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Wednesday, December 29, 2004

It now appears that 77,000 people are already dead, while the final number of dead may exceed 100,000.

I feel like we should have some sort of memorial service. So many killed so senselessly shouldn't go unnoticed by the Church.

UPDATE: The death toll has now topped 118,000. This is quickly becoming the worst disaster in history.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Submitted for your (dis)approval - a quote from a commenter at the Titusonenine blog:

Jesus said there will always be poor; Bono says there doesn’t have to be. I think Jesus is probably right, and Bono is probably wrong. Many needy folk are in situations they create, and perpetuate for themselves. Others need only a hand to stand on their own two feet.

As Christians we must try, but I agree with Allen Lewis that we also have to be sensible. Comment by William — 12/28/2004 @ 5:26 pm

Isnt it great that the American Church can turn out Brothers like this? Why, all those dirty brown people living in ghettoes on the other side of town - they're in the situations they create, dontcha know!

Sometimes I'm ashamed for my Faith. I'm embarrased that so many claim to know Jesus, but wouldnt know him from the beggar on the corner.

Lord, have mercy.

UPDATE: It now appears that upwards of 63,000 people have died in one of the worst disasters that this planet has ever seen. You would think that our concern for these poor people should be paramount to anything else - but wait! We shouldnt give handouts because that teaches people to be dependent on welfare.

Again: Lord, have mercy.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

I was shocked when I discovered the magnitude of the devistation in South Asia.

Believe it or not, I actually didnt hear anything about it until just a few minutes ago. It's been weeks since I've seriously watched television, and most of the "news" I get online is of the "theological/Church-related" variety.

How strange that someone connected to the "world wide web" can also be trapped in a clositer of his own making.

Also, as the title of this post suggests, I have no good response to the disaster itself. I can pray for the living and mourn for the dead. Thats about it.

I also keep in mind the words that I wrote below. Christ is coming: one day things will get better.

Thursday, December 23, 2004
(try to read the whole thing)

Brad has posted his upcoming Christmas parable, so I figured I would do one of my own. I don't mean to upstage my friend Brad, of course. Would that even be possible? No, I'm just trying to exercise my writing muscles. Here goes:

When I was a child - not too long ago - my father would often take me to dinner at a particular restaurant in town - it was called "The Hick'ry Pit" and, let me tell you, it was fantastic. Great Pork Chops! I'd recommend them to anybody.

Now, I was not born into a rich family, or even a moderately wealthy family. Our bank accounts were small, our tithes were small and so was our "eating-out" budget. We weren't able to eat out very often, no matter how good the Pork Chops were. Consequently, we could only really afford to eat out on or around special occasions when mom was too busy or too tired to cook. It had to be a really special occasion for that to happen.

One of those really special occasions, of course, was Christmas. Now, before you get to thinking that this little sermonette is about reasonably priced Pork Chops at the Hick'ry Pit, let me assure you that this isn't the case. This is actually about the building in back of the Hick'ry Pit.

You see, right behind the restaurant stood a very tall office building. (I should point out that this was taking place in the vicinity of San Jose, California - so, unlike Turlock, we had no shortage of tall office buildings). The office building behind the restaurant was exactly fourteen stories high. I made it a point to count every one of them as quickly as I could as we drove by. It was a big, black building that looked like it had been carved out of a single, solid piece of quartz. On top of this building, crowing it's dark and foreboding structure - and only present around Christmas time - were the words "PEACE ON EARTH" in gilded gold lights.

I'm not sure why, exactly, but the building managers felt it necessary to put that phrase on top of their building every Christmas season. The letters themselves were huge, probably one or two stories all by themselves. The "O" in the word "ON" was literally big enough to drive a truck through. As you can imagine - with the building being so tall, and the golden lights being so bright, the words were visible for miles all around.

The last time I saw those dazzling words was about three years ago. It was the Christmas before I moved to Turlock. Some of you may remember that Christmas as the first Christmas after September 11th. I remember driving by that big building with it's big sign and wondering if maybe somebody should tack a big red "?" at the end of that phrase . At the time, it seemed as if those words were less a proclamation of God's Mercy than a desperate plea for Peace in a world gone mad.

Speaking of a world gone mad, I'm reminded that at this moment we are currently engaged in another war - quite a different war than the one that invaded our minds way back then. Now, I'm not going to bore you with my very subjective feelings about our current War, or the war in Afghanistan, or the war on Drugs or any other war that we're currently fighting - or, perhaps, the inevitable future wars that we will fight one day. No, my feelings about those individual conflicts are immaterial.

I can tell you, however, that with all the death and mayhem in this world, it's hard to take those golden words very seriously. Just a few days ago, 18 of our young servicemen were killed by a suicide bomber in Iraq.

My point is that even a cursory glance at the News headlines will make a mockery of "PEACE ON EARTH". Many of you who read this come from families or environments that also make a mockery of those golden words. The world - the Earth - seems completely bereft of Peace. There is no Peace to be found here, or anywhere else, it seems.

And this, of course, is where Christmas comes in.

Our Brother Luke gives us a moving portrait of the young Virgin as she celebrates with Elizabeth:

‘My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my savior,
for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’

There are many types of literature in our Scriptures, but this is unquestionably a Song of Praise. Almost a Psalm, if you will. As far as she knows, YHWH is going to bring about the restoration of Israel. It's going to happen in her lifetime - and best of all, most amazingly of all - it's going to come through the Son that she carries in her womb. She was right, of course - although perhaps not exactly in the way that she had envisioned. Her Son would indeed fulfill "the promise he made to our ancestors", but probably not in the way that she or the other Hebrews at the time had wanted or even expected - but that's another story for another day.

In the meantime, we have this song. The Magnificat. It's a song of praise mixed with expectant hope. All is not lost. Israel will not live under oppression forever. The Messiah is coming. Things aren't quite fixed yet, of course. Herod is still enthroned. Caesar is still living opulently in Rome. People are still getting sick and dying. Elizabeth and Zechariah aren't getting any younger. So on and so forth.

But it's okay. The Messiah is coming. Her little boy will soon be born. Her little boy will soon put things to right.

It's wrong to say that we know how this story ended. Why? Because it hasn't ended yet. Instead, we wait expectantly for ultimate redemption, just as Mary and all the other Jews did so long ago. We wait, but - like Mary - our waiting is tinged with Praise. We Praise God for sending us a Messiah so long ago. We know the child in Mary's womb. We know the healing that he has brought, and that he will soon bring to us all. We Praise God for the Christ that has come, and is coming again soon to bring - once and for all - Peace on Earth.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is why no amount of violence, no amount of bloodshed, no amount of sin and death will ever be able to take away a single word from Mary's Song.

The Messiah is coming. He's coming soon.

Peace be with you.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Well, I downloaded Firefox today. I'm using it right now, as a matter of fact. It's pretty neat, I suppose. It loads a lot faster than IE, to be sure. I have yet to see if it will keep any hackers from assaulting my system, however. Of course, the rest of my family still uses IE, so I guess the hackers will find a way in no matter what.

An interesting aside: Italic words in FireFox are rendered in a funny-looking font. It almost looks like somebody wrote those words using old fashoned hand writing. Weird.

My journey into The Interweb contines....

UPDATE: It looks like FireFox has trouble viewing web-based .pdf files. Strange. On the other hand, it might just be my rusty old computer...

UPDATE II: You can access the latest BBC headlines through the "Bookmarks" menu in FireFox. Awsome! The Google toolbar is also pretty helpful too.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Yesterday was an interesting day. Mom and I went to lunch at Gyros & More here in town. I had the "Philly Cheesesteak Gyro" - and I must admit, it was pretty good. We were just about to walk out the door when I noticed that they served Turk Kahvesi and Baklava for dessert. I was already planning to meet Kirk for coffee later that night, so I figured that we could go to Gyros & More for a really multicultural Coffee experience. I was right!

They put a lot of sugar in my Kahvesi, but that's okay. They probably figured that I'm an American and I probably like my coffee sweet. They were right. The Baklava was great too! Made with real honey...mmm....

Afterwards, Kirk and I rented The Big Lebowski. It was a pretty good movie (and pretty funny), even if it was fairly surreal. No, make that "extremely surreal".

All in all, Friday was a great day. Why can't all my days be like Friday?

Onwards towards Sunday, the rest of the week, then Christmas...

Friday, December 17, 2004

You must check out the latest StrongBad email. They perfectly lampoon college radio - and I do mean perfectly. It had me almost rolling on the floor!

Also, you can get the full text of Wycliffe's translation here, for those of you who enjoy that kind of thing. It may also be of interest to those of you who enjoy obscure languages. I'm looking at you, Kirk!

Thursday, December 16, 2004

"For God louede so the world, that he yaf his `oon bigetun sone, that ech man that bileueth in him perische not, but haue euerlastynge lijf." -John 3:16 (in English, c. 1395 AD)

Wow. English sure was different back then, wasn't it? It's spelled so differently that it almost resembles another language, but the sounds remain mostly the same. Also, for all you "KJV-only" freaks out there: this passage was translated 200 years before King James and his Bible. Is it still inspired? Or just in the "original autographs"?


Anyway, I took a trip down to Merced today. I had to ask the College people some questions about Financial Aid. Hopefully I'll be able to get a fee waiver for my classes coming up this spring. For those of you who know me well, you also know that I try hard not to drive on the freeway. I guess I just have a phobia or something.

Well, today I drove to Merced and back on the Freeway. Yup. I'm a big kid now.

I work again tonight, but then I'm off until next Thursday. Then it's Christmas! Then Christmas is over, and it's Spring again. Life goes on, and on, and on...

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Yes! Its that time of year again! Time for runny/stuff noses, sore throats and muscle aches!

Yes folks, it's time for .....dun dun dun:

Cold Season!

(I sneezed as I wrote that. Really.)

Yes, the Cold. I've got it, which explains why I haven't been posting much lately. I apologize.

It also explains why I've completely lost my train of thought since I began writing this post.

I'll post more later, I promise. Right now I need to recuperate.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

I was on my way to work this afternoon, when a police cruiser started tailing me. It started following me about a mile from my house, and continued to follow me until I literally pulled into the parking lot at work. I don't normally get followed by police officers - and I'm a good kid - so you can imagine that I was a little nervous.

Why me, I wonder? Did I do something? Has some fugitive been spotted driving a white '95 Plymouth? Are they trying to bust me for all the hard drugs that I've been taking? Is Officer John Q. Law trying to fill his ticket quota?

I wish I knew. I do know, however, that I don't like being treated like a criminal, or that I'm on some kind of nefarious mission every time I drive to work.

I don't like it one bit.

Speaking of my car, I finally paid off the last of my insurance dues for this year. I'm all clear until early March, which - believe me - is quite a relief. This means that I'll have more money to pay down my Satan's Express Credit Card. At this rate, I'll probably be working for another six months or so before I actually start making money. I'm thinking that I might actually need to cut up my credit card so that I wont be tempted to use it.

Choices, choices. Life is full of them.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

It's official.

I am now a "College Sophomore".

It took me about thirty minutes to complete the 100-question final. The nice thing about online classes, of course, is that all tests, quizzes and finals are de-facto "open book". I mean, the school can't station a security guard in your house to make sure that you don't peek.

Ah well. It was a nice class. I've learned a lot about American history (including some things that I didn't know before! Really!), I've also come to appricate my education a little more. I figure that if I can handle an online class - a class with no teachers, TA's, or even students, I can probably handle a "real" class without being prodded to do my work.

I think this class has taught me Responsiblity, which may, in the end, be more valuable than the History that I learned.

I'm growing, and it feels good.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Well, I've seen "The Commercial", it was on the History Channel a few minutes ago.

Personally, I'm not impressed. Make no mistake, I do realize that the UCC folks have strong feelings about this issue, and that they are entitled to their opinion. I do think, however, that they are a tad hypocritical in their attitudes.

Item 1: Two burly bouncers keep a gay couple from Church.

Item 2: "Jesus didn't turn people away. Neither do we."

Unless those people are homophobes, of course. Then it's perfectly fine to turn them away. We cant have "haters" in Church, now can we?

The truth is, I've seen this kind of attitude all over the "liberal-Christian" and "gay-Christian" blogosphere. I get the impression that the only real sin, the only sin that can really get you excommunicated, is being a traditionalist.

Read this quote from the UCC website regarding "The Authority of Scripture":

"The Bible is God's gift to the church, to be read for our instruction and comfort, but we often use it as a hammer to strike down the arguments of our opponents, or even to exclude each other from the Body of Christ."

I agree. We DO use the Bible as a weapon to exclude people we don't like, and that is wrong. But how is this commercial not a weapon being used against people who hold a traditional view of homosexuality? How can the UCC be an inclusive Church but not include everyone?

The answer is simple: the UCC doesn't include everyone. Only certain people are welcome there. Others are made unwelcome by the attitudes of the Church. And so the circle is complete....


I love my mom. I love mothers, too. Mothers are God's gift to mankind, and without them, we wouldn't exist. I keep this in mind when my own mother does something silly. I figure that I should appreciate her gift of life - even when it comes gift-wrapped in soggy newspaper and covered in duct tape.
I woke up early on Sunday morning so I could get ready for Church. I got dressed and walked downstairs to our living room to relax for a minute before I began the long 1-mile trek to Cornerstone Covenant. My mom was already in the living room, drinking her morning tea. We got to talking about nothing in-particular, when, suddenly, she dropped the "M-Bomb" on me.

"You know, Karl," she said, "I know this girl at work. She's so lonely."

"Hruumph." I muttered

"She's gorgeous, you know. Like a supermodel!" my mother said as she clasped her hands against her breast, "Oh! The poor dear, all alone in this world. She's your age too!"

I said nothing and pretended not to notice the coming onslaught.

"Bless her heart," mom said, looking skyward, "she's a Christian too. Her father is a pastor! Can you believe that?"

"Yes." I said in my deadpan voice.

"She dosen't have a boyfriend because they're all sinners, you know. All these men here in Turlock! They're only interested in one thing, you know!"

I guess I'm not supposed to be interested in that One Thing. Shame on me!

"Yes," my mom continued, "if only she had a good, strong, Christian husband. That would be perfect! It's not good for a woman to grow old without children and a husband. The clock's-a-ticking! Know what I mean, sweetie?"

"Sure, mom." I said, "Well, look at the time! I had better get going!"

I lied. Church started at 10am but it was only 9:30. I live three blocks away.

So, my question is, why do moms want their kids to get married so badly? I mean, my younger sister is already married and it's not like we live in the middle ages or something. The family dynasty won't end if I don't get married. The family wealth (or lack thereof) won't disappear if I don't have any heirs. What is the big deal here? Why must my mother drop VERY SUBTLE HINTS that SOME ATTRACTIVE WOMAN is VERY LONELY and NEEDS A HUSBAND RIGHT NOW BEFORE HER UTERUS EXPLODES!!!

In other news, I took my grandma to WalMart earlier today. My friend Brad likes WalMart because he experiences it as a "cross section of America". I suppose this is true, but it makes me feel worse about America, not better. Today I counted several people who were obviously struggling with drugs. Now, don't get me wrong here, I'm not prejudiced against people who struggle with that sickness, nor do I think they are somehow less human than I. Its just, well....I can't help but feel very, very sad when I'm surrounded by drug addicts. You can always tell them apart from the general population: they have shrunken, weathered faces - as if the rest of their body was in it's 30s or 40s, but somehow their heads had aged well into their 60s or 70s. They're missing teeth. Lots of teeth. The lack of teeth adds to the already horrific mask of premature aging. They look so beaten, so broken - as if something had chewed them up and spit them back out again. I suppose something has.

It makes me wonder why people do drugs in the first place. Let me think about that and I'll get back to you.

Finally, a lot of people at Cornerstone are sick - and some of them are dying. These things are never good when they happen. Death is a curse and an abomination - both to us and to God. Its times like these when the Truth of the Ressurection becomes painfully clear: God is making all things new, but he's not finished yet. Oh! If only it could be done now! If only it would all be over in an instant. A new world, a new Cosmos, a new Kingdom would appear. Death and Hell would be banished forever, and no drugs, no death, no curse would ever come between us and God, from that day forward until forever.

We wait for that day in great anticipation. We "look for it" - as the Creed says. Until then, we wait.

Oh God, guide your children Home. Hide them in a place beyond the reach of the Enemy. We long for the day when you will return with them. In your son's Name, Amen.

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Sunday, December 05, 2004
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"Turn from your sins and turn to God, because the Kingdom of Heaven is near."

"Prove by the way you live that you have really turned from your sins and turned to God."

I baptize with water those who turn from their sins and turn to God. But someone is coming soon who is far greater than I am – so much greater that I am not even worthy to be his slave. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire."

Thursday, December 02, 2004

I've discovered a new way to enjoy Soup. Its true that there's nothing quite like a bowl of hot soup on a cold day. There's also nothing quite like a good book on a cold day. Combine the two and I think you've got a real winner. Enter "Border's Cafe".


The soup is just incredible. And you can get it in a bread bowl too! Hot delicious soup and a bread bowl: it's very filling on a cold winters day. Just sit right back with a copy of The Missing Peace, your soup, a cup of tea and you've got a whole afternoon of goodness ahead of you. I recommend this course of action to everyone.

Speaking of Borders, as I was enjoying my bowl of Potato creme today, I couldn't help but overhear the conversation taking place behind me. Two elderly gentlemen (in their early 60s, at least) were discussing the merits of "Halo 2" for the XBox. They both really enjoyed it, and wanted to "hook it up to the interweb" so they could play with their pals. It's interesting (refreshing, perhaps) to hear video games and such being discussed without all the "1337 speak" that we younger people use. It's also refreshing (and comforting, I guess) to see old guys having fun with their XBox. A very common and very popular sterotype portrays gamers as consistently being under 30. Granted this is true most of the time*, but I hope that I'm still fragging my pals when I'm 60.

*Rev. Dan Whitmarsh excepted.
"Never be afraid to doubt... and doubt in order that you may end in believing the truth."

"Let us discern for ourselves what is right; let us learn together what is good." (Job 34.4)

Location: Turlock, California, United States

"The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook." -William James, Principles of Psychology

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