Monday, March 31, 2008

"Ass" requested...

“Ass” is not a flattering word. Rather, it’s quite insulting. You generally don’t mean any type of compliment when you refer to someone as an ass. Let’s face it: the donkey got the raw deal when it comes to our lexicon. The poor thing gets equated to humanity’s backside. It could be a synonymous term for witty or good-looking; but, alas, it is not. The donkey is not the hero of the animal kingdom…

There’s an incredibly interesting bit of story in Numbers 22. I’ll admit that I’m a little perplexed by verses 18-22 (if you care enough to go read them), but pushing that aside, I like where the donkey starts talking. That’s right. Just like the serpent in the Garden of Eden in Genesis, this animal starts speaking. (Literally? I dunno.) But it’s amazing to me that Balaam isn’t really freaked out by his donkey speaking to him. In fact, he never misses a beat and dialogues with him. How odd.

There’s a million things to discuss about the text. (For instance, the donkey could have saved itself three beatings if it would have started talking in verse 23.) But here, I only wanna point out that God used an ass to get the attention of a prophet. An ass. Speaking. That’s what it took to get Balaam on the same page as God. How odd.

Then you’ve got Jesus, proclaiming himself to be the Messiah, the one the world has been waiting on, riding into town on a donkey. See, people were waving palm branches as a sign of victory. The Jews picked it up from the Romans who gave palm branches to winners of the games and victors of military conquests. They saw Jesus as their King—he was their hope of freedom from Roman oppression. He was their victor. Only, they got it wrong. He wasn’t THAT kind of king.

You would think that the people would pick up on the fact he wasn’t riding a gleaming white stallion into Jerusalem that day. Jesus came to town humbly, non-violently—not the perfect picture of a king. Jesus was riding a borrowed donkey. Dude didn’t even have his own donkey to ride and they thought he was the political liberator of an entire race of people? Seems like we aren’t the only sincere people who can miss the point. Jesus rode a donkey into town that day. A stubborn, lowly donkey. How odd.

I like how this story is in every Gospel of the New Testament (Matt 21, Mark 11, Luke 19, John 12). This is a big deal, for so many reasons. But what I find so curious is the donkey. He’s such an important part of the story, but he’s barely mentioned beyond the disciples’ instructions on how to ascertain him. He’s instrumental to what happens, but he stays outta the way of the bigger picture: he just brings Jesus to town. How odd.

Two things I’d like to point out:

The first comes from the infamous Rich Mullins: "I had a professor one time... He said, 'Class, you will forget almost everything I will teach you in here, so please remember this: that God spoke to Balaam through his ass, and He has been speaking through asses ever since. So, if God should choose to speak through you, you need not think too highly of yourself. And, if on meeting someone, right away you recognize what they are, listen to them anyway'."

I heard Eli in concert one night. He screwed up a song twice, but before starting it over for the third time, he proceeded to apologize for what drugs had done to his brain by telling jokes. Eli then said: “See kids, God can use anybody.” I don’t find it necessary to have the proper title. I don’t find it necessary to have the right degrees. I don’t find it necessary to have the most expensive education. I don’t find it necessary to own a suit. I don’t find it necessary for one to be able to deliver a thirty-minute “sermon” with three points that all start with the same letter. I don’t find it necessary for one to have eliminated smoking, cussing, drinking and gambling from their life. The only thing I find necessary is the willingness to follow the way of Jesus—be you an ass or not.

The second point is this: the donkey brought Jesus to town but stayed outta the way. He didn’t make a big deal about himself. He wasn’t the important part of the story as far as the world was concerned. I struggle with vanity in my own life. Wanting to be the center of attention. Wanting approval for the things I do. Wanting approval for who I am. There’s a time and place for all that. But in this life I chose, to follow Jesus, the importance isn’t placed on me. Like that donkey, I’m supposed to bring Jesus to town and stay outta the way. This isn’t about me. This isn’t about a church. This isn’t about religion. This is about redeeming a world. This is about everything changing for everybody. This is about love. I think we can really get caught up in ourselves: making everything about us and forgetting about the big picture. Forgetting about a whole world out there that we only see bits and pieces of on the news. Forgetting about a whole section of town simply because its “across the tracks.” Forgetting about a call to “Go…”

I know I am an ass.
I pray I get better at it…

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Its our anniversary!

Today marks five years in Iraq.

Is this where we thought we'd be five years into this?

Approximately $720 million dollars are spent daily.

This war could cost the American people $1.2 trillion dollars in the end.

We could have ended extreme world poverty by now. We could have done a lot with what we've spent on the war thus far. (Check this out for a perspective on money and the war.)

I'm not looking for comments on this (I'd encourage more conversation on the previous two posts). But I didn't think there would be a Hallmark card for this one, so I just wanted to say: "Happy Anniversary." I hope we all pray for an end to this...

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Pardon my ignorance...

I hadn't taken the time to read up on John McCain's stances on some issues. I assumed he was pro-life simply because he is a hard-line conservative.

He is not.

McCain is pro-choice. His voting record backs it up, too. He wants to overturn Roe v Wade, ban partial-birth abortions, and put a bunch of limitations on abortions, but he still supports a woman's right to choose. Read about him here.

I'm curious about those of you who have told me you can't vote for Obama or Clinton simply because they are pro-choice... if the Republican nominee is pro-choice as well, and would probably keep the country on the same terrible course its on now, who do you plan on voting for???

Monday, March 17, 2008

Life begins...

Abortion is quite the hot-button issue. For obvious reasons: we’re talking about killing babies, right? This isn’t something I (or anyone else, for that matter) take lightly. And for many people, its as much a political issue as it is a moral issue. I want to try to address both sides.

Psalm 139 says that (speaking to God): “you formed me in my mother’s womb.” Scripture, and science, lead me to believe that life begins at conception. When a sperm enters an egg, it releases its nucleus (which joins with the DNA material of the egg), and a zygote is formed. We call this a human embryo. At the 8th week, we call it a fetus. Semantics, semantics… it’s a baby. No matter what term we use, I believe that since its alive, it’s a baby.

Sanctity of life is a huge deal for me. If you read my post on war and the death penalty (“Curiosity, the cat and I”), you know I feel strongly about respecting life. It would be wrong of me to speak so strongly against war, capital punishment, etc., and to not speak out against abortion. As plain as I could say it: I find abortion amoral. It is killing a human. Period.

Now, I’ve heard some very interesting arguments revolving around the moral side of this. Questions are always raised: "What about rape? What about certain types of birth control? What about a woman’s right to decide for herself?" All of these questions are worth addressing, but either way, aborting a fetus is still killing another human. I simply don’t think you can legitimize this procedure. That’s easy for me to throw out there like that not having faced the situations that others have. But I don’t think circumstance can change this.

So how can I, someone so set against abortion, vote for a Democrat that is pro-choice? Right? That’s the question I get asked whenever this is brought up. Let me respond…

First of all, while I’m sure I will end up casting a vote for either Obama or Clinton, I have reservations about both. Obama speaks loudly about change, but wants to expand the military (which means expanded budget and expanded world presence—neither of which I agree with). I think we spend WAY too much on the military as it is. I think the US government’s spending has no real accountability and is out of control—expanding this area of the budget makes no sense to me. Clinton is on the opposite end of the spectrum, but I certainly don’t hold her viewpoints on everything either. My biggest issue with her, though, is that she’s such a polarizing figure. People either love or hate her—even if they have no valid reasons and don’t really take the time to find out who she is and what she stands for. There is no middle ground on Hillary and we need unity within our national politics. (As a side note: I wish John Edwards was still in the mix. Alas, maybe he’ll end up on the VP ticket if we’re lucky…If we were really lucky, Al Gore would join the race and we would have the chance to re-elect him as president.) But either way, I still will vote Democratic. Why? For many reasons…

Tops on the list is that there’s no way I’d cast a vote for the pro-war McCain. I’ve heard him called a “warmonger” by many people, and I’m inclined to agree. If he gets to the Oval Office, I see four years ahead that look eerily similar to the past four, only worse.

For thirty years, there has been constant shouting from the pro-life right/conservatives/etc about how this needs to change. But in 20 years worth of republican presidents out of the past 30, what have they changed? (There were just as many abortions in 1995 under Bill than there were in 2005 under W.) What I mean is, I don’t think this is simply a “Republicans are pro-life while Democrats are pro-choice” thing. Its much bigger than that. This isn’t a bi-partisan issue. I want to put a candidate in office who can change the social climate nation wide. I want someone to give people in this nation hope for a better life. I want someone who can fight poverty. I want someone who can do something about national healthcare. I don’t think that simply overturning Roe v. Wade would end abortion—they would illegally continue regardless. I know that if someone can change the social and economic conditions in America, give people viable options, give the adoption process a face-lift... abortion rates would go down. That’s a start…

I have a lot of friends who have communicated this to me: I don’t think the Republicans have anything to offer this presidential race, but I cannot vote for a pro-choice candidate. I can understand that. But at the same time, we need to look at the bigger picture. I have a lot of Democratic friends who are so disenchanted with the Republican/Right-wing that they want nothing to do with it—and that doesn’t leave too many options. (I equate that to people like myself who have issues with the American church. Some people see it as so screwed up, and don’t know what to do about it, so they leave. I have hope for change, and am working towards that from within the walls, but am very frustrated still.) A lot of people who align themselves with the left just don’t see the right as having anything to offer the world at large. I was reading a blog the other day in which someone asked: “How can someone be so pro-life and so ignorant of the bigger issues like the environment, healthcare, war, and oil?” Not everything is black and white. Not everything is left and right. Not everything makes sense in these situations. Democrat, Republican, Independent, whatever… we’ve got to look at the bigger picture and not make this into a party-line issue.

So while I’ll vote for a Democratic candidate on election day, I will continue to stand against abortion and do what I can to change things. It wouldn’t be right to speak so loudly in defense of the poor, the marginalized, and the suffering only to ignore the millions killed worldwide by abortion. This is not an easy issue to deal with it—its not even an easy issue to discuss… and it never will be. But I can’t say it enough, we got to look at the big picture of change. We’ve got to do something about the current state of our world.

Hope that makes some sense...

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Coming attractions...

I'm happy that people are willing to talk/discuss/write on here about whatever topic I bring up. My post "Curiosity, the cat and I..." sparked a lot of interesting conversation, both on and off the blog. Sheffield makes a good point on his blog that people tend to be a lot braver behind a computer screen--that words would be typed on here that would never be said by that person in real life. I think if we aren't careful, we can come across as mean, obnoxious, and/or petty. So I hope discussion on here always remains both honest, polite, and rooted in love--no matter what viewpoint is expressed by others.

Nonetheless, coming soon(!):

-post on abortion (and the politics thereof)

-post on life after death (heaven/hell)(soul sleep)(waiting)(consciousness)

-post on being an ass (quite literally)

PS-Those are in no particular order. Thanks for reading.

Monday, March 10, 2008


Youth was canceled last night due to Jason being sick (again). So Brittany and I took the opportunity to spend time with our friends who started a house church. It was a wonderful change: we shared a meal, read and discussed Mark 9 and 10, then shared communion. (Everybody started watching "Juno" at this point. As great of a movie as it is, we went home to goto bed--I'm afraid we're getting old.)

It was simple. It was beautiful.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Very well said...

Andrew Sullivan always has something interesting to say. But his most recent article for TIME simply blew me away. You can read it here, but make sure you read the whole thing (the last paragraph is the icing on the proverbial cake.)

Bear vs Les

In between trips to the toilet over the past few days, I've spent a considerable amount of time watching Discovery Channel. There weren't any shows to explain how I could possibly throw up as many times as I did in a twelve hour period. But I did pick up some interesting things about one of my favorite, and least favorite, shows. WARNING: this post may offend some people much more than my musings on politics and faith.

In "Survivorman," Les Stroud is loaded down with a bunch of camera equipment and dropped in some harsh environment (with hardly the bare essentials) to survive a week. Les has been stranded in the arctic, the bayou, the ocean, the desert, etc... He sets up his own shots, films his own stuff, explains everything to the viewers, and has to actually make it to the end of the week. He can catch a rabbit with a toothpick and some floss--seriously. Though a Canadian by birth, he is amazing.

In "Man vs Wild," Bear Grylls gives viewers a watered-down version of "Survivorman." True, he does some really gross stuff (eating raw grubs and eggs, etc) and has to make it through some harsh situations. But he isn't really surviving on his own. He has a camera crew. He stays in hotels at night sometimes, instead of out in the wild. He also has a survival expert on his crew with him. It says so right in the credits.

Though Collin has argued with me for the past couple of years over who is cooler (Bear or Les), I have to draw this conclusion: while Bear may be all glitz, glam, and camera friendly, he's a fake. Les Stroud, the real Survivorman, should be the only one of these two shows allowed on the Discovery Channel.