Saturday, December 30, 2006

You're In My Thoughts

A while ago, we received an email giving us well wishes from some atheist friends of Amanda's. They closed it by stating:

"Your family is in my thoughts."

I appreciate that and all, but then on second thought who gives a crap. I know that may sound mean, but honestly what good does that do me? That's like going into a restaurant and on your way in telling a homeless guy out front that "I'll skip dessert for you." Nice gesture though it may be, it certainly doesn't help him in any way.

As a Christian, when I tell someone "you're in my prayers", there's a whole lot more to it than just saying that I'm thinking about you. The purpose of that statement is to let them know that I am praying to God and taking action for them. I'm actually doing something in an attempt to help their situation. To continue on with the homeless guy metaphor, I'm actually throwing him some change, or maybe even some big bills, depending on how God answers my prayer.

To all atheists, for future reference: I don't mind if you don't believe in God - that's between you and Him. But please don't try to mimic and modify Christian statements, well wishes, songs, traditions, etc. by adding your own dumb godless twist to it.

Monday, December 25, 2006

O Christmas Tree

I was thinking about the lyrics to that song today. I wouldn't exactly call it idolatry, but isn't it a little odd to sing songs to an inanimate object, praising its beauty?

I was also thinking that there really aren't all that many songs written to inanimate objects, at least that I can recall. The only other ones I can think of are about cars, and they don't sing to the cars, just about them, unless it's a metaphor for something else (sex perhaps).

The lyrics to O Christmas Tree are written below:

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree!
How are thy leaves so verdant!
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
How are thy leaves so verdant!

Not only in the summertime,
But even in winter is thy prime.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
How are thy leaves so verdant!

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Much pleasure doth thou bring me!
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Much pleasure doth thou bring me!

For every year the Christmas tree,
Brings to us all both joy and glee.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Much pleasure doth thou bring me!

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Thy candles shine out brightly!
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Thy candles shine out brightly!

Each bough doth hold its tiny light,
That makes each toy to sparkle bright.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Thy candles shine out brightly!

Christmas Blues

I think this happens pretty much every year. The after-Christmas morning blues. I'm not sure exactly what causes it, but my theories are as follows:
  1. The unwrapping experience is never quite as exiting or fulfilling as you hoped.
  2. Having time to myself to chill and just hang out is unusual for me, and I sometimes don't know what to do with the time. Usually, I do chores or try to get stuff done, but I don't want to go that route on Christmas day.
  3. I have heard athletes experience a bout of depression after finishing with a significant goal, such as winning a championship or the Olympics. Similarly, after all of the effort, time, and stress put into the specific goal (Christmas preparation), maybe I'm lacking direction momentarily after my previous goal was actually accomplished.
  4. Except for going to stores for gifts and groceries, we've been cooped up in our house for a couple of days. Getting out to do something (besides just a walk) sounds like it would be nice.
My visiting relatives seem to be a little on the downward side emotionally too, but they are also away from home and perhaps getting sick of being a guest in someone else's house. So does anyone/everyone else experience this, or is it just me and/or my household?

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Away In a Manger (unanswered prayers)

Recently, there have been several important things (to me anyway) that I have been praying about, and it seems to me that they have all gone either unanswered by God and/or flat out rejected.

Through the years, I think my faith in the power of prayer has slowly but continually grown. I have heard many incredible stories about answered prayers and I have seen God answer some of mine as well. However, I have also encountered people and heard stories of God not answering prayers, some of them pretty dramatic and disappointing. Until recently though, I have been able to apply logic to their difficulties, saying or thinking "God has a plan. He did with Job, and David, and Paul while they were suffering. And He did with so many others. We're not deserving of God's blessings or attention to begin with, so we should simply be grateful for any prayers that He does answer or grant to us."

Well, now that I'm facing situations that I've been pretty concerned about, I have been fairly dedicated both to pray about them myself and to have others pray for me. I have also been trying to be more disciplined in spending time with God (see previous post). So aren't all of my efforts and prayers supposed to work, or at least help matters? I can list the reasons why answering these prayers would be beneficial to me, my family, and even my church. Why would God want me to waste my time, money, and efforts with these things? I would love to use my resources better, in ways that would seem to please God more, like by helping my neighbors with things, or by doing more at church. I just don't have the ability now with all of this other stuff going on.

Recently, when I was reading Lucas' baby Bible to him, I came across the Christmas story. Even though we have a nativity and our neighbor even has one lit up on his lawn across the street, for some reason looking at this picture (on the right) made me realize something different.

Mary and Joseph probably were praying very hard for their circumstances to improve. On the night of Jesus' birth they had been traveling over a very long journey, Mary was very pregnant, and they couldn't even find a place to sleep for the night. For some reason, for the first time I could picture them going from inn to inn, getting more and more frustrated, until agonizingly proclaiming "Come on God, we're carrying your son for crying out loud. Why won't you help us? Why won't you answer our prayers?!" But God had a plan, and perhaps unfortunately for Mary and Joseph, it didn't include a posh hotel with room service. But it's fortunate for us, because we have a setting at Christmas of our almighty God humbling himself. Not only to become human, but to start off life in a barn-type setting. Born amongst the hay and laid to rest in an animal trough. It's a scene that is unlike any other. It's oddly unique, beautiful, peaceful and poetic. The words and music to the song Silent Night just resonates in my mind when I gaze at or picture the nativity. God did have a plan, and I know that He does for me and my circumstances too.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

MMA Fans Rejoice!

Two of my favorite MMA (mixed martial arts) fighters are coming to the states!!

Quinton Jackson (picture on left) is an incredibly powerful slugger and slammer in the ring. He has previously beaten the current UFC light-heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell. Outside the ring, he has a charismatic persona and is a ghetto mouth thug (I saw videos of him back then) turned devoted Christian (in 2004).

Mirko Filopovich (picture on right) is a heavyweight kickboxer-turned-mixed martial artist from Croatia. His primary style is of course striking, and his most famous move is an powerful left high kick.

Well, both were recently acquired by the UFC. While I have watched both of them fight for PrideFC (an MMA organization in Japan), I have a hard time justifying the expensive pay-per-view in order to watch the events. The UFC, however, is broadcast at numerous local bars where all I have to pay for is drinks and food (if necessary). So I will finally get to see them hopefully sweep through the ranks of the UFC on their way to the top of their weight classes!

On a slightly different note, has anyone heard of "Iron" Mike Zambidis? If not, then check out this awesome highlight video of the Greek kickboxer. At only 5'6" tall, the man is incredibly fast, effective and powerful. Quite impressive indeed.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Oh the Horror!!

A new movie is coming out this Christmas, called Black Christmas. My atheist co-worker said that he thought it was tasteless and knowing that I am an outspoken Christian, asked if it outraged me.

I know it offends many other Christians, but I had to be honest in saying that I really don't care. While a scary movie on Christmas isn't my cup of tea, why should I care if it's the way some people want to spend their evening? If people want to go watch a scary movie on Christmas then that's up to them. It doesn't affect me or my belief at all.

What would outrage me about it is if the movie has a character that's portrayed as a Christian, but he's a psycho who quotes Bible verses while he's slashing people's throats. Or what about movies of other genres that have characters in them who are Christians, but they're obviously stupid, crazy, incredibly annoying, or even harmful to the main character's plight. And I would venture to say that in most mainstream movies Christians are portrayed that way. Now that's offensive to me.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Definitely NOT Sexy

A recent Reuters article reported that Italy is banning skinny models. The picture on the right is from the article.

How on earth did it get to the point that the government needs to intervene to prevent these girls from harming their own health in order to succeed in the modeling industry?

I guess what I'm really asking is how did being so skinny even enable them to succeed? Because in order to succeed I would think that the public that's viewing them would need to actually find them attractive. So then, do the majority of people really find these bag of antlers (a term often used in FARK) attractive?

Back in my dating days, when I actually had girl friends, the majority of them said that they generally prefer a man's body that's athletic and fit over either a big beefcake bodybuilder or a skinny waif of a man.

I would think the same would generally be true with men and their preferences with the female physique. It certainly is for me anyway. Fleshy and fit, curvy yet muscular. Not the kind of curves that are undefined and flabby flesh. Nor skinny and bony, lacking curves altogether.

So why does the modeling industry continually prefer and promote the nasty, shapeless, eating disorder females that have bodies resembling little girls at best and skeletons at worst?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Past , Present, and Future Flicks

A couple of weeks ago my co-workers and I were talking about western themed movies, so at their advice I rented Silverado. The cast was stellar, and while I didn't think it was quite as good as Tombstone or Unforgiven, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Those were definitely the days of manly men, guns, bar fights, etc. In all honesty, the violence and lawlessness of the time period was probably a little overkill, literally. But it's still fun to occasionally go back in time to the days of horses, firearms, heroes, chivalry, and majestic scenery. Now, I haven't seen Brokeback Mountain yet, but I'm guessing that it just might be the exception to the rule.

One of my good friends recently rented Superman Returns. I haven't seen it yet myself, but after reading his review/commentary about it, I'm not so sure that I want to bother with it. Check out what Brian wrote here.

Has anyone heard about the new movie coming out called RedLine? If not, then check out the trailer here. I don't know how good the plot will be, but any movie that has all of the supercars that are shown in the trailer driving at the peak of their limits will be well worth the price of admission to me. The cars are much better and the plot can't be much worse than The Fast and The Furious series, and I enjoyed those two movies quite a bit.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

THIS Is Undoubtedly My Worst Nightmare

I realized it this morning. The loss of a child. No, I don't mean the death of a child - although that would be incredibly horrible. I mean losing a child, having them kidnapped, abducted, or missing in some way.

In my dream I was at an unknown mall with my family. We all went into a clothing store of some sort that had a long hallway on each side of a walled-in middle section. Amanda went down one side with Emily, while I walked down another. Lucas was walking around just behind me. I wasn't watching him directly, more out of the corner of my eye. A store employee then started guiding several boys that were the same size and appearance as Lucas to follow the direction that I was going. Of course, I assumed that Lucas was one of them. After only a few steps (maybe halfway) down this hallway, I looked back to try to figure out which one of them was my son. I soon realized to my horror that none of them were. I traced back through the store and outside the entrance, calling and looking for him while I walked, but there was no sign of him.

Something inside me knew he was gone. Lucas is extra cute, sweet and innocent. If some wacko wanted a little boy to steal, he would no doubt want my son. With each step away from the entrance of the store, my anguish grew exponentially.

Now, I'm pretty stable emotionally. I don't consider this example a good thing, but I didn't even cry at my dad's funeral, although I did come close quite a few times. I've been through my share of challenges in life and generally I don't rattle too easily. But at that moment, now knowing where my son was or what could possibly be happening to him. Thinking of him being away from his family and really scared. Pondering the possibility that I have no idea whether I will find him and when or if I will see him again. I freakin' lost it, right there in the middle of the mall. I was basically a useless driveling fool that may never fully function in society again, at least until I can reestablish contact with my little kiddo.

And then I woke up. As I stated in a previous post, I've been trying to be more deliberate about my schedule lately, which includes getting up at 6am to spend time with God before getting ready for work. Well, I went to bed last night later than I wanted to, so I didn't set my alarm to get up early. When I woke up from the dream though I looked at the clock - 5:57am. So was that God's wake up call to me, albeit a harsh one? I would be surprised if it was my circadian rhythm, since I have only actually woken up at 6am for a few staggered days since starting this schedule.

I took it at face value, got up from bed, went downstairs to spend time with God, and included praying for everyone who has lost a child and for the children that have been abducted. Also, for right or wrong, I prayed for the death of those that would do such a horrific thing as to steal a child, or at least for whatever justice God would be willing to dish out to them.

The Terrible T-Shirt

As promised in the previous post, here is the t-shirt that caused all the conflict. OK, granted, at least the wearer of the shirt is promoting Jesus to some extent, but my impression is that it's intent is primarily to recognize and appreciate Mary, the mother of Jesus.

It seems kind of ironic that it was only last week that I was involved in a typed exchange with an anonymous individual through the comments on my wife's blog (
see here) about Catholicism. But I really didn't realize just how important Mary is to Catholics. In fact, I completely forgot about it, until Eric mentioned it in his comments after mine. I certainly wouldn't have said they place her in the same category as Jesus, but judging from the t-shirt above, it's way too close for comfort.

From an earthly perspective, if someone knows my mom, does that mean they know me? The phrases "like mother, like daughter" or better yet "like father, like son" would certainly be applicable, but "like mother, like son?". I don't think of that as normally applicable. It's certainly not the case with my mom and me. Now, "like father, like son" does make a whole lot of sense in regards to Jesus.

From a Biblical perspective though, we really don't know all that much about Mary, and do we really care? She was simply a vessel for God to use. If there was no Mary, then God certainly could have found someone else to birth His child. Or better yet, He would have just created her - oh wait, He did create her. He's God!! So that "No Mary, No Jesus" part of it just makes no sense at all. The only necessary part of the Mary and Jesus equation was God, who caused it all to happen as it did.

Mary was an important person to be sure, just as Moses, David, Joseph, Samuel, Isaac, and so many others in the Bible were important. Why not pray to all of them, or wear T-shirts that say kNOw Moses, kNOw God? Wait, I think I know - because it's blasphemy! Sure, Mary was highly favored (Luke 1:28, 30), but she was human. As Eric said on my wife's blog, just because she was a virgin doesn't mean she was perfect.

Not only that, but Jesus seemed to make the point that Mary wasn't any more special to him, spiritually speaking, than you (if you're a Christian) or me. In Matthew 12, Mark 3, Luke 8, and he ignored his earthly family in favor of those who were willing to follow Him. For example:

Matthew 12:46 - 50 (NIV)
46While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. 47Someone told him, "Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you."[g]

48He replied to him, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?" 49Pointing to his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers. 50For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother."

One point that the fellow wearing the shirt said that threw me off was that asking Mary to pray to Jesus for you is just like me asking a fellow Christian to pray for me about something. That makes some sense, except for the fact that she's dead!! And I would never ask another person to pray for me to avoiding praying for it myself, only in addition to me praying directly to God about it. Nor would I pray to that person after they die!! I can't tell you exactly what happens between when we die and when Christ returns, but I do know that God wants us to pray to and worship Him only while we're here on earth, not other imperfect people who have passed on from here.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

In Truth, the Text is Tougher Than the Tongue

A gentleman was wearing a t-shirt with a religious slogan on the front of it at our friends' daughter's 1-year birthday party. I just couldn't resist asking him about it. But the point of asking him really wasn't because I didn't understand it, it was because I didn't agree with it. So he and I got into a slightly heated discussion about it. He made some points that I've never heard before, so I didn't defend myself (or my faith for that matter) as good as I could/should have. I wouldn't say I got beat, but I wouldn't say I won either. Maybe it was a stalemate, and as easy an argument as that topic should be to rebuke, I'd call that a loss on my end.

But then again, I'm not a very good arguer. In fact, I would venture to say that I'm kinda lousy at it. I'm not quick witted enough, and I tend to get either too defensive or too offensive, or both. Writing is different though, I can take my sweet time to generate a response, and I'm analytical enough to usually come up with a pretty good one. I can mull the whole idea of the argument and ponder the particular points with much better clarity and less abrasiveness. Plus there's the whole backspace key that comes in handy.

But the friends' house we were at are Atheists, and I don't know if I set a very good example. I've argued for Christianity with the female half of this couple before, and we have also invited them to church with us several times. But they always refuse and I probably did more harm than good in our discussion. I'm somewhat surprised (and delighted I might add) they have stayed friends with us actually. I hope I didn't make an ass out of myself at their party though, like I just have to argue with everyone I come across about religion.

But maybe that 's not completely inaccurate. I have a burning passion for the truth. The more I learn of it, the more protective I am. If someone is stepping on that truth, then I really just want to shove them off of it (verbally, not physically) and defend it. I'm a bit of a fighter, on the outside and the inside. I'd rather get my ass kicked than to shy away in fear of getting licked, or for fear of offending someone for that matter. The biggest regrets I have in life are a) when I have hurt someone unnecessarily (emotionally, physically, etc) and b) the moments that I was afraid and let that fear get the best of me, when I shied away from a battle or an opportunity and acted like a coward, and believe me there are plenty of them.

If I can only learn how to debate/argue/discuss without getting too emotionally involved in the discussion, then I'd be much, much more effective. I'm working on it though, and at least I think I can say that I'm better than I used to be. Probably by the time I die, I'll be a mighty verbal warrior. For now though, I'll do my best to type it out as often as possible.

Oh, and the actual t-shirt will be the topic of my next post.
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