Saturday, April 30, 2005

Veiled Egyptian Women Shoot Up Cairo Tourist Bus & Then Shoot Themselves

In Cairo today, two veiled women shot at a tourist bus and missed everyone. As nearby security personnel closed in one of the women shot and killed the other and then shot and wounded herself. You can read the story here.

The article does not explain the women's motivation for their attack. To help fill in that missing detail, I have written a dialogue between the women, speculating on what they might have been thinking about.

Note: This is not intended as an insult to Islam or to Muslims. It is, however, intended as an insult to those who support or who participate in terrorism.
Woman #1: Well, today's the day we glorify Allah and show the infidels what we think of their.....uh.....what is it that we think?

Woman #2: We show the infidels what we think about their....their infidelity! You idiot!

Woman #1: Oh, yes. Sorry. I guess I'm just a little nervous.

Woman #2: Nervous? About what? Oh, I see. You're nervous about shooting and killing innocent people on a tourist bus this morning? What's the big deal? There are probably mostly women and children on the bus. What are they going to do, shoot back at you or something?

#1: Well, no. You drew the long straw so you get to do that for them, right?

#2: Right. So what do you have to be nervous about?

#1: Nothing, I guess. I feel like such a wimp.

#2: We are not wimps! Our husbands have commanded us to do this so we're going to do it. Is that a problem for you?

#1: Well, I suppose that being chosen for this honor is a real testimony to the love and passion my husband has for me. I've never really been so honored in my a woman, I mean.

#2: That's more like it. After all, you've been practicing your shooting skills for almost a week. I bet you've hit that target with Britney Spear's picture on it more times than anyone else! And Richard Gere? Right between the eyes!

#1: Yes, I know. But I thought he was on our side?

#2: No. He's an infidel trying to be a different infidel while pretending to be a friend of folks like us. What a joke. As if one infidel is any better than another! Besides, the odds are that he won't be on that bus today anyway.

#1: But, now that you mention it, what if their are Muslims on the bus. They aren't infidels, so why should we be shooting at them?

#2: Because we will be sending those false believers who make their living by sucking up to those imperialist, fascist mothers of occupiers straight to hell where they belong. In any case, if we kill a good Muslim by mistake, we are doing them a favor by making them a martyr for jihad. And, when they get their 27 virgins in heaven, they will be very grateful to us.

#1: Let me get this straight. If a good Muslim man is martyred for jihad, he goes straight to paradise and receives 27 virgins as a reward. Right?

#2: Right.

#1: When we, who are good Muslim women, are martyred for jihad, we go straight bo paradise and receive what?

#2: We each get to be one of those 27 virgins, of course!

#1: But I'm not a virgin....and neither are you!

#2: I know it doesn't make a shred of sense, but my husband told me that that's what the Imam said in his sermon last Friday so it must be true.

#1: But I've read the Holy Koran over and over again and I have never seen anything about blessings for women in paradise. How does the Imam know this?

#2: Just hush your mouth and don't go bad-mouthing the Imam or the Prophet (blessed be his name). We must be simple, faithful women and do what we can to defend Islam against the infidel invaders.

#1: But.....

#2: Why don't you just......! Oh, alright, speak your peace and be done with it.

#1: But is this what all Muslims think? I mean, is what we are going to do have the blessing of all Muslims everywhere? Or are we just being set up by some radical fringe Muslim sect?

#2: Maybe yes, maybe no. It doesn't really matter, now, does it? There are no divisions in Islam. We are all one faith and one people. There is unity in our faith and, like all true sisters and brothers, we will stand up for each other at all times as a matter of family honor and pride. ......except for those creepy Shi'ites, of course.....and those Sufis.....and all those other non-Wahabbi's who follow the false paths of Islam.

#1: But that's nearly 95% of the world's Muslims!

#2: Yes, and that just makes our responsibility that much greater.

#1: Thanks, I feel a lot better now. By the way, could I ask you a favor?

#2: Sure. Go ahead.

#1: After we shoot up the bus and it's time for you to kill me, would you pretend that I'm Barry Manilow? Down at the target range, you've never missed him yet!

Christian Faith, Judicial Court Appointments & Janice Rogers Brown

Image hosted by Photobucket.comIn recent months many liberal Democrats have begun to disparage those who profess the Christian faith (especially Roman Catholics) and who affirm that their faith shapes their politics and world-view. It has been claimed, for example, that if a person's personal faith leads them to believe unlimited abortion is morally wrong, they should be disqualified from serving as a Federal judge. National Christian leaders who have spoken out publicly on these matters have been called "anti-Christ" "un-Christian" "fascist" and "far right-wing fundamentalists" seeking to impose a "theocracy" or (a new term to me) "Dominionists."

This rhetoric has been hard to reconcile with the fact that over half of all Americans attend a house of worship each month and that 90% of Americans believe in God most of whom are Christians. When offered the chance to vote on social issues, state voters have, for example, averaged nearly 70% against the legalization of "same-sex marriage." Similar high percentages of Americans polled consistently oppose unrestricted access to abortion at any stage of pregnancy or for any reason.

One of the Federal Circuit Court nominees receiving the most brazen opposition and explicit discrimination based on her faith is California Supreme Court Judge Janice Rogers Brown. Her legal qualifications are impeccable and, even in notoriously liberal California, voters recently returned her to her State Supreme Court position by a whopping 76% of the vote (contrast this with Bush's 45%). Democratic opposition to her appointment has centered almost exclusively on her being a Roman Catholic who actually takes her faith seriously. (Didn't this issue get taken care of with Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kennedy back in 1960?)

Perhaps the issue would be simpler if Judge Brown were not also African-American. This, of course, poses yet another threat to the Democrat's illusory mantra that minorities are oppressed, weak and desperately clinging to the Democratic Party to save them.....from who? People like Judge Janice Brown?

Despite having her nomination filibustered for months and months, Judge Brown has refused to either back down or to dodge the issue of her faith. In a recent speech she blasted those who suggest that a person's Christian faith should cast a pall upon their qualifications for public service as a Judge or in any other area.

Captain Ed at Captain's Quarters provides a good recap and analysis of Judge Brown's comments. Everyone who, as a (conservative) Christian, has been offended for being categorized as an "out-of-the-mainstream extreme right wing religious nut job" or similar implied bigoted comment from the Democratic leadership in the US Senate, should read this post and be very, very grateful for people like Judge Janice Rogers Brown.

Other posts on Janice Brown and/or anti-Christian comments from Democrats can be found here, here, here, here and here.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Mice With Human Brains? Stuart Little Could Become a Reality Show!

Image hosted by Photobucket.comResearchers, working within ethical guidelines established by the National Academies, have begun mixing human liver, blood and brain cells with those of lower animals. Pigs have been created that have human blood, and some experimental sheep in Nevada have livers that are part human.

Of particular interest are mice which, at an early stage of development, have had human brain cells injected into their own brains.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comMany scientists have discovered that their own fantasies about what might come from such research are so frightening that they serve as an independent check on what they will allow themselves to do.

According to a CNN on-line report,

Particularly worrisome to some scientists are the nightmare scenarios that could arise from the mixing of brain cells: What if a human mind somehow got trapped inside a sheep's head?

This past January, an unofficial ethics committee supported a proposal to create mice with brains nearly completely composed of human brain cells.

Stanford law professor Hank Greely, who chaired the ethics committee, said the board was satisfied that the size and shape of the mouse brain would prevent the human cells from creating any traits of humanity.
Could there actually come a time in the future when we could encounter a real, honest-to-goodness Stuart Little? Not if they have anything to do with it, says Greely,

Just in case, he said, the committee recommended closely monitoring the mice's behavior and immediately killing any that display human-like behavior.
"Human-like behavior?" Like walking on two legs? Eating with a knife and fork?
Image hosted by Photobucket.comWould such a mouse be morally responsible for the choices it makes and for their consequences? Could it develop delusions of grandeur?

Is it possible that the mouse could experience self-awareness? An awareness of God?...Like those childrens' stories which have mice kneeling at the manger in praise and worship of the new-born baby Jesus in the Bethlehem stable?

Are human beings, which the Bible says were created in the "image of God," now on the verge of creating animals in the "image of Man?"

Personally, I am well aware of both the potential benefits and the potential horrors which could result from this, and other, forms of genetic research and development. But his should not be surprising. Every human creation has, from the beginning, resulted in a mixed blessing. The work of our hands has always brought both blessings and cursings upon us.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comWhile I am not against this sort of research per se, I do sense the presence of some of the same motivations that (Biblically) brought about the Fall of Satan, the Sin of Adam (& Eve), the Great Flood and the Tower of Babel: namely, our desire to become like God...immortal and omnipotent.

Any endeavor spawned by such motives will inevitably turn out badly. Although God will not long tolerate such arrogance, such has, in the past, been tolerated long enough for those who have sown the wind to, in the end, reap the whirlwind.

When mice begin to display "human-like behavior" it will, sad to say, become necessary to kill them.

Hmmmm......I seem to remember that when Jesus began to display true and authentic "human-like behavior" (the first time such behavior had been seen since "The Fall") those in charge of things decided that it had, sad to say, become necessary to kill him, too!

CBS On the Prowl for New Evening News Anchor

Image hosted by Photobucket.comWith Dan Rather enjoying early retirement, CBS continues to ponder how to repackage their news programming in a way that will help them rise up from the non-cable news cellar. The man or woman they choose as chief anchor and news director will play a major role in whether the new news format will succeed or fail.
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Tonight, Hugh Hewitt has challenged the blogosphere to suggest names of people who might be a good pick to represent the new-and-hopefully-improved public image of CBS News.

After reading Hugh's request my thoughts moved as follows:

1. CBS's major problem is integrity and trust. Until that is restored it doesn't matter what sort of bells and whistles they produce.

2. Integrity and trust must be restored immediately by someone already regarded as established and reliable. This would rule out a young, up-and-coming man or woman who, over a span of years might create such trust but would not generate any buzz or confidence at the outset.

3. The person must be immediately recognizable by a large number of Americans, both within and outside of the corridors of power.

4. The person must have well-established and respected relationships with both political leaders and the world news media, including press, radio and television.

5. It should not particularly matter whether the person's personal biases are considered to be "liberal," "conservative," "middle-of-the-road" or "neutral" so long as the personal bias is open and honest, the person is not considered "radical" and does not come with a track record of having had active leadership in a major partisan political campaign or is strongly associated with public service to one particular political party.

6. The person's primary character values must demonstrably be known and shown to include "fairness."

7. While personal experience in the area of "blogging" would not be necessary, a healthy respect and understanding of the dynamics and culture of the growing assimilation, digestion, regurgitation, repackaging and dissemination of news and information on the internet would be both vital and mandatory.

8. As mentioned above, the immediate need for CBS is to regain its reputation for integrity, trustworthiness and fairness. An older, experienced person could bring that image back quickly without necessarily remaining in that role forever. As soon as the reputation of the network has been redeemed that person could then step down, either completely or into the "special reporter" or "commentator" role, allowing one or more newer faces to enter the position and carry the momentum along for possibly an entire generation of new viewers.

9. Curiously, there are a number of good people who could fit this description quite well. But the one that immediately popped into my mind is the one I will run with.

I propose that CBS contract and sign Bob Woodward from the Washington Post, to serve as CBS News Director and Evening News Anchor during this period of rebuilding and restructuring.
Image hosted by Bob Woodward has a proven record of keeping up with the cultural and technological trends of the day so would be able to endorse and understand the necessary innovations that CBS will have to consider to be a cutting edge news source once again.

Bob Woodward, despite having a clear liberal bias, is widely viewed to be "fair" by a broad spectrum of political leaders on both sides of the aisle.

Although not necessarily the most reliable source on the web, Wikipedia's article on Bob Woodward does offer this interesting, insightful and relevant paragraph:

Woodward is widely regarded as one of the top reporters of the last half-century, and has earned trust and accolades from government officials and journalists of all political persuasions. In 2003, Al Hunt of The Wall Street Journal called Woodward "the most celebrated journalist of our age." The Weekly Standard called him "the best pure reporter of his generation, perhaps ever." And in 2004 Bob Schieffer of CBS News said "Woodward has established himself as the best reporter of our time. He may be the best reporter of all time."
Woodward presents a confident, photogenic on-screen image and is well-spoken both in prepared presentations as well as in impromptu conversation. He is also known to seek out the hard, central truth of a story without bending or twisting the results to conform to some predetermined reality.

I could go on with many other positive points but will assert some self-control and stop. While there are also many negatives (the largest of which is his personal inseparability from the Watergate matter) I cannot imagine another journalist of his caliber who could accomplish the goals I have listed above.

In any case, I sincerely hope and pray that CBS chooses well. The more honest, fair and balanced news sources we have, the better off we will be.

Bizarre 3rd Grade Needle-Sticking Story Doesn't Make Sense

A CNN story about a 3rd grade girl in Pennsylvania sticking 19 students with her mother's diabetes blood-testing needle "this week" is riddled with contradicions.

Issue I: The article says she stuck students during breakfast, at lunch and in the classroom. That would appear to be over a 3 to 4-hour period of time. Didn't anyone say, "Outch" and tell a teacher or adult staff? If so, why didn't the school confront the girl immediately?

Issue II: The article says that one of the students "stuck" subequently tested positive for HIV. This raises several problems:
Problem #1: According to Wikopedia, "The window period is the time from infection until a test can detect any change. The average window period with antibody tests is 22 days. Antigen testing cuts the window period to approximately 16 days and NAT further reduces this period to 12 days. (FDA 2001)" Yet, accordiing to the article, this test resulted in a "positive" within a matter of days?

Problem #2: "Health officials said the virus could not have been contracted from the needle stick." Yet, further down in the same article, "According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the risk of HIV infection after a needle stick is low, with an average of one in 300 cases leading to infection."

Which is it? Impossible? or Unlikely? or just Unlucky? If I was the parent of the infected child the difference between "impossible" and "maybe" would make a very big difference.

Problem #3: Has anyone considered the possibility that the child who tested positive for HIV already had the infection before being stuck? If so, whoever was stuck with the needle after them would be at a much higher risk, no?

Problem #4: Is the diabetic mother who owned the needle HIV positive? Was she tested? Is her right to "privacy" trumped by the health implications for the children? Is this a legal matter of concern? It is certainly a medical and a moral matter.
Issue III: According to the article, the girld "was suspended and will probably be moved to another school," said Paul Vallas, the school district's chief executive. Huh? Moved to another school? Whatever happened with the concept of being expelled? Would I want my child sitting next to this girl in class or in the lunchroom for the next 3 or 4 years of elementary school? Is the school district requiring psychological testing? Is their criminal or civil liability with the girl's mother? Is there a police investigation taking place?

Conclusion A: My uninformed hope is that this is simply a matter of very, very poor news writing and that the matter is presently in the hands for good people making good decisions, etc.

Conclusion B: My even greater hope is that this whole story, which reads like an urban legend, is a complete fabrication.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Pentagon to Release Military Casket Photos

Image hosted by Photobucket.comAfter nearly two years of wrangling over the public release of Pentagon photos of slain American soldiers' remains being returned to the United States in flag-draped caskets, the government has at last (under the possible threat of an impending court order), to release over 300 of the pictures.

To this I say, "Amen!" Let the press and the wackos do whatever they want with these pictures. Mainstream and otherwise sane Americans will view them with a mixture of pride and sorrow. Our military treats its fallen soldiers with the respect due to heroes who who have laid down their lives for their country and for the higher aspirations of other countries abroad.

Let their stories be told. From beginning to end. They would not be embarrassed or ashamed for their sacrifice to be seen. These pictures will not increase the grief of their families.

We are a nation that both exists and thrives and prospers in the full light of truth. Anyone who uses these photos in a dishonorable manner will reap the whirlwind of public opinion.

For those who have returned home, leaving their life-blood behind in the sand and clay of foreign soil, "Thank you."

President Bush Speaks on Energy & Social Security

I enjoyed listening to Dubya take on the press this evening. He seems to almost enjoy the opportunity to speak straight out what he thinks and answer the tough and often "gotcha" style questions.

My three responses:

Energy: Didn't Jimmy Carter, or Gerald Ford, or Ronald Reagan, or somebody present these same ideas before? Where's the beef?

Social Security: Although I was born in 1951 and will fall into the "New and Improved" Social Security proposal; and although it sounds like I may lose some of my anticipated retirement benefits in order to shore up the greater needs of the lower-income retirees; in spite of all this, I think I like what the President says. It's really a tax increase in disguise, especially for the higher wage earners, since their contributions stay the same but their benefits are reduced. But, nonetheless, I like the private account idea. Bush talks as if he believes that the American people are smart enough to make decisions about such things. The Democrats talk as though the American people (or at least the poor and minority ones) are not smart or reliable enough to be entrusted with their own if "Big Brother will all the thinking for you!" I think Bush is right, that most Americans are smart enough to like his idea....and that most Americans are far more intelligent than the Democrats would like to think!

Bonus: When "Hutch" asked the final question of the press conference, in referring to the proposed lowering of Social Security income returns for wealthy retirees, he added, "like Dick Cheney."

Without a blink, Bush immediately shot back, "Now let's not get personal, here. That was a cheap shot!"

Undoubtedly many of the more radical Democrats felt that Bush & Cheney got "nailed" with that remark, virtually everyone else in the nation will probably agree with Bush that the comment was tacky, inappropriate and mean spirited. I believe that the President hit a home run with his quick retort.

Darwin's Theory of Evolution Proved! New (sort of) Species of Ivory-Billed Woodpecker Appears

Darwin's theory of macro-evolution has long been attacked and rejected by fundamentalist Christians and even a few scientists with, at least on paper, brains.

This week, however, the argument that there is absolutely not one shred of physical evidence that illustrates this theory conclusively has at last been put to rest. The evidence was recently discovered in an isolated back-country forest in Arkansas.
Image hosted by Photobucket.comIt seems that, after 60 years of extinction, the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker has re-created itself, either from nothing or as a genetic mutation of (perhaps) the smaller Pilated Woodpecker. So, it seems that Darwin was right all along and the young-earth creationists and Intelligent-Design folks will have to throw in their towels, burn their Bibles and scrape those fish things off or their know, the big fish with "Jesus" or "IXTHUS" on the side and wide-open mouths about to gobble up the little fish with the tiny legs poking out underneath.

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Of course it is inevitable that some right-wing-fundamentalist-religious-wing-nut will try to push some absurd theory that the scientists were wrong all along and that the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker was never extinct to begin with! Do these people think that Darwinists are just a bunch of idiots? Everybody who's anybody knows that the most self-evident explaination is never the real one! That would be too simple and obvious, not to mention possibly putting many Darwinists out of a job.
Image hosted by Photobucket.comIn any case, Darwinists would much rather shave with a sharpened piece of flint than to use that old-fashioned Occam's Razor!

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

BBC Creates Comically Creative "Come-On" for Car Column

BBC, in one of the most understated "teaser" headlines in history, promotes the story of a luxury auto show in China with these words:
Far beyond reach
Ordinary Chinese cannot afford the cars on show in Shanghai
Take a look at the story here. Ordinary people anywhere (including yours truly) cannot afford these cars!

Zimbabwe Elected to UN Human Rights Commission (Really!)

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Under the objections of the United States, Canada and Australia, Zimbabwe was elected as a new member of the United Nations Human Rights Commission.

According to BBC News, the U.S. representative, "accused Zimbabwe of maintaining repressive controls on political assembly and the media.
He asked how they could expect Zimbabwe to support international human rights at the commission while it disregarded the rights of its own people."

Not only has Zimbabwe violated "human rights" but Mugabe has allowed his cronies to seize "white-owned" wildlife parks and sanctuaries, including the world-famous "Sikumi Tree Lodge."

The lodge was once a showpiece of eco-tourism and was where the Queen had lunch during the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in 1991. Now it plays host to those willing to pay to shoot rare game.

Back at the UN, Zimbabwe's ambassador to the UN, Boniface Chidyausiku, said that when it came to human rights no country was beyond reproach.

Perhaps so, Mr. Ambassador. But some, including you, live in more fragile glass houses than the rest of us. Clear out the beam in your own eye, Mr. Chidyausiku, before you start pointing out the specks in everyone else's.

Police Shoot Dead Man Who Held Son Hostage

Yes, the headline above is correct: " Police Shoot Dead Man Who Held Son Hostage." At least that's what the news teaser said today on FoxNews online. I actually looked up the story, wondering, 1. How a dead man could hold his son hostage?; and, 2. Why the police had to shoot him if he was already dead?

Either one of FoxNews' copy editors has a sense of humor or else he/she needs to be sent back for a course in remedial English. One can only hope that it is the former. Either way, he/she made me smile!

Missing 12-Year Old Florida Girl Found Alive In South Carolina

Margarita Aguilar-Lopez, missing since Monday night from a motel in Bradenton, Florida, was spotted in a WalMart in Easley, South Carolina. The man suspected of abducting her, Antonio Paulino-Perez, was with her and was arrested by police.

The FoxNews article can be found here. My post on her disappearance can be found here.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Mein Gott! The Toads are Exploding!

Image hosted by Photobucket.comAccording to BBC News,

Toads in an area of northern Germany are being killed off by a mysterious disease - they are exploding.

Thousands of the amphibians have died in recent days in a pond in Hamburg's Altona district, with their bodies swelling to bursting point. The toads' entrails are propelled for up to a metre (3.2ft), in scenes that have been likened to science fiction.

Scientists are baffled.
Besides being outrageously bizarre and, at least in the cartoon-like images flitting about in my imagination, hilariously funny, this story provides one other happy thought....For some reason I am absolutely delighted to read those three words, "Scientists are baffled." I find them strangly comforting, somehow. Hmmm........


British Open Cracks Door for Hawaii Golfer Michelle Wie

Image hosted by Michelle Wie, our own favorite 15-year old golfer from Hawaii, has entered the men's pro golf tour's John Deere Open. According to a new rule, the highest placing player not presently eligible for the British Open in July will invited to play in that auldest Major of all.

This means, of course, that should Michelle actually accomplish this feat, she would become the first woman golfer to ever play in the British Open....or any of the Major golf tournaments, for that matter.

Personally, if a woman is able to compete with a man on their own terms I believe that it would be wrong to deny them that opportunity. Women, being the "weaker sex" would, of course, only invite male atheletes 60 years old and older to enter their events.

It is virtually impossible for Michelle to reach her goal this year. But even so, the very fact that the world press is talking about it shows just how much of an impact this talented, amateur Oahu teen has already made in the world of pro sports.

Good luck to ye, lassie!

Janet Quijano Update

Image hosted by Photobucket.comPolice investigators in Nashville, Kentucky, are no longer calling Janet Quijano's disappearance last week a kidnapping. Although they believe she willingly went with the men who took her the Amber Alert continues and her parents continue to worry for her safety and still believe she was taken without her consent.

The man responsible for taking her is known to the family only by his first name. But what they do know about him has them very concerned.

Today is the first time I have located a good photograph of Janet. I gathered this information and picture from the WKRN-TV webpage here which has even more details.

Another Amber Alert In Florida--12-Year Old Margarita Aguilar-Lopez Reported Missing

UPDATE 4/27: Margarita found today in South Carolina. Story here.
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......Margarita Aguilar-Lopez.. ........Antonio Paulino-Perez

A 12-year old Mexican girl was reported missing after disappearing from a motel room in Bradenton, Florida, last night. Margarita Aguilar-Lopez, along with two other children, was left in the care of 25-year old Antonio Paulino-Perez, a man she had never met before. Magarita had been with two brothers (one of whom was the father of the other two children) who left her with Paulino-Perez while they went out drinking.

When they returned to the motel both Paulino-Perez and Magarita were gone. Police soon arrived, in response to a report of battery against the two brothers. Later, the brothers said that they did not report the girl missing at that time because, according to a police statement, they "were too intoxicated and could not remember."

The problem we’re having at this point is they are not U.S. citizens,” Bradenton Police Major Jeff Lewis said. “We’re having a difficult time in locating these people … He may be trying to return to Mexico with the 12-year-old.”

More details and descriptions of Margarita and her alleged abductor can be found here.

As always, prayers are needed....assisted by a quick police response and community support.

Healing Prayer: The Miracle & Mystery

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Two Sunday's ago, following worship, 15 or so church members and Elders gathered with me in my office to lay hands on and pray for two young women in our congregation.

One woman, the mother of two small children, had had a small cancerous abdominal tumor removed a year ago and, at her first-anniversary check-up, a second, new lump had been discovered. Surgery to remove the as-yet undiagnosed lump was scheduled for the following morning. She is a new Christian, having studied and prayed about her faith for some years. I had the privilege of baptizing her several months ago.

The other woman had been suffering from terrible headaches and, in recent weeks, her left eye had begun to be visibly pushed forward from behind. A CAT scan had detected what appeared to be a fairly large tumor behind that eye, located in a place difficult to access for either surgery or biopsy. A MRI (Magnetic Resonant Imaging) test had been scheduled for the following Thursday to help determine a more precise measurement and analysis of whatever it was that had appeared in the CAT scan. This woman, too, is a Christian, although of an uncertain and searching faith.

In any case, the prayer was intense for each of these women. No one spoke in tongues nor were there any other dramatic manifestations of the Holy Spirit, simply profound prayers for healing, offered to God in faith.

And what, you might ask, was the outcome of these prayers? The answer to that question lands somewhere between puzzlement and wonder.

During surgery the following morning the surgeon discovered that the cancer had not only recurred but had spread throughout a large area of her abdomen. The two-hour surgery that was planned stretched into a seven-hour surgery as the doctor attempted to remove as much of the malignancy as possible.

After she heals from the surgery she will be undergoing an extensive regimen of chemotherapy. Her faith and trust in God, however, remains strong. She radiates joy and is searching for ways in which "God can work for good" in this situation that she, herself, described to me as "tragic." A description that I completely agreed with.

On Thursday, the second woman had her MRI. On Friday I spoke with her and she explained how the experience had helped her reprioritize her life. So much that she had taken for granted had suddenly become central and precious to her. Although she did not yet know the results of her test she said she was at peace with whatever would be found. Her trust in God's love and her faith in his goodness had been profoundly reaffirmed in her heart. She even spoke of her desire to offer a testimony of her experience during worship some Sunday.

In any case, she received a phone call on Friday night giving her the results of her MRI test. She did not, however, tell anyone else the results until she phoned one of our Elders who had accompanied her when she had the test. To put it simply, the MRI could not locate any evidence of a tumor at all. None. Zip. A dye had been injected to heighten whatever image that might have existed. Even a small cyst filled with water would have shown up clearly. But there was nothing there. Whatever had been pushing on her eye, whatever had been causing those headaches, whatever had been clearly seen on the CAT scan.....was gone.

Prayer is, for me, the greatest mystery of my Christian faith.

I can handle the Trinity, the incarnation, the atonement and even the Genesis creation stories without losing much sleep. But prayer.......prayer is another thing altogether. How it "works?" Why God asks it from us? Why or why not it makes a difference? I don't really know. Scripture gives many helpful hints and tips on prayer. But, more important, scripture tells us that prayer, when offered in faith in a manner consistent with the will of God, can unleash a power that.....that......well.....according to Jesus, can move mountains!

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Two Sundays ago we prayed identical, passionate prayers of faith for two women who we love equally. For one, the mountain was lifted up and cast into the sea. A mystery of healing and prayer answered just as it was asked.

For the other, it was as if the mountain had been lifted up only to fall heavily upon her, crushing her under its unfathomable weight. A mystery of prayer asked, but unanswered. At least not answered according to our impassioned pleas.

This is not the first time I have participated in healing prayer that resulted in what, by all objective evidence, can honestly be described as a miracle.

Strangely enough, however, it is not the answered prayers, the miracles of healing that surprise me. In a spiritual sense, such results seem almost normative to me....the way it is supposed to be. Although I rejoice and stand before the Lord in complete humility and awe, I do not find myself puzzling over the miracle.

The unanswered prayer, however, leaves me pondering an even greater mystery than the answered prayer. For in the unanswered prayer will come suffering, pain and, quite possibly, death.

To find meaning and purpose in life is not a great challenge to most of us. But to find meaning and purpose in suffering, pain and death is quite another matter. I am led to sit at the feet of Job. I am led to stand at the foot of the cross where I watch the suffering, pain and death of the eternal Son of God, fully and inseparably incarnate in the person of Jesus Christ who is my Lord and the Savior of the world.

In the suffering, pain and death of Jesus, however, I can discern something unique and very surprising. I discern, in that bleak darkness, the un-snuffed light of hope. The light of life that will rise again and never be challenged by darkness again. Ever.

For Jesus died. And Jesus rose from the dead.

Jesus was dead. Yet now he is alive forevermore!

In the healing, God is praised.

In the suffering, God is found.

It is a wonder....and a puzzlement.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Osteoarthritis & Heberden's Nodes

No, I do not have sinus congestion (as in, "I hab a code in my nodes"). But I do have nodes. The kind that come with arthritic fingers.

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Mrs. Heberden
When such swelling appears on the mid-finger joint (commonly called the "proximal interphalangeal" joint, or "PID") it is called rheumatoid arthritis and, when the joint swells, the swellings are called "Bouchard's Nodes."

When such swelling appears on the terminal finger joint (commonly called the "distal interphalangeal" joint, or "DIP") it is called osteoarthritis and, when the joint swells, the swellings are called "Heberden's Nodes." That's the kind that I have on my two index fingers.

I have had such a node on my right hand index finger for well over 20 years. At times it aches and pains miserably. Although I have had tenderness and pain in my left hand index finger for over five years, the node more or less "erupted" in great swelling (and real hurting!) while attending a local Christian Conference in Honolulu earlier this month.

Tonight, having nothing better to do, I did a little internet research and discovered, as mentioned above, that these swellings actually have nodal names! And don't you find it strange that arthritis in the top joint of a finger is called osteoarthritis while arthritis in the the middle joint of a finger is called rheumatoid arthritis? Why the difference?

You can read a really good, simple explaination of this at the Van Denmark Orthopedic info site here. That's where I got the info.

By the way, have you heard this one?

Person #1: Today I met a man with a wooden leg named Smith.

Person #2: Oh, really? What was the name of his other leg?

I think I shall call my two nodes Mr. & Mrs. Heberden from now on!

(And don't even think about me having these nodes in my nodes!)

Peruvian Model Changes Her Mind: Refuses to Sell Her Virginity for $1.5 Million

According to BBC News, an 18-year old girl living in the dusty outskirts of Lima, Peru, recently stunned the country by putting her virginity up for sale to the highest bidder.
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Gracia-No Longer for Sale

Gracia (last name not available) earns $60 (US) or so each month from modelling and acting but says that it is not enough to support her ailing mother and younger brother.

Her innovative idea to raise money caused many critics to declare her to be nothing less than a prostitute. Others, however, expressed admiration for her creativity and good sense to get something from what most girls "give away for free" to their boyfriends in public parks after dark.

According to Gracia, a Canadian man offered her $1.5 million because, "He said he'd prefer I didn't do it, but if I was going to do it with anyone, it should be with someone who treated me right and I think he knew his bid wasn't going to be topped.

"He was really happy when I said No."

Now that Gracia has changed her mind some are calling the whole thing a publicity stunt.

Gracia, however, expresses disappointment on the lack of compassion her desparate offer generated.

"They don't bother asking what's going on in my life, what I am like and what has forced me to take this decision. They only judge me and point their fingers at me.

"I came out and said publicly what my situation was and nobody, nobody has been capable of saying, thank you, I'll help you with something," she said.

"And there are people who have loads of money, loads of jobs."

I remember American Christian teacher/writer Tony Campolo describing the time in Haiti when he ran into a 10-year old girl on the street selling her body for money. Campolo took her up to his hotel room, ordered ice cream and spent the afternoon watching Disney cartoons with her on the television.

Campolo still wonders if that might have been the first time that girl had ever been treated as someone special for her own sake rather than for what she could offer to someone else.

While Gracia's offer and subsequent retraction might provide the plot for a good movie (sort of a mirror image of "Indecent Proposal") it also served to publically expose the plight of hundreds of thousands of Peru's poor.

If I was part of a charitable organization in Lima attempting ease the burden of poverty, I think I would stop by Gracia's place and invite her out for a cup of coffee. Then I would offer her a job as a spokesperson for others who consider themselves fortunate to survive just one day at a time.

Gracia could then become a positive "model" for others, showing that choosing personal moral integrity (in a manner reminiscent of the biblical Ruth) can help lead even the poorest girl away from the shackles of poverty; from despair to hope; from hope to freedom.

This story has touched me deeply. Perhaps it's because my daughter #2 is just about the same age. Perhaps because, as Gracia says, there are plenty of people around with plenty of money. Perhaps it's because far too many of those people love their money more than they love people like Gracia. Or perhaps it's because those rich people look a lot like me.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

"It's Time" for Pope Benedict XVI

First, here is a photograph taken when the newly-elected Pope Benedict XVI made his first balcony appearance to the gathered people in St. Peter's Square.
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Second, here is the photo that appeared on the front page of the Honolulu Advertiser this morning (scanned)
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Can you see what caught my eye in both pictures? This.... !
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It looks to me like a watch. It is not a digital watch but the old-fashioned kind with the watch hands twirling about that I prefer to wear myself. If anyone can identify the brand please leave me a comment!

My question is, "Why does the Pope need a watch?" Is he going to cut short his comments if the Sunday homily is going overtime? Will he ever need to leave a committee meeting early to get to a doctor appointment on time? Does he have to keep track of time so he will remember that it's time to feed the dog? or take the car down to the shop for a tune-up? What's with the watch?

Isn't his day laid out minute by minute for him by his personal secretaries? Don't others tell him when to stand up and sit down and when to say "Amen?"

What does it say to someone who, having waited for many days to have an audience with the Pope, sees him glance at his watch just as they approach him for a blessing and exchange of greetings?

I always have read that Rome was the "timeless city." Apparently Pope Benedict XVI doesn't see it that way.

For some reason, with all the elegant trappings of the papacy wrapped around him with the same sort of care that goes into dressing up one of the Swiss Guards, the watch seems somehow out of place.
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Especially when his hands are raised in front of his face as he give a sign of greeting or of blessing.

Even as a Presbyterian pastor I have always associated the Pope as being a sort of eternity personified, the representative of the Roman Church as a bearer and caretaker of the eternal Gospel, a sort of Beginning and End all wrapped up together, a reflection, so to speak, of the Alpha and Omega.

The watch, on the other hand, symbolizes mortality, the sand flowing inexorably downward through the timer.

Perhaps the new Pope already is aware of this and sees this as a reminder that he, too, is human just like the rest of us. Amidst the power and the glory, that watch looks to me like a small nod to humility and to the transitory nature of temporal wealth and power. In that sense I suppose that it serves a greater purpose than simply reminding Benedict XVI that it is time to take his blood pressure medication.
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Now, all I need to figure out is why Queen Elizabeth needs to carry around a purse? And what in the world does she keep in it?

Oh! It just came to me! I bet the Pope wears this kind of watch! It would make sense, yes?

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Saturday, April 23, 2005

Sara Lunde Buried Today

Note: An earlier post on Sara can be found here. Please leave a comment. I would like to know how you have been touched by Sara's death. Thank you, BofP

A church funeral service drew 100 mourners for Sara Lunde in Ruskin, Kentucky, today. According to FoxNews the Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ was filled with friends, family, law enforcement officials and the father of Jessica Lunsford who suffered a similar fate at the murderous hands of a convicted sex offended less than two months ago.

Sara was buried later in the afternoon at a local cemetary.

Her Uncle is quoted as saying, "Sara is certainly in a much better place now."

Personally, I share that belief. But I doubt that Sara was eager to leave this world for that "better place" so soon.

It seems somehow trite and empty to try and find comfort in a sentiment that, loosly translated, could mean, "Her torturous and murderous death was all for the best."

The Apostle Paul, faced with the possiblity of martyrdom, once wrote, "I desire to depart (die) and be with Christ which is better by far..." But Paul was an adult, facing the consequences of his own freely-chosen beliefs and actions. He had set his priorities in life and was willing to live and, if necessary, die for them. His eyes and his heart were fixed on Christ and his heavenly kingdom. The world had worn him down.....his body was tired.....his body chained to the stone wall of a jail cell. Death would mean not only victory but rest from his weariness. He would have finished the race set before him and he would receive the crown of life.

Sara's death was not the consequence of her freely-chosen faith or actions. Her life was just beginning, not nearing an apparent end. She had not yet set her priorities for life or for death. Her heart, while seeking to know and serve Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior, was not yet yearning to cash in her salvation for a seat at table in the Kingdom of God.

Her life was not poured out; it was not given; it was taken.

While I am glad to know the truth of the Gospel, the saving love of God in Jesus Christ and the sure and certain hope for resurrection to eternal life, I would much prefer to have Sara back with her family and friends in Kentucky.

But maybe I'm just being selfish. Maybe I am still in shock and denial of this tragedy.

Perhaps we would all be better served by claiming the promise found in Romans 8:28, "We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

For those of us who "love God," as Sara reportedly did, we should be keeping our eyes open to see what opportunities for "good" will come out of this tragedy. Sara's death was not "good" by any means. But, by God's grace, good may yet sprout, green and beautiful, from the ashes of her life, watered by the tears of her death.

From the very beginning God has declared that human life and love is "very good." For Sara's sake we must live and love so that the world might begin to look more and more like John's vision of the coming day when,

(God) will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.

Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.

Come, Lord Jesus! Amen.

Humor On the Left

I am conservative, politically, but, every so often, I do enjoy a good laugh from a well-aimed poke-in-the-eye from a clever liberal pundit.

The past election cycle and the current rhetoric in the U.S. Congress affirms, I think, that there is more mean-spiritedness (as well as outright hate) among liberals than conservatives these days. I also sense more of a willingness for conservatives to laugh at themselves.

I can remember the recently-elected President George W. Bush speaking to what I seem to remember as a public high school in Texas. "I am living proof," he said (or something like it), "that anyone can become President of the United States. Even those of you with a C-average!"

I cannot picture John Kerry or Teddy Kennedy laughing at themselves in such a light-hearted manner. The closest thing to an exception is John Dean, who recently, successfully and unintentionally, achieved self-parody by mimicking a drug-snorting Rush Limbaugh. After the Minnesota crowd finished laughing, Dean added, "I'm not very dignified but I'm not running for president anymore!" At least he is honest concerning his character!

In all fairness ("warning-sarcasm alert") , after typing in "liberal humor" on Alta Vista "search" I discovered such amusing sites as Evil GOP Bastards, Michael, and Democratic Underground (with its evolving list of the "Top 10 Conservative Idiots").

The one thing liberals have over conservatives when it comes to humor, however, is their inherent bent towards satire. While leafing through our local, "Green Party-leaning" free throwaway newspaper, "Honolulu Weekly," I came across these two comics (clicking on them will enlarge them).

This first one is "This Modern World" by Tom Tomorrow. In the second panel I had to smile at the double-reflective parody on the conservative attitudes towards "Fahrenheit 911" and those who thought it worth watching. The final panel takes a well-deserved shot at the incessant conservative whining over liberal bias in the mainstream media.
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While I consider this bias to have been well-documented there are times (such as this, couched in Kos' usual "colorful" vitriolics) when the bias appears to have popped up in the opposite direction.

The second comic is "Troubletown" by Lloyd Dangle. It's not a bad "over the top" parody of many actual attitudes swirling around in some "fundamentalist" Christian circles. Some of us have rolled our theological and spiritual eyes more than once when approached by some well-meaning soul-winner with a handful of Jack Chick tracts.
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I do take offense at the mocking and unnecessarily anti-Christian tone of the third panel, however. That which is sacred and holy to others should never be mocked. It may be discussed, it may be debated, it may even be declared to be foolish and wrong-headed. But it is bad form and bad humor to satirize, parody, mock and belittle the core religious beliefs of others. Even so, given the inherently "irreverent" nature of satire and parody, I am willing to forgive one panel out of 16.

Humor and laughter are good for the soul and good for the intellect, too. A well-aimed barb can deflate many an inflated ego. If pompous asses must be "de-pomped" then I will vote for humor as the most effective cure every time.

Both liberals and conservatives need to relearn the art of true and genuine humor. The laughter that comes from such genuine mirth comes from deep in the soul, and not at the price of the dehumanization of others.

As Abraham Lincoln knew so well, a good sense of humor is most useful when it enables your enemies to not only see your point, but to laugh along with you as well. "Good" humor turns enemies into friends. "Bad" humor drives them farther away.

I would welcome the day when liberals and conservatives can once again be genuine friends affirming their common humanity and love of America....even while passionately debated the merits of their respective political agendas. I would welcome the day when jokes told on the the Senate floor by a Democrat bring laughter from the other side of the aisle, and vice versa.

"A house divided against itself will fall." A family that laughs together can and will stand together. Even in politics!

Senator Kerry, Faith & Politics

Hugh Hewitt recently made an unlikely comparison between John Kerry and Stan Laurel. Frankly, I don't get it.

John Kerry is intelligent, smart, calculating and cold.

Stan Laurel is simple, simple, simple and lovable.

John Kerry is a man of many words.

Stan Laurel is a man of few words.

John Kerry isn't funny.

Stan Laurel is funny.

John Kerry has a wife named Teresa.

Stan Laurel has a friend named Ollie.

John Kerry has spent his life running.

Stan Laurel has never been seen running.

I will certainly grant Hugh the one point that both men are famous for their whining, but beyond that I still don't get it.

If I were to correlate John Kerry with an entertainment figure I would probably choose Wile E. Coyote.

Both have long, narrow faces.

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Both are determined.

Both run and run but never get what they want.

Both never seem to give up and quit.

Both have great ideas that usually manage to backfire.

Plus, it's hard not to feel sorry for both of them.

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It is true that Wile E. Coyote says very little if anything except for holding up a sign that says "Help" every once in a while. This is in contrast to John Kerry who often says more than he should and, so far as I know, has never held up a sign that says "Help." For that matter, I am not aware that John Kerry has ever fallen off a cliff, landing with a puff of dust on the canyon floor below, either.

Nonetheless, I am much more comfortable with this analogy for one other reason: The Acme Company and the Democratic National Committee have been equally valuable in helping their particular client to succeed....that is to say, to succeed in running flat out into rock walls painted with illusory train tunnels and soaring high into the sky with rockets tied onto their backs where they subsequently implode.

John Kerry's speech on the Senate floor yesterday was just as much an attempt to "catch and eat" the Republican majority as Wile E.'s rock catapults are used in his attempt to "catch and eat" Roadrunner. And just as successful.

Kerry seems to have a problem with Republicans seeking support from people of faith. He seems to have a problem with Republicans using "faith" as a platform by which to communicate their political agenda.

This is ironic since Kerry has never seemed to have had a problem seeking support from people of faith himself. Nor has Kerry ever seemed to have had a problem using "faith" as a platform from which to communicate his own political agenda.

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It's odd that I can never recall John Kerry speaking to a white congregation, only African-American ones. It will be interesting to see what color the "people of faith" will be when they appear with Senator Frist this coming Sunday evening.

I wonder if Black faith does not really count as "faith" for Kerry. And why does he believe that it is only Republicans who "appeal to religious division?"

In 2004, John Kerry, spoke "at a predominantly black church with veterans of the (civil rights) movement."

Kerry sprinkled his remarks with scriptural references calling for matching faith with deeds.

"We need to remember those words as we march forward against a sorry politics where too often words suffice, where deeds aren't demanded," said Kerry, ridiculing promises Bush made during the last election.

Let's see, this sounds suspiciously as if Kerry was saying, "My scripture and faith move us forward while the scripture and faith of my opponents produce 'ridiculous promises,' 'sorry politics' and 'words without deeds.'"

The news article that described Kerry's Sunday church presentation also stated that,
Taking his campaign to the heart of the deep South, Sen. John Kerry said Sunday he faces the same "politics of last resort" that confronted marchers seeking equality in the civil rights movement.
This sort of sounds like he is implying that the people who worship at George W. Bush's church are no different than "Bull" Conner, George Wallace (who was a Democrat, by the way) or the KKK (of which Democratic Senator Robert Byrd was once a member).

Just one year after this church "sermon" the same John Kerry, now standing on the Senate floor, has the nerve to state,

Forces outside the mainstream now seem to effortlessly push Republican leaders toward conduct that the American people really don't want in their elected leaders, inserting the government into our private lives, injecting religion into debates about public policy where it doesn't apply.

Dear me, no! We wouldn't want to "inject religion into debates about public policy" would we? Except, of course when injecting religion into debates about public policy "does apply?" And when is that, Mr. Kerry? When you speak during Sunday morning worship services in African-American churches, quoting scripture and suggesting that Republicans in general, and President Bush in particular, are attempting "to divide the nation along racial lines?"

Is that injecting religion into a debate about public policy where it does? or does not apply?

It seems that it is permissible for Senator Kerry to rally African-Americans from their church pews to rise up against the empty promises of Republicans but it is not permissible for Senator Frist to rally 1,000 Christians from many different denominations, races and economic backgrounds to rise up and protest the Senate minority's blocking of the nomination of conservative judges to U.S. Appeals Courts.

Please, Mr. Kerry, people of faith can be led by that faith to arrive at different conclusions about political policy. It is disingenuous indeed to suggest that it is improper to take a political stand based, either in part or in whole, on one's faith.

I have never heard a Republican leader say that "my faith is better than" someone else's. What they do say is what I believe you would wholeheartedly agree with, that "my faith has led me to affirm certain core values in relation to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that appear to be different than yours."

In the end the issue at hand is not really one of religious faith at all. It is not religious belief that determines American law and policy but those who are elected to office by a majority vote and those who are nominated by them to appointed office. If that majority happens to include a large group of voters who share common values drawn from similar religious beliefs, it is both unconscionable and unconstitutional to state that the public expression of that faith is somehow "crossing a line" that should not be crossed or somehow corrupting the political system.

It is not wrong for Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews or anyone of any other faith (or no faith at all) to vote their conscience as a Christian, Buddhist, Muslim or Jew. Nor is it wrong for a politician to honestly do the same.

John Kerry has neither spoken nor acted like a Stan Laurel. He has acted like a cocky coyote who has plunged, with confidence, into a situation that is too deep, too complex and too fast for him to fully understand. As always, there will be consequences. Just ask Wiley E.

Those watching the show will get a big laugh out of it. "Beep. Beep."

Thursday, April 21, 2005

The Most Popular Protestant Pope Ever

Calvin and Knox must be turning over in their graves. It was, after all, Knox who declared that, "the Papists have perniciously taught and damnably believed" the doctrine of transubstantiation (Scot's Confession, Chapter 21).

I cannot imagine either of them losing any sleep over the death of any Pope who reigned during their lifetimes.

Yet, here we are, 450 years later, witnessing Calvinists, Lutherans, Methodists and even Baptists (for heaven's sakes....Baptists!) giving thanks to God for the life and steadfast witness of Pope John Paul II to.......uh......what?.....the Christian faith? .......or...... uh.....oh, yes......the good, conservative, traditional, historic, Biblical, moral teachings of the Church.

I suppose that there are those, such as James Lileks and myself, who still think that John Knox and Martin Luther were more correct than not about their rejection of the doctrine of transubstantiation. And then there is the matter of the veneration of Mary, the intercession of the Saints and all those extra-biblical books crammed into the otherwise empty, narrow space that separates the Old Testament from the New. Plus, of course, there is the fact that some of us agree with the Swiss Reformer Heinrich Bullinger, who declared (in the Second Helvetic Confession) that,

we do not approve of the doctrine of the Roman clergy, who make their Pope at Rome the universal shepherd and supreme head of the Church Militant here on earth, and so the very vicar of Jesus Christ, who has (as they say) all fullness of power and sovereign authority in the Church.
In reality, I suppose we look at the new Pope Benedict XVI as sort of the head of a really, really, really big denomination!

In spite of all the differences, the remarkable thing is that the Protestant world, for the most part, has begun to affirm that the Pope-the-Bishop-of-Rome is, at heart, one of us.....a brother in Christ.

Although Pope Paul VI was respected by non-Catholic Christians, he was still viewed as representative of the "We" versus "Them" ideology spawned by the acrimonious divisions of the Western Church during the Protestant Reformation.

One of the great miracles of Pope John Paul II, and one of the things that will one day give reason to either bless him or curse him, was his effectiveness in gently lowering the walls that had separated Protestants and Roman Catholics for all these years.

--He accomplished this not by spurious, unrealistic or insincere petitions for ecumenical unity, but by simply being a faithful witness to the saving Lordship of Jesus Christ who is King of kings and Lord of lords, triumphant and eternal in his love, mercy, justice and truth.

--He accomplished this by steadfastly setting Jesus Christ and the Christian Gospel alongside Nazi-ism, Communism and every other "ism" and declaring them, in comparison, to be morally and spiritually bankrupt and opposed to all that is good and right as God has revealed such things to us.

--He accomplished this by embracing the poor and suffering of the world, not with promises of "liberation" or "revolution" but by holding the rulers of all nations accountable for both causing and allowing such poverty and suffering to exist.

--He accomplished this by simply being a Christian....a Roman Catholic Christian, of course .....but a Pope who chose not to be crowned with the elaborate triple tiara and who preferred to be buried in his leather walking sandals than the traditional red shoes of the fisherman.

--He accomplished this by following the spirit of the Apostle Paul in emphasizing the unity of our Christian faith rather than constantly elaborating on those things that divide us (see Ephesians 4:1-6).

Because of Pope John Paul II, Roman Catholics and Protestants have been able to move from "Cold War" to "Detente" to the outer edges of "Reconciliation."

This has been a historical "paradigm shift" of the highest order. At present, it is more apparent in the "First World" nations than it is in the "Third" and it will take all the Spirit-filled wisdom imaginable for Benedict XVI to continue this historic and healthy narrowing of the unholy divisions in the visible Body of Christ.

The irony of all this, of course, is that those in the liberal churches who were most eager to cast aside all differences for the sake of ecumenical unity turned out to be the ones most alienated by the steadfast conservatism of John Paul II. Those Protestants who have held their ground on matters of both the Biblical purity of their faith and the Biblical purity of their lives have, on the other hand, experienced a growing sense of spiritual kinship with Rome while, at the same time, refusing to compromise on any of those things that still separate them.

Pope Benedict XVI will, I have no doubt, experience, appreciate and build upon that sense of kinship with many of the conservative, evangelical Protestant and Reformed churches. He will also find many willing and able allies among us as we work with common cause to be salt, light and leaven to a world that is all too bland, dark and flat in the things that really matter.

Three cheers for the Pope! By God's grace may he be blessed as well as be a blessing for a world that desperately needs a blessing.

ht:Politickal Animal for the Lileks link

More Details Emerge in Kentucky Amber Alert Abduction of 16-Year Old Janet Quijano

Note: So many have visited this post but few have left a comment. Please let me know why Janet's story is of interest to you, personally. Thanks, BofP
Image hosted by Photobucket.com16-year old Janet Quijano was last seen in Tompkinsville, Kentucky, Wednesday morning waiting for her school bus. Her reported disappearance triggered an Amber Alert (see my previous post here).

Her father's sister-in-law, Marta Besarto, says that when she saw Janet she was already sitting in a red van.

Janet's father, Tiburcio Quijano, says the he recognizes one of the names on the police suspect list (Salvadore Perez) as a friend of the family.

Besarto, however, says that the driver of the red van was not Perez, but someone else who she knows.

The initial Amber Alert stated that "she was abducted by five Hispanic males in a red minivan or SUV while waiting for a school bus."

All this seems garbled and confused to me. Why can't the sheriff's department issue a clear statement of the facts along with a photograph of Janet? I can only hope that somebody in charge of the investigation knows what they are doing and that somewhere, Janet Quijano is alive and well and on her way home to her family.

"Death to Israel" 'tres chic' at UCLA

The pro-Palestinian Al Awda (“Right of Return”) convention held at UCLA this past weekend, April 15-17, was not a big affair but the fact that it was allowed at all makes it so and the fact that it generated so little controversy or opposition makes it frightening.

It is currently "politically correct" to support the "Palestinian Cause." One look at the materials being sold and displayed at this mini-event, however, shows that the only "justice" being sought is the total destruction of the nation of Israel and its return to the Palestinian (read "non-Jewish") people. The fate of Israeli Jews is implied by this banner....Image hosted by
The destruction of Israel as a Jewish state is also clear in this button....
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and t-shirt...
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Even more frightening is the determination to continue the violent struggle to kill Israeli Jews in whatever manner possible until the objective is accomplished. Even if it takes generations, as this button so eloquently represents...
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How can those who support such determined haters and murderers pretend to be advocates of peace? Such people are either ignorant dupes or else something far worse.

It does not take a rocket scientist to observe that there is much unjust suffering among the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza. Yes, much of their suffering has come at the hands of the Israeli military (usually either in pursuit of terrorists or in retribution for attacks on Israelis). Yes, the building of the "wall" is creating an unprecedented hardship on tens of thousands of people who are not eager to hurt anybody. And, Yes, Israeli settlement policies have incited much understandable bitterness and anger.

But it must also be asserted that Israel as a country and Israeli Jews as a people, have never professed to pursue or put into practice a policy designed to lead to the systematic murder of every Palestinian and their complete removal from the West Bank, Gaza or even Israel!

And yet those participating in and supporting this Al Awda convention at UCLA are clearly expressing their determination to reclaim all of Israel and destroy it as a Jewish state and all the Israeli Jews with it.

In the end either Israel goes or Al Awda (and their ilk) goes.

When the day comes when Israeli/Jewish groups begin holding conventions on college and university campuses displaying banners, buttons and t-shirts like these, perhaps then I will reconsider.

Until then, however, I will continue to support the right of Israel to exist as a free and independent Jewish state along with the Israeli's right to protect and defend themselves against those (like Al Awda) who are invading and blowing up women and children in an attempt to kill them all and destroy thier country.

If there will ever be peace, it will be up to the Palestinians to ask for it. When they do, and when the Al Awdas, Hizbollahs and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades are crushed into irrelevence, then, and only then, will there be peace in Palestine and peace in Israel. Shalom and Salaam.

ht:lgf for passing on the story and the photos

Viet Nam Vet Spits Chewing tobacco On Jane Fonda

A Viet Nam veteran stood patiently in line at a Jane Fonda book signing in Kansas City, Missouri, this morning. When he reached the front of the line he spat his mouthful of tobacco juice in her face.

"She's a traitor," the 54-year old man said. "I consider it a debt of honor. She spit in our faces for 37 years," he said.

I will not dignify the man by mentioning his name. Although he might be genuinely angry at Ms. Fonda that does not give him any right to spit in her face. Nor should anyone who shares his feelings express any sympathy or solidarity with this man or what he did.

I see little difference between spitting tobacco juice in Jane Fonda's face and throwing a pie in Bill Kristol's face or dumping salad dressing on Pat Buchanan's head (see my thoughts on these matters here). Such attacks, although non-lethal, push us over the line from civility to barbarism.

Although the Kristol, Buchanan, and other, similar, attacks brought big outcries from conservative bloggers, I find it interesting that they are all silent concerning today's attack on Ms. Fonda. These same people demand that Muslims denounce Muslim terrorists lest their silence be interpreted as assent, but fail to see that they must do the same with conservatives who "cross the line" of either civility or the law. Their silence today clearly sends an unfortunate message out into cyberspace.

Personally, I wish that each of these people targeted would press charges against their attackers to the full extent of the law. Then, I would like them to file civil charges against them as well, squeezing them out of every dime that they might possess and then turning it all over to a non-partisan charity. Letting these social embarrassments off the hook only encourages them. Such behavior must not be tolerated. The law exists, in part, to restrain such people. When the law is not prosecuted its power to restrain is forfeited.

Jesus said, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." This is not to be interpreted as Jesus' contribution to national security policy, but it must certainly be understood to apply to tobacco spitters, pie throwers and salad dressing squeezers.

It is also worth noting that, in Romans 12:20 the Apostle Paul quoted a similar thought from Proverbs 25:21-22, which concludes, "and you will heap burning coals upon their heads."

I encourage Bill Frist, Tom DeLay, and every other conservative to love their enemies and not throw stuff at them. Simply looking their "enemies" in the eye and "speaking the truth to them in love" will (if it is indeed the truth that they speak) serve to scorch every God-numbered hair on their heads.

It is a far, far better thing to stand for civility than to fall as a barbarian.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Quote of the Day

Image hosted by"Poultry are one of the most badly treated animals in the modern world. It has been shown that they have high levels of both cognition and feelings and as a result there has been a recent trend of promoting poultry welfare. There is also a tradition of keeping poultry as pets in some parts of the world. However in modern cities and societies it is often difficult to maintain contact with pets, particularly for office workers. We propose and describe a novel cybernetics system to use mobile and Internet technology to improve human-to-pet interaction."
-- Mission statement of
The Poultry Internet

ht: > > > > PETA has more here.

Massechusetts Version of Maximum Security: Drunk Prisoners Take Over Cell Block at Cedar Junction Prison

The Boston Globe began this article with this very amusing paragraph:

( Boston Globe Archives, 2005-04-20 )

Prison authorities are investigating how eight inmates, believed to be intoxicated on homemade brew, took control of their cell block in the state's maximum security prison, MCI-Cedar Junction, for several hours Monday night, officials said.

The rest of the article is a rambling attempt to say, "We had everything under control the entire time....nothing to worry about....although we have absolutely no idea how it happened....don't worry, be happy...."

Burma Accused of Using Chemical Weapons

BBC News reports that Australian physician Dr Martin Panter, president of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, has accused Burma of using chemical agents to attack Karen rebels along its border with Thailand.

According to Panter (who personally claims to have performed medical examinations on affected rebels) yellow gas was observed spreading from exploding shells causing many of the rebels to throw up blood and grow too weak to walk. Some developed blisters, acute diarrhoea which led to the death of several of the rebels.

The good news is that reported use of chemical weapons is very rare. It does not matter whether the "good guys" use it or the "bad guys." As "Another Mother for Peace" might say, "Chemical weapons are not good for children and other living things."

The bad news is that too many nations still possess too many arsenals of chemical weapons. Nations that produce, sell, buy and/or use such weapons should receive stiff international sanctions that really hurt.

It is only if the world of nations (including the United States) agrees to such penalties that any progress can be made. If the report is true, Burma should be sent back ten spaces and lose the next two least!

Amber Alert Issued for Kentucky Teen

Here is the report as copied from FoxNews today:

Amber Alert for Kentucky Teen
Wednesday, April 20, 2005

TOMPKINSVILLE, Ky. — An Amber alert has been initiated by the Monroe County Sheriff's Department, which reports a 16-year-old Tompkinsville girl has been kidnapped.

The Amber alert says the victim is white, four-foot-eleven and weighs 85 pounds. She was wearing a red sweater with green squares and blue jeans.

The sheriff's report says she was abducted by five Hispanic males in a
red minivan or SUV while waiting for a school bus this morning.

Anyone with information about this abduction should call 270 856-3721.

I can only wonder why authorities did not release the girl's name or photograph. In any case, if true, we have yet another sad story unfolding before our eyes. One can only hope that this one will yet have a happy ending.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Cool Runnings

Some things are just too cool to pass up! Click here and take a ride on the wild side! ht:The Eye of Polyphemus

The Flying Sausage & the Virgin Mary

Here's a little quiz. One of the following stories is not true. The other six are true. Can you find the fake one?

1. Court Brief Attempts to Strip "T"s

The ACLU has filed a lawsuit in a Washington D.C. district court accusing the Federal Government of violating the establishment clause of the first amendment. The reason? Because the letter "t" (which resembles a cross) appears on virtually all government documents.

"The Christian faith is clearly promoted by the use of this particular symbol. No other religion has the symbol of its faith presented in the same manner," ACLU lawyer Jacob Jernigan said.

Tonight Show host Jay Leno added during his nightly monologue that, "It sounds like dotting your 'i's and crossing your 't's could wind up landing you in jail! Who knows, minding your 'p's and 'q's could be next!"

2. Beware of flying frozen sausages

An Englishman learned that the hard way Monday afternoon, according to British wire services

"He was driving his car when the offending item came through his open window and hit him on the nose," an ambulance-service spokesman told reporters.

The unnamed man, 46, had left work and was heading home to South Woodham Ferrers, Essex east of London, when the meat missile entered his vehicle.

Despite having broken his nose, and losing a lot of blood, the driver declined to be taken to the hospital.

"It must have been an incredibly lucky, or unlucky, shot to get the sausage through a moving car window," commented the spokesman. "I have never seen or heard of anything like this before."

Police said they were looking into the incident.

3. Empty Beer Trucks' a Bummer for Bandits

The last of three stolen beer trucks has been found at the bottom of the Snake River Canyon near the Hansen Bridge.

It was one of three empty Budweiser trucks stolen from a Twin Falls, Idaho, distributor sometime after it closed on April 8.

Two of the trucks were found the next day. One was dangling over the Salmon Falls Creek Reservoir canyon rim. A second truck was on its side nearby.

Evidence suggests that disappointment may have motivated the thieves to attempt driving the trucks over the canyon edge after discovering they were empty.

Watkins Distributing is offering $5,000 for information that leads to the arrests of people involved.

4. And You Thought the Bathrooms Smelled Funny

A Fresno, California, High School substitute teacher charged with smoking marijuana with students has apologized for his actions.

Chris Bochin wrote a letter to The Fresno Bee saying he set a terrible example for students. He says that five years of pot smoking made him "mentally powerless."

He was arrested last month after smoking marijuana with five ninth-graders in a science class. The students were suspended for five days.

Bochin has pleaded innocent to charges of giving marijuana to minors and contributing to their delinquency. His case is scheduled to be heard next month in Fresno Superior Court.

His lawyer says Bochin is receiving drug counseling

5. Great Great Grandma Guns Down Grocery Gunman

A man accused of bursting into a Jacksonville, Florida, convenience store demanding money was in the hospital Friday, shot, authorities said, by the great-great-grandmother working behind the counter.

"I think he thought I was an old woman and would just give him the money," Grammer, 64, said Friday. "My life was at stake. I thought he was going to kill me."

So she pulled a pistol out from under the cash register and fired once, hitting the man in the chest.

He fell to the ground, dropped his gun and then fled, leaving a trail of blood. Grammer fired two more shots as he was running away.

The sheriff's report said a man fitting the suspect's description and injury went to a hospital a short time later. He told doctors he shot himself.

Grammer, who has 10 children, 32 grandchildren, three great grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren, said she worried she had killed the man.

"All I could think about was his poor parents," Grammer said.

6. The Devil Is In the Details

An Oakley, California, man has asked the federal government to rename Mount Diablo, saying the current name, which means devil in Spanish, is offensive to his religious sensibilities.

"Words have power, and when you start mentioning words that come from the dark side, evil thrives," Art Mijares told the Contra Costa Times. "When I take boys camping on the mountain, I don't even like to say its name."

To make the change, Mijares would need to persuade federal, state and local governments that it's necessary.

It's been called Mount Diablo for at least 164 years. Changing its name would also mean changing its name on tens of thousands of maps, books and historical documents.

7. Our Lady of the Underpass

"When you come down here -- that's why I wanted to come down here and see for myself -- when you come down here and you see it, it's real," said Joanne Grablik, of Inverness. "It is beautiful."

State police said what the people are seeing is a salt stain from the Kennedy overpass.

Obdulia Delgado, of Chicago, said she was driving home along Fullerton Avenue on April 10 after getting off work at St. Elizabeth Hospital when she saw what she believes to be the Virgin Mary on the wall. She quickly pulled over and examined the form, and then began praying.

"Monday through Friday I go to school and Saturday and Sunday I work, so since I haven't been able to go to church, I asked her, 'Please help me with school because I'm having my finals,' but I felt like she was like, 'If you can come to me, I'm going to go to you,'" Delgado said.
Delgado said she rushed home and told her husband, Fidel, what she saw.

Fidel Delgado said he was skeptical of his wife's claim until the two went to the site.

"I was just stunned," Fidel Delgado said at the underpass Monday morning.

There was some discussion early Monday about the city coming in and either painting over the image or power washing the image off due to the traffic congestion it has been causing. However, the area is under the jurisdiction of the Illinois Department of Transportation and officials there said that there are no plans to remove the image.

"Everybody's amazed. It's hard to begin to believe, but when you see it, it changed something in you. You believe in the faith," Snezna DiLorenz said.

"It's a miracle. It's an image of something ... you can't describe it," Jose Recinos said.

"We're here because the Virgin Mary is on the wall, and she's inside the wall, and we were just curious, but at the same time we're scared, wondering why she's there and what the meaning is of her being there," Annette Byrd said.

Police were at the scene Monday to keep an eye on the crowd.
Answer to Quiz: (scroll down a bit)

Number 1 is the fake. Radio talk-show host Dennis Prager made up the story tonight to use as an example showing just how low the reputation of the ACLU has fallen.

People who phoned in expressing their concern seemed to have no problem believing that the ACLU was fully capable of doing something as stupid as this.

Numbers 2-6 are taken almost verbatim from FoxNews and Number 7 was gleaned from Chicago's NBC5 On-Line. What a weird world we live in!
Even the names are almost too good to be true!