August 31, 2006

Friday Update

It's been a busy week for me, as one thing after another crowded writing out of my schedule. I thought I'd take a moment to reveal that I am, in fact, very much alive and still able to type. For those of you that wondered where I disappeared to for a week, this is the post for you.

Last week involved two orchestra rehearsals, my anniversary (two years), dinner several nights with various friends, teaching a sax lesson, writing a paper (handed in today), and counseling young Zach in the ways of Adobe Premiere. The kid is hooked. Fantastic.

Sunday was my first orchestra concert here. I cannot tell you how disorienting it is to get to a concert and find out that it's something other than you expected. First off, new chairs, which weren't really new, but rather old, and not at all what we'd rehearsed in. Which is just as well, but it still threw me off a little (positioning one's self to play horn on a chair is very much an art form, and I don't care what the trombone players tell you about it - they're wrong).

The concert was, I thought, the final presentation of six students who had won a concerto competition, held annually. I thought that they had already won, and that the chance to play with an orchestra was just a reward for winning. Turns out I was quite wrong: the concert WAS the competition. Some committee had weeded out these six kids, all under the age of 18, from hundreds of applicants, to play their solos with an orchestra in front of an audience and a judge. The judge would then rank them and one would win, what, I do not know.

All this to say that I wish I'd found this out after the concert. I'm usually ok under pressure, but when I found out that one kid or another was going to be winning or losing based on the judge's impression of their performance with the orchestra, I nearly keeled over. I used to be a much better player, but I suppose times change, and so does my playing. Things I nailed easily in rehearsal, I now screwed up. It was a sad moment for me. I'm sure it really wasn't that bad, but doing things like starting a phrase on the wrong note after I've had 40 measures to stare at it is just pathetic. But I guess I'll just have to put it behind me.

The highlight of the concert was the 12-year-old violinist from Queensland. This kid played like a pro, and is half my age. Neither of my favorite soloists (the sax player or the first cellist) won. In fact, they were the lowest two scores. Apparently, the sax player should've memorized his music, and the cellist should've ... done something else. I have no idea what the judge's problem was, but I thought he was a bit insulting towards the pianist and the sax player, neither of whom memorized their music. I think they did great, although I'll admit the piano concerto was a tad boring.

The End of Suburbia

I think that this speaks volumes. Try not to enjoy this, but do something about it. What, I do not know. Maybe invent a car that consumes next to no gasoline. Better yet, come up with another cheap, affordable source of energy. Or, if all else fails, start learning to limit yourself on a few things. Me, I enjoy the public transport system we have in Melbourne.

August 30, 2006

Without Words

Have you ever had one of those times when words just don't really seem to do an experience justice? This is one of those times for me. I've been trying to process a few hours of time from Tuesday for two days now, and I've still got nothing of any real value to say. It's almost as if my fingers have lost their feel for the keyboard, like my tongue and lips can't remember how to make the words come out; like I'm mute.

Tuesday was my first day at
Urban Seed, an organization in the city with whom I will be interning/volunteering for a while, likely until January or February. I've never worked with the poor and homeless before, except once when I volunteered at our church's extension ministry, and even then, I didn't really do much.

The day started with coffee, as Chris (my new mentor) tried to find out a bit about me and tell me a bit about what I'd be doing. Mostly I was worried about the evangelism part; I'm horrible at it. I may have mentioned this before, but I'm not one to recognize a chance to tell somebody about Jesus unless it smacks me across the face, and sometimes, not even then. This may make you wonder how it is I ended up as a missionary in Australia in the first place. Keep on wondering, and if you figure it out, let me know.

Then I was put to work in the kitchen. Basically, Urban Seed has two main ministries:
Credo Cafe, and their Alley Project. I'll be working with Credo, which is essentially a community soup kitchen of sorts, but without the soup. It all started when a bunch of homeless people started sleeping on the steps of Collins St. Baptist Church, and somebody decided, instead of kicking them out and tightening security (as most other churches would have done), why don't we feed them? Credo was started, and the rest, as they say, is history.

The idea is this: anybody can come and paratake, and usually do. I met all sorts of people, from the homeless to drug addicts to former drug addicts to lawyers to bohemians; all at one cafe. The odd part was, I couldn't tell them apart by appearance; mostly, it didn't matter. Except the lawyers, they were a dead giveaway. But at Credo, nobody is better than anybody else; it's a level playing-field, and all are welcome.

I spent about an hour working my way through two grocery bags full of carrots, chopping them up and dumping them into a giant pot of boiling water. Then I did the two bags of broccoli. It was around my second bag of broccoli that I realized, who needs to worry about the evangelism? If this is it, I'm good to go! I can't persuade somebody to follow Jesus using words, but I sure as hell can cut carrotts and broccoli.

As it turns out, that's how most of these people seem to have decided Jesus was worth their while; a bunch of His followers who cared about them. I haven't gotten to listen to many stories yet, but the few I have heard (and most of them will gladly tell you everything) have been stories of redemption from drugs, abuse, and alcohol. One guy, Snowey, is trying to get custody of his son for the first time in years; he's finally been heroin-free for a year now.

I still don't know what to make of this. I've never been sure how cutting up veggies could be serving Jesus, and yet somehow, it fit while at Credo. I've also never had much compassion for the homeless; I think that's why I've been mute the past two days - I didn't know what to say. I still don't.

After cooking, we had a small devotion. They asked me if I played guitar, pointed me to a grungy-looking classical guitar in the corner, and asked if I'd play under the song they were going to sing. I'd never played the guitar or the song before, but despite the quiet singing, the out-of-tune-ness, and the fact that my hand cramped up about halfway through (classical guitars have a neck about twice as thick as my own guitar does), it was ... moving. Everybody there was part of it, and drew me in like I'd always been there.

Then we served lunch. Seventy people in a tiny little place takes a long time to serve, but we did it. Nobody went hungry, but we did use every little bit of food available. It got a bit loud; laughter, conversation, forks and spoons clanking as they hit the plates, and of course, creaking chairs as, one by one, people sat back to say "wow, that was tasty, I'm full."

August 24, 2006

Continuing the Discussion

I've been having a fantastic discussion on evolution in the comments section of a previous post. To join our discussion, go here. I'd love to hear more from both sides of the debate, especially in regards to teaching evolution in schools, but also on proofs for both (well, ok, all) sides.

August 22, 2006

Force = Menthos + Diet Coke

Many thanks to an anonymous commenter on my last post for this little gem. My absolute favorite candy is Menthos. I carry them everywhere with me. Liz's favorite soda is diet coke. The funny thing is, put them together, and this is what happens. I'm not sure this is a metaphor that I want to be circulating, given that our two-year anniversary was yesterday, but hey, the video is a good one, so enjoy.

I Got No Skills

This is the most amazing amateur video I've seen in a long time. Seriously, whoever did this had a lot of time on their hands, but I think I want to know how they did this.

August 20, 2006


Every so often I decide to go through all the web links I've accumulated and delete as many as I can. It helps save on a little hard drive space (to be used later by video files) and provides me the opportunity to reminisce.

Yesterday I spent the afternoon doing this, mostly because it's been ages (like a whole year) since I last catalogued and reorganized the links. I was amazed at how many I'd accumulated since last august. Some were
funny, some were just odd, some begged to be introduced to the sidebar of my blog (you may enjoy Oolong), some led down memory lane, and some ... well some led to places I hadn't expected to go.

As I searched through a folder surrepticiously labeled "music," I came across a link entitled "my dream guitar." Upon clicking the link, I was whisked away to the Taylor website and the image of a guitar I'd discovered on one of my sojurns to guitar center with Mike.

It brought back a lot of memories, memories of using "I need a new pack of strings" as an excuse to grab Mike and wander over to a music store to stare at, and dare I say, play the guitar I so desperately wanted. But it also reminded me of a time not so long ago when I had a dream of being the best worship leader ever. I was going to single-handedly lead people to Jesus simply by the beauty of my playing, the amazing worship program I'd built at the to-be-determined church I'd been working at where everybody loved me and my beautiful-yet-intelligent/witty/humerous wife and two beautiful kids who were top of their classes in school as well as good musicians and athletes.

And I'd be modest and humble the whole time - I was going to do it all.

I'm not sure when it was that I started to grow up; maybe when I got married to the beautiful girl (who really is all those things, don't know HOW I managed that one) and realized that it's a lot harder to have 'the perfect marriage' than I'd thought (whaddya know, it requires effort). It may have been when I read Blue Like Jazz and started wondering whether or not there was more to "church" than the services. It may have been when I graduated college and suddenly didn't know what I honestly wanted to do with my life in light of the aforementioned book. But I think it happened when I came to Australia and discovered that the world is much bigger than me - the dreams of six billion people couldn't possibly be fulfilled as we all expect.

We're never who we think we are. Not really. Some of us get a picture of ourselves that's closer to our true nature than others do. I know that I still delude myself, both about my ability to afford a $5k guitar (the black one) and my ability to pull off a lifestyle as I'd dreamed it would be. I'm not even certain I want that lifestyle anymore - it's not realistic or even right.

Is life then about the re-forming, the remaking, even the redeeming our dreams? The dreams I have now are much different than the dreams I had in high school and college. While I used to dream of being the perfect Christian, humble-yet-popular, now I dream of a life where I may in some way measure up in the end, where I at least don't screw up too much. I used to dream eventual stability, triumph, and perfection. Now my dreams belie my uncertainty and confusion, the future a mystery instead of a given. I still dream of stability, but I can't go back to America the way I left, innocent and dreamy-eyed. I can't ignore what I've seen here; poverty and war are things I never noticed at home - they're easy to ignore if you fill up your schedule enough.

The music of my dreams used to be a triumphant orchestral theme with a romantic countermelody. Now it's a dark, rustic, acoustic guitar solo with a soft string pad and a lonely piano playing softly, just out of reach. My dreams have changed - I have changed - and it only brings me to wonder, how will I have changed in a year from now? Ten? Fifteen? The dreams I dream now are not the dreams I will dream years from now. I know I'll keep changing, and lately I think I've changed so much that I've given up trying to figure out what the future holds.

But it'd still be nice to know.

August 17, 2006

On Plutons and Such

Astronomers - and scientists in general - are a lot more amusing to me now that I'm on the outside of the scientific community. I used to think that a lot of the issues faced by scientists were quite serious. I would engage the debate with fervor, arguing my side passionately, though ultimately without much point (as my opinion didn't actually matter, since I was an undergraduate). Then I got fed up with the whole thing - science - and moved on to something that seemed far more interesting and, in my eyes, had more potential: religion.

Looking back, I now realize that every field has its internal squabbles, religion probably most of all, and what I did was jump from the rapidly boiling pot into the fire. However, it's easier to notice in religion because, unlike science, religion has so many points of view to choose from. Turns out science is usually only "true" or "false," which is why so many more people like it.

Anyway, back to my amusement. Turns out that there's a big argument on about planets. What is a planet? How do you define "planet"? What makes a planet different from, say, an asteroid? Or from perhaps a "pluton"?

And they say that postmodernism hasn't affected science.

I think the whole thing is hilarious. When my cousin and I were quite small (small enough that we had no idea what we were saying, and that's the story I'll stick with), we had this argument in front of our mothers, who were sitting at the dining room table just after a thanksgiving meal. It seems we disagreed upon whose mother was larger. "My mommy's bigger," I stated. "No, MY mommy's bigger," he replied. As the argument escalated, our mothers turning brighter red, we began to shout back and forth at each other. Finally, in a fit of rage, Tim yelled, "well MY mommy's HUGE!"

God alone knows what we were on about, but I think we can liken some of these squabbles to the same sort of thing. I know that we need working definitions, but come on, two solid days of debate on what a PLANET is? Some scientists seem worried that Pluto will get kicked out of the planet-club if the debate is allowed to continue. Others are worried that if we come up with a solid definition, that hundreds of planets will now exist, making it too hard for small school children to remember what our solar system is like. Others think it's humiliating for the rest of the planets (like Jupiter and Saturn) if tiny chunks of rock (like Charon and Ceres) are allowed to be planets too. Size, after all, does matter.

In the end, I'm sure whatever they come up with will be earth-shattering (then again, they're astronomers, and after "Armageddon", I sure hope not), important, culturally relevant, and of course, enlightening. We'll all be better people when we know what a planet REALLY is to a bunch of white-haired guys who spend all their time indoors.

August 16, 2006

Writer's Block

I have a confession to make: I've hit a bit of a writer's block lately. I'm told by other authors that this happens from time to time, that it's perfectly normal, yadda yadda yadda. That doesn't make it less irritating, just irritation with an explanation. Which I suppose is better.

So I thought, perhaps I'll just show you the things I've been reading.

First up is not really ... reading, so much as smashing a penguin with a bat. This one is Greg's fault, if you must know. Try it, you'll understand how addicting it is. But the frustrating thing is that Greg and Priscilla both say that they've gotten high scores higher than mine, and I can't seem to beat them. It's very frustrating.

Next up is actually reading. I'm working on this project for my FORGE internship - my second assignment - and it's turning out to be a really good book. Better than I'd hoped, actually, because not only is it informative and well written, but he seems to really like The Matrix, one of my all-time favorite movies. I highly recommend the book, and if anybody wants, I'll post my review here to read (the project is to review the book). Anyway, that's due on September 1, and I have an anniversary and an orchestra concert before that to get ready for.

Next up is the news. I love
google, because not only is it a rediculously powerful search engine, but you can customize the homepage to display news, your gmail, and all sorts of other fun things (little-known words of the day, this day in history, technology news, a calender, etc). This is how I keep up with the latest happenings in the world. Some articles that caught my attention recently:

solar system is about to get three more planets. My favorite quote from the article is from a seventh-grade science teacher: "We probably don't do a good enough job as teachers to teach science as something that changes."
liquid bomb problem in the UK, and what they're going to do about it.
-In other world news, another
terror plot has been foiled, this time targeting the Southern Baptist Convention. *disclaimer: I didn't get this from Google news*

Lastly, I've been reading a few blogs that I really enjoy, and perhaps you might as well:

Andrew Hamilton, pastor of a missional church in Perth.
Christine Hnat, writes some fantastic stuff on feminism.
Jon Cruz, writes well about pretty much everything he thinks about, which is a lot.

So there you have some new reading material, and one game to consume whatever free time you might have left.

August 12, 2006

National Pride

I seem to be posting all sorts of things that I got in my email lately. But this one is particularly poignient. I don't usually like receiving these things. They've always struck me as preachy and irritating, and get tossed like the other junk mail selling penis enlargements or promising a free laptop if only I'll take a short survey. But somehow this struck a chord with me and I wanted to share this with anybody who reads this. Take it for what it was, but also think about what it could mean.

To Kill an American

You probably missed it in the rush of news last week, but there was actually a report that someone in Pakistan had published in a newspaper an offer of a reward to anyone who killed an American, any American. So an Australian dentist wrote an editorial the following day to let everyone know what an American is, so they would know when they found one.

"An American is English, or French, or Italian, Irish, German, Spanish, Polish, Russian or Greek. An American may also be Canadian, Mexican, African, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Australian, Iranian, Asian, or Arab, or Pakistani or Afghan. An American may also be a Comanche, Cherokee, Osage, Blackfoot, Navaho, Apache, Seminole or one of the many other tribes known as Native Americans.

An American is Christian, or he could be Jewish, or Buddhist, or Muslim. In fact, there are more Muslims in America than in Afghanistan. The only difference is that in America they are free to worship as each of them chooses. An American is also free to believe in no religion. For that he will answer only to God, not to the government, or to armed thugs claiming to speak for the government and for God. An American lives in the most prosperous land in the history of the world. The root of that prosperity can be found in the Declaration of Independence, which recognizes the God given right of each person to the pursuit of happiness.

An American is generous. Americans have helped out just about every other nation in the world in their time of need, never asking a thing in return. When Afghanistan was over-run by the Soviet army 20 years ago, Americans came with arms and supplies to enable the people to win back their country! As of the morning of September 11, Americans had given more than any other nation to the poor in Afghanistan. Americans welcome the best of everything...the best products, the best books, the best music, the best food, the best services. But they also welcome the least.

The national symbol of America, The Statue of Liberty, welcomes your tired and your poor, the wretched refuse of your teeming shores, the homeless, tempest tossed. These in fact are the people who built America. Some of them were working in the Twin Towers the morning of September 11, 2001 earning a better life for their families. It's been told that the World Trade Center victims were from at least 30 different countries, cultures, and first languages, including those that aided and abetted the terrorists.

So you can try to kill an American if you must. Hitler did. So did General Tojo, and Stalin, and Mao Tse-Tung, and other blood-thirsty tyrants in the world. But, in doing so you would just be killing yourself, because Americans are not a particular people from a particular place; they are the embodiment of the human spirit of freedom. Everyone who holds to that spirit, everywhere, is an American.

And did you know that Australia is the only country that has stood by the United States through all wars?


August 10, 2006

The Simile

When I was in high school english, every so often my AP English teacher would go on a rant about the differences between a "simile" and a "metaphor." Pop culture tells us that there isn't any difference (a simile is like a metaphor, har har), which apparently made Ms. Kritz upset. Incidentally, it was attention to detail like this and a good sense of humor (and her taste in reading material - John Irving Joseph Conrad were among my favorites) that made her such a good teacher.

Anyway, I got an email today listing some metaphors - actually similes - that high school english teachers had submitted from their students' papers. I picked out my favorites because they remind me of a few of my high school and college classmates.



Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle that had its two sides gently compressed by a Thigh Master.

His thoughts tumbled in his head, making and breaking alliances like underpants in a dryer without Cling Free.

She grew on him like she was a colony of E. Coli, and he was room-temperature Canadian beef.

Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.

The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn't.

Long separated by cruel fate, the star-crossed lovers raced across the grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left Cleveland at 6:36 PM. traveling at 55 mph, the other from Topeka at 4:19 PM at a speed of 35 mph.

John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.

The plan was simple, like my brother-in-law Phil. But unlike Phil, this plan just might work.

He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame duck, either, but a real duck that was actually lame, maybe from stepping on a land mine or something.

The ballerina rose gracefully en pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.

It was an American tradition, like fathers chasing kids around with power tools.

August 8, 2006

Whaddya Know?

I was reading through google news today and noticed this article. It made me think back to the last FORGE intensive, when I looked through the room and noticed that I was one of two people with a pc; everybody else (at least six to eight people, maybe more) had a mac. And not an older mac either - a brand-new macbook or macbook pro. So when I read this article, I had this sudden flash of insight into the reason for the rather odd trend at FORGE.

At first, I thought maybe that it had to do with popularity. So many emergent-types in the states are about doing the "popular" thing to engage pop culture. But the FORGE people seem to be a bit above that, at least, the few that I know. Then it hit me - at the apple press conference, Steve Jobs mentioned that Microsoft has, in the past few years, grievously neglected the innovation that defined them as a company in the last two decades. Jobs accused them of simply copying google and apple in everything they do, despite a $5 billion budget for research and development.

In this, I find a long-sought key to understanding why people suddenly like macs: innovation. The missional church, too, is about innovation, pioneering, starting fresh with something new and different and yes, costly. A person has to go through hell to change the way they think - believe me, I'm in the thick of it myself at the moment, hence the cost. Macs are like that now too - they're innovative, fresh, and pretty expensive if you want all the interesting features. I think, in the new macbooks, that FORGE-types (and I'm guessing many emergent-types at home) have found a kindred spirit, and as they say, birds of a feather flock together.

This is not to say that I'm giving up my Dell, only that I think I found a rather interesting explanation. But lately I have wished that my laptop was smaller, lighter, more compact ... I've been taking it with me everywhere to write, and it gets a little heavy after a while. Maybe a 13" macbook, but alas, they don't offer the lighted keyboard on those models.

Reasonable Doubt

Without sounding like I'm trying too hard to be the voice of reason here, I'd like to add my two cents to a debate that's been going on for a while. I know that nobody ever actually asks my opinion in these matters, but on this particular debate, given my rather long and somewhat dissatisfied history with the subject, I want to have a go at finding an alternative to all the squabbling.

I've been through this all before. Did God create all that we see, or some big bang way back when? The real question, though, is what the hell do we teach our kids? I think that so many of the normal folk realize that we can never truly know the answer to the first question (that is, until we die, when we can't really come back to tell everybody else), and thus, the second question becomes so much harder. Do we teach them evolutionary "theory" or do we teach them "intelligent design?"

For whatever reason, the debate has touched a nerve in the American populace (while the rest of the world looks on thinking 'what's their problem?'). I have my theories on that one, but they'll have to wait. Some people are adament: evolution is not just a theory, it's proven fact. Others hold the opposite: evolution isn't even science, but that it itself is religion, and not very good religion at that.

I've been thinking. I do that. It's a problem because it keeps me from going to sleep at night (but at least it gives you something to read). But it seems to me that the question keeps coming back to everybody's definitions of the word "religion." Really, the definitions of a lot of words - neither side of the debate speaks the same language, not really - but for now, "religion" is a good place to start. If you go by a reasonably broad definition of religion - say, a belief system involving an element of faith or trust that one can't know all the answers but looks at what they see to extrapolate the rest - then I'd say sure, evolutionary theory, creationism, intelligent design, and aliens all fit into the "religion" category. Maybe not aliens, but I suppose we can all see what we want.

I personally think that there are six major religions of the world: judaism (deifies "Jehovah"), christianity/christendom (deifies "I AM"), Islam (deifies "Allah"), Buddhism (deifies the intellect), Hinduism (has lots of deities), and atheism (deifies science and the self). There are lots of variations on that, but those are the biggies. My personal background, like many in the US, is christendom. I grew up going to a presbyterian church every week (with the few rare exceptions where I managed to beg/cajole/plead my way out of it), but at the same time, barely heard much about creation. Aside from the occasional "God created everything," I didn't hear much else from a 'christian' perspective on the matter. I learned the standard evolution model taught in new york schools. It was about high school that I started taking an interest in the subject, when I started wondering if perhaps my beloved science and my not-so beloved religion had any conflicts. For the next four years I read and studied and examined the two sides of the debate. I talked with teachers, fellow students, pastors - anybody who would listen (my poor parents had their ears questioned off, and I still remember 3am conversations with my mother on the specifics of the Genesis account, when my half-asleep father would come in begging her to come to bed).

I came to the conclusion that God had indeed created everything, but that Genesis doesn't mention "how" - science could shed light on that in the evolutionary theory. So I bopped along for awhile, happy that I'd figured it out, and then, tragedy struck - I entered college and was hit by a problem with the argument. It turns out that, due to a rather interesting logical fallacy, you can't just mesh the two arguments together like that. So, with the debate renewed, I continued to study.

I'm still not sure I've landed anywhere solid - and nobody really ever can, which is why I pretty much stepped away from the debate for about two years - but at the moment I consider myself an old-earth creationist. I don't buy into the whole "6000-year old" earth mumbo jumbo; the evidence is too overwhelming on both sides for that to be true (we all know the science, but did you know that "yom", the hebrew word for "day", can also mean "age"? it makes Genesis 1 read really differently).

I think this is where my insight might be useful. In all my searching, reading, discussing, etc, I discovered a little piece of information that could prove itself to be the solution: science needs the evolutionary theory to uphold a lot of other theories that seem to be working out just fine, which is one reason that scientists hold on to evolution so tightly - they need it, badly. However, the parts of it that they need don't really have much to do with apes or big bangs. The parts they need have a lot to do with genetics, cell biology, adaptation theory, and that sort of thing - the raw data, not the theory.

See, evolution has two parts: microevolution (survival of the fittest, called "natural selection") and macroevolution (accumulation of natural selection, genetic variation, and whatnot; and it usuall talks about apes starting to talk). This is the solution:

In schools, we need to do three things:
1) acknowledge that none of us really have the answers to life, the universe, and everything
2) remove the theories of origin from science classes and instead teach the genetics, the natural selection, and the stuff that's useful to science but that isn't terribly controversial
3) begin a manditory religion class (teaching all six major world religions, which is where we can then include theories of origins)

I think this solves a lot of problems. It acknowledges that religion is important, that it affects more than just what you do on sunday, \ that you can't just lump it into a history class (because there is so much to learn about), and it allows kids exposure to a greater amount of culture. It also clears up the issue of whether or not we evolved - nobody knows for sure. Some scientists are so sure, and some creationists are so sure, but in the end, they weren't there, and they're still just guessing. Some are guessing harder and smarter than others, but they're still just guessing. It moves the information in question into an arena that allows kids to expand their minds and think, to work through the arguments and maybe even grow a little. We can do science in science class, philosophy and religion (and therefore controversey) into their own class.

In the end, I know that whatever we do, nobody will be happy about it. Creationists usually are the sorts of people that think their kids are being corrupted by the public school system anyway, and so if worlds like "evolution" or "sex" or "homosexuals" are ever mentioned without saying "God doesn't like ___" in front of them, the parents freak out. Likewise, scientists have a rather unhealthy habit of making anyone who claims any sort of deity to be a fool unworthy to be in the presence of the wise scientist. BOTH attitudes are unhealthy, unwise, and frankly, appallingly annoying. It's time to start thinking of everybody involved, not just one side or the other.

We still have to live together, ya know.

August 5, 2006

Just Plain Nuts

I've noticed an inordinate number of crazy people around these days. Maybe Liz and I keep wandering into the wrong places at the wrong times, but it seems like we almost attract people who don't quite have it together.

For example, we were on the train the other day on our way home from somewhere and Liz decides to snuggle up next to me in the seat. Nothing out of the ordinary, we see far worse (you wouldn't believe the PDA from some of the high schoolers) on a regular basis. Just as I reach over and kiss her forehead, this lady with a very worried expression on her face smacks Liz in the shoulder (not taps, not politely shakes, smacks) and says "stop that, you're disturbing me!" Liz asked what we were doing to disturb her. "You're doing all that kissing and cuddling, stop it! It makes me unhappy!" Liz mumbled something to the effect of "sorry" and took her head off my shoulder as I grabbed her hand.

I've never had that happen before. I'm quite sure in my high school days that I engaged in far worse acts of affection in public than simply kissing my wife's forehead, but for some reason the lady couldn't take even that.

Another example, Liz and I are again on a train on our way home when a lady, face covered in paint, asks us in a slightly agitated voice, "how old is your dog?" We always have Wisdom with us, with little exception, and so naturally she attracts a lot of attention. But the lady has eyes that are a bit wild, and she's holding a plastic bag. I'm thinking "ok, weird, maybe she's just got back from painting ... at 9pm in the evening ..." as Liz politely explains what it is she's doing with Wisdom and launches into her now-memorized little blurb about SEDA. The lady takes one more look, mumbles something unintelligable, and shuffles over a bit. Then, she sticks an aerosol bottle into the bag, squeezes, and then inhales from the top, just as the train is stopping at our station. I almost said, "wait, you know that's going to make you dizzy," when suddenly a few things started snapping into place in my mind and, as quietly as I could, said "oh. I get it." Liz smirked and pushes the button to open the door, and we got off, putting as much distance behind us as quickly as we could.

Another time, Liz told me she was on the train and a man started yelling at his sandwich and then threw it at her, knocking her in the head. He stopped, pulled out another one, yelled at it a bit, then threw it at the lady sitting across from him, startling her out of her wits. I'm not sure quite what the sandwiches had done, but apparently they warranted such treatment. Later, he retreived the two sandwiches and resumed somewhere in another compartment.

We've seen more than that, but those are the examples that stick out in my mind. I heard somebody say that some politician has been closing mental institutions around Melbourne to save money. I wouldn't be too surprised if that was the case. But it's weird, it seems almost like as they let them go, they point them towards Coburg. "There's two Americans there, stay on the trains and make them feel welcome."

August 2, 2006


There's a certain amount of delicacy that one has to worry about when changing one's entire lifestyle to reflect his beliefs. That, in a way, is why I'm here in Melbourne. I'm really not much of a missionary; I'm horrible at meeting new people, I prefer my computer's dimly lit screen or my guitar's easy company to the company of lots of new people, and I don't deal well with impulsiveness. I'm a man of my schedule, of my habits, and I'm not that great at recognizing evangelistic opportunities when I see them, unless they're the "hey, you're a Christian, tell me about Jesus" variety.

But I think, by some freak chance, this may be one of those rare occasions that I've taken some initiative and handed control of my life over to somebody else. The occasion, by the way, is a chance I have to work with Urban Seed as my mission project for my FORGE internship. It's a big change in my lifestyle; the simple act of helping prepare lunch with both business-types and the poverty types and drug addicts is ... well, a hard thing for me. But I have to remember that change is a constant, and that everybody has to endure it, like it or not. That being said, there are three sorts of people in this world: those that willingly change, those for whom change is hard, but do it when they notice it's necessary, and those that refuse to change and get dragged along behind the train.

Sometimes I'd put myself in category 2, like right now, but mostly I'm a category #3. I'm horrible at change; I've only ever changed my hair style once, it took mom ages to convince me that sweatpants were really just not a good idea for public use, and I still think that comfort is more important than style. Incidentally, stubbornness and one's fashion-sense shouldn't go hand-in-hand.

Getting me to change my mind on things, usually, is the hardest thing ever. It's like a delicate surgury, where the doctors are all dressed up in their clean-suits, gloves on hands, and they're trying to replace one part of my body (my heart) with a new and better one. They have to do it slowly and carefully, without much chance for error, lest their charge die a horrible death.

It's not a lot of comfort that lots of people think change is supposed to be like a triage center, where we brutally rip the person open, quickly "fix" what's inside, and then move on to the next victim - I mean patient. One of the things that worries me about so many American emergent-types is that they tend to be all for disbanding every church in America and revamping the whole system themselves, as if everybody would agree or be out: sensible Christians would agree, and to hell with the rest of them, they're giving us a bad image. I must confess, when I first began to agree with emergent- and missional philosophy, I was one of these. I thought, ya know, this is the way to go, and every church should do it just like I think it should be done and think the way I think.

It's just not realistic. I've come to realize that it just doesn't happen that everybody is on the same page. We have to learn to accept each other's differences if we're to work together for the common goal: a world unified in Christ. Some people are harder to work with than others, but in general, I've found that if we put behind differences like "pre-trib vs. post-trib" or "baptism by immersion vs. sprinkling" or "evolution vs. creation," we find that we quite like working together, especially when we get our hands dirty when we work together with real people instead of theories. My friend Ruth is moving her family to Thailand to work with orphans. The thing is, she'll be living and working with Seventh-Day Adventists. She's a Wesleyan. If you know anything about denominations and their theology, you'll know it's not much of a match. Yet still she goes, because they have a common creator, a common savior, and a common goal.

The irony is that, in saying this, I'm asking everybody to agree to my position. I know that won't happen, but I hope that many will try. I know it's hard, and many times we'll just have to part company. If anything, maybe this will just help make that parting a little more agreeable and less spiteful. Hopefully with so many different ideas, somebody is bound to be right, or more likely, we've all got some part of it right and maybe collectively, with our little bits of truth combined, we'll start seeing some bigger part of the picture of God's plan ...