Monday, December 31, 2007

Selling Points

at a local post office near you

"Hi. I'd like to mail this envelope by Priority Mail and these two boxes through the regular mail."

"OK....Are you sure you don't want to send the boxes through Priority?"

"What's the price difference?"

clerk types into her computer

"Priority will be $4.00 extra on the first box and $6.00 extra on the second."

"That's OK. There's no rush on those."

"Are you sure? If you send it parcel post it could sit on a truck for weeks, until they decide to get around to it. Priority will get it there faster."

looking at the clerk doubtfully

"No...that's OK....there's no rush on those boxes." .

"Well, what about insurance and tracking for your boxes? I know one lady had a box missing since November. I had to tell her we couldn't help her because she didn't pay for tracking."

"No....that's OK...everything will be fine."

"No insurance either? Things can get tossed around and broken. I've seen some boxes falling apart."

"That's OK. I packed it really well."

"Is this for family or e-bay?"

starting to get irritated

"It's personal mail...." I hint, wondering why this woman feels the need to probe so deeply into my mailing needs.

"Well....you know some of those e-bayers don't care about how it's mailed. If it's for family I always send it through Priority--that way I know it won't get lost, crushed, or abused."

"That's OK......Please send it parcel post."

"Oh....OK. Hopefully it won't have any problems."

The United States Post Office--marketing their complete incompetence as a selling point for their services.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

A Couple of Days to Myself

Phew....I'm tired...but in a good, satisfied kind of way.

Between having people for the Holidays and visiting others for the Holidays and all the gift-giving, chatting, driving and recovering from Christmas, I had been feeling irritable and tired in the having-to-follow-other-people's-schedules kind of way.

That drives me nuts.

My mother-in-law had planned on us for a visit beginning on Saturday and going through the New Year. I was actually looking forward to it, but as it grew nearer I realized that by the time we got back from the trip I would only have a couple of days off before returning to work and the daily grind. Even those days were filled with dentist appointments for the kids and myself, and an event the next day that had been planned for some time.

ugh...wall to wall scheduling.

Who had the bright idea to arrange all of this stuff during Christmas Break?! oh yeah...that was me.

At the last minute I talked it over with DH and he agreed to head up to his parents for a couple of days while I got my head in a better place, filled a jewelry order that came in on Christmas, and paint Intuitive Monkey's bedroom--something I had been planning for months, but could never carve out the time to get done. I would join them on New-Year's Eve.

I love my husband. He can be so sweet when he isn't driving me crazy. :-)

So, for the last two days I have cleaned and scrubbed and sorted through closets and dressers, donating things to Goodwill. I have redecorated our bedroom, picked out paint colors for it, and started painting our son's room. I have packaged up all the last minute gifts I bought but didn't get in the mail on time. I made more jewelry. I played music all weekend long and sang obnoxiously loud. I let the dog sleep in bed with me, as a placeholder for my husband's spot. I slept late and wandered through Target and Lowe's at a pace that would drive my family insane if they were with me.

It's good to be alone sometimes.

I realized that it's good that I have my family, otherwise I would be a compulsive workaholic, always finding some sort of project to start or a hobby with which to tinker. I never really thought of myself that way, and I'm not sure why. I always love to accomplish tasks. Whenever the kids are up at their grandmother's, I always clean the carpet or upholstery--washing out the past and resetting a clean slate from which to start. I reorder the house, reordering my thoughts at the same time.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Aftermath

Well...The living room looks as if a department store exploded. Items ranging from Spiderman Fruit-of the-Loom underwear--for the kids..not me--, specialty cocoas, a magic set, numerous board games and some remote control toys--meant to annoy and trip unsuspecting adults--litter the floor and hallways of our home; so I guess Christmas has officially come and gone.

Christmas Successes:

1. We were able to complete another observation of advent with the children this year. The previous four Sundays were spent lighting candles, reciting parts of the Christmas Story and singing Christmas carols from an old Baptist hymnal that I inadvertently stole many years ago--purely accidental, I assure you.

2. I bought my dad a memory-foam pillow, and he loves it. Anytime I buy a successful gift for him I equate it with climbing Mt. Everest. The task is equal in scope.

3. I only used my credit card twice during the entire season, for a total of $100. That was a great feat for us this time of year.

4. I managed to turn one year older, reaching the ripe old age of 34. I'm not sure if that qualifies as a success, but considering that not becoming another year older would be a definite failure; I'm willing to place it in this category.

5. I didn't gain the usual 5 lbs. I do almost every year around the Holidays. Major success!

6. I still retained a modicum of sanity....that is if modicum means a very small, tiny, barely noticeable, bit of almost nothing.

Christmas Failures:

1. I was too impatient with my kids in the midst of all the rushing about and planning. Aaargh.....I hate it when I overreact to their childish behavior.

2. This year was probably the most stressful Christmas I have experienced. I'm not sure if it was because I was working and had less time to get things done or enjoy the season for what it is, or if it was having both the kids in school and the added time pressures of homework, school activities, and holiday specials, but I definitely struggled with frustration over the busy schedule and holiday expectations....I guess this led to number 1 on my Christmas Failures list.

Best gifts for me:

1. Lord or Legend? Wrestling with the Jesus Dilemma--by Gregory A. Boyd and Paul Rhodes Eddy. A book about the debate over the historicity of Jesus and the general reliability of the Gospels.

2. Next by Michael Crichton. A little light reading.

Worst gifts for me:

ummm....I can't really say, just in case my relatives find my blog!

Things my kids received and love:

1. Terrainiac--a huge, green, remote control vehicle that will work on almost any terrain. Thanks go to their aunt and uncle.

2. Battle Wheels--more remote control gadgets that are intended to battle each other and knock shields, armor and eventually the robotic heads off of each other. One of them has the red battle wheel, the other has the blue one. This came from us.

3. Snap Circuits Jr.--a beginners set of electronic circuits that snap together and make actual, electrical projects that move, light up, or make noise. This has fascinated them for hours. Yay for science gifts!

4. Computer games--too many to list!

Overall, Christmas was good. My dad came over for a while and had a pleasant visit. I talked to my brothers and my mom, who are all out-of-state. The kids had more fun and excitement than should be legally allowed.

Now, we're just trying to work through the after-Christmas hangover caused by too much adrenaline and build-up.

We all need a nap.

I might go take one just about now.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Break For Festivities

I seriously have way more to do than I can possibly achieve in the next several days.

I will be checking out of the blogging habit until after Christmas.

I will return with lots of really cool things to say and profound insights that will change your life.

not really....but hey, I don't want you to forget me! :-)

Have a very Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Holiday Mantra

One week until Christmas.

One week to get all the gifts that I haven't bought or picked out yet.

One week to mail said unbought, unpicked-out gifts out-of-state.

One week to make Christmas cookies to go with the gifts I haven't bought or picked yet that I am mailing out of state.

One week to buy tins, to hold Christmas cookies I haven't made, to go with gifts I haven't bought or picked out, that I am mailing out of state.

One week to get Christmas cards, to go with the tins that are packed with unmade cookies, that are accompanying the unbought gifts that haven't been picked out, that are being mailed out-of state.

One week and one day 'til Christmas is over.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Oh yeah...I had my diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound.

To quote the Radiologist:

"You're good for another year or 100,000 miles."

I guess that means everything is OK.

:-)

Brain Cramp

Last week I posted about flitting from subject to subject online, listing Karl Barth as one of the people I wanted to know more about.

In usual overachieving fashion I asked DH to reserve about 5 books on Barth, and by Barth, from the library for me to read through.

Wanting to warm up slowly, I read the skinniest one first; How I Changed My Mind, by Karl Barth; Introduction by John Godsey. It's a compilation of three essays Barth wrote over the course of thirty years--1928-1958. It was a good intro to Barth's personality and hinted at some of his views, but left many in sketch form.

I wanted to know more about what "specifically" he believed and taught. The Wiki article is brief and only outlines Barth's theology in the barest terms. Mainly, I was curious about what Barth had to say about the inerrancy of the Bible. I have slowly moved away from strict, literal inerrancy for various reasons, but wanted a more detailed analysis from a theologian to read through and measure my own thoughts by, sifting out problems I hadn't yet thought of. Barth, although not believing in strict inerrancy, firmly believed in Jesus, His Divinity, and position as the Revelation of God to humanity.

Intriguing combination...no?

I soon found out why the Wiki didn't have much about Barth, and also why I had never heard many people quote him in theological conversations, or been taught his premises:

Reading Karl Barth is extremely difficult.

After the first book, I plunged into On Religion: The Revelation of God as the Sublimation of Religion, by Barth. It came with a 29 page intro by Garrett Green which laid out some of Barth's points, explained the reasons for this new translation from Barth's German to English, and defined some of the terms. It was obviously an academic work, but I completely understood it.

Then....I actually started Barth's On Religion. Can I just say that my brain is still reordering itself? It has been interesting going, but I have found myself having to read and re-read paragraphs, and sometimes single sentences, just to make sure that I understood what was written. It's not so much that the writing is incomprehensible, so much as it is incredibly dense with information and the assumed knowledge of the reader--knowledge I only partially have.

That Barth character. He's intense. A single page will refer to ten different philosophers and theologians over the course of 300 years, mentioning movements, particular theses, and anything else relevant to Barth's big picture.

I feel totally pegged by a quote from Barth which came from the first book:

"Certainly we are all sorry that we could not make understanding and choice easier for our contemporaries, and especially for our American contemporaries who are always anxious to get the most simple and rapid courses of instruction!" pg 42 [emphasis mine]

This from a man who wrote 13 volumes--over 10,000 pages--of his theological masterwork, Church Dogmatics.

Guilty as charged. C'mon Karl, give me a break. You might call it simple-mindedness; I call it efficiency of mind!

I am determined to continue to try and decipher Barth, because I sense something larger in his work that I feel will be useful to me. However, I am realizing that to understand Barth's work it will be necessary to take a comprehensive approach to understanding the context of his arguments. That means a lot of digging around for me.

Maybe it will be my new hobby for a couple of months.

I'll let you know if my brain overheats and melts into a steaming pile of goo.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Criticism

Have you ever been criticized at a completely unexpected, spontaneous moment from an unlikely source and been cut to the bone, even if the criticism was minor?

It happened to me this week.

I was completely taken aback and hurt on a level that was out of proportion for the criticism, but it totally ruined my day and made me feel like an utter failure. ugh.

Logically, I knew it wasn't a big deal; the criticism had a nugget of truth to it but was somewhat skewed--from my perspective anyway--yet, inwardly I was crushed and felt anger towards the person offering it. This was a person to which I had been very sympathetic, and had even planned on anonymously helping out this Christmas. I was flabbergasted.

My initial, internal reaction was something like, "Hhmmph....see if I do anything nice for you now!" Yes...I know....not very mature. I felt like the kid who takes all their toys, runs home, and says,"You're not my friend anymore."

Upon the heels of my initial reaction, came a gentle nudge in my direction from on high. "Really? So, when people stop treating you the way that you want them to, you're not willing to help them? Your concern is only for those who affirm your sense of yourself?"

uh....uh.....gee.....ummmm....Yeah, I guess so.

"So, your "love" is conditional? Your concern is based on the likability of a person, not the need of the person?"


uh....uhmmmm....looking down in embarrassment and whispering,"I guess so."

Feeling upset was OK. Feeling hurt was OK. Struggling with it was OK. Deciding not to help someone who needs it because of those feelings was NOT OK.

I still plan on giving my anonymous gift, even if it isn't given with the enthusiasm I initially intended. I know it's the right thing to do.

Perhaps more frustrating than my bout with criticism, is the thinly veiled immaturity that lurks just beneath the surface in me. Although outwardly I did not react to the criticism in a bad manner, inwardly I was a seething mess for at least a couple of hours.

It's never pleasant to realize how childish you can be.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

another thought

My previous post just sparked a remembrance.

As I was thinking about how adults communicate right and wrong, good and evil, good choices and bad choices to children, I remembered an incident that happened during my job.

I am part of group that does a presentation for 4th grade students about bullying, stereotyping, and prejudice. It's a puppet show performance that I introduce and then help perform. There is also a third grade program about physical and sexual abuse.

The students I see each day have almost always seen the previous year's performance, and sometimes have a question about it or related to it. They usually don't ask those kinds of questions until after the performance, while they are getting up and informally chatting with us. If a question or comment seems to indicate that there might be some issue going on at home or in the child's life, we take their name and speak to the school counselor to make them aware of it. Our boss follows up to make sure that happens.

During the intro to our performance at a particular school, a girl raised her hand as high as possible and for as long as possible. I don't normally take questions in the intro, but was confident enough in my ability to improvise and redirect things that I figured I would see what she was so excited about.

I pointed to her and said,"Yes...did you have something you'd like to ask?"

"Um yeah. If someone is a sex offender...does that mean they're a bad person?"

I gulped and took a moment before responding. I realized that she wouldn't be asking that question unless there was someone in her life who was a sex offender, and with whom she was unsure about what to feel towards them.

"Well....sometimes people make bad choices, but that doesn't mean that they always will, " I said, trying to find a way to reassure her and yet not endorse a sex offense.

"My mom's a sex offender. She did something bad."

OK...mental note. No more questions before the performance.

"You know, we have to start the show now, but I think that when we're done you should ask the counselor more about what you're thinking. I think he could really help you and would be happy to answer your questions. Will you go over to him when the show's over....as soon as we're done?" He was sitting in on the performance.

"Yeah."

"Great. I know counselors love to answer questions and talk to students."

I extricated myself from the situation and started the show. Oh...and she did speak to the counselor right afterward.

That moment popped into my mind as I mulled over what to tell children about views, choices and beliefs.

We can try and explain things in an even-handed fashion, but children don't usually see things in such a light. That girl felt she had to decide whether her mother was "good" or "bad". In her mind there was no middle ground. If I said sex offenders were "bad" that would have created conflict within her about how to relate to a "bad" person in her family.

And yet...don't we all have to do that. We all have people in our lives who we have difficulty with because it is hard to label them simply as "bad", because they aren't always bad. They can also be loving, funny, kind....and still have poor judgement, or addictions, or a never-ending need to cause drama.

As we get older, we learn how to hold those competing concepts of a person in our minds, separating out a person's choices from the actual person....but it's still hard and confusing.

So....explaining how God loves sinners...or how people can simultaneously be "bad" and "good" isn't a problem exclusive to childhood.

I'm still learning it myself.

Pop Quiz

On my blog I refer to my youngest son as Intuitive Monkey. Monkey...because he never stops moving and is quite silly. Intuitive because he has a grasp on abstract ideas and the consequences of them in a way that The Rationalist does not.

Both of my boys are incredibly smart for their ages, but in completely different ways.

The Rationalist is black and white all the time, without fail, inexhaustibly so. Rules and facts are hard and fast, never flexible. If someone is wrong, they need to be corrected. If something's unfair, it needs to be remedied. It's tough living with such a concrete person all of the time. Everything is always up for debate.

Monkey also absorbs facts and will correct others if he thinks he's right, but not nearly with the same passion and vehemence. Where The Rationalist never keeps a thought to himself, but opens his mouth and lets it all pour out, Intuitive Monkey is much more guarded and will actually say that he doesn't want to tell us something that he's thinking. As a result, when his thoughts do break out into speech, they often amaze us with their poignancy and insight. I always catch myself thinking, "Wow, there's a lot going on in there."

Sitting with him while he's learning is a wondrous experience. During a viewing of the Nova special about the colony collapse of honeybees, he would stop every few seconds and ask me to clarify a word or term. He had to be sure he completely understood what was happening.

Narration about the theories for the decline in bee population.

Intuitive Monkey:"...ep-i-dem-ic.......Mom..what's an epidemic?"

Me: "It's when sickness spreads quickly through most of a group , like people....or bees, and is hard to stop."

IM: "OK"

more narration

IM: "D...N....A......Mom....what's DNA?"

Me: "DNA are the instructions in our body that tell it how to work the right way."

IM: "Oh...OK"

and it goes on and on until he is satisfied that he understands.

A couple of days ago, in the midst of conversation about his upcoming Kindergarten Holiday Special, he plunged into another set of questions.

IM:"What's Hanukkah?"

Me: "It's a holiday that some people celebrate. They believe that, a long time ago, God made a day's worth of oil last for eight days in His Temple."

IM: "Why don't we celebrate Hanukkah?"

Me: "Well...usually only Jewish people celebrate Hanukkah."

IM: "Jewish...what's jewish?"

Me: "Jewish people are people who have different religious beliefs than we do."

IM: "Religious beliefs........what's religious beliefs?"

Me: "Religious beliefs are things that people believe about God."

IM: "Oh....so they believe different things about Jesus?"

pause

Me:"Well....they don't really believe in Jesus."

IM: "They don't?"

Me: "Uh...no."

IM: "Oh...so that means they must be bad people."

choking on my water

Me: "What?!...No...that's not what it means...." I backpedaled for a moment as I tried to figure out how to explain a complicated theology to a five-year-old boy.

"Remember how we talked about how God loves everybody, and how nobody's perfect...everyone's made mistakes?"

IM: "Uh huh."

Me: "Well, just because people don't believe the same thing we do doesn't make them bad people, or any different than us. We believe that God wants people to know about Jesus, so we tell people about Him who don't know about Him, but we always remember that God loves them. Do you understand?" I asked, unsure if I even fully understood what I was saying.

IM:"yeah....Hey...can we eat out tonight?"

end of theological conversation.

Trying to encapsulate the finer points of theology and culture into language a Kindergartner can comprehend has proved challenging. It makes me rethink the things I say and how I communicate them.

It wouldn't be so bad if I had some kind of warning, but these conversations crop up spontaneously, spurred on by the inner goings-on of a private thinker. It's like constantly being 30 seconds away from a Pop Quiz and you don't even know what the subject will be.

These kids definitely keep my brain cells hopping.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul

I picked up one of those energy-efficient bulbs from Target the other day.


I only got one because I wanted to try it out, see how it worked, and how long it lasted in a particular light fixture that tends to burn through bulbs quickly.

Pleased with my "green" purchase, I began to open the package and immediately noticed this warning:


LAMP CONTAINS MERCURY
Manage in Accord with Disposal Laws
Mercury--a pollutant
I can reduce the energy I consume, contributing to fewer greenhouse gases, by buying bulbs with trace amounts of Mercury in them. Mercury must be disposed of carefully in order to prevent its release into the air and water. In many states it's illegal to dispose of products with mercury in normal trash pick-up. All those fluorescent bulbs aren't supposed to go in the landfill.
We threw two long, tubular, fluorescent bulbs in the trash just last week. We didn't know at the time that we were contributing to mercury pollution--the same pollution that poisons wildlife and builds up in the tissue of fish like salmon and tuna.
The problem then arises of what to do with the bulbs when they are used up. They need to be recycled, and they need to stay intact. Breaking the bulbs can cause the mercury to leak out, creating the chance for pollution or poisoning. Let's face it most people are too lazy to purposely store and recycle used bulbs. It requires forethought and time to find out where they can be taken and how to keep them safe until they are recycled.
So, is it better to risk the contamination of broken bulbs in landfills and trash cans, or should we stick to incandescent lighting? This article , from NPR, gives a more thorough look at the problem and indicates that it still might be better to buy the energy-efficient bulbs.
Personally, I may forgo the whole thing and start buying candles.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Important Tip

When visiting a store, filled with Holiday shoppers, try not to inadvertently dress like the employees.

While at Target, DH was approached several times by people with questions, looking for help.

He was wearing a red polo shirt and khaki shorts.

The last incident involved an actual employee--a young girl with a Target shirt--telling him she had put things in the back and would be in later. She finished her speech and left, unaware that she had just told a customer things her boss will probably want to know.

hehe..

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Unabated Curiosity

In my childhood home, staunchly standing in the living room, were two cherry-stained, Ethan Allen bookshelves. A mish-mash of books co-habitated on the shelves, except for two sections of chocolate-brown, leather-bound World Book Encyclopedias with gold lettering, which resided in their own shelves, high and lofty in the shelf hierarchy.

I would sit down and leaf through the volumes one letter at a time, learning all kinds of interesting things. I learned what the state capitals, trees and birds were. I taught myself the alphabet in sign language. I read up on astrology, learning that I was a Capricorn, my older brother was a Sagittarius, my mom was a Leo, and my younger brother a Gemini. OK...so not everything I learned was of the utmost importance, but I still was fascinated by everything I could read about.

Here I am, soon to be 34, and I am no different. I can chase down intellectual rabbit trails for hours, getting lost in Wikipedia, science blogs, and history articles as I cross reference terms I don't know and thinkers whose names appear together, trying to see the connections and understand how concepts take root.

I love it. I really should have been a researcher of some sort. Maybe in my next phase of life.

Last night I spent at least an hour and half following a trail from an article about crows, to an 18th century British philosopher, to an environmental belief/policy, and finally to a theologian. I guess all questions eventually wind up at God's feet.

Here's my stream of consciousness web track:

First I was here reading about crows and their life spans in the city compared to crows in the wild. I came across the term Malthusian Earth, which I didn't know, leading to the Google Altar of Knowledge. Not finding an exact reference to it, I clicked on a link to Thomas Malthus, confident that he probably had something to do with it.

Reading through that article made me realize that Darwin's concept of evolution had been greatly influenced and formed by Malthus, who was his senior by 43 years. Malthus proposed that the humans had to necessarily be wiped out by famine, war, and disease in order to have a balanced population and not overpopulate the land. He fought against poor laws in England as a way to reduce poverty. If poor people can't feed themselves and perish, then there is no poverty.

I know...it makes me wince to even think about it.

While reading through the article, a familiar thought occurred to me about the number of British thinkers, philosophers, and scientific atheists there are . What is it about Britain that produces these types of thinkers? Wondering if it was all in my head, I searched for the term "British rationalists" hoping to come across an article or news story.

I encountered this site, which didn't really address my point, but gave a list of important philosophers and movements. I spied the name Karl Barth and remembered that I had meant to look up more information about him based on a comment I had encountered a while back. I was off on another tangent.

Reading about Barth, and appreciating where he was coming from, led me to follow the links to neo-Orthodoxy and Soren Kierkegaard so that I could more fully understand the issues raised in the article.

I finally realized that it was late and I had to get to bed.

I was tired, but satisfied.

Now I want to buy a set of encyclopedias for the boys in the hopes that they'll satisfy their curiosity in the same way I always did.

Of course, once I visited World Book's site and realized that a set costs about $750, that hope was somewhat diminished.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Mistranslating Judas

Via Language Log

Apparently, there are problems with the gnostic Gospel of Judas which was unveiled to the public this past year. Several key terms seem to have been mistranslated, resulting in a completely different meaning of the tale. As presented in the news, the Gospel depicted Judas as a hero and friend to Jesus, not the evil betrayer the traditional gospels portray.

Not so fast, says April DeConick.

She deals with the problems surrounding the translation here.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Heroes

One of my pet peeves about serial action/sci-fi shows is that in the search for compelling storylines and driving the series toward an exciting finale, they make the characters behave in ways that don't fit with how they have presented the character thus far in the show.

Last night's example of Hiro burying Adam Monroe alive in a casket is a good case of just such a thing. How can they take sweet Hiro and make him do something so awful? Killing Adam I would have believed, torturing him...not so much--but, they really wanted that shot of Adam in the coffin.

These kinds of shows, like Lost, Alias, and Heroes, constantly try to flip the characters back and forth between good and evil in an effort to show their human sides, but then get carried away and leave the viewer uncertain about what the characters are actually like. In an effort to reveal an unexpected twist during the season finale, the writers undermine the show, sacrificing long-term consistency and character development for short-term thrills.

And when can Ando become a sidekick again? I want to seem him bopping around with Hiro, playing out the "normal human" hero part.

grrrr....those writers better straighten this out when they get back from their strike or I'll send Syler after them!

Christmas Tree Version 2.007

Sunday afternoon, we purchased our Christmas tree and brought it home on the roof of the Corolla. DH had picked out one that was much taller than we usually get, which caused me us to debate whether it was too tall or supposed to be priced differently than what the tag said. After going back and forth, between a perfectly shaped smaller tree and the larger one that might have been mislabeled, I relented and said "OK...whatever...it doesn't matter."

We got it home and soon realized it was much larger than the ones we usually have, but that it looked great. I begrudgingly admitted that DH had been right and I was glad we went with his choice.

He nearly died of shock to hear me say such a thing.

So, here it is. We keep debating whether it's crooked or if it just grew that way! :-)

Monday, December 03, 2007

George Will and Insinuation

One of the first pages I read in a newspaper is the editorial page. I like to see what the average Joe thinks is worth expending energy and ink on in order to send a letter to the editor. I read a few columns, but none with regularity.

I had always had some vague impression that George Will was a conservative columnist, but can't really pin down why I thought that, other than supposing that I had read one of his columns and come to that conclusion.

His column today focused on the inscrutable opinions and actions of politicians who often contradict themselves and their earlier opinions. He uses direct quotes from Hillary and Bill Clinton, regarding war and health care, more quotes from John Edwards regarding his health care push and lists Edwards' reversals from his previous Congressional record.

So far, so good. I get where he's going: Politicians are vague, opportunistic and say a lot of things that don't make sense and reveal nothing too truthful as a means of appealing to as many as people as possible.

The column takes a sharp turn and then devolves into a bashing of Mike Huckabee and evangelical Christians. That wouldn't be so bad if Will had any direct quotes from Huckabee and evangelicals; but he doesn't.

In trying to outline Huckabee's "muddied waters", Will writes in what is supposed to be Huckabee's voice:

I am a Christian, therefore I am a conservative, therefore whatever I have done or propose to do with "compassionate," meaning enlarged, government is conservatism. And by the way, anything I denote as a "moral" issue is beyond debate other than by the uncaring forces of greed.

Any quote from Huckabee? Nope....just Will's mind-reading ability for us to rely upon.

Then he writes:
Many Iowans think it would be wise to nominate a candidate who, when the Republicans were asked during a debate to raise their hands if they do not believe in evolution, raised his. But, then, Huckabee believes America can be energy independent in 10 years, so he has peculiar views about more than paleontology.
This is the second time I have heard this point raised about Huckabee, as if it is some damning accusation that has the power to humiliate and decimate a candidate. Guess what...many Americans don't believe in evolution; that doesn't mean that they are all Young-Earth Creationists who disdain and disrespect science. Evolution has become an insidious litmus test designed to ferret out any belief in a creative, personal God. If you believe that humans were designed for some purpose, are unique in some way, and insist on attributing it to God, then you must be seriously loony and unfit for anything. You might even need someone to tie your shoelaces for you.

And how is this relevant to governing? It isn't, except in the minds of those who equate belief in God with everything they dislike in current American politics. Oh...and still no direct quote from Huckabee here.

Although Huckabee is considered affable, two subliminal but clear enough premises of his Iowa attack on Mitt Romney are unpleasant: The almost 6 million American Mormons who consider themselves Christians are mistaken about that. And -- 55 million non-Christian Americans should take note -- America must have a Christian president.

Attack on Romney? The only quote I could find about Huckabee on Romney in Iowa is this:

"When he was pro-abortion, I was still pro-life and always have been," Huckabee told CNN. "When he was for gun control, I was against it. When he was against the Bush tax cuts, I was for them. When he was against Ronald Reagan's legacy and said he wasn't part of that Bush-Reagan thing, I was a part of that Bush-Reagan thing."

He makes no mention of religion, America's need for a Christian president, or Romney's Mormonism. Maybe Will is using those great powers of ESP again.

And one last gem from Will:

If Huckabee succeeds in derailing Romney's campaign by raising a religious test for presidential eligibility, that will be clarifying: In one particular, America was more enlightened a century ago.


First of all, Huckabee is not raising a religious test for the presidency. He has made clear his belief in God, but so has just about every other candidate, Democrat or Republican. They all pander to the right in an effort to win them over. The only difference is that Huckabee actually believes the things he says.

Secondly, it is Will--and those like him--who are raising religious tests for the presidency, or perhaps non-religious tests, by mocking and calling into question a candidate's character and ability to lead based on an informal hand-raising about evolution. Such open, unwarranted hostility seems extreme in contrast to the lack of any attempt by Huckabee to make this an election based on religion.

If Will really believes these sinister, subliminal messages exist, why doesn't he have at least one good quote from Huckabee to back up his charges? Politicians are talking all the time. Surely there is at least one good sound bite that could have been gleaned for Will to prove his many points.

Huckabee is the candidate that evangelicals have always wanted; someone who believes what he professes, is flexible in his approach to government and likable enough to maybe get somewhere. Maybe that's scary to the George Wills out there, but it shouldn't be.

Contrary to popular belief, evangelicals don't bite.

Friday, November 30, 2007

New and Improved--Now with More Lumps!

Well, the title says it all.

After being stuck in the inevitable time warp that exists at OB/GYN offices--an 11:00 appointment really translating to 12:20--I got to see the Nurse-Practitioner assigned to me. She examined me and pointed out that I actually had two lumps; the one I had already found near the center of my breast and one over to the side, closer to my armpit, where lumps are usually found. It took a few attempts for her to guide my finger to the spot she was pointing out. I couldn't find it at first, but then discovered it. It wasn't as close the surface as the first one.

She said they felt "cystic" which is a nice way to alieve someone's fears without really saying much. We talked about things for a while, and then she gave me a prescription for a diagnostic mammogram and an ultrasound for the breast with the lumps, making it clear that I was to have these done in no more than two weeks time.

She was nice, responsive and generally helpful, but she chilled me to the bone when she commented, about making sure with the tests, "Well, you have young children. We want to make sure you're around for them."

I know she meant it in a reassuring way, but it played on my worst-case scenario and took a moment for me to shake off.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Lumpy

Last week I found a lump in my breast.

Well, I actually rediscovered a lump in my breast. I had come across it a couple of months earlier, but I wasn't sure that it was actually a lump. I don't really do self-exams on a regular basis and have never really known what I was looking for anyway. I read up on things and learned that breasts change during the course of a menstrual cycle, so you have to pay attention to things to know if something is new or swollen as a result of hormonal changes, etc. If only I had that topographical map of my breasts. I know I must have left it around here somewhere!

I filed the info away and promptly forgot all about it...Until Thursday. I came across the lump inadvertently as I was dressing and remembered the incident from a few months earlier. There was definitely something there...and it seemed larger to me.

Of course once I started down that train of thought, it became difficult to weed out what was true and what was paranoid hypochondria: Was it really bigger? Did it really seem to feel different than the rest of my breast tissue? Could I really...possibly...have cancer?

I decided the answers were..yes....yes....and...maybe.

I rushed through some emotions very quickly on Sunday, trying to sort through what it might mean, what might happen, and if I was worrying about it too much about it. There was definitely an element of shock and vague fear.

I don't really have a current doctor. My OB/GYN stopped practicing a year after I had Intuitive Monkey. I never got another one because life was busy, money was tight, and I had a million excuses. That was probably pretty dumb.

I spent Thanksgiving weekend alternately between melodramatic scenarios ending in my death and confident self-assurance that I was being a big baby, worrying about something that was probably nothing. On Monday, I called around and got an appointment to get everything checked out. A weight was lifted off of me. I realized that taking a constructive step forward made me feel less fearful and more in control.

Tomorrow I have my appointment with an OB/GYN. I don't expect too much. They'll make me wait in the lobby for an hour reading outdated parenting and baby magazines, examine me, and then probably send me somewhere for a test. I won't actually know anything more than I do now.

I am a little anxious. It is surreal to consider the possibility of anything serious being wrong with me. I'm supposed to be immortal...aren't I?

Right now, I am trying to not worry about it until I know more...Then, I'll worry! :-)

Clean Carpets

Me on the cell phone with DH as I am pulling into the driveway:

"I don't know if I'm ready to get a Christmas tree this weekend. The carpet really needs to be cleaned and I wanted to get that done before we put a tree up. It will be too hard once it's in the house."

"You can always do it later," said DH.

"Yeah..I guess so. Well, I'm home now. I'll talk to you later. Bye."

I opened the door and my first thought was, "Gee, I really need to take the garbage out. It smells awful in here."

That should have been my first clue.

I let the dog out and then noticed a small spot where she had had an accident--a rare occurrence for her, but she had diarrhea the day before. The spot wasn't too big, so I started getting stuff to clean it up, and that's when I noticed a trail of tiny little spots in the hallway. Not good, but still easy to clean up. I rounded the corner into my son's bedroom and was hit with a horrible smell and a ghastly sight which can only be called the "Great Poop Explosion of '07".

It was everywhere; on my son's pajamas that he had forgotten to put in the laundry, on some papers, and spattered across the floor like a Rorschach test. ugh. I gagged and raced out of the room. I had to get a carpet cleaner ASAP!

After hours of cleaning, everything smells and looks like new, except for the pajamas which were pitched into the garbage for some poor garbage man to have to deal with.

Well, at least I was motivated to get the carpet cleaned before we got our tree. I guess even the messes in our lives can spur us on to quick action.

Lesson learned?

Poop prevents procrastination.

I know....It should be on a fortune cookie!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Target Audience

While out traveling the county for my job, I noticed a billboard for a church and memorized the website. We are still ambivalent about the church we attend and have thought about visiting a few more, so I figured I would check out the website and see what this one was about.

Here's how it described itself:

R-- is a casual, contemporary, Christian church meeting at the ***** ****, Florida. Our service is designed specifically for college students, urban professionals and young families.


College students.....urban professionals.....young families.

I was taken aback by this simple sentence. Rarely does a church spell out , so specifically, who it is they want to attend their church. Churches often segregate themselves subconsciously; tending to be made up of the same ethnic, social, or economic demographic. Most of the time this happens because people tend to "congregate" with other people who are just like themselves. The same phenomena happens at school sometimes when there is a "jock" table, a "geek" table, a "black" table, and a "white" table in the lunchroom. No one says it has to be that way; it just happens.

So, churches are often skewed toward a particular population depending on their location and style.

What is interesting about this particular church is that it is located near some very poor neighborhoods. It is close to the downtown center of a large city. The residential areas surrounding this church are old homes which are populated almost entirely with minorities and lower-income families. They are not the "urban professionals" that this church seems to be looking for. A few miles away from the church are some high-rise condos that real-estate companies are desperately trying to unload in this bad housing market. They are upscale, expensive, and largely vacant.

The marketing style of the church is very edgy. Their ads are slick and their site is well-done. They are what most people would call "seeker-sensitive" or maybe "emergent". They describe their approach as "current as the newspaper". They want to be accessible to people...just so long as you're the kind of people they are looking for.


It's the wrong approach. You can't follow Jesus in a poor neighborhood and plan to design your service for people who don't actually live there.

It's a slap in the face to the people around them.

As I continue to drive through different neighborhoods for my job, I am struck by how often old, poor neighborhoods have boarded up churches. No one wants to minister there. All the big, active churches have moved away from the cities, out to where the subdivisions are...where things are "nicer"....where things are "safer".....where you can be sure that the congregation has enough money to pay the electric bill each month.

If you are going to plant a church to teach people about Jesus, you have no right to declare who your "target" audience is. Your audience is simply those who want to listen. Your audience is all who would like to worship Christ. Your audience is anyone and everyone.

Jesus ministered wherever he went. Whoever was closest to him was his audience. He went out to seek that which was lost, not those who made him feel "comfortable".

What's sad is that this church uses the term "relevant" to describe itself, but is completely irrelevant to the groups of people who are right next door to them.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Living With Doubt

"If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things."
--Rene Descartes

I have lived with doubt.
I have doubted myself. I have doubted my marriage. I have doubted my abilities as a mother. I have doubted God. I have doubted just about everything possible to doubt.
I doubt Republicans. I doubt Democrats. I doubt the preacher. I doubt the atheist .
I doubt my own doubts. Are they even real or just an imaginary construct to keep my mind busy?
I doubt that anybody reads this blog. Well, I don't actually doubt that.
I doubt that Rene Descartes actually ever doubted anything. How would I even know? He lived like a bazillion years ago.
I doubt that UFO's exist despite all these detailed pictures.
I doubt that Hillary is really as awful as this guy thinks she is.
I doubt that most conspiracy theorists take their medication.
I doubt that I will ever have a job like these.
I doubt anyone will actually pay $399 to use Kindle to read books.
I doubt anyone cares about my doubts.

Front Yard Astronomy

One of the supreme pleasures of parenting comes from watching your children grow into their own personalities and develop their separate identities. The first few years of their lives, it's all about Mom and Dad. They want you to play with them, read to them, sleep in their bed, share your food, have you answer every question they have in intricate detail. It never ends. The day stretches out before you in one long, endless request to be answered or physical need to be met.

Now that the boys are older, life has become so much more interesting. When The Rationalist isn't accomplishing his tasks in his normally efficient way, I peek into his room and catch him half-dressed, sprawled on the floor, reading a book. My heart swells. When I hear Intuitive Monkey banging around in the kitchen, I walk in to find him moving chairs and climbing on cabinets to get something he needs instead of just relying on someone else to do it for him. It makes me proud.

Today, while I was getting ready for work going back and forth from the living room to the bedroom, I heard the boys talking excitedly and noticed that they had gone outside in the front yard, an unusual thing for them at 6:30 in the morning.

"It's there! It's there!"..The Rationalist shouted.

"What's going on?" I asked.

"We saw Mars!"

"What do you mean?"

"Under the moon...the faint speck is Mars, just like that guy said it would be!"

"What guy?"

"The guy on TV...the one who sits in the stars. He said that on the 26th and 27th if you looked at the moon in the morning you would be able to see Mars just below it!"

They took me outside and sure enough, the bright moon was high in the sky with a single speck of light just below it.

I looked at the boys and just smiled. They had taken an interest in something that I hadn't even known about and had explored it all on their own, without looking to me to tell them about it or suggest that they look for it.

Thanks Star Gazer Guy!

Monday, November 26, 2007

More Games

Aahhh...the sheep are coming!

After you ward the sheep off, go Hurl some Haggis!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Abortamentalists

This is the sort of Orwellian crap you couldn't make up if you tried.

A British woman who had an abortion 10 years ago and was later sterilized did so because she believes pregnancy is bad for the environment, the London Daily Mail reported Sunday.


A woman aborts her child as a way to "save the planet".

Really.

Are we supposed to applaud this act as some sort of sacrificial good by this "martyr"? Should I rejoice that she is so giving and thoughtful for keeping another human from sucking up all our air, taking up our space, and eating all the Oreos?

Insane rationalizations such as this are what make evangelicals so rabid in their defense of life. As soon as you think it can't get worse, it does.

Great. The planet will be saved.

Who will save us from ourselves?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

eww

"Mom...can you help me?" Intuitive Monkey asked as he handed me a soaking wet ball of tissue with something inside of it.

"Sure. What's the matter?"

"I was trying to get the Play-Doh wet because it dried out. It turned all gooey."

"Why is it wrapped in toilet paper?"

"It's tissue, not toilet paper."

"OK....why is it wrapped in tissue?" I ask as I begin to unwrap the gooey mess.

"Oh....because it fell in the toilet. Don't worry. I already washed my hands," he says stone-faced while I shudder in revulsion at the toilet-dipped gooey mess in my hands.

The Damage We Do To Each Other

"We are inclined to believe those whom we do not know because they have never deceived us."
--Samuel Johnson

I have been struggling with my faith for the last year or so. That is not to say that I am struggling with the concept of God or whether there actually is one. Instead, I have been struggling with what it means to be a follower of Christ. Which of the many beliefs that have been imparted to me over the years, through some sort of spiritual osmosis, do I actually believe...and why? I have never been one to accept part and parcel of whatever someone has told me to believe. I have always had the need to look over things for myself and come to my own conclusions, which sometimes were the same and sometimes drastically different from those around me.

When we left our church about two and a half years ago, it left me with a lot of collateral damage. Although there had been a tipping point, which ultimately made us make the painful decision to leave, things had been brewing for about 6-9 months previously. The church had started pursuing a doctrine of deliverance from demons that was disturbing on many levels. This particular doctrine held that all the Old Testament generational curses still had effect in the present world. One could be a Christian and simultaneously controlled by a demonic force of some sort. Careful to try and not run everybody out the doors in a mad stampede, the leadership pastor labeled this control "oppression", avoiding the highly charged term "possession".

The teaching went something like this--If you, or your parents/grandparents, had participated in some sort of occult activity, or habitual sin, then you had some sort of "hook" within you that could be used by Satan to "oppress" you and cause you to struggle with the same sin or let Satan have a portion of control within your life.

It was based on Exodus 20:4b--

"I the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me."

and Deuteronomy 5:9--

"You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, and on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me"

An intricate theology was built around these verses, replete with detailed descriptions of "soul ties", how to rid people of them, and what might happen when praying for people who were demonically "oppressed". Needless to say, such a dramatic turn in theology at a non-charismatic, biblically conservative, evangelical church caused enormous problems. It wasn't helped by the fact that the pastor had begun teaching these principles in a very under-the-radar kind of way, beginning with a small session on Sunday nights, and later beginning a prayer group on Wednesday nights to implement this new spiritual practice of praying for people's "deliverance". He was very careful in the way he introduced things to the congregation. Some would say he was being cautious, others would say manipulative was the right term.

I have come to believe the latter is closer to the truth.

Once the pastor had developed a core group, who had come to accept this new teaching, he was emboldened to begin introducing it in the normal Sunday morning service; even inviting the proponent and originator of this particular doctrine to use our church as a "school" for teaching lay leaders how to "deliver" others in their respective congregations. That was pretty much the beginning of the end as far as the health of the church went.

As the rest of the congregation became aware of the intricacies of the teaching being presented, several important questions began to arise.

1. Does the regeneration of a Christian break all claims that Satan has on an individual?

2. Is the individual Christian really at the mercy of the actions of their forefathers?

3. Is it true that committing some type of sin "opens the door" for Satanic influence and control in the life of the believer?

There were many more nuanced questions, but these were the biggies.

What made things worse was that the congregation had been covertly divided. In any church, there will always be members who disagree on doctrinal issues. Most of the time, they are not important in the big picture and there is room for a certain amount of freedom in the individual's life and spiritual bent. As long as members don't make it their mission to "convert" everybody into their identical way of believing, peace and diversity can be had. Of course, the essentials of Christianity must be held in common--Jesus as the Son of God and Savior, Sin, Forgiveness. A standard reading of the Apostles' Creed or even the Nicene Creed conveys the roots at the core of Christianity. Anything more detailed than that is usually up for grabs.

The pastor's decision to make this a new article of belief for the church, and any newly appointed elders, and to have certain ministries dominated by these questionable teachings had upset the balance of co-existence. Also, it is hard to argue against a teaching that states that believers can be controlled and influenced by demonic forces. Objecting to the teaching instantly places you in a category of a possibly "oppressed" individual being used to cause strife and division in God's Kingdom. Nothing like head games to cast doubt on other people, their motives, and their spiritual state--a very useful tool in the hands of someone pushing an agenda.

The problem with all of this was that by the time the teaching had wormed its way into the church, several couples/families who were devoted, godly, salt-of-the earth kind of people had fully embraced it. Their motives were pure. They were loving people. How do you look people you respect--and have come to know over the course of seven years--in the eye and say that they have bought into something that is not only wrong, but damaging to the church and to an individual's spiritual life? How do you pray with people who think you are less spiritual or demonically influenced because you haven't accepted the "truth" they believe in? How do you listen to a pastor who has begun to use the pulpit manipulatively, in one sermon comparing those who reject his new teaching to the people of Gerasenes who asked Jesus to leave when he healed some demon-possessed men.

You can't. You worry about what visitors who just walked into the church are thinking. You wonder how an elder board, half of which doesn't believe the teaching, can be persuaded to sign a statement that says that everything is hunky-dory. You wince as a member is asked to leave because he is a vocal opponent of the teaching. So, you make the painful decision to leave people you care about because you no longer feel comfortable inviting people to the church you attend. You walk out the door, your spirit torn asunder and bloody from the most disillusioning experience in your life. You lick your wounds.

The damage my faith has sustained has been extensive. It isn't based in my belief in God, or disappointment with my life. I do not falter when things go wrong, because I have no expectation that following Christ means that I will never suffer or never have obstacles to overcome. However, my faith in others' abilities to "hear from God" or "be led by the Holy Spirit" has taken a huge beating. I don't even completely trust myself and my own experiences at times. I look back at things I have believed or said and question which ones were "true" and which ones were merely some form of emotional rationalization.

It's been hard. There have been a few things I have flip-flopped on--decisions that sometimes seem providential, and at other times mere flukes. I have had to rethink what it means to be "inspired" and what the purpose of my experiential spiritual life is. I'm still uncovering and examining the layers within and without me.

I have come to the conclusion that the most damaging thing to most people's faith is not our relationship with God, but the relationship we have with other Christians.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Let's see...my Thanksgiving checklist:

Pants that have a little give--check

Ingredients for Cheesy Broccoli Rice Casserole--check

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on the TV--check

Clothing picked out for the boys that implies we are a more fashionable family than we actually are--check

Camera batteries charged--check

Well, I think that covers it.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody! May you have sweet dreams when you slip into your respective sugar and tryptophan-induced Thanksgiving Day coma!

Here's a little quiz to check your Turkey Day knowledge.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Art Class

Intuitive Monkey's Artwork



That's Monkey and me....and a dead frog we saw on the sidewalk one day. Exciting stuff.





Monkey, The Rationalist and me playing Life, the board game. I'm not sure why we have no feet...or why one of my legs is 3 times as big as the other one.

How do you like my hair?

Saturday, November 17, 2007

That's Sooo High School!

Apparently, I'm stuck in high school. I hope that cute boy asks me to the dance.

cash advance

Get a Cash Advance



Update.....ugh. I guess the price of getting a cute, fun, blog badge is having a link to a cash advance site. Ignore it! :-)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

continuing from yesterday.

4. Most evolutionary thought about the universal belief in God tends to classify such belief as either a "mistake", or as a beneficial mutation that helped to contribute to the survival of the human species by causing humans to work cooperatively or further the status of the group. If that were true, why the fight against it? Why the enormous effort to throw off a perfectly developed, successful adaptation chosen by natural selection? It seems sort of paradoxical. The concept that humans are what they are because of billions of years of adaptations, which have led to us being successful on this planet, should seem to fight against a desire to wipe out something so integral to human nature. Why resist concepts of God and fixed morality? If they have served us so well in the past, on what basis should we ignore them now? I argue this only from a wondering state of mind. I obviously think there is more to this universal predisposition, but am merely intrigued by the vehemence that is leveled at it sometimes.

5. Techskeptic commented about my earlier post that it assumes a destination for natural selection and evolution--that somehow evolution is moving towards something. Theoretically, I would concede that adaptation does not necessarily mean improvement. And yet isn't that really what has happened with humans if we evolved? Our minds are what give us the edge on this planet. We have walked on the moon; we have discovered how viruses and bacteria harm us and how to fight them; we have learned how to clone animals and human organs. I think that things have pretty much advanced to a higher state of being. Even Dawkins compares natural selection to a staircase climbing further and further up.

6. Tying in somewhat with an earlier point; why would homo sapiens be the only surviving species in the journey from primate to human. In order for humans to have changed so drastically, there have been several intermediate stages proposed by evolution. Presumably, each of those stages would have had an advantage over the previous one on their way to "humanness". Why aren't any of them still living? Why isn't there a pocket of the world somewhere where a small band of them could have survived? When adaptation occurs it doesn't mean that the unadapted portion of a group dies out. Think Galapogos islands and all those strange, different finches Darwin found. Different groups of the same kind exist even if one becomes more dominant and resilient. That's why when people say,"If we descended from apes, why are there still apes?" it shows they don't really get what evolution is saying. There would have had to be a pool of former ancestors existing for a long time during the process for homo sapiens' development. What happened to them? Why would so many stages of them be completely obliterated?

zounds..it's late....premature stopping point again

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Lately I have been pondering evolution, science, human nature and God. Oh....and how to beat level 13 on Zuma.

Leaving Zuma for another day, I'll try to cover the former.

One of the difficulties in accepting an evolutionary process without God is accounting for the universal consciousness of human kind. The very acts of being able to comprehend abstract thoughts, make predictions about future events based on information and not actual experiences, and plumb the depths of thought not directly related to our survival or environment, speak to me as something for which atheistic evolution cannot account.

There have been attempts to do so. Many ideas have been postulated about the social behavior of our "ancestors", implying that moral and cooperative behavior would benefit the species leading to their edge in survival. Dawkins, and many like him, believe that religious beliefs themselves are a result of evolution and the development of the mind, albeit a development they view as faulty or as a "mind virus". They attempt to tie thought-life to biology and neurology, a result of a belief in materialism.

And yet.....

No matter how much I can appreciate science, no matter how elegant the concept of things slowly building upon each other over millions of years might seem, no matter how "logical" evolution may sometimes seem--I don't really believe it.

My unbelief is not specifically tied to my view of God as creator, although that does influence me. Instead it is drawn out by a few simple questions and concepts.

1. If life began in a primordial, chemical soup that was struck by lightning, bringing inanimate matter to "life" what would make this new "living" organism want to reproduce? And not only reproduce, but by what mechanism would it even be able to reproduce itself? If a chain of tiny proteins, which one moment before had simply been floating about, suddenly had the ability to do something other than merely float about, how would that happen? Once it happened, why would it reproduce itself? It's a chain of proteins. It surely would have no consciousness or desire to "survive" or grow. So then we would have to be able to explain the drive, or motivation, for the first life forms to evolve and procreate.

2. Moving ahead millions of years--If humans evolved from primates, was it because of a physical advantage--standing upright, opposable thumbs, stronger immune system--or a mental advantage? For instance, let's say that a primate evolved opposable thumbs, maybe even a more upright stance, all at the same time. While certainly being physically advantageous, how would that translate into intelligence? Maybe they would survive more easily on a daily basis, but would that lead to them being smarter? Would it lead to them developing concepts about their world and universe which had no immediate impact on their lives, environment, or survival? So, instead of wondering how they would catch their next meal or find shelter in inclement weather they would need to be able to plan how they could grow their own food, make tools, build their own shelters, or keep peace in their social group.

From my Christian perspective, this is what I think is meant by "being made in the image of God."

What separates humans from animals is not only a biological advantage, but the agility and ability of the human mind. It is safe to say that humans are the most advanced species on the planet. Why is that? If evolution and natural selection are always at work, why is there only one species on the planet that has achieved the same status as humans? Shouldn't each species be continually improving and getting "smarter" if intelligence is so important to the survival and dominance of a species? Shouldn't there be more than one intelligent, enlightened species after all these billions and millions of years?

3. Compassion/Morals...Are humans the only species to exhibit compassion towards other species? Primates are very social creatures. They care for one another, build relationships, and do show compassion and cooperation within their groups. However, is there another species which collectively cares about other species? Is there another species which would protect predators such as wolves, lions, and bears out of an appreciation for their role in the ecology?

Hate to end abruptly..but I have to get to work! I'll try to finish this later.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Work

As part of my job, I travel throughout the county to all of the various elementary schools. We have a big county. It encompasses urban areas, rural areas, suburbia, and impoverished areas. Some of the schools are very diverse, others are almost completely black, white, or hispanic, depending on where the school is located.

Today, my partner and I were in a mostly rural area with a wide group of ethnicities. The school was kind of old, but not in disrepair or crumbling. More than anything it needed somebody to care about it. The floors needed scrubbing, the walls needed painting, and the bathrooms could have used an ocean's worth of bleach.

When we arrived, the office was overrun by late students who kept streaming in 10-15 minutes after the first bell. Usually there is always one or two, but today it seemed like this was a common occurrence. The secretary was stressed out trying to sign them all in, and at the same time, direct us to where we needed to be. They had moved our performance from the media center to an open space between four classes...y'know...usually it's called a hallway.

After surmising the space we had to set up, we made the best of it and got ready.

All I can say is that it was the worst experience with a school that I have had so far. The students were out of control and openly talking during the performance. The teachers made no effort to control the students or bring order to them. It was chaos.

The eye-rolling, the sighing, the grumpiness, the general look of despair---and those were the teachers!

At one point, in between our two presentations, we listened to a teacher lecture a student on how he didn't go to college for four years so some kid could make him look like an idiot...and how that kid needed to stop being a baby, suck it up and do his work....and how he was going to lose every special for the next two weeks if he didn't shape up...and he'd better just try it and see what would happen.

The kid's crime? Falling asleep in class and not admitting it.

OK. Let's start stocking the teacher's lounge with some Prozac!

My partner and I kept exchanging sidelong glances and looking at the clock, wondering when we would be able to escape the "Land of the Unmotivated, Bitter Teachers and Students with Serious Issues."

yikes.

Quote

The essence of most blogs:

"Those who agree with us may not be right, but we admire their astuteness."
--Cullen Hightower

Monday, November 12, 2007

Celebrity Sound-Alike


Apparently Judge Marilyn Milian is my verbal doppelganger.

While the People's Court played in the background, Judge Milian's voice came ringing out:

"That's it! Don't say another word. You and you.....be quiet and don't say anything until I ask you a question! And then only answer my question 'Yes' or 'No'! Got it?!"

The Rationalist said,"Hey mom....she sounds like you!"

um...yeah...that's me about 100 times per day.

Friday, November 09, 2007

I'm Not A Prophet...I Just Play One On TV

I don't usually dip my toe into political blogging. My latest post about Hillary Clinton was more observation rather than endorsement.

That being said, I am rather intrigued at Pat Robertson's endorsement of Rudy Giuliani for the Republican nomination. Pat Robertson....Rudy Giuliani. OK.

This is the same Pat Robertson that warned Dover, PA residents not to come crying to God when something horrible happened to them because they decided not to teach intelligent design. The same Pat Robertson who warned a tsunami was going to hit America. The same one who suggested sending an assassin to take out Hugo Chavez. Oy Vey! Is Giuliani sure that he wants Robertson's endorsement?

Robertson declared his endorsement was based on Giuliani's ability to lead America in the fight against Islamic terrorists. That's a fair enough statement, but a curious one for a man who has warned people about deserting God and making unbiblical choices that will lead to disastrous consequences. It would make much more sense if Robertson endorsed Mike Huckabee, a former pastor and current evangelical, or even Romney--Mormonism not withstanding.

(As a side note....I saw Huckabee on Charlie Rose, where he did an OK job of representing himself. Rose kept trying to bait him into a debate about evolution, which has no immediate bearing on the presidential campaign, nor is it one of the most pressing issues facing the country, but serves only as a way to label someone backward if they don't accept the standard model of evolutionary theory....but I digress.)

Back to the Robertson issue...

I don't really care who Robertson endorses. I certainly don't look to him for cues as to what I should think, or how I should vote. I do think it is interesting that, all of sudden, he has ejected his Christian socio-political ideology out of fear of facing down Islamic terrorists. That hardly seems to be a faith-filled response to the current situation.

What is more, I wonder how many people will blindly follow his endorsement, not based on their thought-out agreement with him, but simply because he's some famous guy on Christian TV.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Where's the ACLU When You Need Them?

What with it being a beautiful day (see earlier post) I decided to walk to the school and pick the kids up, rather than driving them home. Little did I know I might have a need to call a lawyer to keep them from being railroaded into false charges.

Things were going well enough. We were walking home, chatting about the day, with intermittent periods of them racing ahead and stopping, acting like traffic signals for each other, shouting "Go....Stop!....Go.....Stop!"

On the last leg of our journey home, we crossed the street and a man began to approach us.

"Can I talk to you a minute?" he asked.

"Um...sure. What do you need?" I asked in a hesitant voice, wary of a strange man approaching me and my two children, scoping out whether there were any other people around to shout to for help....yeah...I'm a little paranoid.

After stammering around for a minute, he accused my two children of walking by the wall--that follows the sidewalk and also backs up to several houses on the adjoining street--and teasing his two dogs, trying to make them bark.

"They do this every day, " he blustered.

"Well, that would be hard for them to do considering that they are driven to school each morning and this is only the second day we have walked home." I said, trying to keep my composure.

He proceeded to ignore what I was saying and tried to get my kids to "admit" that they had teased his dogs for weeks now.

"It's OK to tell the truth, boys. Being honest is always good," he said with a knowing look.

Of course, the kids didn't say anything but gave him a confused look as they tried to figure out what in the world this strange man was saying.

"Sir, I appreciate the frustration you feel, but my kids haven't done anything to your dogs. They are driven almost every day. When they aren't driven, they ride bikes or walk with me--not alone. And...I certainly wouldn't let my children tease anyone's dogs!"

The man continued to try and coerce a confession from them and I finally told them that we needed to go and walked away.

I left the man there...shaking his head...convinced that I was a mother who was aiding and abetting known dog-harassers.

So much for "Innocent, until proven guilty."

Church Shopping 101

We didn't make it to our church yesterday. Even though we "gained" an hour from the time change, we couldn't drag ourselves out of bed to make it to the 9:00 am service in time. We huddled under the blankets and let the kids watch too much TV.

When we finally got up, we knew we wouldn't make it. Rather than go to the 10:45 service, we decided to check out a United Methodist church nearby. They had a contemporary service at 9:30, and we figured we could make it as long as we got ready quickly.

I really enjoyed it, but it left me thinking about what is important in a church body.

Looking at this unknown congregation, I started making my observations. Full service. Friendly people. Lots of families. Older people and younger people. People seem interested in the service, not drifting off or overly distracted. Communion served--yay! Music good. (really good! They had great musicians and singers)

I wasn't sure about the pastor because, as always happens when we visit a church, they had a guest speaker. I swear that has happened to us more times than I can count. We just looked at each other and laughed.

I felt good being in the church. I could see my family making connections there. I could imagine my kids making friends.

However, I also noticed some other things.

It was very white. And not just white, but a much more buttoned down white. Not overly stiff, just all khakified and button-down shirtified. I wondered how well an outsider who might be a little "different" might feel walking into such a church.

The guest speaker read a selected Scripture from Mark, and then proceeded to give a message incorporating the Tale of the Three Trees. Huh? I believe the United Methodist church usually has a scheduled portion of Scripture that is supposed to be read in a certain order throughout the year, so I get the reading. But, why veer off into a sermon using an illustration that isn't even Scriptural?

The sermon was actually pretty good despite being based on a folk tale. The speaker managed to weave in other Scriptures to make his point, so it wasn't completely off the wall. He delivered his message well. Still ....The Three Trees?

I brushed all that aside because he was just a guest after all, but I was left wondering about what was important to me in a church.

How important is the diversity of a church? How much weight should "comfortableness" have in making a decision about a church? What is the most important aspect to consider when choosing a church body with which to associate--the pastor, the worship, fellowship, outreach?

Maybe I could come up with a complicated equation to measure and weigh the various aspects of a church and give it a rating.

Let's see...you get a "9" for the worship..."1" for the corny jokes the pastor told..."7" for the friendliness factor..."5" for the decor--I mean, really, mauve is so 80's....and an "8" for the children's ministry because you stuffed my kids with Goldfish, sang "Pharoah, Pharoah, woah, woah, let my people go....yeah, yeah, yeah yeah", knocked down a wall of blocks to represent Jericho's wall and they were happy when I picked them up.

whaddya think?
It's a beautiful day.

November is always the beginning of the best time to be in Florida. It doesn't rain every day. The humidity drops. The temps float between 75-80 F during the day. The sky is a bright blue. Mornings are cool and crisp--anywhere from 55-65 F.

We made it through another sticky, steamy season and have about six months to enjoy the great weather.

yay!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Hillary Clinton--Our Next President

Last night, in between passing out handfuls of candy, I watched a recap of the Democratic Party's debate. Of particular interest was the spar with Hillary Clinton. They showed snippets of the exchanges and had commenters dissect what happened and how it would affect the Clinton campaign and the Democratic primary.

At issue were two points of contention; the de-classifying of documents between Hillary and Bill from the Clinton administration, and the issuing of driver's licenses to illegal immigrants--proposed by the governor of New York.

Regarding the first issue: It's just dumb. There is nothing unusual about documents being archived and classified during an administration and afterward, especially documents between the First Lady and the President. Obama said something really dumb about how we were coming from one of the most secret administrations ever--Bush--and everything should be laid out in the open. OK. Sure.....I can see how what Hillary and Bill wrote to each other is as important as national security! whatever. I can't believe that anyone would take that seriously.

The second issue: Hillary tried to walk the line between flat-out opposing licenses for illegals and supporting the current governor of the state, in which she is a senator, and who is also a fellow Democrat.

Her opponents all turned on her at his point, accusing her of double-talk and contradicting herself, but I don't think it will really hurt her.

I think Hillary is going to win the Democrat's nomination. I also think she's going to win the election next year.

As a Republican, I should be bothered by that, but I'm not. I actually think her winning could be a good thing for the country, and it has less to do with her politics and more to do with her personality.

Hillary wants it. She wants to be president more than anyone else up for it. She has been aiming for this for a long time. Nothing has gotten in her way...not a philandering husband, not constant ridicule during her time in the White House, not her long-shot bid for senator in New York when she first started her political career. You can't pay someone enough to care that much about something.

The same desire to make it that far, will keep her most liberal leanings under wraps, making her look more like a liberal Republican....not very different from half the Republicans already running for president. She wants a legacy. She wants to be the first woman who not only got elected, but did a great job in office.

The only way to do that is to learn the art of compromise and moderation.

I think she just might do it.

Interesting Graph: Wealth and Religiosity

Apparently, as nations become more wealthy, they tend to become less religious. The US, however, doesn't fall as neatly into the graph and is noticeably out of line according to its wealth.

I think that's interesting on many levels.

The comments about the graph are interesting to read through...although they do start to get a bit technical at some points.

Happy Belated Halloween

Last night I feared no ghouls or goblins, what with being escorted by two superheroes from different comic book universes. Any Marvel or DC villains were sure to be warded off by my powerful bodyguards!


"soooo...what's it like to stick to walls? "


"uh oh.....I think Braniac is on his way with a ship made from Kryptonite!"

My brave duo was rewarded with a cache of refined sugar which has a street value of $1.8 million dollars.

I've already started free-basing the chocolate.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Lazy

I haven't posted about anything of substance in a while. I think it's because I spent too much time this week at Back Flipping Forward involved in this thread: Follow-up: "Letters From A Skeptic"

Which brings me to the perennial question: Why am I a better commenter than blogger?

That's assuming that I actually am a better commenter, and not deluding myself with visions of grandeur....not that I think I am grand or anything.

And what, exactly, does it mean to be grand?

I'd better stop while I am a head....I mean ahead.


:-)