder how the establishment stays in business. A couple weeks ago I was talking with my dad and said something like, “I wonder if we were to offer some of the 'food' we gladly eat to a starving person in a developing country, if they would even be grateful to receive it.” Before I say the next bit I will say, I am not a healthnut, I eat a lot of sweets and really enjoy some candy that has nothing but artificial flavoring; but some of the junk we eat, if you stop to think about it, isn't really recognizable as food, doesn't taste remotely like anything occurring in nature (I'm thinking specifically about some frozen burritos I used to like while in college).

We want our food now, whether it's at a fast food joint or a sit down restaurant. Think for a moment, have you ever cooked? Don't most of the best things you prepare take time and quite a bit of it? If you're making a really good hamburger, is it done in 5 minutes? If you're making an excellent fajita, is it done in 10? If you're making a delicious southern meal is it done in 20?

Quality takes time and we have sacrificed it in the name of convenience. We have demanded food that is fast, cheap, and still tastes good (at least to some people) and to accomplish this the food is tinkered with a lot. What else should we expect?

Being a specialist takes time and a specific area of expertise but in our demand for convenience we first created supermarkets (which largely took away people specializing in baked goods, meat, cheese, etc.) and then went a step further and created the superstore (which took away people specializing in hardware, toys, clothing, etc.). Despite this, we criticize the employees of these establishments, complaining that they don't know where something is or they don't know something about a product. I know most people are assigned to a department and mostly work in that area (or at least I hope that is what happens), but even within that one department there's a very large variety of stuff (again, groceries have all sorts and electronics has everything from cellphones to tvs and dvds).

Within superstores our demand for convenience and cheap stuff has again done away with quality. I am not totally sure this is really the case, but someone who used to work in a John Deere factory told me that there was the line that made stuff for certain stores and then there was the line that made stuff for Wal-Mart (and I'm sure other superstores) and the quality wasn't the same. Also, if you talk to someone who knows jeans, they'll probably tell you even though you can get a pair of Levi's jeans at Wal-Mart for cheaper, you may not be getting the same quality as at some other stores.

About any of this, I can't really judge. Even though I hate Wal-Mart, I consider it a convenient evil and shop their anyway because, well, it's convenient and cheap.

I grew up in a home that didn't eat out much, my mom cooked from scratch almost every night. Yes, some of the meals were simple, but they were still good. As I've gotten older, I still don't eat out much and I enjoy cooking largely because I know I'll like what I make because I can control what goes into it.

Over the years we have learned to settle for less, we have made demands and they led to what we have today. So many are willing to settle for less that some things which are better quality have grown more expensive. A specific example is bread. Though I eat sliced bread and enjoy it decently for breakfast, I think it was one of the worst innovations to happen to America. Much of the rest of the world has really good, fresh bread for fairly cheap. While I was in Ukraine, one of the Americans I stayed with paid extra to get American-style sliced (frozen) bread instead of the fresh uncut bread you could get in every tiny store... and I thought they were a little insane for that.

I will end this by saying, when you can afford it buy fresh, buy local, buy from a small specialty store. Maybe someday our shouts for quality with drown out our demands for convenience and, in the process, maybe we will get to know our butcher, our grocer, our garden store owner, and computer specialist.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Cha-Cha-Changes or What's New in the Life of Me

I got unconditional admittance to Appalachian State's Master of Library Science distance learning program (a fancy name for on-line classes) and will be starting classes in January. I got a transfer of departments/promotion at work. I am now a sales coordinator for Holiday Inn Express and Hampton Inn Wilkesboro (they're both owned by a hospitality company named Spectrum Hospitality Management), which means I have my first ever office job and first salary job. Okay, it's only half office work (which I am happy about) and the rest is setting up the conference rooms for meetings, parties, and events and then making sure the people are happy with everything.

The MLS program is only regionally accredited, which means I can only get a job in NC or VA, so for the foreseeable future I'm going to be within this general area (yes, for me “general area” means anywhere within two states). Maybe the far Northeast will have to wait for retirement or maybe after a few years of experience some small-town library up there won't care about the regionally accredited thing.

Between work and the MLS program, I have the feeling I'm not going to have much of a social life for the next two years...which I don't really have one now, so it won't be much of a change. :)

I have about 20 pages of a middle school/young adult story written and a couple pages of some other stories started. I'm hoping to set a few hours aside each week to write when I get my own apartment. No, you can't read them yet. Stephen King told me you have to wait until the first draft is done and I agree with him (I read a memoir by him about writing). Feel free to try to pressure me to write and maybe I will.

Oh, and I got married and have 5 kids. I know, it was a surprise to me too. Drank too much chocolate milk one night and that's what happened. Perhaps that last sentence isn't true, but I did get a plant and named her Cordelia. She's quite pretty.

I hope all of you are well. I hope your new year is filled with hope, with challenges and triumphs, adventures and cozy moments, with acknowledgments of simple joys, and love.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

An Explanation for Soulmates, Kindred Spirits, and Opposites Attracting

God is the totality of goodness, a more complete person than any human could ever be, encompassing all (good) aspects of what makes up personalities. What if our soulmate, our kindred spirit are those whose souls contain the same echoes of God, those same aspects of God that he instilled in our own soul? Our soul sees the same reflection of God in another as we see in ourselves and delights in the familiarity, bonds together because they are made of the same stuff. What if the reason why opposites sometimes attract is because we recognize those aspects of God in another that we are lacking in ourselves and we are seeking a complement, so that by joining our souls we can be made more whole, more fully understand the God we seek to know?

This can be a good thing. In soulmates and kindred spirits we find an understanding heart, someone we can relate to close to perfectly, who views the world as we do, and looks towards heaven with similar eyes. With our opposites we can learn more about the world, we can become more intimate with aspects of God with which we are very unfamiliar, our souls can become more rounded.

It can also be a bad thing.

Without God or with minds shut to his guidance, kindred spirits can unite with ours and determine that the rest of the world is weird or strange, we can convince each other God is just so and nothing else, we can focus together on some aspects of God and not realize there are others that we are completely ignoring.

Without God, when opposites attract, it may be that we are seeking to make ourselves more whole, more rounded, to fill a hole that we cannot fill because it is different and other than our self. But though with God this person can help make us more whole, can help to round us, can help to fill the hole inside us that we do not fully understand; without Him the pieces just won't fit, they may eventually jar and clash together because we each cannot understand why we're both still so incomplete.

Maybe “soulmate” should not only pertain to the kindred spirit types, maybe a mated soul can be an opposite. Kindred souls you can lay one on top of another and they will match, they're hard to distinguish as more than one soul so, in that sense, they are one. Opposite souls you put side by side and they help to fill in each others gaps, you look at them and see a completeness, in that sense, the two make up a one. As a lover, a spouse, I think there would be advantages and disadvantages to both, each would help you grow in different ways, each would challenge you in different ways.

In friendship, I think it is important to have both types, those you can comfortably blend with and those who help to fill in your gaps.

P.S. I know people are never fully kindred spirits or fully opposite spirits, no matter what there will always be little parts that do not match up...with whatever type you are matching.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

God's Hope in Man

 I originally wrote and posted this for my old blog in 2009, but I wanted to share it again on here.

I know “the Lamb was slain since the foundations of the world” but it still seems that, though God knew man could never fully make it on his own, he expected us and keeps expecting us to do better than we have done and better than we will probably do. I have heard people say, and also have gleaned this idea myself from the Old Testament, that Israel was God’s chosen people but they also were meant to bring other people into this God’s People. They were meant to be a Lighthouse in the world to shine God’s light and bring other peoples to him. I am not aware of how many “God fearers” and converts to Judaism there were throughout the ages, but from how prejudiced the Jewish people appear in the early parts of the New Testament I think it is safe to say they somewhat failed in being a lighthouse to the world. I think God hoped more of them, though he knew how things would go.

I wonder if now God looks at us, his followers and mourns the fact so many of his hopes have not come to be. I know He knew how it would be, but I can’t help thinking he “hoped against hope” things would be better than they are; that his Children would rise to occasion on all occasions, would grasp at every opportunity to show our appreciation for his love by showing love to others, and would open wide our arms in giving to show our thanks that he has given us so much. I am not judging everyone, for I personally know some believers who are giving much of themselves in their efforts to show God’s love, but so many times we do not give our second cloak, so many times we neglect to feed the hungry for some silly reason, so often we sit by while there is work we could be doing. Christ gave us the power to move mountains for the sake of his cause of showing God's unending love and yet instead of moving mountains, we often do not stir a finger to help someone in need.

God expected us to be his mouth, his hands and feet, to be his ambassadors to the world. He hopes so much that we would rise to the occasion and realize what an honor he is attempting to give us, how much faith he has in us to “do him proud.” God knows we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us, so let us try not to let him down.

I will briefly say some more positive things. Thank you you thousands and millions of kindhearted, hardworking souls; thank you for so often rising to the occasion and making your Father proud by being the means by which he has blessed and saved millions of people’s lives. Thank you for the example you have set for us and also for all the good you have done in secret which only God and the one receiving it knows of. Thank you for fulfilling your calling and being a Lighthouse to the world, for causing eyes to be drawn to the good you have accomplished and so causing eyes and thanks to be lifted up to heaven.

Thank you, God, for believing so much in us and giving us the honor of bearing your name, your love, and allowing us to often be the means by which you bless this wonderful, dreadful place in which we live. Thank you for having hope in us and the good we can do, even when we have lost hope in ourselves. Thank you for not giving up on us; please help us to not give up on ourselves but to remember we have the power which created the universe at our back, just waiting to help us accomplish all that which you mean for us to accomplish. Thank you for your love and being willing to entrust it to just feeble, twisted beings. Thank you for being our strength and for untwisting our souls when we allow you to and that we will one day have a new body that is not wasted from years of sin. Thank you for your Son; his willingness to live a life in flesh, then to die a horrid death, and for raising him up that we might have the assurance we too will one day be raised.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Being Used

One of my co-workers throughout the week kept bringing up the fact that his church had volunteered him to drive a bunch of kids in the church van to go see a lighted Christmas village and he didn't seem too happy about it. During one of our breaks he said, “I know why they chose me, it's because I'm single and they won't have to buy another ticket,” to which one of my other co-workers said “They're using you,” then I mumbled “So, it's church.”

If we stop to think about it, if we believe in any cause, secular or not, don't we expect to be used or, at least, shouldn't we? The nature of most good causes do not allow them to fend for themselves, they don't produce the the needed revue to propagate themselves, most are very dependent on volunteers. Yes, if some of them are well put together they can be self-sustaining in terms of resources and finances, but even they require a lot of time and effort; in other words, humanpower.

During my year in AmeriCorps, my group was used and we were sometimes very overworked; if you were to work out how much we got “paid” (in terms of our living stipend), based on the number of hours we worked, it was a few dollars below minimum wage. But it was for the cause of conservation, of fighting fires that could destroy property, of combating chaos in the aftermath of natural disasters. We expected to be used, we volunteered for it.

When you join a church, a group combating cancer, raising awareness of domestic abuse; if you really believe in the cause, expect to be used up, to be called upon, to invest your time and emotions, to try and rally others to your cause. Hopefully, you can also expect to be emotionally rewarded and fulfilled as well.

The church is “using you,” exactly, and I expect to be used.

P.S. My co-worker's mom is one of the chief members in charge of the childrens church, which is the real reason he was probably volunteered for the outing. Also, they paid for his dinner, which he's always a big fan of free food.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Lord Supper Thought I Shared Today

Daniel spoke of the Lamb saying:

“I saw in the night visions,

and behold, with the clouds of heaven

there came one like a son of man,

and he came to the Ancient of Days

and was presented before him.

And to him was given dominion

and glory and a kingdom,

that all peoples, nations, and languages

should serve him;

his dominion is an everlasting dominion,

which shall not pass away,

and his kingdom one

that shall not be destroyed.”

John spoke and said:

Between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are you to take the scroll

and to open its seals,

for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God

from every tribe and language and people and nation,

and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,

and they shall reign on the earth.”

Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice,

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,

to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might

and honor and glory and blessing!”

And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb

be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”

And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

And the Lamb says through the Psalmist:

The Lord said to me, “You are my Son;

today I have begotten you.

Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,

and the ends of the earth your possession.

You shall break them with a rod of iron

and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.”

The Lamb spoke through Isaiah saying:

“Listen to me, O Jacob,

and Israel, whom I called!

I am he; I am the first,

and I am the last.

My hand laid the foundation of the earth,

and my right hand spread out the heavens;

when I call to them,

they stand forth together.

Luke spoke of the Lamb saying:

And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

And Paul spoke of the Lamb saying:

Though he was in the form of God, (he) did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Verses in order they were used:
Daniel 7:13-14
Revelation 5:6-14
Psalm 2:7-9
Isaiah 48:12-13
Luke 2:7
Philippians 2:6-8

Thursday, November 21, 2013

"Our Father is Younger Than We" or How God is Like a Child

The following is one of my very favorite quotes:

A child kicks its legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough… It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again,” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again,” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike: it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.
    • G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

I have no idea where I first came across it, I know it was years ago and, at various times since then, the line “for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we” passes through my mind. I really have no concept of time (with the exception of being on time for things, normally early), days, months, years, they don't mean much to me. Part of this is because I have a very horrible memory, so I think I live in the present more than most. Because of this poor sense of time, in some ways I feel ageless but there is another part of me that for a very long time has felt so very old. I remember the first time I read the Lord of the Rings and Legolas first ventured into Fangorn Forest and said something like “This forest is old, it almost makes me feel young again,” a part of me longed to walk there, for I wanted to feel young again, too. Perhaps it is sin that ages our souls, I can see how sin would make them feel worn out, weary, and old. Yes, souls are made of immortal stuff, but sin is the most corrupting thing in the universe and souls weren't meant to rust by it.

I also love the idea of God making “every daisy separately,” the idea that perhaps he paints each sunrise in the morning and the setting sun at night, sculpts each snail shell from the inside out. Children thrive on routine, on familiarity, on “doing it again,” but they also have a great sense of wonder, a love for the new, novel, and surprises; they have to, so many things are “firsts” each day of their life. Well, I think God is also childlike in this sense, he may paint the sky every morning and evening, but he never paints it the same way twice. He may follow a template when fashioning a snowflake, but each is a little different. He may shape each human in a basic human shape, but each of us are unique in uncountable ways. God may be all-knowing but maybe, just maybe, one reason he created us is because he hopes to be surprised. Maybe this explains “God's Hope in Man” that I talked about in a past blog post (on another blog, I'll repost it to this one sometime soon). He gives us the resources to reshape the universe and he's hoping we'll take up the spade and start digging, building, tearing down, and making new.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Shower Thoughts on Economics

I wrote this after some thoughts occurred to me while taking a shower a few months ago, I hinted at my thoughts and a friend wanted me to share. Keep in mind, I know very little about economics and, overall, I do not follow the news. Saying that, I thought it was worth sharing, maybe?

Because my friend, Jake, asked me to...also, Jake, it is not a dream or anything I want to do, it was merely some thoughts.

While I was in the shower I was thinking about going to Wal-Mart for a few things. I have a strong dislike of Wal-Mart but it is the closest store to me and, I have to admit, having such a variety in one place in convenient. My dislike of it caused me to link Wal-Mart to how poorly our economy is doing. I thought about how there used to be small stores that carried mostly American-made and how towns and even countries used to be a lot more self-sufficient. If another town was failing or started to do poorly it didn't necessarily mean your town would start to do poorly and, especially, ones country's fate was not so closely linked to another. First the industrial revolution began to do away with this self-sufficiency; more and more products began to be made in factories further away, instead of your plow being made by the nearby blacksmith, your dress made by the local tailor, etc. Conversely, the factory towns became more dependent on imported subsistence. Then if an agricultural town did poorly, the factory town suffered as well, and if the factory town suffered losses and people were cut loose, then they bought less.

Globalization took this a step further and intertwined the fate of not only of towns, but also of nations. The phrase popped in my head, “Together we rise, together we fall.” Of course, with globalization there is also the fact that you add a lot of competition. You are competing not only with the company down the road, which has similar access to resources and workers with similar cost of living and, thus, similar wages; but companies across the globe that may have very different access to resources and employees with wages which are determined by totally different means than your own employees' wages. A side note: yes, I know much of the world has unfair wages and horrible work conditions but people rarely seem to also take into account that in some countries you can get a weeks worth of food for only a few dollars and buy a good pair of shoes for a faction of what you would pay here. In other words, you shouldn't just look at how much someone is paid and automatically think it is a horrible wage.

Oh, I almost forgot, in the shower I also thought about how, because each town is no longer self-sufficient and no longer has all the little stores nearby which can provide for your needs, there is not only all the gas and means of power expended in shipping things from far away, but also the added distance and gas you have to use to gain access to these products.

I thought localizing things and decentralizing things (having smaller stores) could help our economy, which is what we used to have anyway. Because I think Wal-Mart is a convenient evil monster that is chiefly responsible with doing away with most mom-and-pop stores, I thought of all this when I thought of going to Wal-Mart.

When I got out of the shower and started eating my breakfast I saw an article in Time called Go Glocal by Rana Foroohar which talks about how companies who are using labor/factories/supplies closer to home are the ones that are doing well and that more companies are likely to follow suit.

Specialization is one way in which states could be not so much in competition with each other. They could mostly try and cater to the companies which are already there, and, thus, not be short changing other states. Intentionally or unintentionally certain companies are already doing this by developing the programs in community colleges which will turn out the individuals they need. Also, it is bound to happen because of the companies starting to utilize small firms and companies to satisfy their needs (those small suppliers will grow and, as the larger company grows, the place where their needs are most readily supplied are right where they are).

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Christ, the Most Hopeless Romantic

I wrote this as a Facebook note over a year ago and wanted to share it on here in hopes that someone would read it and be encouraged. :)

Do you ever get an idea in your head that will not go away, lingers in your consciousness, and demands to express itself? I sometimes do and the idea behind this is one of those things.

Often when I am in church or hearing or thinking about God/Christ and our relationship to the world, I can't help thinking that Christ's view of us is somewhat of a hopeless romantic's view. I look around and see he seems to have much more faith in us than is justified; his hopes for us seem so hopeful as to be hopeless, he thinks we can move mountains when we cannot move a molehill, and says we would be known by our love when we cannot even love ourselves. Think about it, God has so much faith in us that he made us his ambassadors to the world, Christ prayed for us all to be united as one as he and his Father are one, said we would be known by our love, and told us to be perfect as he and his holy Father are perfect. Pretty ridiculous isn't it? Talk about setting yourself up for a shattered dream and a misplaced hope. What an utterly hopeless romantic, rose-colored glasses wearing, delusional head-in-the-clouds dreamer that guy, Jesus, is.

Wait a minute, who thought we were worth laying down their life for? Who gave up being being an infinite being to be contained in a fleshly body so he could reach out and touch us? Who knows us better than anyone? Christ. Even knowing all he knows or maybe even because he knows all he does, he has faith in us and hope for us. He believes we can be light, salt, and love to the world. He believes that by our actions people can see God. What a horrifying and “awe-full” thought, what a responsibility and honor, what a testimony of faith towards us. But, after all, doesn't the Bible say we are made in God's image and that God is love, so are we not also love? Christ's hope is not misplaced, for God made us in his image and we are clothed in Christ. I think we have a lot more potential...if we could just get over thinking of ourselves as wretched and believe in each other and ourselves as Christ believes in us, who knows, we might even be able to change the world.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Possible Side-Effect of Globalization: The Learned Helplessness of Humanity

A simplified explanation of learned helplessness, courtesy of “Learned helplessness happens when people or animals become conditioned to believed that a situation is unchangeable or inescapable.” Or, to put it another way, they come to believe that no matter what they do, it won't make a difference.

I suppose I should preface this with the fact that I didn't grow up a hundred or even 50 years ago (or did I?:), so I can't really know how it was then, but I shall guess and someone can tell me if I'm wrong.

It used to be that there was “here” (my community, my area of space, my sphere of influence that most influenced me and I could influence) and “there” (that far off place that you may hear rumors about, but it seemed distant, other, not really part of your world). You knew there were a few families in need that lived down the road, the family who lost their father, the old maid who lived around the corner, the town next door that was struck by a tornado. There was a sense of “here” to those tragedies, trials, and disasters. If you felt so inclined to help, you could actually help by packing a box of food, by hopping in a truck and pitching in, by gathering your neighbors to raise a barn, bring in the harvest, or help to cut the hay.

Now, in a sense, everywhere is “here,” everywhere is brought close, to our doorstep and into our homes. With our own eyes we see the slaughter of wars fought a world away and with our ears we hear the yells of grief brought about by the latest earthquake. Everywhere is “here,” but our sphere influence does not reach to everywhere. The suffering of the world is laid at our feet, but our hands are a thousand miles away, our mouths are too far to try and whisper words of comfort, the tears in our eyes are too far away to heal the wounds of hearts.

There is so much to do, so many who need help, the world is so big that it's impossible to make a difference in all that pain. So we learn helplessness, we are paralyzed into doing nothing because it wouldn't make a difference anyway.

I once learned somewhere, that whenever you present some far away awful tragedy, when you share some humongous need, try to always also tell your audience how they can make a difference, give them something they can do to help. Otherwise, they're just left feeling bad and more helpless than they did before.

Until you are at a position where you can help someone across the world, focus on your own doorstep. Until you have the resources to grow wings to reach a world away, focus on where your hands can reach. There is still plenty to do where you are. Or, if your heart is touched to help those so far away, find an organization that you can support through time, money, work, or donations. Have a sharper focus, a more zoned-in passion and you never know what those little acts of kindness will inspire across the world or into the future.

In your desire to help everyone make sure you don't end up helping no one. Also, maybe take a break from the news every once in awhile or just focus on the local news.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Movie Review for Ender's Game

What it's about (for those who haven't read the book): Earth was attacked by aliens called Fomics (commonly referred to as Buggers because of their appearance), within a very short amount of time, they had killed millions and scorched a lot of Asia. A hero emerged and, in one battle, did something that caused humans to win the war.

In preparation for our next encounter, the International Fleet was organized and started searching for, testing, monitoring, and recruiting children from around the world to go to Battle School (a space station where they begin their military training).

The story follows Ender Wiggin, humankind's best hope, and maybe last hope. As well as being brilliant, he is chosen because he has both a ferociousness and an advanced sense of empathy. The powers-that-be hope this combination will allow him to understand the Buggers enough to defeat them.

In Battle School Ender quickly distinguishes himself and rapidly becomes a leader of an “army” with faithful followers. This is one of the most major areas where the movie is lacking, in the book you learn why those under Ender come to trust him and love him enough that they say they would follow him anywhere, but in the movie this whole time period is rushed. With a few words and gestures of Ender, they did a fairly good job hinting at these things, but I didn't feel it was enough.

Time is running out, so Ender's training is increasingly sped up and he soon finds himself at Command School, the last stop before he is put in charge of humanities military forces.

Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow are two of my very favorite books, I've read them both three times. Despite this, I tried my best not to have expectations going into the movie, but of course I couldn't avoid some.

First off, because they couldn't find any real kids who were young enough to fill the roles appropriately, they basically aged all the Battle School students by about 3 or 4 years, as compared to what their ages were in the book.

As always, in movies taken from books, there were a few small things that seemed unnecessarily changed that wouldn't have been hard to keep the same and, as always, those small things bugged me.

I am huge on character development, I don't care if it makes the movie two hours longer, I would rather the characters be well developed. For the sake of time and courtesy to those who don't want to sit an hour learning about a character, they didn't let you get to know everyone; which I thought was a loss, but others may not agree. I'd be interested to hear an outsiders' (aka someone who hasn't read the book) view who doesn't know all the back stories, did you feel you got to know people well enough to get attached to them?

If you read and loved the book, it kind of felt like they had the whole story on fast-forward. Saying that, I think it was a fairly good “abridged version” and stayed true to the basic story. As a stand-alone movie, not compared to anything, I think it was quite good. It was exciting, had cool special effects, fairly good acting, and a good and surprising story.

As with other movie reviews, you can go look at content rating for yourself.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Movie Review for Gravity. Starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney...but really only Sandra

The good: The movie kept you on the edge of your seat almost from the first scene until the end. There was practically constant action and/or tense moments. It did a wonderful job (coming from someone who has never been in space) of conveying some of the terror and helplessness one would feel up there if things started to go wrong.

The bad: You would think with one character dominating about 80% of the movie, you would feel like you got to know that character and would develop somewhat of an attachment to them, but I didn't, at least not as much as I wanted to. I'm not saying Sandra didn't do a good job or that her acting was bad, the writers, in their desire to keep the action moving, sacrificed character development and background stories.

I felt the ending was a little anti-climactic. Yes, the largest physical difficulty was solved, but from what we find out about Sandra's character, she's got a lot of issues. I suppose we are meant to be left with a sense of hope, that Sandra realized how precious life is and began to really live...but you don't get to see any of that, you have to imagine it all.

Wow, normally my posts turn out to be really long, I guess I just don't have much to say about this. If you're looking for a thrill ride that's a little introspective, then go see this movie. If you want something with a good story and character development, then pass.

I'm not even going to try to address any of the scientific aspects, because I know nothing about them. I know some scientific people have a hard time watching Gravity because of various issues.

Since there's already ratings, I'm not going to rate this like I do in book reviews. It's “Rated PG-13 for intense perilous sequences, some disturbing images and brief strong language.” As far as people liking it, on it has a rating of 8.5 out of 10 according to more than a hundred thousand people, so I guess a lot of people liked it more than I did.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

My Response to “Marriage Isn't For You”

I'll freely admit, I've always been a hopeless romantic, just ask the girls I wrote poems and letters to oh so long ago. The first time I read the Marriage Isn't For You post, I read through it with a smile on my face, but then before I hit the “share” button, I thought about it some and read it again. After reading through it again something didn't sit just right with me, but I didn't realize what it was until I had read through a bunch of the comments (I don't recommend reading through the comments of anything that has gone viral, it can make you start questioning the sanity and decency of humanity).

All one comment said was, “Marriage is for God,” yeah, this is true, but without expounding, no one knows what the crap you're talking about. Another comment was fairly long but they wrapped it by saying, “God is happiest when we are happiest.” And that caused me to realize what didn't feel right about the post, my “hang-up” word was “happy.”

I went to the Bible to try and learn God's purpose for marriage and, if you simply read Paul's reasons, it's actually a little depressing for a hopeless romantic. Basically, Paul encourages people to stay single, but if they can't control their “passions,” they should marry as a way of having a righteous way of dealing with sexual urges. Well, that's not very romantic and if that's the only reason someone is marrying me, then I think I'll pass. So I went back further, to the verses where God talks about creating Eve. God said “it is not good that the man should be alone” so he paraded every creature in front of Adam that he might name them; even after that, God didn't think their was anything suitable to be a companion for man, to be his “helper” (which the word “helper” here is used elsewhere as a term referring to God as our helper, it is a term of honor). A cat or dog wouldn't do away with man's being alone; even though God walked in the garden with Adam, that didn't take care of Adam being “alone.” So God created Eve to be his companion and to chase away his loneliness.

I think God creates some people with a longing for companionship (an aspect of this being physical intimacy) which cannot be fully filled, while in this flesh, by God or anything else. Maybe it is a weakness, maybe it is better to stay single, if you can, so you can more fully devote yourself to God; but God has his writers again and again compare the relationship between Christ and those he has saved to the marriage relationship. In other words, God thinks marriage is something beautiful that can exemplify aspects of Christ's love as no other thing can.

Why did I get hung-up on the word “happy?” Because I don't think it dives deep enough. First I'll say, maybe the author of the post did intend a deeper meaning, but the commenter I spoke of did not. I'm not sure where and when this idea that what God wants most for us is for us to be happy slipped in, but it's wrong. Christ promised us peace and joy, but he also promised trials and persecutions to those that would follow him.

This next thought was influenced by C.S. Lewis and one of my Bible professors in college, but I think it is also implied in the Bible, “Count it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete...” James 1:4. The idea is that this world is a schoolroom in which our souls are shaped into beings better suited to heaven, better suited to see God and praise him. C.S. Lewis and many others think suffering is one of God's greatest tools in this shaping (that's not to say he is always the cause of the suffering, only that he uses it).

In one of those poems I wrote when I was young, I spoke about wanting to shield the girl from all pain but of also wanting her to grow, so instead of promising to shield her (which is an impossible promise anyway), I promised to be with her through her pain, to walk beside her.

So why do I think we should marry? To fulfill a longing only another human can fill, and to fill that longing in them. To paint a picture to the world of what Christ's love for his church is. An addition to this painting can be made through having children and your love relationship with them, but if you can't/don't have kids, just focus on making your painting the most beautiful it can be.

Through all of our experiences I think we have the potential to learn aspects of God we could otherwise not learn, that we will one day share with one another once at our heavenly home. If you stay single and Christ is your sole lover, you will learn aspects a married person will not learn. If you marry, through that relationship, you will learn aspects of God's love you would learn no other way. Through having children, you would learn other things. And on and on, in all parts of our life.

So, I'm sorry, dear, wherever and whomever you are, but my primary goal is not to make you happy. A teacher once shared with me that when Paul said,”Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her...” what he was saying is that I should live and love towards you in such a way that will make you whole and perfect, so that your soul is better suited to heaven, so that by the time I'm done loving you on this earth, you will be an even more beautiful bride for Christ. My primary goal is to walk beside you, whatever emotions you are feeling, no matter how dark the trial is. I cannot and will not shield you from all pain, but I will experience it with you, try to see the light in the darkness with you, even if it takes years and years and even if we still have to search for it in heaven. I hope we laugh a lot with each other, cause joy to spill from one another's hearts and faces. I will try to love you in such way that makes you more beautiful than you are, more ready for heaven. I hope you will do the same for me.

All that to say, marriage is a tiny bit for me, a little bit for being a light to the world, mostly for you, and all for God.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Worry for Our Country but Hope for the Church, Some Odd or Not so Odd Thoughts I’ve Had

I first wrote posted this (on another blog) on October 7th, 2008. I figured it applied as much or more to what some people are feeling these days, as it did to when I wrote it.

I have heard many Christians worry about our country and the path it seems to be going down, worry about the government and what it may do to religion (and Christianity in particular) in the future. First, I will say a simple, pat statement; do not worry about the Church too much, it is not ours, it is God’s and he will not let it fall. By saying that, I do not mean bad things will not happen and that we will not be persecuted but that, if the Church is what we think it is, it will continue no matter what man’s and satan’s evil plans may be. Think back to Gamaliel's words, “...for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them.” If this body, called the Church, is really from God, he will not allow it to fail.

Now for the hope. People speak of our government someday being against the Church as a horrid thing, and I used to think, when that day comes, I will simply run away to another place where I can live in peace. But after having thought about it some more, I have realized some things. The day we begin to be heavily persecuted in this place is going to be an exciting time, hmm, maybe that it not the right word, it is going to be an eventful time and growing time for the Church. For a while the Church may decrease and not grow in numbers but, at the same time, faith is going to be growing in those who are sincere. It will be a time of sorting, sorting out those who are willing to die for their faith, truly willing live in and for their faith, and those who no longer claim the name Christian. We will be able to taste our faith, to feel it, and see it, for it will truly be our strength and hope. God will be more our Father because it is He who we will have to run to for comfort and strength and peace. Heaven will be all the more closer, for it may reside just around the corner.

There have been times in the past when I have prayed, almost begged, for a physical evil to fight instead of the quiet whispers of evil which sneak around my head; I have been envious of Caspian and the dangers he faced, for he actually could face them, he could look them in the face and know what it is he is fighting. If things get bad it would not be as in those books, we would not take up the sword and face our enemies, but our physical and spiritual worlds would more closely collide and in so doing make our faith more tangible (I am sorry but sometimes my faith seems so distant).

I have a hard time thinking such a “horrid” future as horrid because, if we allow it, it could be a time of major unification in the Church. I think we would have a harder time judging a fellow Christian who may be a little different from us, when we look them in the eyes and see their willingness to die for their faith. In having a terrible common enemy against us, I think we would better remember who our brothers and sisters are. I am not saying there would no longer be differences, but that we would perhaps, hopefully, learn to more peacefully get along and love each other despite those differences.

I said the Church may decrease in numbers for awhile, because many or some may leave or forsake the Church, but, after a while, even while the persecution is still going on, it will grow. Look and remember how the Church grew in the New Testament while terrible things were going on, think of those places even today where the Church is growing despite persecution.

I spoke earlier of my maybe running as if it would be a bad thing, and it would be a bad thing if we all ran and forsook this country, but we can also look at it as spreading. Christians left certain places in the New Testament times to escape persecution, but they did not leave their Christianity behind, they took it with them and spread it to the whole world. One could think of it as a somewhat forced mass missionary movement.

I think I have shared enough of my crazy thoughts. I will just say, yes, it is sad our country may fall into disarray and evil but “the Son also rises” and will continue to rise until the end of time. With our help, God will take care of the Truth and His Message and no matter how opposed and oppressed it may be, the Church will go on and He will even cause it to be stronger because of it.

God be with us all, may he give us the faith and strength and courage to face tomorrow, whatever it may bring.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Songs Developed Directly From the Psalms

Since this went so horribly when my Dad tried to do it spur of the moment at church a few months ago, I thought I would do it in a series of posts.

I'm eating Psalms with my breakfast and, as I go through, I keep noticing lines that have been turned into devo songs or hymns. So, periodically I will share those that I have found. Maybe someday we can have a Sunday/Wednesday night singing service and go through some of them.

I'll put the portion that's a direct quote from the verse in italics.

From Psalm 3:3

Thou, Oh Lord, are a shield about me,
You're my glory, You're the lifter of my head.
Halleluiah, Halleluiah, Halleluiah
You're the lifter of my head.

From Psalm 3:6 and 7
I am not afraid of 10 thousands of people
who have set themselves against me.
(Continue repeating)
(After the first group has sang the above twice, another group comes in with the following)
Arise! Arise! Deliver me, O my God.
(Repeat once and then the groups switch or the song comes to a close)

I know that probably made no sense but, despite being a simple song, it sounds pretty cool with a big group of people.

From Psalm 8:1
O Lord, our Lord
how majestic is your name in all the earth
O Lord, our Lord
How majestic is Your name in all the earth

O Lord, we praise Your name
O Lord, we magnify Your name
Prince of peace, mighty God
O Lord, God Almighty

O, Lord, our Lord
How majestic is Your name in all the earth
O, Lord, our Lord
How majestic is Your name in all the earth

O Lord, we praise Your name
O Lord, we magnify Your name
Prince of peace, mighty God
O Lord, God Almighty, Almighty

O, Lord, our Lord
How majestic is Your name in all the earth

O Lord, we praise Your name
O Lord, we magnify Your name
O Lord, we praise Your name
O Lord, we magnify Your name

Prince of peace, mighty God
O Lord, God Almighty
Prince of peace, mighty God
O Lord, God Almighty
We magnify Your name

From Psalm 18:3
I will call upon the Lord,
who is worthy to be praised,
so shall I be saved from my enemies.

The Lord liveth and blessed be the Rock,
And let the God of my salvation be exalted.

Jesus Christ He died for me,
And He took away my sin.
I will live with Him for eternity!

From Psalm 19:7-10

The law of the Lord is perfect,
Converting the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure,
Making wise the simple.

More to be desired are they than gold,
Yea than much fine gold,
Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
More to be desired are they than gold,
Yea than much fine gold,
Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.

The statutes of the Lord are right,
Rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure,
Enlightening the eyes.

The fear of the Lord is clean,
Enduring for ever;
The judgements of the Lord are true
And righteous altogether.

From Psalm 19:14. The last time I sang this was in Nigeria (a long time ago) and, as far as I can remember, these were all the words.

Let words of my mouth
and the meditations of my of my heart
be acceptable in Thy sight,
O Lord

From Psalm 23...the whole Psalm

So far, in my reading, those are the ones I've come across. If I skipped over any, feel free to point me to them.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

An Open Letter to the Makers of Flintstones Vitamins

A few weeks ago I started an open letter to the President of the United States. It had to do with the state of the American educational system, the plight of our teachers, and how taking much of play, art, and music out of schools threatens that which I think makes America truly America; but I thought this issue with Flintstones Vitamins was more pressing, so I decided to write about it. Okay, maybe it's actually because I haven't had time/haven't made time to do the research required for the other letter.

Dear Makers of Flintstones Vitamins,

I am a man of simple pleasures and small delights. Through a combination of intent and happenstance I have lived a very transient life with few constants. Since graduating from college in 2007 I haven't lived in one place longer than a year and, before college, I was a missionary and preacher's kid, so we moved around a lot then, too.

From the time I was a little kid I've always loved Flintstones Vitamins, the taste of them, the texture of them; there's always been nothing quite like them. I may not have been the most loyal and consistent customer throughout the years, there's been many times when I forgot to buy vitamins; but with every one I've chewed, I think you would be hard pressed to find someone who has been more appreciative of the experience.

Every time throughout the years I've put a Flintstones Vitamin in my mouth, it's been a highlight of my day. Almost every time I've thought, “Why can't there be a candy this good?” Sometimes, even when I've grown to an age when I should know better, I eat a second vitamin, just to experience it again.

With so much uncertainty and change in my life, you have been a constant I can depend on. A thing I can look to for a little comfort and enjoyment. When I lived in Ukraine and was in an unfamiliar place, with no other Americans around, eating a Flintstones Vitamin was like a little piece of home. They helped to brighten my day.

Imagine my surprise at the new “Tasti Smooth” registered trademark when I looked at the bottle the last time I saw Flintstones Vitamins in the store. I looked at those two little words with suspicion, with dread. I almost didn't by the bottle, but I thought I'd give it a try.

Makers of Flintstones Vitamins, when I put one of my vitamins in my mouth this time and began to chew it up, the world began to crash down around me. Something that has been the same since my childhood, something I've held onto in this uncertain world gave way beneath my feet and I fell. What have you done!?! What has changed and why did you change it!?!

I just wanted to let you know that I'm very disappointed in you. Something that I used to love, now I just like a little bit. Thanks for ruining something great by trying to improve it. You've supposedly been the number one selling children's vitamin since forever, why would you change what's working?

A Heartbroken Consumer

P.S. Did your vitamins used to contain an artificial sweetener? If that's a recent development, I think that's what changed their goodness.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Innocence and Purity of God and Those Who Can Truly See It

This, and probably other posts in the future, are pure speculation. They aren't based on any Scripture but are rather shaped by my view of God, what I know of him, and, perhaps, a little by my overactive imagination. When I've written different things in the past, I've been a little nervous that people will think me a heretic, and yet, I write. I figure if I am too far wrong someone will, hopefully lovingly, correct me. :)

I don't know how God will manifest himself in Heaven, I lean towards thinking that he won't be one single being seated on a throne in front of us all the time, but rather sometimes will be multiple (somethings?) so he can be more personal with those he has gone through so much effort to save. If he is simply always seated on a throne in front of us, with us in constant praise, I think that will be enough, but that is a post for another time. In this post I want to talk about babies and those with developmental issues. I've been wanting to write this for a few days, but during the lesson tonight, my dad said, “If you stop to think about it, there's going to be a lot of babies in heaven,” which caused me to want to write it more. Why? Because it's about what I think those babies are doing when they get there, when they get Home.

When babies go to Heaven, when those who are developmentally challenged go to heaven, those who are innocent and pure; when they see God, I think there is a squeal or yell of delight and a rush to hug God's knees or jump into his arms. Why? Because their soul sees an echo of themselves in God's soul, actually more than an echo, they see that upon which their soul is based, that which their innocence and purity is an echo of. If they made it to earth, if they lived here for a time, and their eyes had sight to see, all adults are but a shadow of that innocence and purity which God's soul radiates like the sun. They can look into the face of God, with eyes unclouded by any type of fear, and see themselves most reflected back. They recognize God because they can know in a way, that will perhaps take us an eternity to learn, that he and they are one, they are copies of him. They will look at him with the delight of a child, as only a human child can delight, and he will look back at them with equal or even more delight in his eyes.

I think children and those who are developmentally challenged will see God in a way that they will have to teach us, for their purity and innocence was never marred by sin and filth. I know we are fully purified by Christ's blood, I know we are made new, but I still think they will have lessons to teach us.

That's not to say their way of seeing God is better or more perfect, because I think our experiences here on earth, our joys, sufferings, loves, and struggles with hate and other things, will allows us to see aspects of God in ways that I'm not sure we will ever be able to truly teach those innocents, especially those whom have only known the perfection of heaven. But this is covered in a blog I did a couple years ago, so I'll dig that up, improve it, and share it, for this was not the primary thought of this post.

I know we will all be joyous in Heaven, but I think that all the children there, children in age and children in thought, might just have us beat by a few degrees in terms of expressing that joy, for they will fully recognize their Abba as they first look upon his smiling face.

I'm a little disappointed by this, I can't convey how wonderful I think it will first be when children see him, the joy I think will radiate off their faces. Just try to picture it and Someday it will be more than imaginings.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Book Review for Mistborn and The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson

The Final Empire is a world during a medieval-type era ruled by an immortal self-proclaimed god. It is a society consisting of nobility, slaves (Skaa), and those slaves brave enough to break free to become thieves and black market merchants. Some of the nobility and those with the mixed blood of Skaa and nobility can “burn metals,” which allows them to have powers that enable them to control the emotions of others, increase their strength, push or pull metals, heighten their senses, or shield those whom are burning metals from the prying eyes of those who can sense it. Most do not have any powers, of those that do, the majority only have one; then there are the Mistborn, who can burn all the metals and, thus, make the perfect assassins.

The Final Empire is a world shrouded in nightly mist and falling ash. A world whose sun is veiled, where the plants are brown and only the oldest legends hint at their once being green. Most are scared of the nightly mists, but that is where the Mistborn like to live and go about their work, for they can more easily hide their identities and the mist seems to embrace them as they use their powers.

Sanderson does an excellent job of creating a world a little different from our own, a world containing mists with things shrouded there that are different than anything we know. He does a good job of creating interesting characters that continue to deepen as you “get to know them” and who continue to better get to know themselves, as well. The fact that I cannot really come up with another story to compare it to speaks to its originality, for I have read quite a few stories.

Though Mistborn and The Well of Ascension have a main character who is a teenage girl, I would not consider them “young adult” books (though young adults would probably enjoy them, too). I guess they're a little deeper than most young adult books.

Mistborn is about Kelsier, a madman bent on overthrowing the Lord Ruler, the god who killed his wife and enslaved his people. He may be mad, daring, and reckless but he trusts his thieving crew, his friends, those he loves; even though his wife may have been the one who betrayed him. Even though the one he loved the most may have betrayed him, he chooses to trust, for he knows life is better that way.

It's also about Vin, a girl who tries to stay in the shadows and go unnoticed, who grew up on the streets and drifting from thieving crew to thieving crew with her brother who, above all else, tried to instill in her a sense of distrust, because he thought that was the best chance of her staying alive. To instill this lesson even further, he would beat her and finally abandoned her in a thieving world dominated by men of less than noble character. Kelsier finds her, suspects she is Mistborn, and takes her under his wing. Even though Vin thinks Kelsier is mad and that his plan will never work, because Vin is all about survival and Kelsier can show her how to be stronger, she decides to accept his mentorship. Also, Vin is attracted and bewildered by this thieving crew who seems to trust each other, she wants to wait around to see if it's real.

Mistborn is about a girl discovering her powers, it is about overthrowing a god, and making a 1000 year empire fall to the ground.

The Well of Ascension is about Vin growing up a little more, stabilizing a newly born society, and fighting off previously unknown enemies. It's about help from unlikely places and betrayal from others. It's about changing perspectives and trying to befriend others who are very different from ourselves.

What are these two stories most deeply about? Trust. Learning to trust and how a life filled with trust, though it makes you more vulnerable in some ways, is a better and more fulfilling life. In Mistborn Vin learns to trust her friends, to trust those she comes to view as family. In The Well of Ascension she continues to learn of this trust and also the trust which must accompany a more exclusive love.

These stories are about how trusting relationships can allow you to grow, discover who you are, to laugh freely, and let your guard down both physically and emotionally. They are about overcoming a very dark past, full of mistrust and valid reasons to distrust. They are about questioning whether we are being used, whether we can be loved and be useful, and being willing to be used because we love the one who needs us.

Here are two of my favorite quotes from The Well of Ascension concerning love (unfortunately I don't have access to Mistborn, because it was a library book):

“Honestly, Saze, sometimes I just think we're too different to be together...”
“At first glance, the key and the lock it fits may seem very different,” Sazed said. “Different in shape, different in function, different in design. The man who looks at them without knowledge of their true nature might think them opposites, for one is meant to open, and the other to keep closed. Yet, upon closer examination, he might see that without the one, the other becomes useless. The wise man then sees that both the lock and key were created for the same purpose.”

Another qoute by Sazed (one of my favorite characters):
“I simply offer counsel. Those who take lightly promises they make to those they love are people who find little lasting satisfaction in life.”

Both books are a decent length, but if you enjoy reading, I think they are enjoyable and worth the read. I would rate them PG-13 for violence, gore, sexual references (it doesn't go into details, but a lot of the nobility take mistresses from the Skaa) and some disturbing elements (Vin gets beat up a few times and the Skaa mistresses, by order of the Lord Ruler, have to be killed before they can have mixed blood children). Because of the violence, I would maybe place it between a PG-13 and an R.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Little Note About Intelligences

As most of you know who bother to read my blog, I was a psychology major in college. I remember one of the things we discussed in, I believe, Psychological Testing was the fact that their has been some debate concerning the biases of intelligence tests and that they, perhaps, only test a certain type of intelligence. This is really something I should have followed up on the research through the years, because it was something I found very interesting at the time. The idea surfacing then was that there are different kinds of intelligence and that someone brilliant in one may not be in another. I'm not sure where the issue has come to rest or if it has come to rest at all, but, personally, I think there are different kinds.

Right now I'm working as a Maintenance Assistant at a hotel. There's one full-time guy and then there's a guy, probably in his early sixties, that comes in a couple days a week. These guys are both “country boys” with thick accents and, sometimes, bad grammar. Well, the older guy got kind of embarrassed during one of our breaks because he was trying to tell us about eating in a restaurant and he got mixed up on the proper usage of “eat” vs. “ate” (and some pronunciation/variation on those words that I'm not even sure what it was). We didn't call him out on it, he did. Anyway, the way he was acting made me sad because he was making it seem like I was smarter than him since I use proper grammar and went to college (some who've read multiple posts may disagree on the proper grammar:).

Guys and gals, I may have graduated Magna Cum Laude from college, but I can't fix my own plumbing, wire my house, fix my own car (without getting a detailed manual), and so many other things that both of these guys can just figure out. I know a lot of this know-how comes from experience, but none of these things are simple, they're all complicated and require a lot of intelligence.

Anyway, just wanted to share that. Whenever you're tempted to judge someone as less intelligent than you, stop and wonder a moment about all the things they can do and know of, about which you are clueless. That's not to say I don't think everyone should try to learn, better themselves, and speak as properly as they know how (or strive to speak more correctly), but perhaps our definitions of what we should learn and how we should better ourselves should widen. I suppose what I am saying is that I believe we should all strive to be well-rounded individuals in various areas of life, instead of strictly experts. This is something I need to work on in my own life, because I am simply dismal in math and I don't read/watch as much non-fiction as I should.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Some Ways in Which I Am Old, Some Ways in Which I Am Young

Some Ways in Which I Am An Old Man:

  1. I love prunes, I think they may be my favorite dried fruit and probably one of my top four, in general.
  2. I love looking through old magazine issues of Reminisce: The Magazine that Brings Back the Good Times (written by its old readers for other old readers) and Birds and Blooms
  3. I love rocking chairs (preferably rocking chairs on a quiet porch) and porch swings
  4. Though I am very aware of how the present is better in many ways (technology, in some ways, less prejudices, freer travel, better medicine, etc.) I miss “the good ole days.” Yes, I am aware it's hard to miss something I never knew, but I miss them all the same. I miss kids running around the neighborhood (which I did get to experience when I was a kid), people sitting out on their porches and knowing their neighbors, swimming holes and rope swings, family game nights, sitting around and reading aloud together, taffy pulls, sleigh rides, and ice skating on a creek or local pond. I know some of these are still attainable and I'm going to try my best to provide them to my future kids.
  5. I love handwritten letters, yes, I know I'm horrible at writing back when people write me, but I still love them.
  6. My joints have creaked for years and I already get a few hairs that grow out of my ears (I pluck them, of course).
Some Ways in Which I Am a Child:

  1. I still like climbing trees and jungle gyms.
  2. I still like playing in the rain (I've been called a “duck” by a dear friend)
  3. I still like catching lightening bugs and stopping to look at other bugs
  4. I like to experience my surroundings by multiple senses. When walking in the woods, I touch trees and moss as I go by, I stop to smell flowers, I like to shut my eyes to listen to waterfalls and brooks, and I love to close my eyes when it's really windy and just feel. Oh, and I love to put my head out the window (when someone else is driving), but I guess this is more like a dog than a child.
  5. I like to show and/or give little things to people who are special to me. You know, like little kids enjoy showing you rocks or leaves or a piece of lint they found in their bellybutton (I may or may not show you the last one).
  6. I have a poor concept of time, other than always being a little early for things, time doesn't mean much to me, days, months, years...some days are longer than years are, at least sometimes a year seems to drift away more quickly than some days pass.
  7. If people 10 and up (most kids younger than that are horrible hiders) wanted to play hide and seek in the dark, I would love that. Looking back I probably wasn't that fun to play with, sometimes I would find a really good spot and just stay hidden there for multiple seeker switches (maybe that's the introvert side of me coming out, I was content to listen to the other people hiding and going to seek).

I could probably think of more to put on both lists, but I don't want to bore any who bother to read this. I guess I just wanted to share a little bit more of me. I know most of these things are things which are stereotypically associated with one age group or another but many on both ends may enjoy something I've mentioned. I guess "age," just like extrovertedness/introvertedness, beauty, and so many other things in our life is actually on a spectrum, is somewhat relative, and you cannot judge everyone based on a simple measurement. I firmly believe the passing of time is relative in multiple ways.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A Communion Thought

I did the devotional thought for Communion on Sunday, I thought I'd share on here what I shared then. I originally wrote it for a Communion thought I did in Ukraine in 2009.

When I am thinking and praying as I take the Lord's Supper each week I do not always just think about Christ's death and resurrection; but also sometimes think of the life he lived and remember the fact that he did live a life in the flesh on this earth.

We serve an Almighty God and, though he knows everything, sometimes, when we are suffering, we may be tempted to think he does not know what we are going through and that he cannot know how we feel because he has never experienced it. But as well as coming to earth for the obvious reason of saving us, I also think Christ lived a life in the flesh for this reason, so that when we cry to him and say God cannot not know how we feel, he can whisper gently back to us that he does, for he has felt it, too.

While on this earth Christ actually dwelt among us, the Son of God lived day by day feeling sometimes hungry and sometimes cold, feeling the hard ground beneath his back as he slept in the wilderness and the warmth of the sun on his face in the morning. And he did not live in a palace while here, being served by humanity, but was born to a somewhat poor family and continued to live in poverty his whole life, even when he could have charged so much money for the thousands he healed.

While Christ was here he was tempted and tried; he was doubted and ridiculed by the very ones he loved; he was made fun of and called names which where lies; he was shunned and rejected by the very nation of people who should have recognized him as their Savior; and then, then the most innocent man to have ever walked the earth was beaten because of jealously and died a lawbreaker's death because he was hated by those who claimed to serve his Father most faithfully.

The most pure Being to ever walk the earth took the sin and filth of those hypocrites upon himself, he took our guilt and failings upon himself. And as Paul says in 2 Corinthians, he who had no sin became sin for us. We serve a God who was not only willing to die to save us but was also willing to live to save us, to dwell among us for a time so that by seeing Christ and his actions, we might see the Father. So that through seeing Christ' blood, sweat, and tears and hearing his words of love, we could see the kind of God we serve and the type of God we are loved by. Finally, he lived here in the flesh so that we may look at his life and see how God wishes for us to live and love and strive to serve him.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Book Review for Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

What is this book about? MAGIC! Though, as you're reading through it, you would be hard-pressed to actually find any particular instances of it, but it's about magic all the same. Childhood magic, deep magic, real magic. The magic of dawn, of memories, of new sneakers, arcades, riding machines, dandelion wine, porch swings, simple rituals, summertime, and of dusk.

This book is for those who remember the magic of childhood and for those who need reminding. I suppose a child of 12 or 13 would enjoy the book, but more than being a children's book, I think it is a book about childhood and growing up. It's about how a 12-year-old sees the world, how he deals with it, how he begins to realize his mortality but also the fact that he is really alive, that his body is amazing and the world is an amazing and, sometimes, horrifying place to live.

I've read Dandelion Wine three times now, and each time I love it just as much or more than the last. There is no grand adventure (besides the day to day adventure all of us live), no spectacular climax, but as I was reading it this time with the mindset of writing a book review, I quite often wanted to transcribe whole chapters to share; alas, that would break copyright laws, so I couldn't do it.

Dandelion Wine takes place in Green Town, Illinois (a made up place based on a town from Bradbury's childhood). It's a smallish town that's fairly quiet, but it's filled with characters who have great stories. The primary character is Douglas Spaulding, a 12-year-old who, during the summertime, basically lives outdoors. The book is somewhat about his adventures, but also about his neighbors' adventures and how Douglas and his brother, Tom, make sense of them all.

Overall, the book is like a draught of sunshine just like, in the book, a draught or even a sip of Dandelion Wine taken in wintertime is like a piece of summertime. It's to be read in summertime as a reminder to notice the little things, and to be read in the wintertime time to remember the sun and warmth of summer. Though the book is essentially light (in emotional tone and brightness) the book also deals with loss, death, growing old, doomed romance, and sadness; but through each of these things a lesson is learned, Douglas and Tom keep on living and growing, and many of the characters become at peace with their experiences.

Like I said before, most of the things I wish to share have to be shared by the chapter, without context, it wouldn't mean as much. But I do want to share what Douglas' grandpa prescribes when Douglas is feeling down, “ Now upstairs, run three times around the block, do five somersets, six pushups, climb two trees, and you'll be concertmaster instead of chief mourner. Get!” Later on in the book Tom shares his ideas of some similar medicine, “A good night's sleep, or a ten-minute bawl, or a pint of chocolate ice cream, or all three together, is good medicine, Doug. You listen to Tom Spaulding, M.D.” Now I know people and kids sometimes have serious problems that they need treatment or medication for, but I also believe that little boys (and some big ones) sometimes just need a little more of what was mentioned, individually or, even better, all together.

So if you're looking for an easy read, something filled with simple wisdom and lessons learned, I encourage you to read this gem.

I would rate it PG or maybe even PG13 because, like I said before, it deals with death and loss. There is a woman murdered and some other characters also die (though they're of natural causes). When you can, I think it's best when you parents read books first or at the same time as your kids, if you can't do that, at least ask them to talk about what they're reading.

Oh, another note. For those of you who have read or tried to read some of Bradbury's short stories and did not like them because of their dark tone and violence, this is not anything like those. If you are of a similar personality to me, within the first couple lines you will be smiling. If you read this book and fall in love with Bradbury's writing, Fahrenheit 451 is a little similar, in the fact that some of the characters notice and love small wonders, but it is somewhat dark. Though I have not read it yet, I think The Halloween Tree has a similar tone to Dandelion Wine, though it has “magic” other than the kind I talked of. Just know that his short stories, particularly The Illustrated Man, start out violent and depressing and, I feel, become more so the further you go in the book.