Thursday, January 26, 2012

Jackie Evancho video

My Uncle sent me this video link. Really nice song / prayer

Wow. She can sing and sounds so much like an adult ....

Captain Coward ...a new masculine sexuality problem?

A friend sent me this article and it may me think. Actually I am not sure how to react as I had never before this really thought of the subject of masculinity and the new "sexuality emancipated world" from this perspective.

But one thing that almost immediately came to mind is the "perfecto Italiano" cheese ads that I have seen recently on NZ Television (I found a couple on youtube and embedded it after the article).

I do remember a number of occasions when I was much younger (*sigh* - the good old days? :-)) being told off by a few times by some girls (back in the 80s) when I opened the door for them  (as in when entering a room, I instinctively open the door and hold it open for them to pass through first) and when I offered to carry their bags etc.

Reason given was in the area of "do you think I am helpless?" and "I can do it myself, I don;t need your help", (can't remember the exact terms). But I do remember the context was that it was insulting to them as it was seen as that I was implying that they as women (girls) were weaker than men .... And that was in Malaysia ...

Anyway, have a read and tell me what you think

Captain Coward’: Behold our brave new sexually emancipated world

SANTA MARINELLA, Italy, January 23, 2012 ( – What kind of man sneaks away under cover of darkness from his own sinking ship, leaving nearly 4200 passengers and crew to fend for themselves? What kind of men knock aside old ladies, little girls and young mothers to get to lifeboats first? Why, modern men, sexually emancipated men who have been raised on the tenets of feminism and our “contemporary” mores.
What can an expression like “women and children first” mean to modern men who have been taught all their lives that women are nothing more precious than sexual playthings, and children nothing more than a disposable burden?

The capsizing of the Costa Concordia, one of the biggest cruise ships plying the Mediterranean, filtered into the English language press a week later and everyone has now heard the recorded phone conversation in which coast guard captain, Gregorio De Falco, furiously orders the ship’s captain, Francesco Schettino, to return to his vessel. Schettino replied by repeatedly lying, while trying to flee in a lifeboat.

Passengers were left to rescue themselves aided by hired entertainers and a few crew members. One woman was quoted saying, “There were big men, crew members, pushing their way past us to get into the lifeboats.” Another passenger, a grandmother, said, “I was standing by the lifeboats and men, big men, were banging into me and knocking the girls.”

Francesco Schettino ("Captain Coward") has become the world's most hated man. But is he so much worse than any other modern, sexually emancipated man, raised under the tenets of feminism?

In the first days after the Costa Concordia tipped over in shallow water 300 yards from shore, all of Italy was gripped by shame at reports of Schettino’s behavior. He was arrested after he got to shore and charged with involuntary manslaughter and abandoning his ship. He was caught trying to get into a taxi, having reportedly asked the driver to “get me as far away from here as possible.”
Nicknamed “Captain Coward,” Schettino has become the focus of national fury for Italians fed up with the all too frequently accurate stereotype of Italian men as vain, feckless, irresponsible, selfish and untrustworthy permanent adolescents.

But the problem is not limited to Italy. It seemed apropos that the same week bad-boy American Catholic apologist Michael Voris was doing a series of videos on the emasculation of men and the effects of feminism on the Catholic Church and the world in general, a topic few in the Church dare to broach.
In one video, Voris mentioned the type of men who are approved by the feminist-controlled media: weak, stupid and ineffectual, who need to be ruled over by strong, hip, intelligent women. In the last 50 years, the Catholic institution has followed the world in adopting the feminist model. That ideal, Voris says, has driven strong men out of the Church and out of family life, pushing them to find a channel for their masculinity in unhealthy avenues like criminality and the objectification of women.

After watching one video, I sent Michael an email asking that he remember to talk about the flip side of feminism’s misandry, its vilification and demonisation of masculine strength. According to the tenets of the ideology, strong men are violent, evil and terrifying. Instead of heroes protecting women and children, feminism depicts strong men as brutal monsters, wife-beaters and child abusers.

The Costa Concordia disaster brought into the limelight the effects on men of feminism, and her strumpet daughter, the Sexual Revolution. Feminism has killed the cultural priority of men protecting and being responsible for women. In one video, Michael Voris spoke of the “hero’s journey,” the traditional western cultural archetype of the boy who leaves home, faces and overcomes adversity and becomes a man capable of protecting a family. But our feminist-inspired anti-culture, coupled with a soul-deadening consumerist materialism, has tossed these concepts out.

By telling women they don’t need men, by demonizing the value of masculinity, feminism has at the same time told men that they never need to grow up. If feminism has told women they can sleep around “like men,” it must be remembered that this implies that men may do the same right back. Instead of insisting that men grow up, marry a woman and protect and care for their children, it has offered men women as toys while offering women the Pill, abortion and family court as the back-up plan. Feminism defines “equality” as men and women competing equally in the labour market and using each other equally as objects.

A while ago, I read an interesting, though deeply frightening, website that claimed to be in support of men against the feminist world. In one article, the clearly angry men pointed out an unjust double standard in family law. The legal system, now held firmly in the feminist claw, holds them financially responsible for the children they father when they split from the mother. The article pointed out, however, logically enough, that at the same time feminism demands that contraception and abortion be freely available. Why then, if women are now allowed to use men as sexual objects, should a man ever be held responsible for fatherhood? Why should men be routinely financially ruined by family courts when abortion is legal, a lot cheaper and easy to get?

Why indeed? Feminism, because it is essentially dishonest, childish and self-serving, will never own up to the logical conclusions of its premises.

Recently, the popes have written against the kind of feminism that promotes abortion and contraception while hammering a wedge of hostility between men and women. Universal promiscuity, contraception, legal abortion, easy divorce, together with a youth-worshipping, madly materialist culture, they have said, has created an atomized society of isolated consumers for whom all relationships routinely end in abandonment. A vast cultural catastrophe that leaves children without fathers, tells women they don’t need men, and men they can remain happy, care-free adolescents their whole lives.

This message seems to have come through especially loud and clear in Italy where it is only too easy to find men who are the embodiment of the self-indulgent stereotype. The effeminate man-child is a plague in Italy; vain, self-important, shallow and self-seeking mamma’s boys who live in their parents’ house into their thirties and forties.  The once-family oriented Italians are increasingly either divorcing or refusing to marry in the first place.

Italian journalist Rosaria Sgueglia writes in the Huffington Post that the former master of the Costa Concordia is one of those Italian men who match the stereotype point for point. Italians are “furious,” she wrote, at “people like Mr. Schettino [who] do nothing but compromise the already damaged image the rest of the world has of Italian people.”

“The average Italian man is said to be narcissist, egomaniac, coward, selfish, unable to follow basic procedures and unable to follow the rules. True or not, it’s a stereotype, a stereotype which is strongly proved by the latest, tragic events in Italy.”

While Italians vent their fury on Francesco Schettino for being everything they hate about themselves, it must be remembered that many countries were represented in the crew roster of the Costa Concordia. The disaster has the fingerprints of our poisoned and dying western culture all over it.

Reading the reports of the Costa Concordia, I could not help but recognize the results of our society’s new priorities. Many observers made the comparison with the Titanic disaster. One hundred years ago, 1st class men lifted steerage class women and children into lifeboats in the full knowledge that they were giving their lives. The captain of that ship was last reported seen holding a child in his arms seeking a way to save her. A hundred years later, we have a coast guard officer shouting at “Captain Coward” to “Vada a bordo, cazzo!” … Get on board, damn it!

Behold our brave new sexually emancipated world.

Perfect Italiano Cheese ads

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Old Singapore based ad on teachers

After watching this year's Petronas CNY ad on youtube, this Singapore ad came up

Worth watching. I suppose what attracted me to this ad was a conversation I had with someone a few days ago, in which one of the things that was brought up was related to what I be doing if I did not chose to become a pastor. My immediate answer was "a teacher", which I think surprised the person :-)

Not so much teach in a seminary as a lecturer but a regular school teacher. I do fondly remember my 15 months teaching ESOL in a boarding school when I was much younger! And I do remember almost making the jump to leave being a church "full-time worker" at one of my many struggling stages to taking up a job teaching "moral studies" at a private higher learning institution ...

But I think teaching is one of the noblest professions to be called to, and I find it sad that many in the teaching line do not love teaching - it is just a "mundane job". I am grateful that here in NZ I have gotten to know some people in the teaching profession who are clearly called to teach. They have a passion and love for their students that inspires me. Teaching is clearly their vocational calling.

May there be more teachers entering the teaching profession like the one in this ad!

p/s will get back to my ramblings / reflections on "Pastor: A Memoir" soon ... still haven't completed the book because I keep re-reading certain chapters :-)

Forgiveness, the Cement of Community Life (Henri Nouwen)

Forgiveness, the Cement of Community Life

Community is not possible without the willingness to forgive one another "seventy-seven times" (see Matthew 18:22). Forgiveness is the cement of community life. Forgiveness holds us together through good and bad times, and it allows us to grow in mutual love.

But what is there to forgive or to ask forgiveness for? As people who have hearts that long for perfect love, we have to forgive one another for not being able to give or receive that perfect love in our everyday lives. Our many needs constantly interfere with our desire to be there for the other unconditionally. Our love is always limited by spoken or unspoken conditions. What needs to be forgiven? We need to forgive one another for not being God!

Community, a Quality of the Heart

The word community has many connotations, some positive, some negative. Community can make us think of a safe togetherness, shared meals, common goals, and joyful celebrations. It also can call forth images of sectarian exclusivity, in-group language, self-satisfied isolation, and romantic naiveté. However, community is first of all a quality of the heart. It grows from the spiritual knowledge that we are alive not for ourselves but for one another. Community is the fruit of our capacity to make the interests of others more important than our own (see Philippians 2:4). The question, therefore, is not "How can we make community?" but "How can we develop and nurture giving hearts?"

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Some Ramblings and Reflections on The Pastor: A Memoir” by Eugene Peterson (Part two)

It is interesting to me that for Peterson (at least in his younger days), felt that seminary professors were clearly regarded as top of the church hierarchy. Pastors to him were "shadowy, undefined figures in the background" (p.21). He of course changed his mind rather quickly saying he found himself (it was a surprise to him) preferring the four days he spent in the congregation to the two days he spent teaching in the classroom.

I have been told and I do agree that one of my gifts is that of teaching. And I have been asked many times of whether I should seriously consider going for  further studies and one day teaching at a seminary. I love teaching. I love to try and create order and practical application from the Bible. I love to show that the Bible is immensely relevant and practical. BUT I have long come to the conclusion that academia is not for me. I don;t have the discipline required. Neither do I have the intellect required.  Never much of a struggle there.
But interestingly it often is an open secret wish that I had the capacity and call to be a seminarian ... not for the love of academia, with its research and writing papers but to escape the church! Obviously wrong motives and so it is good that God in His wisdom decided not to equip me to such a task!

BTW it seems to me today that seminary professors are generally no longer regarded as being on the top of the church hierarchy! Well, at least in Malaysia ... :-) But I digress :-)

Anyway, Peterson's point was basically that the classroom was too easy as it was too tidy, orderly, too limiting ... . But in the congregation, " contrast, everything was going on at once, random, unscheduled, accompanied too much of the time by the undisciplined and trivializing small talk." (p.21)

I guess put that way, the church (as in the congregation) is far more exciting. In a sense I agree, but there are many days where I wish the church was more like the seminary classroom - everything neat and tidy, focused, with everyone there self motivated to learn and contribute. The mess that is the church sometimes overwhelms me.

More troubling for me is the stray thoughts that flit through my mind every now and then that make me question whether being a pastor is who I am. I prefer the neatness, the order. I get frustrated at times with the mess that is the church. The many uncertainties that is the church cause me a lot of inner tension and I know because it too often shows up in my dreams. Every time I visit someone, or have an appointment / meeting, I tend to "imagine" the worst case scenario" because I know life is messy. And I wonder how I am to cope or help when my life is equally, if not more messy.

But Peterson is right that the flip side of the coin of all this "mess that is the church" (not his phrase but mine), there is also amazing things that remind me that God is at work and there is real hope. In his words ... "heroic holiness, stunningly beautiful prayers, sacrificial love surfacing from the tangled emotions in a difficult family situation, a song in the night, glimpses of glory ..." I have seen all these and more as a pastor. And perhaps I might have missed some of these if I were not a pastor.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 helps a lot though I must admit that I have not been able to actually "delight" in weaknesses, insults, persecution etc.

 9 But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.
 10 That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

I still struggle with the challenges and joys of being a pastor. On the good days I think "there is no other vocation as wonderful as this!". On not so good days, I whine (Kiwi's call it whinging") to God about wanting out .... (ahem - it's called "prayer" :-)) But I am glad that the good days far outweigh the not so good ones and I have grown up enough to be able to see beyond the circumstances.

And Peterson has a wonderful phrase which I like in this book "Intently Haphazard" (which is the way he begins part 2 of his book. Will share about this in part 3. But I love it as it goes hand in hand and expresses so well what I have long ago realized is my understanding, my "philosophy of life".

Do US courts justify Sharia-based Crimes? (Tawfik Hamid)

In the USA, some rights are more equal than others?

Reminds me of  ... "All animals are equal. But some animals are more equal than others"

Do US courts justify Sharia-based Crimes?   

By Tawfik Hamid

A federal appeals court has blocked an Oklahoma voter-approved measure barring state judges from considering Islamic and international law in their decisions.

Muneer Awad, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in Oklahoma, sued to block the law from taking effect, arguing that the Save Our State Amendment violated his First Amendment rights.
The court stated "When the law that voters wish to enact is likely unconstitutional, their interests do not outweigh Mr. Awad's in having his constitutional rights protected."
Awad argued that the ban on Islamic law would likely affect every aspect of his life as well as the execution of his will upon his death. The appeals court pointed out that Awad made a strong depiction of how this ban would be potentially harmful.
"This is an important reminder that the Constitution is the last line of defense against a rising tide of anti-Muslim bigotry within our society and it is pleasing that the appeals court recognized that fact," Awad claimed. "We are also hopeful that this decision serves as a reminder to politicians wishing to score political points through fear-mongering and bigotry."
Speaking after Judge Miles-Lagrange's decision in 2010, Mr Awad said the ruling provided an opportunity to "demonstrate that Oklahoma's Muslim community simply seeks to enjoy the civil and religious rights guaranteed to all Americans."

1-    The above comments about Sharia law do not properly depict how controversial the risks to society would be if considered. Fundamental principles of Sharia law that are not only approved but also unchallenged in Islamic Jurisprudence include the killing Muslims who convert from Islam to another faith, the stoning of adulterers, and the killing of gays [1].  Furthermore, it justifies polygamy, pedophilia, and beating women to discipline them. If the judges of the Oklahoma Court knew that the basic principles of Sharia Law promote such inhumane and derogatory acts and still lifted the ban on it, it would subsequently end in catastrophe. Not only would it be a disastrous to our society but it would also show a level of ignorance within the U.S judicial system that ultimately must be treated accordingly.

2-    If one day Mr. Awad wanted to kill another Muslim because he converted to Christianity (or any other faith), would the Oklahoma court uphold his 'constitutional right' to practice Sharia Law and kill that Muslim - as Sharia Law dictates - or will they uphold the 'constitutional right' of the other Muslim to practice his 'Freedom of Religion'? In other words, should the court of Oklahoma protect such constitutional rights that arouse criminal activity (an example being the killing of apostates) but not protect such constitutional rights that allow citizens to freely select their faith and convert out of Islam without being threatened? The court MUST explain this discrimination in respecting once 'constitutional right' over another.
3-    Courts must be able to find sources for Sharia Law that illustrate how it DOES NOT promote the above mentioned criminal activities. Such sources must be cited appropriately and it must be noted whether any major Islamic institution approves it. Removing the ban on Sharia Law -without showing even one single approved Sharia text that rejects the crimes mentioned above - can be seen as a form of endorsement for legalizing such criminal acts.  
4-    Some may argue that the ban on Sharia Law is discriminatory against Islam, as it did not ban other religious laws, e.g. those acts in the Old Testament that promote, what would be considered today to be, criminal activity. The answer to this point is simply that the practice of the law or the 'jurisprudence' in mainstream Christianity and Judaism (for instances) clearly stands against implementing these laws in our modern day and age. Sadly, the only mainstream religious jurisprudence that still promotes and practice criminal acts - such as killing apostates - is the Islamic one (i.e. the Sharia Law). That is why we see killing apostates, stoning adulterers, and killing gays considered to be legal in Islamic countries that practice Sharia law, such as Saudi Arabia, but we do not see such practices legalized in the Vatican or in Israel.
5-    Another argument could be that even if Sharia Law promotes the previously mentioned crimes we can only punish a person if he committed these crimes. We have a precedent that challenges this concept. The American law forbids driving with a relatively high Blood Alcohol Level (BAL) as itmay lead to an accident or killing of a person. In other words, the American law criminalized driving with a high BAL despite the fact that not everyone whose BAL is high causes an accident. The law did not wait for an accident or tragedy to occur to justify criminalizing driving with a high BAL. The American law simply used consequential common sense that if driving with a high BAL increases the possibility of causing an accident then it must be considered illegal.  The same principle MUST be applied to Sharia law as practicing this law can threaten other people's lives (such as the lives of apostates, adulterers, and gays) and lead to increases in the possibility of killing innocent people.   In other words, as we do not wait for accidents to occur to punish drivers with a high BAL, we also cannot wait for Sharia-based crimes to occur to ban Sharia law.     

6-    The US declaration of  independence clearly stated that "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness." The Judges who lifted the ban on Sharia law must explain to us how allowing a law that justifies the above mentioned crimes can fit with our "unalienable Rights" of Life, Liberty, and pursuit of Happiness.
Accepting Sharia Law that shamelessly allows killing apostates, adulterers & gays AND promotes beating women, pedophilia and slavery is ultimately destructive to our unalienable Rights and as the declaration of independence stated "whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government." The US courts simply do not have the right to deprive us from our "unalienable Rights!"

[1] Sharia Law also promotes Non-Violent teachings such as personal cleanness, however, the above mentioned violent principles represent integral component of it. Denying one of these principles -such as denying apostasy Law -is considered a form of Apostasy that deserves capital punishment (beheading)  according to all 4 mainstream schools of Islamic Jurisprudence (Shafeii, Maleki, Hanbali, and Hanafi).  

Friday, January 13, 2012

January 2012 garden photos

Had decent weather today so I did some weeding of my vegetable patch ... and some harvesting.
Messy garden, over crowded and a bit of a pain (the weeds) but some nice tasty and fresh produce. Quite an apt analogy of the Christian life. :-)

Some of my taro. I look forward to harvesting the leaves next week (huge)
and cook some lupulu.

My dwarf apple tree - with fruits. I like it because the tree "died "
but returned to life

My kafir lime tree now has fruits. Still small but getting bigger
Going to be so good when I cook :-) 

Long bean plant that is doing very well

Due to over crowding the carrot leaves are extra long (to fight for the sun)
but the carrot is quite small. Left the others in the ground and see whether next month,
they get any bigger

Long beans from just one plant - and onions

potatoes mingling with my carrots and taro.

potatoes ... but from another area. They spread everywhere

one of my salad plants

my cucumber plant. forgot what variety. Bought just one seedling last year
for fun - under $2.00. Tiny pathetic plant that has about 8 leaves.

But it still had one cucumber - prickly cucumber  though. 
I look forward to more harvest as it is still summer - though a colder and wetter one. And waiting for my chilly plants to bear fruit. Some green chillies are finally coming to view.
Tomatoes not doing so well but hey, some green tomatoes are also finally in view

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Some Ramblings and Reflections on The Pastor: A Memoir” by Eugene Peterson (Part one)

Some Ramblings and Reflections on The Pastor: A Memoir” by Eugene Peterson (Part one)

I am really enjoying this book. It really “resonates” with my soul. (I like that word “resonate” J) I am only half way thought it but thought that I should jot down some of my thoughts, as I think it will help clarify my many stray thoughts.

And my thanks to Alex Tang for sending me this book!

The foremost thing that really stands out for me is the realization (or reminder) that a pastor is not both “born and made” (as in the phrase “ ______ is born and not made”). It is “both / and”, and not “either / or”. But “made” is probably not the best word to use … “formed” would be a better choice.

I found it interesting that from the very beginning of reading the book, I found myself thinking (almost in parallel) about my own stories that shaped my identity and calling.  That’s another key word that kept popping up – stories, more specifically “my life stories”.  

It is very clear to me that Peterson is right in asserting that “The ways in which the vocation of pastor is conceived, develops and comes to birth is unique to each pastor”. (p6).

And I like the word he uses as a “modifier” of the “ambiguity and mystery” of the working life of a pastor: “maybe”. My parallel word to his “maybe” is “depends” J

I discovered quite a long time ago, I think about eight or nine years ago, that my personal life story is very important in the way God shapes who I am. This came out of period of time a mentoring triad (with Soo Inn and Sivin) that I decided to take my first personal one day retreat and disappear with my Bible, pen, notebook and a guide book and spent the day praying, reflecting and writing out a time line of my life, taking particular note of the “highs and lows” of my life, as well as the incidents (stories) that remained in my mind from childhood. Some were not exactly highs or lows but the fact that I remembered them so clearly alerted me to the fact that they were somehow significant.  And significant they certainly were.

I had dinner recently with some younger friends and as my wife and I were sharing some of our stories – from how we met etc., it once again reinforced how important my stories and our shared stories are, and I could see again with greater clarity how these stories helped shaped my life.

And “coincidentally” a couple of days ago, I watched an episode of ST: TNG entitled “First born” which was a story about Worf and his son Alexander, and a theme in that episode that helped tie the story together was that of how important it was to “know our stories” and “tell our stories” because these stories formed their cultural identifies. A bit of a tangent I know but hey, it’s my ramblings J

What was helpful was the reminder that stories are set in “place” and “time”. Place is important as is “kairos” time. What was intriguing to me was how I could visualize very clearly the places (scenes) of significance to me. The time though was unclear – dates and even years are vague but interestingly only the “chronos” time. 
The “kairos” moments remained very vivid.

On a side note, it was a reminder for me and a (slightly at least) deeper awareness of significance “land” and “place” is in the identity and worth of certain people groups. First of all of course, the land of Israel for the Jews, my Orang Asli friends in Malaysia and now in NZ, the Maori.

And now that I have bought my own little house that I call home, I find myself becoming more attached to it in a way that is hard to explain (even to myself). Makes me think of heaven as well – wondering what the “mansions” or “rooms” are like – the “dwelling place” Jesus is preparing  (see John 14:1-3) for us. Sounds very physical to me – not just a spiritual analogy.

Anyway, it is good to get the ball rolling on reflecting on this book.  Perhaps part two next week …. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

Utility bills ramblings

I found  this Sojourners "Quote of the day" relevant to me.

"Proportionately, that segment of the population pays more of their income toward utility bills. If we can cut those bills down. we can really help them." - Matt Clark, Habitat for Humanity's national director of construction technology, on why Habitat is putting a new emphasis on energy-efficient “green” houses for low-income families.(USA Today)

Cost of living, rising cost of utility bills (rates keep going up *sigh*) has been a topic of conversation I have had many times over the last couple of years. In some conversations, many of us even shared with one another the amounts we pay for our utility bills.

And as I get semi  regular visits from representatives from different power companies (trying to get me to switch from my provider to theirs ...) I take the time to discuss (and with one even argue) the pros and cons of switching or staying. And even with a single company, there are various options - not just in billing but different plans. I have been in NZ for almost 5 years now and I have been with three different power companies, and ... also three different phone and broadband services ... 

If this makes no sense, check this site out ...
Complicated right? Well, at least for someone like me :-)

Anyway I do agree with the quote that a person can spend too high a proportion of one's income on utility bills (for me electricity, water, phone). 

My boys can testify about how much I nag them about the rising bills (and in all fairness, I use as an indicator - not the amount on the bill - as rates keep going up) but also the actual power usage / consumption that the bill is based on.

But I think I am doing pretty well. Have managed to get the electricity bills down for most of the months and I do think that putting in extra insulation is worth the initial investment - as it is slowly paying off. Most of my bulbs are energy saving ones - just can't change the "down lights" that came with the house. And lots of nagging on long showers using too much hot water etc has also helped a little :-)

And the current summer time is great as weather is warmer so no need for heating. 

On power companies, the current one I am on actually has the highest rates but I have decided to stay with it. (BTW, I suspect that there is some truth in the assertion that power companies that are semi-privatized charge their customers more). Reason simply is that their discount for prompt online payment is very high and since I am the kind of person who is extremely fussy about paying my bills on time, it benefits me! I have argued with sales people with their calculators and based on my past bills, I still save a lot more. And I do like their customer service people - they are efficient and when they promise to do something or get back to me on inquiries etc., they actually do it on time. And it helps that they have been honest with me and gave me a $50 rebate to thank me for being a loyal customer :-)

Trouble is, my house is old and wooden so there are limitations in trying to make it "green and energy efficient), especially in the colder months. But a bonus for me is that my boys like the cold weather so they do not use the heaters as often as others might. Good to have "thick skinned" boys! :-)

Have been toying with the idea of asking my boys to contribute to the electricity bills (a small percentage). Might be a good way to help them to be more responsible in how they use electricity. If they have to pay, then it is reasonable that they may be more responsible. 

An Invitation to The Great Conversation (Sojourners)

A helpful piece from Sojourners. I think it is hopeful and I like the way she ends her piece ...
"... may we honor the Go-Between God by creating a safe space for all people to join the Great Conversation".

An Invitation to The Great Conversation

In 1943, in the throes of World War II and one of the most fraught times in contemporary human history, the psychologist Abraham Maslow published a paper explaining, as he understood them, the five basic, motivating needs common to all of humankind.

They are:

Physiological  (air, food, water, sleep, etc.)
Esteem (confidence, achievement, respect of others and respect by others)
Self-actualization (morality, creativity, spontaneity, problem solving, lack of prejudice, and acceptance of facts)

While Maslow’s theories are humanistic, they have a connection to religion and spiritual life in what he called “peak experiences,” and what the religious world might call epiphanies — moments of clarity or ecstasy when the enormity of the wonder of the physical world, harmony with others, and relationship with the transcendent, with God, are felt in powerful, transformational ways.

Maslow argued that those who are the healthiest — the most “self-actualized” — had peak experiences more frequently than those who were not.

I’ve always found it compelling that Maslow developed his theories in a time of war, division, and insecurity. The son of Russian Jewish immigrants to the United States, Maslow looked at the world — battles raging in Europe and the Pacific, the full scope of the Holocaust and its horrors coming to light — and saw them not as struggles to be fought against but problems to be solved.

He sought positive solutions — through greater understanding of humankind on its most basic and universal level — to bring about peace and, in a sense, justice.

At the dawning of 2012, we find ourselves in nervous, troubling times not unlike 1943. Wars and rumors of wars. Seemingly unbridgeable divisions at home and abroad. Natural disasters, some of them of our own making, some not.

Economic insecurity on a massive scale. Political acrimony and ideological polarization. Slavery still exists, AIDS remains a pandemic, humans are still trafficked, and children and the most vulnerable continue to be exploited.

Surely, these are troubled times.

But, taking a cue from Maslow, how do we solve our problems and not just survive them?

And how do we, as people of faith, help bring about the solutions?

As I look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, I would humbly suggest that there is something missing that may be the key for us today. We humans — all of us — need, in a fundamental and profound sense, to be heard.

We need to be heard, and not just listened to; we yearn to be understood, to be known.

At Christmas, we celebrate the incarnation of Jesus Christ, the moment when God reached God’s hands into human history and said, “Here I am with you. Let’s take a walk and get to know each other better.”

A California vicar I know likes to describe the life of faith — the Church — as “The Great Conversation.” It is a conversation to which we all (and what part of all don’t you understand?) are invited. When followers of Christ share their faith with others, they are inviting them to join the sacred conversation.

This is evangelicalism in its truest sense. This is what we are called to do. By the One, by Emmanuel, “God with us.”

My dear friend, (and most recently my boss), Sojourners CEO Jim Wallis, said recently that the 2012 presidential election is expected to be the most mean-spirited and vitriolic we’ve ever seen.

That may be true, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it must be that way.

We can solve that problem one conversation at a time.

A conversation is an exchange of ideas between people. It’s not shouting our opinions or beliefs at one another. A conversation requires listening, hearing, and being heard. It does not require agreement with or even affinity for the other parties in the dialogue.

But in order for conversation to take place, civility must be its guiding principle. Civility is more than superficial politesse. It does not mean saying, “excuse me” or “thank you” and then driving a metaphorical knife into the other person’s back as soon as they are out of earshot.

Not only is civility necessary and right, it is also the loving thing to do. (Jesus did say his followers would be known by their love, not by the soundness of their arguments or their witty repartee.)

Civility means listening respectfully, hearing honestly and genuinely, and creating a safe space where all may trust that they genuinely are being heard.

For Christians, it means recognizing that conversations are sacred encounters and that God is literally present in them. This is the “Go-Between God” that John V. Taylor describes in his beautiful 1967 book The Go-Between God, God in the Holy Spirit who helps us make connections with others we’d never make on our own. This is the God who is as powerfully present between people as in them.

In this New Year, may we Christians, together with all people of good faith, work to find a solution to the discord that currently reigns in our society and not simply mourn its presence.

In this season of Epiphany, may we honor the Go-Between God by creating a safe space for all people to join the Great Conversation.

Vene, Sancte Spiritus…

Cathleen Falsani is Web Editor and Director of Social Media for Sojourners. She is the author of four books, including her latest, BELIEBER!: Fame, Faith and the Heart of Justin Bieber."

Living the Moment to the Fullest (Henri Nouwen)

A wonderful way to view "patience"!

Living the Moment to the Fullest

Patience is a hard discipline. It is not just waiting until something happens over which we have no control: the arrival of the bus, the end of the rain, the return of a friend, the resolution of a conflict. Patience is not a waiting passivity until someone else does something. Patience asks us to live the moment to the fullest, to be completely present to the moment, to taste the here and now, to be where we are. When we are impatient we try to get away from where we are. We behave as if the real thing will happen tomorrow, later and somewhere else. Let's be patient and trust that the treasure we look for is hidden in the ground on which we stand.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

misc fun yet thought provoking comics

I think they speak for themselves :-) These have been on my PC desktop for a long time now, collected over a few months.