The Thirty Minute Blogger

Exploring Books and the Writer's Life, Faith and Works, Culture and Pop Culture, Space Science and Science Fiction, Technology and Nostalgia, Parenting and Childhood, Health: Physical and Emotional ... All Under the Iron Hands of the Clock and That 30 Minute Deadline

Monday, December 31, 2012

Resolving to Speak More "Beneficially" in 2013

While listening to two scientists debunking apocalyptic rumors with great facility in the faux uproar over the end of the Mayan calendar, I was reminded of the apostle Paul's reminder to his followers:
1 Corinthians 10: 23 “All things are lawful,” but not all things are beneficial. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. 24 Do not seek your own advantage, but that of the other.
The reason for this is two-pronged. The first reason is that each scientist had experience with people who were suicidal over the impending worldwide doom purportedly foretold (actually the Mayans were all about cycles of renewal rather than destruction) by the end of the Mayan bactun. One woman called in to say her brother actually did kill himself rather than face the uncertainty of that dread day in December 2012. So, for those of us who have no fear of the various predicted apocalypses and dooms that crop up every decade like weeds, it may be lawful to speak, tongue firmly in cheek, of impending doom, but it is not beneficial to everyone. For the sake of those who do not have the perspective given by long lives and strong history studies, perhaps it would be best to temper our discussions for their sakes and avoid scaring some people to death.

The second reason results from a moment over half way through the interview. Things were going so well up to this moment. During the call in segment one caller remarked with a much less than beneficial tone (I'd say snide, sarcastic, smug [especially for someone who represents a mere 2% of the population worldwide from what I've seen] ... but then I'm biased and happy to admit it) that he felt religion should be in the same class as Mayan bactun apocalyptic worries as religion is just as false (a tiresome drumbeat oft repeated). One scientist handled it brilliantly, stating that since he was not a religion expert he never commented on such things. Wonderfully done sir. The other scientist would have benefitted from Paul's admonition (Paul was an expert in speaking to contentious crowds), but instead jumped in with both feet. He stated that all humans are irrational and hold some form of irrational belief. I groaned. I have been working for many years as a Christian (and now a Christian pastor seeking a flock) to reassure suspicious Christians that most scientists are not out to try to strip us of our faiths and frankly lack the equipment to do so and this gentlemen glibly makes my job that much harder, stating that some of the greatest minds of any century were merely irrational. Scientists, please, try to speak in ways that are beneficial, build up, and are of advantage to others. Stick to what you know and know well, that which you can measure and analyze. You have no training in dealing with things religious and really no authority to discuss these complexities. Try not to let your faith in science inflate the old ego too much. After all, it was only when you guys decided that Pluto wasn't a planet that you actually came up with a working definition of what a planet is. You are hardly the arbiters of all knowledge.

As for me, I've said enough. I'll head into the new year working harder to speak that which is beneficial, that which builds up, and that which is of advantage to others. It will be hard sledding, but I respect Paul's experience and insight enough to strive for his high standard. I'll even make that a new year's resolution.


If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at: http://www.oldlinepublishing.com/bookstore-marketplace/children-s-books/michael-and-the-new-baby/




Sunday, December 30, 2012

Getting New Direction from Garmin

I now have my own personal robot synched with space satellites who tells me where to go ... and follows up with how to get there. My family bestowed upon me a Garmin and it is wonderful. If you haven't tried it, you should.

I had one previous experience with this handy little device on the road trip to Comic Con 2012 in NYC. The bright, shiny new system has improvements I find both impressive and helpful.

The Garmin system provides owners with directions to wherever they choose to go. It locates you via satellite (or so is my limited understanding of the technology ... heck, like a computer, I don't have to understand how it works to make use of it), provides directions to the place you've informed it you want to go, and then directs you there verbally, with pictorial maps, and with written directions, all at once. In this way, it speaks to people who are learn best in a variety of ways.

What impresses me most is that when you are coming up on a complicated lane split, a small screen in the upper left uses arrows to show the lane split. The arrows in white indicate which lanes you want to take, whether they are on the left or right, and shows you the lanes you should avoid in gray. But that's not nearly enough. It also splits the main screen which shows you your car and the road ahead with your chosen route highlighted in purple (the interchanges where you need to turn show up as white arrows ... also useful), showing the map on the left and an image of what you will be seeing on the right, showing the road ahead with a red arrow on the lane you want to take. Exit signs are also shown. It's a confidence building feature.

In the lower right is a feature I hadn't seen on the previous version at all. There is posted the speed limit for the road you are traveling on (although some back roads and access ramps do not have this information available) ... and your current speed (shown in red when you are being naughty). This is a convenient little heads up feature that keeps your eyes on the road ... or close to it.

With various ways to input the location you choose to reach, you can navigate to private homes, public spaces, famous places, and local shops. The routes provided appear to be the shortest on first pick. They tend also to be the routes the locals use, so you gain a certain local street savvy just by plugging the Garmin in and following its guidance.

One upgrade I appreciate is that the Garmin I have does not bother telling you it is "recalculating" if you get off its suggested route. It simply adjusts to your new direction and provides updated directions almost immediately.

All in all, Garmin proves to be a valuable tool. It also gets you where you are going with both confidence and a wonderful calm (once you learn to trust it) that one can't get glancing back and forth between scribbled directions and the road or an atlas and the road. The only thing to watch out for is that you don't spend more time watching the brightly lit, easily read map than you do the actual road and the traffic Garmin isn't designed to report to you.

This is a system they never discussed in the science fiction of my youth. There were smart cars that drove you where you wanted to go, high speed moving walkways, ... and transporters of course, but nothing quite like this.




If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at: http://www.oldlinepublishing.com/bookstore-marketplace/children-s-books/michael-and-the-new-baby/




New Year's Resolution: Carry Christmas Forward

Just as  the redeemed Ebenezer Scrooge carried Christmas in his heart all year long and acted on it, so I'm going to carry forward Howard Thurman's The Mood of Christmas all year long and act upon that. It reads:

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among people,
To make music in the heart.
That's a fine way to honor Christmas if you ask me.

In case you're wondering (as I was) Howard Thurman (1899-1981) was an influential American author, theologian, philosopher, educator, and civil rights leader who left his position as dean of Howard University in 1944 to co-found the first completely integrated, multi-cultural church in San Francisco. There's a lot more to be said about Howard Thurman, and that he said, so Google him when you get the chance.

[Thanks to the Facebook entry from Hacking Christianity for bringing Howard Thurman's wisdom to my attention.]


If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at: http://www.oldlinepublishing.com/bookstore-marketplace/children-s-books/michael-and-the-new-baby/





Saturday, December 29, 2012

Adventures in New York City's 2012 Comic Con


It only seemed appropriate that a disembodied robotic British woman’s voice should guide us on our way to the 2012 Comic Con in New York City. Every twist and turn along the way she patiently described as Alfred might have done for Batman on one of the Caped Crusader’s missions. I’m pleased to say Ms. Garmin (or should that be “Garminwoman” in comic-ese?) only had to recalculate for me once.

Comic Con is one over the top fan experience. Every organization directly or tangentially involved in the comic book/superhero worlds was there ready and waiting for the eager fans, including Lego with their super-heroic lines and Craftsman?! I can only guess that had something to do with Batman’s utility belt.
But I spring ahead, leaping over tall narrative in a single bound. We stowed the car and our bags in the Holiday Inn Express, which was the most vertical motel I’ve ever seen. Six rooms to a floor and fourteen floors in all. Superman would have enjoyed the bounding exercise leaping that tall building. We gathered our publishing advertising materials and headed for the show, a show unlike any I’d seen before, including the one Star Trek convention I attended (for work, mind you). On the way there, an man in his sixties lugging a rolling suitcase came up beside me. We spent the rest of the walk to the convention center talking about his adventures at previous Comic Cons. He had been to each and every one of them, traveling from San Diego to New York every year for many years. He regaled me with tales of the famous folk in that world he had met and friends he had made. His openness set the tone for the event. I’ve never been among a group more excited to be where they were and enjoying being who they really were, geeks steeped in lore and legend, geeks accepted for who they are in a place that welcomes them wholeheartedly. 

I discovered that one of my business associates is an ardent fan of all things comic and anime. I impressed him with my old school comic knowledge among the characters on display in day one and with the fact that I am “a gamer,” which he would never have taken me for. That first day was a VIP day, with a select and limited crowd. The next day, I was impressed by his extensive knowledge of the characters walking by from the anime world. What characters are these? They are fans, fans in all shapes and sizes wearing costumes ranging from the very amateur to the nearly professional, from virtual suits of armor in which no portion of the human form beneath is exposed to little whiffs of near comic nothingness exposing an alarming array of flesh.
The first day was deceptive. In an hour or two, you could stroll the complex, talk to the vendors and the artists who were setting up booths hoping to catch the eyes of new fans for their home creations or perhaps the eyes of agents and publishers seeking new talent. My favorite was the duo who wrote “Kill Shakespeare” a graphic novel (think long, elaborate comic in hard cover) combining many of Shakespeare’s characters. Hamlet arrives on England’s shores, has an audience with the King (it might have been Lear, Macbeth, or another storied Shakespearian monarch) who commissions Hamlet to kill an upstart rebel in the land, that well known scoundrel William Shakespeare. Entertaining cameos did abound.

The next day was a reality check. It began when we arrived in the lobby of our motel and found ourselves in the company of Batman, the Joker, Bain (the ORIGINAL Bane, we were informed), and an Assassin from a video game. I was impressed by the willingness of the costumed fans to pose for photos. Holler out a character name and that person would turn, strike a classic pose in most cases, and gladly wait as you took one or several photos. It was fun watching costumed superheroes and heroines taking appreciative photos of each other. Arriving at the booth one half hour before opening time, when the doors opened to the public, in they came in costumed waves, rising higher and higher with each passing hour. By noon, a stroll for coffee and a rest break that would have taken ten minutes was an hour long adventure in a cacophony of cartoon and video game worlds. Again, the acceptance of the fans for each other’s divergent passions was fun and a relief to be a part of in what has become such a divided and polarized nation. My business partner with the deep comic knowledge expressed that gentleness of spirit well when he saw some fan who had less than comic book proportions (and who doesn’t) carrying a bit of a belly (or a lot of one) would pass off the aberrant (or mutant?) physique as, “Oh, that’s the Joker in his retirement years.”   

Without the immense fan enthusiasm, this would be just another sprawling convention selling a wide variety of wares to a niche fan base. But the fans made the experience special. Their excitement to be among people with whom they could truly be themselves was contagious and rewarding.



If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at: http://www.oldlinepublishing.com/bookstore-marketplace/children-s-books/michael-and-the-new-baby/



Thursday, December 27, 2012

“Jewel in the Night:” Original Music and Pictures from a Space Station Christmas

“Jewel in the Night:” Original Music and Pictures from a Space Station Christmas Follow this link provided by my friends at Universe Today to read about and hear astronaut Chris Hadonfield's original song, Jewel in the Night, his Christmas carol from the International Space Station. It is well worth taking a few minutes to hear. Wishing each of you all the blessings of the season and a wonderful, hope-filled New Year.


If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at: http://www.oldlinepublishing.com/bookstore-marketplace/children-s-books/michael-and-the-new-baby/




Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Christmas Gift From the Book of Matthew


Matthew 1: 18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."

22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:  23 "The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" (which means "God with us").

24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him
the name Jesus.

Merry Christmas: For me this passage is beautiful as Joseph (the oft forgotten husband and dutiful stepfather of the Christ) and his act of faith are commemorated.


If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at: http://www.oldlinepublishing.com/bookstore-marketplace/children-s-books/michael-and-the-new-baby/




Defending Schools NRA Style, a "Historical" Approach

Let's explore a way to fulfill Wayne LaPierre's idea for defending schools against future massacres, which is to provide an armed guard for every school. If we look back to our colonial and early constitutional history, there is a way provided for us to accomplish such a thing, a way that doesn't turn it all over to the Federal government to be solved.

First let's look at the entire Second Amendment rather than cherry picking a bit like a fervent fundamentalist trying to make some obtuse point. Don't worry, it isn't long:


A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
Notes for this amendment:
Proposed 9/25/1789
Ratified 12/15/1791 [Courtesy of The US Constitution Online]

The often overlooked phrase prior to the comma provides the foundation for our answer. My research as a historical archaeologist fills in the rest. You see, back in the day, both the days we were British colonies and the early days as an independent United States, every man between the ages of 18 and 65 who was fit enough to fire a gun was required to own one gun and to be part of their local militia. Each militia colonel who led his men was required to carry the spare parts needed to keep those guns in working order. In the colonial period, the guns themselves came from the British armory from their old, leftover weapons they just couldn't quite toss out. 

Twice a year, the local colonel called together his troops, trained them, drilled them, fixed the guns that needed fixing, and fed the troops. These local militias were at the beck and call of the governors who called them out to repell invading foreign soldiers, to roust pirates, and to interact with the local Native American population (in the case of one colonel in Maryland, he and his troops were sent to talk to a local tribe and attempt to convince them to move their homes back from the far side of the mountain where they were out of view to the near side where they were more easily observed by a nervous governor through his proxies ... you see Native Americans took in runaway slaves and adopted them, which was bad for business). The local militia could also be called out for local riots when things got out of hand at the tavern (or at least the members who weren't already in said tavern). 

So, where does that leave us? With the following modest proposal: revive the local militia (not the National Reserve, those guys have been exhausted by vital service overseas). Every armed man (especially those passionate for semi-automatic firearms) must join the local militia. Each must elect a colonel taking on the responsibility for his or her troops who is recognized by the governor as the go to person in emergencies. This colonel will be trained by the National Guard and will pass along that wisdom to his/her troops. In time of natural and unnatural disaster the local militia will be called to serve in whatever capacity the governor feels they might best serve, whether that's adding sandbags to flood defenses or supporting the local police when some lunatic sets his house on fire and waits for the firemen with his assault weaponry to do mayhem and murder. Among their duties will be to provide all local schools with armed guards (well trained in working with school officials and children, both small and large). This should satisfy the NRA's call for armed guards in every school and keep their own members busy doing their civic duty to others.


If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at: http://www.oldlinepublishing.com/bookstore-marketplace/children-s-books/michael-and-the-new-baby/







Monday, December 24, 2012

Multi-Angle: Grasshopper 12-Story Test Flight 12/17/12

Welcome to 1950s science fiction rocketry becoming a reality. SpaceX Grasshopper takes a rocket stage to twelve stories and back. In time, SpaceX hopes to have every stage of their rocket land back on a landing pad using a system like this. Notice all those nozzles on the Dragon capsule? Those are the rocket ports for this system designed to bring  a human crew back for a soft landing on a landing pad as well. The real trick to the whole system is that it has to keep under a certain critical weight that makes it all cost effective. Quite a stunt. Only time will tell if SpaceX can build those rockets that land upright on the pad after deorbiting from space like we saw in all those 1950s films. Now, they only need to add those large, pointy tipped fins for the rockets to land on.


If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at: http://www.oldlinepublishing.com/bookstore-marketplace/children-s-books/michael-and-the-new-baby/




Nine Movies That Make Men Cry

Public service announcement for men only. Once you see this, you have been warned. If you go and you cry, it's your own fault.


If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at: http://www.oldlinepublishing.com/bookstore-marketplace/children-s-books/michael-and-the-new-baby/




Hooray! No Doomsday!

Better late than never. Celebrating that we got the whole Mayan Bactun thing wrong. No apocalypse yet again. Time to celebrate.


If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at: http://www.oldlinepublishing.com/bookstore-marketplace/children-s-books/michael-and-the-new-baby/




Sunday, December 23, 2012

Orion assemblage on track for 2014 Launch

Orion assemblage on track for 2014 Launch Check out this Universe Today article about NASA's next crew capsule, the most advanced yet ... Being built in spite of governmental monkey-shines. There may be hope for us yet!


If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at: http://www.oldlinepublishing.com/bookstore-marketplace/children-s-books/michael-and-the-new-baby/




Friday, December 21, 2012

Redemption: Has America Forgotten This?

Following the mass murder of innocents in Newtown, Connecticut, I have been appalled by what a gun organization advocate and a Southern Baptist preacher have said. Both have said in one way or another it is good to be armed and to be able to kill anyone who threatens you, your neighbor, your family, your community. It is a sign of a loss of one of the most important concepts of our Judeo-Christian heritage, and at Christmas time, which makes it worse. One of the cornerstones of Christianity is the concept of grace. God saves us through God's own love and grace. We cannot save ourselves. This is a powerful act of love from God. We are granted grace. Now the two greatest commandments from Jesus are to love the Lord your God with all of your heart, all of your strength, all of your might, and all of your soul; and to love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus illustrated the concept in the book of Luke with the parable of the Good Samaritan. A Samaritan of the day was similar to a member of God's chosen people, the nation of Israel, but they have a few religious differences, chief among them where to place the temple of God. With this argument came anger, alienation, and eventually the two sides become enemies. A Samaritan traveling down a treacherous wilderness road finds a Jew beaten by robbers and left to die in the ditch. Two of the man's religious leaders have already passed him by, ignoring his plight. His enemy arrives, the Samaritan, and binds his wounds, takes him to an Inn, pays for 2 months of service there intended to restore the man to health, and promised to return and pay whatever more it had taken to heal his supposed enemy. Now, this Samaritan was willing to heal a stricken foe, to offer him redemption and expected nothing in return. This is a powerful story and a wonderful concept we in this nation, swallowed by fear, have apparently lost.

We fail to heal the mentally ill. We deny them treatment, allow their diseases to escalate to the point they become delusional and dangerous. In their illness, we allow them access to military grade assault weapons ... and then we are surprised by the consequences. We label them evil (though we did not care for them) and arm ourselves against them, determined to shoot them down, rather than work for their redemption in the early stages of their diseases. (This is in no way intended to excuse the actions of the 20 year old in Newtown who gunned down those people, but it does help explain things.)

We have turned prisons into a business. I heard one prison official state, we are no longer in the business of rehabilitation. Of course not, that's bad business. You want to keep those profitable prison beds filled don't you? You have forgotten redemption.

We are so readily willing to label others and write them off rather than seeking their redemption, as if God had not already offered each of us redemption of our own.

Please take a moment to read this mighty parable about redemption. The Father is God, the prodigal is all of us who stray, the second brother is all of us who stand by and judge, refuse to accept redemption of another and in so doing pull away from God's love of them ... and us. This is something worth considering as Christmas approaches and as we seek solutions to the problems at hand. I would suggest buying more guns is not the solution, but a symbol of how far we have fallen from this basic tenant of the faith.


Luke 15: The Parable of the Prodigal and His Brother

 Then Jesus said, ‘There was a man who had two sons.
The younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me
the share of the property that will belong to me.” So he
divided his property between them. A few days later the
younger son gathered all he had and travelled to a distant
country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute
living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine
took place throughout that country, and he began to be
in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the
citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed
the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods
that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything.
But when he came to himself he said, “How many of my
father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare,
but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my
father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against
heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called
your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.’ ” So he
set off and went to his father. But while he was still far
off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he
ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the
son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and
before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.”
But the father said to his slaves, “Quickly, bring out a
robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his
finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf
and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of
mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!”
And they began to celebrate.
 ‘Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came
and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He
called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He
replied, “Your brother has come, and your father has killed
the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and
sound.” Then he became angry and refused to go in. His
father came out and began to plead with him. But he
answered his father, “Listen! For all these years I have
been working like a slave for you, and I have never
disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me
even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my
friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has
devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the
fatted calf for him!” Then the father said to him, “Son, you
are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But
we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of
yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and
has been found.” 

A little reminder of what God has done for us ...

Ephesians 1:7: 
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our 
trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.

It's time we remembered we are redeemed by God's love and 
we should work to redeem others. Then, perhaps, we won't 
feel such heightened fear and we can put away the 
weapons of war.

Update: 12/21/12: The NRA spokesman stated today that the 
only way to protect our children against "monsters" is to provide 
an armed guard for every school. I say no, we protect 
our children against monsters by working hard to ensure that we 
are not creating those "monsters" by neglecting the mentally ill, 
the isolated, the downtrodden, the bullied, AND by not 
empowering them by putting semi-automatic weapons in 
their hands. An insane man in China entered a school and 
attacked 22 students. All of them survived as that disturbed 
"monster" could only get his hands on a knife. 
See any difference??? 


If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at: http://www.oldlinepublishing.com/bookstore-marketplace/children-s-books/michael-and-the-new-baby/




It's Okay! It's Just Doomsday!

Okay, the Glove and Boots puppet blog gang have put the Mayan doomsday hoo hah in proper perspective. Enjoy the doomsday song and prepare. Make some new friends and get ready.


If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at: http://www.oldlinepublishing.com/bookstore-marketplace/children-s-books/michael-and-the-new-baby/




Thursday, December 20, 2012

Good News From Christianity: Thoughts for the Day and an Article on the Gun Control Debate


Two inspirational readings I picked up today while reading Sojourners on my email. Both are about how to help others ... and not to ... in this pivotal season that is so torn with strife.

But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God; it is these you ought to have practised, without neglecting the others.
- Luke 11:42 


I don't preach a social gospel; I preach the gospel, period. The gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is concerned for the whole person. When people were hungry, Jesus didn't say, 'Now is that political or social?' He said, 'I feed you.' Because the good news to a hungry person is bread. 
- Desmond Tutu

Let's add to that a challenging article by Rose Marie Berger in Sojourners:  http://sojo.net/blogs/2012/12/19/burn-your-nra-card/

One last thought, a question really: where are the outraged voices of all the sanctity of life pastors and priests who shrieked so loudly when asked to pay for birth control in their insurance policies if they take federal funds now that there have been massacres in a shopping mall and an elementary school? Are automatic and semi-automatic military style weapons (which are becoming the bread and butter guns of many manufacturers, or so I've heard) a lesser threat to the sanctity of life than birth control pills? Or, does the concern for life's sanctity end for these men and women of God once that life leaves the womb?(In case you're wondering, YES I'm angry.)

Go forward and do good. Let your actions speak loudly and raise your voice in what you believe is right and just.


If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at: http://www.oldlinepublishing.com/bookstore-marketplace/children-s-books/michael-and-the-new-baby/




Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Helping Others Deal With Grief

After the horrible, abominable mass murder in the Sandy Hook grade school in Newtown, Connecticut, in which one disturbed individual wielding military style weaponry killed 20 6-7 year old children and 7 adults, after dispatching his mother, and before committing suicide as the police arrived, grief abounds. Here are some things to know (care of the Dictionary of Pastoral Counseling) about grief and what you can do to help others.

We've all heard grief has stages. They are, in the modern understanding:


  • Numbness and denial: involved in the first five to seven days; 
  • Yearning intensely and painfully for the one (or ones) who has died, which includes preoccupation with that individual, searching, illusions of seeing that person, dreams, fantasies, hallucinations, self-reproach, identification with the behaviors, activities and illness of the dead, and suicidal feelings and thoughts. This lasts for weeks;
  • Disorganization and despair where other emotions dim, apathy and aimlessness set in, and an inability to see a positive future rises like a malign fog. This can last for over a year.
  • Reorganization is the final, sought for stage, in which the grieving person shifts their energies from the dead and begins to see a hopeful future without that person in it. After thirteen months most had not yet reached this stage. 
These are stages each grieving person must go through to heal and our job as friends and loved ones for the grieving is to understand and stand by that person. Assure the grieving that they are not losing their minds and that they will come through the process. It is natural. It is a process God designed us to help those who grieve find their way through with our love and understanding. 

Here are a few concrete steps you can take to assist the grieving: 

  1. Understand the process and make yourself familiar with the stages
  2. Visit the grieving often as love is shown by your presence. 
  3. Help the grieving person to express himself or herself by asking about what has taken place and by responding with empathy (don't try to fix the situation, remember Job's friends who got it right by being their for 7 days, but then blew it by trying to fix Job's grief with their recommendations)
  4. Prior to funerals a pastor will help families talk about the person lost, triggering their memories and allowing the minister to gain information about the dead and the bereaved which leads to a better development and accomplishment of the funeral. You can help your grieving friends of loved ones by encouraging their discussion of and remembrance of the one they have lost. 
  5. What is extremely hard today is to allow a person sufficient time to grieve. 
  6. Each grieving family member needs to be helped with equal care and love. 
That's a start. This will help you not to feel helpless and to act as a guiding beacon for those who grieve. Do not worry about what you will say. In the midst of grief, the person in pain will not remember what you said, only that you were there and he/she will love you for it. This applies to the funeral and to the long road afterwards. Be present, be loving, offer a listening ear, offer hope that the person is sane and will in time come through this long, painful process, emphasizing that they will do so in their own time. 

God bless you as you seek to help your suffering family, friends, or those you have just met.


If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at: http://www.oldlinepublishing.com/bookstore-marketplace/children-s-books/michael-and-the-new-baby/






Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Star Trek Into Darkness Official Teaser Video

 Let's take another look at next summer's Star Trek Into Darkness movie, just to build the anticipation a little more. Cry havoc and release the dogs of geekdom ...


If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at: http://www.oldlinepublishing.com/bookstore-marketplace/children-s-books/michael-and-the-new-baby/




Manga Bible: Check It Out for Your Teen ...

British comic book artist Siku and script writer Akin have combined their considerable talents to produce a Bible speaking directly to a generation vastly more familiar with the Japanese Manga and Anime iconography than I am. I heard about this Bible on NPR last year (and being an NPR geek, I decided to seek it out). My wife and I checked it out and bought it for our teenage daughter last Christmas. It was a hit. It spoke to her in visuals and language she was comfortable with. She read this complete Bible several times.

A gimmick you grumble ... (and you go on and on tediously like a cranky old man or woman, so stop it alright, you're just embarrassing yourself). Not so, I respond. A condensation for sure, hitting only some of the highlights spanning the 66 books of the Bible, but a vivid one. Further, many of the book highlights presented also offer references to biblical passages in a "Want to know more?" tab. In my humble opinion, this is a wonderful introduction to the Bible for young people ... and not so young people who have open minds and enjoy the comic book style ... who are curious and want to know more. The imagery is vivid and will stick in the imagination. The text is straightforward, getting right to the point. 

Further, in a rough economy, $12.95 isn't much to pay to get the Word into your loved one's hands in a form he or she will actually appreciate. Give it a shot this Christmas or this year. You may need to ask your bookstore to procure a copy for you if you are inclined to support brick and mortar establishments (as I am) or you can go to Amazon and get a copy.

Presented here, in honor of Christmas, is the Manga Bible account the Jesus' birth, beginning in a way I would not have begun, but one that is certainly guaranteed to capture attention. 

Finally, you just aren't going to find cooler representations of biblical characters anywhere, as far as I'm concerned. 

If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at: http://www.oldlinepublishing.com/bookstore-marketplace/children-s-books/michael-and-the-new-baby/






Monday, December 17, 2012

After the Sandy Hook School, Newtown, CT Incident

We need to do better.

We need to treat mental health issues as aggressively as we treat other physical ailments. It is long past time we hid mental diseases behind a wall of secrecy and shame. If we can see alcoholism as an illness, we should do the same, and provide just as extensive (or more so) support services for those who suffer.

We need to cut through the rhetoric on both sides and have a sane conversations about guns in this country. No other nation of the "civilized first world" has our murder by firearms rate. Why do we allow ourselves to arm each other as if we were all in the military. I was speaking to a hunter today (and I bear no ill will toward well trained, competent hunters--since we have decided we don't want large predatory animals near us, our hunters have to take on that role to control game herds that breed quickly to counter the predation of the hunting carnivores), who told me he couldn't fathom why any private citizen would need an automatic or semi-automatic weapon. You can't hunt with them, he added, it's not legal. Personally, I can't imagine how you use such a weapon inside your home for self defense either. I'd think any weapon with a high rate of fire would cause a great deal of damage to your property as you tried to shoot at an invader. It is time we worked together to ensure that those who have firearms have firearms that make sense for them to own, that they are trained properly in their use (yes, the NRA is instrumental in this role), and that never again do military style weapons get into the hands of either those suffering from mental illness or those cowardly creatures bent on revenge who could not do what they wish to do without heavy firearms. Here, I believe that gun owners could be instrumental in fashioning proper legislation and tactics to move forward in this arena. And, please, let's leave the nonsense statement "It isn't guns that kill, it's people" behind. This is ridiculous. Guns are a tool that facilitate human actions. High powered, rapid fire guns in the wrong hands are tools for evil, allowing mass murder to be committed, as we have seen in Connecticut. It is way past time we dealt with this issue as adults to prevent the grief of future families mourning over relatives cut down far too soon.

Please, people, can the rhetoric on both sides. See the problem for what it is, an evil, a social injustice, a blot on the psyche of the United States, a curse that must be dealt with using all or wisdom and all our courage and all of our combined efforts. Let the mass murder at this elementary school be the final clarion call to action. As President Obama said, four of these mass murder memorial services in the past four years is far, far too many.

Today, NPR reported that some NRA members themselves are calling for revival of the automatic weapons law that was allowed to die by inaction in 2004. Further, a Midwestern state is toying with the idea of concealed carry gun permits for school teachers and administrators ... which seems precisely the wrong take away from the tragic events in Connecticut. There are teachers I had that I am certain I would have been terrified of had they been carrying guns ... and why put devices that can escalate arguments between faculty and administrators or students to murder in the heat of the moment. That's my visceral response. Again, we need calm, sane discussion of these charged issues. We also need our leaders to get off their well padded wallets and purses and actually lead on this thorny issue.



Let's disarm future would-be killers, those who are sick and those who are simply despicable cowards.

If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at: http://www.oldlinepublishing.com/bookstore-marketplace/children-s-books/michael-and-the-new-baby/