December 23, 2005

Our Culture and a Wardrobe

Well, I saw the Narnia movie for the second time tonight. And, since I’ve been wanting to share my thoughts since the first time I saw it—on opening night—I thought tonight would be a great place to share.

First, in order to direct you to some links that I found interesting and that were somewhat representative of my thoughts, I’ll point you to Ocular Fusion.

The first time I saw the film, I was entranced. I was in Narnia. I came to the movie with the mindset of a child—and I was drawn into the wardrobe hook, line, and sinker. I loved it! I was transported into my imagination, dreaming of a land beyond the wardrobe, and my imagination and love for the stories bringing me into Narnia in almost as real a way as my imagination and the books themselves. I think it was the first time a movie had actually inspired my imagination to see beyond the movie screen.

I was also pleasantly surprised with the children. They didn’t look like Hollywood stars. (I could actually imagine meeting them in the house next door!) And Lucy thrilled my imagination with her sense of awe and wonder and child-like innocence through the movie.

Thankfully, the Lord of the Rings movies had prepared me to know that there would be a distinctly “modern” feel to the movies (Mr. Tumnus, for instance, would never have smiled like he did in a movie made, say, 50 years ago. It made sense to us—but I suspect that it would have been seen as a slightly unfriendly smirk in the not-to-distant past.), so I was not unfortunately surprised when I saw them. In fact, I was surprised about how appropriately I felt much of the modern-ness was done. It actually seemed to almost add to the movie, rather than take away from it, as I’d felt in the Lord of the Rings.

After seeing it again tonight, however, I’ve realized a few more things and solidified some conclusions from the first viewing. (Too be fair, I really need to sit down and read the books again—I’m making comparisons only from my memories of the books, which tend to be rather fallible.)

I think my ultimate conclusion is that the movie is really a reflection of the people who made it. They took Lewis’s story and re-told it as accurately as they knew how, trying hard to not leave out important details. I’m sad, however, because I think this re-telling ended up missing a lot of the depth and impact of Lewis’s original. I’m not faulting the director, for I’m quite sure that he did the best job he possibly could. However, I suspect that he is both not a Christian and (like many of us) rather a product of our culture.

There were many, many parts of the book that I really missed in the movie. Two came to mind tonight: Father Christmas telling Lucy, “Wars are ugly affairs—particularly if women are fighting.” and Aslan telling her, after she had just finished administering her healing ointment to Edmund, “How many more must die because of his treachery?” (I know I’m not quoting exactly—I don’t have the books nearby.) I highly suspect that audiences would not have understood these elements properly if they were in the movie.

Obviously, to say that a war is particularly ugly if women are forced to fight is certainly a product of our politically correct culture. This, perhaps, was an understandable omission. To completely omit, however, Aslan admonishing Lucy in her love for her brother is a telling sign of the state of our culture. Love (taking all the time in the world on her brother, Edmund) over duty (bringing healing to all the others hurt in battle), intricsic good (Lucy coming up with the idea herself) rather than holy correction (Aslan admonishing her), I’m-a-good-person rather than I’m-do-wrong-too. Yes, I might be coming down a bit hard—I certainly think it is right to take care of one’s own family—at least to look after their needs—before taking care of others, though Christians can never forget to do either. I think, however, that the filmmakers likely didn’t even understand the change in worldview that this slight difference in storyline represents.

Not only change in worldview, but change in depth. Lewis’s books are well worth reading time and time and time again. One plumbs new depths in the storyline each time one reads them. The movie, however, seems to shed a lot of that meat—sometimes, it seems, in favor of pretty graphics.

Some, I’ve heard, have expressed concern at the cartoony-ness of some of the animals. Personally, I agree—but I think it is rather a moot point. It’s an artifact from having computer-generated characters. Our skills at computer-generation simply don’t seem to be able to create consistently realistic movements of characters without making them look like video games. Rather than a criticism of Narnia, I think it is a criticism of most of the computer effects I’ve seen. It was especially noticable to me in the first Lord of the Rings movie, for instance, when the fellowship was in the mines of Moria. The large creature swinging his club around somehow seemed much more like a video game than a real creature. Perhaps it is just because I’ve never seen anything its size in real life…

Despite my concerns with the lack of depth in the movie, however, I have a serious question. I’d noticed it the first time I was the movie, too. At the time, I decided that it was a good and necessary thing, to some degree. It was an attempt to translate the movie into terms that our culture understands. To some degree, I still think that is the case. I don’t begrudge the filmmakers for trying to change the story for that reason, especially since I think much of the stated purpose of the movie is to get kids to read the books. Fair enough. Unfortunately, I also think that it could have been better. It would have taken a storyteller on par with Lewis himself, and I think very few would really be up to that task.

I was also really surprised with some things that the movie never did, that I was very surprised at. Given that the movie started with a bombing raid of London, and the kids missing their father so much, it would have been one of the most obvious things in the world to explain all of Narnia away as dreams induced by their trauma. The movie doesn’t do that—it doesn’t treat them as children simply dreaming up imaginary worlds because they miss their father. I’m thankful for that.

It also never fell prey to many movies habits of making fun at everything—even the truly beautiful. Mr. Tumnus could have been an easy target to make fun of—with his penchant for inviting over little girls—but he is always held in high esteem. The relationships between siblings could have been marginalized—but they were shown, all of them, having fun with each other and affection for each other. Even the marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Beaver. Yes, they were often good for a laugh. But it wasn’t ever at the expense of their marriage or their worth as “people.” What was good and right and beautiful was upheld as such—and that is a quality missing in most of today’s entertainment.

Well, that about covers it. I’m glad for the movie. I’m so glad for how good it is. I’m sad, because I think it could have also that much better, a classic to own for all time. Nonetheless, it is an excellent movie, and one well worth watching.

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December 22, 2005

Christmastime Materialism

It seems that I’ve heard a lot said this year about the horrid materialism of Christmas. “Christmas is about Christ, not about presents.” “Christmas should be a time to reflect and meditate.” “How can we worship the Christ-child when there is so much noise?” And on and on and on. I don’t suppose that it is really more this year than most years, but I’ve had a new realization this year.

I think Christmastime is not the time to meditate nor to be somber nor for quiet contemplation. It is a time to celebrate! The Christ-child is born, and God has revealed to us His salvation. What better cause to pull out all the stops and celebrate with all of our gusto?

The Old Testament Israelites did this in Nehemiah’s day, as Jerusalem was being rebuilt. (See Nehemiah 8:13-18.) King David knew how to party with all His might before the Lord. (See 2 Samuel 6:16-23.) And Christ Himself says that there is a time for celebration for the Advent of the Bridegroom. (See Matthew 9:14-17. Admittedly, the verse seems to say that the time for celebrating was during Christ’s time on earth. But, I think it isn’t an illogical extension to say that we ought to truly celebrate Christmas once a year.)

Now, I do have to give a disclaimer. I also think that our culture at large (at least, for those of us in Western cultures like the United States, as I am) tends to not spend enough time in contemplation and meditation and quiet. We are constantly surrounded by noise and materialism. (For, it seems, the two often go hand in hand.) Many college students that I’ve known could hardly stand being away from their stereos (or iPods) for more than a fifteen minutes. We need to take more time to think, to examine ourselves, to see if we are following Christ with all we are. (See 2 Corinthians 13:5.) But, I dare say, Christmas is not the time to do it.

I also know that far too many associate Christmas with simply the receiving of presents—and it is true that a celebration is somewhat foolish if folks don’t know what they are celebrating. Even then, however, “(it is a proof of His lordship that practically the whole world sets aside a day to be happy and giving in His name.)[]”

My conclusion? Yes, let’s live more thoughtful lives, all year round. Examine your lives every day—and even perhaps especially on New Year’s. But Christmas is a time to celebrate.

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December 18, 2005

Evangelical Economics

I ran across an interesting weblog post the other day that eventually pointed me to an essay entitled Let There Be Markets: The Evangelical Roots of Economics.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone complain that modern economic theories were too Christian. Too secular, too rational, too unloving, too selfish—but never too Christian. Yet, that’s precisely what this author does.

He also makes some interesting assertions along the way. For the sake of argument, I’ll assume that the historical examples that he cites are true. (Does anyone with more knowledge in this area than I care to comment on them?) Interestingly, however, despite using the apparently “Christian” roots of economic theory as his primary justification for his ideas, his primary argument seems to boil down to this:

What is entirely missing from the economic view of modern life is an understanding of the social world.

I’m trying to unravel what entirely he means by this statement.

He first explains his assertion by saying that “in reality even our purely ‘economic’ choices are not made on the basis of pure autonomous selfhood; all of our choices are born out of layers of experience in contact with other people.” That’s an argument for an economist, not for me. That doesn’t really seem to be his point, however. He goes on to dig into businessmen, evangelical Christians, and even mathematics—blaming them for grasping economic theory in a stranglehold that has caused the biggest socio-economic problem this world has: the poor.

They are interesting arguments. I’m not schooled enough in either economics or history to know how much merit they really hold. I certainly think that his scoffing at Christian caricatures is shallow at best—although probably a good time for Christians to see how much we, individually and as the Church Herself, resemble what he describes.

Any other thoughts?

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December 11, 2005

The Differences Between Humans and Animals

Funny things happen if you starting searching around the Internet for the difference between humans and animals. First, I find someone claiming that “…the discipline of anthropology is blatantly anthropocentric” (similar to how theology is too deo-centric, perhaps?), and then I run into one of the best satires I’ve seen in quite some time. He had me hook, line, and sinker all the way until the fourth paragraph—and the rest of the piece reeled the line all the way in. It was certainly not the kind of piece I was expecting from Answers in Genesis.

That was a lot of fun. I should try it again sometime.

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December 06, 2005

Call 911 in Case of Emergent

I found a useful definition of the emergent church today. I won’t be offering any thoughts or critique here, since they’ve been posted elsewhere. But, I thought you’d appreciate the link. Enjoy!

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December 05, 2005

An Exciting Find…

I ran across a new blog today, written by Mustafa Akyol. I’ve only started reading—but I’ve been thoroughly impressed. I’m always impressed by well-written cogent thoughts—particularly in this day and age where a simple name-calling session seems to elicit more power than any measure of reasoned discussion.

(Hmmm…side note…I think that is probably why I enjoyed 12 Angry Men so much when Rita and I watched it this weekend…)

Nonetheless, I have (so far) been very impressed with Mr. Akyol. He seems to have the communicative and reasoning ability that I yearn for. And, to top it all of, he’s Muslim. It is interesting to hear some of the viewpoints of someone who has a rather different (particularly in some vital points)—yet still very similar—worldview.

So much to learn to understand this world that God has put us in…

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December 04, 2005

What is Truth?

It’s a question that’s lasted from the first century (and earlier, I’m sure) to today. Many folks claim to have answers. Some do. Many deceive even themselves.

Remember the telephone game from growing up? Sometimes truth tends to take a turn of that sort. Other days, it can take a spin like I’ve written previously. Some days, however, it seems we don’t even care.

A pair of posts at the Contratimes blog reinforces that point precisely. And, in the process, I myself may have even fell prey to this trick: I didn’t bother looking up the examples he cites myself.

We’d all like to believe everything we read, see, and hear—especially that which reinforces our ideas. The times, however, call for a much deeper, much harder, much more challenging but fruitful work: finding the real Truth, as much as we are able.

Will you join me?

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November 22, 2005

Outsourcing Overseas…and to the Midwest?

Outsourcing computer jobs to the Midwest sounds like a great idea to me. I can imagine few better ways to revitalize the little farm towns that seem to be dying away.

I guess I’ll have to keep that in mind for the next time I shift my career around a bit.

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November 20, 2005

Need Your Fairy Story Today?

I ran across an article in The New Yorker about C.S. Lewis. It was an interesting read, even though it seemed pretty obvious to this Christian that the author did not understand the depths of Christianity, despite his apparent fairness. What interested me most—despite the author’s factual problems—was the concluding two paragraphs:

For poetry and fantasy aren’t stimulants to a deeper spiritual appetite; they are what we have to fill the appetite. The experience of magic conveyed by poetry, landscape, light, and ritual, is…an experience of magic conveyed by poetry, landscape, light, and ritual. To hope that the conveyance will turn out to bring another message, beyond itself, is the futile hope of the mystic. Fairy stories are not rich because they are true, and they lose none of their light because someone lit the candle. It is here that the atheist and the believer meet, exactly in the realm of made-up magic. Atheists need ghosts and kings and magical uncles and strange coincidences, living fairies and thriving Lilliputians, just as much as the believers do, to register their understanding that a narrow material world, unlit by imagination, is inadequate to our experience, much less to our hopes.

The religious believer finds consolation, and relief, too, in the world of magic exactly because it is at odds with the necessarily straitened and punitive morality of organized worship, even if the believer is, like Lewis, reluctant to admit it. The irrational images—the street lamp in the snow and the silver chair and the speaking horse—are as much an escape for the Christian imagination as for the rationalist, and we sense a deeper joy in Lewis’s prose as it escapes from the demands of Christian belief into the darker realm of magic. As for faith, well, a handful of images is as good as an armful of arguments, as the old apostles always knew.

How existential is that? It seems that the author implies that the specifics of our beliefs are rather meaningless—provided we have an escape in our fairy-tale lands. Don’t get me wrong—I adore a good fantasy. But isn’t the fantasy that this author proposes simply a sham used to cover up the nitty-gritty of our life? It seems to me, though, that good fantasy rather exposes the grittiness of our lives—and helps us make sense of it, helps us to aspire to greater things. Ultimately, I think the very best fantasies—often indirectly—point us toward Truth, a Truth that doesn’t try cover up the messiness in our life and yet a Truth that doesn’t leave us hopeless.

Any thoughts?

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November 17, 2005

Bubbles. It’s What’s for Dinner.

Colored bubbles are definitely one of the most unique things I’ve heard of in quite some time. Even more fascinating to me, however, is that most of the work was done by an inventor in his kitchen.

It seemed so certain that all the possible great inventions that could be invented in one’s home, or garage, backyard, or kitchen must have already been invented. Anything new, except perhaps computer software, would be done with big budgets in expensive labs. I guess I’ve always had a soft spot for renegade inventors. Still, it’s really cool to think that there might be something really worthwhile yet to be invented in my backyard.

(Of course, he just took the bubble idea. Darn.)

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November 13, 2005

Thinking Coolly About Global Warming

I’m certainly not a climactic scientist, but, from a layperson’s perspective, I’ve been rather disappointed with much of the thought regarding global warming. So often, it seems that we simply do enough science to support our pet conclusions, without really trying to do a thorough job.

(For instance, so often I’ve heard that we started global warming since the industrial revolution. That makes sense if we assume that it was greenhouse gases, from all the factories we built, that caused warming. But simply since a measurable temperature rise and factories apparently started at the same time does not mean that one caused the other. There could be any number of other things that could be causing global warming: orbital changes, a receding ice age, cows farting, etc. Now, I know that scientists generally have tried to take this into account. Yet, it seems that it is very difficult to really take into account all the possible factors.)

A news report I saw the other day, however, seems to have done a much more thorough job (in my mind) than most. (Okay, okay, I know I haven’t studied these things for years like some folks have—but I know full well that people are fallible, no matter how much studying they’ve done.)

A quote from the article:

William Ruddiman, a professor of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia, is behind a controversial theory suggesting that humans had a hand in warming the planet nearly 8,000 years ago, and in doing so, might have prevented another ice age.

This certainly doesn’t give us reason to avoid trying to clean up our act. I drive a small car and bike when I can for a reason—and not just because I need exercise or because I’m cheap. (Although, now that you mention it, those are probably good reasons, too) There are a ton of resources that we could make much better use of, and a lot of work we can do to make sure we don’t spoil God’s good creation. Alarmism, however, doesn’t help anything—and, if accurate, this report seems to indicate that it might be a lot less appropriate that we have been led to believe.

[Update: I added a few links and fixed a grammatical error. ~ DAH 11/14/2005]

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November 11, 2005

A Week In My life

Hi all! Yeah, updating isn’t something that I’ve been taking a lot of time for lately. God has blessed me with more things to do that I really enjoy and that keep me from being restless. I thought it was about time to share those things with you. I’m not super busy, but enough to give my week structure and purpose.

Starting with Monday. It’s a pretty quiet day. I usually end up getting some errands done and cleaning and things like that.

Tuesdays I plan for Story Hour at Covenant CRC in town. It’s sort of like a sunday school for 4 and 5 year olds while their mothers are in Bible study. I usual put off getting ready for it, it’s not my favorite thing to do, but God has been using it in my life.

Tuesday afternoons I have a girl friend that comes over for a visit. It keeps me sane! If I have story hour stuff to do, she will help me with that, which is a huge help!! Sometimes we walk or just sit and talk. It’s great to have someone female to connect with once a week!

Wednesday Mornings is Story hour. It’s also a bit of crunch time to make sure I am ready for it. It’s funny because it’s during this time that God really uses to touch my heart too. It’s during this time that I really think seriously about how these stories of Jesus are not just stories but something that REALLY happened. Some mornings it blows me away, others it causes me to be humble and repentant at my lack of faith. It is so easy to just read the bible as a bunch of stories and forget that it really truly happened. We are trying to read the bible in a year right now, but I struggle with it, both in doing it every day and then because I am so far behind I want to catch up but I am not able to take the time to really meditate on what I am reading. Story hour has been good for me that way. I hope I can not just leave it for story hour either.

I get home just before noon after Story hour. Usually I am quite tired when that is all done, so I take it easy in the afternoon. Or it is a good time to schedule other random thing that come up in my week.

Wed. Nights I go to church with David and get the music binders ready for the music teams practice later in the evening. We go around 6:30 and then at 8 David stays to practice with the team if he is able. It’s a good time for him to practice his trumpet.

My job is just simple, but I love it! It just gives me what I need for feel worth while in all my little projects I do. And when I get my green card I can even be paid for it! What a joy to be paid for something I love to do anyways!! That is great!

Thursday mornings I go to the Nursing wing and help out in the activity department. Every other week we paint nails and the opposite weeks we sing hymns and some in Dutch. The Residents love it! At first I wasn’t excited about it, but now I enjoy it very much. I’m glad to help and meet with the residents. I don’t ever want to work as an aide again, but I do enjoy the volunteering!

Fridays I get ready for Bible study. Usually that includes cleaning and meal planning and shopping etc. It’s fun and usually busy. I often get sidetracked as I am today! :) But I did my cleaning yesterday because I didn’t go to the nursing wing. (they are moving to a new building!)

Bible Study lasts from 5-9 ish. Some people come at 5 to help me make supper and then the rest come at 6 ish for supper. Dessert and then either Bible study or praying and singing, depending on the week.

Saturdays are slower some weeks than others. David and I try to spend time together on this day. Often David is working on Sunday school because he/we lead a class for people our age. We are studying issues relevant to our world today. Either current events or philosophy that is relevant. It can be a lot of work some weeks.

Saturday is sort of a catch up day or a relaxing day, it depends what we have to do or how much time we have.

Sunday we have church and sunday school. Sometimes we have guests for lunch and then we relax as much as possible the rest of the day. Sundays are a wonderful day! I’m glad God told us to relax one day a week. We need it. And in todays world two days is almost needed.

Well, that is our/my week! Hopefully I can find more time to update on the little fun things that happen too.

Love you! in Christ Rita

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A fishy update!

I just wanted to let you all know what has been happening with our fish. They seem to be stabilized and doing well, although I am still a bit worried about the rest of the guppies.

After TV died, we got another fish friend for Fanny right away but unfortunately it got hung in a tree in the aquarium a few days latter :-/ Oops! We waited a few days before getting more fish, because we were not sure of the cause of death has been.

Now we have a total of 7 fish. Three fan tail goldfish like Fanny. Three Guppies and one Beta. The Beta is in a bowl on my computer desk not in the fish tank with the rest.

We have renamed our aquarium TV, in honour of our first fish. And it’s much more appropriate to call the whole thing a TV rather than just one fish.

Starring in our TV:

Fanny, renamed Ester (but I tend to forget and still call her Fanny) A pure gold fish in colour, appropriate for royalty.

Amos. Named from the farmer of Tekoa in the Bible. He is a orange and white fish and makes me think of a cow. :)

Hosea. Named because he came the same day asa Amos and Hosea in the Bible was a prophet close to the time as when Amos was. Mostly gold in colour, but has a touch of white at the base of the tail to make him easy to identify.

Disclaimer!- If the sex of the fish proves to be other than they are named, they will be renamed as appropriate

Also starring “the Guppies” as the expendable crewmen. or a rock group, take your pick.

The Beta, not part of the show, is a bright red which looks nice with the bright blue shovel that is also in the bowl for decoration. (I hope to take a picture so you can see it along with my computer desk.) The beta is yet to be named, but Edom and Petra are two names that have been bouncing around for a while.

That’s all for now! love you all! In Christ Rita

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November 08, 2005

A New Piece of Writing

I also recently posted a new short story (is it even long enough to be called that?) under the “Writings” section. Let me know what you think. :-)

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It appears that my previous post on capitalism triggered a few responses—including a plea from a fellow blogger that I continue my thoughts. The comments did cause me to do some serious thinking on the subject, and I hope that I can provide some further thoughts for discussion.

First, as has been pointed out, the freedom that I discussed earlier with regards to capitalism and democracy is not the same as the freedom Christians have in Christ. (See Galatians 5:1 for an example of this.) Again, as was pointed out, this freedom is only found in a new life in Christ. Rather, I am talking about a freedom that is much more limited in scope but that would be understood by many more people. It is the freedom to follow one’s own conscience, to accept or reject God between oneself and Himself rather than between oneself and man, to be wise or foolish, to be greedy or generous, to to what is right or to sin. Freedom in Christ, of course, is the only way to escape our bondage to the law and our bondage to sin (discussed more in Romans). Freedom in capitalism and democracy, on the other hand, can only externally allow us to do what God’s freedom internally empowers us to do. It’s like a driver’s license. It will allow me to go all sorts of places—but only a good car actually empowers me to travel across the continent. (Or any number of other forms of transportation…)

With that established, the next question is: so what about capitalism? Is it really the Christian way to run an economy?

(As an important side note, for the purposes of this discussion, I am taking capitalism and democracy largely as a single unit. I don’t suspect that they must be taken together in such a way—but I do think they are often found joined because their philosophies and ideals are similar. It is those philosophies and ideals that I most want to discuss.)

Back to the question at hand. The short answer: no, of course not. I have no intention of saying that capitalism is the one true economic system that will exist for all eternity, glorifying God in its monetary exchanges from now forevermore. That’s just silly. What I do say, though, is that capitalism is about the best there is in our world today. I realize that this is a rather contested statement—especially by concerned Christians who see so many being taken advantage of in our culture and in our economy today. Before I try make any defense, however, I’d like to talk about a few of the items that I see as problems with this idea of capitalism.

First, the market only rewards that which it sees as valuable. For instance, a capitalist society is a poor society for a philosopher to make a living in. Since the philosopher (unless he starts participating in the daytime soap-opera talk show circuit) has little to produce that people are willing to pay for, most philosophers seem to end up as service experts at fine grease-food establishments. “Now,” you might be thinking, “there are a few philosophic types that I learned about in college that really should have been selling fast food rather than philosophizing.” And you’d be right. But I also suspect that our society could do with a greatly increased amount of good, practical philosophic training. Yes, to some degree, it happens, in the non-profit thinktanks and other organizations. It is still terribly far from the common person, though, and I would argue that the common person is often the one who would make the best use of solid training in how to think. Capitalism cannot solve this problem—unless the people in it decide to value philosophy in a way that they never have before.

I suspect this also applies to valuing marriages and families. Both are much more important than employment—but they have little economic benefit. And fewer and fewer people are willing to pay the costs of raising a family).

Second, I’m quite cognizant of the fact that capitalism can be both a boon and a curse to those who strike upon rough times. Just as in almost every other society one can think of, those who have a stroke of “bad luck” (most often bad decisions, but not always) at some point in their lives may never have a chance to recover. This is, for instance, the whole point of the Old Testament’s Years of Jubilee. (See Leviticus 25.) As far as I can tell, the whole point of the Jubilee was to make sure that no one got stuck for generation after generation. Bad decisions (or bad luck) would hopefully only affect on generation, with a family’s land being restored after fifty years so that they could have a shot at making a living again. Sure, chances are that the rich man next door bought them out again—but they had a chance, and I think that’s the point. Our society does address this problem some, I think, in public education—we give everyone a chance to make of their lives what they want. Unfortunately, however, poverty still runs in families from generation to generation, and I’m not sure that capitalism has, in and of itself, a good solution for that problem.

As a combination of both the first and second points, how often are the suddenly disadvantaged (disabled or otherwise) taken proper care of in our society? Especially those without families?

Third, and I’m not sure that this is a problem insomuch as an observation, our economy is designed to be pluralistic. We do not discriminate on belief—at least, we try not to. On one hand, this limits us. I don’t think that it would be right for us to try weave too much morality into our economic system. Hear me out here: I am not saying that we try design a culture or an economy on the principle of separation of church and state. Morality needs a foundation, and I’m quite convinced that a Christian foundation works best. However, I also have no desire to require non-Christians to act like Christians, beyond what is necessary for a good society and for my well-being. That’s a terribly difficult line, and I’m not sure that I have any answers yet. But, let’s just take one issue as a case study: generosity. My primary beef with a socialist idea is that it both forces those who would otherwise be greedy to be giving and those who would otherwise be generous to be stingy. The first one may sound like a great thing—but do I really think that, in general, people ought to be forced to give? It seems that the story of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5) shows, indirectly, that this isn’t the way to go. Also, I appreciate the freedom to give to those I deem worthy—and perhaps no one else does. If I was forced to give for government distribution (in whatever form that happened), I wouldn’t be able to give like I would have otherwise.

Could a better system be designed if one was guaranteed that all were Christ-following believers? Perhaps. I suspect that, in the New Heavens and the New Earth, we might find one. But, then again, wouldn’t all of capitalism’s faults be solved if God’s Law was truly written on our hearts?

Finally, and Nate alluded to this in his comment in the previous post, capitalism’s goodness (like all other economic systems), is terribly dependent on the people in it. Just like Israel in the Old Testament: if you have a good king, things are great; but, if you have a bad king, things are very, very bad. I suspect that capitalism has been prosperous largely because the people in it had a basic understanding of right and wrong, and decided to live by it. I would surmise, along the lines of Francis Schaeffer, that capitalism would not help at all in a society formed of people whose sole goal is evil.

With all of those negatives, does capitalism really hold promise? I say that it does. The most important reason in my mind is freedom, as I discussed earlier. I am given the freedom to be an agent of grace in my society—or to not be, if I so choose. Additionally, I find justice to be an idea that capitalism espouses quite nicely: those who work hard are rewarded, and those who don’t, aren’t. Nothing in capitalism promotes one to treat the poor unjustly—but, I will admit, I am quite sure it happens nonetheless. Justice, of course, is a very separate idea from grace. I think we often confuse those terms when we speak of “social justice.” I suspect what we truly want is “social grace.” But I digress…

Finally, I think there is a common misconception about “looking out for Number One,” as Nate mentioned in his comments earlier. As Christians, we tend to insist on complete selflessness. Why is this? Ironically, it is because that is how we are supposed to be as Christians—and because we believe that we will be better off for it. We are being selfless for entirely selfish reasons. (You may think that is just word games—and, in that example, you might be right. But listen for just a bit longer…) Isn’t every decision we make intended to be good for us in the long run? We may torture ourselves with exercise—because we know that being fit will make it all worthwhile in the end. (At least, if you are a lot more disciplined than I…) We may give of our time to disadvantaged children—because we are rewarded by it and believe that it makes us better people. Maybe it will even store up for ourselves treasures in Heaven. I’m hard pressed to think of examples that don’t eventually (when looking at the long-term) boil down to some form of self-interest. Christ seems to acknowledge this idea as He speaks of storing one’s treasure in Heaven (Luke 12:33, etc.). Rather than condemning us serving others for our own rewards, He simply tells us that the rewards will be in eternity, not in this life. I would argue that even His own crucifixion was not so much an act of selflessness, but rather an act designed to show the world how great and awesome of a God He is.

Of course, the rub is that most of the time we need to convince ourselves that we aren’t thinking of ourselves—otherwise, we find ourselves being selfish in the very short term, thinking only of what we can gain in this moment. I think this is where the idea of Christian selflessness comes from—but, if pushed too far, I think it leads to some rather damaging ideas. Why, if you really want to be selfless, why don’t you stop using up our resources and do away with yourself? That, of course, isn’t right at all—but it seems to be the logical conclusion of many people’s thoughts.

So, back (again) to the question at hand. What of this capitalism? I certainly don’t say that it is Christian. But I do say that I deeply appreciate the freedom that it allows. I’m glad to see those who work hard rewarded in this life. I’m happy to know that those who desire to help the poor and disadvantaged can without any restriction but their conscience (and, well, taxes). And, although it is painful, I’m glad that those who are not willing to work don’t receive the same rewards.

Ultimately, I am convinced that Christians in a capitalist society have a deep duty: we must be the exceptions to the rule. We are to be the ones who do not live lives focused on gaining affluence, but rather give of what we have to those in need. Capitalism gives us a unique opportunity to do this. And I am intensely thankful for that—and I pray that, by God’s grace, He will allow Rita and I to truly take advantage of the opportunities we’ve been given.

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October 27, 2005

Working Far Too Much in a Lonely Place

Well, I’m home. I was in Aurora, Nebraska for the first four days of this week working on a project for work. Lots of work, and not enough time to both do the work and get enough sleep. Far too much like college, if you ask me.

But I’m finally home, and very much glad to be home, having time to spend with Rita and just plain relax. I’m afraid there is more work to be done on this project, but I’m exceptionally thankful to be home. Being on the road, far from close friends and my wife, can be a very lonely place to be.

I’m also extremely grateful that projects like this don’t happen often at my job. It feels so terribly hard to keep God-focused priorities when work takes up almost all of one’s waking minutes.

But I’m home. And maybe back to normal. ;-)

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October 18, 2005

Some very sad news

In the past few weeks 5 of our guppies have died. It’s been sad, but not a big deal because they are not my favorite anyways. (bad attitude probably but I got them for more company for the goldfish.) David thinks there might be something in the waters but I didn’t feel the urgency to check yet.

Well, this morning at breakfast we discovered that not only have the guppies died, TV has also died :( But his was by the way of suicide. He jumped out of the tank some time during the night. I’m a little sad but it’s easier to handle a fishes death when I am quite sure it wasn’t my fault. I thought TV was over his jumping days, but I guess not :-/ (there is a bad picture of TV in our “life in 2005 Jan-July” photos if you want to see :))

Other than that, David and I are doing very well! I am super excited to have my sister come visit me in two days!!!!! This is my first visit from my family since we left NB. oh yeah, speaking of which, Saturday marked the one year anniversary of our border crossing with our visa. Not only that but last week Tuesday I fulfilled my last requirement for my green card, now it’s just waiting until they tell us what to do next and hopefully last! Horray!!!

Thanks for your many prayers. Love you! In Christ Rita

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October 11, 2005

What Happened to the Comments?

After too much thought and work, I think I’ve finally figured out a solution to the comment problem. Unfortunately, that means that I have to convert all of the old comments to the new system. Please bear with me during this process. John and Nate, I’ll let you guys know when I get my reply ready to your comments to my previous post.

Maybe the comments will really work properly from now on!

I am also working on fixing the odd “Table of Contents” pages that have started appearing.

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October 06, 2005

Photo Update

Hi all, I added a few more pictures and a new category in the photo’s heading. I split up the picture of this year so you don’t have to download all the pictures any time you want to see the most recent ones. Ie, I added a new “life in 2005 Aug-Dec” so you can see the more recent ones without repeating the old ones. Enjoy!

Don’t miss David’s latest blog below just because I wrote an entry that pushes his down a bit.

In Christ, Rita

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October 05, 2005

Christianity and the American Dream

I ran across the article “Capitalists make bad Christians” the other day. It is one of those articles that has so many fundamental points that are difficult to argue with, but the end conclusion just seems so far off base.

The article has a lot of points that the church in the U.S. probably ought to take to heart. For instance:

  • “How can individuals call themselves Christian but not make great strides to help those in need?”
  • “Living in a fully righteous manner in accordance with Jesus’ true philosophy would mean giving up the American way of life.”
  • “Even so, many challenge the accepted meanings and translations of scripture in order to make their otherwise reprehensible actions and values seem Christian in nature.”
  • “If America is a Christian society, one should be able to see true Christian values in the actions of the nation and the people comprising its citizenry.”

I can hardly argue with that. The church in America—at least, the church composed of those that label themselves a part of the church—is hardly a model Christian. We don’t even understand the grace given to us properly, nor to we live by it. We live lives devoted to anything and everything but our Savior. We are so focused on “success”—whatever that is—that we brand it spiritual and never consider storing our treasures in Heaven.

But the author continues:

“Capitalism, and the mentality that it espouses, stand in stark contrast to any serious interpretation of Christ’s words.”

Isn’t that precisely the jump in logic that the whole article is built on? Capitalism obviously makes one a pig. If you are capitalist, you will become a one, and have no hope of following Christ.

Is that necessarily the case? Not at all. Yes, capitalism has much of its basis in, “How can we best grow an economy?” But it also has it’s basis in the idea of freedom. Everyone is given a chance to run their business as they see fit by their conscience. You don’t tell me what to do, and I don’t tell you what to do.

(As an aside, there is an emphasis on responsibility that can often be lacking in this discussion. We’ll leave that for a later date, however.)

Isn’t that kind of freedom dangerous? Doesn’t it let people take advantage of other people? Yes, it does. At the very same time, however, it allows us to be as generous as our conscience leads us. We don’t have our “goodness” dictated to us by the government.

There’s a kicker, here, though; one that I just realized this past week. This kind of freedom is precisely what helps us understand grace.

Legislating all the good things that have to happen doesn’t work with humanity. The good things might happen—but our hearts suffer. We think that we will be “good enough” as long as we follow all the rules and pay our taxes to contribute to welfare and social security. When tough times come, we expect everyone else to help us out—because they are “supposed to.” They don’t—and we complain. We complain that the feds didn’t get there soon enough. We complain that there just won’t be enough food. We complain that the manna poured out from Heaven doesn’t last on the seventh day. We complain…

I’m a big fan of freedom. It allows us to disagree. It allows us to hash things out and truly start to understand what is right. It allows us to be who God created us to be.

It’s that freedom—both in the economic and political senses—that makes me proud to be an American. Sure, I’m not always happy with where we are at. I’m especially disappointed with how rarely solid, rational debates happen in our sound-bite politics today. But I’m excited for what this country can be, if we are willing to make it so.

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September 30, 2005


Just last week Ruby Addink and I went on a random trip to Montana to visit our friend Allison. What a great time!! We got to meet a lot of Allison’s friends, go to the market, see Allison teach her class of Freshman students, sit in one of her classes, go to some readings, got to church, etc. It was a full and fun weekend!!

It’s also the farthest west I have ever driven! I’ve been to the west coast once but flying isn’t quite the same as driving. To think I was just a few hours south of Alberta!!! Being a New Brunswick girl, Alberta feels worlds away! In reality, I’ve only ever been as far as Sarnia Ontario in Canada! Even Manitoba feels worlds away even though I’m just south of there now.

Seeing the mountains was exciting too. We are not certain, but we are pretty sure that the mountains didn’t have snow on them on the way into Montana, but on the way out, they definitely did! Maybe I missed the snow on the way in because I was sleeping???

Check out the photo’s under “life in 2005” I have few pictures of the trip there. Also, you can check out Allison’s blog, she also has some pictures up from the trip. It’s at

So, now that I am back, David starts a bit more of his own traveling during this month. And if you are wondering where he has been all these weeks and why he hasn’t written much for his web page, well, he has been busy responding to his friends blogs that he doesn’t have time for his own ;) I’ll get him to put up links to his friends blogs later :) Maybe we should ask permission first…?

I hope you are all doing well!!! Love you, In Christ Rita

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September 14, 2005

Busyness of life

Wow, David is right, I really need to write and give an update of my life too! It’s been a while! Oh, I should also tell David that my preview doesn’t work still, it has nothing to do with anyone else, but incase I forget to tell him in person, while I am here i should let him know ;)

Where has I been in the past month? Good question. I am sure a few weeks ago I had time to write, but the past two weeks if I did, I don’t remember :) This week in particular I’ve been busy getting ready for Story Hour at Covenant CRC here. I’m glad for the experiences I received in doing Little Lambs last year in Canada. (LL & SH are the 3-5 year old classes while their moms are in a bible study)

I’ve had the great experience of making my own Flannel board, that was fun ;) with fun people to use in telling stories :) I’m using my scanner a quite a bit on that one since I am not able to draw myself very well. That probably made no sense to anyone else but me, but that is ok, it just lets you know my state of mind ;)

Deep thoughts? Plenty but unorganized. Short run down on what I have been busy on? David and I went tenting in Omaha two weeks ago. I was busy before and after with it. Then a lot of my mind was consumed by preparing for Story hour.

Really Rita, there must be more than that! Oh yeah, I’m also starting to Volunteer at the nursing wing in the hospital. That should be a lot of fun. I had my first day this week. I hope to go again on Friday and maybe tomorrow even if I am up to it. I have a lot of writing to catch up on too. Letters, daily journal I’m behind in, devos, blogs. You know how it goes.

To think that just a few weeks ago I was bored out of my mind and praying for things to do! WEll, God answered my prayers. Yeah, even when I had time I didn’t write, why not? Don’t you ever get SO bored that you don’t want to do ANYTHING! that is what I had. I think I’m getting over it.

Oh yeah, we attended two weddings about three weeks ago and got to see Matt And Sabrina again!! That was SUPER exciting!!! Also a busy weekend. We were able to visit David’s parents for a few days too. I think that was more relaxing than the other trips we have taken this month.

I got to go swimming!!!!! For the first time this summer!! I don’t even have a picture to prove it! We found a lake close to Omaha that was good for swimming on our weekend away. It was worth it! I miss swimming every day like last summer in Canada. that is ok, Every part of life is different, this summer was spent mostly indoors learning how to keep myself occupied. I think it went well all in all.

I like the scrapbooking I’ve been doing. That has been fun. Do you have any comments on it? I would love to hear! (Rita’s Pages, check it out!)

I also heard some exciting news, Elizabeth, my sister, is visiting us next month!!! I’m super excited about that!!!

The other exciting news here, we added guppies to our gold fish aquarium! That has made things a bit more exciting for both them and us. :) They are great fun to watch!

Time to go wake David up! I hope you are doing well! Love in Christ Rita

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September 12, 2005

The Parable of the Sower

“When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one come sand snatches away what has been sown in his heart.” ~ Matthew 13:19

In regards to a post I wrote earlier, I recently (okay, it’s been almost two weeks—I haven’t had much time for blogging lately) ran across this passage in Matthew that really struck me. Christ is talking specifically about people who hear the Gospel, but don’t understand what they hear. Christ says that Satan himself “snatches away what has been sown in is heart.” How sad is that? People that don’t make a decision about Christianity based on Christ—but just never had the opportunity to understand what Christianity was all about.

Lord God, may You grant us Your words to bring Your news to those around us. Don’t let us be stumbling blocks to the Gospel. Amen.

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August 29, 2005


You’ve probably noticed that I’ve had the comments on this site powered by the HaloScan service—which has worked great, apart from a few minor quibbles. Unfortunately, I’m afraid that yesterday’s post about the halogen lamp discovered another quibble.

Apparently, HaloScan has some limit on the length of the comment identifier, so two posts named “Halogen Lamp Dimmers, Part II” and “Halogen Lamp Dimmers” are considered the same. In fact, all the comments posted at “Part II” ended up with the original post.

I’ve posted at their support forum, so I hope I can get some details on this issue and fix the comments, for real, this time. In the mean time, though, I guess I’ll try avoid using such long comment identifiers.

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August 28, 2005

Halogen Lamp Dimmers, Part II

Well, after waiting probably far too long, it’s fixed. Yes, that’s right, the halogen lamp that I wrote about earlier is now back in working order. It wasn’t a hard fix; it just took me quite a while to get back an old project that I wasn’t too optimistic that I could fix.

It turns out that the fix was simple. (Hmm…maybe I don’t really want to admit how simple…) My brother showed the switch to his supervisor at work, who pointed out that one of the solder connections was questionable. (Thanks much, Rich!) Indeed, it was! So, I soldered it up tonight, and we have a working lamp again!

I learned a couple of things about soldering, too. First, I knew I had a cheap soldering iron, so I figured it just wasn’t working very well when I tried to use it. A quick look at Wikipedia, however, lead me to think that tinning the tip would possibly improve things. It worked great, and, in hardly any time at all, our lamp is working again.

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August 26, 2005

Christ Around the World

Even though the United States has such a Christian influence, I wonder how much of Christ’s Gospel is actually understood by those that live here. Almost everyone is familiar with Christianity, it seems, or knows someone who is. But how many have rejected Christianity simply because of a misconception? How many think that Christianity is about “being good enough for God” or “not doing bad stuff” or “being stuck in old worthless traditions?” Even more disconcerting, how many in churches only have that understanding of the Christianity, and don’t know the Grace that is ours in Christ through the Gospel—the grace that is offered to all, regardless of how good or bad they are, regardless of their condition, upon their faith in Him for their salvation.

It breaks my heart to think that many reject the Church on the basis of what they have seen, and not on the basis of Christ.

As much as we need to bring the Gospel to those that haven’t heard anything about the Christianity, we need to bring the Truth to those who don’t understand, and present it in a way that makes sense to them. We cannot change the Truth of the Gospel—it isn’t Truth, then—but we can certainly work hard to make sure that, as far as it depends on us, our words make sense to our culture.

Jesus, help us. We want to follow you.

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August 22, 2005

The War on Terrorism

I haven’t followed a lot of the news about the war in Iraq and the war on terrorism and particularly President Bush’s speeches about those issues nearly as much as I probably should have. However, I caught a snippet of Bush’s comments on the continuing work in Iraq over the weekend, and several things fell into place about how the war has been portrayed and justified by the current administration.

Ever since the beginning of contemplating the war on Iraq, I’ve been surprised at the reasons given for going to war. I don’t pretend to have an exhaustive or even entirely correct list of justifications used, but the ones that I seem to remember are:

  • Saddam Hussein is a horrible dictator, and we want to free the Iraqi people.
  • Iraq has weapons of mass destruction.
  • Iraq is a promoter of terrorism and maybe even linked with Al-Queda.

For the longest time, I was rather surprised at how little air time seemed to be given to the obvious (at least, to me) justification of invading Iraq. At the end of the last Gulf War, as I understand it, we made agreements with Iraq as to what they would and would not do. If they did not cooperate, we would incur punishment. Quite simply, Iraq hardly ever cooperated. In order to make sure our threats are not just thin air for ever after, we had to respond as we said we would. We needed to follow through on our word.

If this justification was so obvious, I wondered, why were we spending so much time talking about these other reasons? Well, I can understand a little bit of the weapons of mass destruction. That’s something that everyday people can understand, and we all react pretty violently (no pun intended) to the thought of someone like Saddam Hussein with such weapons.

Talking about bringing freedom to the Iraqi people is a little cloudier. This argument would easily have made sense a generation or two ago, before Vietnam, in particular. Unfortunately, our society today has little understanding that the freedom we enjoy needs to be protected, and that it sometimes is very costly to protect. Right along with that, I suspect that our culture doesn’t accept the idea that people don’t always know what is best for themselves. We don’t want to force freedom on someone else, even if it is best for them.

The terrorism one, however, always startled me. Why are we linking Iraq to terrorism? They have a bit of the same mindset and values, to be sure, but a link? I doubt Saddam and Osama would even be friends. Why bother?

President Bush’s comments last weekend about continuing to fight terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan all of a sudden helped some of these things make some more sense. Ever since the beginning, I suspect that Bush and his administration saw who the enemy truly seems to be: a mindset, a point of view. Not any particular dictator or terrorist, but a way of thinking that unites across otherwise heavily guarded borders. And, realizing this common enemy, they tried to explain to the American people what enemy we were up against. Did we get it? I don’t think so.

What kind of enemy is this? Some would suggest that we only have enemies because we attack others. Messages from terrorists would seem to suggest this, as well (although, if I was a terrorist. But it is an enemy that hates America—both in its values (of freedom) and lack of values (in morality). I think it is also an enemy that seeks to find a righteousness, a salvation, in attacking those who it seems as its enemies.

Now, please don’t misunderstand me. I will be the first to admit that I’m not privy to any “insider information” and I certainly don’t have a deep understanding of Islam. But I can say how I would understand life if I was a terrorist, and do my best to interpret what I see. If I say something that you think is incorrect or even tilted, please leave a comment and let me know.

As I understand it, those who are involved in terrorism have more of a vendetta against the United States than just foreign policy that seems heavy-handed. (That’s a whole discussion on its own—suffice it to say that while our foreign policy has definitely made mistakes and has probably been far to heavy-handed at times, we’ve also made the other mistake and forgotten to use our influence for good. “With great power comes great responsibility.” Unfortunately, it is often very difficult to tell the difference.) I suspect that they would even wish to attack the U.S. even if we kept entirely to ourselves. Why? Two reasons: our prevalent immorality and our view of freedom.

Prevalent immorality I can certainly understand. I think that anyone with a relatively traditional Judeo-Christian morality is rather disappointed with the loose morals in our country, particularly in the media. Unfortunately, our media is primarily what the rest of the world sees of our country. Given Islam’s emphasis on good works (as I understand it, good works are a part of their salvation—not a guarantee, exactly, but certainly a necessity if one desires to be saved), I can certainly understand their hatred of the influence that seems to be ripping their faith and religion apart. What can I say? I think many of the same thoughts from a Christian perspective.

The view of freedom, however, is maybe where we start to run stuck. Just by looking at the general structure of a primarily Muslim nation, we see that the government dictates far more of life than anyone in the States would ever be comfortable with. Regardless of why that might be, it has some interesting consequences. First, from the point of view of the Islamic government and the people that support it, freedom in the sense of disagreement is an evil (in many, although probably not all, cases). It is an evil because disagreement does not mean rational discussion to find truth; disagreement means insubordination against those who have power and authority. In the United States, however, we thrive on being able to disagree. (As a general rule, at least. I think one could make a very convincing case that this quality is quickly waning.) Therefore, the States represents a sense of freedom which encroaches on every bit of power and authority that I suspect many Muslim government and their followers hold dear. (Again, please forgive me if I have made some incorrect or rash assumptions—please leave a comment with your thoughts and corrections!)

(Second, as a side-note, I think this is also where we will have/are having the most difficulty in Iraq. It doesn’t surprise me at all to find that the idea of “freedom” that the Iraqis know and hold dear is one of subordination to a Muslim state—perhaps an improvement over Saddam’s regime, but not much. Particularly for those who aren’t Muslim. Why do they do this? They don’t yet know or understand any other view of freedom.)

So what’s the point of all this? Here, I think, is the rub: Bush’s administration saw from the beginning that there are folks in the world that position themselves as enemies of the United States primarily for the reasons listed above. They are enemies of the freedom that we hold dear. And that is precisely the link between Hussein and Al-Queda that the Bush administration has been explaining all along—but that I didn’t really understand until now.

Of course, the tricky thing about a war on terror—a war on enemies of freedom—is that we aren’t fighting established governments. Enemies aren’t just people over there—but can sometimes be right next door. It is even trickier when, as one former Muslim explained, that there are few ways to guarantee one’s salvation. Martyrdom is one of them—which quickly makes sense of so many acts of terror that have occurred. They aren’t cold-blooded killers, necessarily—they want to be right with God, just like all of humanity does. They simply don’t know that Christ paid the price of death for them—rather than them having to try pay it themselves.

Does this justify the war in Iraq? Is the war on terror truly a good thing? Is the Bush administration doing what is right in this situation? I don’t honestly know. I do know that something, somehow, somewhere, does need to be done—or we will find ourselves in serious danger, not only as a country, but as people, as individuals. Let’s hope and pray for wisdom and grace for those that are in responsibility, that they might lead us wisely.

(P.S. I’m going to have to read through this again sometime, I think. But I did want to clarify here that I certainly don’t expect that most Muslims are anything but good, loving people just trying to make it in the world. I’m quite sure that it is a minority that end up causing terror in the world—many of whom may not even claim Islam per se. But, again, it is the mindset we are after. It wouldn’t surprise me to find that most Muslims [anyone care to correct me?] have a similar view of freedom, even if they have no desire to do anything even remotely violent about it.

Again, please forgive my ignorance in so many areas. I’d love to hear more thoughts from those who have had more contact with Muslims that I have had—show me the errors of my ways!)

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August 08, 2005

I Have a Dream

Rita and I did a lot of talking and praying this weekend, trying to finally start nailing down what we really want to do with our lives. We know we don’t want to waste our lives, but it’s been tough to tell what direction that might take.

I don’t know that we really know yet—but I think we have some thoughts for direction. I’m dreaming of writing short stories (maybe even a book—maybe) trying to dig into the misunderstandings that are all over our culture, particularly between Christianity and secularism. All too often, I think, we end up simply calling each other names, without bothering to try understand each other. And, I don’t know of a better medium to really help people understand. At least, I know I learn better from a good story than I do from a book of philosophy or theology. And maybe, someday, to go to L’Abri and really get it worked through.

It isn’t an easy dream—and I don’t know how it all fits together for Rita and I and the timing for the rest of our lives—but it is exciting and even encouraging, to have a direction for now. It’ll require lots more thought, work, and prayer to be sure. We’ll see what God may bring of it in the next couple years…

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August 03, 2005

Who Am I?

I posted an essay I wrote a several years ago while I was at Dordt. It was largely inspired by Brennan Manning’s book, The Ragamuffin Gospel. I was reminded of it by some of the comments on an earlier entry and I thought it was worth putting up here.

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Tables of Contents

Well, I think I finally fixed all the table of contents code so that all the links work correctly again, including in the Photos section. Enjoy!

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July 31, 2005

Too Much Writing

Well, I think I’ve written probably more than any sane person who isn’t an author should in one day. So I’ll stop now. :-)

Oh! One last thing. My friend Nevada pointed out his blog to me the other day—and I thought I’d link right on over to him. You might just find his theological thoughts of interest.

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The Flying Spaghetti Monster, Part I

I was shown this website by a coworker the other day, and, I have to admit, I really enjoy the satire. (Okay, technically, he just showed me the chart in the middle, which is funny in and of itself.) Not to say that I agree with the author’s conclusions—but he has some significant arguments that really do need to be dealt with. And, I think, he even has some good points, too.

I’m working on my response—I’ll post it here as soon as I’m done with it.

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Halogen Lamp Dimmers

Well, this is a very unusual question for this blog, I suppose. Nonetheless…

I’ve been trying to figure out how to fix this halogen lamp dimmer switch that I have. I burned out one of the transistors on the existing switch, and tried to replace it. Unfortunately, it still doesn’t work, and I have no idea how to even find out what is wrong. I’ve studied some electronics—but I can tell that it’s been too long since my circuits class at Dordt.

Anyhow, here’s the circuit:

Schematic of the Halogen Lamp Dimmer Circuit

If anyone has some suggestions or thoughts, please email me or add a comment. Even some insight as to what all might be going on in the circuit would be great—I was honestly just expecting a rheostat. Thanks much!

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Larger than Life

Life in the status quo is all around. Folks who have set aside passions and dreams, content to make a big to-do over the smallest events of any given day. People who have entirely resigned themselves to whatever life might put in their path, a destiny controlled by a nameless force.

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” ~ Philippians 4:12

Yet who am I to strive for something more? Can I not be content right here in the life God has given me, rejoicing in His blessings, praising Him for His provision, the health He has given, and the wonderful wife that I’ve been blessed with? Of course I can—and I think I ought to far more than I do. Is that the end of the question, though?

I’m not always sure. I know that some of the greatest examples of a real, vibrant faith that I know of are those who have been beautifully content right where they were—no matter the situation. They didn’t try change the world; they strove to be faithful in the little things of life right around them, in their families, with their friends, and glorifying their Creator in the everyday-ness of life. It is truly some of the most beautiful obedience at its finest.

You can find plenty of verses in Scripture to encourage you to this, too:

“Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.” ~ 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12

It could be easy to end the discussion there. But I don’t think that really is a complete view of Scripture, especially when we look at the lives of those who have gone before. Paul could have been content to sit in the temple, teaching with zeal the traditions of Judiasm. Moses could have sat herding sheep for the rest of his years. David, even after slaying Goliath, could have ran away from Saul and been content in his cave—or even in another country. There is a critical difference, though—God called them to something more. And He worked mightily through them.

Now, don’t get me wrong. This life is not about seeking to have a great impact on this world for God. That’s simply foolishness. In fact, I’ve heard it said that those who seek to have a great impact on this world—even for the best of reasons—are precisely those who probably shouldn’t. (That’s a painful statement for some of us…) This life is, however, all about seeking to obedient in whatever direction God has brought us (which may end up with an impact far greater than we can imagine). It is about hearing someday, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:23) I am to be content right here, where I am, striving to be faithful and obedient. If that very obedience ends up being larger than life, that’s His prerogative, not mine. And, as I find that He is leading me (and Rita and I together), we ought to follow that with all we are.

Of course, it is hardly that simple, either. Taking up one’s cross (Luke 14:27) isn’t something that is ever easy or straightfoward. Being complacent (oh—how I wish I knew the difference between complacent and content!) is such a temptation, no matter where one is.

Dear God—lead me in Your paths. Help me be content in You and in Your guiding hand that never fails. May You keep Rita and I far away from complacency—mold us to be sold-out and fully committed to Your call. Help us know that you are always taking care of us. We love you!

Comment~ permanent link ~ • Category: [News / David / Faith]

July 26, 2005

Updates and Changes!

Hello everyone! In the past 3 weeks or more David and I have been busy with a few projects. Mine mostly consist of learning how to scrapbook on the computer (as you can see in the photo’s file) and learning to sew a bit. I hope to take pictures of my projects so you can see them too. They are very much Rita style! :) As to be expected!

David has been working on the web page so much that he hasn’t had time to even write for it! I can’t explain what he has changed as well as he can but a little of what I know I can share. You will notice there are “Table of Contents” under each of the Menu items. Some actually have something in the table of contents and some we are still working with. Also, notice the little jam jar by the address at the top of the page! pretty fun eh?! I’ll let David explain the rest.

Other than that, we have had a couple of visitors this past month. That has been nice! I am volunteering again at Family Crisis Center this week and I hope to go and visit at Bethany Christian Services tomorrow.

I have written out my testimony and hope to have it posted under the “Faith” menu when I get it typed up. Soon. Be looking for it! :)

We love you all and miss you very much!! Mom and Dad are at camp this week and I’m wishing I could be there too! But since I can’t, David and I are hoping for a mini vacation together next month or so.

Love, in Christ Rita

Feel free to leave comments!! All you have to do is click on the word “comments” below. It would make us feel special! Thanks ;)

Comment~ permanent link ~ • Category: [News / Rita]

July 09, 2005

Announcement Announcement!

Hi everyone! We just wanted to let you know that we have added another category of pictures to our “Photos” file. Lately I have been distracted with playing with some old photos and digital scrapbooking them. I guess in reality though it would be close to graphic design (is that what you call it?) I have the finished product posted on the “Two Peas in a Bucket” web site, but we’ve added them here too. Go to Photo’s and click on “Rita’s Pages.” Enjoy!

I also want to let you know of how you can see Elizabeth’s scrapbooking too, she is my sister. She does an awesome job and also has them posted on “Two Peas” (she is the one that got me started). Take a look at her public profile. She does a really good job and they are a lot of fun to look at too. If you wanted to see mine on the “Two Peas” page instead of here, you can take a look at my public profile, too!

So, now you know what I have been doing in my spare time, and sometimes even when my time is not too spare. :) Although I’m still not sure what to think of it, it has been an answer to prayer. Since I have been so restless lately being home alone all day without much structure, it has been nice to have something to occupy my mind and keep me busy. I like the work, but I am still working on design styles. I haven’t found something I like very well yet, but I did like what I did yesterday that was fun! :) Check it out!

The other thing I just started doing last week was typing out my old journals. Starting at number one. Oh how embarrassing it is to read them ! I was 13 when I started. I used to say that I wasn’t boy crazy, but that isn’t the truth!! Every entry had some mention of a boy, often more than one, and every entry the boy was different!!! Sigh, the truth comes out! My only comfort is that some day when I have 13 year olds in the house, hopefully I will remember that I was one too, even if they don’t make any sense.

I have also been doing some more sewing. I made a pair of red shorts with bright yellow pockets. They are very fun but i decided that I like longer shorts better. I hope to work on a new pair of spring/fall pants. I have one pair that I have been wearing for 4 or 5 years now, and they are very faded, but they are the most comfortable pair of pants I have. So I am trying to make another pair. when I get them done, I hope to take some pictures and maybe I’ll put them up too. I also bought some beautiful red fabric for the dress I have been talking about making for a long time but haven’t made yet. I think this fabric makes me more excited about making it than the other material I had. So that is exciting! And since it’s a summer dress, I should really get started on it before I can’t wear it anymore! :)

I hope you are all doing well too. Don’t forget you can leave comments if you like, we love to get them!!!

Love in Christ Rita

Comment~ permanent link ~ • Category: [News / Rita]

July 06, 2005

Fixed the Comments

I believe that I have fixed the commenting function. Previously, the comment counts were not updating correctly. Help me see if it works by commenting on this post!


Comment~ permanent link ~ • Category: [News / David / Web Site]

June 27, 2005

Go Into All The World…

We were listening to one of NPR’s radio broadcasts yesterday: a show called Speaking of Faith. They interviewed an author who had recently published a book on four great Catholic writers and the threads that tied them together. The most significant thread was—perhaps rather obviously for a group of writers—literature.

That made me think. I love to read—I really don’t think I do enough of it. (My parents would probably argue that I read enough as a child to make up for the rest of my life.) But there are few greater joys in this life than to find a book that is not only a enjoyable read, but a good story. Good in the deepest sense possible, the kind of good that wriggles its way into the depths of one’s soul and psyche and pushes and prods until what was once just a story becomes part of you—and changes you, making you a better person and ultimately bringing you closer to the rich Truthfulness of Christ Himself. The kind of good that strikes a chord at the root of what God created humanity to be. The kind of good that inspired the likes of MacDonald, Chesterton, Lewis, Tolkien, O’Connor, L’Engle, Dostoevsky, and more—and they wrote literature that pointed people toward Truth, gently, sometimes, and sometimes quite violently.

Literature was how these folks were faithful. They were obedient to God’s call on their life. My questions is: how can I be?

I don’t expect to ever be a great writer. (Surprise, surprise—I’m a techie geek for a reason.) But there is a real sense in which so many of the things that we do share the Gospel with those around us, and in much deeper and more meaningful ways than we could ever preach to them. (Of course, who knows how many people in life have died blissfully unaware that Lewis’ Aslan was a Christ-figure—and soon found themselves in anything but bliss? Preaching is necessary—but it is not a solitary soldier.) Perhaps I can write a story to help make a bit more sense of this world. Maybe I can inspire others with a bit of music or even (although this is often more difficult) a well-done bit of programming. Or an extra smile at work. Or patience in the middle of stress. Or a marriage that, though not even close to perfect, has been truly infused with God’s blessings and grace.

Dearest Jesus, You know how to use me. Take my life and my skill, all that I am, and form me into Your plan. Amen.

Comment~ permanent link ~ • Category: [News / David / Faith]

June 19, 2005

Wisdom Teeth

Thank you to all who were praying and are praying for me this week! I greatly appreciate it!!! I was very scared about it this past week, up until they put me out, but God was good and things are going super well! I was able to give it all to God Thursday night and have a good sleep, but when they were hooking me up to all these machines I became scared again, but they did well.

Because they had a hard time finding my veins they used a small needle for the water IV and it took a long time to drip into me. The doctor did want me to leave until I had three bags of water put into me. It took over 2 hours to get the rest of the one bag in me and a second one. I didn’t mind, I slept half the time anyways. It gave me an opportunity to see jut how well I was being taken care of. They felt so bad that it was taking so long. After two hours they let David come back and keep me company. They were great, I didn’t have to wait for any certain person if I needed anything, if I could make eye contact with any of the nurses working in the area they would give me what I needed. I felt very well taken care of and it made me feel SO much better about everything.

My appointment was at 9:00 am, and we finally left at 12:30. The actual surgery took only 20 minutes.

God has been Good, I have only felt real pain a few times. Yesterday after going to the library with David. Last night at 3 Am when I woke up, and a little bit now because I have been up and about a quite a bit making supper and the like. The Doctor said that because I was 25 I can expect 5-7 days of recovery rather than 3-5. I think I am doing very well.

Thank you so very much for your prayer!! God is answering them!

Love you very much, In Christ Rita


Comment~ permanent link ~ • Category: [News / Rita]

Forsaken Your First Love…

From the mouth of Christ:

“Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.” ~ Revelation 2:4, NIV.

From C.S. Lewis’ The Pilgrim’s Regress:

Suddenly John spoke again.

“Why should it wear out if it is from the Landlord? It doesn’t last, you know. Isn’t it that which gives away the whole case?”

“Have you not heard men say, or have you forgotten that it is like human love?” asked the hermit.

“What has that to do with it?”

“You would not ask if you have been married, or even if you had studied generation among the beasts. Do you not know how it is with love? First comes delight: then pain: then fruit. And then there is joy of the fruit, but that is different again from the first delight. And mortal lovers must not try to remain at the first step: for lasting passion is the dream of a harlot and from it we wake in despair. You must not try to keep the raptures: they have done their work. Manna kept, is worms. But you are full of sleep and we had better talk no more.”

(I probably need to give a disclaimer here that The Pilgrim’s Regress is an allegory—John is on the road to faith, the Landlord is God, and the hermit is a wise man along the way.)

I’ve spent a lot of time in my life thinking of the words of Christ in Revelation about “forsaking my first love.” I guess I’ve always understood that to mean that the Ephesians had somehow lost the passion for Christ and the Gospel which they had at first. Maybe that is precisely what it means. But Lewis seems to take a pretty different tack at it—he even says that “lasting passion is the dream of a harlot.” Ouch.

Isn’t lasting passion precisely what I seek in my faith? I don’t want to forsake my first love! I want to live a life full-out and passionate for the God Whom I serve. I don’t want the excitement to die! I don’t want to be content with living in mediocrity.

“You must not try to keep the raptures: they have done their work.”

But maybe there is wisdom here. All the passion and excitement did serve to reinforce and cement my faith like nothing else could. I am saved! Yet, I have seen the passion ebb and wane through the past years. It often seems that the passion is slowly becoming less and less familiar. How frustrating! But, if Lewis is right, this is the process of growing, and maturing, and continuing on in faith.

It reminds me of contentment. How ill-content I can be! But, no matter what my feelings or circumstances may try to dictate, Christ is my Lord and my Savior—whom shall I fear? Ought I not be completely content in His care—even with the lack of passion?

Step back for a moment, though. Haven’t we lost something wonderful without passion in our lives? I think so. Here’s the rub: what are we seeking after? It is terribly easy to seek after the passion, to live for the next high, to bow down to the excitement and to “wake in despair” in its clutches. I need to seek God. Whatever may come along in the path is secondary—passion or trials, good times or bad, a chariot or a cross. Christ is my goal. I am to be content in whatever way He sees fit to bring me to Himself. And in Him I will find passion worth having. He is the fulfillment of all my dreams.

Comment~ permanent link ~ • Category: [News / David / Faith]

The Photos Section Has Started!

Well, you may have been quick enough to notice already, but the Photos section actually has some photos in it! Well, two photos, at least. We’ll be adding more as we organize the photos that we already have on my Mac and start scanning in a lot of the new ones that we’ve taken since our wedding.

I should warn you that each photo gallery right now has two listings in the menu under “Photos.” I know—it is confusing. One is for a page of thumbnails of all the pictures in that gallery. The other is a sub-menu that lists all the photos in the gallery. I hope to get this confusion sorted out before too long—but it is time for bed tonight.

Comment~ permanent link ~ • Category: [News / David / Web Site]

June 08, 2005

Wisdom Teeth Coming Out

I’m hoping to get some more content-full updates on here in the relatively near future (like always), but I wanted to make sure that I mentioned here that Rita is getting her wisdom teeth removed on Friday the 17th.

Any prayers would be greatly appreciated! May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you!

Comment~ permanent link ~ • Category: [News / David / Marriage]

June 05, 2005

For All of You Wanting Pictures…

Well, we’ll get a start at putting up some pictures. Eventually, hopefully, we’ll get some galleries up in the “Photos” section. Until then, here’s a photo of Rita and I on our wedding day:

David and Rita on their wedding day


Comment~ permanent link ~ • Category: [News / David / Web Site]

June 04, 2005

Sewing Machines

Wow! Thanks Mom and Dad Hjelle! This is a great sewing machine!

This past weekend while we were at David’s parents home, they had found a yard sale that had a sewing machine for sale. I hadn’t been thinking about looking for one any more since when we went yard sale-ing here we didn’t find any. Plus I am borrowing a friend’s for the time being, I just put the thought of getting one out of my mind. So I wasn’t thinking about it when David’s parents told us that they found a sewing machine for 20 dollars. Before we headed out the Maplewood State Park we stopped by this yard sale to check it out. It looked pretty decent and was being sold by a lady who did a lot of sewing and just upgraded to a newer one. I figured if she sewed a lot, it probably was in pretty good condition. So we got it. David even asked if 15 dollars was ok instead of 20 and they agreed. Hooray for people that are getting tired of yard sales (it was the second day they were open, quite frankly I was surprised that it was still there!)!

Well, since David has a lot of work that he wants to catch up on around the apartment, I thought I had better do a little work myself. I set up the sewing machine and played with it a bit. I made a inside cover for a pillow I was making (one like I sent Jack, Mom). Then I decided I had better fix the sling chair since it was sagging a bit. Then I decided to see what those fancy gears were. Dad Hjelle, I think you would have been impressed. Essentially they guide the needle to make those fancy stitches. That was pretty exciting! I don’t know if I will ever use them, but it’s a pretty exciting feature.

All in all, it was fun to explore this machine. I even broke my first needle, so I don’t have to be stressed about breaking anything now ;) And I did my first practices of making buttons holes. That is pretty neat! You know, I really like this machine. It feels solid to me. Even better than the one that I am borrowing, which is exciting to me (sorry Lynda! ;)) So Thanks Mom and Dad Hjelle, you did a great job finding it and cleaning it up! The stand is great too! It works really well. (Can you believe that it came with it’s own stand! That was also included in the 15 dollars! What a bargain!!!)

I’m pretty excited about it and maybe I’ll even start working on that dress soon!

Comment~ permanent link ~ • Category: [News / Rita]

June 03, 2005


Well, now that we have the web page set up, I can keep you updated more here, provided that you look at the page once in a while :) Just so you know, I am in the process of getting a story written for the “About Us” page. Be looking for it.

David and I are doing well. We just got back from visiting his parents for the weekend. We had a good time, together and with his family.

On Saturday David and I went to Maplewood State Park for a few hours together. That was really nice. It was really nice to be away from our apartment for the weekend and not have the regular weekend stress of trying to figure out what we are going to do and how we are going to spend our time together and apart. It seems that every Saturday morning we go through the stress of talking about our plans for the weekend and a number of times it turns into a fight, which then ruins much of the rest of the day or weekend.

We enjoyed driving around the park and seeing more than just fields. The trees were beautiful, and the hills were refreshing, even though they are nothing like New Brunswick hills. David will have to take me farther north some day to see more. I know he wants to :)

We did a little bit of hiking and I had my first experience with wood ticks. That was um, exciting. David got to chase a dog in the woods for some girls for a bit. Silly dog, after running all over the place, he comes back on his own while David and his owner are still looking for him.

It was a good day! The whole weekend was good. Spending time together away from home, spending time with his family now that I’ve had time to establish our own home. That was really nice!

Comment~ permanent link ~ • Category: [News / Rita]

May 22, 2005

It Seems Like Just Yesterday…

One year ago today, Rita and I were married in her parent’s yard on a beautiful sun-shiny day. So began our life together—“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24, NIV)

One whole year—a year together with the love of my life, trusting God to take care of us in all things. He has shown Himself faithful in so many ways, and provided for our every need.

I can hardly believe that the year has passed so quickly. It seems like just yesterday that we finished planning the wedding, that we packed up the car and made our big cross-country trek, that we found a job and a place to live and could really learn to be on our own.

It hasn’t been without its challenges. No marriage ever is. From learning each other’s deepest secrets to learning each other’s annoying quirks (just ask Rita: I have plenty), hardly a week has gone by without us asking what in the world we got ourselves into.

In so many marriages in the world today, that would be enough to call it quits. But not once, Rita, have I wanted to leave. What great love can there ever be without great pain? I can’t stand to be away from you—you are my best and most trusted friend. You help me through so many times of uncertainly, when the things of this life discourage me—you help me see once again the bright shining of daylight and know that God does give good gifts to all who love Him, who are called according to His purpose, just like He gave me you on our wedding day. You point me toward the Truth, toward the Cross, toward our Savior, and remind me that His way is the only way worth living in this life.

Rita, my love, I’m so excited to be married to you. I’m so glad that we have had such a truly beautiful year together, and that we have years and years more together (God willing), to grow in maturity and in our love. There is no one better for me to live and learn in this life with, knowing that Our Lord, Christ Jesus, is guiding us every step of the way.

Thank you, Rita, for marrying me.

Comment~ permanent link ~ • Category: [News / David / Marriage]

May 17, 2005

Declining European Population

The EPPC has an excellent article posted entitled “Where have all the children gone?” Despite all the hyped concerns about over-population, it seems that most developed countries are not even replacing the people they have. (The United States is an interesting exception—there are probably others; I have not done any sort of an analysis of the statistics.)

The article is actually a review of two books discussing the problem—but it also points out some of the philosophical issues that might underlie this surprising information.

And while many individuals and couples believe they are having fewer children (or none at all) because of the expense of raising children responsibly, their behavior has much deeper roots: It is not fundamentally an economic issue, but a cultural one. For those who see children primarily as sources of personal fulfillment, other routes to happiness may seem more trouble-free. Children will often lose out in this utilitarian calculus, even if the state makes raising them less expensive.

Yes, we want to live in a world in which we are free to live, think, and do as we please. I certainly am not suggesting that everyone must go out and have more children. But I wonder if this is just another area in which humanity is not willing to be content with the consequences of its choices?

Comment~ permanent link ~ • Category: [News / David / Culture]

May 16, 2005

My First Entry!!!

Hello Everyone! Welcome to The Hjelle Web page. We finally got it up! :) David has been working hard on it for the past 9 or more months, with a few breaks in between ;) Although I think he would tell you he has been working on it longer than just 9 months. We are glad that it is up.

So much as happened in the past year I don’t know where to begin. Most of the exciting stuff has already been passed around through my mass e-mails, but the last one was at least 5 months ago or more. (I have put the mass e-mails in the calendar if you would like to read them.) Did you Know that our one year anniversary is coming up?!? Exciting isn’t it?! Just a week away! Horray!!!!

What a year it has been! Our unexpected 5 month honeymoon in Canada, living in my parents 5th wheel trailer in their yard. Living with David parents for a good month and then learning how to live with each other in “normal” circumstances. David working and me filling in my time as I need and will.

We love our apartment. Even though living with all white rooms from floor to ceiling is a bit of a nuisance, it does make for easier decorating. I can add colour where I want and it doesn’t clash with what is already here. So I’ve been able to add a lot of colour, surprise, surprise! ;)

I took a class at Dordt for kicks this past semester. And I’ve been training to work at the Family Crisis Center in Sioux Center. and I’ve been accepted to to volunteer with the abstinence program at the crisis pregnancy center in Orange City, but I haven’t been there at all since the first day :( I’ll have to get on that now that it is summer.

My friend Allison has been in town so we have spent a lot of time together. Making friends with a number of other people. David and I host a bible study on Friday nights. We adopted a fish a month ago or so, and just bought it a new friend yesterday! I’m attempting to see if I have a green thumb by growing some violets and chives. Next I’ll work on Gladiola and Sweet Williams. pretty exciting! We also have a bird feeder on our balcony and get a stead stream of birds every day. Especially when it’s stormy. And we have had a quite a few spring storms so far! I love it!

God has been good and we are blessed! I hope to keep you more regularly updated in the future!

In Christ Rita

Comment~ permanent link ~ • Category: [News / Rita]

Fixing the Calendar

I finally was able to figure out how to fix the calendar display so that it will change the month and the year appropriately as you scroll through—now it is easy to get to posts from the past!

I’m using Todd Larason’s Calendar plug-in for Blosxom, which has worked wonderfully except for that one little issue. That is now fixed.

All I had to do was find the lines that looked like this (with ~ signifying that the line continues—don’t type them!):

param('-quiet') or print~
my $fh_w = new FileHandle ">~
    $static_dir/$fn.$flavour" or~
    die "Couldn't open $static_dir/~
    $p for writing: $!";  
$output = '';
print $fh_w 
    $indexes{$path} == 1
    ? &generate('static', $p,~
        '', $flavour, $content_type)
    : &generate('static', '',~
    $p, $flavour, $content_type);

and change it to look like this:

param('-quiet') or print~
my $fh_w = new FileHandle ">~
    $static_dir/$fn.$flavour" or~
    die "Couldn't open $static_dir/~
    $p for writing: $!";  
$output = '';
($path_info_yr, $path_info_mo_num,~
    $path_info_da) = split '/',$p~
    if ($indexes{$path} != 1);
print $fh_w 
    $indexes{$path} == 1
    ? &generate('static', $p,~
        '', $flavour, $content_type)
    : &generate('static', '',~
    $p, $flavour, $content_type);

It was actually documented on the Bloxsom mailing list, but unfortunately, not very clearly. A little experimenting cleared it all up.

One of these days, I’ll learn Perl for real. Or any number of other languages I’d love to learn. :-D

Comment~ permanent link ~ • Category: [News / David / Web Site]

An Apology

Figures, doesn’t it? The moment I think I get all the kinks worked out of this site, I find out that I created what is known as an “infinite loop” that made the page reload forever for anyone who tried using Internet Explorer. Oops.

I seem to have an incredible knack for creating infinite loops as of late. As long as it doesn’t show up in my real job…

My sincere apologies, everyone. That problem is now fixed.

I hope that I could get the calendar working correctly at some point in the near future, but I’m not going to hold my breath.

Comment~ permanent link ~ • Category: [News / David / Web Site]

May 14, 2005

Fixes for Internet Explorer

I realize there probably aren’t many of you that interested in the internals of how this site works, but for those that are, I’ll give you the low-down about the most recent updates. Sorry for the recent lack of updates—I was fighting to keep off a cold most of the end of last week. Oh, and playing trumpet in a wedding. And a busy week at work. The usual.

Anyhow, I think I have things figured out for the JavaScript errors and the logo not appearing in Internet Explorer—e-mail me if you are still having problems, and I’ll give a shot at fixing them. I also made a few CSS stylesheet changes so the calendar text wasn’t far too small for everyone to read. And, perhaps most excitingly for me, I was able to get sitecopy to work with my iDisk. That means that I only have to dial-up for a maximum of about a minute for each new post—maybe longer if I update a graphic or HTML template sitewide. It takes a bit of configuration—but once it is configured, it only uploads changed files, using a local database of checksums. Sweet!

If you are wondering about the “rcfile” configuration for sitecopy and an iDisk, here’s what worked for me:

site TheHjelleJar
    protocol webdav
    username username
    password password
    local /Volumes/iDisk/Sites
    remote /username/Sites
    http expect
    state checksum
    checkmoved renames

I don’t suppose I’ve mentioned this before, but my tool of choice for creating this site is Blosxom. I’ve had to tweak quite a few bits and pieces, but the end result is a blog and CMS scripting system that fits Rita’s and my needs just about perfectly. (By the way, if anyone knows how to get the Calendar plug-in working properly in static rendering, drop me a line.)

Enough of this technical mumbo-jumbo. Hopefully on to more interesting things before too long!

Comment~ permanent link ~ • Category: [News / David / Web Site]

May 03, 2005

A World of Spin

It is interesting how much of our world is full of spin. Almost everything we take in, every bit of information, needs to be analyzed and assessed as to where it is coming from.

My favorite example of this occurred last year at the capture of Saddam Hussein. The news anchor said something to the effect of, “Iraqi support for the American presence in Iraq is decreasing,” and then continued on his news reel. Interesting…we know very few actual facts from that sentence. On top of that, the implications most people would draw from a sentence like that are profound. Let me demonstrate…

  1. Support…is decreasing. Fair enough. But from 98% to 7%? Or just from 98% to 97.5? We have no idea.
  2. Iraqi support… Hypothesize for a moment with me. What if, just maybe, the Iraqi people don’t necessarily know what is best for them? (What if, for that matter, we don’t know what is best for ourselves…but that’s another question.) This sentence clearly implies that the Iraqi’s must know what is best for themselves. But I think each of us can think of a dear friend of ours who made foolish decisions—and clearly did not know what was the best for themselves.

It just goes to show that it doesn’t take much work to spin what started as a fact into a phrase riddled with implications.

In a related note that sparked this whole discussion, Paul Graham writes a whole article on the art of spin as related to PR.

I guess it just shows that we all need to be carefully critical of all we read—Christians especially, as we’ve been given a task to be salt and light to the nations.

Comment~ permanent link ~ • Category: [News / David / Public Policy]

May 01, 2005

Updating all the Code…

Well, someday I’ll be ready to start commenting on news and other issues regularly—right now, I’m working primarily on getting all the back-end code working properly. It’s definitely getting closer!

Interestingly, one of the biggest issues that I had to deal with was Apple’s iDisk synchronizing mechanism in Mac OS X 10.3. For some reason (and this apparently started only recently), custom pages uploaded to an iDisk’s Sites folder would not display correctly in Mozilla-based browsers, such as Firefox and Camino. Instead, they’d prompt the user to download the file. To make a long story short, this was apparently due to Apple changing their servers to use the MIME-type specified when the file was uploaded, rather than ignoring it all together. Unfortunately, the iDisk syncing procedure seems to specify ‘application/octet-stream’ for any uploaded file, regardless of its type. Uploading directly to the iDisk in the Finder seemed to solve the problem—and I think using the rsync Unix command will also work and spare me from manually updating changed sites.

I found both a user’s report on the problem and a discussion on Apple’s discussion lists to be useful.

I also found that I could use the command-line tool caDAVer, from the WebDAV project, to change the MIME-types as necessary.

Maybe this all had something to do with the new file type architecture in Tiger?

Comment~ permanent link ~ • Category: [News / David / Web Site]

April 20, 2005

Euthanasia & Medical Ethics

I ran across an excellent article relating to the recent Terri Schaivo debacle and the whole euthenasia debate. It points out clearly that, though living wills are a good idea, they are no excuse for not having an overarching morality that is the foundation for all of our laws.

In reality, many dementia cases involve multiple illnesses, with uncertain prognoses, and a menu of treatment options. Often, there are various morally justifiable choices. Personal values do matter. But what is always needed is a moral framework that governs such private decisions, based on the belief that every life is equal, and no life should be treated as a burden to be relinquished, including one’s own.

Comment~ permanent link ~ • Category: [News / David / Public Policy]

A New Pope

So it’s official—the world has a new pope. I’m not Catholic—but I think I have to say that I’m relatively excited. Why? Here’s a couple snippets:

I read responses by the public at BBC. Odd—the vast majority of comments were so disappointed about not having a “progressive” “modern” pope that would support abortion, gay marriage, and contraception. I think one commenter summed it up well, though:

“Many comments seem to be ignoring the fact that the Holy Spirit works in electing a new Pope. This is not an election to please the people. I think it’s great that the new Pope is a man that is uncompromising in his beliefs and in the values of the Church.”

Good point. Ultimately, if we don’t like the new Pope, I guess we have to deal with whether the Catholics are following the right God or not, and whether He’s real. Not whether we like the Pope or not. Especially since this Pope seems to be quite in line with official church teaching.

Comment~ permanent link ~ • Category: [News / David / Faith]

April 19, 2005

New Web Site!

It is finally here! At least, in part. There is a lot that I still have in my head to add in the future—but the core is here, enough for Rita and I to start blogging. Feel free to send me an email at if you have comments, suggestions, or questions. Enjoy!

Oh, and the old site is still here, too. It’s just in retirement.

Comment~ permanent link ~ • Category: [News / David / Web Site]

© 2005-2007 David and Rita Hjelle