Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Internet is Amazing

You can do almost anything you want on the internet. You can balance your checkbook, play a game with someone half way around the world, or read what some one you've never heard of thinks about some important world topic.

You can do nearly anything on the internet. In fact, if you're a teenager you can even find help on the best way to kill yourself. That's right. You didn't misread that last sentence. Parents, you need to be very aware of what's out there. According to this article on CNN.com,

http://www.cnn.com/2005/US/11/04/suicide.internet/index.html

there is a newsgroup called Alt.Suicide.Holiday (ASH). This group provides "recipes" for toxic potions to cause painless death. They provide support and in the case of the young woman in this story, sometimes even help with the planning process.

I can't say this strongly enough. Parents...be aware of what your child is exposed to on the internet. And even more than ever, pray for discernment and wisdom to help you see the trap before your child falls into it.

The internet is a powerful tool for a school aged child to learn to use. It can teach them hundreds of useful things. We just have to watch out for the deadly things too.

It's no longer enough to use parental blocks and assume that they'll keep the kids safe. That software helps, but it's not enough. We as parents have to maintain constant vigilance. A child can start in an innocent chat room and be led to a site like this that is a threat to his very life.

I'm looking for feedback as to what can be done to curb this kind of insanity. Should we create laws? If we did, how could we enforce them? What else can we do?

The best thing I can think of is to teach our kids that their lives are too important to waste like that. The best way to teach them that is to drive home the lessons taught in the bible.

Parents, watch over your children. Kids, keep your eyes open and don't let yourselves be deceived.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

The shameful state of affairs

There's a woman in our church who survived Katrina. Hers is an amazing story, if not completely unique. She got herself and three children, the youngest of which is around two out of there without any help from anyone else. When she got here, she was ready to go to work and take care of her family. She was not prepared for the lack of help the beaurocracy afforded her.

When we met her, this woman had nothing, not even a full bed to sleep on. Her and her three kids were sharing a mattress on the floor. She went to the Salvation Army, there wasn't room to take on anyone else. She heard the same thing from every other agency she went to. Then the United Way informed her that their stock of donated items hasn't been released yet. All this stuff that wonderful people around the country have donated and it's sitting in a warehouse somewhere. All this nonsense has made me decide one thing.

The next time there's a disaster and I want to help someone, I'm not going through the Red Cross, or the United Way, or anyone else. I'm going to identify someone who needs help and get them the help they need. There are lots of ways to do this, I'm about to tell you one of them.

My wife and I have very little. We could never have afforded to help this very special woman and her family. My wife had a brainstorm. Let's get the internet involved. She utilized a group she's belonged to for a while called Freecycle. They basically pass around things they don't need to people who do. Last Sunday we became aware of our fellow churchmember's plight. By the following Saturday my wife had accumulated two loveseats, enough beds for everyone in the house to have a place to sleep, pots and pans, clothes, a TV and enough extra stuff to help another family that we just found out about. All we had to do was spend a couple of hours driving around and picking stuff up and deliver it to out neighbor.

The moral of the story is this. If you really want to make sure that people get help when something like Katrina happens, you need to take the initiative and make sure the help actually gets to the people who need it. Otherwise it'll end up behind a wall of beurocracy that won't be penetrated until the stuff is no longer needed.

In closing, I want to thank my amazing church family for the love and support they've shown to this family in the short time they've been here. I want to thank my wife for having the foresight and imagination to coordinate this effort.

Most of all , I want to thank God for putting them all in my life at a time when I really need them.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Faith

I want to talk a little bit about faith today. The Bible says that faith is "the substance of things hoped for...the evidence of things not seen".

What does that mean? For me faith in God is a vital part of my everyday life. I believe that God will prevail through whatever circumstances arise. Everyone has faith. Maybe you have faith in science. Maybe you have faith in evolution. Maybe you have faith in your own abilities. Maybe you have faith in our government.

We all have faith. The question is whether what we have faith in is something that will last beyond tomorrow. Science changes daily, so it's hard to put too much faith in that. Evolution has too many holes in it to be taken seriously. Having faith in your abilities is a great thing but where did those abilities come from? Having faith in our government is dicey because the people in charge change so often.

I decided a long time ago that my faith was best placed in something that is never changing, and eternal. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is the same God who is in charge today. His Word gives us a guidebook to help us through life's challenges and the direction we need to find a better way to live.

My faith was tested recently when someone very close to me, who had a dynamic relationship with the Lord, died. She was the most amazing person I've ever known. She would help anyone in need, even if that person had just slapped her in the face. She was brave beyond words. Even in her last days she was more concerned with other people than she was with her own situation.

When my aunt died of this horrible disease after fighting it for 12 years I had a crisis of faith. Here is a woman who served God faithfully for many years and yet he allowed her to be consumed by this plague.

I don't know why God chose to take her the way he did. Honestly, I still struggle with a certain amount of anger, both towards God and towards some of the people in her life who made her last few years much harder than they should have been. There are times when something will remind me of her and I get furious with God all over again. I wonder why he would let her suffer so much, both physically and emotionally.

I've come to understand a couple of things through this that I didn't really get before.

Number one. The passage in the bible that says that God will not burden us with more than we can carry has taken on a very different meaning for me. I always thought it meant that God wouldn't give us any more trouble than we could deal with. Now I think that's only partly true. God will give us only what we are capable of doing in order to carry out his plan. In my aunt's case, she was capable of carrying more than most, so he put more on her. The result, in my opinion, was more difficulty in this world, but a great reward in the next.

Number two is something the pastor at my church mentioned one of the very first times I visited there. Almost in passing during his sermon he said something about how once we've reached that point where there's no more room to grow, nothing more to learn from this world...that's when God takes us. I believe that's what happened with my aunt. She had reached as many people as she could, done as much for the Lord as was possible. So he took her home.

In the end, my faith is stronger for having known my aunt, and even stronger for having watched how she handled death.

In closing, I want to leave you with the last verse of an old Ray Boltz song. Every time I hear it, it reminds of what my aunt was, and what I aspire to be...

One by one they came
as far as the eye could see
each life somehow touched
by your generosity
little things you had done
sacrifices made
unnoticed on the earth,
but in heaven, now proclaimed

And I know up in heaven,
you're not supposed to cry.
But I'm almost sure,
there were tears in your eyes.

When Jesus took you by the hand,
and you stood before the Lord,
and he said...

My child look around you...

For Great is your reward.

Monday, September 19, 2005

The Truth about Katrina

The purpose of this blog is to dig through media bias and misinformation and find the truth, whatever it might be. Since the biggest story in at least 5 years is unfolding before us today it seems logical to start with Katrina. The resounding theme of most news outlets seems to be how slow the initial response to Katrina was. In researching this I found this article that does a great job of detailing what has to be done and what a "fast" vs "slow" response time is. It basically states that the federal government was right on target as far as response time once it was cleared by the state government to move in.


http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/05254/568876.stm Jack Kelly: No shameThe federal response to Katrina was not as portrayedSunday, September 11, 2005

It is settled wisdom among journalists that the federal response to the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina was unconscionably slow.Jack Kelly is national security writer for the Post-Gazette and The Blade of Toledo, Ohio (jkelly@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1476). "Mr. Bush's performance last week will rank as one of the worst ever during a dire national emergency," wrote New York Times columnist Bob Herbert in a somewhat more strident expression of the conventional wisdom.But the conventional wisdom is the opposite of the truth.Jason van Steenwyk is a Florida Army National Guardsman who has been mobilized six times for hurricane relief. He notes that:"The federal government pretty much met its standard time lines, but the volume of support provided during the 72-96 hour was unprecedented. The federal response here was faster than Hugo, faster than Andrew, faster than Iniki, faster than Francine and Jeanne."For instance, it took five days for National Guard troops to arrive in strength on the scene in Homestead, Fla. after Hurricane Andrew hit in 2002. But after Katrina, there was a significant National Guard presence in the afflicted region in three.Journalists who are long on opinions and short on knowledge have no idea what is involved in moving hundreds of tons of relief supplies into an area the size of England in which power lines are down, telecommunications are out, no gasoline is available, bridges are damaged, roads and airports are covered with debris, and apparently have little interest in finding out.So they libel as a "national disgrace" the most monumental and successful disaster relief operation in world history.I write this column a week and a day after the main levee protecting New Orleans breached. In the course of that week:More than 32,000 people have been rescued, many plucked from rooftops by Coast Guard helicopters.The Army Corps of Engineers has all but repaired the breaches and begun pumping water out of New Orleans.Shelter, food and medical care have been provided to more than 180,000 refugees.Journalists complain that it took a whole week to do this. A former Air Force logistics officer had some words of advice for us in the Fourth Estate on his blog, Moltenthought:"We do not yet have teleporter or replicator technology like you saw on 'Star Trek' in college between hookah hits and waiting to pick up your worthless communications degree while the grown-ups actually engaged in the recovery effort were studying engineering."The United States military can wipe out the Taliban and the Iraqi Republican Guard far more swiftly than they can bring 3 million Swanson dinners to an underwater city through an area the size of Great Britain which has no power, no working ports or airports, and a devastated and impassable road network."You cannot speed recovery and relief efforts up by prepositioning assets (in the affected areas) since the assets are endangered by the very storm which destroyed the region."No amount of yelling, crying and mustering of moral indignation will change any of the facts above.""You cannot just snap your fingers and make the military appear somewhere," van Steenwyk said.Guardsmen need to receive mobilization orders; report to their armories; draw equipment; receive orders and convoy to the disaster area. Guardsmen driving down from Pennsylvania or Navy ships sailing from Norfolk can't be on the scene immediately.Relief efforts must be planned. Other than prepositioning supplies near the area likely to be afflicted (which was done quite efficiently), this cannot be done until the hurricane has struck and a damage assessment can be made. There must be a route reconnaissance to determine if roads are open, and bridges along the way can bear the weight of heavily laden trucks.And federal troops and Guardsmen from other states cannot be sent to a disaster area until their presence has been requested by the governors of the afflicted states.Exhibit A on the bill of indictment of federal sluggishness is that it took four days before most people were evacuated from the Louisiana Superdome.The levee broke Tuesday morning. Buses had to be rounded up and driven from Houston to New Orleans across debris-strewn roads. The first ones arrived Wednesday evening. That seems pretty fast to me.A better question -- which few journalists ask -- is why weren't the roughly 2,000 municipal and school buses in New Orleans utilized to take people out of the city before Katrina struck?"

This article seems to do the best job of anything I've found that explains what goes into a rescue operation of this magnitude and how long it should really take. This is a good point to start trying to figure out what could have been done better. I hope this is informative for you and will spark some discussion of better alternatives and exploration of the truth.

In closing, I want to thank the people who have put so much time and energy into helping the evacuees in this tragic time. If you're not involved, it's very hard to know what goes into just taking care of everyday life in this situation. A good friend of mine is from Houston, and with her permission, I'm posting her response on a message board to the question "how are things down Houston way?" it expresses better than I ever could how things are being handled there. Plus some great insight into the political debates going on today.

We're up to our shoulderblades in evacuees, trying to feed, clothe, educate, find jobs for, and house the 125,000 extra people we suddenly have in our city. We are giving blood. We are donating food and water. Many people are taking evacuees, strangers they have never met, into their own homes. We are trying to reunite families. Children's Protective Services suddenly needs six dozen extra caseworkers in the Houston area. Some charitable organizations have begun rerouting donations to other organizations because their warehouses are full. Things are tight in places, but we do have enough food, water, clothing, and schools for everybody. We're finding places for these folks to stay, too-- the populations of the 'Dome, Reliant Arena, and the George R. Brown Convention Center have been, slowly but surely, steadily decreasing.What we don't have enough of is volunteers, especially in the mornings. Nobody seems to want to get out of bed at 5am to go help feed these people breakfast and get their kids on school buses.Do you guys realize that there have been about a dozen deaths resulting from this hurricane from cholera? CHOLERA. We haven't had cholera in the US since what, the Civil War?Here's the thing. We're doing the best we can, whether people believe that or not. There have been, and probably still will be, some hiccups along the way due to bureaucracy or red tape or whatever else. But the people on the front lines are rolling up their sleeves and diving right into the foray. We ain't talking about Tom DeLay this and Governor Blanco that and "Let's form a bipartisan commission to look into what went wrong on the Gulf Coast in the days following the hurricane." Because, boys and girls, THAT **** DON'T MATTER YET. People need food, water, clothes, medicine, school, jobs, and places to live. Ain't nobody here concerned about who to vote for in the next elections yet. I find it hypocritical that the partisan political bickering is going on away from the front lines, but not so much ON the front lines.People can't wear, eat, drink, or sleep on bipartisan exploratory commissions."

Thanks for reading and I hope that it stirs a desire to know the truth, no matter what the "established" news sources try to tell us.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Getting to the Truth About Katrina

Katrina...That name has a new sound to it doesn't it? It's a name I always used to like, I always thought it was pretty. Now I can't hear the name without thinking of the devastation in the Gulf Coast. The memories of this will haunt us for a long time. I wonder though, how much longer we'll feel the political and economical ramifications of Katrina?

I've been disgusted to see that politicians on both sides of this tragedy are using it to further their own agendas. Democrats are pointing at the current administration and screaming bloody murder at how long it took to get rescue workers into New Orleans. Republicans scream about how the democrat Governor of Louisiana handcuffed the federal government and delayed aid from the Red Cross.

I'm sick of it.

Even as we unite to help innocent victims of a raging storm, we're being divided by an even more powerful maelstrom.

Politics.

People on each side of this issue, whether politicians with a vested interest, or regular citizens spewing the party line with particular venom on the internet or in person, have placed furthering their party's agenda ahead of actually helping these people and taking steps to make sure we do better next time.

Political parties were originally designed to create a dialog between people with different ideas directed towards a common goal...making this a better place to live. Now the only purpose they serve is to make us bicker over whose "fault" everything is.

It has to stop. What we need to be doing is working to determine where the system broke. We need to do this with an eye toward correcting the problems, not so we can scream "it's all THEIR fault".

To that end, in my next few blogs I'm going to be trying to sift through all the garbage that's out in the news and post relevant information about what should have happened, and what did happen. I'm also going to post ideas for how to prevent this scene from happening again, and maybe even ideas for helping things now.

For this to be of any benefit, it needs to be a group effort. If you see a particularly interesting article online, email it to me, or just let me know where to find it. If you have ideas or observations, please share them, either through email or by commenting on this blog. I'm hoping to create a community project that will unite people on both sides of the divide, help us to understand each other a little better and prepare us to discern the wheat from the chaff that our leaders try to feed us.

I will not allow, however, propaganda or venom to be unleashed here. This is a safe haven for the expression of ideas, not a "my party is honest and yours is crooked" or "my guy is smart and yours is an idiot" discussion.


Until next time, let's be good to each other.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Faith and Katrina

My Sunday School class has been discussing faith the last several weeks. The text we've been using is Hebrews 11. This chapter is called by some (maybe just me) the "By Faith" chapter. The author gives examples from the Old Testament of faith in action. From Moses to Abraham to the prostitute Rahab.

Several things have occurred to me through these studies that also seem to apply to what's happening on the Gulf Coast. Whenever something like Katrina happens it's a test of one's faith. "How could a loving God do this?".

I don't know.

As Americans, we like to have the answers to everything. When we don't have answers we get edgy. I'll admit that I don't always like not understanding God's plan. But if we always knew what was coming, if we always understood the plan, what need would there be for faith?

When Moses committed to leading God's people out of Egypt, he knew the end result would be freedom. He had no idea how he was going to get from where he was to that result. And he had no idea what they would do after they were free. Moses still did as God commanded and the rest is biblical history.

Getting back to Katrina (why are these things always named after women anyway). I don't know why God chose to allow this devastation to happen. I don't know why he didn't send a burning bush to warn people to get out. I don't know if the warnings broadcast by local authorities were intended to be that burning bush. I only know two things.

1. Katrina killed a lot of people
2.I serve a loving, faithful, sovreign God.

How do I know that, given what happened on the Gulf Coast? Simple. God told me so, and through Faith I believe it. I've seen so much of God's will come to fruition both in the pages of his word and in my own life that I must believe that he is at work here as well.

My heart breaks for the people who lived in the affected locations. I fight back tears everytime I see images or read stories about the utter despair that prevails in New Orleans.

But I know that God is at work there. His mercy will be evident in the days that follow, and his love will be evident in the lives of his people who are pouring out their compassion in any way that God directs them.

I welcome any responses either through email or the comments section below.

Heb 11:6 and without faith it is impossible to be well-pleasing unto him; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that seek after him.


Also, if you'd like to give to the cause of Hurricane Relief but haven't found an organization that you are comfortable with, below is a link and a physical address for the EFCA (Evangelical Free Church of America) 's hurricane relief effort. Give them a look and if you feel like it's the right vehicle for your money, please contribute.

https://fusion.efca.org/giving/?designation=Hurricane%20Katrina%20Assistance%2021709-3967


> > > > Or by mail:> > > > EFCA> > Attn: Hurricane Katrina Assistance, Account> > #21709-3967> > 901 East 78th Street> > Minneapolis, MN 55420-1300

Monday, August 29, 2005

The Message of God and the Messengers

I am a Christian. I believe the Bible is the inerrant word of a Holy God. I believe Jesus Christ died for my sins...and for your sins and the sins of everyone who has lived or will live. I also believe that Jesus called on us to love one another.

There are a lot of people out there who are preaching the word of God, and that's a great thing. But there's something missing. Many of these people who preach the love of God are the same ones waving signs that say "God hates Fags" at schools where gay students attend. Some of these are the same people who will belittle or talk down to someone who doesn't believe the same way they do.

Many of us hold other people's culture or religious beliefs in contempt. When I see things like this I have to ask myself one question...

Are you people reading the same Bible I am?

The Jesus I read about ate with Lepers. . The God I know calls David, who committed murder, adultery and many other sins, a man after his own heart. He confronted the Woman at the well, but he didn't condemn her or ridicule her, he simply told her the truth

The truth is, there is no room in God's kingdom for this kind of prejuidice and hatred. The truth is that none of us have the right to condemn anyone else because all sin is equal in God's eyes. If you've lied, you committed a sin as egregious in God's eyes as murder. Sin has equal consequences, and salvation offers equal redemption.

Before you utter something disparaging about someone else, remember that God is about bringing people closer to him. Too often the way we present the message drives people further away from Him.

But the tongue can no man tame; it is a restless evil, it is full of deadly poison.
Therewith bless we the Lord and Father; and therewith curse we men, who are made after the likeness of God:
out of the same mouth cometh forth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.

James 3:8-10