Thursday, February 27, 2003

Goodbye, Mr. Rogers

I grew up with Mr. Rogers. It's hard to believe he's gone. I'll never forget the first time I ever saw his show. Guess I was 5 or 6 at the time (hard to believe I was ever that young, but that's another story). (Also hard to believe I still remember this, but that's also another story.) There was this nice, friendly man on Channel 13 showing a litter of kittens. Wow! Loved kittens. Still do. Love at first sight. Most kiddie shows are fast-paced, high-pitched, and frantic. His was gentle, straightforward, and he had the nicest smile. Laugh at his sweater all you want, but I loved it. It's also his fault that I have a thing for trolleys.

Fast forward to today. I've always wanted to write him a fan letter but never had the nerve. Now it's too late. This is the next-best thing. I pray for his family and hope that he's up there in Heaven making all the little kids smile.

Thanks, Joel, for letting me post this to your blog site. You're the best husband anyone could ever hope for, and I love you.

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Unitarian Universalist Dan Kennedy attends the annual conference of American Atheists and discovers that atheists can be fundamentalists too.

Interesting comparison contained in the article: comparing one's own denial of being an atheist to Peter's denial of Jesus. Being ashamed of believing in nothing?! Is nothing sacred?

Mark Byron says we need to pray for the people of Iraq. He's right.

People who are against military action in Iraq claim that we will be killing untold numbers of innocent civilians, not to mention putting American lives at risk. While I think the concern is exaggerated, the killing of innocents is a concern. I don't believe it should be a reason to avoid what needs to be done (more innocents have died under Saddam's regime than were marching in the anti-war protests according to Tony Blair), but the people deserve our prayers. I've been led to pray that the effects of the war will be minimal, that innocent lives will be spared. To Mark's prayer request, I would just add one more thing - that missionaries, preachers, and teachers be present in all the countries in that 10-40 window, telling everyone living under an Islamic regime about the grace and truth of Jesus Christ.

Here is John Wesley's sermon #27 Upon Our Lord's Sermon on The Mount, VII which covers the subject of fasting.

Many Christians are praying for our country, and even fasting. Here's some practical and spiritual advice from Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, Your Personal Guide to Fasting and Prayer.

I'd like to extract this portion of his article, from the section entitled "Dealing with the Responses of Friends and Loved Ones, as many people are intimidated from talking about fasting for fear of violating Jesus' teaching about fasting from the Sermon on the Mount.

Many people are reluctant to tell others that they are fasting so they will avoid the sin of the Pharisees: fasting just to gain recognition for themselves. I strongly believe that attitude is a result of a wrong interpretation of our Lord's teaching and that it is a trick of the enemy who does not want us to fast, nor to share with your loved ones, neighbors and friends the benefits of fasting.

By isolating ourselves from the support of other Christians, we will be more susceptible to doubts and negative influences (both human and demonic). We need the prayer shield of our Christian friends and family members to help us continue when we feel alone and when the enemy tempts us to give up Our Lord as he did Jesus Christ. Eventually, people will notice you are not eating. However, I have found that unless you see them daily, they do not consider your skipped meal much of a concern. If you are asked, nonbelievers may be satisfied by such a brief answer as, "I have other plans for lunch today." Or Christians should be satisfied when you answer that you are fasting today.

Saturday, February 22, 2003

“Irresponsible” Methodist Bishop Appears in Anti-War TV Commercial

Some comments on this: We all have the right to free speech, and the protestors against the War on Iraq have a right to speak out. I also have the right to speak my mind, and I'm doing so here. Bishop Talbert does not speak for me. I am in favor of war on Iraq with the goal of removing Saddam Hussein from power. I pray for the people of Iraq, that they will not suffer from this war. I am not so naive to believe that they are not suffering, or suffering less, if there is no war.

Complaints dismissed against Bishop Joseph Sprague

Bishop Joseph Sprague is the United Methodist Bishop who has stated that he does not believe in the Virgin Birth or the Resurrection, and has subscribed to an alternative interpretation of the Trinity. I don't know how to explain it, here's a link to IRD's archives on the subject.

I've got some concerns about the viewpoint expressed by the supervisory response committee. When they say stuff like, "the theological and doctrinal issues raised in the complaint are already a matter of considerable public debate within the United Methodist Church," I wonder if there is any significant difference between the United Methodist Church and the Unitarian Universalist Association. There is, but only because of people like the Rev. Thomas Lambrecht, quoted below. I believe there is such a thing as Truth, that Jesus taught and showed it to us, and that we should do as God said to Peter, James, and John: "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!" (Matthew 17:5 NKJV)

Quoting from the news article: "In response to the decision, the Rev. Thomas Lambrecht, spokesman for the complainants, said,
"The signers of the complaint against Bishop C. Joseph Sprague are deeply disappointed in the decision by the supervisory team to dismiss the complaint. Upon first reading, it appears the rationale of the complaint did not objectively consider our perspective, but was heavily weighted against our point of view.

"We affirm the supervisory team’s recommendations for theological dialogue and declare our willingness to participate. We believe, however, that we as a church need to go beyond dialogue to develop an understanding of what binds us together theologically in the United Methodist Church – what our theological identity is.

"This decision appears to give official sanction to the personal interpretation of our doctrinal standards in a way that diminishes their unifying and binding force. Sadly, this approach to theology within the United Methodist Church will only deepen our divisions and weaken the mission and ministry of our church.

"We call for the church, in a spirit of civility, mutual respect and fidelity to the Lord whom we serve, to reclaim ‘the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.’ (Jude 3) This is the faith for which the apostles and martyrs gave their lives – the faith for which many Christians suffer and die around the world today. This faith alone can provide the impetus for the loving, grace-filled ministry that will lead our church to become spiritually vital and growing once again." "

One drawback to posting once every several days is a lot of stuff goes by that other people talk about first, so that by the time I get to it, I wind up repeating what other people say. One such issue is the one where over in England they are encouraging youth to experiment with oral sex (link copied from Joshua Claybourn's Domain)

There seems to be a movement to ignore what God tells us of sexuality in the Bible. What is all the worse is that this movement is very strong in liberal religion, where the Bible is given no more respect than the opinion of an disrespected schoolmaster. A long time ago (back to the archives...In the year 3434 of The Second Age... oops wrong story), I blogged about an organization called SIECUS that promotes what they call "the right and the responsibility to lead sexual lives that express love, justice, mutuality, commitment, consent, and pleasure" in their Religious Declaration on Sexuality Morality, Justice, and Healing. They also go on to say, "It [speaking of their declaration] accepts no double standards and applies to all persons, without regard to sex, gender, color, age, bodily condition, marital status, or sexual orientation." Some questions to confront this declaration: all persons, regardless of age? even children? And what is the difference between sex and gender anyway? Bodily condition? Even if a person has AIDS? regardless of marital status or sexual orientation? So no restrictions on promiscuity or homosexuality and the harm they cause individuals? I could understand this coming from a libertarian organization, but coming from a religious one?

Over at Joshua Claybourn's Domain, guest blogger John Adams asks the question, "Would Jesus Own a Gun?" I posted a comment there that I'd like to post here as well.

I said:
I too own a gun, and I do not believe Jesus would own one. In my mind, the question "Would Jesus own a gun?" is irrelevant - His mission was different than mine. He was sent to preach, teach, heal, and die and be raised again -- all in order to save the world, just like John 3:16-17 say.

Besides, questions like "Would Jesus drive a SUV?" or "would Jesus bomb Iraq?" or "would Jesus own a gun?" are irrelevant in another way -- Jesus was not sent into our time where SUVs, guns, and bombs exist. He was sent into a different time, with a different mission. It's like Gandalf said to Frodo in FOTR, "All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us."

A more appropriate question than "What Would Jesus Do?" is "What would Jesus Have Me Do?" We all have unique roles in the body of Christ. If we all did only what Jesus would do, we would all be doing the same thing, what the head would do. But as Paul says in 1 Corinthians (12 I think), we all form a different part of the body. Some are hands, some are feet, some are eyes, ears, and mouths. While we should endeavor to be like Christ, I think it is misguided to apply the WWJD question to every action we take.

UPDATE: The FOTR quotation was wrong in my original comment to John Adams's post. I've corrected it here.
By the way, Amy won the Roller Coaster Tycoon challenge.

Important Service Announcement:
I have changed my template so that all links in the blogroll open in the same window. After reading criticism of the "Open in New Window" and "target=_blank" practices, I've decided that more people would be happy with my blog if I did that.

Now should I put in comments? My blog is surely small enough in the blogosphere to keep it from being too cumbersome to keep up with, but I've held off. I've read other bloggers talk about it; not wanting to deal with threatening or obscene comments that detract from the message (even though I hold that everyone is responsible for their own words - but on the other hand, do I want obscene stuff to even appear here? Of course, then I'd have to go back and read it all). Many like the two-way interchange of ideas, but that can also be done with email, as long as I republish what is sent to me. Well, for now, I don't have comments, but here's a deal: if ten people tell me they want them I'll put them in

Monday, February 17, 2003

Thanks to all who expressed sympathy with us on the East Coast for all our snow. As I look outside from my home in East Windsor Township, I think I see about two feet in my front yard and I'm not looking forward to going outside. Fortunately (or is it really?) it's a holiday for me, but no one except emergency-related employees are supposed to go to work today. Amy's home with me, so I'm not going to blog much. Later today, we're going to see who is the best Roller Coaster Tycoon.

We set up our computers this weekend with a router so our cable modem now serves our multiple PCs and a laptop, so we canceled the dial-up account finally.

Saturday, February 15, 2003

Earlier this week, Susan Lee wrote Sex, Drugs and Rock 'n' Roll, a column on libertarianism. I wanted to comment back when it was written, but I held off, wanting to refrain from blogging for a few days ("I have passed the test...")

I considered myself a libertarian for a brief period of time, about two years. I eventually decided to stop using the label because of its association with two issues: abortion and gay marriage, which are both mentioned, but not addressed at length, by Ms. Lee.

Ms. Lee states, regarding what Libertarians believe:
They admit to one moral principle from which all preferences follow; that principle is self-ownership--individuals have the right to control their own bodies, in action and speech, as long as they do not infringe on the same rights for others. The only role for government is to help people defend themselves from force or fraud. Libertarians do not concern themselves with questions of "best behavior" in social or cultural matters.

Regarding abortion, the only way to believe that abortion is not an act of force is to believe that a fetus is a non-living thing, or an animal undeserving of protection (lower even than PETA's standards). When I opened up my mind to the possibility that there is a living person inside a woman's womb, I realized that there is a huge difference in moral culpability based on whether that "thing" is a human life, possessing a fundamental right to live, or a non-living thing with no rights. The morally safe position is to recognize it as living, and to respect the unborn child's right to life, at least at the same level of protection as the mother's right to life as well. If we are wrong, the consequence is an inconvenience which we can deal with. The consequence of the abortionists' belief, that the fetus has no right to life, is the irrevokable end of a human life. People who argue pro-abortion say that the decision is each woman's to make alone, but that is inconsistent with making murder illegal at all. I read a comment on a bulletin board that it doesn't matter, the baby doesn't know it's dead, but isn't that true of all murder victims? The fact that someone isn't aware of their own murder doesn't justify it. The Libertarian view that abortion is morally justifiable is not consistent with its core beliefs. Libertarians should be opposed to abortion.

The issue of gay marriage is more complicated, but after a lot of thought, I have decided to be opposed to it. The clincher for me is how we treat children in our society. If children were not involved, I would not be opposed. I do not believe that children can grow up as healthy with "gay parents" as they do with a mother and father. I believe that sexual complementarity is an important part of growing up and relating to other people. There are studies coming out now which point out that there are significant differences between children who have "gay parents" and heterosexual parents. With more time, I believe we will see more significant differences. I believe that gay marriage will be used to make adoptions by gays more acceptable in our culture, and for that reason I am opposed to it.

The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) has also come out in support of same-sex marriage. I was married in a UUA-congregation. I wonder how I would have reacted if my minister at that time told me that he would'nt sign our marriage certificate? I guess we wouldn't have gotten married there after all. Somehow, reading this, I feel a need to go wash out my eye.

Travel plans postponed due to weather concerns, and Amy and I are back from celebrating Valentine's Day at the lovely Chimney Hill Inn, however we did not get to see the alpacas. Next time perhaps...

UPDATE: The scenery at the Chimney Hill Inn was nothing at all like the pictures on the web site. Everything is covered in snow, and given the upcoming weather, I reckon we will be covered in snow for a good while yet!

Sunday, February 09, 2003

Well, one post before Monday...

Saw this quiz at Oblique House, and couldn't resist.

Where do you fall on the liberal - conservative political spectrum? (United States)

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But I already knew that!

Saturday, February 08, 2003

No blogging next week, too much to do, including some possible OT at work, followed by a vacation day and some travel, and I'd like a week off the blog.

In the meantime, have a wonderful Valentine's Day (especially you newlyweds!) and President's Day too (that's Presidents as in Washington, Lincoln, and Reagan as far as I'm concerned, btw)

Friday, February 07, 2003

My wife will be glad to see this....

You are Italian
You are an Italian.

What's your Inner European?
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Thursday, February 06, 2003

One definition of insanity I heard in a sermon once is doing things the same way over and over, and yet expecting different results. According to this definition, France is insane.

Also... the American media is fair and balanced compared to the French.

Wednesday, February 05, 2003

James Lileks comments on going to war without the UN. My sentiments exactly.
(link via Glenn Reynolds' InstaPundit)
Since I got a link to this query, just in case anyone is wondering, this is not me. Dr. Fuhrman is a nutritional specialist, and has written a book on fasting. I cannot attest to the integrity of his information, however I've talked with people who know him (I get some of his phone calls, his office is nearby) and they think he's great. The last link is to an interview with him about the practice of fasting.

Now that the subject of fasting has come up, I'd like to address it from a Christian point of view. I'm bringing it up because I believe it is important that we pray for our country, and in times of national peril, some of our Presidents have been known to issue proclamations of days dedicated to prayer and fasting. The best example of fasting in the Bible is probably the proclamation of the king of Ninevah, who proclaimed a complete and total fast for all creatures, including livestock; no living being was to eat or drink until the judgment of God was averted (it worked). I don't know how fasting works, except it serves to train the body to deal with minor discomfort; as far as helping our faith and walk with God, the Bible says nothing but good things about it, except that the disciples did not fast before Jesus' ascension, as Jesus did not view it as necessary while He was here in his pre-glorified state. He did say the disciples would fast after His ascension however.

I fast one day a week, and am considering increasing it to two days a week, according to Wesleyan practice, until the inevitable War with Iraq is over. I don't intend this to sound like boasting; I bring it up because I think that it is important for our President and our country that Christians do this, and I encourage everyone reading this to prayerfully consider doing likewise. When I became a new Christian, I would have never dreamed of a fasting discipline, but within the last six months, I've found a once-a-week fasting day is spiritually profitable. I guess it gives me more time for prayer and meditation on God's word. It also makes me consider my physical needs as just a little bit less important than other things (I have found it to tone down some of my Randian thinking for example). John Wesley made his preachers commit to fasting two days a week (W&F), where the fast consisted of a 24-hour period between dinner the night before, to dinner the night of, the fast. For a complete study of fasting and its spiritual benefits, one should consult their minister or a respected teacher within their church, and should also look up the subject of fasting in their Bible. For physical benefits, consult your doctor. People with medical conditions should consult their doctors before fasting. Those who are diabetic or hypoglycemic and must carefully monitor their blood sugar should not consider fasting at all.

Tuesday, February 04, 2003

Ok for me, but not for thee....

The Unitarian Universalist Association's Washington Office for Advocacy (their lobbying office) urges the UUA's members to write their Congressional Representatives and tell them to vote against President Bush's tax cut proposal.

On a nearby page, the UUA's Washington Office also urges UUA members to write their Representatives to oppose the "Houses of Worship Political Speech Protection Act" (H.R. 2357) which would allow houses of worship the ability to engage in partisan political activities.

Some may argue that the Washington Office for Advocacy is not a house of worship, and that's a fair point. Most mainline denominations have lobbying offices and do it legally while still maintaining their tax-exempt status. However, it is all too common to hear a sermon in a UUA congregation which is critical of tax cuts (among other things political), and no one seems to complain about it then.

Saturday, February 01, 2003

I don't know what to say... Turning on the computer in the afternoon to hear the terrible news of Columbia's loss and the deaths of all on board. One thing bothers me somewhat -- that I didn't know until 2:30, not that it matters. A little different than 9/11, when our department secretary sent an email to the +Everyone group to tell the terrible news. I was at my church's mens' Bible study when it happened, or just leaving it. Came home, caught up on some missed sleep from the night before, turn on the computer about 2:30, and wham!!! I actually overlooked the news-clip on my Comcast home page, going right into my portfolio, then into the blogs I like to read, and I click on Jeffrey Collins's Joyful Christian, and there it is and I go back and look at my home page again and read the news.

While I feel grief over this, I'll admit it's not the same feeling I had on 9/11, when the tragedy was intentionally inflicted. We expect the Space Shuttle missions to work perfectly, but we all know it's dangerous work being an astronaut. We all feel pain and loss when accidents occur, then go back and resolve to make things better, and they will be, but it's still dangerous, and the only way to be completely safe is to do nothing. I don't think anyone wants that outcome -- so to the astronauts, their families, and all the people who work for NASA, I say thank you for what you gave America and Israel (for Ilan Ramon), and God bless you.

I've added some new links to the blogroll on the left.