Thursday, December 5, 2013

Enkosi Tata

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela 

Here's to a man who fought injustice and lived to tell his story.
Here's to a man who endured long imprisonment.
Here's to a man who displayed maturity and wisdom beyond his circumstances.

Here's to a man who realised that wrong corrects no wrong,
Who realised the long-term effects of peaceful talks,
Who realised working with the opposition can effect a smooth transition of power.

Here's to a man who realised the unpopular action can be the better action.
Here's to a man who reached out, as president, in reconciliation, to his detractors.
Here's to a man who offered amnesty in exchange for peace.

Here's to a man.
A nation.
A legacy

Hamba kakuhle Madiba. Enkosi.
Totsiens Madiba. Dankie.
Farewell Madiba. Thank you.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

One-sided Coin

Something that those who know me personally know, but might be a shock to those who don't is that I really, really detest poorly-taught evolution.

"But you're a literal six-day, young Earth Creationist."

That is correct. I'm also a dedicated Christian to boot, but I'm not writing today to debate either side, but rather to chastise both Public and Private Christian schools for their presentation of the material (and yes, I know there will be some generalisations, I accept that*).

Evolutionary theory as a whole has a number of flaws, but also a number of merits. One could argue the worldview established by Darwin's theory set in frantic motion much of modern biology, opening up the inner reaches of the cell, DNA, and biochemistry as it sought to find absolute, concrete evidence for this theory to stand on. For that, amongst other merits, I am grateful.

Unfortunately, as with any worldview, those merely following within its confines begin to develop rose-coloured glasses to its flaws and/or a fairly militant outlook towards other worldviews, drawing opposing worldviews into equally militant reactions. From this base, we have the whitewashed, evolution-only approach favoured by the public school system and the see/hear/speak no evil approach favoured by the private Christian school system.

Both are wrong.

As an ancient king once wrote, "The first to state his case seems right until another comes and cross-examines him."

To this end, both the public and private Christian schools are in the wrong.

You teach evolution as though it is the scientific overarching explanation for everything relating to life - its origins and its progressions. You also teach evolution at the level of gross anatomy, the level Darwin speculated at in the 1800s. Additionally, you whitewash over the flaws in the theory with beautiful extensions of rhetoric.

Evolution is not a study of origins, but of development. Separated into its consummate parts, common descent and natural selection, it states that all life descended from a singular ancestor through successive changes and that all changes have been selected and enforced by environmental factors such that those most suited at that moment to the environment are most likely to survive and pass on their traits. Which stems into my next point: evolution, particularly the collection of changes to form new species, is far more complex than Darwin surmised. If gross anatomy was the most basic level of function in organisms, then gradual changes become extremely feasible - even if the cell was as simple as Darwin thought, a simple sac of fluid, but it's not. Evolution requires changes at the subcellular level - a level which, since the 1950s, has been rapidly expanding, presenting extremely complex systems and system controls. Such changes are often to complex to be changed by simple, single shifts. Additionally, the further scientists have contributed to the fossil record, the more those scientists have realized that the required transitional forms are still nowhere to be found.

Public schools, you need to be more complete in your presentation of evolution. I'm not saying hand  them a postgraduate-level course, but be frank about the theory's failings. Additionally, there's nothing wrong with allowing the airing of competitive, alternative theories. That's what science thrives on!

Private Christian:
You don't teach evolution at all. If it's mentioned, it's done so in passing, with sideways glances and disapproving tones, much like how the public forum presents intelligent design or creationism.

If you do not teach evolution, but rather Biblical creation presented with little scientific evidence or grounding, then you are sending your children to the front lines of a war armed with only slingshots. These children will be shortly overwhelmed and their worldviews overrun by that of mainstream society - evolution. They will be ill-equipped to hold to their own worldviews, to debate and reason their beliefs for themselves and for others. You will lose them.

Private Christian schools, you need to stop mispresenting evolution. It is not some evil syndicate out to steal your children, it is a theory and a world view, both of which need to be thoroughly taught so as to be intelligently engaged.

*On generalisations: I know there are generalisations, especially on the side of the private Christian schools (I attended public primary and high schools), but generalisations contain a nugget of truth; In this case, they are all cases I've heard from either being in the classes or helping kids in those classes with their homework.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Under Fire

It might come as no surprise to you that there exist countries in which the Gospel is banned. In some of these, an exposed missionary might get off with as little as deportation. In others, jail, torture, or death. Yet despite the opposition, Christian men and women answer God's call to put their lives on the line so that others might hear of the salvation of God.

To most of the world, this would seem mad and, to a degree, they'd be right. What people don't seem to understand is two things:

  1. The Great Commission. The directive to go and make disciples worldwide (whether at home or away) was never a suggestion. It was never an option. It was and is a command and if one is living under and following after Christ, this is a non-negotiable, not from a legalistic standpoint, but from the desire to honor God.
  2. Death is not the end. As Paul put it, "to live is Christ and to die is gain." If we live, we continue to serve Christ and to bring Him glory. If we die, we are present with Him in glory - something far better than this world can ever give.
We are called to stand up in the face of opposition and make disciples. We are told to grow in our faith and relationship with Christ so that, when asked, we may give a reasoned defense. We are told to seek God and His glory above all else and God will give us the strength to accomplish the tasks set before us.

We will face trials. We will face persecution. We were never promised the "Christian Dream" of a good job, beautiful wife, lovely family, no troubles, etc. Christ flat out tells his followers in the begging that we're going to have crap thrown our way because we follow Him.

“If the world hates you, understand that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you. Remember the word I spoke to you: ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word,they will also keep yours. But they will do all these things to you on account of My name, because they don’t know the One who sent Me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin. Now they have no excuse for their sin. The one who hates Me also hates My Father. If I had not done the works among them that no one else has done, they would not have sin. Now they have seen and hated both Me and My Father. But this happened so that the statement written in their scripture might be fulfilled: They hated Me for no reason." - John 15:18-25
So, stand up. Pray for and support those on the front lines, whether they be in Syria, China, Indonesia, or Alabama. Step up to the plate and further the Gospel in your city.

Sometimes we have this perspective of missionaries as honourable radicals and the rest of us as wise men, assimilating into society, staying below the radar so we aren't persecuted, Kind of like these guys:

So, yes, you can run, hide, and you might live. You can step out into the fight and stand bold for Christ and you may die, but at the end of the day, at the final judgment, will you be separated into the sheep or the goats?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Golden Calf

Earlier today I had a bit of free time, so I pulled out my guitar and decided to go through my file of old worship music. I didn't really plan for it to be a worship session, but, in an impromptu way, it became one.

This evening, as I was spending time talking with God, I thanked Him for that opportunity, commenting that it had been a while since I'd done that and that it was a blessing in surprise. As I was praying, I was praying over a missions trip application I'd sent in (somewhat rashly, perhaps), asking for clarity on whether or not that's what God wanted me to be doing and what my initial, base motivation for applying was. From there we sidetracked onto my desire and plans for the future.

For those of you who might not be aware, (basically anyone whom I haven't met in person and spoken with for any length of time) I wish to serve as a missionary doctor in Kyrgyzstan. It started in grade 9 as simply a call to serve as a missionary there, but, as I pursued studies in biology and became enamoured with medicine, that call was gradually refined to medical missions. I fought that call for a year as a college freshman, denying the call to serve as a missionary and being set on working in the US as your everyday paediatrician, but God roped me back in line.

Returning to tonight's discussion with God, a short while after praying over the missions trip application, giving it over to Him to work according to His will and desires, and thanking Him for the blessing of that smaller worship time God asked me a small question:

"What if I sent you to Kyrgyzstan as James?" 

That question stopped me dead in my tracks. My priorities had become skewed. Over the last year or so, everything has become med school this, GPA that, MCAT the other thing, etc. I had become so focused on the doctor/medical missionary title aspect that I had, to quote the Newsboys, "lost the plot." I had, in a way, made an idol out of my calling. I had taken my calling, morphed it into an object of my desire. and made it about me. When people asked me what I wanted to do with my life, I paraded this calling that I wanted to do. It was my wish and desire and I began to leave God out of it except to pray and ask that He make it happen.

I sat for a minute, pondering this question, coming to this realization and how I had fallen, how I had lost sight of the goal. I shifted, slowly, imperceptibly, from desiring to serve God with my passions and skills to wanting to fulfill my goal and plan to honour God.

You might say, "But that's not a bad thing, you're wanting to honour God."

Look at the way it's worded. What is my motivation? What is secondary? Is it God or me?

All you who have eyes to see these words, read! Examine your life, your calling, your goals. See my failure and learn from it. Pray over it. Pray that you would remain in or return to your first love and examine yourself. Don't doubt or doublethink, just examine. Don't start jumping at shadows of selfish desire. Don't begin glossing over your errors and looking the other way. Be reasonable. Seek the wisdom and discernment of God.

"Seek First the Kingdom of God and its righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." - Matthew 6:33

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Modern Major General

"I am the very model of a modern major general,
I've information vegetable, animal, and mineral,
I know the kings of England and I quote the facts historical
From Marathon to Waterloo in order categorical..."

An interesting song, this. Here, we have a man proudly proclaiming his personage a paragon amongst peers. He proceeds to recount numberless feats and abilities, while boasting his vast stores of knowledge. He puts himself on a dais for other major generals and lesser-ranked men to admire.

It's kind of like what we shouldn't be doing as Christian leaders. Paul, the man often held as preeminent pastor (tough he may cringe at the title) wrote to the church at Corinth: 
"God has Chosen what is insignificant and despised in the world - what is viewed as noting - to bring to nothing what is viewed as something, so that no one can boast in His presence. But it is from Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became God-given wisdom for us - our righteousness, sanctification and redemption, in order that, as it is written: 'The one who boasts must boast in the Lord.'" 1 Cor 1:28-31 (HCSB)
Solomon wrote:
"He mocks those who mock. but gives grace to the humble." Prov 3:34 (HCSB)
Paul, also in his first letter to the Corinthians, gave example of the apostles humility in an excerpt slightly too long to transcribe.

I don't know about you, but I'm starting to get the idea that humility, not pride, is the proper mindset for a Christian leader. After all, did Christ not wash the grimy feet of His disciples on the evening of the last supper?

So why, then, is pride something to be avoided?

  • Pride turns the focus from God to self.
  • Pride corrupts and takes preeminence over other motives. (e.g, bettering the living situation of a poor family becomes a show for acclaim.)
  • Pride places others on a subordinate level.
I could continue, but it's late and I think these three highlight my point nicely as counterpoints to Christ and the apostles who:
  • Pointed the crowds to God,
  • Set aside their desire for praise and acknowledgement for the goal of furthering the Gospel and the salvation of mankind.
  • Placed others as equals with, if not higher than, themselves.
So, looking at leadership, we should not be modeling ourselves after this modern major general, but rather:
"Make your attitude that of Christ Jesus,
Who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with god as something to be used for His own advantage. Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men. And when He had come as a man in His eternal form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death - even to death on a cross..."
Phil 2:5-8 (HCSB) 

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Waiter's Anti-Rant

The internet has a love/hate relationship with waiters. On the one hand there are those bashing waiters for being obsequious moneygrubbers, pretentious snobs, lackadaisical do-nothings, or self-victimizing banshees. On the other are the angry waiters voicing their complaints about their restaurants, customers, managers, and tips. Why, it's enough to make you wonder why become a waiter in the first place?

In response, I have decided to compile an "Anti-Rant" of a few of the things I do like about waiting. Oh, I'm not glamorizing it in any way - it most definitely has its downsides - I'm just showing a few of the ups.

  1. It's relatively easy to get into. (Perfect for college students, hopefuls, recent grads, and never went)
  2. It has an excellent earnings:hours worked potential. (Note the word potential. While a waiter can make $80-200 in 5 hours depending on the restaurant, he can also walk out having wasted 5 hours of the day)
  3. It can be pretty flexible. (Mainly, that depends on the managers, though)
  4. It's different every day. (Okay, that's halfway true. You're doing the same thing each day, just with different people, which brings me to my next point.)
  5. You meet some of the weirdest, funniest, craziest, smartest, dumbest, and most interesting people. (Sure, they're maybe 2 tables out of your whole night, but hey, they're gems from the dross and the crap - yes, you take a lot of crap, too, but I'm just highlighting the ups).
  6. You have some interesting conversations (I know, this point ties in with the one above it, but for me it's a facet worthy in its own right.)
  7. You get to work magic. (I have made ladies cry on their anniversary from a simple "Guest Appreciation" cupcakes with a "Happy Xth Anniversary" message written across the plate in chocolate sauce. Yes, that particular lady may have had a couple of drinks already, but who am I to judge?)
These are just a few highlights of serving. I'm under no illusions that waiting is the most illustrious career, nor is it always the most pleasant, but it's a stepping stone and it's one I don't mind taking.

Monday, July 29, 2013

TCK Confession: Supermarket Freak-Out

So, for those new readers (or those TCM veterans who're a bit slow on the uptake), I was born in the USA, grew up in South Africa, and have now moved back to the USA for university.

I've been back in the states for 3 years now and I'd figured I was pretty much through with all my "I miss x from SA" phase (well, except for biltong, boerewors, pepper steak pies, and good tea. I'll never stop missing those).

Guess again.

So, I was taking a quick stop at Kroger to pick up some breakfast food and pens (waiters lose pens like my dad loses his keys) and we decided to pass through (unbeknownst to me) the international section. I saw a packet of digestives, which, as any Brit will tell you, are pretty freakin' awesome. So, I stopped and skimmed the shelves. I saw some pretty cool stuff: Cadbury drinking chocolate, proper tea biscuits, etc. Then I heard my girlfriend (who's American) say, with a great deal of puzzlement, two magic words: "Wine gums?"

The world. Just. Exploded. With. Rainbows.

I whipped my head up and gazed with wonder at the most magical sight. Wine gums! In America! I could have died happy right there and I may or may not have freaked out a little bit.

Of course, like any sane TCK, I started tearing through the shelves, looking for any food i might recognize from home. Chutney. Chicken tikka masala. No Weet-bix or marie biscuits, though... :'(

After a few minutes, I composed myself, and put the wine gums back on the shelf.

Twas magical.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Esse Quam Videri

"To be, rather than to seem."


Integrity is one of those character traits that is often both lauded and mourned. People praise it when it's seen (sometimes, depending on how it's shown or what it's shown over, however, it's maligned) and many (usually older generations and some fundamentalists) mourn its apparent demise.

But, what is it?

People often describe integrity as "being the same person that you are in public when no-one's around." It's a good working definition, but it's lacking some soundness. Being the same person publicly and privately is merely an aftereffect of integrity.

Buildings are said to have integrity or to have their integrity compromised. What do people mean when they say this?

Well, structural integrity is built off of two key factors: the quality of the foundation and the quality of materials.

A foundation lacking integrity lacks stability. It shifts and warps with the seasons, weather conditions, and age. Any homeowner dreads to hear that their foundation has shifted as the stability of the house is compromised. Cracks creep up walls; leaks develop; or floors could cave in. It doesn't matter what the house is built from, if the foundation isn't secure, if it doesn't have integrity, the house is doomed from the start.

Integrity-less building materials lack strength. They can be soft, porous, untreated, etc. As time and wear buffet a structure made of weak materials, breakage and rot sets in. Soft bricks erode and crack from the weather and strain; untreated and unprotected wood warps and rots; and porous or hollow materials begin to harbor pests or fungi. The house can no longer protect its inhabitants. It becomes a danger to its owners. It breaks down regardless of how well set its foundation is.

The same goes with personal integrity. Personal integrity stems from a firm foundation and material strength (aka strength of character).

Each of us needs to firmly establish our foundation, our worldview, such that we won't find ourselves shifting and our entire character/definition falling apart. Church, one of the reasons many individuals of my generation are falling away is because they never developed a firm, solid foundation in Christ. One must investigate one's beliefs, test it, try it, before the foundation can be set. Anything less and the foundation's set merely in sand, not bedrock.

Similarly, we must all choose our choice of building materials. Are we building with whims, passions, and concessions or with discipline, self control, and wisdom? Whims are hollow; discipline is solid. Passions are untreated; self-control is cured. Concessions are soft and porous; wisdom, true wisdom, is unyielding and without holes.

Of course, faulty materials are often packaged and sold as their superior counterparts, so one must pay careful to the source of one's character. The Bible calls these materials the "fruit of the Spirit". As Christians, we need to be looking to God for these materials, not to ourselves as we humans are flawed by our own sin, making anything of our production faulty, but God, by very definition being perfection, is able to provide perfect, flawless materials.

It's funny. Solomon wrote just that:
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight."                                                                   - Proverbs 3:5-6

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Purity and the Battle for Integrity

This is a hard post to write. Purity is one of those qualities most often stressed in Christian circles. It becomes a looming giant of ideal perfection. It's also [censored] hard to attain.

Many consider purity to be actions-based, that one's actions make them pure or impure. I disagree. Outward actions stem from an inward desire, thought, or attitude. It stems from what is being fed into the mind and soul.

As Christians, we war against our "fleshly" yearnings, the desires to take actions, speak words, or think thoughts that run counter to the nature, goal, and directives of God. We ostracize ourselves from other Christians, thinking us fouler than the others, leprous, deserving quarantine.


We are told, particularly in the New Testament, to confess our sins to one another and to uphold one another. We are not meant to be ostracizing ourselves. Part of Christian Fellowship is reaching out and finding that other are experiencing/have experienced the same things.

But I digress.

This summer has been one of forging. God has definitely done a great deal of work in my life and it's not really been that pleasant. The best image I can devise is one of a blacksmith forging a ploughshare. The smith must heat the metal and hammer it repeatedly into shape, never letting it cool until the blade is formed and is ready to be sharpened and put to its proper use.

Over these short few months, I have had the... pleasure... of having a particular vice of mine worked upon. I have an avid curiosity which nothing piques better than the scintillating, sensual, titillating, or bizarre. With the vast internet at my fingertips, a bad combination very easily arises (or, more correctly, had previously arisen).

So, my actions: I started cutting back. When that didn't work 100%, I blocked sites. New sites with softer, cleaner content (but still in the same vein) were "stumbled upon" (and later blocked). And the cycle repeated itself once more.

Each time, I asked God, "Why again? Why now? Why is this all happening?"

"You haven't learned the lesson, you're just whitewashing over the cracks. You're supposedly preparing to serve Me on your residence hall come this fall, you're in a deepening relationship with someone and this needs to be addressed."

I'd been looking for a plaster, something to cover up the wound and make me "feel better". It wasn't working. I felt hollow, thin (still do - I'm still being worked upon), and false, like a mask upon a mannequin.

Recently, however, something seems to be coming together - an idea, a principle that is being hammered into me, so to speak: Integrity.

I'd been fighting mostly earnestly on my own strength, but I was also walking into sin. I was confessing to God, seeking in His forgiveness while a part of me relished the distraction. There was little integrity to my efforts and pleas. Each time God worked something out of my life, freed me from a particular sin/vice, I walked myself back into something similar to (but removed from) what I was previously doing.

I was like a dog returning to its own vomit and I was, am, disgusted at myself for it.

My prayers were, "God, deliver me from x. Give me the strength to fight x. Give me the wisdom to see x coming." God did, and I walked myself into y.

That was the whitewash, the attempting to cover the surface issues. I need/-ed to go deeper, to face the source of these issues, the underlying desires for fleshly satisfaction warring against the calling to present myself as a "living sacrifice to God, wholly pleasing Him". "Wholly." I need/-ed to grow in integrity and in my personal relationship with God before any of this will/would be resolved.

Now, my prayer is this, "God, give me the integrity to be who I present myself to be, who I should be; to not only say I'm free, but to actually be free; to live as one walking in Your footsteps, forsaking sin, wrath, anger, lust, immorality; to not be subjecting myself to the desires of self-satisfaction, worldly pleasure, and instant gratification..."

That's my prayer, well, a large portion of it, anyways. This is a battle that cannot be fought alone or in one's own strength, but must be fought with the full armour of God, with the perseverance and prayers of fellow believers, and the grace, mercy, forgiveness, and strength of God Himself.

Friday, June 28, 2013


So, I want to talk about something that's a recurring popular issue and I'm probably going to get into hot water about it, too. See, I'm going to talk about modesty... from a guy's perspective.

Now, I've read many blogs and articles from the perspectives of religious fundamentalists, femininists, pop culture writers, clothing designers, and young, modern Christian women. I've seen articles claiming it's the guy's responsibility and some saying it's the ladies' responsibility, but they're usually all from a lady's perspective (with exception to certain fundamentalist voices staunchly proclaiming that it is the ladies' responsibility).

What I have not heard, however, is the perspective of a conservative, Christian, 20-something guy. Hence, this blog.

The three main views I have found are:
For any of you caught off-guard at the third, so was I, but I digress.

I want you to take a look at that first link, the Bible passage. It's one often used to discuss modesty and often, it's used heavy-handedly. I want to draw your attention to one phrase, five words, that stands out to me: "... with decency and good sense..."

Well, as we all know, decency means conforming to a standard of respectability, right? Well let's also tale the word apart. Decency can also mean "being decent" (decent, of course meaning appropriate, marked by moral integrity, conforming to standards of propriety, etc). Additionally, good sense means, well, good sense.

Now, let's look at the issue. The most common reason Christians advocate modesty is to prevent a man from lusting and falling into sin (that's the common, layman's opinion anyways). The first feminist perspective is a reaction to this idea, saying that modesty is one of men's ways of impressing their dominance on women and the second feminist perspective is a reaction to the first saying, "It didn't work; women are more marginalized and mistreated, especially sexually."

So, whose responsibility is it, men's or women's?

I say both.

Men, frankly, you are told to stay away from lust by Christ Himself when He equated lust with committing adultery.

Women, how can I put this? Let me give you an illustration. Let's use the stereotype that women love chocolate. If a woman is trying to avoid having chocolate, it can be fairly easy if she only sees chocolate once or twice during the day. Conversely, if every person she passes throughout the day is carrying chocolate and a sign saying "Free Chocolate," it become so much more likely that her defenses will be worn through and she'll break down and eat some chocolate.

What I'm trying to say is that men love the female form and, unfortunately, far too many of us  try, covertly or overtly, to ogle, peer at, admire, stare at it. This is wrong, I will admit that; it dehumanizes women and demeans them in the men's minds. Then there are the few, the [sometimes] strong who try their very hardest to look each woman they see in the eye and only the eye. I consider myself one such man.

It's hard. It's even harder when talking to or seeing a woman wearing, for example, a top with a large decolletage or clothes that show every "hidden" curve. It's hardest when a fair majority of women are wearing such clothes. Even business/work clothes show or "hint" at the woman's entire body and let's not even start on the beach!* 

It's not just about the clothes, though. Actions play a significant role, too. Remember the small fact that people were offering chocolate in the story? An attitude of immodesty makes it just as hard, if not more so, for guys.

How, then, does being free from modesty empower women? If anything, it makes women more victims to men's lusts and desires at the same time as it wears away at men's defenses and, after the wall has fallen (if it was even there to begin with), it often feeds men's lusts.** It strongly promotes the objectification of women (how many centrefolds are fully, if not modestly, clothed and are conducting themselves?) and fails to place women on even footing. 

That's not the freedom and equality for women that feminists of yore were seeking and I'd be willing to bet it's not what the average woman on the street desires. So, feel free to dress up. Make yourself look beautiful, if you so desire, but be conscientious of how and why you do so. At the same time, let's not deride anyone who decides to go to extremes to cover up. Frump is such an ugly word. And men, the same goes for you, too. How we dress and act can be just as bad.

So, there's the good sense. Now, men and women, let us conduct ourselves and clothe ourselves with decency. That means:
  • Men, don't look.
  • Ladies, please don't show.
  • Men, don't show.
  • Ladies, don't look.
  • Men, compose yourselves as would a gentleman, seeking not one's own benefit at the expense of a lady. (i.e. don't take advantage of a woman)
  • Ladies, assume the bearing of ladyhood and act not in a manner provoking ungentlemanly behaviour.
  • Men, be a man and don't act in such a way to make a woman act in an unladylike fashion (I mean this in two ways, men: don't provoke her to lust and don't make her feel she has to fight for her life or dignity. If she feels unsafe or is saying "No!", stop!)
  • Ladies, please don't act in such a way as to take advantage of a man.
Modesty isn't a set of strictures (oh the irony), but a lifestyle. It's acknowledging the failings of the people around you and acting in such a way as to accommodate and uplift them. If you don't mind drinking alcohol, but you're with someone who does, then don't drink. If you're dining with a Jew or Muslim, don't eat pork. It's common courtesy. I'm just asking that ladies and men would do the same with respect to how they dress and act.

*See Evolution of the Swimsuit, by Jessica Rey
**I'm not saying immodesty causes sexual misdeeds, injustices, exploitations and the like. These cancers stem from a culture of sexual devaluation and "freedom", but they share the same root as much of today's immodesty. So, while immodesty does not cause these issues, it doesn't stand idly by, either.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Wheel Turns

Today I find myself in a state I cannot truly express with words. What words suffice for the ending of ~10 years of my life? The attention and focus, the wondering about what is to come and searching what has already been written, all of this drawn to a close.


The sweetness of culmination, anticipation, and fulfillment, and the bitterness of ending. It's over.

A journey, begun in its inception 29 years ago, it began amassing followers and devotees before I was born. I wove myself into the tapestry soon enough.

To the late Robert Jordan: Thank you. Thank you for sharing your world with us. Thank you for the years of mystery, intrigue, and fantasy. Thank you for the imagination, late nights, and lost sleep.

To Brandon Sanderson: Thank you. You stepped in where the need arose. You fulfilled Jordan's dream and brought us all to a close.

My words cannot express the sentiments in near the fullest form, so I leave with this:

Tai'shar Malkier

Monday, May 27, 2013

Keep the Change

Alright. I know all of you webizens have heard countless rants about poor tippers, why you should tip, how little the restaurant business pays, etc. I know it. I hate them, too, but I want to offer a waiter's soapbox from a different perspective.

First of all, I want to note two trends. This may just be me, but hey.

People who pay in cash tend to tip by rounding up to the nearest currency increment (if it's only a buck or two, to the 5 above it) and saying, "keep the change", or just leaving before the waiter can return with the change.

People who pay with a gift card, if the entire tab is on the card, will either tip well in cash or on the card, but if there is a remainder, will usually only tip according to the remainder.

Both of those irritate me. To you credit/debit card patrons who do the math and usually tip well, congratulations and thank you.

Rant over.

Okay, but what's so important about the tip anyways, if you're not going to rant about income?

One thing (two, if you call yourself a Christian - it's one of the best ways to exemplify Christianity to the very secular world of waitroning).

Most restaurants want the best servers and will usually reward the best servers with more shifts and larger floor sections (basically, more chances to earn tips, squared).

How do they do this? By tracking two sets of numbers.

The first goes by a different name depending on your restaurant (mine calls it a GHI (gracious hospitality index)). This number is the average amount spent by one of your patrons. It's basically a measure of how well you can sell the expensive stuff. Can you coax someone from a coke and a burger to a handcrafted strawberry lemonade and a prime burger? If you can, this number will be high.

So, on a side note, please be patient when we suggest some of the more expensive menu items. We're not just trying to jack up the bill (though that is the easiest way to get a higher tip, usually).

The second is the average tip percentage. Pretty self-explanatory. It usually is a decent indicator of how well you can get the patron to like you/how good you are at serving.

What happens, then, is the boss looks at the numbers in comparison to the others and basically decides, "Okay, Jim has the 3rd highest GHI. Let's give him 6 tables tonight. Well, make that 5, since his tips are hanging around 14%. Now Jill, her GHI's not the best, but her tips, 21%! She's good. I'll give her 7 tables. She's capable enough to handle it."

Now, yes, the manager usually knows the waiters by more than name and numbers, but GHI and % are reliable indicators of a server's ability to sell and wow.

So, I ask you, not on the platform of wanting more money lining our pockets, but on the platform of wanting more chances to try to line our pockets, please treat us [your waiters] well*.

Oh, and if you're ever passing through Lynchburg, VA, take a moment to pop in and visit Ruby Tuesday. Who knows, I might be your server.

*(I'd recommend 18-20% as a guideline for standard, considering today's economy and most restaurants' goals)

Monday, May 20, 2013

That one thing...

You know that experience when you're planning everything out and it all looks good on paper; then, one thing - only one thing - doesn't quite work out the way you'd planned?

Welcome to the club.

My summer plans had 3 prongs to it:

  • get a job, 
  • find an apartment, 
  • volunteer at the local hospital. 
Pretty simple. All 3 came together before the semester ended. Great.

So everything worked out, right?

Yes. For the most part.

  • I have a job
  • I have an apartment
  • I'm now fully set up to volunteer at the hospital
So, what's the hitch?

Well, I took a week off after the semester ended, which happened to coincide with the middle of my work training. Now, you might say that's stupid, but it's not - I had to be off campus by a certain date, which was a little less than a week before I could move into my apartment.

So I told my bosses. They knew and accepted it, said I could finish training when I returned, which I did. Now, here's the hitch: The shift manager is heading on her vacation, so she wisely decided to plan the next few weeks, a very prudent, understandable move. When she was planning them just happened to coincide with the week I was away, halfway through training.

The result: I'm not officially scheduled for the next week/2 weeks. Oh, I can pick up shifts, but right now, I'm only a host and, for those of you who aren't familiar with restaurant staffing, there's only 1, maybe 2 hosts in a shift.

That means there are already few shifts available and fewer people who're likely to drop a shift.

So that's my life right now. I'm paying rent, gas, and food; I'm busy volunteering, preparing for med school; and I'm employed, but have no work. Please be praying that I could pick up a few shifts.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Prayer for Boston


I know You know what has happened recently throughout the world, but I want to pray on behalf of one particular event. I cannot fathom what happened yesterday. It doesn't make sense to me. Why would somebody/-ies try to kill a large number of innocents? I don't know, but I know that You, God, are sovereign and that, like with Joseph, the Israelites in Egypt, and the persecutions of the church, You will ultimately bring good from this evil of man's doing.

Lord, I want to pray first for the victims still living. I thank You that they are still alive. I ask that You would heal them. I ask that You would reach into their lives and bring not only physical healing, but spiritual healing, too. I ask that You would show them your grace, mercy, and love; that You would move them to be able to forgive their attackers.

Next, Lord, I pray for the doctors working furiously to save those in critical condition. I know many have been lost, but I ask, for those still living, that You would give the doctors wisdom and discernment, that they would be able to clearly assess the trauma and treat it.

God, I pray for the victims' families. I cannot imagine the pain of families grieving lost ones or dealing with the coarse adjustment of disability, surgery, or even indefinite hospitalization. I ask that you would provide for these families. I ask that not only would their physical and monetary needs be met, but that You would gather to them those able to meet their emotional and spiritual needs, God. I ask that any bitterness and resentment be replaced with grace and forgiveness and that, through this trauma, You would bring these families to you and ultimately to salvation.

I pray for the law enforcement. I ask that You would reveal the clues leading to the identities and whereabouts of the culprits. I ask that You would protect them in their search and that, ultimately, true, fair justice may be administered.

Lastly, Lord, I pray for the priests, ministers, deacons, and pastors of Boston. I ask that You would move their hearts to compassion, that they would mobilize their congregations to show Your love to the victims and their families. I ask that their hearts would be open to Your urgings and that they would take the opportunity to speak Your truth to the city in a loving, merciful manner. I ask that they might exemplify Your grace and shine Your light into the community such that people are drawn to You, like moths to a flame.

Lord, I ask that You would receive all glory and honour in the aftermath of this disaster and that many would see You truly for the first time and come before You, bowing their knees.

I ask all of this in Your name.


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Gay Dilemma

Alright. While I detest bandwagons and decry Facebook movements as ineffectual and inane, I think it's time to weigh in on the issue at hand.

On marriage: I hold to the Biblical model of marriage: one man & one woman. for those of you willing to point out that homosexuality, bestiality, and polygamy are all mentioned in the Bible, I must point out that such actions have consequences, which are also mentioned in the Bible.

On homosexuality: Yes, I think it's wrong, sinful, and a perversion, but I'm not going to shove it in your face. I'm not going to use slurs and insults or make jokes. Some of my past, high school teachers are gay. Being gay does not make someone less of a person in my eyes, rather, they hold the same status to me as do all others and, like all others, they've made a wrong choice.

Jesus came and met with liars, adulterers, murderers, drunkards, extortionists, and more. He showed them love and compassion, true, as should I, but he also spoke out against their sin. Similarly, as a follower of Christ, I am called to love, but also to speak out against sin.

Speaking out against sin doesn't mean preaching hellfire and damnation. Rather, Paul exhorts Christians to grow in maturity, "speaking the truth in love." (Eph. 4:15)

So, consider this my ultimatum: I uphold the biblical model of marriage and disapprove of homosexuality, but I will not allow my views on homosexuality to infringe upon the manner with which I engage with individuals who are gay, pro-gay, or anti-gay.

End. Of. Story.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Difficult Battlefields

I had an encouraging conversation with a friend today. What made it encouraging? Well, we were conversing about ministry in the future.

You see, he's a Pastoral Leadership student from an affluent, upper-class background who wants to minister specifically to upper-class individuals in "post-Christian" nations.

You can stop staring at the screen like I'm crazy.

"But isn't he supposed to forsake all riches and go dig sewage ditches in India for Jesus?"

Only if God calls him to, which, as much as was apparent, He hadn't.

Now, as for why I'm encouraged: compared to reaching affluent individuals, particularly of my generation, in developed countries, evangelizing to the poor, impoverished, and malnourished is almost like comparing a multiplication quiz to integral calculus.

Now, I'm not saying we shouldn't minister to the poor, because we should. We're called to do so  as Christians. What I'm saying is that it's a completely different ballgame and here are a few reasons why:

  • The needs to be met are often not physical and not apparent, hidden by many layers
  • You need to discern and address the individual's philosophy
  • You need to be able to think on your feet - there are many stock arguments used to tie up Christians in logical fallacies
  • You need to be able to refute the most recent pop philosophy, atheist argument, or evolutionary discovery
  • You need to be able to stand your own in both a formal and an informal debate
  • You need to be able to conduct yourself and converse at the appropriate level (the upper crust can be very particular about its ways, many of which don't quite fit with Christianity, but anyone trying to spread the Gospel must be aware of and fluent in these nuances)
  • Having successfully shown yourself as a well-educated member of society, you may have been allowed a step closer into confidence - don't mess up now.
  • Is there any resistance to religion/Christianity? Subtly address it without religious arguments
Finally, after going through all of these hoops, and more, after having refuted and addressed their intellectual strongholds and beliefs, once you have cleared away the dross, then you may begin to use the Bible.

As you can see, it takes a very unique individual to reach the higher strata of society, strata which are comprising a larger and larger percentage of the Western world while becoming more and more areligious. 

So, yes, I'm encouraged. I'm encouraged because I see that God has called and equipped him to a difficult battlefield, a battlefield more mental than physical.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Fast Dieting

So, with Lent around the corner (it starts on Wed.), I figured I'd talk about something I have done that I want to encourage all of you to avoid - dieting over Lent.

Let me explain myself. Lent is a period of time before Easter during which celebrants abstain from a particular something and, instead, spend the time in prayer; this is also called fasting. Most commonly, people choose to abstain from some sort of foodstuff they particularly enjoy.

There's a fine line between fasting from certain foods and dieting.

Last year, I chose to fast from desserts as a whole. For me, that was something I enjoyed and spent too much time and thought over - a perfect choice for a fast. Now, here's the kicker: I never actually fasted. I merely dieted.

So, yes, I abstained from all desserts during Lent, but what I didn't do was redeem that time otherwise spent eating or craving dessert in prayer, devouring the Word of God and desiring Him. My fast had become a diet.

This, I think, is one of the biggest dangers a faster faces and in the face of this, I want to encourage you to spend Lent fasting, but properly so. Give something up for these next 40 days, but also remember to be praying and seeking God throughout the whole time. In fact, set goals to fast about during this time, while you're at it.

Footnote: I think it's fine to turn a diet into a fast. You're already giving something up, now you're just redeeming it to draw closer to God. Turning a fast into a diet, however, I think is a big mistake, as outlined above.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

My Conversion Story

So, I had to write this up for my Theology class (It was due this morning) and I figured, "Why not publish it to the world at large?"

"Looking back, the last 14 years have been largely impacted by a single event. Had this event not happened or merely happened at a later date, I would be a very different person with unknowable different experiences. This event, of course, was my decision to accept Jesus as the payment for my sin and my lord.

The details, some 14 years old, are somewhat hazy, but I remember having grown up a pastor's kid at a decently-sized country church outside of Richmond, VA. I knew all the Sunday School stories and answers, but, increasingly, I was becoming aware that there was something more than  a picture Bible and itchy sweaters.

All of this culminated during the summer of '98. I remember going to our church's VBS, being excited because of the space theme and looking forward to Mrs. Pope's desserts. little was I to know that on that day, my teacher would hit the nail on the head. She was teaching on Jesus' Sacrifice & payment for our sins - the culmination of the week's lessons. To this day I do not know what moved me to mark the back of the card, but I have a fairly good guess it was the Holy Spirit.

A few days later, my dad, having been told by my teacher, sat me down and explained in detail what it meant to be a Christian. Not long after that, I remember praying through the ABC's of salvation in an earnest 8-year-old's prayer, acknowledging my sin, committing my life to Christ, and knowing full well what that meant."

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Yes = No?

**Let me preface this with some context: I attend a university with a moderately strict code of conduct/hair & dress code. I am a member of student leadership (although not an RA) at said school.**

Some things irritate me. Some things puzzle me. Some things do both.

As prefaced, my school has a hair/dress code attached to its code of conduct. At my school, I see students, every day, in direct contravention to the codes (more the former than the latter - violators of the latter know better than to be seen). This irritates me. This angers me and yet, I feel nothing but pity for these fellow students.


Because I cannot trust them.

"Hold on, what?"

I cannot trust them. Let me explain. When prospective students enter my school and accept its offered acceptance, they are required to read and sign that they have read and will follow the codes (hair/dress and conduct). Additionally, the students are reminded of these codes in every syllabus of every class they will take.

"Okay, how does breaking hair code mean they are untrustworthy?"

When they signed acceptance of the codes, they gave their word that they would follow and abide by the codes. Their word was and is their bond.

Bond. That's an interesting concept. have you ever given someone your credit card, ID, watch, etc as collateral that you would honor your word and perform a specific task? As a waiter, I've held many people's driver's licenses as they went to go draw money from the bank to pay for the meal.

When someone's word is their bond, it means that they nave nothing riding on their promise that they will lose except their name/word/honor. The esteem to which one holds one's name/word/honor says a lot about a person. I for one, hold my honor, my word as a valuable commodity; after all, if I do not have my word, what have I that may be trusted?

In Matthew 5, Jesus talks about taking oaths. He advises that we not swear upon the earth, the sky or on God himself as we are de facto making these our bond, but rather, we should let our yes mean yes and our no, no. Basically, we should be holding our word as bond. We should not need to be making promises or oaths to reassure others that what we say we will do, we will do.

So, to you few students walking around out of code, you men with too-long hair, t-shirts with no jacket/sweater, earrings, and you women who wear overly revealing tops or too-short skirts, I apologize. I do not mean to judge. I do not mean to belittle, but I must inform you that I cannot trust you. Do you hold your word, your name to such little esteem that you do not even hold yourself to something as easy to follow as a hair/dress code?

That is what I see. If you do not value your own word, how can I trust it?