Monday, July 27, 2009

Surrender of Suffering

Last week, you almost got a very depressing post from the vast vaults of my mind. I was in a deep, dark depression, suffering from a confluence of events that ended up all culminating in these past few weeks of summer. It truly felt like my heart had been ripped out of my chest still beating and aflame, a la' Temple of Doom. It was real pain and real hurt mingled with self-pity and lack of understanding, which in general does not sit well with the analytical and logical half of mind.

Yet in the midst of the suffering and doubt in my hurt, I decided that I needed to surrender it what I was holding on to at the foot of the Cross, the altar of the Cross and leave it there along with all the tears and heartache. And in doing so, peace began to find its way to me and my heart.

Peace that comes from an act of kindness from a friend from whom I never expected such kindness. Peace that comes from being with other people and talking about the Truths of God. Peace that comes from fellowship and friendship and laughter. In surrendering and letting go of the suffering that washed over me like a tidal wave, God allowed peace to flow back into the crevices of hurt, healing as it swept through, and interacted with me through friendship and fellowship.

And in His mercy, His grace, He allowed me to experience great encouragement through one of the things that had given me such doubt and heartache. What a Redeemer.

Truly, I have only begun to scratch the surface of this journey with and within Christ.

*PS - Clearly, I must not be in such the doldrums of despair anymore as the above picture makes me laugh!! Picture, hyperbole is thy name :).*

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Today marks the anniversary in which President Nixon announced that he would visit communist China. It was a landmark event in the history of US foreign policy and it embodied a foreign policy worldview, first coined by Henry Kissinger (Secretary of State at the time), as "realpolitik".

Realpolitik basically says (definition courtesy of The History Channel), that this is a policy of "politics that favored dealing with other powerful nations in a practical manner rather than on the basis of political doctrine or ethics". Take a minute to digest that.

This opened the way for the US to enter into economic relations with China and change the free-market as we know it, flooding it with a myriad of cheaper manufactured goods - despite the human rights' atrocities that occur daily (Tibet, or the most recent Uighur protests and violence). It also currently allows us to turn a blind eye on human rights' atrocities occurring in Russia (check out this article and remember the situation with Georgia last summer). Other examples of realpolitik? How about turning a blind eye on Rwanda (not a powerful enough nation to warrant our attention), or not mentioning anything when former General Musharraf gained power by virtue of a coup (and then becoming our "ally" when we invaded Afghanistan in 2002?). How about continuing to support Israel, even as it demolishes Palestinian neighborhoods and builds a literal wall around the West Bank? How about supporting Saudi Arabia as it promotes radical, fundamental Wahhabi Islam, denigrates its female population, and employs migrant Indian workers (who are no better than indentured servants) while the entire population lives off royalties from oil?

Realpolitik allows the US to turn a blind eye on many things, allowing practicality and logic to dictate foreign policy. But the question has got to be, is this a good thing?

I truly don't know. I don't know when a state on the scale of the United States should step into conflicts and try to help the situation. Do you try to help a failed state like Somalia and risk another Black Hawk Down occurring? Do you go against the political power and money of the Jewish lobby and say that no, we will not support Israel's tactics against Palestine? Do you try to stop genocide occurring in Sudan? Do you confront an economic and military powerhouse like China about it's human rights violations that it flaunts in front of us? Do you rescue North Koreans from an insane dictator that is hellbent on starving his people before he launches a nuclear missile? What dictates a state's foreign policy? Economics? Or ethics? Sell your soul or be guided by principles? Can it be both? Or should it be neither?

What do you think? What should the role of a state like the US be in the realm of world politics? Isolate itself so that we do not "meddle" in the affairs of other states and do nothing; help ethnic minorities throw off the restrictions of a dictatorship so that they might have a chance at the basic human right of freedom; rescue those suffering from gross human rights' injustices; or follow a combination of economic-ethical policies that allow us to turn a blind eye on some things, but not others?

It's not an easy answer.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Book Review: Stephenie Meyer's "The Host"

The Host The Host by Stephenie Meyer

rating: 4 of 5 stars
I don't know what it is about Stephenie Meyer, but she certainly has a way of capturing the imagination and interest of this reader. So much so that when I picked the book back up yesterday, I could only put it down once, and then once I started reading it again, I had to finish it before I went to bed. Meyer has a way of weaving a tale of such beautiful romantic proportions but in completely bizarre, weird wrappings that the beauty and romance ultimately transcends the bizzarity of the actual plot details.

The basic plot of the book entails an alien lifeform called a "soul" taking possession of it's host body, which in the case of this story, are human bodies. Kind of weird-freaky and frankly disturbing premise.

But the beauty in the story is that as it develops and transforms, you the reader find yourself adapting to the premise and developing sympathy for the plight of the main character, "the soul", although initially you care for the "host" body. By the middle of the tale you are intently involved with both characters and by the end you find yourself sobbing at the sacrifice of one for the other. Then at that time you also marvel at the fact that the story evolved from a love triangle to a love quadrangle and yet you knew somehow from the middle of the book that this was where the characters would ultimately end up. And while you are investing yourself in the main characters, there are a slew of other minor characters that enrich and enhance the story as well.

The choices that "soul" makes ends up showing it's distinct beauty and character, and I wonder as I reflect further upon it, if the "soul" is not actually a metaphor in some ways for our own, human, souls. I think this train of thought needs further reflection though.

All in all, it's another quality read by Stephenie Meyer, in the same vein (and yet completely different) as her Twilight novels. I highly recommend it and I highly enjoyed it. I hope that Meyer will continue to write more good quality, highly imaginative reads.

View all my reviews.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Book Review: The Tipping Point

The Tipping Point The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

rating: 4 of 5 stars

So back in March of 2007 when I started this book, I thought it was ok - just another good, popular business book that I should probably read. The introduction was kind of dry and hard to get into when I was trying to read it on zero hours of sleep in the Charles De Gaulle Parisian airport. So I put it down for a bit...quite a long bit, as approximately two years when by before I picked it back up again.

And thank goodness I did. Once I made it past the introduction, I started to get into the meat, the heart of the book, which is a fascinating study of how social epidemics, whether it's a trendy new shoe or teenage smoking, get started and succeed. It's a study that looks at the actions of people and tries to make sense of why do some people act the way that they do? What makes a trend take off among people?

From a business/marketing standpoint, this is a great study. It provides a minefield of data and people to look for - the Salesmen, Connectors, and Mavens (the Law of the Few), as well as the encouragement to think outside of the box to figure out how to make a message "sticky" (The Stickiness Factor). It also makes the marketer think about how does your environment, your surroundings (the fascinating Broken Window theory, or also The Power of Context) affect your message? The thoughtful Afterword that comes at the end of the book also presents the challenges and questions of how does one overcome the Rise of Immunity to a message (my answer is engagement in social media marketing) and the importance of Finding the Mavens as your best ally in spreading the word about your product.

From a human, sociological, and in my case a Christian world-view, the book offers a dramatic look at how people are inherently and subconsciously influenced by the power of community. Especially in America, people like to flaunt their individualism as part of their identity. They are an individual so they make their own decisions and whatever else someone thinks does not matter or affect their actions and decisions. Gladwell's book gives countless examples of how little factors make a HUGE difference and how people, especially children and teens, are influenced by what their community around them tells them. The subversive thing about it, is that often these cues are subconscious, and a person responds out of those subconscious cues more than they would ever admit personally. It also is fascinating that children and teens are more influenced by their peers and the subconscious "permission" that these peers give them to try or do all sorts of things - which sometimes results in unspeakable destructive acts.

All in all, there is a lot to be learned from this book. I have read several reviews on here that seek to debunk all the theories or rail against it for lack of empirical data, but I can't agree with those arguments. It's not a life-changing book and I don't think that it should be read in that way. I believe that it should be read as a guide to think about human behavior and decisions in a way that we've never considered before. It is a great study of human behavior and how the little things really do make more of a difference than anyone has ever been aware of before. I liked this book enough that I'm going to put Gladwell's book, "Blink", on my "to-read" list, in the hopes that it is a continuation of this kind of interesting study on human behavior.

View all my reviews.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Lord of Miracles

God is into miracles. Little ones. Big ones. Ones that require only a little bit of faith. Ones that require a mountain range plus Mt. Everest of faith. Ones in which it requires a little prayer. Ones in which a whole community rises up and surrounds a person or event with prayer. There are not many things that I am sure of, but of this I am - God is into miracles.

Two of my friends from college have been on an incredibly arduous journey of faith in trying to adopt two Ethiopian children. They have been on this journey for about two years. Two years of heartache, yearning, pain, obstacles, and now, insurmountable joy. For finally, FINALLY, the last leg of the journey is over and they are now currently on their way, journeying toward their children, ready to bring them home and start the family that God has created. He has been so unbelievably faithful to them, it brings tears to my eyes. And their faithfulness to Him is an epic tale of two people refusing to give up hope and to cry out to Him in the obstacles, in the pain. I invite you to take a look at some of their previous posts on their blog, Every Bitter Thing is Sweet. I have been praying for them and this journey for months now and to see how the insurmountable obstacles just melted away these past few weeks is beyond any description that I can give.

Some of my other dear friends just celebrated the one-year birthday of their daughter - a daughter who was born with serious heart defects and has, in her one year of life, already had multiple heart surgeries. Yet this sweet, beautiful little girl is the picture of health, love, and joy and again, the testament to how a community surrounded an impossible situation with prayers and how our Mighty Lord answered and gave us her life as a living reminder of His miracles.

Then there are the little miracles that the Lord of Lazy Susans, and now apparently Leather Couches, creates, reminding me of His sense of humor and how He can be involved in the little details of our life.

I need one more miracle though and I must ask you, whoever reads this, to pray with me for a friend of mine. She recently lost her mother and is so, so lost spiritually, mentally, and physically. I worry and fear for her, but I also know that I can have hope for her because of who God is and how He can work miracles. But this is a miracle that needs community, and so I am asking you to please keep my friend in your prayers. Pray for healing, for peace of mind, for strength to continue living through her pain, and that her physical needs would be met (she is in search of a job, home, insurance, etc.). And please pray for those of us walking with her through this, that we would have wisdom in what to say and what not to say, how to listen, and yet how to speak Truth into her life. My sincerest, heartfelt thanks to you. And Thank You Lord of Miracles.

**PS, Note on the Picture - I actually took this photograph one day as I was driving my country roads around lovely Fauquier county. Isn't it beautiful! It reminds me of God :).**

Thursday, July 2, 2009

It Just Keeps Piling On....

Oh blog, bloggedy, blog, blog. I have been meaning and wanting to post thoughts, feelings, and reactions to a myriad of things for a while, but the demands of summer, life, and living with Jesus have been pretty pressing as of late. I hope to post some thoughts up here soon though about my completed trip to Young Life camp, as well as some other things that have been ruminating, marinating, and rummaging around in my head. I am beyond grateful for a 3 day weekend this weekend, and hope that by the time I emerge from it, I will be a little bit more rested for the chaos of next week - which looks to be one heck of a ride! Sorry for only posting twice last month - that is a new all-time low. But be sure, as always to check out Ruminations and Reflections. I'm much better about posting up over there :).