road headerThere are times of reflection, on some rare Fall evenings
Where sun is set low and the sky fiery gleaming…
Thinking back to past whens, where I am where I’ve been
The choices I made all the plans that I’ve laid
And I wonder

I walk but don’t know, long journeys up mountains
where paths start and they go, gentle gardens with fountains
Desert nightmares of dreams, and places all in between
Do I go to disaster, or joy ever after
Fear sets deep under

God does direct, though we protest and stray
Our inner frailties perfects, gives us light to the way,
But was a path long ago, an easier road to follow
I never will know…This side of heaven
And I wander

Darkness and Butterflies


“…All of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory.  And I realize just how beautiful You are, and how great Your affections are for me.  Oh how He loves.” –John Mark McMillan

The other day I got into a fight with a butterfly.  No, it isn’t as silly a sight as it sounds…well not quite.  I was doing some evening gardening and had the garage door open.  When I went in to get a rake I noticed a beautiful butterfly fluttering around, trapped inside the garage.

Normally I wouldn’t think too much of this, and have from time to time even pinned butterflies. I am not some overly-indulgent animal lover.  But this time I felt a little bit of sadness for the poor creature.  To her, she was trapped in some inescapable cave.  I took pity on her.  I decided it was female, not because of some butterfly expertise, but because I simply cannot imagine a male butterfly, though I know they must actually exist.  So with the creature properly personified, I was committed to action.

I grabbed the ladder with the intent of reaching up to the ceiling and gently cupping her in my hand, then releasing her outside.  But just at the instant my plan was about to work, she deftly avoided my grasp in the way that only bugs and small children can.  This set off a several minute period of me moving the ladder and repeating the procedure repeatedly with utter futility.  The butterfly did not appreciate any of my efforts.

As I was pondering the absurdity of the situation and how terrifying this must be to the butterfly, I watched the butterfly frantically moving from ceiling to wall to ceiling and narrowly escaping multiple spider webs.  Convinced that I was beaten in the summer butterfly campaign of 2010, I surrendered and retreated to my house in defeat.

In the morning, the butterfly was far from the front of my mind as I opened the door to get in my car, and was surprised to see the butterfly sweep out of the door into the open air.  She fluttered about low to the ground above my flower bed, and then climbed into the sky with the semi-inebriated flight style that butterflies seem to enjoy.  I smiled.  She was free.

So many times, I feel like that butterfly.  I sit in situations, toxic and painful, sometimes afraid to move, and bumping around my panic, avoiding traps both real and imagined.  I desperately want to find the light, to feel free and supported by fresh air and freedom.  I long for hands, caring and immense, to carry me to such a place.

I believe in those hands.  I believe that God frantically climbs ladders and reaches for me, but it is often difficult to tell those loving hands from giants bent on my destruction.  I know he loves me.  I pray for the doors to open so I can sweep into the sky with a clumsy sense of freedom. But right now, I just feel small.  And maybe if I quiet myself enough and don’t focus on the walls, I can just feel His hands envelop me.

Hold me and carry me.  I long for your immense gentleness to surround me and take me where you will.  I miss those hands, and I fear you will give up and let me bump around my prison in the dark.  You promise to strengthen your people and give them peace (Psalm 29).  Carry me.  Let me fly again in your light.  -Ryan

Investigative Journalism Awesomeness


According to Miriam-Webster one of the hallmarks of what defines journalism is “writing characterized by a direct presentation of facts or description of events without an attempt at interpretation.”  The framers of the Constitution of the United States understood that this was a key aspect of a free society.  This was inherent in the protection of the fourth estate written into the First Amendment.

Bloggers and Foxy News types are always complaining that this has been forgotten, but sometimes we need a refresher course with some easily digestible facts.

Case in point

LA Times articleA recent Hot Air link from the Los Angeles Times gave a snapshot into statistics regarding the current immigration controversy in Arizona.  The Article by Teresa Watanabe, Immigration now a top concern among Latinos, poll shows, reported that the poll “of 504 Latinos” revealed that immigration was now the main concern of American Latinos, spurred by the new Arizona immigration law that they overwhelmingly opposed.

The article further stated  that this issue would “galvanize Latinos of all political stripes into voting in November,” and that the majority would only vote for candidates supporting an “immigration overhaul.”

All of this may be quite accurate.  But as usual, there is a lot written between the lines of this article.

To her credit, at least the author lists the sponsors of the survey, the Hispanic Federation and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC).  What Ms. Watanabe leaves out is that both the Hispanic Federation and LULUC have a very clearly presented agenda that is perhaps important in determining the validity of any survey that they undertake on the matter of immigration.

Hispanic Federation ArticleThe Hispanic Federation, whose mission is, “To serve our community by building and supporting Latino institutions,” has recently put out a statement both condemning protection of the border and demanding “comprehensive immigration reform” as the only fix for our immigration problem.  Keep in mind that “comprehensive immigration reform” is one of those liberal talking-point catchphrases for  amnesty for illegal aliens.  “We need comprehensive immigration reform so hard working undocumented immigrants, who do the jobs other Americans won’t do, can finally come out of the shadows,” I believe is the officially sanctioned wording these days.  When any of these phrases are used, it becomes pretty clear which side of the issue the author is leaning toward.

On its homepage, the Federation refers to the survey in question, and gives the community’s reaction to the “Racial profiling law.”  One could not by any stretch of the imagination consider the Hispanic Federation an impartial party in this issue.

Lulac's websiteLULAC is far more militant as an organization.  Their website has an open call to boycott Arizona, although they trickily word it as, “boycott Senate bill 1070,” superimposed over the state outline.  I guess this prevents anyone from saying they actually called for a state boycott.  How clever.  I guess they also  fail as a disinterested survey party.

One would expect better results from someone with a USC degree like Teresa Watanabe.  But oh, wait!  Her Facebook page lists her as a fan of Reform Immigration For America.  Their agenda is made perfectly clear.

Teresa Watanabe's FacebookReform Immigration for America's website

So to recap, Thoroughly researched article—fail; Objective writing—fail; impartial survey—fail; LA Times writer trying to uncover truth wherever it may be found—massive fail.  This is no surprise.  In a recent survey conducted by RyanShinn.com, the Los Angeles times was found to be unreliable by 92% of respondents.

Why is this so bad?

Thomas Jefferson said that, “Our liberty cannot be guarded but by the freedom of the press, nor that be limited without danger of losing it.”  He wasn’t the only one with this sentiment.  The press was understood as being the main instrument to counter inevitable propaganda intended to control and enslave a free society.

Dictators have also long known this.  Vladimir Lenin stated this principle quite nicely. “The press should be not only a collective propagandist and a collective agitator, but also a collective organizer of the masses.”

It comes as no secret to anyone paying attention that the American main-stream press has largely abandoned the value of a free press in favor of acting more as a mouthpiece for propaganda that more easily fits their world-view.  But this fact needs to continually be brought back to our collective consciousness, lest we forget.    -Ryan

My New Clock

I have a clock in my office on the wall…or more precisely, I had a clock on the wall in my office.  For some reason, the ticking sound of clocks drives me crazy.  When a clock is constantly ticking it feels like someone is tapping repeatedly on my temples.  I can’t think of anything else while in the room. I can’t even sleep while wearing a watch.  The sound will keep me awake.

I finally had it with this most obnoxious clock.  As if to spite me and my admittedly quirky pet-peeve, the clock that was placed in my office ticks at a volume that could be heard in from across the city.  Placing it on the wall also creates some sort of resounding chamber.  My office was experiencing sixty 3.0 earthquakes each minute.  My office plants committed suicide after several weeks of this.

So, in a moment of boredom I disassembled the clock and set about photoshopping the clock face.  This is what I came up with.

I am available if Excedrin would like to reproduce this for some sort of viral ad campaign.

Ahmed and God

mall escalator

I met Ahmed at the mall.  I wasn’t looking to talk to him, but I was asking God that I be aware of anything He was doing around me.  This isn’t something I do regularly.  Its partly because I am often turned in to myself, only thinking and doing what relates to my little slice of the world. But, it is also due to the fact that God usually answers that prayer by showing me something He is doing.  He interjects me into someone else’s little world, and a lot of times in my selfishness I don’t want to deal with that.

But in this instance, I was asking for it.  I was leaning on Ahmed’s counter at his booth in the mall, watching the teenagers I was supervising.  Ahmed asked if he could help me.  I told him that I wasn’t looking for a watch, and then asked him some general questions, which he answered willingly.  We introduced each other and shook hands.

Active Christians are really weird this way.  We make a lot of eye contact, shake a lot of hands, and ask un-superficial questions.  It is pretty annoying to the uninitiated, but it is also how humans were meant to be.  I sometimes tell foreign exchange students how Americans often greet each other with “How’s it going.”  This isn’t really a question at all.  It is not meant to be answered, and the person asking it doesn’t want any answer other than, “Good, and you.”

But active Christians are always waiting around for a real answer.  People aren’t used to that, and it makes them uncomfortable, and if they get past that, they often find it a breath of fresh air.  It is how we are supposed to be.

But back to Ahmed…

After we shook hands, he must have known something was up, because he immediately asked me “What do you do?”

“I am a youth minister,” I said.

He looked at me and immediately (as if he was prepared) asked, “Do you ever feel the presence of God?”

I told him that I did, that sometimes it was very powerful and sometimes it was less so, but it was always there.  In fact, sometimes it was almost overwhelming.

“What’s that like?  Does it make you want to hurt people?”

“Umm..no.  It is pretty much the opposite of that,” I said.  And then I explained how I sometimes feel God’s love pouring over me like rain, letting me feel loved and making me want to love.  “Do you ever feel that?” I asked.


I listened to him tell of his faith background and about his life.  I suggested we pray together, and he let me.  Although I couldn’t stay much longer after that, I promised I would see him again, and I have.  He told me he’d have more questions, and he has.  A couple days later I introduced him to my wife as we were cruising the mall food court to pick up free samples.  He told my wife we were “soul buddies,” whatever that means.

I don’t know that I’m going to end up with Ahmed on one knee in the middle of the mall accepting Jesus sacrifice for his life.  I don’t know that it will even make a massive difference in Ahmed’s life.  I do know that Ahmed has reminded me that God is always at work around me, and that I like most Christians am too often dissolved into myself.  Every little invasion by God into my life is disruptive to my reality, because that reality is wrapped up in myself.  But also, every interruption reminds me that my reality is all too small and weak.  I thank God for that.

*Ahmed’s name has been changed from his real name.