Sunday, July 31, 2005

Space Shuttle Discovery Spacewalk

Astronaut Steve Robinson was "hanging out" earlier today as he did some outdoor chores around the space shuttle and the International Space Station.

Here is my favorite photo (yes, it is right-side up!) with Robinson's feet attached to the end of the shuttle's robotic arm.

Cool, yes?

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Saudi King Fahd Dies

Major news services are headlining a breaking story reporting that King Fahd of Saudi Arabia has died after a long illness.

Since the Saudi Government is "family owned and operated" and has not missed a beat during the King's long illness, there should be little effect from his death.

There have, however, been some unconfirmed reports of a division of opinion within the royal family as to who his successor will be. Regardless, we should not expect too much of a change in government policy....unless the Wahhabi religious leadership decides to take advantage of the "transition" to stage some sort of a "coup d'etat" or other show of power. Al Qaeda might also conceivably attempt some sort of response.....we'll just have to wait and see.

Sudanese Vice President John Garang Dies In Helicopter Crash

Dr. John Garang, former Sudanese rebel leader and the best hope for keeping the peace between Northern and Southern Sudan apparently died today in the crash of his helicopter while returning to Sudan from a personal visit to Uganda just three weeks after being sworn in as the Sudanese Vice President under a new national constitutional written expressly for him.

According to FoxNews online and the AP, bad weather caused the helicopter to turn around and attempt to return to Uganda. The cause of the crash has not yet been established (although the AP article notes that "an Ugandan rebel group, the Lord's Resistance Army, operates in the area and has shot down Ugandan military helicopters in the past."

Even though the troubles in the Western region of Darfur continue to make headlines, the peace settlement reached with the Southern region (with significant and quiet help from the Bush administration) after over 25 years of violence (mostly suffered by the Black poplulation in the South) was viewed by many as an extraordinary step towards removing Sudan from the list of international pariahs.

There appears to be literally no one with any stature equal to Dr. Garang to step up and replace him in the Sudanese government. Although the story is still breaking (his death has not even been officially announced by Sudan) I would say that there will undoubtedly be those in both North and South Sudan who will try to take advantage of the situation to settle old scores and try to return to the former bloody status quo.

It will be a true test of Sudanese President El-Bashir's leadership for him to hold the peace agreement together in Garang's absence.

Pray for the people of Sudan. This is a sad day, not only for Sudan, but for a world that yearns for peace.

Zimbabwe: Land is For Blacks Only

That's the headline at CNN today: "Zimbabwe: Land Is For Blacks Only."

It seems that the white European colonial settlers in the late 1800's who took undeveloped land in what was then called Rhodesia; and invested their sweat, blood, experience and wealth to turn agriculture into the largest sector of the Rhodesian/Zimbabwean economy; are now officially persona non grata as government policy.
"The land here is for the black people and we are not going to give it back to anybody. We are not inviting any white farmers back," Security Minister Didymus Mutasa, also in charge of Lands, Land Reform and Resettlement, told the state-owned Sunday Mail.
Only 700-800 of what were once nearly 3000 white farmers remain on their land. Based on the policy stated by Mutasa it would appear that their tenure is also running out.

The result of this forcible land transfer has been to reduce agricultural output to the point that the country is on the verge of massive food shortages. Export income from agricultural products is also declining meaning that the government has even fewer financial resources to meet the needs of its once-prospering people.

I suppose that, if the theory is to give back the land to the original black inhabitants of the land, it would follow logically that the land should be returned to them in the condition it was in before the white colonialists improved it.

Although that is obviously not the intent of the Mugabe land policy, it appears that, like Uganda and other countries that turned their backs on their colonial developers, Zimbabwe is essentially "killing the goose that laid the golden eggs."

I am reminded of the old anti-colonialist dictum:
When the white men came they had Bibles and we had the land. Now the white men have the land and we have the Bibles!
I suppose that does reflect some measure of injustice. But, when the economy collapses and the people begin to starve as a result of supposedly "righting a wrong," I would suggest that perhaps the people were better off with the "injustice."

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Senator Schumer: "Americans Are Not Proud of New York"

Yes, that's what U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (Democrat, NY) told New York Times writer Deborah Solomon is an otherwise lighthearted interview dated Sunday, July 31.

In response to a question concerning homeland security protection for the New York subway system, Schumer replied,
The president should be a leader on this. Englishmen are proud of London. And Frenchmen are proud of Paris. But Americans are not proud of New York.
Uh...Mr. Schumer...if I remember correctly, the terrorist attacks on New York City (and Washington D.C.) on September 11, 2001, created the greatest outpouring of American patriotism and pride since World War II. Mayor Giuliani and the New York Police and Fire Departments became national symbols of what is good and right about America. During a time of national trauma, we all became New Yorkers in some deep spiritual or emotional least for a time.

No pride in New York? You've got to be kidding! Of course Americans are proud of New York City.....especially after a Republican Mayor took on the sleeze and corruption that had turned Manhattan into a rotten apple and a national embarrassment, cleaned the place up and restored the city to its rightful, prideful place in the eyes of Americans.

On the other hand, it is true that Americans are not proud of New York City in the same sense as the English are of London or the French are of Paris. That's because the comparison is bogus and specious to begin with!

Is New York the capital of the United States? London and Paris are national capitals.

Is New York the only city in the United States worthy of being proud of? London and Paris have no competition in their countries.

Is New York the residence of Queens, Prime Ministers and Presidents? Sure, New York has Queens....but none actually live there! Paris, on the other hand, has the Elysee Palace and London has 10 Downing Street and Buckingham Palace (And don't even try to compare these to Gracie Mansion!).

Did New York City survive the Blitz? Was it lost to, and then liberated from, Nazi occupation? Until 9/11, had any blood been shed on its streets from foreign invasion since the Revolutionary War?

Americans have much to be proud of. We have far more to be proud of, in fact, than all the pride in England or France combined!

Americans are proud of New York City. But New York City is only one of the cities and one of the national treasures we are proud of. While London and Paris stand alone, New York must share the spotlight of American pride with Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle and, of course, Washington D.C. (to list just a few). Pride also falls on Yosemite, Yellowstone, Everglades, the Grand Canyon, the Mississippi River, the Great Lakes and Niagara Falls (to list just a few).

Even the subway system in New York is not as unique as that in Paris or London. It is not the only one worth mentioning in our country, for one thing. It is not even the oldest subway system we have! While it is by far the largest, it is not the only one worthy of attention by Homeland Security.

As one of two Senators from the state of New York, Senator Schumer is, of course, expected to be a national cheerleader for the city with the largest voter base in his state!

But he verges on arrogance when he expects all Americans to feel towards New York City the same level of "pride" that the English feel towards London and the French feel towards Paris.

Memo to Chuck: The United States is bigger than New York City. The Big Apple is a nice place, perhaps, to spend $400 on theater tickets and a dinner but, besides that......just get over it!

London Bombing Suspect Says He Was Careful Not To Hurt Anyone

Osman Hussain, one of the suspected July 21 London bombers, is telling interrogators in Rome (where he is being held) that the bombing he participated in was not designed to hurt anyone, just grab attention.

"Muktar" (the leader of the group who is being held in London) "urged us to be careful" (Italian Newspaper) La Repubblica quoted Hussain as telling his interrogators. "We didn't want to kill, just sow terror."

According to Hussain, there wasn't even enough explosives to "harm people nearby."

Golly gee whiz! Compassionate terrorism!

Hussain is NOT reported to have said,

"I love the people of London. I would never, ever dream of doing anything that might hurt anyone. I mean, if the bomb was bigger, it might have injured or killed a small child, or a woman...or even a fellow Muslim! If something like that happened I don't know how I could live with myself. My conscience would eat me alive! Allah would judge me harshly for that, I'm sure. After all, in the Qu'ran, it is written that, "Whoever kills a person [unjustly]…it is as though he has killed all mankind. And whoever saves a life, it is as though he had saved all mankind." (Qur’an, 5:32)

I am not a terrorist. Neither are my friends. We simply got together during a white water rafting trip and decided that we wanted to exercize our right of free speech to protest the treatment of Muslim prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay and the disrespect that has been shown to the Qu'ran by American infidels who deserve death...ah...I mean unbelievers....ah....who, well, you know, should have been wearing rubber gloves when they urinated into the air know, flushed the Qu'ran down the toilet or something like that. You understand what I'm saying, right?

Hey, in any case, no harm was done to anybody! Not even to us! See, I'm still breathing. I wasn't blown up into little pieces, splattered all over nearby buildings like Hasib when his bomb went off on the bus.....uh....did I say "Hasib?" Who's Hasib? I don't know anyone named Hasib! What are you trying to do, frame me? Is this a trick? Well, if it is, I don't think it's very funny!

Now, where was I......oh, yeah.....white water rafting.....white water.....uh....that reminds me, did I tell you that I once almost met Bill Clinton?..................

Friday, July 29, 2005

I Thought This Was a Christian Blog? Why All the Muslim Stuff?

Looking back at my postings during the past week I noticed an interesting trend. They all involved the Muslim faith.

There are many other things to write about, of course, including Air America, Judge Roberts, the tragedies at this year's Boy Scout Jamboree, follow-ups on the London bombings, etc. But, because I am, heart and soul, a person of "faith," it is the issue of Faith, more than any other, that interests and intrigues me.

The intricacies and subtleties of Islam have long captivated me. For many years, the historic oppression of non-Muslims in the Arab world has challenged me to pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit with the Gospel of Jesus Christ in those dark and dismally depressed countries. Long before 9/11 I felt that the 21st century would be marked by great spiritual upheavals in India and the Arab/Muslim world. (Upheavals in China will spring from more of a political/social/economic foundation than a spiritual least in this century).

One thing I have never liked is "not knowing" something that is influencing my daily life. Islam, with all its glories, strengths, history, divisions, sects, inner conflicts, unity, disunity, cultural distinctions, weaknessess and failings, is influencing the Western world today more than at any other time since the late Middle Ages.

As a spiritual leader of a Christian congregation, I believe I must always be able to speak the truth in love about other faiths and religions as I teach and comment in classes, sermons and conversations. To do so, I must be informed. Indeed, my goal, as I have studied Christian sects and cults, Mormonism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism and Islam, is to understand them so completely that I can see them through the eye of a believer.

Many Christian foreign missionaries have commented that they were not able to gain the respect of other faith groups until they could demonstrate that they not only understood that faith but could demonstrate respect and tolerance of it in their words and actions. Only then, they say, are the people they came to share the Gospel with willing to listen to what they have to say.

After living in Utah for over 6 years of ministry, I came to understand the Mormon faith far better than most Mormons. I still enjoy a visit to my home by Mormon missionaries so I can ask them questions they cannot answer and tell them things about their history and doctrines that they had never heard before! I may annoy them, but I certainly do gain their respect! And, yes, sometimes they even give me a chance to share the Christian Gospel with them...along with a glass of iced tea on a hot day.

I yearn to understand Islam in the same way. But the subject is far too vast for me to grasp with any measure of authority. Yet I continue to try. And I want my congregation and others who may read my postings, to grow in their understanding of Islam as well.

As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you." The Christian Gospel is never "passed on" to someone in a vacuum; there is always a non-Christian context. Sometimes the context is that of another faith. It is always best to understand the context so that the contrast with the Gospel can be clearly made.

In the present time, I believe that God has allowed the Muslim faith to "rise up," with all of its contradictions and confusions, to challenge the world with a clear alternative to the Christian faith.

The present conflict, which will continue long beyond my children's generation, will, in the end, provide a wonderful opportunity for the Christian Gospel of Jesus Christ to spread to places previously closed to it. Any informed Christian would happily engage an informed Muslim in debating the merits of their respective faiths. The verbal exchanges that result may or may not change anyone's mind, but the result will be a sharing of the Gospel.

The West has freedom and access to everything the Islamic world has to offer. In the Arab world, the Christian Gospel is suppressed. Current world unrest has allowed movies like, "The Passion of the Christ," to be shown in Arab Muslim countries. The more the Christian faith is shared, and the more it is allowed to be compared side-by-side with the faith of Islam, the better it will be for the Christian faith.....and for the world.

My interest in the Muslim faith have also been helpful insofar as more than 15 of my church members have, so far, been deployed to the "radical Islamic" wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Although it is not politically correct to say so, these are, without any doubt, at their core, religious conflicts. Conflicts between secularists, radical Muslims, moderate, liberal and conservative Muslims, Sunni and Shiite Muslims, and the Western, Christian culture of democracy and freedom of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," unalienably given to all people by Almighty God.

My only concern is that the Western world will become so separated from its Christian roots that it will descend into a moral and ethical malaise that will mark it as indistinguishible from the forces arrayed against it.

Regardless, God is sovereign. Nothing will come to pass unless God wills it or permits it. And God will not allow the Gospel to be crushed or oppressed forever. For we have his revealed word and promise that, in the end, Christ will rule victorious, and every knee shall bow and every tongue confess him Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

New Ideas Worth Reading From a Muslim Writer

Hugh Hewitt recently linked (w/ht to John Mark Reynolds) to a blog site maintained by Professor Reynold's Muslim colleague Mustafa Akyol. The site is called The White Path and contains some refreshing perspectives on international politics, terrorism and matters of faith from the perspective of a Turkish-American Muslim.

My only criticism is that Akyol does not appear to be posting very much lately. This is too bad. He appears to have much to say to us and I, for one, would like to hear more from him.

I have perma-linked to his site and would encourage everyone to "check it out."

Second Thoughts On Fatwa

In yesterday's post I celebrated the release of an American Muslim "fatwa" condemning Islamic terrorism of every kind. The document was signed by a large number of well-known and influential organizations and individuals.

Some people, including Steven Emerson at The Counterterrorism Blog, are calling the fatwa a "fake."
In fact, the fatwa is bogus. Nowhere does it condemn the Islamic extremism ideology that has spawned Islamic terrorism. It does not renounce nor even acknowledge the existence of an Islamic jihadist culture that has permeated mosques and young Muslims around the world. It does not renounce Jihad let alone admit that it has been used to justify Islamic terrorist acts. It does not condemn by name any Islamic group or leader. In short, it is a fake fatwa designed merely to deceive the American public into believing that these groups are moderate.
Judea Pearl, the father of Daniel Pearl (who was butchered and murdered in Pakistan) has declared the fatwa to be
"....vacuous because it does not name the perpetrators of Islamic terrorist theologies and leaders of Islamic movements like Yousef Al Qaradawi, Osama Bin Laden, Ayman Al Zawahari, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, etc.” Pearl told (Emerson) that these groups are “trying to perpetrate a deception on the American public."
I'm not an expert in Islamic fatwas but I gather from Emerson's article that a legitimate fatwa must be specific to a particular person, organization or discernable entity (such as the Ayatollah Khomeni's infamous fatwa against Solomon Rushdie). If this is true, then this particular fatwa would appear to ring hollow, if not to those of us too naive to understand the subtleties of Islamic jurisprudence, then most certainly within the American Muslim communities it is addressed to.

Emerson also points out that many of the organizations and individuals (including the leader of the council that issued the fatwa) have been accused of supporting the very sort of terrorism and terrorist organizations addressed by their declaration.

Please read Emerson's article yourself and decide whether to be skeptical or not. I, for one, will be pondering the old question concerning whether the leopard can change its spots.......

Thursday, July 28, 2005

American Muslims Issue "Fatwa" Against Terrorism & Terrorists

Several days ago I expressed dismay that the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) had done little or nothing to take a stand against Islamic terrorism against civilians and to urge their contituency to do the same.

Well, thankfully, I cannot say that anymore.

Today the U.S. Muslim Religious Council held a press conference in Washington D.C. and announced the release of a Fatwa Against Terrorism.

The text of the "fatwa" (or religious edict) includes the following declarations:
The Fiqh Council of North America wishes to reaffirm Islam's absolute condemnation of terrorism and religious extremism.

Islam strictly condemns religious extremism and the use of violence against innocent lives. There is no justification in Islam for extremism or terrorism. Targeting civilians’ life and property through suicide bombings or any other method of attack is haram – or forbidden - and those who commit these barbaric acts are criminals, not “martyrs.”

In the light of the teachings of the Qur’an and Sunnah we clearly and strongly state:

1. All acts of terrorism targeting civilians are haram (forbidden) in Islam.
2. It is haram for a Muslim to cooperate with any individual or group that is involved in any act of terrorism or violence.
3. It is the civic and religious duty of Muslims to cooperate with law enforcement authorities to protect the lives of all civilians.

We issue this fatwa following the guidance of our scripture, the Qur’an, and the teachings of our Prophet Muhammad – peace be upon him. We urge all people to resolve all conflicts in just and peaceful manners.

We pray for the defeat of extremism and terrorism. We pray for the safety and security of our country, the United States, and its people. We pray for the safety and security of all inhabitants of our planet. We pray that interfaith harmony and cooperation prevail both in the United States and all around the globe.

Read the full text here which also includes the names of those who sat on the Fiqh Council which issued the "fatwa" ( but also the names of all the many Muslim organizations, mosques and other leaders (including CAIR) that have so far endorsed it. The list is long and impressive.

Is it at last possible that the Muslim community in American will actually begin to deal with this matter internally? If so, this could prove to be a historic and major turning point in the least as far as the safety of the United States is concerned.

P.S. Conspicuously absent among those signing the document is the infamous Bridgeview Mosque in Bridgeview, Illinois. I could find no evidence that any of that mosque's leaders signed the fatwah, either. Hmmmm......

HT: Power Line

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Please Walk, Not Run, To the Nearest Exit

Little Green Footballs has just posted this bittersweet photo along with a few words of comment:
A reader with a friend in Britain forwarded this photograph of a sign posted in the Notting Hill Gate Tube Station:

Image hosted by

I am assured that this is a real image, not a Photoshop remix.

Oh....and please be sure that any loose or exposed wiring is safely and securely tucked out of site beneath one's clothes.....

Letter to a Muslim Friend

Dear -------,

Last week I read a news report that raised many new questions for me concerning Islam.

The news story concerned Imams and Islamic scholars who had gathered to determine whether such individuals as Osama Bin Laden and Zarqawi were to be considered Muslims or not.

The conclusion was that, as long as they fulfilled the Five Pillars of Islam, they must be considered to be Muslim.

This struck me as technically correct, since the Qur’an offers no other criteria for being or not being a Muslim.

Yet, while the “letter of the Qur’an” was met, I wondered if the “spirit of the Qur’an” was considered? Or whether there even was a “spirit of the Qur’an?”

In the Christian faith we hear our Lord, Jesus, say, “Not everyone who cries, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”

By this we understand Jesus to mean that the outer trappings of a person’s life do not determine their eternal destination. Our Gospel declares that God knows and judges the heart of every person and is not fooled by what a person says they believe or whether they go to church every week or tithe or know the Bible by memory or even outwardly seem to live a good and decent life.

None of this, we are taught, can save a man from his sin. The attitude of his heart must be inclined towards the things that belong to God.

Jesus said, “It is not the things that go into a person that defiles them, but what comes out from them.”

By this we understand Jesus to mean that the best evidence of what is in a person’s heart is found in how they live out their life. Just as the health and value of a tree is measured by the quantity and quality of its fruit, Jesus says, concerning people, “By their fruit you shall know them.”

The Apostle Paul, in Galatians, states that, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

Jesus commands his followers to “Love one another as I have loved you.” We are told that our love for God is measured by how we love our neighbor. Indeed, Jesus even commands his disciples to, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

We are commanded to “turn the other cheek’ and to forgive others seventy times seven times. If we have something against our brother, or if our brother has something against us, we are told to stop going through the motions of worshiping and praising God until we have made peace with our brother.

It is not so much the doctrine of the Christian faith that sets a Christian apart from the rest of the world as it is the way in which the light of God’s love shines in their life, especially as it pertains to their relationships with others.

A Christian who does not “walk the talk” or “practice what they preach” is a poor example of a Christian! More than this, if a person persists in behaving in ways contrary to the Christian law of love, they are to be confronted, disciplined and, if necessary, removed from the Christian community until such time as they may repent and seek forgiveness.

All this is captured under the idea of Christian “morality” or “ethics.” It is impossible for a Christian to separate their faith from their behavior.

This is, I think, the issue that confuses me concerning Islam. Is there such a thing as Islamic “morality” or “ethics?”

According to the Muslim council I cited at the beginning of my letter, it is participation in the Five Pillars that makes a person and Muslim……regardless of whether they blow up children or encourage even the killing of other Muslims! Where is the ethics in this?

Christian morality requires us to critique and sometimes condemn even our own nation’s soldiers when their actions do not conform to the established boundaries of decency.

What boundaries of decency guide and constrain a Muslim, whether in war or in peace?

Did Mohammed offer no guidelines on how the behavior of one Muslim is to be judged by other Muslims?

Is there nothing in Islam that can condemn the teachings and behavior of Bin Laden, Zarqawi and the followers of such “radical” organizations as Al Qaeda?

Is there nothing in Islam that can allow for the condemnation of a Muslim who boards a city bus and blows themselves up along with dozens of innocent men, women and children….some of whom may even be Muslims themselves?

Please help me with these questions. For a Christian the answers to these questions may be complex, but they are nonetheless clear. Where is the clarity in Islam?

In I Corinthians 13, the Apostle Paul writes that, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.”

For a Christian, love is the measure of all things. In I John 4 we read, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

From a Christian standpoint, Osama Bin Laden’s attitude and behavior does not demonstrate love. Therefore the Christian comes to the conclusion that he “does not know God….”

What is the “measure of all things” for a Muslim? What evidence does one look for to determine whether a Muslim is reflecting the heart of God in their own life or not?

Is God all things to a Muslim? Good? Evil? Cruel? Merciful? Can a Muslim be all these things, too? If God is all things and the source of all things, is there nothing (apart from denying one or more of the Five Pillars) that can disqualify a person as a Muslim? Is there ultimately no basis upon which one Muslim can judge the actions or behavior of any other Muslim?

Please help me. Nothing I have thus far read (and I have read a great deal lately) has helped me answer these questions. Nothing I have heard from respected Islamic scholars or Imams has helped much, either. All is confusion. Please straighten me out!

Yours Sincerely,

Bird of Paradise

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Statistics Sometimes Just Don't Add Up

According to a U.S. Census report printed in the Honolulu Advertiser this morning, 53% of unmarried and single Americans are women and 64% of unmarried and single Americans are men.

Uh.....doesn't that add up to 117%?

Go figure!

Monday, July 25, 2005

Why Haven't We Caught Bin Laden?

OK. I gave it my best shot. I was patient. But I'm done with that now.


Back in 2002, President George W. Bush said that he really didn't care one way or the other about catching Bin Laden:
"I don't know where bin Laden is. I have no idea and really don't care. It's not that important. It's not our priority."- G.W. Bush, 3/13/02
But when bombs go off in London.....the connection is made between Al Qaeda and Bin Laden.

When bombs go off in Egypt...the connection is made between Al Qaeda and Bin Laden.

When India sentences a man who claimed to be part of a larger Al Qaeda plot on 9/11 where planes were to be flown into the British Parliament buildings and Tower Bridge as well as the parliament buildings in India and Australia....the name Bin Laden comes up again.

In Iraq, the most grotesque terrorist attacks are master-minded by Zaraqawi, the self-described ally of Al Qaeda guessed it.....Bin Laden.

Bin Laden-inspired Taliban remnants continue to gather in the border regions between Afghanistan and Pakistan, wrecking havoc among both military, business, government and civilian populations from Kabul to Kandahar.

Terrorists are arrested in Jordan, planning to blow up 5-star hotels in that country. They, too, are linked....with Zarqawi.....and Bin Laden.

For nearly three years I have been patient, knowing the political tight rope being walked with the United States and Pakistan. An American incursion into Pakistan would more than likely bring down the Musharraf government and place that nation's nuclear weapons in the hands of the radical Muslims who might well seize some measure of power amidst the social chaos that would follow the fall of the government.

But I have run out of patience. GET BIN LADEN!

If we know where he is......or even THINK we know where he is.....we should go in and get him.

Who would fault us for this, given the increasing attacks and threats of attacks in Europe, the Middle East, the United States and elsewhere?

As long as Bin Laden and Zarqawi remain alive, we will continue to be seen as failures and losers in the eyes of Muslim extremists. The continued existence of these two men encourages the recruitment of young people who see Zarqawi and Bin Laden's survival as evidence that Allah is protecting them because their cause is just and right!

Is it possible that these fanatics are actually correct? Is it possible that the West is either unwilling or unable to catch these mere mortal men of flesh and bone?
If we are unwilling, then we must be weaker than those who threaten us.

If we are unable, then we are pathetic fools, unworthy to bear the label of "superpower."

Either way, the "small fish" continue to blow themselves up with anarchistic abandon while the two "biggest fish" in the terrorist pond remain at large, growing in mythological and symbolic stature every day.


Sadaam became small and pathetic as he crawled out of his hole in the ground.

Sadaam's sons became less than pathetic as they lay broken and dead in an Iraqi morgue.

Zarqawi and Bin Laden must also become small, pathetic, broken and dead if we are to move forward in the GWT.

President Bush needs to rethink this matter. And Pakistan and Musharraf need to stand aside so that we can finish the job we started nearly four years ago.

As a Christian I would much prefer that these two men repent of their sins and "get new hearts" that beat as one with the heart of God. I do "love them" and pray for their redemption and forgiveness often.

But as long as they "point the gun" at free and peaceful nations, it is the God-given obligation of our government to protect us from people like these.

The Perfect Sermon

Here are some central thoughts gleaned from my sermon this past Sunday. I would welcome any comments

The Perfect Sermon

Jesus’ first public sermon, as recorded in Mark 1:15, is The Perfect Sermon. Here it is and then I’ll explain:

“The time has come. The kingdom of God is near.
Repent and believe the good news!”
We all need:

1. We need to have a Vision of how things should be. (The vision must be from God). “Without a vision (from God) the people perish” Proverbs 29:18

This is a vision of the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Heaven. It is Paradise and Eden restored and much, much more. It is the Peaceable Kingdom, the Way It’s ‘Sposed to Be. Such a vision of limitless love, mercy, forgiveness, justice and peace between all people is from God. It is God’s plan for us all.

2. We need to have a Desire to bring that vision into reality. (The desire must come from our heart…this is Love). “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they will be filled.” Matthew 5:6

We must really want this! If we don’t, then we don’t want Heaven, either. Why? Because Heaven is exactly what this vision is all about! After all, we pray, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth and it is in heaven.”

3. We need to Realize the Impossibility of bringing that vision into reality by our own efforts alone. (When accompanied by sorrow and regret, this is repentance and confession of sin). “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23

This is where virtually every other “religion” and “philosophy” goes wrong. Apart from God, we can do nothing! We can know what is right and good. We can even want what is right and good. We can even “taste” it and see it as though it were “at hand!” But we can’t reach it experience it in its fullness by our own strength alone.

4. We need to Make the Effort to bring that vision into reality anyway….Why? Because it is the right and good thing to do. (This is Faith….the sort of faith that God “credits to us as righteousness”). “Love the Lord your God…..and Love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Mark 12:28-34

This is a command from our Lord. It is not optional.

5. We must Know that God will, at the “right time,” bring this vision into reality and establish it forever even in spite of all evidence to the contrary. (This is Hope). “Thanks be to God, who gives us this victory in Christ Jesus our Lord.” I Corinthians 15:57

We are able to put our trust in God because we know Jesus and serve him as our Lord and Savior., It was Jesus, after all, who taught these truths, lived them out in his own life, willingly died on the cross and then rose from the dead to demonstrate that the power of God is with those who Live this Love, who Claim this Faith and who Hold this Hope.

This is what Jesus meant when he said,

“The time has come. The kingdom of God is near.
Repent and believe the good news!”

This word from Jesus, when taught to us by the Holy Spirit through our prayerful reading and hearing of Scripture, is, for us, The Perfect Sermon.

This is The Perfect Sermon because it contains all that we need to know in order to receive forgiveness and salvation in Jesus Christ and to enjoy the Faith, Hope and Love that will be the minimum daily requirements for our spiritual life in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Claim the Vision. Desire it in your heart. Confess and Repent of your inability to bring it about without the help of God. Even so, live out the Vision no matter what! And believe in your heart that God, who raised Jesus from the dead, will also one day raise you to eternal life with God in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Nothing To Be Upset About

It seems like too many blog entries I read (including my own) relate to subjects the writers are upset about....

I have spent over an hour this evening searching the news and other blog sites to find something to be upset about. I have considered the needs of my family and friends and checked the local news here in Hawaii, and I'll be darned if I can't find a single thing to be upset about!

I suppose that there is a psychological term for someone like me...something like, "psychonormative" or "anupsetive" perhaps.

In spite of my best efforts I'm afraid that today was a good day. A nice day. I led worship with friends this morning, received to new members and celebrated the Sacrament of Baptism for baby Jack.

I came home and fell asleep on the sofa for 2 1/2 hours. I woke up, washed dishes and cleaned up around the house. Picked up daughters #2 & #3 from church youth group (daughter #3 is interim youth minister intern for the summer). Went with my wonderful wife to some friends home for fondue....and to watch their video and digital "slides" of a recent trip to Italy, France, Switzerland, Germany, Austria and (as my friend said, "Don't forget.....") Lichtenstein! All in 11 days.

They spent two days with dear friends in southern Germany (who I had married here in Hawaii over 10 years ago and, five years ago, baptized their first child). I especially enjoyed seeing pictures of this family. They appeared very happy, maybe because "Daddy" had just returned from a one-year deployment to Iraq.

Maybe the closest I came to being upset all day was realizing that my friend's photos were every bit as good as mine....maybe (and this is hard to admit) even somewhat better!

This borders on violating the 10th commandment: "Thou shall not covet." So, instead, I'll just be happy that I didn't have to endure an hour or more of BAD pictures! There....that's much better...I don't feel inclined to be upset about this any longer!

So that wraps it up for today. Nothing to complain about. Nothing to be upset about. Nothing to even blog about. Sorry.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Yard Sale? Garage Sale? Lanai Sale!

In Hawaii we have Yard Sales and Garage Sales.....but they are often given the local-style name, Lanai Sale! Whatever you call it, we had one today.

The sale was in "honor" of daughter #1 who is moving to Los Angeles next Saturday. She's been cleaning out her apartment stuff and all the other stuff she has had stored in our garage during the past 4 1/2 years. Her sisters and parents have done the same and, with everything collected into piles and boxes, we woke up at 6am this morning and started setting everything up outside.

I borrowed a tent-pavilion from some church friends and we put all the books inside to protect them from the rain showers that came and went all morning.

The large furniture items were just inside the garage and the clothes and odd-items were on tables in the driveway, which we covered up with old table clothes and bed pads every time the rain showed up.

Here in Hawaii, a lot of people worship at the lanai sale ritual every Saturday morning. Beginning at 7am, a steady stream of folks, rich and poor alike, came by to help redistribute the wealth and recycle both the profound and mundane items that come and go, masquerading as our "possessions" in life.

Jesus said, "Do not store up treasures on earth where moth and rust consumes them and where theives break in and steal."

Lanai sales are graphic examples of what Jesus was talking about! We had so much stufff that was once important to us....almost considered to be invaluable....that we now regarded as unnecessary, unneeded and unwanted!

Even so, one man's junk is another man's, in exchange for a lot of quarters and one-dollar bills, we made a lot of treasure hunters happy this morning.

We even sold off two large items, a large futon/sofa and a five-piece dining room set (that had belonged to my wonderful wife's mother)....sold at the original asking haggling today! Wonder of wonders!

When it was all over, and all the signs we had posted up and down the streets had been taken down, we added up the money and found that daughter #1 and her parents had each earned almost the exact amount of money. For my daughter, this meant that she had earned almost 1/3 of her first month's rent at her new LA apartment!

I told her she only needed to have four yard sales like this every month and she'd not only be able to pay her rent but have some money left over to burn.

Not surprisingly, the thought of another lanai sale was more than daughter #1 was willing to handle this afternoon.

Her mother and two sisters would no doubt agree.

Actually, me, too!

We Are Not Afraid

Michelle Malkin linked to this great site....We Are What Not Afraid...where there are hundreds....thousands of photo submissions bearing the words...."We are not afraid." Such submissions are regarded as acts of defiance against the acts of terrorism sweeping the world. My own submission today is this.

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There are many more (and better) on the site. Check it out, be inspired and encouraged, and add your own!

Friday, July 22, 2005

Algerians Express Surprise At Diplomat's Kidnapping

Tucked away in the same article that contained the "murdered bride" story mentioned in my previous post, is a quote that verges on surrealism.

Algerian authorities, meanwhile, expressed surprise that two of their diplomats were abducted Thursday, saying Algiers has steadfastly refused to take part in the U.S.-led coalition.
Surely, of all people, the Algerians should know better than this! After all, an Islamisists party actually WON the Algerian national election back in 1992. The existing government at that time quickly invalidated the elections and, to my knowledge, have not held any truly open or fair ones since.

This election debacle prompted both the military-supported government and the Islamisists to spend over ten years slitting the throats of men, women and children in small villages....terrorizing the weak and powerless and compelling them with murderous threats to adopt and support their particular visions of either a theocratic or secular Algeria governed under either a form of sharia or some variation of the present "constitutional" government.

According to the U.S. Department of State,
The country (Algeria) is gradually emerging from over a decade of civil strife between proponents and opponents of an Islamic state. During that decade, actions by government authorities, insurgents and terrorist groups, some of which have ties to al-Qa'ida, deprived citizens of their fundamental right to security, created serious human rights problems, and set back the country's transition toward a democratic system. Fighting during the 1990s resulted in 100,000-150,000 estimated deaths.
Why would the Algerian government be so naive as to think that the same sort of radical Islamisists in Iraq would care whether the Algerian government had supported the American-led alliance or not?

In spite of the fact that the illusionary theory that Algerians (or Turks or Egyptians....) are somehow immune to terrorist attacks (because of what they have or have not done) has been repeatedly disproved, the kidnappings are nonetheless a sad and grievous affair and should be a serious concern for us all.

In the article cited at the top of this post, we read this poignant note:

A career diplomat and father of four, (the kidnapped Algerian envoy)Belaroussi has been in Iraq for about two years. He previously had served as financial director at Algeria's embassy in Paris from 1997 to 2002, Algerian officials said....

Iraqi Deputy Interior Minister Ahmed Al-Khafaji told Al-Jazeera television that the Algerian envoy had refused Iraqi offers to provide him with bodyguards, saying he didn't need protection because "Algeria's relationship with the Iraqis is good."
Is it just me or does it seem that nearly the entire world is living in some sort of denial over the actual existence of the tyrannical and fascist goal of world domination at any cost that motivates these radical Islamist terrorists?

Is George Bush the ONLY world leader who understands this situation or is he somehow deluded, too?

(Note: In all fairness, I suppose I should also include UK's Tony Blair, Australia's John Howard and Spain's ex-President Jose Maria Aznar as leaders who seem to more or less see things in a way similar to President Bush).

At the moment, I still think that Bush has got it at least as correct as anyone else in the world.....and far better than most!

But....although the Algerians were "surprised" by the lack of proper decorum and respect shown by the terrorists I, for one, was not. In fact, I cannot think of any horror, no matter how obscene, that would surprise me, coming from the corrupted souls of those who sincerely believe that they will be rewarded by God (Allah) for blowing up children.

Gunmen Kill Bride After Baghdad Wedding

That's the headline in an Associated Press release earlier today. Read the story here.....and weep.

Senator John Kerry Throws a Rock From His Glass House

Associated Press released this story today. Seriously, I am not making it up! Those who followed the story of repeatedly rebuffed requests for the full release of Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry's military records during last year's campaign will get the irony. Otherwise, just pretend you get it and fake the laugh.

Kerry: Release Records on Roberts
Friday, July 22, 2005
WASHINGTON — Democratic Sen. John Kerry urged the White House on Friday to release "in their entirety" all documents and memos from Supreme Court nominee John Roberts' (search) tenure in two Republican administrations.

"We cannot do our duty if either Judge Roberts or the Bush administration hides elements of his professional record," said the Massachusetts senator who was his party's presidential candidate last year.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Clarence Silva Ordained & Installed As Bishop of Honolulu

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Although I am a Presbyterian pastor, I do have other friends who live in other "neighborhoods" of the Body of Christ. I even have friends who live outside of the Body of Christ......including Buddhist, Unitarian, Muslim, Mormons and Jewish. Tonight, however, I joined all of the above as part of an ecumenical and interfaith delegation invited to attend the ordination and installation of the new Roman Catholic Bishop of Honolulu.

The service was large enough to require the use of the Blaisdell Arena, a sort of combination convention center and venue for concerts, sports and other "events" like Ice Capades and the occasional large, traveling circus.

I believe there must have been at least 6-7,000 people there tonight.

The liturgy was long and unhurried, lasting more than 3 hours. It was virtually identical to the recently televised installation of the new Pope Benedict 16 as the Bishop of Rome......not surprising since both were being installed as bishops!

Among those who I processed in with were these three gentlemen who are leaders in the Egyptian Coptic Church in Hawaii.

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During the service of ordination I found it interesting that each of the visiting bishops (there were two archbishops, 12 bishops and 3 auxiliary bishops present) layed their hands on the new bishop individually, one at a time. This is somewhat different from our common Presbyterian practice which involves all ordained pastors and elders laying on hands all at one time....often creating somewhat of a "traffic jam" around the person or persons being ordained!

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The "Principal Consecrator" for the service was The Most Reverend William J. Levada, Apostolic Administrator of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of San Francisco. He is the man recently chosen by Pope Benedict XVI to take the new Pope's "old job" as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the Vatican.

Bishop Silva appears to be very much like his formal portrait, shown at the top of the post. He seems humble, pleasant and genuinely happy to be back in Hawaii where he was born and raised and where so many of his family still live. Unlike Pope Benedict XVI, he did not have the "deer caught in the headlights" look about him during his installation!

His official Crest shows, on the left, the symbol of the Diocese of Honolulu. On the right is the personal symbol he has chosen....three trees....chosen because his name, "Silva," means "trees" in Portuguese, the language of his forebears.

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The little tree on the right is a Kukui tree, native to Hawaii and noted for the nuts that are not only processed to make beautiful leis, but also contain oil once used for "anointings" as well as for a fuel for lamps.

The little tree on the left is an oak tree, representative of Oakland, California, the Diocese where Fr. Silva has spent most of his previous ministry.

The central tree is, of course, the living cross of Christ...bursting with olive leaves, the symbol for peace.

The trees grow on an island, representing Hawaii, and surrounded by the blue waters of the Pacific Ocean, an ocean whose name, in Spanish, also means "peaceful."

Best of all is the motto chosen by the new Bishop...."Witness to Jesus."

I am hopeful that, as I continue to participate in "multi-faith" friendship building in Hawaii, I will have the opportunity to meet and establish at least some measure of personal relationship with Bishop Silva as I have done with other Christian and religious leaders. If my intuition is correct, I believe that I will find him to be not only a good Bishop, but a good man and a good brother in Christ, too!

While we may be divided by our "differences" in doctrine and tradition, what we will have in common will more than compensate for them.......for we will share one Spirit, one hope, "one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all." And that will be more than enough as we "Witness to Jesus" in Hawaii together.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

American Soldier Shot By Sniper, Gets Up and Treats the Sniper's Wounds---Wow!

Pfc. Stephen Tschiderer, a U.S. Army medic in Baghdad, was shot in the chest by a sniper on June 9, 2005. According to the story released by the 256th Brigade Combat Team, Tschiderer, protected by his body armor, got up and directed his patrol's attention to the sniper's location in a nearby van.

The van was taken by the patrol but the sniper escaped, leaving a trail of blood. When finally located, lying on the ground groaning in pain, Tschiderer first applied handcuffs and then administered first aid to the man who, just a few minutes before, had been praising God ("Allah Akbar"), believing he had killed him.

Two men.....two Gods.....take your pick. I've already made mine!

P.S. The most surreal thing about this entire incident is that the sniper and associates were video/audio taping the whole thing. By clicking here you can watch Pvt. Tsschiderer being shot and listen to the celebratory words of his attackers. You can also, miraculously, watch Pvt. Tschiderer get up off of the ground, alive.

Scary....and creepy, too.

Austrailian Muslim Leaders Sponsor Anti-Terror Summit

According to today's Australian Herald, Muslim leaders in that country are organizing a "summit aimed at heading off extremist elements of the faith in Australia." They have even invited Australian Prime Minister John Howard (a bold critic of Islamic terrorism and strong backer of American policy in Iraq) to address the summit.

Why has the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which purports to represent American Muslims, not called for such a summit in our country? Why have they not invited President Bush to speak to their assembly?

Why, in fact, are they still considered to be a major representation of American Muslims in spite of having had several of their leaders indicted, charged and/or convicted of supporting Islamic terrorist groups?

Whereas the Australian Muslims have demanded that all literature promoting Islamic terrorism be removed from every mosque and bookstore in their country, the Council on American-Islamic Relation has not even acknowledged that such literature exists in American mosques!

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London Bombers May Have Been Duped?

Gee...who can a terrorist trust these days? According to London police, they may not be able to trust their "handlers" anymore.

According to (HT to dogbarktree at Free Republic) London investigators are considering the possibility that the four "suicide" terrorist bombers might have been "duped" by the handlers into thinking that their bombs would go off with a timing device after they had "pushed the button" and gotten off of the train or bus they were on. Instead, the bombs exploded immediately when detonated. Evidence includes the fact that the bombers had paid the cost of their automobile parking fees and had purchased return tickets to Kings Cross Station where they first entered the subway.

Another odd piece of "evidence" is the report than none of the Muslim terrorists apparantly cried, "Allah Akbar" ("God is Greatest") as they set off the bombs....something apparently quite normal and expected in such situations.

I wonder if they get their 72 virgins if they died, not by their own design, but by the machinations of other Muslims? Any ideas on this?

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

High Sierra Vacation

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I have just returned from four days in the High Sierra with my brother hiking and fly fishing (catch and release). We stayed at Lee Vining, on the shore of Mono Lake. Our daily hikes started with a short drive from there each morning.

On Day One, just to break ourselves in, we hiked up Yosemite Creek for about two miles....just to enjoy the beauty, fish a little, get ourselves acclimated to the higher altitude (app 8,000 ft) and to look at the pretty wildflowers.

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On Day Two, we drove to nearby Lundy Lake and climbed 1700 vertical feet in four miles to Oneida Lake. The remains of the old Oneida Mine were very evident in the area around Crystal Lake. On our way back down we met Forest Service personnel on their way up to "blow up" and collapse the mine entrance (which we had just visited). I suppose the reason for this was the fear of liability. In any case, the photos we took of the mine entrance were possibly the last ever taken!

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On Day Three, we drove up Tioga Canyon to Tioga Pass (approx. 10,000 ft) and climbed up 1000 more and then down 200 in one mile to reach the Gaylor Lakes basin, one of our favorite places in Yosemite. I first discovered this spot 30 years ago and had the best day of fly fishing I have ever had in Middle Gaylor. The high meadow gives the illusion of being on top of the world! Upper Gaylor Lake was mostly frozen but we fished off of a snow bank, overhanging the water!

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Afterwards we took a five mile hike up the Parker Fork of the Tuolumne River. The flowers were beautiful and I was surprised to catch several small Brown Trout in the high elevation where usually Brook Trout are to be found.

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On Day Four, we took a long-anticipated hike to a lake with a name but no least there is no trail marked on any USGS maps, etc. that we researched. This lake was also still mostly frozen, due to the late and heavy winter as well as the lack of strong winds (which usually break up the ice by the end of May or mid June each year).

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The lake glimmered in a spectacular setting. Our guess is that only 20 or so people must visit this lake each year out of the 10s of thousands of hikers that pass close by heading for other lakes in other places.

I will not tell you the name or location of this lake...we don't want to let out our little secret! But, I would invite everyone to guess it's name! If you get it right I will do something nice for you (something I haven't thought of yet!).

Well, that's about it for this year. As always, I began to feel in good physical shape the day we stopped hiking and returned back to my brother's house in the San Joaquin Valley. While I was glad to return to Hawaii, my family and my congregation yesterday, I was glad to be gone for a few weeks, too!

Bush Nominates Judge John Roberts to Supreme Court

The nomination of US Court of Appeals (Washington DC) Judge John Roberts to the Supreme Court this evening appears to have pleased most of the conservative pundits. Hugh Hewitt calls the nomination a "home run." One of his talk-show guests one-upped him by calling the nomination a "grand slam."

Personally, I know nothing about Judge Roberts except what I am reading on the internet. I do know that there were many conservatives who were floating Roberts' name as a nominee nearly two years ago. On the other hand, I expect the Democrats to at least symbolically oppose his nomination with as much grilling and hand-wringing as possible....SHORT OF A FILIBUSTER!

Yes, short of a filibuster. Based on what I have read this evening, I do not believe that the Democrats will be willing to risk losing everything by detonating their own "nuclear option" over Judge Roberts. It appears that any opposition to this nominee will prove to be a lost cause from the beginning. It would be far more likely to find the Democrats letting this one ride and save their "big guns" for Rehnquist replacement and/or the appointment of someone like Clarence Thomas as Chief Justice.

Even so, over the next few weeks we will all learn more about this man than we have any real need to know. Will there be pubic hairs on his Coke cans? Playboy magazines on his coffee table? Or will he turn out to be a church-going Christian? An Atlanta Braves fan? Or, horror of horrors, perhaps it is discovered that he once tipped a public restroom attendant in Dallas who turned out to have been an illegal alien from Mexico....or, even worse....from Saudi Arabia!

I have already read criticisms based on opinions he wrote in his law school term papers! Wow! Wait until we hear from his preschool teacher who will vaguely remember that he might have made a little girl cry by tickling her during naptime.

If that won't disqualify him from the Supreme Court, what will?

Monday, July 18, 2005

I'm Back!

I'm back at last from my three week vacation. I had a good time. Before too long I will post some photos from this year's hiking and fishing in the Sierra Nevada with my brother.

The best news of all is that I can now climb up a very long set of stairs without huffing and puffing! A series of hikes to lakes with elevations of 9,000-10,000+ feet will generally have that effect...if one survives the hikes in the first place!

In any case, I can assure you all that the beauty of God's creation can still be seen in all its glory. Since no one has ever said it better, I'll let John Muir, speaking of the Sierra Nevada, have the last word here:
All the world lies warm in one heart, yet the Sierra seems to get more light than other mountains (OUR NP, pg.76).....The sunshine falls in glory through the colossal spires and crowns, each a symbol of health and strength, the noble shafts faithfully upright like the pillars of temples, upholding a roof of infinite leafy interlacing arches and fretted skylights (OUR NP, pg.99).

Sen. Tancredo Does An "Oops!'

The good U.S. Representative Tom Tancredo of Colorado mispoke today. We all do it. But when a U.S. Congressman says something as dangerous and potentially incendiary as threatening to bomb Mecca in retaliation for future Islamic terrorist attacks on the United States, the Senator must rise above personal pride and admit that he erred......and erred badly.

One Hand Clapping has some good thoughts on this as does Hugh Hewitt. They both link to others who share their thoughts with various degrees of of passion and intelligence. Note especially the comments section at the end of One Hand Clapping's post. It appears that there are more than a few folks out there who are getting really sick and tired of this terrorism idea and are willing to cheer Mr. Tancredo's off-the-cuff suggestion.

As a Christian, I find such an idea abhorrent and morally untennable. It is our moral "high ground" that will ultimately overcome the evil that confronts us, not the bombs and bullets of a superpower.

The Japanese and Germans would still be our enemies today were it not for the forgiveness and generosity we showed them following their defeat in WW II. Even with the questionable (they will always be questionable) decisions to fire bomb Tokyo and Dresden and to drop nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it should be obvious that the United States and its allies demonstrated tremendous restraint and wise discretion in offering an open hand rather than a clenched fist to the citizens of those countries both during and following the years of conflict.

As a matter of practical policy, an action such as that suggested by Rep. Tancredo, would doom, not only the United States, but the rest of the non-Muslim world to an eternity of conflict that would never end until every Muslim was dead or until everyone left alive in the world was a Muslim.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Is Toyota Promoting a New Morality?

Tell me if I'm wrong, but I heard an ad for Toyota on the radio this morning while returning my rental car at LAX. The ad zipped by me fairly quickly but what I thought I heard was this:
Everyone in my family drives a Toyota: My mother, my wife, my
girl friend
and my kids.....
Now, I may be a pastor but I do not consider myself a prude. On the other hand....please, someone....anyone...tell me I did not hear this ad correctly! Perhaps their new slogan should be:

"Toyota...Not Your Father's Family Car!"

"Eyes Wide Shut"--Sleepwalking Through a War

John Daniszewski, writing in the Los Angeles Times this morning ("London Can Take It!"), somehow managed to find a way to sum up the entire political divide over the "war on terrorism" in one paragraph:

"It is one thing to face the future stoically," (historian Max Huston) suggests, "but not with eyes closed. Even if Britain does not feel it is at war, the people who are bombing it do, and so it is necessary to be on guard."
That, in a nutshell, is the whole point. The terrorists are at war with us and know that they are at war with us. Britain, Western Europe and Americans have not yet figured that out. Until we do we will be sleepwalking and in complete denial of the seriousness of the reality which we are facing....or, more precisely....the reality which is facing us!

Lord, keep us from the following description of Americans as cited in another LA Times article today written by Doyle McManus ("Afrter Flaggin Support Second Wind for Bush"):

The effect of a single event on public opinion--even a major terrorist event--is usually temporary.

People are worried about terrorism, but the edge comes off their concern as times passes, said Andrew Kohut of the Pew Research Center..

We cannot allow the "edge" to "come off." Whether we believe we are at war or not....those who wish to destroy us have no doubts whatsoever.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Praise God for the Little Things

Daughter #1 and I have now completed our three-day visit to Los Angeles.

In this short amount of time we managed to locate and purchase a wonderful used-car for my daughter to dirve and locate and sign a lease for an apartment where she can live when she returns at the end of the month to begin graduate school.

God made both possible, providing both when we had virtually run out of both ideas and time.

Image hosted by With the car, God brought us a salesman who happened to be a Christian immigrant from the Middle East. I mentioned that I had recently had the honor and privilege of meeting the world-wide spiritual head of his With the car, God brought us a salesman who happened to be a Christian immigrant from the Middle East. I mentioned that I had recently had the honor and privilege of meeting the world-wide spiritual head of his "denomination" in Hawaii. Tears immediately formed in his eyes, he asked me to pray for him and his family and promised to try and get us the car at no profit for hiself.

This he actually accomplished, with our purchase price ending up being nearly $1,300 under the sticker price and less than both wholesale and retail Kelly Blue Book listings....for a car that looked as though the previous owner had washed his hands every time before he drove it!

After the deal had been signed, I did pray with him. As my daughter got into her "new car" to leave, he leaned in the window and told her that if she ever needed anything while living in LA she should give him a call as, because of my faith, my ministry and my prayers, he would consider her as his own daughter!

What a witness to God's providence! And what a witness to my daughter regarding the Spirit who makes us one in Christ Jesus our Lord!

The apartment was a similar experience.

On the afternoon of our final day, we visited an apartment close by another one we had been disappointed in earlier. My daughter fell in love with it immediately. The Manager had moved in himself only four days earlier. It turned out that he had many family members in Hawaii. He and my daughter hit it off right away. He took her application and said that the management group would run a credit check this weekend and choose between applicants.

Soon after, we visited another apartment that was acceptable but not anywere near as attractive as the first. My daughter was essentially offered this apartment on the spot. What should she do? Take the sure thing? Or leave LA hoping to get the one she really wanted? She was told that the credit check would take ten to fifteen minutes. We drove away completely unsure what to do. We decided to phone the manager of the first apartment to explain the situation and see if he could expedite her application process in some way.

As my daughter picked up he cell phone to call him, the phone rang. We expected it to be the manager of the second apartment. Instead, it was the manager of the first apartment, offering her the lease. Apparently, he had been impressed with her, personally ran a quick credit check, phoned the management association and asked them to waive their review and allow him to offer it to her. They agreed and he had phoned to tell her!

Within seconds of the end of this call, she received two phone calls. I would tell you who phoned, but I will tell you that they were from the two people that would have been the first two people she would have immediately phoned to tell them the good news.

My daughter was shocked, stunned and overjoyed all at the same time. God had worked another "miracle" that was almost beyond comprehension. She had been told that it would take a minimum of two weeks to locate a decent, affordable apartment in Western LA.

To add to the aura of mystery, I then mentioned to her that I had, for some reason I could not even understand myself, only prayed one time for God to provide a particular apartment. That afternoon, as we were nearing the neighborhood of a new apartment listing, I had asked God that this particular apartment, which we had not yet seen, would be the one that God had chosen for my daughter.

After attempting to contact nearly 100 apartment listings and after personally visited more than 20 of them, this one apartment...the only one I had felt moved by God to pray for...was the one she wound up with.

In Hawaii we call this a "chicken skin" moment! Although I have experienced such things many, many times in my own life and ministry, it was something new for my daughter. I quoted to her my "life verse" from Proverbs, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways ackownledge him, and he will make straight your paths."

That, I told my daughter, was exactly what had happened with both the car and the apartment.

Without a moment's hesitation, she replied, "Yes, and I think it fits my 'life verse' from Philippians, too!" And then she quoted,

Amen! I couldn't have put it better myself!

Three Thoughts On the London Bombings

1. I am baffled by the confusion of both law enforcement and the media regarding the timing of the explosions. Surely, the objective evidence of video surveillance cameras, Underground transport clocks and eyewitness accounts should have been reconciled within one hour of the blasts, showing a near-simultaneous detonation. An error of 26 minutes is a vast error and I remain mystified that it took nearly two days to correct it.

2. The effect of the bombings on the public psyche has been dramatically lessened for two reasons:

First, the attacks were not "new" or "innovative." In contrast to the attacks on
9?11 they were almost mundane, as in: "Oh, dear, not another bombing! How sad for the Brits."

Second, the three Tube bombings were deep underground, providing neither
spectacular photographs of the explosions themselves (as with the jetliner
impacts at the WTC) nor follow-up photos of the damage and carnage (as with the
train bombings in Spain). Out of sight=Out of mind."

This is a welcome miscalculation on the part of the terrorists (thus far, the bus has been the only visual icon of the attacks).
3. The London attacks should remind us all how even small, simple explosive devices, when used with strategic precision, can paralyze a city of millions. Had there been any chemical or radioactive component to the bombs the casualty figures would have been in the thousands and the London Underground system significantly shut down for months, if not years.

Security concerns raised by the incident serve only to reveal the contents of the American "Patriot Act" to be tame and almost innocuous in the face of the threat that we face in a free and open society.

I suggest that vocal and strident opposition to even the more "controversial" aspects of the Patriot Act by members of Congress will, at this point in time, be political suicide...especially for those who might have an interest in pursuing national office.

Farewell To Rehnquist & His Gold Stripes

Image hosted by Photobucket.comI was sorry, but not surprised, to hear of Chief Justice William Rehnquist's resignation from the U.S. Supreme Court today. He has been a fine jurist whose opinions have been straightforward and clear, showing little of the "gray" logic of imprecision and ambiguity shown by other Court members in recent years.

He will not only be missed, he will be difficult to some ways more difficult to replace than outgoing Justice Sandra O'Conner.

One thing I will not miss will be the silly gold bands Rehnquist added to his robes to distinguish himself from his "non-Chief Justice" colleagues. The Chief Justice should view him/herself as the "first of equals." The emphasis should always be more on the "equal" part of the equation rather than on the "first" part. Those gold bands always appeared to me to signal a sort of "look-at-me" pride that, ironically, seemed to diminish, rather than increase, the status of this high office.

I sincerely hope that his replacement will return to the time-honored tradition of wearing a plain, black robe like every other American judge.

UPDATE: Well, as should be obvious, being on an extended vacation and trying to catch the news in bits and pieces has left me with more than a little egg on my face! Rehnquist is, of course, still on the court and may well be there long enough to welcome John Roberts, his former court intern, as a member of the Court by his own right! I continue to wish Chief Justice Rehnquist both life and health but still look forward to the day when those ghastly "stripes" are retired to the Smithsonian.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

"Blood, Toil, Tears & Sweat"

"God Shed His Grace On Thee"

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Wednesday, July 06, 2005

One of Those Days

Well...Daughter #1 and I arrived in Los Angeles this morning as planned. What wasn't planned was getting on the Budget Rent-a-Car airport shuttle instead of the Dollar shuttle. So, after a trip to Budget we returned to the airport and, after a long wait, caught the right shuttle and picked up our car at Dollar.

After checking into our hotel and checking out apartment rentals in newspapers and the internet we drove to Santa Monica to register with West Side Rentals and search their listings.

After driving down to Palisades Park, overlooking the Santa Monica Beach, I got out of the car to put some quarters in the parking meter. Daughter #1 also got out of the car, being careful to make sure the doors were all locked properly.

Unfortunately, I had intended to get back into the car and had left my key on the dashboard. So...called Dollar "road service" and paid for a local locksmith over the phone. While we waited, we sat on a park bench, enjoying the late afternoon sun sparkling off of the Pacific Ocean as we sorted through all of the apartment possiblities and made phone calls.

Forty minutes later the locksmith arrived and, after struggling with our door lock for, oh, say...five seconds, got it unlocked and got us back on the move.

Nothing much to add except that we enjoyed a wonderful meal at my favorite Mexican Restaurant in Del Rey/Westchester, La Hacienda Del Rey (on Lincoln Ave.), and, after some more research and planning out tomorrow, are going to bed early!

Life is never dull.....and if a locksmith can open a locked car in five seconds I guess someone else could do it, too. What a happy thought! Buenos Noches!

Monday, July 04, 2005

Comet Bulls-Eye for NASA

Although I am still on vacation in the middle of nowhere I did manage to stay up last night and watch scientific history unfold as NASA's Deep Impact probe struck "paydirt" in spectacular fashion. I want to congratulate NASA and the Jet Propulsion Lab for their success.