Monday, December 15, 2014

Nothing to Fear

So, I was doing some thinking and a particularly juicy question popped into mind: "What can Hollywood show us about our fears as a society?" After some thinking, I narrowed it down (for those more versed in older movies, please help me out if I miss some).

In many older movies, the Great Enemy was either aliens or the Nazis/Russians (pick your era). Today, the antagonist varies between science (ranging from climate change to robots, to genetic modification), terrorists, a captor, and society gone mad/anarchic.

For the most part, it's fairly easy to break down what we fear: we fear weakness, and helplessness. We fear being subject to another individual or group with more or better power than we have. We also fearthe unknown - different ideologies, abilities, worldviews. As far as science goes, the trend seen is the destruction caused by our own foolishness or as the tool of a mad person.

What I find most interesting, however, isn't the similarities arcing through the decades, but rather one significant difference. You see, the locus of the fear, the identityof the antagonist has shifted. In the past, the enemy was an alien or foreign power. Today, that role is filled by single individuals. Those individuals could be the everyday man, an intellectual, a leader, it a small group or cell.

The fears, now, haven't changed. So, what about society has changed to provoke such a locus shift?

Well, some of it is political. We no longer fear the Nazis or Soviets and instead fear terrorists, because they are the dominant political threat. What I would argue, though, is that a great deal of this shift is due to a change in society's ideology.

In the last century, America has shifted from an axiomatic, society-first ideology to a more anarchic, self-first society. In D&D terms, we've gone from lawful good/lawful neutral to chaotic neutral. What this means is that, subconsciously, we have realised that we cannot trust our peers. After all, if everyone determines what is right by their own opinion, there is nothing preventing them from doing whatever is necessary to further their goals. In light of this, we have no time to bother with fearing an alien power; we're too busy fearing that the familiar might not actually be so.

What does this mean, then?

Well, I think society craves order. Now, I'm not calling for top-down, governmental order. Citizens will chafe at that and ultimately seek its downfall. Instead, what needs to change is the ideology of the masses. Until there is a sense of order coming from the ground up, society will never feel completely at peace.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Smalltown U.S.A.

So, Google Maps is a wonderful thing. You put in your destination and it tells you how to get there. It even tells you the shortest way to get there.

Unfortunately, the shortest route is often on winding, 1-lane back roads, which is bloody irritating after dark, when you've been driving for 7 hours already. Add to that the fact that many drivers don't have the bloody courtesy to dim their brights when they see cars oncoming. (I may have acquired a newfound hatred for the blue-white halogen lights found in many luxury cars).

In hindsight, though, I rather like that Google takes you along the back roads. I mean, think of it, who wants to drive along four lanes of concrete-lined traffic, with nary a sight aside from grassy earthworks, a small scree of trees, and billboard signs. Instead, you can drive along windy paths of forest, see some farmland, and, perhaps, pass through the occasional small town.

Now, since it was already darkening, I didn't really get to see much of the landscapes aside from shadows of trees, but what was cool, was driving through a couple of small towns. Like, you know that stereotypical 50s small town, with its shop-lined main street (complete with street-be-lighted traffic median), or that town with the main square (complete with statue/memorial and green space, town hall, and some shops)? Well, I happened to drive through two of those - Madison, GA, and Monticello, GA (main street and main square, respectively) - just as it was getting dark and It was enjoyable. Props to you, small towns of America for being just plain charming, with your peaceful atmosphere and picturesque Christmas lighting on display (especially Madison. Very well done). It was precisely the calming I needed (seriously. I was about ready to say some things to some of those drivers...).

So, the take aways:
Take a drive through the back roads and enjoy the scenery.
Please, please dim your brights for oncoming traffic.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes

Genetically Modified Organism

Today, those three words (or the three letters, G, M, and O) are enough to send the media and consumers into a frenzy.

In all seriousness, though. GMOs get a bad rep from large corporations, like Monsanto, who engage in rather ruthless business tactics and from the opposition who, more often than not, pick out key phrases and use them to play on the fears of the less scientifically literate.

Let's face it, GMOs have been around for millennia. As long as agriculture has existed, genetic modification has been a part of its practice. Cross-pollination and hybridization are two terms long familiar to many farmers. By taking pollen from plants that exhibit desired traits and crossing them with other plants with different traits, we produce better crop yields, greater crop diversity, and better crop survival. This process dates to the neolithic age, for crying out loud!


Do you like citrus fruits? Guess what, with the exception of a small handful, all citrus available on the market is a hybrid of that small handful. Oranges, grapefruit, kumquat, lime, satsuma, etc. all are hybrids.

Do you like cereal or baked goods? Well, again, all modern strains of cereals are hybrids, cross-bred to produce fuller heads of larger seeds (and I'm not even starting on the "GMOs").

So, what's the big deal?

There seems to be a marked fear of science. Well, for certain sciences, that is. Nuclear science is feared, thanks to Chernobyl and Hiroshima, despite the fact that the latter is banned and the former is so much more unlikely, thanks to modern understanding and safeguard technology. Medicine used to be feared until necessity provided much-needed miracle cures and, now that many of these cures are less-needed, many of those fears are creeping back in (see the vaccine-autism plague). Similar things are happening in the realm of agricultural science.

I would argue much of the source of these fears lies in too much information paired with too little understanding.

  • We know that DNA contains the blueprint of the entire organism. Many don't understand the processes by which it is read, maintained, replicated, and passed on.
  • We know about the danger of infectious bodies, like bacteria and viruses. Many don't understand the uses these microscopic entities are put to. (Diabetics, you can thank bacteria and yeasts for your insulin shots).
  • We know the dangers of certain chemicals. We don't understand how they affect the body, whether they even affect humans, and what concentration is required to do so.

I could carry on; these are just three of the critical failings of modern scientific education and science journalism, which pertain to the GMO debate, but I think Alexander Pope did a fair enough job of that himself:
"A little learning is a dangerous thing
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring
There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.
"
Now, yes, there are many sites and blogs declaring the benefits of GMO foods, trying to be heard over the clamour of their anti-GMO counterparts and they do an excellent job summarising and presenting the benefits thereof, but that is not my goal. After all, while my degree is in biology and I am science literate, I am not an active part of the agricultural science/biotech research circles. While I may read articles and journals, I am not involved in the testing. No, my purpose is one of my grander, overarching goals: to promote improved, free-thinking, critical learning, which, in turn, creates a wider scope of knowledge and greater depth of understanding, leading to a society of humble intelligence to replace that of proud ignorance.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Suspension of Disbelief

Darwinism is flailing.

A cathedral of rhetoric, it has been build from the top down - an overarching theory supported by further theories reaching not into establishment, but into postulation. That is not to say aspects have not been proven true by any means.

Darwinism is a theory of the development of biodiversity driven from two central tenets:

  • Natural Selection
  • Common Descent
It presents that all life originated as a simple, aspecific life form (such as a simple bacterium) and that, through gradual accumulation of minute changes, current life forms changed and adapted to various environments and challenges, diversifying into new species. It says nothing about the origin of that first seminal life form, merely the progression therefrom.

The law of natural selection presents that:
  • Variation exists within a population
  • Individuals with variations more advantageous to the environment are more likely to survive and pass on their traits
  • Gradually, the population will shift to the more favourable form
The theory of common descent suggests that all life originated from a single organism.

Of the two, natural selection is well-documented and proven, being established into law.

Back to the original comment, however, Darwinism is in bad shape. The theory of diversification via accumulation is yet to solidify as anything more than theory.

Through the 19th century, much of the discussion pertained to the fossil record and its incompleteness. Many theories supporting Darwin's theories were suggested, each reliant upon further fossil discoveries. Then came the cambrian explosion. Massive numbers of fossils of great diversity were found in a stratum of rock ranging 55 million years, which is an extremely short time, evolutionarily speaking. This discovery rocked the palaeontological world with its great diversity and apparent lack of transitional or predating forms, leading many to further suspend the theory for yet undiscovered, earlier fossils.

Enter the ediacaran fossils.

These precambrian fossils presented a possible closure to evolutionary theory, but many palaeontologists expressed doubts that many, if any, of these fossils are actually precursors to those found in the cambrian strata.

Shelving the fossils, many turned to structural systems, suggesting that analogy indicated evolutionary similarity. From this set of theories, species with greater similarity branched later on the evolutionary tree than those with fewer similarities. As far as theories go, it was actually quite decent and, aside from the hitches throw in from convergent evolution (why would species diverge, then converge again in form?).

In the 20th century, studies on mutation presented a possible mechanism for variation to occur and, after the presentation of the structure and composition of DNA, it was generally accepted, then established, that the genome is what needs to be changed for variation to be produced. At this point, Neo-Darwinism came into play (Same as Darwinism, but stating that DNA is what varies, not mere "traits").

Unfortunately, as the science of microbiology progressed, the statistical impossibilities of mutation as a vector for gradual change and diversification began to present themselves.
  • DNA is a code - random mutations convert sense to missense, gradually degrading the code to non-function as more mutations occur in the same gene
  • The likelihood of randomly generating not just a random chain of A, C, T, and G, but one which successfully coded for a protein is astronomical 
  • Proteins exist in three tiers of structure (Amino acids, Aplha helices and Beta sheets, 3D structure and folding), each of which affects the subsequent tier 
  • Misfolded proteins (3rd tier) are hyper-specific, preventing much toleration for mutation
All of these discoveries create a larger, more impassable gulf for transitional evolution, as present proteins must descend into nonfunction before arriving at a new, functional form, making those intermediates unfavourable forms and unlikely to be selected. After all, we must remember that natural selection selects for the present. It is not some intelligent force that is able to select for future forms. Dr. Michael Behe likened Darwinian evolution to a series of multi-doored rooms in which one cannot backtrack - an individual does not know where each series of choices eventually leads, but, upon reaching a dead end, there is nowhere further to go.

So, I say Darwinism and, by extension, Neo-Darwinism is flailing. Having little solid foundation which is not rendered null by improbability, conflicting theories, or missing evidence, it is built largely upon conviction, a conviction which has defied logical opposition and rational thinking out of a willful desire for its veracity. 

It is, in the truest sense of Coleridge's genius, a suspension of disbelief.

Credit must be given to Drs Steven Meyer and Michael Behe as much of what is presented was drawn from a collection of my overall undergraduate education and their books Darwin's Doubt (Meyer), Darwin's Black Box, and The Edge of Evolution (both Behe).

Friday, November 14, 2014

Welcome Back - Now that You're Here

This is part 2 of my series welcoming TCKs back into the country (see part 1). Again, any TCKs having experienced reintegration, feel free to chip in.

So, a couple days ago, I wrote about what to expect when you, as a TCK, are returning to the USA. Today, I want to finish this series off with some things to do that will help smooth the reintegration process.

Now that You're Here:

Do: Find other TCKs in your area. (My university had a connect group for MKs, which was awesome). Yes, many Americans will not understand you completely, but many TCKs will.

Do: Make American friends.

Don't: Avoid all Americans because of some first appearance, accidental slight, or preconceived notion.

Do: Find local internationals. My freshman year, I would hang out at the indoor soccer fields just to hang out with other Africans and to hear African accents.

Do: Introduce your new American friends to the food and culture of your home/s

Don't: Look down on American culture (or the "lack thereof"). Instead, take time to discover things about your new home that you can celebrate and engage with.

Don't: Force the entire city to listen to music from home. While you might love it, others might not.

Do: Make mistakes (and learn from them). For example, one tailgate, a bunch of the guys from my hall were laughing at another for something he had done, so I chipped in and called him a "vark" (pig, in Afrikaans), but, not understanding me, the guys thought I said "f***" and almost flipped out.

Do: Take time to keep in touch with friends back home. This, I didn't do and I wish I had done more of.

Do: Set aside time to Skype home. You may not think you'll need it, but I can guarantee your parents will.

Don't: Play the foreigner card. It's cute and fun for the first couple weeks, but continually shoving it in people's faces will just turn them [potential friends] away.

Do: Find ways to practice any languages you learned while overseas

Do: Find ways to remember home. (For me, I keep plenty of rooibos tea on hand and I listen to township jazz or afrikaanse treffers when I miss home)

Do: Take time to freak out when you see something from home in a store. (I've done it. No shame)

Do: Find a local church

Do: Find a nice lady/gentleman and fall in love (American or international - it doesn't matter)

Do: Learn American timeliness

Do: Forget about American timeliness (It's soul-sucking, so I don't mind slipping on occasion)

Don't: Be chronically late

Don't: Claim permanent jet lag

Do: Settle down (It doesn't matter where, but take time to make a Home. It's important and, for possibly the first time in your life you'll feel like you're finally at home, which is an amazing, yet foreign concept*)

Lastly,

Do: Have fun. This is a big time in your life in which you can totally be yourself and find yourself.

*I remember when I told my now fiancee that, with her, I felt at home. It was one of the truest expressions of love I have ever experienced or uttered.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Welcome Back - What to Expect

(This is the first in a 2-part series for TCKs returning to the USA. Some of this is gleaned from first-hand experience. Other adult TCKs who have reintegrated, feel free to add in the comments section. I will incorporate it into the post with credit given.)

So, you're returning to the grand old US of A? I feel you. I was there four years ago. Heck, I'm still there, but I can promise that it gets easier and I want to give you some of my experiences to help prepare you a little bit.

Things to Expect:

Positive military presence (I know this may sound strange to TCKs from Central Africa, South America, or Southeast Asia, but it's true. America's military is mostly celebrated and thanked. It's amazing)

The Stars and Bars. If you're anywhere in the South, you'll see this baby flying proudly on belt buckles, tattoos, decals, houses, and even off the backs of trucks. Seriously. I used to be offended and think it mighty strange that people were even permitted to fly the flag of a failed rebellion, but it's allowed and, in many places, celebrated. (Complete with calls of "The South will rise again!")

Rules are different. Things you may be used to doing can and will get you into trouble:

  • No jaywalking (To the rest of the world, zebra crossings are merely suggestions, but to the USA, crossing wherever you please will get you in trouble)
  • No piling a car past max capacity
  • No passengers on the back of a truck (or in the trunk of a car, for that matter)
  • No bribing the police officers. Seriously, don't.
  • Motorcyclists, don't weave in and out of traffic. Motorists, don't make a new lane.
  • No bare feet in public buildings. (Between you and me, I still don't get this. I mean, the only person you're putting at risk is yourself. Also, Americans seem to have this thing about feet.)
  • Drinking age is 21, not 18. (Not that I advocate drinking, just warning you ahead of time)
  • Speed limits are enforced, not suggestions.
  • Right turn on red (a heavenly blessing that exists solely because other drivers actually follow the rules)
America is also fairly germophobic. I work as a waiter, so I know the health codes; some of them are ridiculous. As a biology graduate, I know some of them are redundant, pointless, or even ineffective. I also happen to know what can actually kill you (and as an African, I've probably been exposed to them anyways). Not to mention the majority of the public is woefully un-/misinformed when it comes to various diseases and their transmission/prevention (I've seen people wearing masks to avoid ebola). That being said, don't go out of your way to bolster their immune systems. It's just not cool.

America. Is. On. Time.
Seriously. Almost soul-suckingly so.
So, for all of you who, like me, come from time-liberal societies, I recommend setting your clocks 5-10 minutes ahead. I'm almost always 5 minutes late: either I've underestimated the traveling time or I've underestimated how long it will take to finish what I'm working on/the conversation I'm having.
(And yes, being late because you were having a good conversation with a new/old/long-lost friend is not a valid excuse for your lack of timeliness).

Wal-Mart
Yes, it's big. No, it's not that big. It's bigger.
Seriously, though. Almost every TCK has what I call the "Cereal Aisle Moment" when they just stop and gawk as the gross extravagance, amount, and variety of food on the shelves. (and yes, it's almost always the cereal aisle that does it. So many types of cereal...)

Many Americans are wasteful. I still remember the first time I saw someone simply throwing leftovers away. I was visiting someone's house for dinner and they were clearing the table. I just stood there, flabbergasted that people would just waste what could be another day's meal. As a waiter, I've become slightly desensitised, but it still catches me off guard.

It's often more than just a few crumbs, too
Americans can't spell. Seriously, how hard is it to spell colour, flavour, theatre, centre, or favourite?

People are different. I mean, it goes without saying, but it's true. whether they're white, Asian, Black, Indian, etc., they're different. If you're used to Danes, be prepared to be surprised by white Americans, especially if they have Danish last names - they're not Danish; they're American. 

Following that, cultures are different. 

Food is different. While the gastronomic preference of America is indeed shifting, it is nothing like that of West Africa, Central America, South Asia, etc. If you want authentic food, move to a big city and look for pockets of immigrants - they'll tell you where to go.

Americans don't all sound like Larry the Cable Guy.

Lastly (for now), guns. Many Americans own guns and will vehemently fight for their right to do so. Stand your ground laws still exist as do castle doctrine laws. So, if you're from militantly unpeaceful areas of the world or are from areas which frown on gun ownership, don't be afraid or alarmed. Actually, you can rest slightly easier as, depending on who you ask, stand your ground laws contribute to a lower incidence of murder and armed assault.

So, yes, Americaland is a strange place, but it can also be very fun and exciting. It just takes some preparation and a bit of good humour.

For suggestions and tips on navigating your reintegration, read part 2

Monday, November 10, 2014

The One about Respect - Redux

It grieves me that I feel I must re-hash this subject. Previously, I wrote on respect, respect given to authority, and the apparent lack thereof in the USA. After some recent conversations and reading of various comments sections, I feel that this is a message that needs to be brought back into the limelight (and perhaps with the backing and understanding coming from some greater maturity).

Respect comes in two forms: major and minor. I see minor respect every day here in the South. It is the consideration of others, others' needs, and others' humanity, manifesting itself through such actions as holding doors, offering up seats on the bus, or offering a lady your jacket. Major respect, though, seems to be something seldom or selectively given. This is the respect and deference given to someone because of his or her actions or position. Examples of this would be standing as a teacher or honored visitor enters the room, standing and/or saluting a veteran or current member of the armed forces, or maintaining a certain degree of decorum when discussing or in the presence of a person of rank or office.

What is so hard about offering such respect?

From my observations, I have seen this pervasive trend underpinning such lack of respect: people need to earn their respect. Now, yes, that is true, but it is also a completely subjective statement, which allows for someone to be given great or no respect depending on the attitude or opinion of the person giving/withholding respect.

I'm sorry, America, but how selfish and self-centred can you get?

Let me make this simple:

  • Every human being on this planet deserves a modicum of respect, which increases with age. Why? They are human. That's it. By dint of their humanity, they automatically receive a measure of deserved respect that cannot be taken from them. 
  • Every position deserves an appropriate degree of respect. The military gets this right, my high school got this right, why can't America? The teacher deserves respect from his students; the principal deserves even more. Police, firefighters, doctors, lawyers, CEOs, and even politicians deserve respect due to their stations.
  • Every action deserves some amount of respect. Right or wrong, heroic or criminal, an individual's actions gain or lose him respect.

Now, both of the latter two criteria are conditions which add to the first. Please note that they are additive. Also note that they are self-contained. Actions do not detract from respect due to rank and neither does rank detract from respect due to actions. a heroic janitor and an imbecilic CEO still receive respect despite their low rank or poor actions.

So, on to the question at hand: why do so many Americans show such disrespect to Mr. Obama?

Now, I get that many disagree with his policies and actions. I do as well, but that still only diminishes respect gained from one aspect of respect. You see, regardless of how much I disagree with his actions as president, he still has the full respect deserved for his position as president and for his humanity. That means, in discussions, I refuse to contort his name into defamatory statements (see, "Nobama"), I refuse to engage in ad hominem attacks, I refuse to entertain certain speculations and conspiracy theories regarding personal agendas/backgrounds which are non-conducive to polite discussion, and I refuse to flat-out bash the man for any mishandling (perceived or real). similarly, if I ever meet him in person, I will still look him in the eye, shake his hand, and treat him with the deference and consideration due his position.

America, what if I told you you can disagree with someone and still show respect?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Science - A State of Affairs

What with my degree being in biology, I do a fair bit of reading and thinking about science in general, science in relation to the Bible, and the nature of science itself. Recently, it is thoughts on the last which have been occupying my mind.

  • What is the purpose of science?
  • How does one approach science?
  • What does science show?
And so forth.

Well, I decided to do a small bit of research and reading on an interesting field known as the philosophy of science, which asks and seeks answers to these questions about science in general as well as to those in specific areas of science.

While reading through a number of the philosophical theories, I saw manners in which almost all of them work, to a degree, within their different aspects and I also was able to enlighten myself on some of the key positions of modern science today.

In a nutshell, science today consists of two camps operating from a coherentist ideology (Statements are justified by virtue of being part of a coherent system). One, creationism and intelligent design, is fairly frank about its basis in coherentism. The other, modern, secular science claims axiomatic assumptions (key, foundational statements about science), but these assumptions are merely outpourings of the larger coherent system or paradigm.

So, if the framework of science consists truly of a set of coherent systems, what then is its purpose and how is science even conducted?

As for the purpose of science, many would claim at first light that it's role is to discover truth, an epistemological position, to be sure, and a noble one at that, but I see science playing a more utilitarian role. Science serves as a tool to further refine and establish one's paradigm. By means of example, we see many creationists and intelligent designers using science in a logical manner to uphold the presence of a divine creator or possibly divine designer. Conversely, evolutionists and other secular scientists use science to establish and uphold the absence of the divine. In both cases science has become merely a tool in the hands of the scientists.

How science is conducted, then, is a rather complex entity. Deduction (following a series of true statements to a conclusion that is necessarily true) and induction (following a series of observations to a conclusion that is probably true) come into play fairly often. These are used often in laboratory sciences and in matters not affecting the overarching paradigm. When discussing paradigm-defining discoveries, abductive reasoning (following a series of statements and observations to a conclusion that best fits) is the modus operandi. By the use of abductive reasoning, we can see that each paradigm operates as a true paradigm, with the entities ascribing to each system modifying minor details as new discoveries arise, interpreting new discoveries as best fits the paradigm, and seeking to work out current or new glitches in order to have a fully coherent, established system of science.

That being said, when an individual finds that the discoveries at hand cannot be effectively worked into his or her current paradigm, then the individual must ignore the new information (and in doing so, commit academic dishonesty), create a theory in absence of further evidence (e.g. punctuated equilibrium), or abandon the paradigm for another, which is often the case where too many inconsistencies occur.

In the face of all of this, what is the take-away for the church?
  1. We need to filter through much of the published scientific literature for the truth beneath the biases.
  2. We need to use the discoveries present to highlight Biblical truth and show evidence for a creator.
  3. We need to uncover our theories in absence and address them, while simultaneously highlighting those of our opponents and our solutions thereto.

Monday, October 27, 2014

New Opportunities

Hey all,
I've recently been taken on as a writer over at Church Planting & Missions. It's a missions blog site for Job 31, a men's ministry, which seeks to engage and equip men for day-to-day integrity and ministry.

Needless to say, go and check them both out!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Talk Before You Think

So, I'm an external processor. That's fancy lingo for "I think through speaking," In reality, that works through a 3-step system

  1. Make a statement
  2. Realise that doesn't sound right/Receive feedback
  3. Repeat until the full thought or idea is properly fleshed out and conceived
This has resulted in a large wake of offended and hurt individuals and, sometimes, rightfully so. Jokes end up either scathing or falling flat. People remark at the heartlessness of some of my ideas or just stand in confusion as the vagueness doesn't make sense. 

The challenge comes when people take my first statement as the sum of my speech. Society says one should think before one speaks and, so for one who thinks as as he speaks, this creates many an awkward situation. Why? Well, many individuals don't allow me to move past step one. all you have to do to discover this is go to my Facebook page and scroll a while or search a couple of my blogs on more contested subjects to see that. 

Majority of the hurts I have caused could simply be avoided by asking a small question, or letting me know that didn't come out right. That doesn't mean a small amount of hurt won't still be there, but the greater gulf that could have been averted will be.

So, this is a PSA for all members of society, bear with us "Outies" as we make gaffes or blabber on. It's just how we think. Instead, give us constructive feedback and I promise you, you'll find we can be rather amenable.

Post Script:
For those of you who've followed me for a while, you know I'm an introvert. Yes, you can be an introverted external processor. We just tend to be very self-conscious and are very jealous of the few "sounding board" friendships we make. To Dad, Jesse, Hopchak, and G, thank you for being those crucial sounding boards.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Urgent Worship

Today, something strange happened at church.

Normally, we have a time of worshiping God through song, interspersed with announcements, offering, and prayer, followed by the sermon.

Today began in said manner, with the worship team leading. We made it through the announcements and offering and we just finished a song when the pastor came up and excused himself - one of the church members needed to be rushed to the hospital. The evening pastor had volunteered to cover the sermon with what he'd planned for tonight.

That little difference sparked a massive change. One of the worship team members stepped up to lead the congregation in prayer for their ailing member. There was a change of tone in the congregation that was shown in the following songs - Before the Throne of God Above, and Cornerstone, songs which praise God ad the eternal authority and power, for the ability to bring our burdens and pleas before Him. Standing up on that stage, bass in hand, I felt a renewed vigour in the congregation as they worshiped. As the evening pastor stepped up to the pulpit, he asked if anyone would mind taking his place in the prayer room during the service, to which 5 different individuals came to serve in that capacity.

What was the change? What sparked this renewed fervour and energy in our congregation?

Honestly, I think it was simply urgency. Rather than merely coming to praise God and worship Him for themselves, the church was gathered together as one body and one mind, praying, praising, and worshiping God, crying out to Him with full and heavy hearts. It was as though the service had gained gravitas, a sense of the awe, majesty, and magnitude of God, and the humility of spirit stemming therefrom.

That started me thinking. What if we, the global church, treated worship with that sense of urgency on a regular basis. What if the church had the same urgent spirit about the souls of unsaved individuals? What if the church had the same urgency for others in their congregations or their communities who were in need?

This sense of urgency, sometimes seen in third world or persecuted churches, I have yet to see outside of this instance in those American churches I've been privileged to visit. Not that I'm denigrating these churches - many have outstanding teaching, fellowship, and discipleship. I just don't see that same weight present. I don't see the realisation of pressing need, whether it be physical, emotional, or spiritual. I don't see that reverence and awe towards God, sparked by acknowledgement of God as sole Power and Benefactor. These are aspects of worship which are missing, aspects which defined the early church - moving in secrecy, under persecution, spreading a message of eternal life and hope for all people, and meeting the needs of the destitute, discarded, and helpless.

Brothers, sisters, I implore you to see the urgency of the Christian faith - possessing a message for the salvation of mankind and tasked with spreading said message for the duration of a time whose end we will not know. We are called not only to "make disciples of all nations", but to "serve the fatherless and the widows" as well and, for all we know, the deadline could be tomorrow!

So, let us not take lightly the burden of our calling. Let us not come to worship with cheap action and empty songs, but let us, as the body of the church, come together as one, moving, serving, and speaking as though tomorrow will never come.

Soli Deo gloria.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

On Performing Introverts

"If you had a simple more personality, you'd get a better tip." - Anon.
That was a message scribed beneath one of my receipts today and, frankly, I think it's a load of bull for a couple of reasons.

1. It's not my job.

As a waiter, my job is to be a chameleon. The only times I should be noticed are when I'm taking orders, delivering food, and managing payment. clearing your table, refilling your drinks, making quick checks that all is okay should be done quickly, efficiently, and discreetly. If you want to chat or otherwise engage with me, that's fine; I can be an excellent conversationalist when needed, but that's not my primary role.

Following suit, I understand that many waiters show a modicum of personality. Some are funny, garrulous, obsequious, or complimentary, but I can guarantee that these displays are not part of the job description - they are the measures we take to try to ensure a good tip. Just like the free bread (another grief for another time), we should not be expected to open up and engage like old friends. We're not. You're my customer and I'm trying to sell you enough food to make a good tip. I am no Saartjie Baartman redux, required to regale you with stories and oddities from my African childhood. Neither am I some Dickensian guttersnipe trying to beg a penny off of you with a sob story of my dreams and aspirations. I am a professional and will not be required to sell myself in such a manner.

2. I am an introvert.

That being said, sometimes I do engage with tables, but not from trying to get a tip. See, I am an introvert. I can be a functional extrovert, but I am still an introvert. Every day, I have a pool of "extrovert hours" at my disposal. such hours have grown, due to necessity, but they can still be depleted.

Working as a waiter depletes these precious hours. In a normal night, I can make it through the entire shift. However, being forced to deal with unpleasant customers, rudeness, impatience, neediness, and the like drains these hours faster than normal. Fortunately, good conversation on matters intelligent, pleasant, and entertaining slow down and, on occasion, slightly refill my pool.

So, don't be offended if I don't stop and talk. In fact, you might want to ask yourself, "Am I presenting an open, welcoming air?" That could be the reason I'm not hanging around.

In short, tip me for what I do or don't do, not for whether I act.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A Missed Detail

So, I know there's a fair bit of chatter about the state of the Church, especially in the Western world, what with the general sense of apathy and decline stemming from a lack of understanding, from both non-Christians and Christians alike, about the nature and role of the Church.

Many tout all the good, humanitarian, and fuzzy aspects, notable a very vague sense of love and "looking after orphans and widows."

Now, looking after orphans and widows is correct; that is an admonishment found in James Ch.1, but that's only part of the admonishment. The full verse says:
"Religion that God, our Father, accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." - James 1:27, NIV
So, yes, we are supposed to be looking after the poor, the hungry, the needy, but there's a second clause, one that is supposed to separate us from just another charity - living apart from the world.

By this, I mean that we, as Christians, are to be engaging the world, but not entranced or sucked in by it. we are not to be indulging in the world's sinful ideals and fantasies, but remaining clean from them.

I like to think of it as a pig farmer. Every day, he dons his coveralls and wades into the muck of the sty to tend and treat his pigs, but at the end of the day, he leaves the sty, removes his coveralls, showers, and eats his own food. He does not live with the pigs, rolling in the filth and eating their slop, but yet he is there every day, tending to them and raising them.

In a similar way, we need to be acting as Christians - going out and tending to the world and its needs, but at the end of the day, not dwelling in and receiving sustenance from the world, but from God, his righteousness and holiness should be what sustains us in our work, what pushes us forward, and what refreshes us at the end of the day.
 

On "Children of the World" and Short-Term Missons

So, those of you who are facebook friends may ave seen me bemoaning the misunderstood nature of charities like the Children of the World choir and the role of youth group missions trips. So, in an attempt to clarify where I stand once and for all, I give you my explanation:

On missions trips, I feel that their main role is to help missionaries to meet a task they would otherwise be unable to, due either to a lack of necessary skills or manpower. Examples of this would be disaster relief, healthcare trips, church building, or surveying. Conversely, what I see happening often, especially with youth trips, is that there is not much of a need that is met. Yes, there is exposure and growth from the team's side as they see and experience the great commission and there is community built between the local church and the sending church, but there is often little true progress or achievement and it can end up draining for the receiving missionaries. 

A good example of a large team of students being put to good work is from about 6 years ago, when a professor from Southeastern, took some students to do evangelism work. As part of the trip, they did some surveying, some work with local churches, and they cleared a field. This field, you see, belonged to a school some of my parents' colleagues were trying to start a program with. Normally, it would have taken a month or more to clear the rocks from it and make it usable, but these students did it in a day. As a result, the school allowed the missionaries to run their after school program. 

So, as far as youth trips and other trips go, they have good use and purpose, but they need to be done well and not foster a poor first world - third world perception, which is my second point.

My beef with the Children of the World choir (and other projects like it) is that is exploits the third world and presents a false representation of these nations and cultures. Every time I see them perform, I am reminded of a song by Johnny Clegg, titled "Third World Child," in which the chorus goes:
"Learn to speak a little bit of English | Don't be scared of the suit and tie | Learn to walk in the dreams of the foreigners | I am a third world child."
I know that many of these charity projects do good work. CotW provides good education and quality of life for these kids and brings awareness of people in other countries. The negative is the way that awareness is presented and processed. To me, it looks like the image presented is that they've taken these kids from a poor environment, clothed them, taught them, and are now showing them off. There's no celebration of the individual cultures; it's all homogenised into the American Church experience. The image portrayed, then, is that we, the first world, need to go into the "dark," "lost" third world and give them what they need to be like us, that we need to intervene. What is needed isn't intervention, but investment. We need to send skilled, trained individuals from the first world to train those in the third world in necessary, marketable skills: digging well, building houses, farming, pastoring, etc. In doing so, we encourage self-reliance and foster growth of the local GDP, enabling it to develop, while not forcing an American perspective or ideal overtop the ideals, flavors and actual needs of the particular culture. 

A classic example is Haiti - when the disaster struck, we responded correctly, providing needs. However, we've stayed way too long. It's been a number of years since the earthquake and we're still going and giving supplies. Why? Well, we see that everyone's still poor and needy, but the issue is that they're still poor and needy because there's no incentive to change. After all, the US is always sending people with stuff they need.

So, in a nutshell, my biggest grievance is the objectification of the third world and the reaction thereunto. Second is the manner in which youth missions trips, while beneficial to the team members, often do not benefit long-term either the missionaries or locals.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Gaming for Jesus



So, as Christians, we've all heard the encouragement to "do everything as unto the Lord." Usually it's in some context of "always give your best." Well, I'm beginning to come to the realization that it means something a bit more. While the motivational encouragement to go above and beyond the call of duty is well and good, I've begun to see that the emphasis might not necessarily be on the "as unto," but on the "everything."

Where did this realization come from?

Well, I'm a gamer (big shock to those who know me) I play everything from card games to board games and video games to tabletop games. Yes, I play D&D, Munchkin, Pathfinder, Catan, Poker, Risk, Chess, Neverwinter, DDO, Fable, Uno, and the list goes on. The only exception, really, is Monopoly. Never again will I play such a tedious, soul-sucking game, but I digress.

Usually the idea of gaming for Jesus revolves around being polite, not swearing, or not making lewd jokes while in game chat; playing as only good characters (or, if you're a bit more of a Fundamentalist, only Lawful Good); or being part of a Christian guild in which, I would guess and stereotype, the general stream of conversation would include prayer requests (good), smiting evil in the name of the Lord (really?), and the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch (I wish). I think we can all agree that these are all good things to do, but they're all a bit stunted. Heck, I used to fall into that camp. I usually only play good characters (or at least abide by the in-game law) and I've acted as guild chat mediator/policeman on many occasions.

Where do all these ideas stem from? Well, there's a popular tenet in Western Christian culture spoken by a long-dead man from a little place called Assisi.
Now, there's nothing wrong with this quote. It's a very good quote, but as I've said before (perhaps not on this site) what's the difference, outwardly, between a Christian and a really good, moral person?

See, we live in a society of very good, moral people who believe that they just need to be good enough and God or the "great, mysterious, benevolent power/s that be" will let them pass into paradise. Christianity has been maligned and rubbed into the dirt through tabloid-esque fallings-out between pastors and churches, or pastors and their wives. Christianity is misportrayed as hypocritical or an impossibly high standard upon which everyone involved is then condemned for following it or failing in their attempt to do so.

Understandably, many Christians have fallen silent, rather than speak up and show the difference, but that's the whole point of this quote. Back to my first question, what is the outward difference between a Christian and a good, moral person? 

Well, nothing.

The difference is inward. It's in the quality of difference, the consistency of difference. Te reason for the difference is, of course, that the BIG POINT of Christianity is that we're all screwed up, but are being changed from the inside. A moral person may or may not believe that man is screwed up, but the changes applied are external, because we, being screwed up, are incapable of changing ourselves. We need the work of an ultimately perfect God to perform the change. For St. Francis' quote to have any truth or merit, then,. one must already be walking around as a known Christian.

So, what prompted this change in perception about doing everything as unto God? Well, it was a simple conversation in whisperchat (in-game direct person-to-person chat instead of the common guild chat) in which one player who'd deemed me trustworthy began talking to me about life and struggles. The struggles just happened to be something that I couldn't explain the solution without God. I'd tried and the point didn't seem to be conveyed, so I broke my typical undercover Christian guise, outed myself and said the "G" word. It was then that I realised that it was possible to have a "redemptive purpose" for every different like and dislike. I can talk shop with my fellow scientists, musos, gamers, and guildies. I can build important relationships and model good, Christian living, but I can also use those relationships as vehicles for the Gospel. I can stand openly in my fields of interest as a Christian. I can share the Gospel without being cheesy. I can be attentive and listen to my fellows for what they need and, tactfully, tastefully, show them how God meets that need.

That, friends, is the merit of St. Francis' quote.

When a Good Movie Misses an Opportunity

So, a couple of days ago, I had the opportunity to watch Blended for the first time - excellent movie. I thoroughly enjoyed the humour, the story and how it went about handling the issue of blending two families.

You see, it focuses around two families who've lost a parent - one through divorce and one through cancer - and, frankly, it does a very good job showing some of the struggles of the parents and kids adjusting to the difficulties that come with both. It doesn't make light of any of the situations, but handles them with respect, showing and treating them fairly, while maintaining a casual, funny atmosphere. There was just one thing that was mishandled, though.

One issue brought up in the movie is that Drew Barrymore's character's older son (~13 y.o.) has been discovered to be viewing porn and has apparently been deep into it long enough to be superimposing crushes onto the magazines he's reading. When she first discovers it, she freaks, tearing up the centrefold, but later we see her apologetically looking through the magazine section of a drug store for a replacement. Throughout the movie the other characters' issues are shown and resolved, but for this character, his issue with what manhood means is addressed, but never the porn. Throughout the movie it's played off with sideways jokes, nudges, and winks. It's treated as just a normal part of a boy's life, with Sandler's character even admitting to having a couple copies himself and commenting to Barrymore on her son's "old school" tastes.

Yes, we see some of the effects of porn played out in the kid's role, chiefly a stunted ability to interact with women beyond simply as vessels for lust,but never do we see an admonishment from Sandler's character in a fatherly role towards pornography or its effects. Now, I know it's not a religious movie, but you don't have to be religious to see some of the exploitative work and trafficking that is enabled by the porn industry.

It's good to see such an issue brought out into the open on the silver screen. I just wish the producers had done a better job addressing it.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

For Our Sons

I'm only a young man. I haven't seen much in my meagre 23 years. I haven't experienced or done much, either, but this is something that I'm beginning to understand the gravity and magnitude of that I think needs to be better understood by men at large.

Previously, I've clumsily typed my way around the red-herring modesty debate (I'm not going to link it, but it's somewhere here on this site), thinking that was a good approach to take, to chip in my two cents that men need to be proactive and work to prevent what many merely tell women to react to, that is, lust. Equally clumsily, I've spoken with friends who are feminists, trying to ascertain their positions (didn't quite get it, but hey, I was trying, right? [wrong attitude]).

I finally got around to looking at the #YesAllWomen making its rounds. It took me a while, because I'd dismissed it as "just another feminist outrage," but what caught my eye was that men I know whom I have never seen post anything feminist were sharing it, posting it. So, I gave it a look. To me, it was nothing flooring, but it piqued my interest. I did a bit of searching for articles about the movement, read a few of the latest twitter feed posts and realized something crucial - I don't understand.

I don't understand why my sister had to wait until she was older and still take a dog with her to go running, whereas I could've gone on my own whenever.
I don't understand the pressures of the media on women to look beautiful; after all, men's health puts the same standard on us men, right?
I don't understand why women don't feel comfortable walking to the shop after dark for a few quick necessities.
I don't understand why women have to say they have a boyfriend/fiance/spouse for their "no" to be heard.
Just to name a few.

Let me flip this scenario on its head:
Men, you are now the physically weaker sex. Society has relegated your role (traditionally) to cooking, cleaning, and minding the home. Some concessions have been made, however, and you can find work, though you might not be paid equally and you might be discriminated against. In fact, you might be hit on, harassed, or sexually assaulted by someone of the opposite sex who, being stronger than you physically and in the unwritten perception of society, is able to take their way with you, leave you, and still, no-one will fully believe you, stating that you were "asking for it" because of how you were dressed, had led the person on, hadn't said "no," etc.. You face pressure from part of society to change the way you act and dress because you're "making them lust." Conversely, you face pressure from the media and the market to fit an ideal of beauty because, let's face it, regardless of how smart or strong you are, everybody's only truly going to regard you based on how pretty you are; the applicable attributes only begin applying secondarily.

Swap shoes for a moment. Can you truly say "I don't understand" any longer? How about if I told you that the originator of #YesAllWomen is being bullied and pressured by the internet community, or that #YesAllWomenJokes has been made and is making its rounds. Can you not see the discrimination riding on the unwritten undercurrents of Western society?

I send my appreciation to the authors of #AllMenCan and #EachEveryWoman as they seek to keep this discussion on the table.

I'm only a young man. I haven't seen much in my meagre 23 years. I haven't experienced or done much either, but as I grow and (hopefully) become a father, I will teach my sons this message. Will you teach yours?

Sunday, May 25, 2014

A Systematic Exposition of Salvation

It has occurred to me that while I may speak of or reference different aspects of salvation, I have not actually put to writing a systematic discourse on my beliefs and reasonings relating to salvation. Therefore, this post has been written. Take from it what you will. If you are here to deride, scorn or belittle, I bid you good day. If you are here out of curiosity or a search for understanding, welcome!

At the beginning is God, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent, who, merely with his speech, brought forth into existence time and space, giving everything form and functon for the express purpose of displaying His attributes, an action which, in any other being would be blasphemous and arrogant, but, as God is the supreme being, there is none higher for Him to give service to, making it, therefore, reasonable for God to act towards his glory, spurring the creation of time, space, the details, and man, the pinnacle of His creation, who was imbued with the ability to glorify God in the freest, fullest of manners: by free will, a gift which, at the moment of testing, was used to choose disobedience over obedience, marring the perfection of God's creation, separating mankind from God, because God, being infinitely perfect, righteous, and holy, cannot, by His nature, bear the presence of our then newfound imperfection, but instead, acting out of time, ended the scourge of disobedience at a set point in time foreknown to give Him the most glory, while, acting out of mercy, love, and grace for His creation, inside the flow of time, providing a temporary means of expiation of this disobedience, this imperfection, this sin, through the lifeblood sacrifice of a pure, unblemished animal, setting the stage for the future, permanent atonement for the fallenness of His creation, which occurred through the sending of Jesus, the son of God, who, being fully God, yet fully man was able to identify with and understand the burdens and cares of man, yet was able to live a life pure and without sin, providing a lifeblood sacrifice in accordance with the law set in time previously, the difference being that Jesus, being fully God, is not temporal, is not finite, but, rather, is infinite, able to atone for the sins of humanity past, present, and future and, after his death, was buried, but, three days later, He was returned to life, thereby breaking the necessary consequence of sin, that is, death, as the final part of His sacrifice such that whosoever accepts this sacrifice has his or her sins paid for by the sacrifice of Jesus such that under the eyes of God, it is as if he/she has never sinned, allowing him/her to be rejoined in communion and relationship with God.

Thus ends my expounding of the justifying action of salvation in one sentence.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

13 Signs that You Need Restoration

So, credit goes to my pastor for these, but they really stood out as gems, so I wanted to share them with you.


  1. Prayer is no longer a vital part of one's life
  2. Questing [his word, not mine] for Biblical truth has fallen by the wayside
  3. Biblical knowledge is possessed but no inwardly applied
  4. Pleasure becomes a necessary, compelling factor
  5. Gain dominates one's thinking
  6. Hymns and words are mouthed without any heart
  7. One finds oneself watching and reading morally corrupt content
  8. Breaches in one's church bring no concern
  9. The slightest excuse is sufficient to keep one from one's duty
  10. One is content with the lack of power and fillings of the Holy Spirit
  11. The music in one's soul and heart is no longer present
  12. One is gladly adjusting one's lifestyle to that of the world
  13. The tears have run dry and conviction of sin is absent

If, while reading this, you find yourself moved inwardly, saying, "that's me," then I encourage you to take some time, now, and drop to your knees, praying and asking God for a renewal of spirit, for the restoration that He brings, so that, once again, or for the first time, your heart might be moved to the passions and urgings of a God who loves us deeply and intimately, yet who also is a God of perfect standard that cannot be obtained and met by our feeble, dirtied attempts at perfection, but who, in a display of His mercy and grace, paid the debt of perfection and the punishment of its failure in a manner consistent with His law by providing a sacrifice sufficient to pay such an infinite debt through the sending of his son, Jesus, the Messiah, who, being fully God and fully man, lived a life of sinless perfection, endured the mockery of his peers and countryfolk, the ignominy of torture and death, the weight of eternity's sin and punishment, and the rejection of God, his Father, for the sin he carried and yet, having paid in full the price of sin for all mankind, he rose from the dead, breaking the chain of sin and death and has since risen to the Father's side, where he presents our cases on our behalf and prepares a place at the Father's table for those who, seeing they cannot ever pay their debt in full and are thus deserving of the punishment given for sin, have turned in faith to him, accepting his sacrifice, and committing their lives to following him.

(Yes, that's one grammatically correct sentence)

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Twisted Mirrors: Lust

Lust is something not very well defined today in the church. This is possibly because it is one of the largest skeletons in almost everyone's closets. Very few want to talk about it and, if they do, even fewer are candid.

The basic definitions that I have found portray lust as wanting something or someone you don't and might not be meant to have [1] or, from a more Augustinian perspective, the perversion of love. While the former is valid, it is not fully complete; the latter is closer to the mark, but only if a very complex, manifold view of love, its attributes, and attitudes is applied.

For simplicity's sake, I shall write from a perspective that, to me, is equally close to the mark, if not closer: lust is the perversion of desire.

Desire is not evil, not in its original intention. Desire seeks something to satisfy it, to appease it. Ideally, this should direct us to God or the God-given fulfillment of that desire. Classically, lust is defined as misplaced or perverted sexual desire, the desire for objects in general and for others' possessions and situations, being greed and envy, respectively.

How, then, does lust play its hand? It presents itself as a temptation, a counter-offer to God's provision for a particular need. In this context, the need could be one for some sort of intimacy, whether it be emotional, physical, relational, etc.. Lust presents itself and its subsequent actions as a source of satisfaction, but being mere perversion of God's provision, it cannot properly fulfill said need.

Lust offers a temporary, hollow, cheap alternative to the proper meeting of our desires. as a result, we can find ourselves delving ever deeper into its offerings as we seek for better fulfillment. In doing so, we condition our hearts and minds to turn to lust's offerings first, becoming addicted as does an alcoholic or a narcotic. Why? Because it provides a thrill, a temporary meeting of a desire for little cost, we continue to seek it out, becoming ever entrenched in its workings.

We're dealing not just with sin, but addiction and, unfortunately, the substance for this addiction is all around us. Advertisements, billboard, magazine, television, or otherwise, provide plentiful source material for the satiation of lust in some degree. Fashion, too, can play a part. So can the media through film, books, and even the radio. Sex sells and, unfortunately, it sells well.

So, if lust's source material is all around us, how does it take place? How does it offer its wares for the individual's "satisfaction"? Visually/mentally and physically.

Visually/Mentally

  • Ogling - the visual stripping down of a woman for some degree of sexual power or satisfaction. It is the perversion of appreciation and admiration, both of which, in their pure, intended roles seek to praise God for the beauty of His creation.
  • Pornography - the seeking of sexual satisfaction from media. This can be in the form of single images, film, or written text. This also does not have to be depictions of sex and/or nudity. It varies depending on the individual; for one, just the image of a woman in a scoop-necked top could be porn as it incites lust and the temptation to then seek satisfaction therefrom. It is the perversion of the desire for sex with one's own spouse in addition to the perversion of the appreciation and admiration which is to be reserved for said spouse.
  • Replay/Fantasizing - the mental recall or projection of a particular image or individual that incited lust. This can be intentional or unintentional, but it is more than simply the image popping into one's head, but rather, the dwelling or expounding upon said thought. This is a perversion of the regard with which one thinks about another, particularly the way one should think about one's spouse only.
Physically
  • Masturbation - the seeking of the gratification of physical sexual desire by oneself. Straight up, it is a perversion of the desire given to us which should be for our spouse only in addition to the perversion of the form intended for said gratification. Single or unmarried individuals, sorry, but the only proper gratification for this desire is to wait patiently for your spouse.
  • Adultery - the seeking of physical sexual gratification with one not one's spouse. Again, the perversion is fairly clear, it is the twisting of what was meant to remain in the confines of a marriage with one's spouse.
As we can see, lust has many faces, some of which may even seem innocuous, but what happens is that one addicted to lust finds oneself completely lacking satisfaction from that which should fulfill it. Relationships, particularly those with one's spouse and with God become cheapened [2], [3]. It is an issue of the heart, then, of the very core of our being.

How, then, can we overcome lust? Not by our own strength. Convicted of what I had read thus far, I sought to stay pure from lust during my shift at work. The number of times I was tempted to simply ogle an ad, coworker, or customer was surprising, not to mention the number of times a thought from my previous foolishnesses tried to bring itself to the fore. I quickly became convinced, in a more-than-head-knowledge kind of way of the necessity for God's intervention. Sure, I could have kept it up myself, but the strain from just 5 hours was immense. I'm under no illusions that I would have burnt out within a couple of days at best.

We need to become broken. That's Christianese for "We need to realize our helplessness in the face of our sin, discard any last vestige of pride, and humbly come to God in genuine desire for freedom." It is, after all, a hear issue. We need to come, asking for God to restore our hearts to their proper orientation - towards Him. We need to desire God above the false satisfactions of lust. Only then will the war begin to turn. Unfortunately, we cannot change our hearts. We have the unfortunate predilection for sin, the disobedience and turning away from God. It is ONLY through God that we can even be able to come to Him, to obey Him, to truly desire and give glory to Him.

Why, then, do we persist in the illusion that lust and its faces are simply our personal issues, never to be shared with anyone? Why do we enslave ourselves to empty fulfillments and addictions. Let us instead cry out to God. Let us reach out to one another and hold each other accountable for our addictions and trials.

I am human. I lust. I want out.

(For more on lust and overcoming it, check the links cited in the post above as well as these, too: [4], [5], [6], [7], and [8])

Twisted Mirrors: Introduction

Twisted Mirrors is going to become an ongoing series, ultimately to cover the 7 classical Deadly Sins. This idea was spurred by my own investigation of my struggles with Lust and my discoveries thereupon (personal and research).

So, I hope you enjoy and learn from what I'm learning.

I won't necessarily be posting these in regular sequence, but they will all eventually be posted with the "Twisted Mirrors" tag.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Worship Dilemma

So, there's something I've been noticing that I really think needs to be addressed beyond the "grumble to peer" medium and that's the self focus of much of the modern worship songs sung in churches today.

Now, I'm not talking about something along the lines of this video, but it does provide an exaggerated counterpoint.

What I am seeing more often from a number of services, particularly youth- and young adult-aimed services, is a prevalence of pop music which praises God in relation to self. We praise God for what He's doing to/with/for us. When we're praying, we praise God for how He's never left us instead of for his unending faithfulness. It's a subtle difference, but it makes an impact.

There are far too few songs that worship God for being God, for His attributes. We don't find many new songs extolling God for His omnipotence, fidelity, righteousness, or justice and what few we do are, more often than not, calls to worship where the song is encouraging the church to come and praise God because of who He is. Still, though, the focus is less on God and more on the call to worship.

What do I suggest, then? I suggest we return to the theology-rich, thoughtful poetry of hymns. I'm not saying we need to sit through piano, organ, and choir droning on at a trudging pace, but rather that we return to poetic song that praises God for God, not for how He has moved in relation to us. Let us praise him with rich thought and intense vocabulary. Let our somnolent tongues become renewed as they extol the richness of God's nature itself, without constant allusion to the self.

Yes, there comes a time in which to praise God for what He has done with/to/for us, but that should not be the bulk of our praise, but a mere part.

To those churches I have attended which worship God for God and not for us, I thank you and encourage you to continue as you were.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Mrs. Grace

So, as a few of you close friends know, I volunteer at the local ER once a week. Most nights it's fairly bland - not too crazy a pace, no-one needs anything, and I end up doing 8 laps of the ER in 3 hrs checking on people.

Some nights it's crazy; we're busy and I get back to the dorm wiped.

Some nights it's an absolute joy.
(I think I made 2 1/3 rounds today total)

You see, I love people. As an introvert, that might seem strange, but it's true. I love people. So, when I pop in on a patient and they start a conversation, I'll stop for a while and chat (I do have rounds to finish after all). It's these moments that I really love my volunteer shift.

Today was no exception.

I finished my first round in about 30 mins - rather quick. and I was dreading what the night would become. A third of the way through my second round, I popped into the bay of a patient who'd had a nurse in there the last round. She was an older, black lady, her hair covered and she started asking me a few questions, which turned, slowly into a conversation.

As it turns out, she'd led a pretty full life: married, widowed, kids, grandkids, great-grandkids, working and staying at home, and now laying on a hospital bed one ice-cold January evening.

I honestly wish we'd met on different terms: outside the hospital, with a whole block of free time to spend chatting, yet, I know one sad truth: had I seen her on the street or in the park, I'd have simply passed her by - this beautiful, strong, vibrant, 93-year-old woman whom I chatted with, listened to, encouraged, was encouraged by, and laughed with.

Mrs. Grace, if you ever read this, it was a genuine joy and pleasure to meet you. I hope we meet again this side of heaven.

God, help me have eyes to see the unnoticed, the Mrs. Graces, the Eleanor Rigbys who are all around me, day by day.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Lumpy Pot

So, in my 3 1/2 years now of living in the US, I've noticed something that strikes me as both odd and sad. Americans are not American.

Or, at least, they don't identify as such.

Now, don't get me wrong, if I were to go to any number of random people on the street and ask them directly if they're American, they'd say "Yes." What I'm referring to is the phenomenon wherein Americans self-identify as only partial Americans, as X-Americans.

I remember reading a blog by an Irish traveler and polyglot a few months ago wherein he recounted his run-in with an Irish-American (See, the X-American strikes). When the author mentioned he was Irish the obviously American individual replied stating that he was, too.

News flash: the second man was no more Irish than me.

Oh yes, I can play the heritage card: 1/16 Cherokee, a smattering of Irish, English, Norman, and Scandinavian with a dollop of "I don't know" and voila, me. Do I claim to be Irish, Norman, English, Cherokee, or Norse? Heck no! To claim a nationality is to also claim its culture; I don't share any of those cultural attributes and traditions.

Now, do Irish-Americans have distinct customs? Kind-of, but they're not Irish.

A bit closer to home: African-Americans. I'm sorry, but you're honestly less African than me. Unless you or your parents (possibly your grandparents, if they strongly instilled their culture and tradition in you) lived a substantial portion of your/their life/lives in Africa, you're simply American. You're Americans with a different ancestry and sub-/culture from other Americans, but you're American nonetheless.

So, what's the beef?

To use the lumpy pot allegory from the title: America has long been described as a melting pot, but I would argue it's not, not completely. In a melting pot, everything melts together completely, every aspect of every ingredient losing its individual cohesion and combining with its neighbours. America has been more like a lumpy soup. There are aspects and flavours from the immigrant cultures that have diffused into the mix, but the cultures as a whole have remained fairly individual, some, like the Pennsylvania Dutch, mutating into a completely new flavour separate from both the mix and their origin.

Because of these lumps, the American identity is fractured. While all nationals will identify as American, there is no common, overarching culture that is America, which would serve to connect Americans from one part of the country or people group with another from another. The subculture is not. The subculture has been allowed to become a co-culture.

Let me draw your attention to my home: South Africa is a melting pot, too, but I would argue that they are such in a more true sense of the term. Were I to ask an individual, white, black, or coloured, if he was African, if she was South African, the answer would be unequivocably "Yes." (and perhaps accompanied by a look questioning your sanity/intelligence). Yes, there are English- and Afrikaans-speaking whites, Xhosa, Zulu, Venda, Malay, Indian, and Griquas, to name a few, but the individual subculture has integrated into the mix such that one can look to the other and say that they are still one, united people. You see, "South African" and "Afrikaaner/Xhosa/YouNameIt" are not equal co cultures. Rather, the former supercedes the latter. This, America, is what you lack.

So, I ask and beseech you, Americans, look beyond your individual identifications and begin building the national identity, the national culture that America has sorely lacked, especially in recent years. Acknowledge your differences and overcome them. Acknowledge your misinformations and fears and address them. Acknowledge the wrongdoings of your cultural forebears and seek not redress or recompense, but reconciliation. Acknowledge the right doings and achievements of your cultural forebears and celebrate them. Acknowledge the right doings and achievements of your fellow American's cultural forebears and celebrate them alongside him. Acknowledge the God who made each individual, people, culture and language, who made then not only good, but very good and praise Him.

Only then will Americans come together. Only then will the lumps smooth into the pot.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Running

I don't like running.

I can appreciate running - it's good exercise and all, but I still don't like running.
I enjoy using running tracker apps so I can tell if I'm improving and how far/long I've actually run, but I still don't like running.
I enjoy hitting new distance or time milestones, but I still don't like running.
I enjoy the feeling of fitness that comes with a good run, but I still don't like running.

Too cold to run? Oh well.
Not enough time to run? That's too bad.
Don't know the neighbourhood? Yeah, it's probably not too safe.

Haven't run since last semester? No big.
Going to run again? Go for it.

Pardon me, have you seen my lungs? I think they fell behind back at the half-mile mark.

I don't like running.