Monday, February 25, 2008
A $10 million fine was handed down to Topeka's own Fred Phelps and his ignorant, obnoxious, makes-me-sick-to-my-stomach "congregation". From the article in the Baltimore Sun:
[Judge] Bennett affirmed the jury's verdict in favor of Snyder's father, who sued the church for emotional distress and invasion of his family's privacy after Westboro Baptist Church members waved signs decrying homosexuality at his son's funeral in March 2006. But the judge also reduced the $10.9 million award announced in October to $5 million, noting constitutional concerns of appropriateness. He held up the jury's compensatory damage award of $2.9 million but reduced the total punitive damages to $2.1.
Read the rest of the story here.
This just makes my whole decade.
HT to David.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
Saturday, February 23, 2008
Is Barack Obama an empty suit?
It doesn't get much better than this.
Friday, February 22, 2008
Monday, February 18, 2008
Monday, February 11, 2008
For the past several weeks, God's been doing a funny thing to me.
It started with a surprising incident - during a time of worship that I wasn't leading. He makes all things good was the line in the song that stuck out for me, brought me to my knees and filled my eyes with tears.
A bunch of things began to change with me in January. Subtle things... things I'm not even sure I can articulate. After reading Soul Cravings, and going through a similar topics in my small group, the shift started. It began with a sense of awareness in how hard I was. On myself, on others. How hard my heart had grown toward people. I guess I thought that after a breakthrough last summer, everything else with my heart would follow suit. But like the parent who doesn't just save his child from drowning and leave them by the side of the pool, God is giving me CPR. It's slow, and I find myself breathing in and breathing out with a deliberateness that wasn't there before.
Then two weeks ago, in a time of prayer, I had this feeling God needed to show me something. So I sat in silence, and an image came to me. An image of a brick wall.
And this brick wall was built around my heart.
"Oh, geez. Here we go again," I said to myself. It's not like I haven't been here before. So why now, I wondered. Why this image at this moment? And there was Jesus standing in front of the wall, with a chisel and a hammer working away. I remember smiling to myself at the irony because I knew exactly why Jesus was standing there working away at it.
But those reasons were no longer important to me in that moment. Because I remember that Jesus wouldn't be on the outside of the wall... he would be on the other side with my heart.
I continued to smile to myself, picturing him banging away with that hammer. Then I slowly came to a realization that I don't trust people. When I meet someone new, I'm immediately on the defensive, wondering what their ulterior motive is for talking to me. With each interaction I lay a brick down, trowel out the mortar and repeat, until the wall is solid, thick... and between me and them. Stack a brick, trowel. Stack, trowel. The wall is already there, it just needs more bricks.
All my life I've been wondering what in the heck happened to me in my childhood to cause this ridiculous behavior. It's not been fun to deal with all these years, and what's weird is that some people get that wall down right away (Lindsey, Emory, Shannon, Suzie - God love ya), and then there are others who worked tirelessly to chip away at it until I gave in (you know who you are). And try as I might I cannot figure out what the difference is... why one person I trust inherently and another I keep at arm's length. I wonder if it may be a personality type, a woman's intuition thing, or maybe even a Holy Spirit thing. I really wish I knew, because I feel like if I could find the root of it then I could solve the problem. Instead I find myself flabbergasted at my own behavior and hope that there is someone out there willing to ignore the wall and keep on trying.
But this image of Jesus chipping away keeps coming back to me, and I know I have to take responsibility for my own crappy actions. I'm not hurting anyone, but I am keeping myself from some of the greatest joys we are given in life - intimacy and fellowship with my fellow human beings.
Last month I meet several new people, people that are already on their way to influencing me. I think that may be why this image of him chiseling away is with me now. God knows about this little mistrust issue of mine, and this may be his way of telling me that this wall needs to come down, so I can let these new people change me.
And there is nothing that scares me more.
1. Pick up the nearest book of 123 pages or more. (No cheating!)
2. Find Page 123.
3. Find the first 5 sentences.
4. Post the next 3 sentences.
5. Tag 5 people.
The book closest to me was a music book, so I could really count that. The next one was a book that anyone could have figure out based on content, so this was the third, which is still a dead give away if you are familiar with the classics:
The Karenins always had two or three people dining with them. This time there was an old lady, a cousin of Karenin's, the Chief Secretary and his wife and a young man who had been recommended to Karenin for a post in the service. Anna went to the drawing room to entertain them.
Thursday, February 07, 2008
Okay, I may be exaggerating a little here, but you get my drift.
The majority of my friends are in my age group; we are in that stage of knowing who you are, what you believe, and what makes you happy. But even more than that, we are aware that we can do to make a difference. My generation no longer just wants the white picket fence and the 2.5 kids. We want to change the world in small ways. (Because we know the big ways may not be attainable. And we're okay with that.)
So, the new conservative looks like this:
1.) Our priority is not ourselves. It is our community. We believe that change is only possible by working with each other, by overcoming our differences in order to make this world better. We believe in the right to pursue life, liberty and happiness. But the new conservative believes in those rights in this context: we are all uniquely bound together. What we do affects the people around us. We do not believe that selfish behavior is okay when cloaked in a dark coat with this written on the back: "It's my right as an American".
2.) We like Jesus. Many prefer not to call ourselves "Christians" anymore ("Christ-follower" is the new preferred term among most.) We love God with all our heart, soul and mind, and like I stressed in #1 we love our neighbor as ourselves. His gospel is the gospel we seek to follow, not the gospel of money or patriotism or selfishness. We prefer to stick with the original. Love Jesus, love others. Easy, peasey.
3.) We care about the environment. We pick up our trash, recycle paper goods, plastic bottles and reuse our grocery bags. We shop for and buy green-friendly products, changed our light bulbs and don't do it because it's a fad. We do it because it makes sense. Anything I could say here would not be as simple and thought-provoking as what Ariah over at Trying to Follow has to say about it, so I will simple quote him:
So, let’s just assume for a moment that Global Warming doesn’t really exist. All that exists is a couple thousand slide Powerpoint presentation by a former Vice-President. What do we do now?
I still think we should drive fuel efficient cars. I still think we should consider the impact our choice of food and consumer choices have on the environment. I still think 20% of the world’s population should not be consuming 80% of it’s resources. I still think the rainforest, the Alaskan landscape, and other feats of nature are beautiful the way they are and we should seek to preserve them. I still think if our tax dollars are going to build life-destroying weapons of war then some of the tax dollars should also go to preserving God’s green earth.My motivation to be a good steward of this planet and to be environmentally friendly has never been a reaction to the horrors of global warming, it’s been a reaction to the biblical mandate to care for this planet.
4.) We like peace. Call it a throwback to the hippie generation, call it liberalism; it doesn't matter. I think there is no one in the world who can call themselves "pro-war", and the new conservative prefers to exhaust every other possibility before resorting to a fight.
5.) Gun control is a big issue with the new conservative. I have a friend in the Marines who did two tours in Iraq and even he believes that there are far too many guns out there. "You don't use an uzi to hunt deer, " he says. "So just get rid of it." He's a traditional conservative to the core, and he also thinks mental health and violent crime back ground checks are absolute requirements for purchasing a gun. While I think it may be a little early, I will predict that this is one issue that the new conservative finds itself on the liberal side of the fence. I often find the new conservative fighting for the right to own a gun for sportsman purposes and self-protection, but also fighting to tighten gun ownership laws. When it comes to the safety of other human beings, I think it's okay to forfeit a little privacy. We are all in this life together (see #1) and we must live as such. Respect and love for fellow human beings is one small step to repairing our brokenness as a culture and a nation. If we ignore that, "those who live by the sword die by the sword."
Interesting fact: Marilyn Manson canceled his last 5 concert tour dates out of respect for the students at Columbine High School after the school shootings, but the NRA did not cancel their gun show scheduled in Denver just 10 mere days after the shootings. Hmm. I find that interesting.
6.) The new conservative is concerned about free trade, a concern born out of our own addiction to consumerism and watching small business after small business close because of "big box" companies that use foreign labor instead of American labor. (Obama says something interesting things about this issue in his book The Audacity of Hope.) The new conservative says this: "We are shopping ourselves out of jobs" and we take action to stop it. We shop at locally owned companies to support our economy, and if we buy foreign, we make sure the coffee we drink and chocolate we eat is fair trade. We boycott companies like Coke and Wal-Mart for their abhorrent labor practices, and we support organizations like Global Exchange and 10,000 Villlages.
7.) Social justice, social justice, social justice. Organizations like the One Campaign, Invisible Children and Blood:Water Mission are organizations with give to, fight with and support with fervor. The new conservative goes beyond their own community and works to create better places in other countries, too.
8.) We are sick of the excess. We are sick of "stuff", we are sick of debt, we are sick of it all. The new conservative is conservative with what they buy, teaches their children that the true meaning of Christmas is not about how many gifts you get, and gives to others before they take. We are hopelessly idealistic at times, believing that a departure from the disease of "stuff" can help end poverty, can provide clean water for those who need it, and most of all remind us all that we can help each other.
We are still morally conservative, adhering to what scripture says is right and wrong. But the new conservative no longer accepts stereo-typical conservative politics just because it's already established. We question the status quo, we don't accept generalized answers and we recognize that we can't do this whole thing called "life" alone. (Even if it means working with a liberal to make it happen.)
I picked up a book called A New Kind of Conservative by Joel Hunter last week. It's on my growing pile of "to read" books. I may post again after reading it.
Don't drink anything while reading the following text, or I will owe you a new keyboard.
The Daily Mail reports, "Vasectomies could be a thing of the past thanks to a remote controlled implant that can stop the flow of sperm. The valve-like device can be opened and shut at the press of a button, using the same technology that locks a car using a key fob."
Well. This is genius. It finally gives men a way to be responsible for contraception, in a form they like: a remote control. Now let's just try to picture how this works. The implant, which contains a tiny antenna, is inserted you-know-where, using a needle. The valve remains closed most of the time, as a contraceptive. Should a man desire to try to conceive, he can open the valve with his remote control. He just points it at...himself, and clicks. (Okay, is anyone but me laughing? I mean besides the women.)
The remote then sends a radio signal through the skin to the implant's antenna, which converts it into sound waves. You know, this is kind of starting to sound like a good news/bad news invention, if you ask me. The good news is you get a cool new remote control, but the bad news is in involves needles and radio signals and sound waves all concentrated in one particularly... sensitive spot. Here's another totally awesome feature: "As with cars, each device would have its own unique code so it could not be opened by anyone else."
Right now I'm picturing an especially passionate moment upstairs, in which for some unknown reason, downstairs the garage door is going up and down.
And it provides a whole new reason for men and women to fight over who gets the remote.
Okay, yeah, I'm now dying with laughter. I can't help it. I'm 12.
Monday, February 04, 2008
Continuing on my theme of growth, I seem to be viewing several experiences I've had lately with this lens. A lens that filters through the junk of the experience (all the negative stuff) and allows me to see with clear site what it is I am to take away from said experience.
I kinda like it.
This last month I was blessed with the presence of my friend Shannon, who currently lives in Budapest working as a missionary with YWAM. After about 2 years, she was finally able to come home for a while to spend January here in Kearney.
I have a fair amount of conservative friends, and a fair amount of liberals one. (On a political level, not a moral one.) I'll admit to avoiding conversations about politics with my conservative friends because #1) They tend to be more ignorant than they should be and #2) They are the BEST (or worse, depending on how you look at it) conversation-stoppers. This is NOT a sweeping generalization on conservatives - this just happens to be the case with ones I know. (Don't even get me started with the very conservative person I know who told me yesterday that it's only democrats who try to vote more than once in the elections, and that's why they are against voter-id cards. Because every Republican is an upstanding citizen who never thinks about committing crimes, and only Democrats are crooked.)
I would put Shannon in the conservative camp, due to her stance on gay marriage and abortion. But here's the something interesting: she is very much for gun control. As we had opportunities to talk this last month, she confessed to me she'd changed her mind about this issue after living in Hungary, where it is nearly impossible to get a gun and their violent crime rate is quite low. As we talked about several other issues, I found her heart to be much like mine - open, willing to learn and be persuaded, but at the same time knows what is right and what is wrong. And while I don't want to get into a post about moral relativism, I do want to say that dialogs such as ours in absolutely necessary for growth.
The more we talked politics, the more our connection increased. And I am convinced this is a good, no - great thing. Did she change my mind of some things? A little. Did I change hers? I think a did a little, too. But most of all, we realized that there are so many grey areas in our culture today, and that we really only have one choice: live our lives the best we can and seek God when choices like these come up. We both know that there is no perfect choice for president this year, but we do know that it isn't always about issues like abortion and stem cell research. It's about which person will makes the best decisions for the citizens of our country, and which candidate will work to create connection, like the kind Shannon and I created by talking and being open with one another.
Now that's the kind of growth I can get behind.