Friday, October 14, 2011

The Bus Stop; A Modern Day Parable

            The early morning rays pierce through the sky as a new day dawns. Ed, a homeless man, is back at the bus stop again. For the past couple years Ed has been sitting at the stop everyday chatting with the people as they expectantly wait for the bus to take them to their various destinations. Now if you knew anything about where Ed lives you would soon find out that the bus stop is one of the worst places for a person such as Ed to be. The people at the bus stop are regulars, not tourists and most of them don’t want to part with their hard earned money. But Ed knows this and more often than not, he could have had enough money to have a hot meal had he sat with his coin can in another part of the city. But to Ed this is all secondary, for you see Ed has a reason for sitting at this bus stop, and when asked why he insists on sitting there day in and day out”
           he simply replies “because God told me to”. 
         To most this doesn’t make any sense at all but nonetheless, Ed is resolute. One day Ed was sitting at the stop as usual, when he saw a car pull up, smoke and steam leaking from under the hood. Out jumped a man looking like he himself was about to blow a gasket. His face turned to a nice shade of crimson as he angrily shouted to no one in particular; He slammed his fingers violently on his cell phone, trying to get a signal. Finally, after getting through to a tow truck, the stranger sat down on the bench next to Ed. 
          “rough day” Ed asked 
          “You can say that again” The man replied. “I’ve had two sermon series plus a men’s study group, and a couple that’s going through a nasty divorce; and the weeks not even over”. 
          Ed just smiled back disarmingly, “So you a preacher eh?” 
        “Yeah for now anyways” the man grunted back. 
        “Must be worth it though, doing the Lords work and all” Ed stated. 
        “Well to tell you the truth I’m about sick of it” the man replied. “In fact I would have moved on long ago if any other church in the city could give a guy a decent paycheck”
         “Oh I see” Ed said. Looking the man up and down and noticing his designer suit and brand new shoes. Finally the tow truck came and the stranger was gone almost as fast as he had first appeared. 
          A couple of days later Ed was again sitting on his bench when a young man, barely sixteen and scared by the looks of him, came and sat down on the bench next to him. “Where you off to?” Ed said. 
         “I don’t really now” the boy replied. “I’m running away.”
         “Oh now I’m sure you don’t want to do that.” Ed stated. And for the next couple of hours Ed talked with the boy reassuring him that there is always hope even when you doubt the most. Finally Ed ended with these final words 
         “After all young fellow God has things figured out” 
         The boy nodded and replied with a sheepish “thanks” before getting up and starting back home. An hour went by and as Ed sat there watching the sun go down he heard a car slowly pull up. Ed looked up and saw the preacher, tears running down his eyes.
          “How can I ever repay what you did for my son?” 
          Ed simply replied “You know there are some things that are worth more than money can buy” 
         The preacher sat down next to him and replied “You know I think I’m starting to understand what you’re saying.” 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Lights Camera Action

The stage is set, the lights go on and the audience is sitting on the edge of their seats to get a better look at the latest movie actress/model as she explains her latest fashion statement. It appeared on the cover of Seventeen Magazine only two weeks ago. She makes small talk with the host of the show and makes a witty reply to which the crowd enthusiastically claps and cheers as the “applause” sign is lit up. “Anything you have to say to your fans?” the host asks. She replies “Well it sure is a lot of work but I believe everyone was born to be a star.” The crowd cheers again. Watching her performance is Sarah with her mother Jen. She is your typical teen armed with a bright smile and a smattering of fashion knowhow, she envisions herself in the high leather armchair being interviewed on national television. As she rides home in the car with her mom Jen she has one phrase running through her mind “Everyone was born to be a star.” Yes, Sarah thinks to herself, I certainly was born to be a star.
 As she gets home she looks into the mirror and discovers that if she is going to be the next star she will need to change a few things. As the idea of famedom and success swim through her mind she begins to change the carefree attitude she once maintained and rapidly asserts the new “stylish” self. The changes begin small, a few bucks on a new wardrobe is “nothing serious” she insists to herself; after all one needs to at least look presentable to be considered a “fashion” expert. The next thing to go is her “unattractive” friends. “After all I can’t be seen with those kind of people.” She explains to her new posse. After some time Sarah does indeed get recognized by a local talent agency. After her first photo shoot Sarah is exhilarated. She has finally begun the first steps to her dream! She continues her modeling picking up a few tips about “eating” from the other more experienced models. The next five years go by in a blur and finally Sarah is walking on stage and shaking the hand of the same host the “late night” show she saw as a kid. She talks with the host feeling the rush of excitement. “Where did you get your inspiration” The host asks. Sarah smiles exclaiming “You know when I was a young girl I saw this show and from then on knew what I wanted to be a star.” The host nods and the crowd cheers. But as Sarah goes to sleep that night she feels this small nagging doubt clinging to her subconscious. “Ok” she says to herself just before she slips into her dreams. “So what if I don’t talk to my family or friends anymore at least I have fans.” She reassures herself “And the whole not eating thing is only until I get next month’s cover photo done.” She finally drifts off into a fitful sleep.
Another five years go by and Sarah’s mother Jen is at the front desk of the rehab clinic. Sarah has now been in here for three months. Broke and out of a job Sarah feels the eyes of her mother boring into the back of her skull long before she even opens the door. “Back again eh mom?” she asks. “Of course” Jen replies. “It is you birthday after all.” “Hmm I didn’t even remember” Sarah states. Although to be honest Sarah doesn’t remember much of the last five years, her addiction to fame led her invariably to other addictions and this clinic is her “last ditch effort” to get clean. Jen finally goes, leaving Sarah to contemplate her situation. “If only I had known the cost of all this” Sarah says bitterly to herself. “I have no friends, barely anyone in my family even recognizes me. My fans have abandoned me and now this clinic is driving me insane!” She goes to bed that night thinking back to that TV show actress she watched as a little girl “If only she had told me the truth” she says to herself “maybe things would have been different”. Her face breaks into a grimace “Who am I kidding I wouldn’t have listened anyways.” A few days later Jen pick up her Sunday news to discover that Sarah’s picture is again in the paper but this time it isn’t in the “adds section” Jen is jerked back into reality as the phone rings. She picks up “hello?” she says. The voice of a burly officer rings back through the phone. “Ma’am my name is Captain Douglas. I’m sorry to bother you, but I’m afraid I have some bad news, it’s about your daughter.”    

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Life in the Digital World

              Its two am. I’ve been working on my research paper sporadically for the past four hours while simultaneously chatting on IM, watching the latest viral video on YouTube and lounging in my digital home, Facebook. The time ticks by slowly until finally I tear myself from my laptop and go to bed. Another day passes and I find myself at home once again. I’ve just walked into my apartment and already I find myself gravitating toward my laptop I left on the kitchen table the night before. In three minutes I’ve successfully opened five different tabs; Pandora, YouTube, G-Mail, Blogger, and Facebook, you know the usual. But wait, immediately after I log into Facebook my eyes look to the top left corner, yes!! Eight new comments and a friend request to top it off, without knowing it a smile slips unto my face and then I feel it, that small sense of accomplishment and acceptance, I knew it was going to be a good day after all.      
            Like so many others I had jumped on the cultural bandwagon. Soon after I discovered the Social Network I began to spend hours in my digital home, creating my image and optimizing my profile to display an aura of “coolness”. I bought into the false sense of community and acceptance that Facebook offered. To me Facebook was not just another site; it was my link to the social world. It’s what separated the cool from the weird; it was the numerous friend requests and invitations to select “groups” that fueled my desire to become a Facebook titan. It would not be until years later that I began to notice the imperfections of the digital world.
            It’s now been three years since my marriage to the Facebook community. Once again I am multi-tasking a host of social websites, music, videos etc. I log unto Facebook for what must have been the fourth time that day and then something happens, or rather, nothing happens. I look to the familiar top left corner and see the inevitable, this time there are no new comments or friend requests, group invites or tags. That’s when it happens, I suddenly feel nothing. The familiar joy of feeling “plugged in” has been slowly evaporating for some time now and I find myself scrambling to grasp handfuls of this ever receding social vapor. But why am I feeling this way? After all according to my profile I’m quite a popular guy in the digital world. I have all the right friends, pics, tags and groups. I should be happy, shouldn’t I?  Why am I feeling alone and cut off? That’s when I start to realize the truth, the truth that I’ve been trying to live in a world that simply doesn’t exist; or at least a world that only exists online. Part of that I realize, has been my fault, after all my digital self is far different than the person you would see pass you in the hallway. I was just as guilty. To quote Douglas Groothuis I had “overexposed my underdeveloped self” On the surface I was considered one of the popular guys, in reality the friends who knew the real “me” was closer to five than five-hundred.
            Today I still use Facebook, although not in the same manner as before. I would like to think that there’s a little more “me” in my profile nowadays and a little less “image”. And if ever I’m in need of a friend I go to my true community, instead of my digital one, for support. Although my road down Facebook has been filled with quite a few “potholes” and U-Turns the experience has left me the wiser for it. Its two am again….time to log off.                           

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Marriage and Values

Marriage has long been known as a way of life, you go to school, get a job, get married and have kids, that’s just the way it works. And for the most part society has followed this. Well, at least until recently. Now I’m not saying that the institute of marriage has gone on vacation per se, but what I am saying is that divorce, single motherhood and cohabiting couples are on the rise. In fact if you look at the last couple of years the idea of divorce has rapidly become an acceptable response to couples “falling out of love”, hmm sounds more like bad commitments to me. What’s more is the ever increasing amount of boyfriends and girlfriends moving in together (often against their parents’ wishes). My question to you is “why are these things becoming socially acceptable?” Well you can point out many different agents for this change but no matter which way you slice it, the fact is that as a society, the morals in America are slowly being choked, and much of it due to a “tolerance” of so called “different” or “trendy” lifestyles. So when an article like the one we have here, shows how it is mathematically and economically incorrect to live these flagrant lifestyles, it seems that conservatives have good reason to say “I told you so”.
          Not only does Mona Charen suggest that marriage is important but that statistically speaking, it may be the only way for most to life productive lives. Charen states
“Married men earn between 10 and 40 percent more than their single counterparts with similar educational and job histories”. Also “Married Americans were more than twice as likely as divorced or separated Americans to say they were very happy with life in general”. She goes on to say “Longitudinal research shows that it is not merely that mentally healthy people are more likely to get or stay married. Instead, marriage itself appears to boost mental health. Remaining unmarried or getting divorced seems to result, on average, in a deterioration in mental well-being."
Statistics and observations like this are I’m sure shocking to most people. But what I want to focus on is how clearly it states that these new lifestyles of divorce, single-motherhood and cohabitation are not only bad for you wallet, but there bad for your health and happiness as well. What this article shows me is that society in general are taking a much more liberal attitude in the way they live and are unfortunately reaping the consequences. Maybe if they had listened to their parents advice, or better yet, if they had gone to church they could have avoided the bad decisions that landed them here.
          Furthermore, I find articles like this to be somewhat frustrating, Frustrating because the data so obviously shows that these kinds of lifestyles are wrong, but yet our society goes ever onward disregarding the glaring problems of their own destructive behavior. What is more frustrating than that though is the simplicity of the answer: Moral values. If society had a firmer grasp on solid conservative values than all of these problems would literally “disappear”. But no, instead society has bashed institutions like Christianity, Conservatism and Religion, they’ve called it too fundamental, too backwards, and yet it is precisely their disregard for this that has landed them in poverty, mental instability and social economic ostracism. You think people would start to wise up and say “hey wait maybe these institutions do have some good lifestyle choices” but sadly we see just the opposite. Even with the obvious data glaring at them people still live their own flamboyant lifestyles and wonder “why is my life so bad?” Maybe if a few of them swallowed their pride and let themselves embrace the good things life has to offer, they wouldn’t be in this mess. Again, news like this does two things, first it makes people think (hopefully) that maybe marriage is sacred. And second it gives us (for those that follow a sacred constitution of marriage) a firm job well done.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

What is a Great Book?

What makes a book great? Fred Sanders at Biola College puts books to the test every year as he and others select the books to be read in the honors program. Sanders has some good criteria with which to choose the books. He lists this out in eight steps. And explains them in this article. This is a summarized list. 

  1. A great book speaks from an important original setting.
  2. A great book is written in a way that is relevant for readers today.
  3. A great book is well-crafted.
  4. A great book is one that provokes excellent discussion.
  5. A great book is inexhaustible, so no reading of it is the final reading, and no discussion ever runs it dry.
  6. A great book is time-tested. People from multiple generations have had their hands on it, and have judged it to be worth passing along.
  7. A great book is weird. It’s got angles, edges, textures, and stuff sticking out that you wouldn’t have predicted.
  8. A great book is smarter than the best teacher, but within reach of the average student.
Now I would agree with most of these eights steps and certainly if you followed these guidelines you would end up with some great books. But I must critique and possibly add some elements which I think are missing here. To start off let me divulge the points that I think Sanders gets right. In his criteria a “great book” is one which “is inexhaustible” and “provokes excellent discussion”. I think these two factors are very true and a great book will certainly lead you to a re-read. I myself have read the Narnia series about eight times through and each time I find another “smattering of wisdom” that I missed before. I would also agree that a book has to be relevant and well crafted. If I can digress for a moment, I was just discussing with one of my professors last week about books from the Fathers of America like Ben Franklin and so forth. The interesting thing that he stated was that if you take a book from the 18th and 19th century and compare it to a modern book today, you will see that the words used have become increasingly simple. It’s a sad day when you can’t write a book with words of more than three syllables for fear of “losing” your audience. 
Now for the critique part, one thing I noted in Sanders article was that he stated he was reluctant to pick a book that was newer or modern, he states “Somebody might have written a truly great book (in our Socratic sense) yesterday, but we won’t know for another 50 to 100 years”. He goes on further to say “for all we know they might pass from usefulness before many more decades”. There are two problems with this statement. First, to say “we won’t know a good book is a good book until it is at least 50-100 years old” is bordering nonsense. Furthermore to say a book cannot be selected because it may “go out of style” so to speak, is a flagrant flaw in this criterion. A great book may have been written yesterday and all we can do is let it sit on our shelf for another hundred years? Hmm I think the point that is missing here is that great books inspire people to action. To say that a book for instance, “uncle Tom’s Cabin” isn’t a great book because it only dealt with the issues of civil rights during a specific period would be a major fallacy. 
I think that Sanders might want to broaden his “horizon” a little bit, after all isn’t a great book one that evokes the reader to change, not just discuss? Now I may be wrong, but I think that if a person were reading a book and they got to the last page, looked up and with a happy smile said “now that was a great book”, then set the book down and continued on their day I would have to conclude that the book may not in fact be all that “great”. But if a person got to the last page and then slowly set it down and just simply sat there until you would ask “so how was it?” “Oh it was great” they would reply “but I think I may have to start doing things differently”, Now based on that, I might conclude that the book in question was indeed a “great book”.   
Sure, I could put a list of my “top ten favorites” but that would be a matter of opinion and let us not loose site that this article is a matter of opinion. I have read “great books” in my life that truly inspired me and were profound, but then again what “worked” for me may not “work” for you. I think that we must understand that each individual person has hopes, dreams, aspirations and questions about life that need answering. Now how a book may go about that? Certainly great books can answer difficult questions about life, or at the very least get you thinking. But the criterion for which a book impacts us depends largely on where we are in life. So to say a book criterion is an “objective” way to classify a book would be inconsistent with the reality that great books come in all shapes and sizes. So I won’t divulge a top ten, not even a personal favorite, the only way to find great books is to read one and judge it for yourself. Of course, thats just my opinion.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


America has long been known as the “melting pot” of cultures. Immigration has been happening since the beginning of our nation.  But in a recent post RLC stated “A nation, to be a nation, needs cohesion, and it cannot achieve cohesion when its citizens are constantly reminding everyone how very different they are from each other.”
What America has done is something very different from most other countries, and this could be its downfall. Today Americans can be seen from all different kinds of backgrounds. We have; Europeans, Jews, Irish, Polish, African American, Latino, Russian, German, Just to name a few. And all of these bring with them their “heritage” and their culture. Now what America has done is set up a nation that enforces toleration of all these cultures, religions etc, so that people can live in America but maintain their own distinctiveness. Now I’m not saying that this is wrong, on the contrary each person should have their own identity, after all this is a democracy not a dictatorship. No, where I see the flaw is in America’s view of multiculturalism or rather the consequences of it.  
In a recent press interview The German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated that “Germany's attempt to create a multi-cultural society has failed completely” adding that “immigrants should integrate and adopt Germany's culture and values.” Furthermore, said the chancellor "We feel tied to Christian values. Those who don't accept them don't have a place here". Now what is interesting here is Germany’s admission that their “melting pot” system does not work. It breaks down social values and ends up being a battle of religious and cultural rights rather than a unified society.
Should America be wary of this news? Is this perhaps a foreshadowing to the mounting tensions we find here in the U.S.? To get back to my point I want to reiterate that America’s flaw is its consequences of multiculturalism. Now by multiculturalism I mean the idea of having a nation with many different cultures all seeming to co-exist with each other. But that doesn’t happen now does it.... At least not on the whole, no instead what ends up happening is that we are all being forced into closed off communities. Why is this so dangerous? Firstly, when you force a society into closed off communities it creates tension between societies. Every major city has a “china town” or an Irish or Italian “bloc”, the list goes on and on.  
What this means for America is disunity and sometimes even open hatred. So what does America do with this? It creates its own “culture” and that culture can be found in industrialization. Here we see that the “American Dream” is to be successful. But is this really a helpful alternative? So we have a common goal, but what happens when that goal is not based on any culture, religion, or moral values?  What America has done is systematically made a country where the objective goal to being American is to “get ahead” in the marketplace. Basically the only thing holding America together at this point is materialism. Hmm it’s a sad state that we find ourselves in today. Maybe we should pay more attention to our German neighbors and eat a slice of “humble pie” before we too are forced to declare that American society has gone “bankrupt”.  What America needs is a true culture, not this fabricated pop-star American Dream.  So how do we do this? Only time will tell.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Battle of Morality

We are in a war. I'm not talking about a physical war but a war of morality. The fact is that we must choose who we are. One day we will find ourselves at the crossroads of choice. The choice of being a person of success or character. We can live for ourselves or we can choose to live for others. You can deny it, avoid it, or accept it. But like it or not, this is the situation. With so few who stand up for the poor, meek, the socially bankrupt it is easy to lose heart, lose faith and accept defeat. But there are those that fight. Those that others rally to, taking up the battle cry alongside them, unified, strong. These people are called Champions. They are the ones who stand unwavering against the foe. The ones who do not except defeat against impossible odds. the jeers the taunts the insults and more importantly they are the servants. The people who choose to put others before themselves. Who battle not for prestige or glory, but to defend those who would otherwise have no defense against the dark foe. Champions have become rare these days. Almost on the brink of extinction. But still there is hope. Because new Champions are being born. You may ask how, where, who? The answer is starring you right in the face. The mark of a Champion is in you, you just don't realize it yet.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” ~Theodore Roosevelt.

Now you have begun to see, now you have begun to realize that it is not you who should be watching the fight, but you who should be the fighter. Somewhere inside of you there is this sense of passion, of courage, and valor, And with it, the willingness to stand against those who would oppose it. Every era has strife. But in every era there are hero's that stand and oppose it, those that fight for freedom, goodness and love. are you going to spend you life on yourself or on a worthy cause. The only question left is this. What are you waiting for? Break free, become a Champion and I will meet you on the battlefield.

I know that some of us face these decisions every day in our schools, colleges, university's and professions. The popular trend in our culture is one of fame, fortune, and having a good time. Basically this means that culture is giving us a free pass to disregard anybody who doesn't help us get what we want. Today even the meaning of the term "favor" has changed. When somebody asks for a favor the oft-herd reply is "whats in it for me?" people this should not be so. Today we acknowledge man's accomplishments rather than his character. So to those who wish to say "no" to the social norm, to those who just don't want to be another "statistic" I ask you to look within yourself and make the decision to become a champion of today.