Thursday, February 28, 2008

Breif: Why would someone vote for Barack Obama?

After all, he doesn't have a whole lot of experience, not a long track record, no experience in foreign policy.

Oh wait, that's why.

No experience, track record or any of that.

Been thinking lately, and it really is all about change.

We know what we'll get from Clinton, failed health care. We know what we'll get from McCain, more war. We don't exactly know what we'll get from Obama, so instead of getting more of the same, people want change. They've been driven to the point where they just want something different and they don't care what it is, as long as it's different. It really is sad that American politics has come to this.

It's like a college student saying "I've eaten enough ramen noodles, I want friggin' something else!!! Dirt, or cabbage or gasoline or veal or tin foil, I just want something else.

And you know what, I'll say it right now, so do I.

P.S. This blog still doesn't endorse any candidate and definitely not Clinton or McCain.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Do you worship? Or, I worship, therefore I am.

This is my first request if I can remember correctly. My good friend, youth cell group and adult cell group co-leader and youth pastor, Josh Wilson challenged me last night to explore different forms of worship music and how people tend to have their favorites. In my typical over achieving way, I just decided to take the whole enchilada and do worship all together. I'll also publish the post as I'm working on it, so until you see my signature on the bottom, it's not done.

First, what is worship? Typical acts of worship include: prayer, sacrifice (korban in Hebrew), rituals, some forms of meditation, holidays, festivals, sacraments, pilgrimages, hymns, psalms or worship music, dance, the construction of temples or shrines, the creation of idols of the deity private acts of devotion. To clarify a few things here, Jewish and Christian scriptures forbid the use of idols and probably shrines because they often use images. Then there are private acts of devotion which create a whole mess of their own because of the simplicity of their complexity in practice. I'll focus on these when I speak of idolatry.

So, do you worship?
Unless you are dead, the answer is yes. It is the whole devotion aspect. What or who are you devoted to? Are you devoted to hobbies, education, ministry, leisure, sex, sleep, work, video games, cars, your significant other, or yourself? What do you spend most of your time thinking about? Let us explore some of these concepts.
If you worship a deity or spiritual being, that is something not often physically seen, or with supernatural powers or whatever, to worship that being is to essentially attempt to become like that being or to take on some of that being's attributes. If that being is known to have delivered a message to the world through a messenger or to have condescended to take the form of a human to deliver the message him/herself, you are likely to regard those messages or teachings with special importance. If there are commands or examples, you are likely to attempt to follow them. Performing these acts of compliance can be considered worship, and noncompliance can be considered to be not worship of that being, or more importantly, worship of something else. Therefore, an act of fornication if you are a Christian can be considered an act of worship, either of worship of the act itself, or worship of the other person, or worship of one's self depending on the motive of the act. This is because God forbade fornication, and not following that command means not devoting one's self to God, which can mean devoting one's self to or worshiping something other than God which God calls idolatry.

Now naturally, I am speaking from a Christian perspective here because I am an unashamed Jesus Freak myself. My acts of worship include all of that list above except for the construction of idols and shrines as I mentioned the reasons for previously. Some theologians have called humans homo adorans that is "the worshiping man." In a very basic sense, I'd agree with this. Basic to the point that I mentioned before that doing anything, literally anything, is an act of worship or devotion. Therefore to be a human can be defined as being able and in the process of worshiping something. Rene Descartes (day-kart) famously philosophized Cogito ergo sum, that is "I think therefore I am." He came to this conclusion in his search for meaning after considering that nothing could really be proven to exist. But a thought had to come from something that thinks, and something that thinks has to be, therefore if it thinks, it is. I guess if I carry my stuff here out to that logical conclusion I get: I worship therefore I am. Worship must be carried out by a worshiper, therefore, if there is worship, there is a worshiper.

Music is often used in worship. I like the creativity inherent in all music. It to me is worship. It uses the God imbued powers of choice and creativity to create a masterful work of art. I'm not just talking about worship and praise music here, I'm not even speaking of Christian music, I am talking about all music. Certainly most music is not created with the intent of devotion to God, at least not my God. However, as I said before, all the abilities a musician has are there because of the gift of God. Therefore to me, though I can be disgusted with the lyrics of Eminem for instance, I can marvel at the creativity and sheer skill my God has gifted him with the ability to achieve. Some of my favorite musicians are rappers, not that I enjoy the usual rap music, because I don’t, because of the subject matter. One of my favorite bands was Rage Against the Machine. Though some of the social messages were a little misguided, many of them were really good, and to combine social messages with extremely creative and fast paced lyrics and the incredible guitar work by Tom Morello just made incredibly intriguing music to listen to. That kind of energy is often missing in music devoted to Jesus. The only CCM artist that I can think of off hand who is on par is TobyMac. I might consider that guy the coolest person on earth.

One thing that gets on my nerves quite a bit is the concept of “praise and worship music” because any music is worship. I often hear music in church composed by Chris Tomlin or Matt Redman or Aaron Schust or Michael W. Smith. Where is worshipful but loud and fast music by the likes of TobyMac or Switchfoot or Relient K? There are very very very few churches that will play that kind of stuff during a service. All of them that I know of are far into the non-traditional church arena, and that is good, but the church traditional is always behind, and likely always will be. Many churches prohibited rock and roll early on, only to embrace it now as standard fare. If they had embraced and invaded it when it was in it’s infancy, we would have a vastly different world today. Of course many CCM bands will play to both audiences. Newsboys concerts are loud and fast with a lot of crazy stuff, but they also have some of the most worshipful (according to traditional definitions) music around. Third Day is the same way.

The thing most often cited in the breakup of a church is worship style. Everybody likes the stuff they like, the stuff they are accustomed to. Often these patterns are set up in the late youth to early adulthood era. That's why there are so many classic rock stations, even though they basically play the same stuff over and over and over and over again. They might as well have a single 12 hour cd that they play every day. Anyway, don't get me wrong, I like classic rock, but the reason I don't drink grape soda every day is because when I do drink it, I'm going "SWEET, GRAPE SODA!!!" whereas if I drank it everyday, I'd just say "oh, grape soda." I digress. Anyway, the inability of an influential person, or group of persons to accept what others see as worship is often what breaks apart spiritual communities, churches in particular. These people are often middle aged or better, and there is always some sort of divide between those of that age, and the younger often more populous crowd. What the younger crowd needs to understand though is that the older crowd is the group who pays for the church. No old people, we meet in the park.

This brings up the concept of favored worship style. Naturally, some people feel more confident praying in private and some feel confident enough to raise their hands and/or dance during the service. Some are confident to sing their lungs out, and some do so even though they sound horrible. One of the most spiritual men I know has the worst singing voice I’ve ever heard, but he loves to sing and praise Jesus. That’s the important thing, it’s the purpose of the whole enterprise. What is the purpose, is it to please certain groups of people or is it to provide an atmosphere wherein people can worship?

To be perfectly truthful, I was once part of a church split, and I’ll say right out in front, I was on the wrong side. Actually, there was a small split before that that I was in the middle of, but not involved with. The first one was fairly simple, the church band wanted to start a new outside church band, and the church leadership said that the band’s prime responsibility was to minister to the church and that they should not be playing at other church’s services if it conflicted with the home church. So, a few people left and started their band and that was that. After that, the remainder of the band, three people with the original two leaders, had a lot of work to do, rebuilding the worship service and song resume. After six months, things began falling apart and the two leaders began having complaints about the other three of us. We of course didn’t like the implications we were being charged with, some of which were true. So we went to the church leaders and asked for some reprieve from stuff and to just get back to being a worship team. The two leaders threw mud, and one of us (not me) was kicked out of the band so the rest of us quit as well. The former band leaders quit the church all together. Eventually, the rest of us did as well, and of course, started our own band. Eventually, I got tired of the pseudo-spiritual act and the tired music, and God changed the path of my life and brought me to Arkansas.

Honestly, in church, I’d love to hear much more upbeat, fast, and loud music in church. I believe that dancing should make a return to church, remember David who danced with all his might before the Lord? What would that look like? I know what you are thinking, but maybe he didn’t look like a drunken hippy. Maybe it looked more like the dance in the temple in The Matrix Reloaded. It reminds me of some of what I have seen in African worship services with drum music, and jumping around, and crazy amazing worship. Honestly, that’s how I like to worship with music. Unfortunately, I so rarely get to do it that way. The other way I do it is by playing my bass guitar for church. I’d love to get so much more into it and excited, but it is just not to be. Our church is filled with people whose background and attitudes just wouldn’t be comfortable with that. And the thing is, I’m ok with it. I have grace enough to allow others wants and needs to come before mine. I trust that God will allow me to worship him in my favorite way in the future as he has done in the past. But until then, it is my lot to worship him in someone else’s way
Worship hard.


Sunday, February 17, 2008

Please make some requests.

In order to serve you better, I'd like to ask you if there's anything you'd like me to write about. Since there are likely to be very few requests, I'll make a temporary vow to write about each one of them. That way if I ever get swamped I have an out.

My good friend Josh asked for a post on worship styles and how people prefer different ones and stuff like that, so look forward to that upcoming.

Remember, this is a blog about everything, but more specifically Christianity, Environmental issues, and some politics. Of course, I believe Christianity encompasses all subjects, so you can do whatever you like with that.

Just leave a comment if you'd like me to write about anything.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Answers to Some Concerns About "The Shack"

After "Anonymous" posted me some some comments on my review of "The Shack" by William P. Young, I decided to do a little more in depth research on the book. I had done just a little before, listening to the criticisms of my friends and and some of the pastoral staff (also friends) at my church. I had read a few negative reviews and entertained a few thoughts of what some Calvinists have said, have been told what an Arminian book it is, and as with any book, weighed all the information in my mind.

So I went perusing the internet with my trusty tool and sponsor Google because of some of the info I had found on my web tracker. Some of the people who search for reviews of The Shack also are searching for words like Sarayu and Elousia. Since I had not yet looked up the meanings of these words as I often do, I decided to do just that and was interested at what I found. First I found the criticisms of the book which I will enumerate some of as I define the words. Second, I found out what the words really meant, and their usage throughout history, which I will also explain.

Let's go.

Elousia, if you do a quick search, you will find out is Greek for tenderness. It is also the title of a Catholic icon depicting the Madonna and the baby Jesus. Critics jump all over this saying that Mr. Young is trying to sneak in some Marianism, attempting to water down God by inserting Mary. I find this interesting because it would seem to me that a book attempting to plead the case of a merciful and good God might use a name that reveals just that. We must go back to the definition of the word, tenderness. This is a trait that the God of The Shack is soaked in.

In my experience it is good to look at overall messages of a book. One thing that I have tried to do is to never read a Bible verse as Greg Koukl puts it. That means never read just one verse, not never read any verses. The technique seeks to achieve understanding of the context of a work, and not to take anything out of context. For the most part, The Shack espouses the classical view of the Trinity if you can get past the temporal physical manifestations of the normally only spiritual components of the Trinity. That is to say that the Father and Spirit appear as women, and if you can get past that, you see the classical view of the Trinity. Now you must understand one thing: Cults and heretics never never usually never espouse the classical view of the Trinity. It is often the first thing to go, and yet it appears in this book, a controversial work of symbolic fiction.

The next subject has earned The Shack and accusation of being a subversive work of Hinduism. In the book, the Holy Spirit is depicted as an Asian woman named Sarayu. Sarayu is a Sanskrit word meaning "to flow" and also wind, air, or that which streams. It is a tributary of the Ganges in India. It played a role in some great Hindu stories and myths and is mentioned in the Rigveda. Anyway, some say this means that the book is a Hindu work or at best has a message of universalism. Again we must simply look at the word itself. It means wind, just as the book says. That's all there is to it. Spirit in Greek means breath. It's the same thing.

This whole thing brings two things to mind. First, I have not found any criticisms of the character of Sophia, wisdom personified. This may be because it is a Christian concept as well as being a pagan and gnostic one. But that's the kicker, if it wasn't a Christian concept, would Mr. Young then be accused of Neoplatonic Hellenism? Though wisdom personified as a woman is a central figure in Proverbs, the concept of Sophia is much older than Christianity, Plato taught about it as well as did others. Sophia in Greek is of course wisdom, that much should be obvious by now since we are discussing the meaning of words.

But that leads me to my final point about these kinds of criticisms. If you are to subject a work of fiction to this kind of rigorous test, why not the Bible? John makes copious use of the word "word" in John. Logos (in Greek) appears as much as five centuries before the time of Christ in Greek philosophy and religion, and John has the stones to actually ascribe these pagan attributes to Jesus Christ himself!!! See what I mean? It is ridiculous for a Christian to criticize a book for word choice when the Bible uses the very same cultural references. Christianity has always done this in an attempt to reach out to the intellectuals of its day. It always will.

The Spirit is fluid, a wind, a breath, and it will get into every crack and crevice of every culture and make itself known. And sometimes it will use words.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Another Momentous Occasion

Well, the ol' blog smashed through the 1000 hit mark today. The old two blogs took 9 months to do that combined, but this one has done it alone in two months.

I was not here to see the grand spectacle, I was out at the youth group winter retreat at New Life Ranch, had an awesome time.


Wednesday, February 6, 2008

100th Post

This is not the 100th post, I think the last one was or something. Anyway, woohoo!


Tuesday, February 5, 2008

A Hummer is cheaper than a Prius?

If you pay attention to the hybrid vehicle products on the market, or environmental issues, you’ve probably seen or heard about this article, or the report which it cites: (A libertarian site.)

I encourage you to read it, but I do not encourage you to believe anything it says. In my ever furthering pursuit of truth, I’ll explain why.

The article says essentially that over the life cycle of the vehicle, a Hummer costs less to own than a Prius.

Let us do a little figuring.

The first mistake the report makes is to assume certain things about the life cycle of the vehicles involved. In fact, the first mistake is the biggest. The report assumes that a Hummer will last 380,000 miles. Yeah, right. What was the last American car that lasted that long? Some Toyotas and Hondas can if well cared for, but American cars are definitely not known for their longevity. The report assumes that a Prius will last no longer than 109,000 miles. This is even more ridiculous than the Hummer is. Prii are warranted everywhere in the world for 100,000 miles, and everywhere in the world but the 49 non CARB states for 150,000 miles. Why would a car company warrantee a car up until the day it is expected to die? Half the cars would die before that day, they’d lose money out the wazoo. Additionally, there are already whole bunches of Prii that have before now exceeded the 100,000 mark. I don’t know of any Hummers that have exceeded the 200,000 mark. Therefore, lets for the sake of argument pretend that they can both last the same amount of time, because realistically they can, and lets go with an even 200,000.

According to GM’s website, a base model H2 costs $56,695 (more than half the price of my house.) A base model Prius costs $21,100 according to Toyota.

My research tells me that the average American drives about 12,000 miles per year, I don’t know if this is completely factually accurate, but for the sake of argument, let’s assume it is.

According to dealers, (CBS News) about the best gas mileage you can expect from an H2 is 10 mpg. averages the Prius at about 43 mpg. Notice with both of these, I have taken neither the EPA figures nor the manufacturer figures because both of those are notoriously optimistic.

Now that we have our vital information, let’s do just a little life cycle assessment. We take the price, add to it the average number of miles and miles per gallon, assume at this point $3 per gallon of gasoline, cram all that into our trusty TI-83 Plus calculator and presto. At these numbers, both the vehicles should last around 16 years, the Prius during that time will incur a total cost of just over $35,000 while the Hummer will cost you $116,695. That’s right, the Hummer will cost more in gas that the machine itself, while the Prius for gas will cost several thousand less. Just for fun, I calculated the cost for my Corolla at 34 mpg and came up with almost $33,000. Of course, you will also have to factor in the fact that the Hummer uses around twice the oil per oil change, and tires that are just freaking huge and cost quite a bit.

The claim that “exotic metals” are more costly to recycle is completely bogus. The exotic metals contained in a Prius are not a whole lot more than aluminum in the hood and engine, and nickel in the battery. Soon Priuses will have Lithium in the battery. I’ve talked about this before, metals are the best paying back of all recycled materials. Listen to the news about metal prices, they are going way up. Metals can be recycled cheaply and easily and are worth a lot of money.

According to Wikipedia, the claim that a Hummer has a lower life cycle cost than a Prius has been debunked enough to be considered an urban legend. Hopefully, like other urban legends (see dishonest email posts) this will go away eventually. Even the company who published the report has since published newer yearly reports that show the Prius to be as much as 25% cheaper than some SUV’s.

Is a Prius more costly than a Chevy Aveo, certainly. But it also offers more. The Aveo doesn’t offer regenerative breaking or any other hybrid functionality. Hybrids are the future. For every gallon of gasoline you buy, the terrorists win.

The near future is littered with plans for more hybrids from many companies. Today’s spotlight: Phoenix Motorcars. They have a full electric SUV and small pickup they claim will be on the market soon. They have great battery technology and are not bad looking either. Ed Begley has one. Also keep an eye out for plug in Priuses and other cars, they are being tested as we speak and should be on the market soon.


Monday, February 4, 2008

Free Cable

We subscribe to cable internet without having cable TV service. In the last few weeks or so, our cable internet connection has gotten steadily worse until the day before yesterday when it just quit. My wife works from home so naturally an internet connection is a pretty heavy necessity. She called the company, and they sent someone out to fix it, and he told her that there was something that died out on the pole, and he had to install a signal booster or something and he apparently took off our filter which filters out the basic cable TV channels.

So now we have free cable.

Now being a moral being as I am, this vexed me. The dude told us that we could have free cable, but the cable company considers it theft. Theft is wrong, a sin. A Jesus Freak should not be a habitual sinner, like when you watch a TV that has service you didn’t pay for.

Additionally, I don’t want to pay $50 for basic cable TV service.

So, what to do.

Anticipating the digital TV switchover, we had planned on buying a receiver box because our receiving of broadcast television has been less than crystal clear, and I like NASCAR and the Daytona 500 is coming up and I like to be able to tell the cars apart.

So, what to do?

After a bit of prayer, I decided that we’d take the simple route and erase off our TV all the cable channels, because I don’t want TV at all much less cable, but my wife does and as the head of the house, I thought it best not to disrespect God, receiving stuff I am not paying for.

The thing that makes it so hard is this is like the perfect crime. No one knows or cares. There is nothing the cable company can do about it because they cannot provide us satisfactory internet service without the extras.

I have asked a lot of people about this dilemma, and have gotten widely varying answers from people I consider very spiritual and in tune with God’s will. Actually most people after a bit of thought said they’d have to suspend judgment.

Bottom line, everyone knows it is wrong, it is just that many people make justifications for it. But ultimately, I won’t have to answer to the cable company, I’ll have to answer to God. And God can do stuff to you the cable company only wishes they could.


Environmental Hypocrites, and Energy Efficient Mansions

I was researching some stuff because I wanted to do a blog post on how I thought Al Gore was a hypocrite because of his global warming message and yet he lives in a 10,000 square foot mansion, but what to my wondering eyes did appear but the monstrous house of John Edwards. Great goblet of fire Harry Potter, this thing is 29,000 square feet. I once worked manufacturing metal roofing in a warehouse that was 27,000 square feet, and we could drive trucks all up in that thing.

John Edwards has been running for president for a while, and he ran for vice last time if you remember. He has run on a campaign of help for the poor. Since I read the New York Times article last year about how he set up a non-profit organization to cure poverty and then used the millions of dollars to jet around the world, I have not trusted him. He appeared with Hillary and Barack in the Sojourners/Call to Renewal non-debate thingy about poverty, and by the sound of what he had to say and the way he said it, I thought he might have had a conversation with his aides back stage before the thing that went something like “What is their big issue? Poverty? For or against? Against? I can do against.” And now I find out he has a six million dollar house that could house the poor populations of some cities. He is not just a hypocrite, he’s a freaking jerk. What a load. There is not much that disgusts me more than people who preach help for the poor, but neglect to actually do anything for them. Jesus was different, he preached for the poor all the live long day, but he was poor himself, and he healed them, and he fed them, and I am pretty sure he actually touched and spoke to them face to face.

So back to Al Gore. Forget “An Inconvenient Truth.” He travels the world as an environmental evangelist and yet his home is massive, and has equally massive utility bills. He is shuttled around in SUV’s and other equally massive vehicles which would be unacceptable to any honest environmentalist. Oh, I see.

The thing is, any house can be green. Any home can be low energy or zero energy building or ZEB. How? Easy. First thing to do is insulate it well, plug all the holes, and install quality low embodied energy insulation (not fiberglass.) Secondly, orient it so as to take best advantage of warming sun in winter. Thirdly, install energy efficient appliances like solar water heaters and low water use plumbing stuff like low flow showerheads and the like. Fourth, generate energy to offset what you use. Any house anywhere can have solar panels in place of standard roof, or solar shingles in place of standard shingles. Rich people like slow Al and slick Eddie can do this stuff. Bill Gate’s mansion, while it dwarfs both Al’s and Eddie’s in size and cost, is quite efficient. It is an earth sheltered home built into a slope at the edge of a lake.

But, some say, Al Gore buys carbon offsets so that all the carbon he creates with his obscenely wasteful mansion gets absorbed somewhere else. This is true. But let me get through this carbon neutral bogusness and expose it for what it really is. It is a way for people with too much disposable income to buy their conscience clean. That’s right, BUY their conscience clean. Like the indulgences Martin Luther so despised, carbon credits do nothing but make rich wasteful (or sinful in Luther’s case) people feel better about stomping all over the rest of the world and hogging energy that could be used to refrigerate vaccines or heat the homes of the less fortunate. Let me ask this question: What else comes out of a power plant besides carbon dioxide? Mercury, sulfur, lead, cadmium, and a whole bunch of other toxic nastiness.

Where are the mercury offsets, where are the acid rain offsets, where are the testicular cancer offsets? I don’t see any of these rich people paying to offset the really important pollutants they create. I can breath carbon dioxide every day of my life, in fact, I produce it as a byproduct of simply being alive. If I breathe heavy metals, I’ll be retarded pretty quick, and dead not long after that.

Gore also pays extra to get green power from the Tennessee Valley Authority. What does this really mean? It means he subsidizes green power, it doesn’t mean he actually uses green power. Power comes from the nearest plant or two, no matter what kind of plant those two are. It’s like having a giant water tank to supply a town, and one supply to the tank comes from the lake, and the other comes from a natural mineral water spring, but here is only one outlet pipe. How long do you think it would work if we said “Pay us more and you can have the mineral water.” It doesn’t make any logical sense, the truth works like this: “Pay us more and we’ll think about putting more spring water in the tank.”

I want to make it clear that I have no problems with rich people as such. I have problems all day with people who are liars and hypocrites. However, I know of very few wealthy people who do not drive giant SUV’s and live in very large houses or large multiple houses. In fact, the only celebrity I know of who lives what they preach is Ed Begley Jr. He lives in a completely solar powered house, is a vegan and rides bicycles and stuff. But the biggest problem I have with the situation is that the world’s global warming evangelist has done very little to actually help the problem, other than just talking about it that is.

Everything I talk about I do, or try to do, or plan to do when I get more money. Al has all the money he needs and all he can do is buy carbon credits from his own company. The key to minimizing the future energy crisis is efficiency and conservation, two things Al Gore’s house lacks.

Now the oil companies say that prices will have to stay high because demand has dropped, go figure.


New Record!!!

I would just like to say woo! This blog has had its first 100 hit day yesterday. A new record.

Thanks are in order for for quoting my blog regarding the E-126 wind turbine, and actually citing their information. More hits are coming from them than from anyone else now.

I would also like to thank Enercon for their huge wind turbine with great technology built in.

Also thanks to Google and Blogger for making all this possible.

Oh, thank you to all you who read the blog too.

[Music begins playing.]