The Soft Glow of Monstrosity

TV scares me. I am not some luddite, and I am not about to bemoan the poor moral guidelines governing, and presented, by/on TV. No, television scares me because I enjoy it so much.

I am a person with a ‘low entertainment threshold.” That’s a term I think I made up, and it means that I am easily entertained; I am not incapable of criticism, and I do have a limit, but in general I can watch pretty bad shows and still enjoy myself. Frankly though, I have no time to watch bad shows.

“Of course he has no time, he is married and in seminary”

Unfortunately, it’s not what you think, not at all. I have no time to watch bad shows because there are so many good shows to watch, and watch them I do. This is exactly why TV scares me; it seems to be getting better and better at entertaining me. It used to be that I had to struggle to find something to watch. I enjoyed Star Trek (before Deep Space Nine), I liked movies, and like every one else on this planet I watched the occasional episode of Simpsons. Its not that there was nothing else on; I just didn’t really get into any of it. Now I am inundated with the number of shows I enjoy, and this doesn’t even get into Japanese Anime.

This was, after all, the goal right? We seek entertainment, leisure, the ultimate individualization; I can do/eat/watch/have what I want, when I want it, and how I want it. The commodification of all things marches on, and I am a happy consumer.

Yet there is a growing awareness, a shadow spreading from the nether regions of my mind, and it whispers to me in those moments before sleep. It whispers that I am being consumed, eaten away and replaced by pulp, or by cool whip. I am shown flashes of a different life that I can almost want, almost see, and I am left to wonder. Words from Neil Postman fade in and out: “Am.s.ng o.rse.ves to de.th."

And amidst it all I have to think. Millions of dollars are spent on research, on advertisement, on supermarket layout, color schemes, and the right music to play, the effects of various input on human decision making, and it works. How much am I being controlled, and who might I be apart from TV?


The Path from Lament to Praise

"The route from obedience to praise in the psalter is only through lament"

One of the classes I am in is Old Testament Foundations, and this week we did "Songs of Exile: Psalms, Lamentations, and Song of Songs". I found this to be a very comforting and freeing lecture.

The most common type of psalm in the psalter is a song of lament, however all but one of them has moved to praise by time they are finished. Indeed, the entire book of Psalms, in a rough way, is organized to move from Lament to Praise, beggining in and encompassed by obedience. The whole process culminates in the last Psalms in the book, which are the most extravagent songs of praise in the bible.

In my own life, I have found that having faith in Christ and a relationship with God has often led me into a time of lament. Its not a uniform thing; and no I don't view God as some angry God bearing down on me. I lament over the state of the church, the lostness of the world, the delirious tragedy which is our world. Certainly, there are times of Joy, and I am very thankful for all the good things God has given me; I can hardly claim to have had a hard life, compared to my fellow canadians, not to mention anyone not living in a first world country. Yet, I am moved by compassion, and often at the edge of despair because of my inability to do anything about the awful things around me. Meanwhile, I have felt faintly guilty about these feelings and thoughts; after all, Jesus has died for our salvation, and he is returning to take us to our heavenly home.

Now I see that though we are to take joy in all things, that doesn't have to be some immediate response, I can and should live through my lament, crying out to God to do something, so that I can come to an honest place of praise and be strengthened to cotinue to live in obedience. I can't honestly see how it works, there just are not 3 steps from lament to praise, and if you read the psalms it is all rather sudden, but I can testify from experience that it really can work this way; of course it can be a much longer and more painful process as well. No matter what though, God is who we can turn to with our cries, and not only can we but we must.

If you couldn't cry out to God about injustice, pain, suffering, and evil then how long would it be before no one cried out at all?


Many people have mentioned recently that "I don't update my Blog anymore." It's true, I don't, but I will now.

I've been a long time gone, and I honestly didn't think I would come back again; maybe I still won't. But this can be an introductory post to the possible return of Me, TheLogo.

My last post was in may, and much has happened since then. During our last months in Korea Kristina and I went to China (which was awesome), finished our year of teaching, went to Hawaii on the way home (very relaxing), moved into a new place here in Coquitlam, Kristina is working and I am nearly finished my first semester of Seminary.

Coming home was in a lot of ways harder than leaving, though it was also better. Culture shock was much more pronounced, as was the difficulty Kristina and I had adjusting to different 'working' hours. Thats pretty much all done now though.

Thats the short of things, I honestly don't want to fill in all the details, but feel free to ask any questions you want to.

As a sidenote, seminary is going very well; I love it. I have had lots to think about this semester, and I am sure that will continue, perhaps it will even come out on this blog if I really do start updating again. As an example, and a area of debate if anyone wants to have a go at it, I am now fairly convinced that it is ok to ordain women.

This has been a hopelessly self-referential post, a typical "i'm back" from a long absence post, but maybe I will do other stuff soon.


The Soundtrack of my Life

I love music. It's beautiful. I really do just love music, pretty much all kinds. I used to say I like everything but rap and opera... then I found some rap I liked, and it wasn't too long after that when I began to find myself enjoying the occasional Opera track as well. Now I just like music.

My taste in music doesn't run along the easy lines of genre, artist, or type. Instead it runs with emotional connection. I have watched a lot of shows in my life, and one of the ways you can tell wether or not I like a show, if I really connect with it or feel touched by it, is if I get the music for it. This isn't a perfect method to gauge the effect of any given video input on me, as it also requires that the show has good enough music to listen to without the accompanying video, which isn't as common as you might hope for, but its a good guideline. Its one of the reasons I love anime so much, at least some of them, and I know I enjoy shows more if they have good music.

When I listen to music with the purpose of listening to music, not just cause I can or as background noise, I really get into it. First I think of where it came from, usually I can remember specific scenes and/or lines. It doesn't take long for the emotions to fill my mind, and after that it's only a matter of time before I am daydreaming my own scenario's, all the while the original's play as a guide line in the back of my mind.

My too favorite times to do this are when I am walking, usually listening to music that has to do with the 'harder' emotions: anger, determination, fighting, victory, prevailing over the odds, etc. etc. Or late at night when I can't sleep yet; reflection, loneliness, contentment, solitude, sadness, etc.

Right now I am listening to the music from the first OVA for Ruroni Kenshin, a very sad, and very good, anime.

I don't know why you would care about any of this, but there it is.


Dreams of Sacrifice, Sacrifice of Dreams

I often have trouble with bible verses like "Don't worry about tomorrow" or with the general idea that God will provide for us. Its not that I don't believe these things, I do, but its hard to really put my faith there, to act like it, to trust and to leave my life in that terribly uncertain place that follows. I suppose that in reality it isn't an uncertain place at all. But no matter what is said, by me or others, it is one of the most difficult areas of my life and Christian faith.

There's always something; I need to have a secure future and thus ignore my calling and take the wrong stuff for a semester of university. I know the experience has been turned to good in the end, I praise the Lord for that. But the worries don't go away, or they haven't yet.

I remember worrying so much about financial stuff before my marriage. My wife had trouble finding a job, and I definitely didn't have any money, already being incredibly blessed to graduate without debt. After hours of agonizing and worrying, much prayer, I allowed my future to rest in God's hands, and I ended up in Korea, where, truth be told, God has blessed us more than we could ever deserve or expect.

Now, tonight, I sit here, once again, worrying about my future. Slowly I am getting better at trusting, and leaving things in God's hands, or I like to think so, but it's still not easy. Now I am worrying about how I am going to do all the things I want to do in my life. I want to go through seminary and get two masters, be a pastor, a father of a large (by today's standards) family, I want to write, eventually get a PhD, become a professor, and who knows, I have dreamed of someday founding a seminary somewhere, or being part of a new seminary, maybe in S. America.

But these are not plans for me to make, I know this. I know, I should know, that the Lord has a fulfilling and wonderful life for me; full of wonder and joy and pain and hardship. These things too will have to be left in God's hands, to live or die as he chooses. But now is the crunch of the issue: these are not my finances, as hard as they were to give up, and this is not my security, as much as I hated to see that go. These are my dreams. I guess all the other things were little dreams too, and they have been returned to me much better than I gave them up. As usual, I know all the words, but for them to penetrate to my heart, to my life, I will probably need many nights of agonizing and worry, and much prayer.

And you know what? Other than deepening my faith in God, I think I am learning something else too. Maybe its supposed to be this way. I have often pretended it was easy; or pretended this process was already done. Like I said, I know the words, and don't they just slip so easily out of my lips? Like silken cloth sliding over my decietful tongue, ready to inadequately cover up the realities of my doubt with their sheer and misty seductiveness. Its not supposed to be easy... dealing with it like this makes it real. The hours given provide these dreams with substance, and perhaps through this they are becoming sacrifices half worthy of the glorious Creator of Heaven and Earth. Perhaps... one day soon...


Time for that infamous feature of most blogs, the catchup post.

Life continues to be good over here in S. Korea. I still have no accounts for showing photos or anything, and have been to lazy to really look into anything much. I have been looking into buying an MP3 player and have narrowed my choices down to two IRiver's, the H10 and H320 models. The idea would be to record university lectures as well as listen to music, but we will see how it all works out.

I have been trying to make better use of my free time of late, not playing so many computer games and watching so much anime, and it has been very good for me.

Every day that goes by brings me closer to returning home, and I am looking forward to it. Family, friends, a familary environment, the uneviable con of once again being able to understand everyone around me (and will understand me too....). I know it sounds wierd but its kind of nice when most of the people around you don't understand you and you don't understand them, its like your always in your own little private bubble, even on a crowded subway. It definitely gives a new meaning to freedom of speech. I hear reverse culture shock is largely caused by being able to read everything and understand everything again, so I guess we will see how that goes. Despite that one and only negative, I can't wait to be back at home. And back in school.

This weeekend, sunday, is Teacher's Day in Korea. So, now all my kids are bringing me presents. There really nice, and very generous. I have more name brand products than ever before: gucci cologne, body shop bath goods, real herbal tea (from some brand I can't remember), chanelle lip stuff (my wife, not me), and I can't remember the rest, at least two more name brand items. Seeing it all in our bathroom kind of wierds me out sometimes, I have been, generally, anti-big name brand (at least selectively anti anyway, never seriously or with any integrity :) for so long that the words on teh packages might as well be in Korean.

Thats life right now. I haven't read anyone elses blog since the last tmie I posted on my own, so I guess I have some catching up to do :)


quick note: Heard of "Broken Saints"?
Amazing comic, done in flash (so I think it is better than a normal comic, it has music and stuff :), I haven't finished yet (only on ch. 4 so don't spoil anything for me). Apparently its 12 hours long. Its worth checking out:
their website: www.brokensaints.com
Comic available at: http://www.newgrounds.com/collections/brokensaints.html


In Response to Anthony and Aaron

First off, as you can see Aaron, you did not comment as other :)

Anthony I am surprised that someone who believes in the total constructedness of sexual identity seems to fail to apply the same concept, at least in some degree, to your idea of love. I guess my problem with the whole thrusting of the concept of desire into love is that it, in my mind, seems to rely heavily on very modern day concepts of love, and even relationships. I believe there is good reason that 1 Cor. 13 has been given to us, among other biblical texts, as guides to love. As is oft noted by those who defend homosexuality within the debate in the church, ideas were not the same then as they are now.

Its great that you can say the feelings you have for your boyfriends are often the same as those you have for God, this despite the fact that you insist on rejecting the very idea of a relationship with God. It is also natural, in my opinion, and especially so if, at least in the abstract, one accepts the idea of a 'relationship' with God. However, while I don't think this is bad, and I do believe that one of the things revealed in the incarnation of Christ is that God is here to meet us in the very historical situatedness of our lives, I have trouble when we start moving from that horizon of our existence towards aspects of God himself. I am aware that sexual desire, and love in an erotic sense, is evident in the bible, most notably in the Song of Songs, which is why I don't think I can outright say that the idea of a relationship between desire and love is wrong (I would definitely be on gaurd against replacing a modern concept of love with some kind of platonic one) but I also think that we need to seek more consistency in what we take to be God meeting us where we are and what we take to be the character/nature of God himself.

This of course leads into the whole confusing manner of what it means when we say 'God is Love'. For example, does that mean wherever we see the word 'Love' in a biblical truth assertion context (a la 1 cor. 13) we can replace the word 'God' for love? What about the idea, which I agree with that love is not a feeling, meaning that to too closely inflate love and desire is a mistake? unless we are going to say desire is not a feeling....?

I hope this isn't too confusing... just trying to think this out gets hard sometimes, so I thought I would put some of my thoughts out there.

Back to Aaron. That is some kind of thorny question :) What do you mean speaking in Christological terms? you mean the implications for his messiaship, his character, his revelation of God? All of the above and more?

I think the answer depends on a lot of other assumptions and/or doctrines one holds. It could mean nothing, or everything. It would also call into question, at least to some extent, the completeness of the biblical texts (in the sense that they communicate everything we need to know, not that they are complete as John directly contradicts). Or maybe it wouldn't, maybe its not something we need to know (a hard thing to imagine consider several of the current raging debates). To be perfectly honest, I have never considered it much, despite the multiple attempts, at a popular level, to promote such an idea.

What do you, and others (most especially anthony, i'm sure :) think it would mean? (which is my polite way of saying that I don't want to put any more thought into this right now, or that I don't have any more thought right now. Either way, someone else can start this one off, for now.)


I recently began reading "The Way Forward? : Christian voices on Homosexuality and the Church."

It has been very interesting, to say the least. It is a collection of articles by various authors, from differing positions. So far they have all been pro-homosexuality; some of them I have found very interesting, others very weak, and some so wishy-washy in the air that I wondered how they got into the volume.

The last one I read had a quote from a brazilian theology, Maria Clara, which I don't quite follow. "If Christians wish to assert that God is love then, in the beginning God can only be object of desire - not of necessity nor of rationality. Theology - which seeks to be reflection and talk about God and God's word - must therefore be moved and permeated in its entirety by the flame of desire... Born of desire, theology exists as theology only if it is upheld and supported by desire."

Now, I am well aware of the mysticial tradition within Christianity, but I feel like some kind of essential step has been skipped in the use of this quote (having not read the brazilian theologians work myself, I can only comment on the author who used the quote). Exactly what kind of desire are we talking about? and what is desire's place in love, most especially and pertinently 1 Cor 13 kind of love? Furthermore, exactly what does it mean, semantically and philosophically, when the bible says God is love? It seems that to jump from love to desire in a generalized, though specifically non-lustful (but still romantic), context without any explanation or defense seems rather hasty. Which is not to say romantic love is not part of Love, simply that there is more to it than that.

So I ask my nearly non-existant readership :) any thoughts on Love and desire?


Trips and Propaganda

It's been awhile since I last posted. My mom came out to visit us in S. Korea, which was wonderful. She left today, after being here for 1.5 weeks. We already miss her, and having her here and leaving has awoken in both Kristina and I a very strong desire to come home.

We did lots while she was here. We went to Gyongju and Seoul and the DMZ tour, and did lots of games and good times. We have had the use of Kristina's brothers digital camera, and we bought our own while we were in Seoul, so if anyone wants to see pictures, of our trips, or just Korea and our apartment and stuff, let me know. I will try to figure out how to put them up here, or get on of the picture account thingies....? anyway, I will probably be putting up pictures sooner or later.

Gyongju was the capital of one of the three kingdoms that made up Korea at the time (the Silla Kingdom) for 1000 years, from approx. 0 to 1000. We kind of got historied out there, we saw sooo much stuff. But it was definitely interesting.

This weekend we did the DMZ tour, and though we didn't go very far into it, we actually stood in N. Korea (max about 4 or 5 feet from the Military Demarcation Line (MDL)....). This tour was the most interesting trip, for me anyway. They explain the situation, giving you an outline of the Korean war and the major events since then. The most recent negative event (which is definitely what they focused on, not the multiple and varied attempts being made towards unification) that they told the story of was a 2001 or 2 (I can't remember) visit by President Bush.

Some explanation first. North and South korea are technically still at war, having lived under a mere armistice agreement for the past 50 years, or a ceasefire. The two countries are seperated by a 4 km wide demilitarized zone which runs the length of teh country. In the middle of this zone is the MDL. Near the western edge of the peninsula, basically north of Seoul, lies the village of Panmunjon. It sits astride the MDL and is the place of meeting for peace talks, U.N. delegation meetings, as well as the original signing place of the ceasefire. Along the center line run 6 buildings, 3 controlled by each side (hence being able to enter north korea, while in the U.N. controlled meeting room).

In 2002 Bush visited, and while he was in that same building two N.Korean soldiers entered, tore down the American flag, and began to polish there boots with it. He didn't say exactly what the response was, except that the flags are now in a plastic display case.

The most interesting part for me was the propaganda. At every turn the tour guides are at pains to point out the negative aspects of N. Korea, and how they spew out propaganda and so on and so forth. Both North and South Korea have a village in the DMZ. The S. Korean village is called "Freedom Village" and the N. Korean village is entitled "Propaganda Village". The reasoning for this is twofold. First, there is an extensive and loud speaker system in the NK village which used to broadcast propaganda that could be heard in the SK village and teh military bases along the DMZ. Secondly, nobody lives in the village except people who take care of the buildings and raise and lower the incredibly huge NK flag that is in the centre of the village (it is 31 meters long, weighs 600lbs dry, and takes nearly 50 men to raise and lower it). Only later, and as a side note, is it mentioend that the two countries agreed to stop broadcasting propaganda AT EACH OTHER in 1991. Also, "Freedom Village" is no less a propaganda village. The people there live in modern houses, unlike most of Koreans who live in apartments, they have over 1o times as much land as the average farmer in Korea, make much more money, and don't have to pay taxes. They are also personally gaurded by Korean army and U.N. forces.

Frequent mention is also made of buildings and flags that are built opposing each other (there is a flag pole in each village, or buildings in Panmunjon). In each case NK has made sure their's are taller. However, if you pay attention, it has been a generally ongoing battle between the two countries to have the taller stuff.

I find this all interesting because, despite the focus on the negative aspects of NK, SK does most of the same things. Now, make no mistake, there is a difference of degree, and most especially character, between NK and SK, and I in no way support NK or think it is a good place. However, I do find it very interesting that, despite our better way of life, in places like the DMZ there is still active effort to decieve the populace as to the actions taken against our enemies. Many may argue that this is mere common sense, you don't broadcast what you are doing in such a way that your enemy will get word, and I am not going to disagree with that. I just wonder how many of us think about the fact that we are still lied to on a regular basis. Of course, anyone who has been paying attention to the Bush administration should have recieved this wake up call a few years ago.


An Earthquake and Another Awesome Movie

I felt my first earthquake this last sunday, or so I am told. You may have heard about the 7.0 quake that hit southern Japan this weekend, injuring some (I don't think anyone died) and doing some property damage. Apparently, in a very minor way, it's effects extended to Daejeon and beyond.

Sunday morning I was sitting on this very computer, checking my email I think, when I felt the apartment swaying slightly. I recognized the feeling immediately, having worked on a tenting crew, in positions with much more sway than this apartment could ever give without falling down.

At the same time, someone was moving in (or out) a floor or two above us. Out here, since everything is apartments, they have designed these machines that raise a platform up to your door, or balcony, to ease the moving process. You can load your furniture and appliances on this platform, and it takes them down for you.

I mentioned that the earthquake was slight didn't I? I assumed that the apartment swaying was simply this machine hooking up and tightening its grip, and instead of marveling at the disapointing nature of my first earthquake, I was slightly perturbed that these moving machines exerted enough force to cause the apartment to sway.

Now I just wonder if that makes me really naive or not.

Meanwhile I watched my second Korean movie, entitled "Natural City" which I thouroughly enjoyed, though in a completely different way than the movie I mentioned in the previous blog.

This movie is a post-apocalyptic, cyborg, martial arts, romance film. From its odd, and seemingly inconsequential, symmetries to the inevitability of the main character awaking from his daze to save the day at the last minute, this movie does an excellent job of taking elements which are usually poorly done and weaving them together into an enthralling film.

How's that for a review?

Seriously though, the music was awesome, the fight scenes were sweet, and despite being a robot/fighting movie it actually had a good story line. To top it all of, the ending was very well done. The actual ending, i.e. story wise, was good, but what got me even more was the final artsy ending fade out scene. The girl who survives is standing on top of a ruined builing, leaning on a half crumbled statue of a goddess, in the midst of a flower bed she planted despite the fact that nothing grows in the dead cities. The flowers did grow, the final line "It is said that there used to be two goddesses here who sent the prayers of the lonely up in flower petals" (or something like that). A spaceship, the luxury liner which takes those able to afford it to the 'planet of rebirth', flies overhead drawing flower petals and dust in amidst the roar from its engine, turning the dust into glowing embers. The scene slowly turns towards the new and thriving city as the sky fills with the sparkling mixture from the roof of the ruin. Cue the fadeout and ending music.

Good stuff.


One of the Funniest Movies Ever

Today Kristina and I watched one of the funniest movies we have ever seen. It was our first Korean movie, "Saving my Hubby". I couldn't believe how hard we laughed. It's about a husband and wife who have a young baby and are very tired and stressed out, as new parents often are. The husband goes to his first day at a new job, and reluctantly ends up going out drinking with the guys from work. He ends up drugged and in a scam to take his money, but he has no credit cards, so the scammers take his cellphone and call his wife so she can come pay. Now its up to her to save her husband. Naturally, things don't go very well. Her mother and father and law are visiting the next morning at 5 a.m, and she has to make a good impression; meanwhile in trying to find her husband, let alone save him, she nearly starts a gang war.

Most people, if they watch asian movies, watch martial arts or anime. I like both of those a lot, and I have watched my share of them. But, I have to say, there is much to be said for some of the comedy. I remember the first one I watched, Shaolin Soccer.... not so good. It was good to watch and make fun of, the humor is ridiculous and over the top, but in that particular movie, it was just too much. "Saving My Hubby" had some ridiculous scenes, but not too much. It also helps that everything looks so familar, having been in Korea for nearly 7 months now.

In conclusion, if you ever get a chance to watch some comedy from Korea DO IT!


Disappointed by Crichton

I have long been a fan of Michael Crichton. His books number among my favorite fiction novel's. I have a cynical streak, and so I quite enjoy reading about futuristic technologies going terribly wrong due to lack of wisdom on the part of humans. I had been under the impression that, while still fictional, they were generally well researched. Well, they are better researched than most fictions, or I think so, but his newest book "State of Fear" was disappointing.

It's a decent fiction, I read it fast and it held my attention, but the characters were far from beleivable. The plot was interesting, took quite a twist on the usual: a supersmart intellectual turned government agent travels the world thwarting environmental terrorists (who plot strikes which would, or it seems to me, have a negative effect on the environment... but then these environmentalists only care about money, not trees) while debunking the idea of global warming to anyone who will listen.

What was really disappointing was the science and assumptions. This book does to climate science what "Da Vinci Code" does to Christian history (by the way, I really enjoyed the Da Vinci code). I mean, its ok to have opinions, and there are "global warming skeptics", some of them noted scientists, but some of the arguements brought up in "State of Fear" rely on such tactis as the straw man, misquoting and/or misunderstanding data, and simple logical fallacies (we don't know as much as we should, or we don't know very much, therefor we know nothing... ummm, no. Or how about confusing local and global conditions?).

I won't go into any real details, you can go here to read a discussion of the fallacies, and you can read his book to see what you think of it. I enjoyed the book, but compared to Crichton's usual writing it was definitely lacking. If your going to read Crichton, and haven't read every other science fiction book he has written, don't start with "State of Fear."


Sickness and Following Jesus

Since coming to Korea both Kristina and I have been sick quite frequently. Much more than at home. I think I have mentioned this before. It's fairly common for foreigners to repeatedly get cold's, flu's, and various kinds of sinus infections. So this is not surprising. I have to say though, it sucks.

Nevertheless, I can't say nothing good has come of it. Kristina has been sick more than I, and more often. One of the side effects of this is that I have to take care of her a lot. I love doing this, no hardship there. One of the other side effects is that I have to do basically all the household chores. You would think that if taking care of her is no problem, this would the same, but its not. I have discovered I very easily get frustrated and selfish; I strongly desire a certain amount of 'me' time, relaxing time, stuff like that. I don't like doing housework. I recently read an article, an interview with Eugene Peterson, in which he responds to the question "Pastor, how can I be spiritual?" with "Forget about being spiritual. How about loving your husband?" He's absolutely right. Being forced to do things like this has really made me face more of my bad side, made me pray more, and is helping me to be more loving (in a paradoxical way).

Check out the article. It's worth a read.


A Picture Held Us...

"A picture held us captive. And we could not get outside it, for it lay in our language and language seemed to repeat it to us inexorably."
---- Ludwig Wittgenstein 'Philosophical Investigations'

This quote, given in a very different context from the one in which I am going to use it, definitely applies to me. I get pictures in my head. I imagine certain things happening, ideal images, snapshots of a life, and once they come into my mind I am very often driven to carry them out. The picture is repeated again and again everytime I revisit the context in which it was created.

Let me explain by example. A few weeks ago Kristina's brother visited. Among other things, he brough us English tea. Something Kristina and I both enjoy, but have discovered it is impossible to buy in Korea. Very shortly after we had this tea, I got a picture in my mind: There I was, relaxing in the lounge chair in our living room, wrapped in silence and a warm blanket. Resting on my lap was a very good book, and sitting next to me was a hot cup of tea. I would sip this tea as I read; peaceful, relaxing, tranquil, and so many of my favorite things wrapped into one. I call it: Scholar and his book. A good title really adds to the ego boosting effect of such things. It wasn't long before I had the perfect opportunity to make this snapshot a reality. And so I did. What I didn't think about was the incredibly strong effect caffeine has on me, that it was 11:00pm, and that I had to get up the next morning at 7:00. None of that ever crossed my mind. The image was to strong. Having found opportunity, I also found I had no choice but to take it. I was up very late that night... 3:30 I believe.

Recently, something similar has happened. We live on the 8th floor of an apartment building, and the view off of our balcony is not bad. At least, it fits perfectly into another picture I have of myself... Teacher, thinker, theologian, and family man Andrew stands at his balcony window, over looking the neon lights of a city that never sleeps. His wife sleeps fitfully in the next room, and Andrew ponders important things while sipping on scotch. This ones called "Sophisticated man, deep thoughts, late at night." I recently got a small 12 year old bottle of scotch, kind of as a gift (don't ask). Once again, it wasn't long before I had a chance to make this vision a reality. Tonight in fact. And these are my deep thoughts :)

But wait, it doesn't end here, there's more!!! I have been reading through Kings and Chronicles with Kristina, doing a bible study. We have just reached the end of the life of Hezekiah, and I have to wonder if he to was controlled by a picture. Recently saved from a fatal illness, as well as from the invasion of an Assyrian king, and most likely exile following suit of his norther brothers, King Hezekiah recieves an envoy from Babylon. After they depart, Isaiah comes to the king and gives him, what seems to me to be, very bad news:

"Hear the word of the Lord: Days are coming when all that is in your house, and that which your ancestors have stored up until this day, shall be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left, says the Lord. Some of your own sons who are born to you shall be taken away; they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon."
2 Kings 20:16-18

But Hezekiah does not see it the same way I do. Instead he replies: "The word of the Lord that you have spoken is good." And why? "For he thought, "Why not, if there will be peace and security in my days?" (2 Kings 20:19) It seems to me he had a picture, a strong desire that maybe he envisioned and maybe he didn't. But this picture allowed him to accept the future destruction of his country and enslavement of his descendants. All for peace and security in his own days.

What do we sacrifice for the pictures we chase? What dreams do we chase which are not worth chasing? The two dreams I mentioned we small, literal picture moments. They involved a certain degree of ego and arrogance, naturally I suppose, but as far as long term consequences of those pictures themselves (ignore the, perhaps larger, psychological issues which they may reveal and which I don't want to hear about thank you very much :) there is little to say. The same cannot be said for Hezekiah. I have to wonder if I do the same thing in other ways.


A Call to Faithfulness

It is likely the Roman Empire as a whole, and the majority of the people in it, took absolutely no notice of the crucifixion of yet another trio of political revolutionaries. That one of them would, in name, spirit, and fact, far outlast the empire itself could scarcely have entered the mind of anyone but His most devout followers. Still less would this empire or its people have noticed the clamor of those same followers three days later, as they shouted “He is risen!!!” Yet, in 300 years, the emperor himself would bow before this crucified criminal.

It took years for the followers of this executed man to become big enough to even be a target for persecution by Rome, which was hardly a large matter if we remember how many other rebellions Rome crushed around this time, including the destruction of the Jerusalem in 70 A.D.

Historically, this all seems very fast. And, indeed, it is. A group of people were formed, grew, took over and survived the greatest empire of the day, and continued on in various forms to become a major shaping influence in nothing less than the whole of western civilization. 2000 years later here we stand; and the Crucified man still stands in our midst, as real as He ever was.

In the midst of contemplating this glorious narrative, take a step back. Remember something. Incredible as this all seems, it is still very slow for you and I. Many of Christ’s followers didn’t live to see Christianity become even a major target or persecution. None lived to see it flourish. Those who did live to see it surpass Rome didn’t see the crystallization of doctrines which occurred over the course of seven ecumenical councils. And on it goes.

Back at the beginning now: Jesus lived in a different world than those around Him. He saw through eyes of love. He called those around him to a new way of life, toa new life, to Life itself. His call was a radical one; He knew it, and frequently told his followers, going so far as to use the most torturous imagery available in the day. Living as He did got Him killed, whether by Jews or Romans, for political reasons or theological. But His new way of life didn’t spread like wildfire, permeating the empire in days. Jesus was called, by God, to be faithful. He was, unto death on a cross. We are called to be faithful; unto whatever end God has for us. This call, to faithfulness and obedience, to be the light and salt, to bless the world and people around us, is the most important call given to us. Because all the truly important changes are to big for us. Certainly, God may bless us with accomplishments; success’s we can see, touch, and point to. But those are not what we are called to. We are to walk as Jesus walked. See the world in a light so different that we don’t live in the same one as everyone else. Living Life and offering it freely to those around us.

Don’t look for miracles; God will give you what you need. Don’t look for astounding success or complete turnarounds. You might see them, you might not. If you are being faithful and obedient it is very likely that you are contributing to successes and changes that are so important and so huge you can’t even imagine them. Not huge because you are going to change the world, but because God is; not important because we see them as such, but because God does. And all of this you will likely never see as long as you reside in this world.


My Supreme Arrogance

I recently read through James. I was struck by a particular section (4:13-17):

13 Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money." 14 Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that." 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. 17 Anyone, then, who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, commits sin.

I can tell you exactly why it struck me, and it wasn’t a profound thought, a deep realization, or a piece of some puzzle that clicked together in my head. No, it was simply this: I am, right now, in S. Korea, with my wife Kristina, teaching English for a year. Did you catch that? I was just such a person as these verses describe, and not just in my assumptions about the future. I was literally a person who said “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money.” We are here to save up money so I can go to seminary when we get back home to Canada. We planned with an uncertain date of departure, and an uncertain destination. These things work that way, you go when you get a job, and you go wherever the job is. I might as well have said it in the words of this verse.

Who are we that we make such plans? We are but a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. That is a lot of humility I lack right there, let me tell you. I can’t remember the last time I thought of myself in such terms. Let me go further; I have always believed I can do anything I want to. Truly, apart from God I am nothing, and I can do nothing. Truly, with Him I can do anything. Why then do I continually fail to think as these verses describe? ‘If the Lord wishes…’ Indeed, my whole life is set before me and if the Lord wishes…

I have long struggled with a middle section of the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 6:25-34, the “Do Not Worry” section. How am I not supposed to worry about tomorrow, and yet live responsibly as if I do have a long life in front of me? This paradox as been posed by many before me (my favorite being Bonhoeffer) but I have never understood. I still don’t, but I think that, maybe, these verses in James are a start.

If I were to really have the attitude of ‘If the Lord wishes…’ then perhaps I could come one step closer to living fully in the present, responsibly for the future, and without worrying. It is such a beautiful thing when you think about it. By prefacing your future by ‘If the Lord wishes…’ you acknowledge in whose hands the future rests, you acknowledge your own dependence on the Lord, both for now and the future, and you still acknowledge that you have a future. For how could one acknowledge ones dependence, remind oneself of the Lords control, and forget the Love God has for us, and the free will he has given us? A position of humility, honesty, realism, truer security than you can get anywhere else, exciting uncertainty, and responsibility.

Praise the Lord.


Simple Plan - Crazy

Tell me what's wrong with society
When everywhere I look, I see
Young girls dying to be on TV
They won't stop till they've reached their dreams

Diet pills, surgery
Photoshopped pictures in magazines
Telling them how they should be
It doesn't make sense to me

Is everybody going crazy?
Is anybody gonna save me?
Can anybody tell me what's going on?
Tell me what's going on?
If you open your eyes
You'll see that something is wrong

I guess things are not how they used to be
There's no more normal families
Parents act like enemies
Making kids feel like it's World War III

No one cares, no one's there
I guess we're all just too damn busy
And money's our first priority
It doesn't make sense to me

Is everybody going crazy?
Is anybody gonna save me?
Can anybody tell me what's going on?
Tell me what's going on?
If you open your eyes
You'll see that something is wrong

Is everybody going crazy?
Is everybody going crazy?

Tell me what's wrong with society
When everywhere I look I see
Rich guys driving big SUVs
While kids are starving in the streets

No one cares
No one likes to share
I guess life's unfair

Is everybody going crazy?
Is anybody gonna save me?
Can anybody tell me what's going on?
Tell me what's going on?
If you open your eyes
You'll see that something, something is wrong


Tootie Frootie the Turtle

Tootie Frootie the turtle was afraid of water. It happened that when he was very young he fell into a can of orange paint, which had never really come of, and that was the origin of his fear of water. Though a sea turtle, Tootie Frootie found that he could live happily at a pond, a little ways inland from where he had been born. He could enter the water to wading height, eat fish and minnows, and lived well.

This continued until one fateful day when the pond was developed for a luxury resort. Upon finding the strange orange sea turtle that lived in a pond, the hotel made Tootie Frootie their mascot. While not as satisfying as his pond life had been, Tootie Frootie was comfortable in his new role. He was well fed, and didn’t have to go in any water. Still, a life of captivity, no matter how good, was something he could only handle for so long.

So he embarked on a fast action, daring 3 year escape. During the course of his escape, the orange paint was washed off of him, so the hotel people didn’t recognize him anymore. Tootie Frootie returned to the sea, and found to his amazement, that he had missed it for so long he was no longer afraid of it. Having lived in captivity to his own fears and then to a large hotel, he returned to his true home.


Penny the Penguin

Penny the penguin was a penguin who could fly. Not very well mind you, but some. Through freak genetic mutations he had been born with larger wings than most penguins, and a lighter body. All of the other penguins made fun of Penny and laughed at him when he tried to fly. He was far from graceful, and it just wasn’t something penguins were supposed to do anyway. So, for a long time Penny didn’t fly.

One day, as the large penguin family was trekking across some ice, disaster struck. A strong current came from nowhere, tearing the ice apart, and three baby penguins were swept away from everyone else. The mothers tried to swim to them, but they couldn’t make it. Penny realized that the only way they could be saved was if he flew to them. And so he did. Or he tried. Unfortunately, because he had flown so little, he was even worse than normal, and he couldn’t make it either. The penguin family watched sadly as the babies quickly floated away.

Penny was very sad because of this, and vowed that it would never happen again. From then on, no matter what anyone said, Penny flew everyday. He got better and better, and though the particular event that started it all never repeated itself, one day as Penny was flying a long ways from his resting family he noticed three penguins traveling alone. They also noticed him. It was the three babies who had been swept away. They happily rejoined their family, and they became the first three penguins in Penny’s Flyers, a group formed in honor of Penny the flying penguin.


Animal Stories

My wife frequently gets headaches. Bad ones. A long time ago, when this blog was new, I posted a narrative about my wife on MAO's (read the post if you want to know. And she wasn't my wife back then either). Anyway, now that we are married, I make random attempts to help her avoid drug use to get through the headaches. Among other things, I make up stories to tell her.

First off, we make this together, in some way or another. Secondly, we both have odd senses of humor. For example: Kristina, who will, among other things, be a nearly perfect mother, likes dead baby jokes. So this is the first of, so far, four animal stories that I will be posting on here that have arisen from these attempts to avoid habitual... medicinal... drug use.

Alfie the Elephant Who Eats Little Children

Alfie was an elephant, in most ways like any other Elephant. The major difference was that he was purple, and that he ate little children. He lived in a zoo, housed carefully, just like any other elephant: Behind minimal fences and concrete structures that allowed people to closely view him.

One day, a child was standing too close to the elephant pen, and Alfie ate him. Naturally, the parents sued the zoo. The zoo’s lawyers quickly pointed out that the area was well signed with clear messages that children should NOT stand too close, or look at Alfie at all, if possible. The parents did their best to win the case, but they could not.

In the end they went back to the zoo to yell at Alfie, and they were eaten too. Alfie had developed a taste for all kinds of people.


I know I posted about this two posts ago, but I still find it very wierd to see headlines here like "Government approves plans for Cloning center"

Meanwhile, from national to personal, our school seems to be undergoing a management change... two of the three main supervisors are leaving or changing positions, the two nice ones. A few of us English teachers are a little bit pensive about what this change is indicating, as up until now the school has been a very atypical Korean workplace. Hopefully, the changes are indicative of personal issues or something (Which is not really better, since we like the supervisors) and any kind of philosophy change. Hopefully were just being selfcentred and this has nothing to do with us english teachers.


It's been a while hasn't it?

Lately I have been strongly convicted about my 'mental discipline'. I am so used to being in school, being forced to excercise my brain, that I find I have very little discipline in keeping my brain active without the normal pressures of exams and essays and class discussions. So I have been trying lately to make sure I am spending more time with good books, and articles and things online. Its been very good, I think my brain is finally revved up again.

I have also completely lacked any motivation to write. Firstly, I haven't had much to write about. Which might sound wierd if you were paying attention on my last post. Despite spending time reading, I haven't run into much that I want to write about. I have to admit that I am a little bit discouraged with the whole academic, thinking, etc. thing right now. I just have trouble seeing what difference that will make, when how I live is so much more important. Which is no excuse for a shoddy thought life, or logic/reason abilities, and all that. Nor am I trying to encourage anyone else away from intellectual excercises/pursuits. However, given the massive amount of injustice in our world right now, I just don't see where its going to get us, when all we really need is for people to suck it up, live more simply, love more outragously and give more generously... right, all we really need is for humanity to undergo a complete change of heart, schluff off its sinful nature, and start living right... Seriously, don't pay any attention to me.


Technology in Korea

In spite of the lack of movement, or progress, or cheaper prices :) in some areas of technology, it does appear that Korea is ahead in some ways compared to home. I came to Korea expecting to buy, among other things, a cheap laptop (a digital camera would be nice to). To my chagrin I found out that laptops are not only ridiculously expensive out here, they are behind. I have no idea why... they just are. I could, and did, order a computer from the U.S. that was, after shipping and customs fees, cheaper than I would have paid to get a worse computer out here. Digital cameras are also more expensive out here than on the internet from N. American websites, but not by nearly as much as the laptops were.

Meanwhile, cell phone technology, from what I know, is quite far ahead. Maybe I am just out of touch with what they have at home? but in march they are releasing a new phone with a whole array of sensors so that it can detect movement in a three dimensional plane. That means that when you want to hang up your phone you can shake it twice. What to speed dial the third number in your phone book? draw a three in the air in front of your phone. What about if your listening to MP3's? (a fairly common feature on phones out here). Move the phone sharply to the right to go to the next song. And on it goes, using this new interface with all the features of the phone (mp3, internet if you want it, phone, camera, etc.). Do we have stuff like this at home?

Also, there was a new bioethics law passed last January in Korea, that came into effect on Jan 1st of this year. They are officially funding stem cell research. Apparently some Korea researcher 2 years ago or so successfully cloned human embryo's and extracted stem cells for research. Immediately afterward he stopped due to ethical concerns, but now that it is legal in S. Korea he is beginning again. He already has 1.1 billion dollars in private and government support. From what I gather the new bioethics law allows stem cell research for therapeutic purposes.

I am not making moral judgements on any of this stuff. I wonder if we have that cell phone at home. I wonder if stuff like this is going on a lot more than is announced at home. With the U.S.'s famous position on stem cells, exactly what is being suppressed in the media? Maybe I am to cynical. I find it all interesting anyway.


Alvin Toffler

Have you heard of Alvin Toffler? Over the Christmas holidays I picked up two of his books, kind of by fluke in a korean bookstore. You see, in order to find English books in Korea (outside of the internet) you have to go to some of the bigger bookstores in Seoul. But, even they don't have much selection. This really sucks when you are looking for specific authors in the Sci-Fi or Fantasy genres... every bookstore here has been pretty weak in those areas, and pretty much every other area when it comes down it. But what makes it interesting is that you are able to look at most of, or all, the books in a particular section, or all the sections :), without much problem. This would be pretty much impossible at home in a Chapter's or Indigo. While doing that, I find that I see some books I probably never would have noticed before. Such as Alvin Toffler.

I guess he's a 'futurist'? writing about what will happen... I know, sounds vaguely apocalyptic and wierd... but its actually pretty good. He is not writing about the end times, and though he is writing about the future, he's fairly good at covering his bases. He puts in the intro how this is inexact, and everything he says has a million qualifications which are not included in the book so as not to make it unreadable, and blah blah blah. Anyway, I read his first book, Future Shock, written in 1970, and I was amazed. He got some of his timeline's messed up, and he wasn't right everywhere, but to a startling degree he called what was going to happen from then until now (obviously in specificly generally areas... i.e. he didn't predict specific events, but general changes that would occur in say, the family structure, and so on). I just started the next book, 'The Third Wave', published in 1980. In it, as far as I can tell, he is examining Modernism and the coming Postmodernism, but under different names. Modernism is called Industrialism, or the Second Wave (the first being agriculturalism), and the Third Wave (which he hasn't explained yet) is what I am roughly equating with postmodernism. Obviously the terms dont' all much up, but its quite amazing what Toffler has done. There is more insight into modernism in this book than in lots of books I have read about modernism/postmodernism printed in the last 5 years.

So, I will probably be posting about some of his ideas in the near future, but before I did, I thought an introduction was in order.

If anyone has heard anything about this guy, good or bad, please let me know. I haven't really taken any time to research the guy, as I wanted to read at least his first book before I did that, and let it speak for itself.



I have been thinking about a lot of things lately. So much so that I am having a hard time focusing on anything long enough to get some clear ideas flowing. So much so that I have been avoiding thinking about just about anything so that my brain doesn't overload. Maybe I'm thinking about nothing, not like I would know, being such a jumbled mess right now. So, WEEEE, here we go.

First, the Tsunami. Who hasn't posted about this in the last couple weeks? Tragedies such as this come in with a bang, and set off millions of psycological bangs immediately afterwards, and for years to come. From politics to theology (oh, those two much loved dinner topics), personal reflection to on the spot footage, no area is left untouched. I have been very impressed with the response to this disaster (not going to go into who is giving more based on what percentage... I just don't care right now). Being over in S.Korea makes it a little more personal for me as well. Why? Well, I had four friends in and around the area's hit. Everyone made it home ok and unhurt, for which I am very thankful. But for a week there I had a personal concern in what was going on. Perhaps it is this that has woken me up to something. I am sick of hearing arguements against, or for, God (in whatever form or tradition) being piggybacked on the deaths of so many people that most of those talking the loudest have never met, seen, or given a single thought of love or hate towards in their entire lives. Sure, a disaster like this is terrible, but we all act as if this brings up some kind of new issues when in reality it simply them on the front page of the newspaper. How many people die every year of aids? malnutrition? Should I go on? So what, this new natural disaster simply provide a way for people to yell louder about their particular position that they already held before, and probably will hold afterwards?

Certainly, there are questions to be asked, and attempts should be made at answering them. But lets at least try to remember they aren't new questions, and more people dying doesn't make them any more or less intense (no disrespect meant for those who have and are bearing the brunt of this latest tragedy). Furthermore, lets remember these questions are still important in a couple months when the Tsunami isn't on the front page anymore. Lets remember how we cried out for aid for these people, and ignored the disaster or tragedy that lives next door to us. As for me, I am grateful that the best in people is being brought out by this, I guess I wish it stuck around a bit longer, and stuck its head out a bit more often.

To, or from, the Christian worldview specifically, I wonder who are to be so arrogant to ask why? We who have evil running right through our midsection should be surprised that the earth, condemned to thorns by our sin, should look similar? To quickly we forget that our Lord "makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous" (Matt. 5:45). You want even more questions? Give Job a good reading, or the account in 1 Kings 22:13-28 (and surrounding text).

I think I will stop there, actually writing about something brought out one strain of thought and helped me focus on it. I hope this hasn't been to harsh or cynical/critical.


Time Well Spent

I have two places to send you, if your interested.

First, do you like brain tazers? If you do, try The Dark Room. Its a good puzzle game: you have to find out how to get out of the 'hi tech' room. And it is a brain tazer, not a teaser. My wife and I took about an hour to do the whole thing; our brains hurt. A lot of fun

Second, if you enjoy short films, here is an excellent one, entitled "More." It is hard to say what its about.... its interesting, and worth the six minutes.