Here are a couple of excellent articles I read today. I strongly suggest you check them out, even though they're a bit long. Start with this one, which discusses how we're creating a nation of wimps.


Next, read this one, which discusses the underlying trends that support the kind of music that is so popular these days.


Can you see where we're headed? Educate yourselves, folks. As a leading philospoher wrote this past month,

"Admittedly, history does not provide many examples of the revival of liberal democracies that turned against their founding principles in culture and morality... The Church and the promise it bears and anticipates will increasingly be posited, not by our choice, against this (present day) constitutional order. That may well be the future; and for that future we must be braced, and work to equip the next generation for heroic fidelity."

Can you see it? Dear friend, please have the openness and the courage to see and know what is.


I read an interesting article today by, of course, A.W. Tozer. It was called the Tragedy of waste, and discusses how we use the grace we have been given. He says that we have been given three key things by God; time, money, and talents. We have also been givin opportunities to use those three things. Someday we will be judged before God... how important is it that we take those opportunities, regardless of the cost? What are we building and saving for, anyways?

Sometimes I'm frustrated because I feel as though my job is a waste, and that I could be doing more for God doing something else. However, whatever the job situation may be, I have lots of opportunities to serve him within the life I lead. It's important that I take those, and make the most of them. It's important that my life is always glorifying God, no matter what I'm doing. I need to use my time, money, and talents to praise his name here on earth.


Well, ladies and gents, it's finally official... Samantha and I are engaged! Last night, after prayer meeting, I took her into the sanctuary of UBC and proposed. There were all kinds of fun things involved, like flowers and pictures and the whole nine yards. Point being, we are engaged! I'm pretty excited. Thanks to everyone for loving us and supporting us.


Heh, my last couple posts haven't generated much response. I'm guessing they were too boring? Once again, my love of ideas seems to have pushed me beyond the limits of accessibility. ::sigh::. It's so hard to be KNOWN, you know? To have friends trust your actions simply because it's you can be a wonderful thing, but it requires so much giving, and so much giving in areas you STINK at giving. I wish I were better at building relationships with people in CCF, especially some of the guys. It's tough to care but to be blocked by your own nature.

Usually I prefer the flexibility of abstract ideas, but sometimes I wish people could only communicate in essay form. Words mean so much to me, but so little to others... it's as though in my world I'm offering roses, but in theirs I offer dandelions.

Sometimes I wonder what life would be like if I were to give up my introspective nature, give up my books, and just make friends. It's hard to feel that a lifestyle of that type is no more honoring to God than mine is. However, I must continue to accept that God's purpose for making me the way I am is good, and that faithfully using who I am and what I am to build up the body is what he wants from me.

I cannot tell you how sorry I am to those of you I have hurt or neglected.

"Beware, thou wretch...and hold thee never the holier nor the better for the worthiness of thy calling...but the more wretched and cursed, unless thou do that in thee is goodly, by grace and by counsel, to live after thy calling."
-Cloud of Unknowing


Here's the thought for today...

In King Lear (III:vii) there is a man who is such a minor character that Shakespeare has not given him even a name: he is merely "First Servant." All the characters around him-Regan, Cornwall, and Edmund-have fine long-term plans. They think they know how the story is going to end, and they are quite wrong. The servant has no such delusions. He has no notion how the play is going to go. But he understands the present scene. He sees an abomination (the blinding of old Gloucester) taking place. He will not stand it. His sword is out and pointed at his master's breast in a moment: then Regan stabs him dead from behind. That is his whole part: eight lines all told. But if it were real life and not a play, that is the part it would be best to have acted.

This C.S. Lewis quote is one we should consider carefully. Why is the servant the best part? Let me know what you think.


You Are the Investigator


You're independent - and a logical analytical thinker.

You love learning and ideas... and know things no one else does.

Bored by small talk, you refuse to participate in boring conversations.

You are open minded. A visionary. You understand the world and may change it.

Heh, thanks to Tian for the quiz. Quite fun! This certainly sounds like me. My latest theory is that these quizzes are especially good at making comments about my personality because I tend to be so extreme. Jared, for instance, has more of balance than I do between thinking and feeling (no prizes for guessing which one I'm stronger in). What do you think?


Wow, finally somebody (from the NY Times, no less!) saw what we evangelicals have known (or HOPEFULLY have known) for a long time... Jerry Falwell doesn't represent most of us! In fact, the guy is representative of Christians in the same way the head of Greenpeace is representative of Democrats... which is to say, not at all! It's ok to complain about inconsistencies in the church, but please recognize that at our core, we recognize true value; especially the value of the great men (and women, in certain contexts) who truly lead us, rather than the nutcases with shrill voices.

In an interesting coincidence, Chuck Colson (author, by the way, of the book from last week's quiz; How Now Shall We Live) wrote a great article on a similar matter. Read both and be thinking about this! We Christians MUST engage in the world of the mind if we are to legitimate in today's world. We must show that Christianity works not just because we believe it, but because it is true and defensible.

Who Is John Stott?

Tim Russert is a great journalist, but he made a mistake last weekend. He included Jerry Falwell and Al Sharpton in a discussion on religion and public life.

Inviting these two bozos onto "Meet the Press" to discuss that issue is like inviting Britney Spears and Larry Flynt to discuss D. H. Lawrence. Naturally, they got into a demeaning food fight that would have lowered the intellectual discourse of your average nursery school.

This is why so many people are so misinformed about evangelical Christians. There is a world of difference between real-life people of faith and the made-for-TV, Elmer Gantry-style blowhards who are selected to represent them. Falwell and Pat Robertson are held up as spokesmen for evangelicals, which is ridiculous. Meanwhile people like John Stott, who are actually important, get ignored.

It could be that you have never heard of John Stott. I don't blame you. As far as I can tell, Stott has never appeared on an important American news program. A computer search suggests that Stott's name hasn't appeared in this newspaper since April 10, 1956, and it's never appeared in many other important publications.

Yet, as Michael Cromartie of the Ethics and Public Policy Center notes, if evangelicals could elect a pope, Stott is the person they would likely choose. He was the framer of the Lausanne Covenant, a crucial organizing document for modern evangelicalism. He is the author of more than 40 books, which have been translated into over 72 languages and have sold in the millions. Now rector emeritus at All Souls, Langham Place, in London, he has traveled the world preaching and teaching.

When you read Stott, you encounter first a tone of voice. Tom Wolfe once noticed that at a certain moment all airline pilots came to speak like Chuck Yeager. The parallel is inexact, but over the years I've heard hundreds of evangelicals who sound like Stott.

It is a voice that is friendly, courteous and natural. It is humble and self-critical, but also confident, joyful and optimistic. Stott's mission is to pierce through all the encrustations and share direct contact with Jesus. Stott says that the central message of the gospel is not the teachings of Jesus, but Jesus himself, the human/divine figure. He is always bringing people back to the concrete reality of Jesus' life and sacrifice.

There's been a lot of twaddle written recently about the supposed opposition between faith and reason. To read Stott is to see someone practicing "thoughtful allegiance" to scripture. For him, Christianity means probing the mysteries of Christ. He is always exploring paradoxes. Jesus teaches humility, so why does he talk about himself so much? What does it mean to gain power through weakness, or freedom through obedience? In many cases the truth is not found in the middle of apparent opposites, but on both extremes simultaneously.

Stott is so embracing it's always a bit of a shock - especially if you're a Jew like me - when you come across something on which he will not compromise. It's like being in "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood," except he has a backbone of steel. He does not accept homosexuality as a legitimate lifestyle, and of course he believes in evangelizing among nonbelievers. He is pro-life and pro-death penalty, even though he is not a political conservative on most issues.

Most important, he does not believe truth is plural. He does not believe in relativizing good and evil or that all faiths are independently valid, or that truth is something humans are working toward. Instead, Truth has been revealed. As he writes:

"It is not because we are ultra-conservative, or obscurantist, or reactionary or the other horrid things which we are sometimes said to be. It is rather because we love Jesus Christ, and because we are determined, God helping us, to bear witness to his unique glory and absolute sufficiency. In Christ and in the biblical witness to Christ God's revelation is complete; to add any words of our own to his finished work is derogatory to Christ."

Politicians, especially Democrats, are now trying harder to appeal to people of faith. But people of faith are not just another interest group, like gun owners. You have to begin by understanding the faith. And you can't understand this rising global movement if you don't meet its authentic representatives.

Not Falwell, but Stott.

The Prophecy of C. S. Lewis
Chuck Colson (back to web version) | Send

November 29, 2004

C. S. Lewis was born on this date in 1898, and forty-one years after his death, one thing has become startlingly clear: This Oxford don was not only a keen apologist but also a true prophet for our postmodern age.

For example, Lewis’s 1947 book, Miracles, was penned before most Christians were aware of the emerging philosophy of naturalism. This is the belief that there is a naturalistic explanation for everything in the universe.

Naturalism undercuts any objective morality, opening the door to tyranny. In his book The Abolition of Man, Lewis warned that naturalism turns humans into objects to be controlled. It turns values into “mere natural phenomena”—which can be selected and inculcated into a passive population by powerful Conditioners. Lewis predicted a time when those who want to remold human nature “will be armed with the powers of an omnicompetent state and an irresistible scientific technique.” Sounds like the biotech debate today, doesn’t it?

Why was Lewis so uncannily prophetic? At first glance he seems an unlikely candidate. He was not a theologian; he was an English professor. What was it that made him such a keen observer of cultural and intellectual trends?

The answer may be somewhat discomfiting to modern evangelicals: One reason is precisely that Lewis was not an evangelical. He was a professor in the academy, with a specialty in medieval literature, which gave him a mental framework shaped by the whole scope of intellectual history and Christian thought. As a result, he was liberated from the narrow confines of the religious views of the day—which meant he was able to analyze and critique them.

Lewis once wrote than any new book “has to be tested against the great body of Christian thought down the ages.” Because he himself was steeped in that “great body of Christian thought,” he quickly discerned trends that ran counter to it.

But how many of us are familiar with that same panorama of Christian ideas “down the ages”? How many of us know the work of more than a few contemporary writers? How, then, can we stand against the destructive intellectual trends multiplying in our own day?

The problem is not that modern evangelicals are less intelligent than Lewis. As Mark Noll explains in his book The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, the problem is that our sharpest intellects have been channeled into biblical scholarship, exegesis, and hermeneutics. While that is a vital enterprise, we rarely give the same scholarly attention to history, literature, politics, philosophy, economics, or the arts. As a result, we are less aware of the culture than we should be, less equipped to defend a biblical worldview, and less capable of being a redemptive force in our postmodern society—less aware, as well, of the threats headed our way from cultural elites.

You and I need to follow Lewis’s lead. We must liberate ourselves from the prison of our own narrow perspective and immerse ourselves in Christian ideas “down the ages.” Only then can we critique our culture and trace the trends.

The best way to celebrate Lewis’s birthday is to be at our posts, as he liked to say—with renewed spirits and with probing and informed minds.


Two things I'm thinking about today...

1.) Friend, in the desolate time, when your soul
is enshrouded in darkness
When, in a deep abyss, memory and feeling
die out,
Intellect timidly gropes among shadowy forms
and illusions
Heart can no longer sigh, eye is unable
to weep;
When, from your night-clouded soul the wings
of fire have fallen
And you, to nothing, afraid, feel
yourself sinking once more,
Say, who rescues you then?—Who is the
comforting angel
Brings to your innermost soul order and
beauty again,
Building once more your fragmented world,
restoring the fallen
Altar, and when it is raised, lighting
the sacred flame?-—
None but the powerful being who first from
the limitless darkness
Kissed to life seraphs and woke
numberless suns to their dance.
None but the holy Word who called the worlds
into existence
And in whose power the worlds move on
their paths to this day.
Therefore, rejoice, oh friend, and sing in
the darkness of sorrow:
Night is the mother of day, Chaos the
neighbor of God.


2.)A mood
of dread and Time's oppression broke
upon young Arthur's heart as ice
upon the early rose: he felt
no joy at being summoned to
these wars and wondered whether peace
would ever bless the land. He loathed,
for not the final time, his fate
that he must be both instrument
of Britain's dark folk-memory
and future forces of the light.
He summoned up his fears and said:

"How can... how can a war bring peace,
old wizard? How do clashing swords
serve harmony? Would... would it not
be wiser to let... or let grow
the Roman olive freely near
the Teuton briar? Am I to kill
more Saxons, murdering my soul,
perpetuating evil...? Erm...
prolonging this... this ancient hate,
these smouldering, antique hatreds, fanned
by fiery men with airy swords?
They want me for their standard, not
for... not for any wisdom I
might have, because I'm Uther's son!"
He sank upon the stone in tears.
Then Merlin answered warmly, as
wise Krishna calmed Arjuna's fears
upon the Kurukshetra:
the King rule; let the farmer sow;
let bards address the Muses nine;
let weavers weave their cloths; let cooks
bake bread; let mothers tend their young;
let all perform their duty, serve
in their own place their brothers' need.
Let ministers advise and let
the King's son be the future King.
Oh Arthur, do you think that when
we chose our fates the choice was fair?
Our lives are hardly ours to own
but subject to all suffering,
and suffering eventually
destroys the separate self and lets
us serve the mighty Whole. Think this
as you are standing near the foe
in Gwent upon Ambrosius's lands,
my Arthur, think! Remember this,
your destiny and why you came!
And think, the soul can not be killed.
This form may pass away but not
its essence - bodies die but souls
remember everything. A Law
connects our futures to our pasts
with an impartial justice, stern
and blind. That balance seeks correction
now. The stars announce it. You,
my Arthur, are the agent of
the Saxons' nemesis and if
you do not fight the shame will fall
on you; worse evil still upon
our own beloved lands." He stopped.
Then Arthur bowing said: "I have
been counselled wisely. Lead me to
my father and these wretched wars
and what I there perform, may it
be good."
With that they saddled up
and galloped down the quiet hills
that softened with the sunlight and,
unable to withstand the dawn,
broke waving into grassy seas.

-in summary-

I lift up my eyes to the hills-
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

Psalm 121:1-2


Ah, it's about that time at the office. Poinsettas and trees are coming out, lights strung across open spaces, little snowmen and Santas sitting on shelves. Everyone's in the spirit, putting green and red napkins and tablecloths everywhere...


It ISN'T CHRISTMAS YET. In fact, it's still a week until THANKSGIVING for crying out loud. What are you people doing? This makes absolutely no sense to me, ESPECIALLY given the value of the two holidays. Taken from a secular perspective, Thanksgiving should be MUCH more important than Christmas. Family, food, and football are much more American values than giving things away and getting things you don't want, right?

Ok, so I'm a bit of a Scrooge. But still, it seems like you could at LEAST wait until it's less than 50 degees out. Even the LEGISLATURE isn't out on vacation yet, which is saying something.

In other news, the Tigers are making some BIG free-agent moves. Now THAT's a future event I can get excited for.

I saw an interesting quote on a co-workers wall; May you live all the days of your life.

Interesting, huh? We only get a certain number of days, and they're ticking down at a pretty consistent rate. How now shall we live? We should be fighting to have meaning, to have joy, to contribute. How? Glorify God, of course. You knew it had been too long since I preached a bit. As I've been teaching through Ephesians, it amazes me to see how central this concept is to the gospel message. We are CREATED to worship, DESIGNED to worship, ENCOURAGED and even COMMANDED to worship. Is your life worshiping God? Or are you, like everyone else in this world, worshiping your self?

p.s. Quick quiz: Is Samantha more gorgeous with her hair up, back, or down? I'm curious to see what general opinion is. E-mail me if you prefer confidentiality.

p.s.s. Bonus points for whomever can find the hidden book title (which I highly recommend) in today's post.


Oh dear. Samantha, my love, how much I respect you...

Fellow workers of INTJs often feel as if the INTJ can see right through them, and often believe that the INTJ finds them wanting. This tendancy of people to feel transparent in the presence of the INTJ often results in relationships which have psychological distance. Thus colleagues find the INTJ apparantly unemotional and, at time, cold and dispassionate. Because of their tendancy to drive others as hard as they do themselves, INTJs often seem demanding and difficult to satisfy. INTJs are high achievers in school and on the job. They make dedicated loyal employees whose loyalties are directed toward the system, rather than toward the individuals within the system. So the INTJ has little difficulty with people who come and go at work, unlike an NF would (NFs have more of their loyalties involved more with people rather than offices).

Personal relationships, particularly romantic ones, can be the INTJ's Achilles heel. While they are capable of caring deeply for others (usually a select few), and are willing to spend a great deal of time and effort on a relationship, the knowledge and self-confidence that make them so successful in other areas can suddenly abandon or mislead them in interpersonal situations.

This happens in part because many INTJs do not readily grasp the social rituals; for instance, they tend to have little patience and less understanding of such things as small talk and flirtation (which most types consider half the fun of a relationship). To complicate matters, INTJs are usually extremely private people, and can often be naturally impassive as well, which makes them easy to misread and misunderstand. Perhaps the most fundamental problem, however, is that INTJs really want people to make sense. This sometimes results in a peculiar naivete', paralleling that of many Fs -- only instead of expecting inexhaustible affection and empathy from a romantic relationship, the INTJ will expect inexhaustible reasonability and directness.

As mates, INTJs want harmony and order in the home and in relationships. They are the most independent of all types. They will trust thier intuitions about others whem making choices of friends and mates, even in the face of contradictory evidence and pressures applied by others. The emotions of an INTJ are hard to read, and neither male nor female INTJ is apt to express emotional reactions. At times, both will seem cold, reserved, and unresponsive, while in fact INTJs are almost hypersensitive to signals of rejection from those for whom they care.

As parents, INTJs are dedicated and single-minded, in their devotion: Their children are a major focus in life. They are supportive of their children and tend to allow them to develop in directions of their own choosing. INTJs usually are firm and consistent in discipline and rarely care to repeat directions given to children - or others. Being the most independent of all types, they have a strong need for autonomy; indifference or criticism from people in general does not particularly bother the INTJs, if they believe that they are right. They also have a strong need for privacy.

Heh, I should probably clarify that list. I didn't make it up, guys, I got it here. Don't shoot the messenger!


The other day, Jon got me thinking about personality types. I THINK, though I'm not sure, that I'm an INTJ. Check out this list of "how to deal with an INTJ" and tell me what you think.

How To Deal With An INTJ

1. Be willing to back up your statements with facts - or at least some pretty sound reasoning.

2. Don't expect them to respect you or your viewpoints just because you say so. INTJ respect must be earned.

3. Be willing to concede when you are wrong. The average INTJ respects the truth over being "right". Withdraw your erroneous comment and admit your mistake and they will see you as a very reasonable person. Stick to erroneous comments and they will think you are an irrational idiot and treat everything you say as being questionable.

4. Try not to be repetitive. It annoys them.

5. Do not feed them a line of bull.

6. Expect debate. INTJs like to tear ideas apart and prove their worthiness. They will even argue a point they don't actually support for the sake of argument.

7. Do not mistake the strength of your conviction with the strength of your argument. INTJs do not need to believe in a position to argue it or argue it well. Therefore, it will take more than fervor to sway them.

8. Do not be surprised at sarcasm.

9. Remember that INTJs believe in workable solutions. They are extremely open-minded to possibilities, but they will quickly discard any idea that is unfeasible. INTJ open-mindedness means that they are willing to have a go at an idea by trying to pull it apart. This horrifies people who expect oohs and ahhs and reverence. The ultimate INTJ insult to an idea is to ignore it, because that means it's not even interesting enough to deconstruct.

10. This also means that they will not just accept any viewpoint that is presented to them. The bottom line is "Does it work?" - end discussion.

11. Do not expect INTJs to actually care about how you view them. They already know that they are arrogant jerks with a morbid sense of humor. Telling them the obvious accomplishes nothing.
Have you seen the Mel Gibson movie, "Conspiracy Theory"? It's a great movie, but one of the interesting plot themes is that the assasins are constantly buying the book Catcher in the Rye. As Gibson says, "every time I see it, I have to buy it. And every time I don't see it, I have to go find it so I can buy it" I have found that I have the SAME PROBLEM, in two different ways. The first is buying books. That may be the subject of another post another day. Today I would like to discuss my other obsession... slurpees.

Slurpees (frozen coke drinks at 7-11) are probably one of the most pleasurable things in the world. They're good to keep you cool on a hot day, but they're tasty enough to be good on a cold day, too. They're very cheap, which is terrific for college students and CEOs alike. They are large enough to be satisfying, but not so large as to scare off potential customers. They really are perfect.

I realized my curious addiction to this fine product last night. I was EXTREMELY thirsty. Not "I need a drink" thirsty, or even, "I need to gulp down water" thirsty, but rather, "I need to gulp down water and THEN go to the store and THEN pick out several drinks so that I can quench my thirst AND prepare for future thirst" thirsty. So, I gulped down some water and then zipped over to my local 7-11. There, I found milk on sale, orange juice, and pepsi. So what did I do, you ask? Naturally, I got them all, stocked the fridge, and GOT A SLURPEE. I didn't have to, of course, but I'm finding that it is nearly impossible to walk into a 7-11 without getting one. IN FACT, there have been times where I went to 7-11 not intending to get one, but still felt a keen sense of disappointment if the machine was down.

Ok, so why is this important? Very simple. I'm realizing more and more that the ability to be happy is just that... an ability. Happiness is not a circumstance. It's a state of mind that comes from liking things about your life, from being content with what God has given you. If he's given everything we need, then we should be able to be thankful for everything we have, because it's what we need. Slurpees are just one more thing that God has allowed for our pleasure, one more thing that we can be happy about, and one more thing that can contribute to our general contentment.

So, the next time you indulge in whatever little thing pleases you, be it slurpees or bubble tea or mocha latte frappachino, consider this... God has given you everything you need to be content. If you aren't, who is left to give the blame to?

p.s. Thanks to everyone who's been watching out for Bethany and I. In case you haven't heard, my mom has cancer. She just had a major operation last week and is doing well. They think they got all of it, but we won't know for certain for a few years. We went to visit her on Saturday, and she kept repeating a line from my favorite old hymn; "it is well with my soul." If she can be happy, can't you?


Are you up for a challenge? I'm warning you, this isn't going to be easy. Try reading and thinking about this article in First Things, one of my favorite intellectual journals. It challenges Christians to develop our intellectual lives, to engage the world with more than a fired-up, my way or the highway type of mentality. Each of us, I think, has a responsibility to evangalize not just by saying Jesus loves you, but by also showing that the idea of Christianity works at all levels, including the intellectual. It's the TRUTH, right? So why are we afraid that we can't compete in that realm? I, for one, fully believe that we can, and should. So read the article and be thinking... how can I contribute (in my particular area of knowledge, be it medecine or business or what have you) to expressing Christianity as a viable life philosophy? The more we commit ourselves to learning and teaching, the more effective we will be as witnesses.


Ok, today is driving me nuts.

1. I am SICK of being SICK.
2. I spilled water ALL OVER myself, my desk, my book (not just any book... it was "So you're getting Married")
3. Today's most exciting e-mail; "Patient Safety Commission News Releases"
4. If I was who I should be, who would I be?
5. Lost in Fantasy Football AGAIN.
6. Feeling like I didn't mean anything to anyone.
7. I don't think anyone actually believes that I care.

Heh, and just to show you how down I feel... I don't even feel like posting a Bible verse.


You Are a Religious Republican

You make up the conservative, Christian, dedicated core of the Republican Party.

You believe it's important for religious people to stand up for their beliefs in politics.

And for you, this means voting your conscience - which almost always means voting Republican.

Your pet causes include the sanctity of life, school vouchers, and prayer in school.

Heh... Amanda put this up, and of course I had to try. Not surprisingly... well, you see what I got.

I would point out, though, that the quiz is somewhat limited... I don't actually VOTE based on a candidate's adherence to conservative moral beliefs. I tend more to vote on A)Ability to govern and B)Strength of Character. For instance, I would take Joe Lieberman over a lot of Republicans. Still... very amusing. :-) Thanks Amanda! (p.s. See, I told you that you're more conservative than you realize)


Well, he won! Thank goodness for that, I say, though I recognize that many others won't. For those who care, this election was unique in that there has NEVER been such an incredible turnout from evangelicals. I spoke to a Michigan state senator the other day who was absolutely blown away by the incredible turnout. The fact of the matter is that the Democrats turned out MORE than they thought they needed to win... and STILL got flattened. This election is going to be studied closely for years to come.

The thing to look for, I think, is this: Conservatives believe strongly in President Bush because of worldview. He represents a philosphical outlook that grades civic responsibilities more highly than civil rights. It believes that moral courage trumps weak diplomacy. Character counts, and posturing does not. True, there are plenty of areas to legitimately question the Bush Admninistration. However, that doesn't change the fact that more voters wanted strong convictions rather than changeable ideology.

One of my favorite authors, Alexandyr Solzhenitsyn (yes, I can spell it without looking... I know I'm a geek), spoke of the need for this kind of moral courage in an address to Harvard in 1971. I suggest you read the speech, which is all over the internet and is called A World Split Apart. It is one of my all-time favorite essays. Here are the key exerpts.

"We have placed too much hope in politics and social reforms, only to find out that we were being deprived of our most precious possession: our spiritual life. It is trampled by the party mob in the East, by the commercial one in the West. This is the essence of the crisis: the split in the world is less terrifying than the similarity of the disease afflicting its main sections.
If, as claimed by humanism, man were born only to be happy, he would not be born to die. Since his body is doomed to death, his task on earth evidently must be more spiritual: not a total engrossment in everyday life, not the search for the best ways to obtain material goods and then their carefree consumption. It has to be the fulfillment of a permanent, earnest duty so that one's life journey may become above all an experience of moral growth: to leave life a better human being than one started it.
It is imperative to reappraise the scale of the usual human values; its present incorrectness is astounding. It is not possible that assessment of the President's performance should be reduced to the question of how much money one makes or to the availability of gasoline. Only by the voluntary nurturing in ourselves of freely accepted and serene self-restraint can mankind rise above the world stream of materialism."

Anyways, there's the thought for the day. Oh, and I should mention that I only got 3 states wrong in my predictions. I had Wisconsin, Ohio, and New Mexico wrong, but all other states correct. Also, I was the only person in my office (remember, it's an office DEDICATED to politics in Michigan) to correctly predict YES votes on both proposals on the Michigan ballot. I am WAY too good at this stuff. Help, I need a life!

Till next time.


Ok, folks, here it is... Ben's official prediction for the Presidential campaign! Take note... it is 4:00 on November 2, so there have been no exit polls or early results. (In case you haven't noticed, I'm seeking to establish a reputation as an excellent vote-counter) Going by last year's map, I predict that President Bush will gain Iowa and Wisconsin, states he lost last year, and lose New Hampshire and Ohio, states he won last year. Thanks to reapportionment, this means that he will win the election... by a razor-sharp two electoral votes! It will be close. Any variation from my model in the "major" swing states (Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Florida), and it will be a HUGE victory for one or the other. Point being, folks... you heard it here first. May the best man win! (and if he doesn't, may we survive Kerry)

p.s. This is a good place to go to try out your OWN presidential scenarios.



If you were an advertiser, what is the number one factor you would use to get people to buy your product? The answer, of course, is fear and insecurity. Think about that for a moment. A company that wants to make a profit does so by making you feel unsure about yourself. Don’t believe it?

Think about the smoking or beer advertisements of the 80’s. The vast majority seemed to suggest that people who smoke or drink a particular brand would be strong and sexy, living easy lives whose chief concern is having fun. Male models would hook up with female models, and CLEARLY the reason they were doing so was because of cold beer and tobacco in a paper wrapping.

Or you could consider my absolute LEAST favorite line in advertising history. The commercial starts off by highlighting some really interesting features that their new car has. These positive messages are followed up by this little gem. “It’s not more than you need; just more than you’re used to.” WHAT? You’re telling me that all the other cars ever invented can’t meet my real NEEDS? This is sheer idiocy, of course… if there were NEEDS that cars aren’t addressing but could, they would have been solved long ago. Why buy a car if there are still NEEDS that it doesn’t meet? This commercial is basically playing into your fear that your car isn’t good enough, or that you’ll be missing out if you don’t have these wonderful features.

It’s true with the many commercials that espouse, “uniqueness,” too. They tell you that you are becoming just like everyone else in the wide world, another ant in a giant army of boring people… unless you buy a VW Bug, of course!

Everyone struggles with this in different areas. For myself, I have a nasty fear of being inconsequential, or seen as dumb and irrelevant. So, what do I do? I study theology and politics. I practice public speaking. I copy the patterns of important figures of the past. I even cultivate an attitude and lifestyle designed to highlight my intelligence and consequence to others. I want to MATTER, and my fears that I won’t influence everything I do. If you ever want to see me sweat, try cleaning my room… my deep fears that people will think of me as a dumb child when they see how messy I am come to the forefront in no time flat.

Where am I going with this? It seems to me that the great antidote to these struggles, the only way to resist the constant attempts our world makes to influence our behavior… is to be secure. To not be afraid. To be content.

That answer is fairly obvious. How do we actually GET contentment, though? Not surprisingly for a Ben Blog, the answer is found in the Bible.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
-Philippians 4:4-7

Do you see it? The Bible here presents two wonderful antidotes to the problems of fear and insecurity. First, knowing God gives an outlet for our frustrations. We can pray to him, presenting our requests with the knowledge that he hears and knows what is best for us. Second, God’s peace will GUARD our hearts and minds. What do you think he’s guarding us from? Why, being anxious.

Our world presents a continuous assault on our self-confidence, a perpetual drive to scare us into buying bigger, better, and more impressive. We spend millions on self-help books, tighter clothing, and huge cars with low gas mileage, all because we’re afraid that if we don’t we’ll be less important. In God’s eyes, though, nothing could BE less important.

If there’s a fear we ought to have, it’s being inconsequential and useless to GOD. If He can’t use us to glorify himself and further his kingdom, we have a real problem. That should motivate us to seek HIS definition of riches… the riches of a humble heart, a loving attitude, and a willingness to serve. Those are the things that will bring about the kind of relevance and joy that we all seek.

Hopefully I’ve given you something to chew on. It’s an area I struggle with, too… but as long as I’m following God, I intend to keep struggling. Relevance in His eyes is worth it.


Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?

A stern yet benevolent organizer who often knows best, your wits are keenly fixed on aiding efforts you deem worthy.

"Now at this last we must take a hard road, a road unforseen. There lies our hope, if hope it be. To walk into peril to Mordor."

Heh... I love these things.
I was eating with a certain lovely Asian today (that would be Samantha, for all you pessimistic conspiracy theorists out there), and had an interesting thought. It seems to me that a large part of my discomfort with “the world” is the sheer thoughtlessness of it all. People today have lost the ability to reflect, to meditate, to turn things over and over in their minds until they have a complete understanding of a concept. This, I feel is extremely negative when trying to accomplish anything of value. (note: part of the reason I realized this is because Samantha suprises me at least once per conversation with amazingly deep thoughts. Chat with her about political philosophy or theology and you'll see what I mean)

Take, for instance, the current political election. How many people do you know that can discuss the positives and negatives of an issue from BOTH sides of the aisle? How many can make it through a discussion of politics without referring to the other side as “stupid” or “lying”, or to their own as “common sense”? The problem is that very few of these people truly understand the issues at stake, or the deep-seated political philosophies that support them. Nor do they take the time to find out. Rather, they spout the latest sound bite, confident that only idiots have the capacity to disagree.

Consider basic conversation. How many people struggle through complex ideas, or display a willingness to question themselves? You never see it. Instead, you see groups of like-minded people talking about things they already agree upon, or at the very least have a common interest in. Food, shopping, weather, the stupidity of men, the changeability of women… nobody ever GETS anywhere. Do you come away from conversations without having learned anything new, the same as when you entered into them? You probably ought to seek out some fresh venues.

This idea is especially important, I think, for a) how we conduct our selves in everyday life and b) our spiritual lives. Allow me to explain.

When you speak, do people listen? Why or why not? The most amazing thing about our inability to say anything new or thoughtful is that people tend to RESPECT that quality. I suppose it is easier to stay safe on our own private islands, refusing to challenge convention. We go along with the crowd, agreeing that yes, it’s a nice day, yes, the food needs more soy sauce, and yes, that teacher assigns too much homework. We never ante up the courage to ask about a person’s emotional struggles, or bother to find out the core causes of a friend’s eccentric tendencies. But have you noticed the POWER that people who display that courage have? They quickly gain respect (even if it’s the grudging respect of enemies), and are able to more effectively facilitate growth in a group. Perhaps most importantly, they help others discuss and learn and think in new ways. Don’t you want to be that kind of person?

It’s true in our spiritual lives, as well. We are content to “attend” bible studies and church services, nodding our heads obediently when a group “facilitator” (we rarely have true leaders anymore) helps us to discuss “what we think” about a passage. To be frank, who CARES what you think? God didn’t intend for us to gently intertwine our preconceptions with nice thoughts from the Bible. He wants us to fight with it, to struggle, to challenge… in short, to MEDITATE on the powerful truths he communicates through his Word. Too often we accept without challenge, and agree without recognizing the radical changes our agreement ought to have on our lives.

Friends, there is joy in thoughtfulness. When you meditate on life, on philosophies, on values, on spirituality, on God’s words -on LIFE, for crying out loud- you find that your confidence increases, your passion increases, people listen more (even if they also disagree more), and you actually learn more. “I don’t know” starts to find its way out of your vocabulary (sorry, Amanda… I know it’s just a habit!).

Those of you who know me well recognize that I tend to go back and forth. At times, I allow verbosity to overcome thoughtfulness. I work hard, though, to make sure that the things I teach aren’t just conventionally accepted phrases, but rather are the outflow of serious study and meditation on a particular subject. Wouldn’t we all be better off if we practiced this with increasing regularity?

“The weight of words backed by thought should crush our tendency towards volumes of words backed by general acceptance.”


This is great. Work at MHA is fun, interesting, stimulating... can't say enough about it. The people here are super nice, and take time to teach me the (many) things I don't know. Who would have known nurse-staffing ratios could be so exciting? I wish it wasn't so terrific sometimes... I'm really struggling with what I thought was God's calling to be a pastor. Did I just hear wrong? It would be one thing if it were a simple matter of waiting for a couple years, but it seems that certain key people aren't too sure about this calling either. Ah well, not much I can do about it. For now, I suppose, it's just a matter of serving God as best I can with what I have.

Other than work, things are rolling along smoothly. I saw my first Lugnuts game with Samantha, which was fun even though it was the SADDEST display of hitting I have seen since... well, since the Tigers last year. :-) UBC is fun as always. Dave gave me an absolute THUMPING in ESPN football. WARNING TO THE INNOCENTS: DO NOT PLAY WITH THE CARDINALS. I know it's a computer game and all... but is Josh McKown really THAT bad?

I read Isaiah 58 last night, which is a super interesting chapter. It's one of the best exhortations to be completely sold out for God that I've seen in the OT. "You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high." Powerful stuff.

Also, I called my mom and sister. They're so funny. The Bam didn't hear the Momzer on the phone, so of course she told me all the same stories as my mom. Heh, it was fun to talk to them, though I'm quite happy to keep things this way. No more "home life" for me, thanks.

Anyways, that's all for now. More to come later when I'm in a more thoughtful mood.


"I'm going to start posting bible studies..."

Wow... so much for THAT idea.

Since then, I've graduated, been to Alaska, counseled, acted in a VBS skit, and gotten a REAL JOB.  (yes, to all those who ask... there is hope for big mouths.  See your state government for details)

So, now I'm facing a whole new set of struggles and issues, both good and bad.  For instance, I'm rooming with Dave.  This would be a good thing even WITHOUT the intense computer football rivalry (3-3 so far), terrific cooking, and convenient location.  With them, of course, it's phenomenal. 

At the same time, responsibility can be a bit frustrating, like laying out long-term budgets and waking up at 6:30 every morning.

Worse, though, are my spiritual struggles.  I have such a hard time reacting to life quickly... job issues are no problem, but I'm really bad at the constantly changing nature of relationships.  Usually I can sit down, figure out the ground rules, and work from there.  Relationships aren't like that, though.  They're made up of a thousand constantly moving parts, each of which has a significant place in the whole.  

It's easy to complain that God didn't make me a natural at that sort of thing, that it's just not my area of expertise.  Unfortunately, Hebrews 11 isn't exactly a list of people who complained about the bad rap they got. 

I'm trying to figure out, too, why it is that how people percieve my intentions is so important to me.  For whatever cause, I can take all kinds of arguments and criticism and still do things the way I think they ought to be done.  The moment I think someone distrusts my intentions, though, I have a tendency to go ballistic (this is quite a site, for those of you who haven't experienced it).

So here's the question:  What does honoring God with my new life look like?  Frankly, I'm not sure just yet.  Even so, I think I'm starting to make the core, fundamental changes that are needed to get on the right track. 

By the way, drop me a line if you get the chance.  I'm interested in finding out what's going on out there!  I feel pretty out of the loop.

Me in summary:

Dating: Samantha, of course

Working: Michigan Health and Hospital Association (www.mha.org)

Reading: Bondage of the Will, by Martin Luthor

Reason to smile:  I recently found out that when you can't recall things but you remember them after they're mentioned, it's a sign of old age.  I KNEW it.  I'm like a 50 year-old in a 22 year-old's body.

Reason to cry: With a little help from Dave, I am entering the domestication phase.

Verse for today: Psalm 51:6  "Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place."  This Psalm is excellent.  Read it, but don't gloss it over.  This is heavy-duty stuff.