Monday, March 29, 2010

My Skin

It started last May and a dry patch on my left wrist. It seemed to spread to my whole wrist, then to my right wrist. Then my thighs, the interior of my elbows, my ears, the skin around my eyes, and my neck. The worst was my neck.

I tried many of the alternative medical approaches (I suppose just chiropractics and homeopathy). But I wasn't able to really give homeopathy a fair chance because in early March, I took a trip to the Emergency Room (upon the advice of the chiropractor).

Things had gotten bad, really, really bad. I could not twist my neck for fear of breaking the scab that had encircled my neck. I could not scratch for fear that I would damage further the already damaged skin, and I could not stop scratching due to itching and my weakness.

At a Dermatologists' office, later that day, my sores were swabbed and later revealed to have both Strep and Staph infections. I got jabbed with some Kenelog (strong steriod) and told to take oatmeal baths every night for 2 weeks as well as take an antibiotic medication. I was 85% better after the first night. That is what was happening with my skin.

Inside me, I was wrestling with all kinds of meaning. "Why am I eschewing the conventional medical approaches?" "What is going to happen if I don't get better?" "What is God trying to teach me?" "What do people really see when they look at me?" "Will I every be able to play with my kids again - in a physically active way?" "How can I be happy with who I am right now?" "What does God see in me?" "What can I learn?"

Sometimes I was very sad; many times very lonely. Strangely, I was also sometimes happy, and I would not have expected it. But this experience gave me a compassion for people who suffer, and it gave me a compassion for myself as well. I've not yet suffered more than I did during those many months. Life is so good, even with the difficult skin. God is so good, even with the difficult skin.

In the last few days, three weeks after the visit to the Emergency Room, my skin is starting to have troubles in some of the same spots again. I'm afraid.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Miss You

I miss my kid, Marann.

It has been such a long time since we had any kind of meaningful connection. Last September, there was a call for "Goodbye". As it came down, strangely, you said God wanted you to do this. But God has not let me in on this. I don't know how to say goodbye. So without updated instruction, I will carry on with what I know. You will be in my prayers - and your whole family.

This time I have no confidence that we will reconnect. I am not holding out hope. I just miss you - and your absence in my life creates lonelinesses in my days. (Listen)

It really bothers me that I spend so much time trying to figure this out. This is all just plain hard to get.

Strangely Encouraging -

I ran across a website many years ago called It has grown quite a bit since then. It has those "inspirational posters" with words (like Teamwork), a picture, and a short story or saying to describe the words. Those are suppose to inspire you.

But the posters at are intended to splash cold water on your face and tell you about how the way things really are. The picture above has the word Recovery with the description: "Time heals all wounds. But it usually leaves a pretty big scar." Isn't it just like a 'truth-teller' to not give you fluff and untruth? Some try to be uber-positive to the point of telling lies. The older I get, the less of these I fall for (at least I'd like to think that - please don't burst my bubble.)

amyrei has been a wonderful truth-teller in my life. It's point is not to get caught in despair (funny name, but bad as a destination). It's point is to clear away the fog and see things (usually myself) without pretending that I'm different that I am. "Warts and all" as some say.

Sometimes I feel that The Church gets caught up in "Happy Happy Joy Joy". What's wrong with singing a sad song once in awhile?

(image taken from

Here's one to ponder. "Irresponsibility. No single raindrop believes it is to blame for the flood." Another post for that one.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Emergent Questions - Is God Violent?

Brian McLaren has written a new book, A New Kind of Christianity. I ran across a link from my brother Dan's Blog, and followed link after link until I found a video of Brian McLaren discussing a part of his book. It addresses the question, "Is God Violent?". To which I immediately replied to myself, "Yes". But McLaren doesn't like that answer. Although in the video, he discusses how many people are becoming increasingly uncomfortable with God-caused harm. There's the story of the Flood or the slaughter of the Caananites in the OT to put this into focus.

Although he pats himself on the back for raising this question, he doesn't want to directly answer it. Instead, casts doubt on whether its a good idea to have God as the source of this violence. I think a great follow-up question to McLaren's question, "Is God violent?" might be, "What do the Scriptures say? How do you read them?" (hat tip to Jesus).

If we are uncomfortable with the God that the Bible talks about, then who do we turn to? Shall we make up our own God or try to twist the Bible to say what it never intended?

The Bible clearly implicates God in Ananias' and Sephira's death in the Book of Acts. That was violent? Does it matter the numbers after that? 5? 50? 1000? a city? the world? This was seen by the Church as a good and right thing. And, in contrast to McLaren's view, the Fear of the Lord that came was a good thing.

I have not read McLaren's book. I'm simply responding to his video. Frankly, if his book and video are similar, I'm not interested in reading his book.

(image from

Book of Mormon and Map Traps

I am not a Latter-Day Saint. I don't believe that the Book of Mormon is authentic in the way that the LDS Church believes it to be. I believe that there are many flaws, but there is a tiny detail in the 'original' Book of Mormon that clinches the deal for me. To describe this, I will first need to explain about Map Traps.

What if you were a maker of maps? And what if you made your living by making maps? What would you do if another map-maker came along, copied your maps, then sold their maps for less than you? Could you prove that they copied your maps? Map-makers (cartographers) have purposefully inserted into their maps mistakes - errors that would not be duplicated by someone looking at the actual source. It might be a street on the map where there is, in reality, a dead end. It might be a made-up lake in the middle of a field. But the duplication of the error would indicate copying because a mistake like that made twice is simply too remote a possibility. Thus, the wronged cartographer would have the proof, or at least very strong evidence, that the second is not original work.

Some quick background about the origins of the Book of Mormon. It was first published in English in 1830. As the story goes, Joseph Smith Jr. translated the story from golden plates that he had received earlier from an angel. Since then, the book has had updates that changed some parts - mostly grammatical errors.

OK, now we come to the rub. Here's the original. King James Version, Isaiah 6:2a says, "Above it stood the seraphims...." The error here is grammatical. "Seraphim" is the plural of "seraph". It was a mistake in the King James - the Bible that Joseph Smith Jr. had available to him. It was his map trap to show that he copied the Bible rather than translated the plates. For in the original Book of Mormon, published in 1830, in 2Nephi 9, it reads, "Above it stood the seraphims...." (see picture on top)

I used to get a chance to talk the the LDS missionaries often when they would come knocking on my door. They haven't come by my house in many moons. They are genuinely kind people, and I miss them. We would give them food - even invite them to sit-down meals. But alas, they don't come around anymore.

(image from

Thursday, March 25, 2010


Words mean something. Words mean something specific. They point to concrete ideas beyond themselves. Sometimes the words are misunderstood and the ideas are miscommunicated by the hearer/reader, but that does not nullify the original words pointing to the original concrete ideas.

"He kicked a ball" is fairly simple to understand. It is straight-forward. "He kicked a tire", while straight-forward, conveys more meaning - probably involving shopping for a car. "He kicked a dead horse" is not straight-forward at all. It means something about futile attempts to get something to move or work. Language that is not straight-forward is not trying to be misleading, it is simply using a language mechanism to convey an idea - a language mechanism that ought to be familiar to the readers. Story, analogy, idioms, figures of speech, and etc are meant to be understood properly. Sometimes that requires study. Often it requires humility.

Many times, the battle for the Bible is about language - what words mean or meant. So often, I see 2 kinds of errors that people take to the Bible, and I hang my head.
1. Some people want the Bible to be understood literally in all but the most obvious cases. It makes interpretation easy for the non-scholarly. It makes life more black and white - something that seems to strangely bring comfort to them.
2. Some people want the Bible to be understood however the reader wants to understand it. The reader can simply use the words on the page to convey the ideas the reader wants. These people think that words/language have no inherent meaning and that the only real meaning is the meaning that the reader brings to the words. (How then could words teach them something new - or challenge them to live differently?)

The battle over words and how they are to be understood has long intrigued me. Lewis Carol's musings have given me insight:
"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less."
While I agree technically with Mr. Dumpty, it is not helpful to say the word "Pancake" when one really means "iceberg". The source has to be trusted to put ideas into words that have generally understood and specific meanings. If the source is deceitful or otherwise untrustworthy, don't bother. But if the source is trustworthy, then we do the writer justice by working (hard) to understand the ideas conveyed through the words.

(image grabbed from

Drunken Teaching

Recently, a teacher was arrested for "teaching while intoxicated". (got booked for TWI.)

I've been a teacher before - and teaching is hard enough when you don't have to contend with slurred speech.

There are lots of wonderful teachers out there, and a lot of crummy ones. I'm not sure that it's a more noble career than any other. (OK, maybe more noble than professional wrestling.) I'm getting away from my point - and that is this: teachers are real people. They come with all kinds of abilities, qualities, and baggage. Some, unfortunately, inhibit learning more than others.

(image take from

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Two Websites

Postsecret is a simple weblog. People write their secrets on a postcard and mail them in to person behind the screen. The postcards are published on the website - sometimes with commentary from Mr. Wizard. (Of course, it's not that simple, but I wanted to get the gist.)

I go back to Postsecret (and the companion Postsecret Archives) to be challenged. The "stories" that are presented are often sad, and raw, and shocking. But, in all likelyhood, they are true, real, heartfelt, and honest. They are often significant splashes of cold water on my face - to wake me up.

I need this because I sometimes get sleepy - focused on only my things, my family, my friends, my culture, my thoughts, my worries, my hopes, my small circles.

Failblog is another simple weblog. People send in submissions of pictures or videos that highlight some failure or another that might be funny (although there is an occasional "win" among them). Sometimes the submissions are crude (and sometimes the crude submissions are also funny).

I go back to Failblog to lighten up - to remember that life is sometimes very silly. And that it is good to laugh or groan or just smirk at peoples' foibles and cluelessnesses.

Check this out: strange coincidence. A failblog picture turned into a postsecret postcard.

(image taken from Postsecret Archives 10/05)

Taking Control of My Money

Earlier this year, I left the Financial Broker that I had been with for a decade or so. I had my accounts transferred to ScotTrade, where I would have much "ownership" of my retirement accounts. If I want to buy (and I have the funds to do it, I can do it). Same with selling. No appointments, no phone calls - everything online.

I started out way back before college, with Edward Jones. My parents used EJ. When I lived in Cambridge, I had a friend and colleague who just started up his own EJ brokerage. I went with him. Most of my money was put into Mutual Funds - specifically American (company, not country) Mutual Funds. They did fine, I suppose. I wasn't paying very much attention because I wasn't particularly interested.

I followed my broker as he switched away from EJ to be more independent and incorporate his son into the business.

My wife said that I had to leave because of a conflict of interest. The relationships of personal and professional needed to be unwound. I wanted to, but I kept putting it off for fear of offending. And I hate change. But I eventually overcame my inertia. So now I'm at ScotTrade. I'm selling many of my Mutual Funds (don't like their extra charges). I'm selling off many of my American funds because I can't shake feeling that in some way I was used.

I feel better, more responsible - and I'm taking the time to care and get educated.

(Image ripped off

Monday, March 22, 2010

Saving Money through Gift Cards

When I came across this article from, an idea popped into my head to save me some money. The article discussed a couple websites that bought and sold Gift Cards. If you bought, they were at a discount from the buying power on the card. If you sold, then you got some (not all) of the money from the card back that you weren't going to use anyway. Back to my thought, why not buy a Gift Card for myself at a discount and use it to make purchases I already intended to make.

I'm only in the middle of my first maneuver, so it is not all tested and true, but here is how the story has unfolded thus far. amyrei and I had been discussing getting a trampoline for the kids. Tres expensive. Then I came across this. Someone did the research for me. Great. But still, it's $200. Sears, Sears, Sears, Oh yes, those Gift Cards. I can buy a Gift Card for $200 at an 10% discount. OK, that's only $20. Is there more? Sure. When I purchase the trampoline from Sears, I'll use my Gift Card as well as checkout codes for more savings! Where do I find those? Here (or other places, but the savings codes are pretty much the same).

So in the end, I'll buy a trampoline (Regular Price =$349.99) for less than $180. (Hope the kids don't get bored with it after a couple times jumping.)

This might be an option for you to consider if you are going to be making purchases at Best Buy or WalMart or Target or going to see a movie (and on and on). If you can wait a week for your card to arrive, you could save some dough.

You might also direct some of the money that you used to purchase your products to your favorite charity. There are programs set up like Charity Blast, which have partnered with various companies. The plan works like this: You buy the product from the company, the company gives a percentage of the sale to the charity that you choose. (Of course, that charity needs to be signed up for it, but that is usually free.)
...let the wheels turn ...would that count towards my tithe?

(imaged swiped from

Lonely Road (the Song) Part 1.

Mark Heard wrote Lonely Road on his Dry Bones Dance album. It struck me at first that this song was about Jesus - extolling His virtues. While it does do that, it is only done in a passive way. The song is really a challenge to those who would try to follow Jesus. Is it a challenge? Maybe it is a warning. In any case, the song puts forward that the Son of Man walks a lonely road. Listen.

Not taking note of the fools or the wise
Being a pawn of time and chance
Not making vows when the flood waters rise
[All these are] Safer than nails through your hands.

I can't even do the first 3 - and these are safer than the lengths that Jesus went to. I especially think of the not making vows part. I don't make bargains with God (anymore). I think those who do are terribly immature to think that God is interested in "paid obedience" or "bought faith". He (God) has already paid. What humiliations to ask for more! Then, of course, I've never been in a flood that threatened me. Would I try to strike a deal with God? "I'll pray more often - and I'll go to church more regularly, too. Maybe I'll try to memorize parts of the Bible more. Just please rescue me from ...." People face floods (or other calamities), and desperate for saving, promise to God something they had kept in reserve from Him. Would I join them if pressed?

I'm not sure I wouldn't do the same if threatened with foreclosure or divorce or my children disowning me. I hope I don't have to find out the hard way.

Being a slave to the sultans of grief
Keeping the hand to the plow
Being held captive to public belief
[All these are] easier than thorns through your brow.

The third statement captures my attention. In what ways do I act because I'm interested in how others view me. And "public belief" is often more cruel than the belief of any one person. (A person might have a nuanced compassion for Tiger Woods, but public belief can only paint him "sick".) It's the curse of the sound bite, or the sensation-driven media. Strangely, those who don't care what the group thinks about them have so much more freedom, but they often walk alone. Though simply walking alone doesn't mean that one is free, nor that they are not swayed by others' perceptions.

But further than that, the statement seems to say that the person in question simply allows the "public beliefs" without really fighting - almost as if the fight would be in vain or even wrong. But Jesus stood mute before his accusers. He allowed the labels of the mob and lived there.

Even doing that, as Jesus did, falls short of what Jesus did beyond that.

Being immune to the war of the heart
And never wondering why
To bury the conflict deep in the dark
[All these are] safer than spears through your side.

This verse I understand the least. Maybe Heard is saying that Jesus controlled himself -his internal passions, misgivings, temptations - and did not let them change Him or confuse His commitments to God. Following Jesus in this is hard, but Jesus did more - and He walks a lonely road.

For him who burns with a creed and a flame
Words are as smoke on the wind
Some kind of volatile helplessness reigns
And can't fill the hearts of his kin.

To go and enlighten the doomed and unwashed
Seized with the art of sacrifice.
To carry the weight of a martyr-at-large
[All these are] easier than giving your life.

So what do we do when the passion inside us for God? When words fail? When we can't convince others and aren't able to help others sense and receive God's love? When our goals are noble and our actions nobler still? When we carry Jesus in us and it seems that the world sees us carry a corpse on us? There is something more - and it is harder. Jesus gave His life.

It's a lonely Road (x3)
That the Son of Man walks down.

(Image taken from

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Game Day at R House

Yesterday was a fun day. It had friends, games, and lasagna.

There were many people at R house - and lots of kids. We hired a babysitter to cover for 4 hours of the afternoon. I got to get in 3 games, which we all very fun.

First, I played Caribbean - which was a new game to me. It was a fairly straight-forward auction type of game. I thought I had it figured out, but was foiled by another player who mirrored my every move. 3-players and I almost pulled out a victory.

Second, I played Pandemic with four others (3 children under the age of 10). This is a cooperative game that isn't horrible like most other cooperative games. In fact, it's really quite good. We used the On the Brink expansion's Virulent Strain option. Alas, while valiant, we could not save the world. Working as a team can be difficult with 3 children.

Last, I played Ra. My wife hates the game, but I really enjoy it. (She didn't play.) We got a game of 5 going. It is another auction-style game. I played more conservatively than I usually do. Cjfen won the game - first time he had played. (download Ra for PC)

Looking back on the day, I don't regret the fun at all. But some friends came a long way, and brought their Blip of Cheer, and I didn't spend much time talking with either cjfen or johfen. I haven't seen them in more than 5 years. I've prayed for them alot in the last few years, and it seems like I blew a great opportunity to catch up with them or get to know them better. Since it seemed like they had a good time, I imagine that there will be more chances in the future. (I probably won't be serving lasagna, though, next Game Day.)

(Photo pillaged from -
my preferred online game store.)

The reason I decided to blog.

I've been inspired by a number of people who blog. Some are notable, others not as much. Some are read by many others, others only by a few. But they all have something in common - they are not afraid to self-disclose. By blogging, they put something on the table and attach their name to it - even if nobody knows who they are.

I'm blogging because I've been afraid. I've been afraid of offending someone. I've been afraid of embarrassing myself. I've been afraid of letting myself be known. This fear has induced me to walk my life on a lonely road. Loneliness has its place, but it need not be a lifestyle. To ultimately leave my road, or rather, to invite others to help me widen my vision to see that my road is not so lonely - this is why I'm starting to blog.

... touching a toe off my precious road ....

(image captured from,
probably a very good Fly Fishing website)