Friday, October 26, 2007

Wow! I Remembered I Have a Blog!

For those of you wondering, and inquiring, yes, I do still plan some things here at the blog. To wit, I have things in progress to update y'all on:

  1. The Mega-Church Question

  2. A mission trip I took to Donetsk, Ukraine this past summer

  3. Life in general

  4. Various tidbits from the news, including resolution of a thought I was working waaaay back in the days after the bridge collapsed

  5. Some DVD reviews

  6. Thoughts on politics, the environment and the war in Iraq

  7. The story of a little girl that may soon become more prominent 'round here



I haven't left the blogosphere, but life and work and church have conspired to keep me away more than I'd have liked.

Hope all remains well - and until soon,

God bless!

Ron

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Why?

Yesterday I broached the subject of "why." As I noted, some people are focusing on the "why did the bridge fall?" question in the pursuit of political gain (and, for full disclosure, I doubt very much that particular malady will be isolated to one party or ideology; to date, though, most of that I've seen has been from the political left. Also, I've seen as vociferous condemnation of said behavior from the left as I have from the right. Nobody should stand for politicization of such an event, regardless of affiliation. But I digress.) Others are focusing on another "why" question: why would a God who is both loving and powerful not stop the bridge from falling? Why did people die, or get hurt, when God could have - nay, should have, stopped it?

This "why" question pops up in nearly any circumstance where people suffer. It is the question at the center of a philosophical study called theocidy. C.S. Lewis wrote on this in his book The Problem of Pain. Many a thinker has attempted answers, and I have nothing new and case-proving to add to the ongoing argument.

But I do think some things bear repeating. First, God is indeed loving. To assume otherwise based on the existence of evil, or the happenings of tragedy, is to assume what logic does not allow. A loving God is not obligated to eliminate all evil to retain the attribute of being loving (or, more precisely, the personification of love itself.) A parent is no less loving, for instance, when he or she allows a child to suffer the consequences of an action. Yes, the analogy is imperfect; I do NOT think the bridge fell because a particular driver or passenger on the bridge had done a particular wrong thing. However, we live in a world that is fallen and imperfect because we (collectively) sin. The consequences of collective sin are no less real than the consequences of individual sin. Accidents happen, bridges fall, fires burn and violence thrives. I don't blame anyone's sin for the bridge falling, but bad things happen because sin is in the world. The bridge falling was not a curse against Minneapolis, Minnesota, the U.S.A., or any other entity as far as I know. In general, bad things happen because we (I!) have done things wrong.

But God is loving in that He does counter evil, He does provide mercy, and He does grant grace. If God weren't loving, it could be argued, more would have died when the bridge collapsed (had the world even lasted this long; without a loving God it could be conceived that humanity would have been allowed to destroy ourselves centuries ago.) The idea that logic necessitates a loving God would by definition eliminate all evil is fallacious. Since we lack omniscience, it could be equally valid that since the results of evil could always be worse, a loving God must be helping mitigate some of the results of evil.

A second point is that often people use this problem of suffering and evil as a way to justify disbelief. Not all people who ask "why" are trying to avoid God. Many ask the question trying to understand. But there are a number of people who use the question to hide their doubt behind some modicum of respectability. "Oh, I can't believe in that type of God; he/she wouldn't exist!" they say. The problem is that the question in no way has anything valid to say about whether God exists, or what kind of being God might be. Rather, this is (in my opinion) a rather presumptuous idea that says more about the questioner than about God. Asking the question as a way to justify disbelief sets the questioner above God. He or she is in essence saying that "since I don't like this God, I can determine God doesn't exist." Or, to put it another way, I wouldn't behave like that if I were God, as I define "loving" to be a certain thing, and since I wouldn't behave like that, it's obvious there's no God."

Except, God's existence is completely independent, and unreliant upon, our preferences. I certainly don't claim to understand God's methods or workings. His thoughts are far beyond my own, as is His scope of vision. And truth be told, in my limited perspective, there are often times I don't like the way God works. That doesn't mean He isn't working or loving; it merely means I am limited and imperfect while He sees things I don't. I have no right to tell God, "to heck with you, I think that was an awful thing to do. Allowing that [insert tragedy here] to happen proves you're not there."

Like it or not, because we live in a fallen world (a condition for which I am as responsible as everyone/anyone) bad things happen. Because God is loving, things aren't worse than they are. He has no obligation to remove all pain and suffering to retain the title of "loving." Nor does our dislike of the way He works or of the things He sometimes allows to happen have anything to say about whether God is. There may be other arguments that provide stronger evidence against God. Logically speaking, the "why" question, this problem of evil, can do nothing one way or another to tell us whether God exists of if He is loving.

There is nothing wrong with asking "why God allowed this" in order to try and understand. There is, though, something illogical and wrong about using the question as a shield to justify running away from God.

This has been a rather downer post, I know. I'm aware some people will misinterpret what I wrote as saying I blame so-and-so for doing such-and-such which caused the bridge to fall. Or that I'm saying people who ask this question are all illogical atheists. I hope I'm clear enough so you know that's not what I intend. All I'm trying to say is that God can be loving and still tolerate the existence of evil and suffering (and, even further, not constantly intervene to remove all consequences of it.) And, I'm saying that the question of God's existence or love are independent of, and unprovable by, the question of evil.

Tomorrow I'll finish this mini-series on something more positive. I'll focus on the flip side of the "why" question. Why do I trust that God is loving despite the presence of evil, and why might we someday be able to see more clearly that indeed He was working even during the collapse.

God bless,
Ron

Monday, August 06, 2007

Why the Bridge?

I'm not sure how much I can post on the 35W bridge collapse. I still have too many vivid memories of driving over the thing, having grown up in South Minny and using that route hundreds, if not thousands, of times in my life. It still feels odd that it's not there anymore.

I certainly still feel for the missing, the injured, and the families of the dead from the collapse. And I'm certainly still proud of those who risked their own safety to help others. Many prayers, I know, are going out for each of them.

What I detest, though, and what is making me sick of the story are the pathetic people who are trying to make political hay out of this incident while there are bodies to recover, hurts to heal and lives to repair. For instance: KAR (as well as many others in the MOB) point out the lunacy of local columnist Nick Coleman's column of last week (WARNING: language/style may be offensive to some.) We are trying to help people, and we are probably 18 plus months away from firm answers regarding causation. Yet he (and many others) are reflexively blaming others. Sick. Sad. Pathetic. Makes me blood boil, it does. Now isn't the time, and that isn't the tone. The "why" questions will be answered in due course. Respect the hurt and dead. Leave the grandstanding for another time.

But there is one "why" question that we can look at, and it is the why question we hear in any time of disaster, tragedy, violence or suffering. Why, we hear, if there is a God, do these things happen? This is, to me, the acceptable "why" at this time. It demonstrates a human need to understand and especially to understand God.

To that question I will turn tomorrow. I need to cool down.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Words Aren't Enough

By now you've seen the stories. A major interstate freeway bridge collapsed in Minneapolis last night, during rush hour, and right before a Twins game. Traffic was heavy, and there have been reports of dozens of injuries and at least 4-9 deaths (depending on which news organization is reporting the numbers.) It is too early to speculate on the cause of the fall, but that's not stopping people from guessing. My own seven year old daughter, this morning, offered that the collapse was probably because the bridge was old and lots of cars have driven on it.

That's not something I want her dwelling on the next time we drive over a bridge.

It'll be a cliche you hear from Minneapolitans over the next days: "I drive across that bridge all the time!" I myself have driven it countless times, most recently about three weeks ago. While I don't get downtown as often as I used to, you can't live in this town long without crossing the bridge at some point.

Until yesterday.

We started receiving phone calls last night around 6:30. Family and friends from around the country had seen the news and wanted to make sure we were okay. We are. But at least dozens of families aren't so fortunate. Our prayers today go out to the rescue workers, the emergency crews and the families of those hurt or killed.

For those unfamiliar with the area, the 35W bridge crossed the Mississippi river just outside downtown Minneapolis. Heading south, the next exit past the river drops people into downtown, and is a major point of entry to the city for such things as the Twins game. There are two locks on the river nearby, and another residential-traffic bridge a few hundred feet away. The University of Minnesota is also nearby, and the residential area surrounding the bridge's north side is primarily made up of college students. There was construction on the bridge, for resurfacing the roadway, but not on the steel infrastructure. Couple this construction with rush-hour/Twins traffic, and you had a lot of cars on the bridge going slowly at the time.

The bridge was just shy of 40 years old, and was designed to last 70 years. Something went wrong. That's an obvious understatement. There are already despicable people trying to pin blame for this on one person or another when the truth is we won't know what happened for (in all likelihood) months at the earliest. There is time to figure out the hows and whys. Right now we should be focused on finding the people beneath the rubble and supporting the families affected.

By all accounts, Minneapolis and the surrounding communities reacted well. Acts of heroism were abundant as people risked their safety to help others out of vehicles and out of the river. Praise God for such stuff. I'm proud of the city, in a muted way, and wasn't at all surprised such people live here. But I'm saddened by the tragedy. At some point, we'll know what happened and in true Minnesota form, we'll fix it. Until then, what we'll do is pray and give blood and donate to the Red Cross and help our neighbors as best we can.

For those who've contacted us, again we're safe. And thanks for your concern. Now let's focus that on those who need it: the injured, the families of the dead, and the workers risking safety to recover them all.

God bless,
Ron

Monday, July 23, 2007

So Sorry...

I know a (few) of you overly-faithful friends have checked of late. Yes, I am still here, and yes I know I owe you the following:

An update on the church series. I will be doing this soon. I'm in the midst of one big project consuming much of my time, and I'll be freed up from that in the next week or so.

Also, an update on my trip to Ukraine. Much good from that, and it'll even have pictures!

And, finally, an update on the script writing exercise. I finished. But. I never got back to the page to post my word count, so per Script Frenzy's Web page, I never finished. C'est la vie. At least I was able to complete the work, and that is its own satisfaction. Of course, it's a different script than I started on, and needs work, but it is complete and in less than a month.

If only I were so diligent here!

More soon -

God bless,
Ron

Friday, June 01, 2007

Disciplined Writing




Hey! The dearth of content probably makes you think I'm not very disciplined as a writer. Well, yes and no. I write a lot, just not always (or often!) on the blog.

But I do wish I was more disciplined about what/where/when I write. So, I'm taking on a challenge to help me focus, for one month, on a single writing project I've wanted to complete for a long time.

It's Script Frenzy time. From the folks who bring you National Novel Writing Month comes a way to motivate the aspiring screen-/playwrite to actually get something down on paper. Or, in bits, as it were.

You'll be able to measure my "progress" here, assuming the link works for people who aren't me.

Join the fun and we can suffer/rejoice together at the end of June.

God bless,
Ron

Monday, May 28, 2007

I'm still here...

...but life's been hectic. I PROMISE a post or two this week.

Or maybe that's more of a threat:)

I hope your Memorial Day was meaningful.

God bless,
Ron

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Time to Vote!

Okay, it's not really a presidential election season, although it's starting to feel like one. No, this is more important: it's the Blogger's Choice Awards!. Since I'm not nominated (thanks!) I feel no problem encouraging y'all to head over and vote for my favorite New Zealander, Catez from Allthings2all. You can vote for her here!

But why should you vote for Catez, you might ask? Well, in the humble opinion of your humble narrator, she has one of the most readable voices in our little sub-sphere of Christian bloggers. She's long been one of my favorites, and I think that she's well deserving of the honor. Long-story short, she does good work and is good people. So, vote as often as the rules allow.

(And feel free to poke around the site for other worthy blogs too!)

...

And yes, I know I owe you further posts on my church series. I'm getting there, I promise.

God bless,
Ron

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Mega Question

Okay, to set this up, I've had a lot on my mind of late regarding church structure and organization. Some of this is natural; I'm now an elder and need to concern myself with such things more than I did as a layperson. Some of this is more to do, though, with the general antipathy with which many Evangelicals hold the modern megachurch.

For the purposes of this discussion, I'll define a megachurch as one that draws more than 1,000 people to services on a given Sunday, although I know that other definitions exist. It'll even suffice to say "a really big church" compared to the more "average" Christian church of less than 200 attendees. (I'm hedging because I can't recall the actual average church size nowadays, but I *believe* it's actually less than 100. But don't quote me.)

Before I state my actual view on the megachurch phenomenon, I'm interested in yours. Therefore, if you would be so kind, please let me know in the comments (or via email) what you think about megachurches. Are they generally speaking a good thing or a bad thing? What does the Bible say, if anything, about the size/structure of a Willow Creek, a Saddleback or a Eagle Brook? What is the Biblically-proscribed model for churches? Let's get even more basic: what is the purpose of the church? And how can size/structure help/hinder that purpose?

I'm hoping this can be a fun discussion, because frankly I've seen this discussion be not so much fun lately. But either way, I'm interested in how this turns out.

God bless!
Ron

Monday, April 09, 2007

If a Blogswarm Was Announced but Nobody Read it...

Is a blogswarm like this effective if, say, a fairly broad-reading blogger doesn't hear about it until reading about it at KAR after the fact?

I kinda feel sorry for people who think we're actually headed for a theocracy. Not a single Christian I've ever met wants one of those. I'd think living in fear of something nobody of consequence is proposing would have to take a year or two off someone's life.

Truth be told, though, what the originating post calls out are issues about which people in a democracy (or, in our case, a democratic republic) can banter about and discuss in hopes of persuading more people to adopt one position or another. And on purely secular grounds, in many cases, although religious grounds are often used in discussions on each topic named. A country could quite easily adopt each position against which these folks are arguing and still not be a true theocracy, or vice versa. Ironic.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Techy Stuff

I'm tweaking some things on the site, and need some assistance. For some reason, I can't get the Haloscan comments to work on both the main page and the individual post's page. Therefore, I end up with two sets of comments, at times, for each post: one Haloscan, one Blogger. Ideas?

And yes, I'm sure it's something stupid I overlooked. My geek's license will soon be revoked I'm sure.

Also, thanks to Catez's blog I found some rather cool toys, like the boxes at right for my blogrolls. I think it neatens things up nicely. I also found the tracking tool for seeing how many folks are checking out the ol' NBB from her. Thanks Catez!

Go away for a while there are all sorts of new toys to add to the blog. I may add more things over the near future as I try and figure out how I want things to look. Your patience and input are much appreciated!

God bless,
Ron

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Russian in the Northern Burbs

So I'm teaching myself Russian. Interesting language, that. It doesn't conform readily to American English, or at least as readily as I'd prefer, but it sounds rather cool. Plus I'm heading to Ukraine this summer, and it'd be fun to be able to interact with folks who don't speak English well. Ironically, we're going, in part, to help teach English. It's fun watching movies like The Hunt for Red October and The Bourne Supremacy and pick out those words I've learned from the Russian dialogue. I hope to be roughly conversational by the point we leave for Ukraine. (And if any of you know good Russian resources, or interesting movies that have Russian speech, let me know!)

I'm hoping to soon order food at our local Ukrainian deli using my robust (er, passable? pathetic?) Russian skills.

I love other languages too. I was (at one point) semi-fluent in Spanish, although have not practiced it sufficiently to remain so. I find myself having to think through things much more than I used to, and have forgotten more vocabulary than I realized I ever knew. On our honeymoon, we would watch movies in the hotel, and I'd actually correct the Spanish subtitles. I don't think I could do that now, but I do love hearing Spanish.

I'd also like to learn Quenya, which sounds like a geek-goal, but - nah, who am I kidding? It is a geek goal.

(Sidebar: my wife says I'm a geek, which differs from being a nerd in that geeks get things done. I can live with that.)

Learning other languages, though, takes some effort. I'm fortunate enough to have been blessed with a bent towards all things grammar-oriented (although admittedly I break a few rules on this blog from time to time) so some concepts come to me fairly quickly. But it's still work. If all I got out of it was the momentary satisfaction of recognizing when a Russian submariner in a film says "извините" it wouldn't be worth the work. And if I just like the way it sounds, I can buy Russian music and just listen. Sometimes it doesn't seem worth the effort.

Then I read Dr. Witherington's reminder that we Christians should really be at the forefront of understanding not just those with whom we share geographic space, but those across the globe. Jesus died for all people, not just those here.

That's one of the reasons my wife traveled twice to India, to minister to the least of these. It's why I'm going to Ukraine to teach English, and to encourage children living in an orphanage. It's why I love working in a job where I interact with people from many, many cultures.

I am NOT anti-American, but I find myself wondering why I consider myself primarily an American so often. I am as patriotic as they come, but first and foremost I am a citizen of the Kingdom of God. The U.S. will one day be but a memory, while God's kingdom will remain forever.

Learning other languages and striving to understand (and relate to!) people around the globe build a discipline of thought that forces me to look outside my culture. Going on a missions trip, as Dr. Witherington recommends, is another way to build that discipline. Asking questions of, and interacting with, people from other cultures and nations in the blogosphere is another. I learn much from my non-American brothers and sisters (to cite two of many examples available) with blogs. God doesn't care which nation you're from; He wants your heart and mind and soul regardless of skin color, culture or nation. I should value nothing less. And if learning Russian helps me value another group of people more, it's an investment well spent.

God bless!
Ron

Monday, April 02, 2007

Trippin' 'Round the 'Sphere - 4/2/07 Edition

Miss a year, there's catching up to do. So, while I was out (and since I've been back):

Amy and Greg are adding to their humble family. Congratulations!

Kristin and Ryan also added to their clan. Welcome Noah!

Jeremy posted wonderful stuff on inerrancy and infallibility (read the comments too) as well as an interesting post on environmental efficiency vis a vis the primary 2000 presidential candidates. (Personally, I think it's better to promote stewardship because it's the right thing to do rather than to push global warming as "the issue." First because the spokespeople for the movement aren't exactly all credible enough to sway the skeptics. Second, it gives short-shrift to other important environmental issues. Third, if global warming becomes the equivalent of the 1970's-esque "pending ice age!" scare the environmental science community risks wolf-crying reputation in the future. If we act like we should, these things would take care of themselves. No reason to dilute the good stewardship message by staking our claims to one issue that may end up being either irreversible or non-existent. That enough speechifying?)

Mark Lee rates the final four fight songs here. I couldn't get a comment in for some reason, but I'd rank 'em OSU, Flordia, UCLA and Georgetown.

Catez did a redesign of her site. Looks good! I'm sure it'd sound good, too, what with the New Zealand accent, but...she doesn't have any sound on the blog.

I started looking for a spare $600 million.

Always the voice of the Twins for me. Rest in peace Herb.

God bless!

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Memes, Glorious Memes

Okay, I took a break and came back to...a meme in the first week!

Sheesh.

But I like this one. HT to Catez.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Back in the saddle again

For the past (nearly a) year I've been on a hiatus. I often found myself encountering things which would be great blog fodder, but just as often would talk myself out of jumping on board just then. I'd let the moment slide, and relax in the refreshing bliss that is not blogging.

But I missed it. So, I came back, and have a new sense of refreshment about writing here again. The problem is, I missed an entire election cycle, and I've blogged on the environment before, so my best material isn't quite timely.

Then again, my best material may not be worth rehashing.

So, I'll start gently. First, thanks to St. Paul et al for getting me back into the MOB so quickly. It's just kinda cool to be a MOBster. I had the shirt from last year, and wanted to wear it again.

Second, I'll avoid giving you movie reviews of all the movies on DVD I've watched of late, like The Prestige (3 of 4 whatevers - I need a rating marker. Stars and thumbs-up are too cliche), The Illusionist (2.5 of 4 whatevers - Paul Giamatti was quite good, but the ending wasn't surprising) or Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2.5 of 4 whatevers - the middle act of a trilogy wasn't satisfying at the end.) I do think this will be a wonderful summer for movies, though, which means next winter I'll have much DVD watching to do. That's the price you pay for having kids, which means double the price of movies due to babysitter fees.

I will, though, let you know some of the things that happened over the past year. First, I changed jobs. I'm still a project manager in the IT realm, but now for a different company in a different industry. For reasons I won't say which firm, or which industry. Plus, I don't really blog about work, so it's of no mind.

I also was elected to be an elder at my church. Humbling, that, and tough. I have a whole new appreciation for the position. Editorial aside: please pray for your church's leaders. They need it.

My wife went to India for another visit to minister to the Dalits again. And I am planning a short-term mission trip to the Ukraine this summer. The biggest downside to that is missing two weeks of softball, but that's probably not the best reason for skipping the opportunity God set before me.

I'd say more, but Blogger2 is mis-formatting all my links and causing much re-work. My laziness, and need to get the girls all storied up for bedtime, mean I need to call it a night. Suffice it to say, I'm glad to be back. And sometime soon I promise to be more interesting:)

God bless,
Ron

Monday, March 26, 2007

I wanna be, I wanna be like Mike...

Okay, it's official. I'll be blogging again. The retirement was short lived. I found I missed this little hobby/outlet/catharsis and decided I'll give it a go once more. There will be some changes, though, as (a) I don't like the blogger template, and (b) I'm not sure if I like Blogger enough to stick with it long-term. We'll see. But, expect at the very least some changes to the look/feel of the blog in the next month or so. As well as semi-regular posting as I attempt to work myself back into a schedule.

Now...to see if people actually notice and come back:)

God bless,
Ron

Friday, March 23, 2007

This is a test.

I'm seeing if anyone still comes here...not saying there might not be an announcement in the near future about a Jordan-esque un-retirement. I'll just leave you in suspense and see what happens:)

If you stop by...say hi in the comments.