Posted on April 9th, 2014
A child, a knife, yet another life and another cut down
I heard it on the news this morning
In the car
on the way
—a news report.
Some child had gone to school and in the place where other children learn and play
he had done the unspeakable
And now there are kids in stretchers
and hospital rooms
Life cut short at the end of an angry knife
Innocence ended with a sharp pain
that doesn’t end as quickly as a wound will heal
Now come the questions
The endless clacking of TV jaws
plastic as the sets from which they’re watched
and maybe great law-makers will all shake hands
And do their canned jams from grandstands
Only using the tragedy to prove their existence justified
And just do something
“If only one child…”
“Please we must…”
“But this would’ve saved”
And a million “why’s”
Not the kind that the saddened families will ask
But a “why” that ends in a “why” or a lie
In the end
It’s just for cameras
Another law may pass
or it won’t
for the truth is
The truth. If it matters to such as these
That these great tragedies
are what they are—evil.
There is no Why other than a troubled kid
Some dysfunction or anger, or social, or blah-blah
He was one of us—although he wasn’t
at least, we’ll say
It wasn’t the knife
or the gun
or the bomb
or the fist, or bat, or rock
That–the plastic jaws leave unsaid
For then we’d have to face the evil in us
the evil we let be and grow and fester
We would stare into the mirror
and our evil would stare back at us
Posted on March 26th, 2014
The day after I graduated High School, I went to the mission field. During my first summer as a missionary, we had long worship and prayer sessions every evening before our concert. At first I resented these times. They seemed long and boring. I had little reason to resent them. It was felt more than thought, and it was probably spiritual in nature, although I did fixate on the fact that we sang worship songs that I didn’t really know. Therefore, I decided that they must also be worship songs that were not as good as the ones I knew.
But on that mission trip I learned how to worship. I discovered that worship was a skill that came naturally to humans, but that I (like probably most people) had become so used to worship primarily myself and I had to fix that before I could understand how to worship God.
I took a Greyhound bus that August from Butte, Montana to Tacoma, Washington in order to start my freshman year of college. There, I joined the university Christian club, who had weekly worship sessions. I fought with all I had to not resent those times, because now the songs were different than the ones I’d learned as a missionary.
I struggled passionately to keep my intimacy with God. I worshipped with them, learning new songs, but now I had learned how to worship, and I could worship anywhere. I learned the joy of worshipping alone. Some nights I would sneak away to the piano practice rooms in the music building. They were open 24/7. I could sit in a small empty room with a closet and worship by myself.
I would play what little I could, and always faced a resistance at first. But I would press through that, and suddenly I would come to a song that would spark an emotion or a certain heart-string and the tears would flow. All that was me would seem to melt away as I connected with God and felt His presence. That feeling is indescribable really, but all I can say is that it is better. List any good adjective you can think of, and that feeling is better. It was water to my own soul.
It has been a while since I’ve felt that, I must admit. I have taken times worshipping on my own and have even had moments of intimacy, but not like that.
It is my lunch break now, and earlier this morning I was listening to my worship mix from my hard drive as I worked. Tim Hughes He’s Got the Whole Worship in His Hands started playing
When all around is fading
And Nothing seems to last
Each day is filled with Sorrow
Still I know with all my heart
He’s got the whole world in His hands
He’s got the whole world in His hands
I’ll fear no evil, for you are with me
Srong to deliver, mighty to save
He’s got the whole world in His hands
Lately, each day is not filled with sorrow and I feel like I am losing nothing, particularly. I am doing quite well. And yet the tears started to fall as I sang along. All I can describe, the best I can do, is that His having all of it in His hands hit me in a new way. My sin, my joys, the things that I have given up, and the things the enemy has stolen from me, the moments of triumph, and those things I can never undo…all of it, in His hands.
I have nothing to fear. You are with me. You’ve got it all in Your hands. And here I am, better.
Posted on March 13th, 2014
The other day I got one of those junk mail pieces offering me “up to” $8,800 for my old Honda Accord. It was in fake handwriting font, with FINAL NOTICE in Stencil font on the bottom, complete with slight Gaussian blur and acid wash to make it look like someone used a red ink rubber stamp to let me know that it was that serious. Apparently, they are really in need of 9 year old Honda Accords. They are at the hight of demand. If you go in say, “I want a brand new Pilot Premium,” they will say, “Why would you want that, when you could drive a 2005 used Accord?”
The best part was the fake check and stub it was all printed on. It had a realistic-looking customer ID # and Account number section below a pretend perforation line, and a check at the top. Where you would write the amount tendered on the check was written “up to $8,800.”† It was all signed by someone named Yuni Chen.
Realizing it has been several years since my infamous “lost pet” incident, I thought it was time to have some fun. So I wrote Yuni a letter in response. I have included it below.
It is stamped and ready to mail. -Ryan
Posted on March 1st, 2014
There are times I’ve found myself in moments so surreal that it felt like my experiences were happening remotely, far away from me. I think everyone has encountered that feeling before, when you seem to be a bystander to your own existence, a fly on the wall watching yourself go through something.
Often, these times seem be connected to some great tragedy or hardship. It is then, when your stomach seems to fall out, like the first great drop of a rollercoaster, or that tingly swing set feeling. Sweat starts beading from a clammy forehead and your throat goes dry. But even as you are experiencing this, the camera shifts perspective and in your mind’s eye you are now watching as a spectator. I had a moment like this just a week or so ago, not filled with terror but surreal in its own right.
I visited my grandma, my father’s mother, in a convalescent home. Or maybe it was a rest home…I don’t quite know if there is a difference, or if it matters what we call those places where people end up getting stored as their candles flicker out. She is by no means ignored the way many people are there. My relatives, who just aren’t able to provide the degree of care that a Parkinson’s patient requires, visit Grandma Nina almost daily.
I’ve watched many of my older relatives pass away, some suddenly and some ever so slowly. My Aunt Ruby gradually disappeared into the couch over a period of years as the same disease that is taking my grandma gnawed at her body. I am still not sure which kind of death seems nobler, disappearing overnight or fighting with every breath. I think the quick version has more appeal to me. I’d rather remember Aunt Ruby playing her organ or making me a sandwich, than be stuck with the picture that is now her predominant profile in my mind. I hope that others remember me at my best someday, as well.
But with my grandma there in that home I don’t have that choice. I have very little memory of her at all outside of the other day. For reasons I won’t discuss here, I haven’t talked to her since early childhood. When I think back, there are only snippets in my mind of her or my paternal grandpa. It may be sad, but it is the truth, and I have chosen not to try to deconstruct the reasons why things were the way they were—instead to deal with things as they are now.
So there I sat, with a virtual stranger in that place, talking about the weather and birds, and a tree that was blooming nearby. And I was outside of myself, very far away but wanting to be close…wanting memories that just aren’t there. And wishing that there was something else, anything I could talk about… something that had more meaning.
In the end as I left, she gave me a long slow look—and maybe I returned that gaze, I don’t know. Her eyes said that she realized she didn’t know if we’d meet again, and that she also wished there was more to talk about than the weather and the birds. I think maybe, despite me being outside of myself, that presence, us both in that moment was itself just enough. –Ryan
Posted on January 8th, 2014
I am not saying that I agree with this completely. I am saying that it is inspiring of deep thought.
“ So long as men live together on earth and need means to deal with one another–their only substitute, if they abandon money, is the muzzle of a gun…
Do you wish to know whether that day is comping? Watch money. Money is the barometer of a society’s virtue. When you see that trading is done, not by consent but by compulsion–when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing–when you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors–when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don’t protect you against them, but protect them against you–when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice–you may know that your society is doomed. Money is so noble a medium that it does not compete with guns and it does not make terms with brutality. It will not permit a country to survive as half-property, half loot.
Whenever destroyers appear among men, they start by destroying money, for money is men’s protection and the base of a moral existence. Destroyers seize gold and leave to its owners a counterfeit pile of paper. This kills all objective standards and delivers men into the arbitrary power of an arbitrary setter of values. Gold was an objective value, and equivalent of wealth produced. Paper is a mortgage on wealth that does not exist, backed by a gun aimed at those who are expected to produce it. Paper is a check drawn by legal looters upon an account which is not theirs: upon the virtue of the victims. Watch for the day when it bounces, marked: ‘Account overdrawn.’
When you have made evil the means of survival, do not expect men to remain good. Do not expect them to stay moral and lose their lives for the purpose of becoming the fodder of the immoral. Do not expect them to produce, when production is punished and looting rewarded. Do not ask, “Who is destroying the world?” You are. “
Posted on January 7th, 2014
Every January I try to make a few predictions for the upcoming year. This is not astrology, tea leaf reading, or prophecy. I am simply making some informed guesses based upon observations. My track record is pretty good, but it is certainly less than 100%. Here are a few:
- The Dow Jones Industrial Average high on January 1st was 16,500+. On the last trading day of the year, The Dow will be a net loss (under 16,500) for the year. I am guessing that there will be a large correction period this year, but it could also be from fallout from a major political event, or a world event.
- There will be a major political change in North Korea. I cannot see the Kim Jung Un regime lasting another 12 months. I know that part of North Korea’s strategy is to appear weaker than it actually is (see Stratfor’s analysis), but I think the regime is more tenuous than many believe. This regime change will likely come from an internal coup rather than an external invasion. I must admit that this is more wish than anything, but I do believe this has a good likelihood.
- The NSA related security issue will be one of the biggest stories of 2014, just like it was this year. However, part of 2014′s story will be about the private sector trying to both solve consumers’ desire for security. There will be new products and maybe even new companies creating products and services to safeguard consumers’ private data. Some of these will be mostly hoaxes, although there might be some new creative technology. There will also be a rising popular push for keeping private information off of the internet
- There is a high likelihood of Israel being a much more significant newsmaker than last year. The possibility of a strike on Iran has increased significantly after the last American and Iranian presidential elections. The ramifications of this would also be huge. Even if there is no Israeli strike on Iran, I believe there will be significant West Bank/Palestinian related violence, perhaps even another intifada.
- Gas prices will end the year lower than the $3.12 they are at now.
- Hollywood movies will be remarkably more upbeat in tone than they were in 2013. This will be especially true of the Summer Blockbusters, which will feature less apocalypse porn than in recent years.
- Hilary Clinton will formally announce her candidacy for President this Summer. She will announce this Spring that she is going on a “listening tour” and will announce her presidency surrounded by a sense that people are crying out for her to run.
Posted on December 21st, 2013
I’ve been saving this little goodie for a month and had forgotten about it, when I just saw it in my inbox.
I was on the Drudge Report a few months ago when I saw this obvious typo below. Drudge doesn’t make these very often, so it was fun.
I’m not entirely sure what “car urine” is, but it must be that small puddle of water that appears under your car in the summer after you’ve been running your air conditioner. I never tried to smell it, though.
Posted on December 18th, 2013
4. For the fourth gripe of Christmas I will give to thee: Poinsettias, Mistletoe, and Holly
All of these interesting plants represent the Christmas season in some way. We have all seen bright red Poinsettias in every house or church, kissed under some mistletoe, or sung the words, “deck the halls with bows of holly.” They are pretty green plants in the middle of Winter. But did you know these plants also have something else in common?
All three are poisonous. Yep, that is right, they will make you go poo-poo something awful. That is, if they don’t kill you. The one you have probably heard the story about most is actually the least deadly. Poinsettia can give you a pretty painful stomachache, but that is about all. The other two can put you in the hospital with some serious vomiting and a case of the fire-pigoo.
Add to the mix that mistletoe is a vampire. Mistletoe grows as a sap-sucking parasite in tree branches. Of course, that inspires you to let your loved one suck on your own face as you stand beneath it this yuletide.–Ryan
Posted on December 18th, 2013
3. For the third gripe of Christmas I will give to thee: Neighbors crappy Christmas lights.
Christmas lights are actually one of my favorite parts of the whole season. When it comes time to set up the tree and other decorations, I enjoy heading outside and getting all the lights up on the outside of the house. I like driving through the streets of town and seeing other people’s houses decorated as well. It can be beautiful.
But, then there are displays like this, and every neighborhood has one—one wonderful family that ruins it all for the whole block. I know, because this video was taken in my own neighborhood:
About a mile from my house is an area of a few blocks where all the houses are decorated with a common theme. One of the highlights of the season is driving down that block. It is peaceful. It is serene. There are houses with lighted reindeer, houses with lights on almost every square inch of the roof, and there are homes with cardboard cutouts of snoopy and inflatables all over the lawn.
You know what you won’t see in that neighborhood? Blinking lights. That’s right. No one has ever said, “Wow, that house with all the blinking lights really makes me feel all warm inside and peaceful.”
The blinking lights send a different message entirely: “Gamble Here!” When anyone turns down the main street to my neighborhood, the first sight they see is much less O Holy Night and far more Live Dancing Girls.
There is a reason that light red blink-inducing bulb comes in a hermetically sealed bag when open your new stringlights. It is a warning. If you want your lights to cause seizures, keep it inside your own house, and stop terrorizing your neighborhood.–Ryan
Posted on December 17th, 2013
2. For the Second Gripe of Christmas, I will Give to Thee: A mall Santa in front of JC Penney.
I generally like Saint Nick, particularly the German version who either rewards good children with fruit or takes them to sell into slavery. But as I don’t want to sound too much like Dwight Shrute, I will let that be.
My issue with Santa is actually quite extensive. First, there is the typical complaint that Santa is a huge distraction from the whole point of Christmas, and while that is definitely true, I am not a big enough grinch to advocate kicking Santa entirely out. But there has been a clear effort to kick Jesus out of his own birthday party.
When I was a child, my mom told me that Santa was good, but that Jesus was the real reason to celebrate Christmas. Now we have “progressed” to the point where even acknowledging Christmas at all is frowned upon generally. Instead, we call it Holiday. But, while Jesus has been largely thrown out of the party, Santa is still allowed.
The problem is that Mr. Claus is pretty much an anti-Jesus figure in many ways. Santa makes a list and checks it twice in order to separate the good children from the children whom Santa’s NSA network has built a strong enough case against. The children who have acquired enough good karma are rewarded with gifts.
The story of Jesus is that He came to give free gifts to those who especially don’t deserve it. Jesus is specifically showing the message that God is not making a list and checking it twice. This is especially true when you exegete the song a bit. If he is “making a list and checking it twice,” then he is specifically doing it to properly identify the bad kids. If he were only checking his list once with the kid’s behavior, then some kids who were naughty might actually get gifts anyway. Instead, he is making doubly sure to weed out the bad. But God in Christ, is sowing grace prodigally.
But Santa is even more confusing than that. In my childhood, we lived in a house for a while that had a fake fireplace which had been boarded up years ago. I was very concerned about how Santa would get in. My mom offered to keep the door unlocked, a proposition that I felt was unsafe. She told me that Saint Nick had his secret ways. That led to a realization, and many sleepless nights.
Santa is basically the same as a cat burglar. He sneaks in through the chimney or some other weak point in the home. He brings a giant bag, and only enters if everyone is properly asleep. He has the perfect getaway vehicle. At the end of the night he will sneak out of the country. He goes by several assumed names, and he has been casing your family for a long time.
The fact that Santa leaves things instead of taking them is a minor detail he may work out at any time. And how do we know he hasn’t actually been stealing stuff for years. You know all those socks you think the clothes dryer has been swallowing? You can’t prove that he hasn’t been taking them all along.–Ryan
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