Archive for the ‘What’s on My Mind’ Category

Obama Won, Grab Your Water Pistols and Head for the Hills!

Friday, November 9th, 2012

While many were downcast by the election results, others were thrilled.  Among the latter… Popular Science Magazine. 

Here is a quote from their Wednesday article:

What a relief, many of us thought this morning. We re-elected a president who supports public funding for research (truthfully, public funding for anything). We re-elected a president who acknowledges the reality of climate change….

…[bla bla bla]…

Sincerely,
The writers and editors of Popular Science

I like Popular Science, but isn’t it telling how the reason they appreciate Obama so much is because he hands out public money so liberally?

Limbaugh says, “It’s very difficult to win against Santa Claus… In a country of children where the option is Santa Claus or work, what wins?”

I guess Santa Claus wins.

At least among Independents (who Romney regrettably tried so hard to court), single women (70%), Catholics (50%), and – what’s this??

Exit polls say 21% (over 6 million) of born again, white, evangelical Christians voters also cast a ballot for Obama. 

This is surprising to me as Obama’s liberal stance on moral issues are so far against Biblical values.  Not sure what to make of it. 

Well, it’s best not to take ourselves, or this world, too seriously.  Sometimes we need to take time off for silliness.  The sky may be falling, but it hasn’t hit me yet.

In the picture below I am being silly, demonstrating one of my more nascent moves to brothers Joe and Luke, to their bemusement.

Showing Off My Kung Fu Skills

Ok, back to election coverage.  Take a gander at this map:

Distribution

It appears the “sea to shining sea” voted Obama, while the “amber waves of grain” voted Romney.  Nevertheless, I predict as the Republic party drifts further from stances on morality, godliness, and conservatism, someday New York and California may begin voting Republican too. 

To Vote, or Not to Vote?

What should we do when neither party wholly represents our values?  Vote for the best of the two options?  That’s fine, but has anyone else noticed that each election there seems to be more the honest Christian has to swallow?  For me, both the last election (McCain) and this one were struggles, and this time I just wrote in an alternative candidate. 

There is a lot of talk about how abstaining from voting in the Presidential election, or writing someone in who has no chance of winning, is a waste of ones vote.  But my reasoning is that if I voted in the primary for who I wanted, and my candidate didn’t win, then I have already lost, and am let off the hook for later supporting a candidate I don’t fully support.

Nevertheless, my one-off voice of dissension didn’t appear to change the Kansas outcome, as a glance at the map above for Kansas reveals.

The Silver Lining

In important matters, such as Wichita adding fluoride to our city’s water supply, my proud “No” against that initiative appeared to carry more weight, seeing as that insidious pork bill to poison us all was solidly trounced.  “Let freedom reign,” I say.

I See our Future, and the Word “Debt” Looms Large

What does it mean to have another 4 years of Obama?  Most likely we will get new supreme court judges which lean toward the left.  And most likely we will get more debt (though I can’t say either of these results would have been significantly different with Romney).

One estimate I saw forecasted the 2016 debt to rise to 22 trillion, up from 16 trillion now.  Taking into consideration we are spending over a trillion more annually than making from taxes, that’s going to take a long time to pay off!

Not to mention, according to this site, our total unfunded liabilities from social security (16 trillion), prescription drugs (21 trillion), and Medicare (84 trillion) sum to another 121 trillion dollars of bills coming down the pike we don’t have the money for.  What does it all mean?  I shouldn’t wonder it means the feared Teotwawki (the end of the world as we know it).

Not that all our financial woes are Obama’s fault, but I’m dubious borrowing our way back into prosperity, as his method seems to be, is likely to work.

At the same time, while our 16 trillion dollar public debt sounds like a lot for the feds to have blown through on credit, it’s revealing our private debt is about the same.  Yep, between home mortgages, student loans, and credit cards, we the people are in the hole some 15.8 trillion!  It’s like I always say, government is but a reflection of the people.

You can quote me on this: “I predict someday America will have to tighten its belt.”

But for now, I’m moving to Haiti where they’ve already tightened their belt and the national debt is a measly 1 billion.  Not to mention that country is practically awash in money from the 11 billion pledged after the earthquake (just kidding, all that money mysteriously disappeared).

The Bottom Line

Ahh, the end of the matter is that America is still a great country, in my humble opinion, and I feel proud to have been part of the election process, and to have seen all the red, white, and blue flags gallantly waving, and to get my “I Voted” sticker, and to sit up late watching the results come in on TV, and to contradict the political analysts on said TV with my own pointedly insightful comments around mouthfuls of “triple-bypass-blast-O-butter” popcorn, only available in America!

Do Pictures Make Our Lives Better?

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

Back in 1824, Joseph Niépc took the first photograph ever – a view looking out the window of his home in France.  Here it is:

First Photo

That may have been the first photograph, but believe me, it wasn’t the last, though I’d venture to opine many taken since are hardly more interesting. 

188 years later, us humans take photos at prodigious rates.  According to a recent USA Today article (dated June, 2012) over 300 million photos are being uploaded to Facebook per day.

That’s over 100 billion photos per year being uploaded just to Facebook!

I’m as guilty as the next person, having snapped over 10,000 pics in the last year alone.

It’s easy to go crazy with digital cameras.  When I was a kid back in the stone age of film cameras I remember only getting 24 exposures per roll, and couldn’t see what they looked like until after they developed.  Couldn’t take so many back then.

But I wonder, what are all these photos doing for me?  I take time to shoot them, I take time to organize and store them, I purchase hard drives to hold them, I may or may not take time to view them later.

Yeah, they tell a story, but couldn’t I tell a story in writing? or better yet, in person?  Yeah, they may impress someone (there I am, standing in front of x, y, or z), but is that necessary?  Yeah, photos capture events, but isn’t that what God gave us memories for? 

Speaking of events, the cost of shooting weddings usually runs between $1,000 and $5,000 dollars.  Photography is big business.  In more ways than one.  If we didn’t have photos we might not have billboards.  Or risqué magazines at every convenience store checkout.  Or worse.

Most the world never had cameras, and they seemed to have got along fine without them.  We tend to think of the “old days” being in black and white, but before 1824 there wasn’t even black and white!  All they had was cave art scratched with burnt sticks.  And Michael de Angelo.

As I examine my own motives, I become suspiciously aware that vanity plays the larger part in my desire to have good photos of myself.  And pride and impressing others a good deal to do with many of the rest.

Of course, I’m not saying it’s all bad.  I’ve taken sunset pictures from nature, for example, which were nice to look at later, and fun to set as my desktop background.

Yet, I think taking pictures pulls me away from the present.  It focuses my attention on capturing “the moment” so as to live it again in the future.  Then in the future looking back at them, I’m again dwelling on the past. 

How often have we missed the real moment in our exuberance to get that elusively perfect shot?

This post isn’t meant to condemn cameras as “bad,” per se.  Surely they have their good points.  I enjoy taking pictures as a hobby.

But I’m beginning to wonder if it’s all a bit much?  Maybe photos are overrated?  Cameras weren’t given to us by God as standard equipment with birth (eyes were) so they must not be essential. We don’t have any pictures of Jesus with his 12 disciples…  I’m wondering if all this photographic wizardry of modern man is a clever ploy for my time to be distracted from things more important?

I don’t know, what do you think?


Related Post(s):

Texting Beyond Our Limits

My Life is a Story, But How’s the Scripting?

Monday, September 3rd, 2012

Life is a story.  Yours is.  Mine is. 

(heads up, this post isn’t very interesting, just random musings)

One of the dozen or so blogs I follow is Screenwriting Tips.  Every day a thought-provoking tidbit is shared on effective scriptwriting.  Below are several I appreciated on “Crafting a protagonist (hero)”:

  1. At the character bio stage, don’t create characters whose goals fit neatly together like pieces in a puzzle. Instead, give them goals and desires that directly conflict with each other.
  2. Your protagonist gets to be in control during the first twenty pages and the last twenty. For the rest of the script she should be struggling, confused or otherwise on the back foot.
  3. At the simplest level, antagonists are just characters who force your protagonist to make choices.
  4. Think of your protagonist’s arc in terms of sacrifice. At the beginning of the script, she’s willing to sacrifice very little and gets nothing in return. By the end, she should be willing to sacrifice everything to gain everything in return.

I see elements of these “tips” have unintentionally slipped into my own life, largely against my will.

For instance, same as in Tip 1 my desires/goals often stand in conflict: 

  1. Become more involved in Kansas / Become more involved in Haiti
  2. Aspire for wisdom and humility / Aspire for riches and fame
  3. Eat more junk food + never run again / Eat less junk food + exercise
  4. Get married and live a steady life / Stay single and carefree as the wind!

Such dilemmas. 

Even Jesus had quandaries, praying in the Garden that, “this cup would pass.”  He hardly relished the upcoming ordeal, yet desired most to execute His Father’s will, which He did.

Guess it’s not a sin to have a conflict, just so long as the good angel comes out on top.  Why are the right decisions always the hardest ones?

Tip 2 said good stories keep the hero, “struggling, confused or otherwise on the back foot.”  I find in life when things get too comfortable, I get uncomfortable… wondering what’s next?  Surely goodness won’t last… and usually it doesn’t, though oft at my own bequest resulting from a bad habit of signing up for new challenges, a glutton for punishment.

They say if you help a newborning chicken (?) crack open its’ shell, it will later die from improper muscle development.  Don’t know if that’s true, but instinctively we know difficulty and struggle yields growth… and growth is good!

All great scripts are replete with struggle and conflict.

In the story of the Prodigal Son, the prodigal was in control at the beginning of the story and never again, soon he was struggling and confused as his life spiraled downwards from a result of destructively short-sighted decisions.  That story is well scripted.  Isn’t it ironic his own worst enemy was himself? something often true in my own life too.

Tip 3 explained the purpose of antagonists: to provoke the protagonist to action, to decision!

Who or what are the antagonists in our lives?  High stress?  An annoying neighbor or nagging boss?  Moral dilemmas?  Ice cream and candy bars?  A broken-down car?  Disappointments?  Internal desires?  Bad health?  Hurricane Isaac?  All the above?

Antagonists are anything that upsets our equilibrium, not just villains.

Though it CAN be villains: I’m currently reading the book, Decision Points by George W. Bush.  The discussion over 9/11 revolved around how that event forced our nation to craft new decisions regarding our attitude towards terrorists.  Antagonists have a way of forcing the issues.

Having a bum back five years ago was an antagonist that forced me to face my mortality and eventually resulted in my reevaluating life, changing direction, and making difficult decisions about the future.  More immediate, the back pain I experienced for several months forced me then to make a decision on whether to have a positive attitude or a sour attitude.  Unfortunately, I made the wrong decision and was pretty sour during that trial.

Tip 4 deals with how a well-crafted hero should substantially change throughout a story, particularly in regards to his values and priorities.

Peter denied Christ three times in one evening, yet later was crucified upside down for refusing to denounce Christ!  Talk about change, he is a protagonist of the first order.

Ever done the exercise where you think back ten years to what an important priority in your life was then?   Ten years ago I was 19 and making the cut in college was a top concern.  Then you think back 20 years ago and ask the same question…  I was 9 years old then and my cup of tea was working towards becoming a computer game programmer.  30 years ago?  At that time I was –1 and nervously anticipating birth.

Seriously, I do at times marvel how different I am now than five years ago, or ten.  Particularly in values.  Looking forward I think, “Where am I headed?  What are my goals?  What am I fighting for?  Are my goals worth fighting for?  What type of sacrifices am I prepared to reach my destination?”

Conclusion

The point of this post was to generate thought in how our lives are not just our lives, but also interesting stories complete with intricate plots and character developments. 

Perhaps we often miss the forest of our lives for the trees of daily living?  I wonder, is my story one of forging ahead to make a difference in things that really matter, or merely moseying in circles?  That thought is sobering.

On a spiritual note, God was working in the lives of honest-to-goodness people in the Bible when they often they didn’t know it at the time.  Most Old Testament characters had no idea of the bigger picture their small part was playing.  I like to think that in the same way God is using my life to weave a larger tapestry: someday I’ll see it, stand back, and say, “Wow!”

J.R.R. Tolkien, a master story-teller in his own right, wove clues on his philosophy of “story” into the very script of his most famous story, The Lord of the Rings (watch it here):

Frodo: I can’t do this, Sam.

Sam: I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.

Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam?

Sam: That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo… and it’s worth fighting for.

I would add to Sam’s comment there is a God who promises a new day, a bright one, for those who hold to faith in Him, an invisible being who has made outlandish promises to humans through his Word, the Bible:

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations… Without weakening in his faith… he did not waver through unbelief at the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.(Rom 4:17-22)

The Shocking Semantics of Culture Shock

Monday, June 18th, 2012

So the powers that be, whoever they are, have determined Culture Shock has four stages. 

However, I’m not convinced Culture Shock has only four stages, just as I’m not convinced public speeches have only three parts (introduction, body, and conclusion).

I’ve heard speeches before that were all body; I’ve heard speeches that were all conclusion; and I’ve heard speeches that were all introduction.  I’ve also heard speeches that weren’t much of anything, and wondered why I was wasting my time listening to them.

In my opinion: reality defies description.  And life is messy.  Yet this doesn’t stop the powers that be from putting Speeches and Culture Shock into tidy boxes.

When I say the words “culture shock,” I’m referring to that mouth-opening, jaw dropping, deer in the headlights SHOCK one experiences upon seeing certain foreign practices (like electronic toilets, suited people picking up trash with salad tongs, or men in gourds wielding bows and arrows). 

My version of of culture shock has only one stage: shock.

The four scientific stages of “culture shock” seem to rather describe four stages of “cultural adjustment.”  Concisely, they are:

  1. Excitement / Holiday / Honeymoon (0-3 months)
  2. Withdrawal / Negotiation / Anxiety (3-6 months)
  3. Adjustment / Confidence / Feeling “normal” (6-12 months)
  4. Mastery / Enthusiasm / Comfort (12 months+)

I love how the stages even come with precise monthly timelines.  Shucks, I’ve gone through all four of those stages before in a New York minute.

Take, for instance, the time I saw a group of Hippos down by a lakeside in Kenya:

  1. First, I felt Excitement at viewing such monstrous animals sooo close!  It felt like I was on a Holiday, perhaps even a Honeymoon (except I was by myself, so not really).
  2. Then, in my Excitement to get even closer, I accidentally touched a high-voltage electric fence separating me from said hippos, which resulted in Withdrawal, Negotiation, and dare I say? Anxiety
  3. Next, I Adjusted to the situation, standing back from the fence, and after some time even began snapping photos with Confidence, and several minutes later, when the tingling died down in my leg, started feeling Normal again.
  4. Finally, having Mastered the situation, I turned my back on the lumbering mammals and with a satisfied chortle, muttered under my breath, “Veni, vidi, vici,” as I returned to the Comfort of my lodgings.

So, in a nutshell, that’s the shocking version of Culture Shock.

On a serious note, when it comes down to it, Culture Shock is simply dealing with differences – first noticing differences, then reacting to them in some manner.

The reaction may be naively happy (stage 1), overboardily grumpily (stage 2), with toleration (stage 3), or cheerfulness (stage 4). Other reactions include yelling, belligerence, and manic-depression, to name a few.

Now, regarding re-entry shock I’ll refrain on commenting as I’m still re-entering, and haven’t been away from home long (only 6 months) so am predicting a mild case, if anything. 

One of the first observations I did make upon arriving in the USA was how I could now understand ambient conversations again.  This was surprising as I’m used to only hearing gibberish from strangers. 

The first time I noticed this was while heading towards the immigration check-in counter at the Honolulu airport.  The man behind me was grumbling about how slow the moving sidewalks were: “They just built this wing of the airport, you’d think they could have made the sidewalks a little faster! it’s like half a mile we have to go here and good gracious, we have elderly folks, they can’t stand up forever!” 

Sorry buddy, it’s only survival of the fittest here.  Those who can’t stand longer than the two minutes required to reach immigration are gonna get left behind, turns out the only law they follow in Hawaii is the law of the jungle.

Honestly, I’m thinking to myself, “Only in America do we complain about the speed of the moving sidewalks!”

Where Are All the Workers?

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

More than just travelling, I am on a fact finding quest for what types of work God’s people are doing throughout the world.

The ministries I have seen so far are numerous, but they all boil down to one common theme: sharing Christ with others.  Distributing spiritual bread of life.  Some help physically as well, but all try to help spiritually.

Whenever I meet those who appear to have the hand of God working noticeably in their lives, I observe a common theme.  They all ask the same question, “Where are all the workers?”  They might even add, “Where are any workers?”

They say: “We need help!” 

They say: “We could use you to come volunteer with us… for a week, for a month, or even better…. (gasp) three months!”

They say, “If you would, please consider coming a year.”

But I’ve never yet heard anyone ask, “Would you consider coming the rest of your life?”  They already know the answer… very few want to commit long term.

I’ve seen another theme:  Those with the most fruit in their ministries are those who have stayed in one place long term.  If you plant a tree, it takes a while for it to mature where fruit appears.  And it takes longer before bunches of fruit regularly forms.  Maybe years.  I have been struck incredibly by this fact.

I encourage anyone to go and see the need first hand. If you don’t have the money for an expensive short terms missions trip, I would encourage you to travel independently and visit somewhere, it doesn’t have to cost that much. 

I’m compelled by the spiritual need I see. But I’m also compelled by the physical needs I see. Refugees with no home, job, or future. People who are thin and hungry. Destitute widows. Oppressed orphans. Children from the street.

I’ve met all these. To me, each of these issues has a face and a name. Each of these issues has looked me in the eyes and seen me as a source of hope. They all ask (literally), “Nick, when are you coming back?” And I move on.

Their eyes ask, “Would you please help … me?”

100_0132

I am having so many experiences it’s difficult to process them. But if I stop long and reflect, I just want to cry. I don’t even know where that girl currently is in the picture above. Her name is Yahnsomma, last news I heard she was missing.