Every year I create my predictions for the year ahead. Before I post this, I try to do my most thorough analysis of the previous year’s predictions. Here is my analysis. Continue reading “2015 Predictions -Review”
I’ve been watching and reading the news with a different eye recently. It really started a couple weeks ago during the Texas State Republican Convention, at which I was again a delegate this year. During the convention, I sat through caucuses and meetings as well as the proceedings on the convention floor.
A convention is an exciting and busy event, and there is always positioning and debating. That is the point of the whole thing. When delegates from a whole state get together to pick one document that will guide all of what their collective will is going to be concentrated on over the next 2 years, there should be considerable debate.
After the convention each night, I would go home and absorb the day’s news. I consistently heard throughout the weekend about how the split Republican Party was arguing over issues of homosexuality, marijuana, and immigration. There were Republicans protesting, and the organization was undoing itself.
I consistently wondered if perhaps the news media were accidentally at a different convention, or if possibly I was the one attending a different convention entirely. I checked. I was definitely at the right place. None of what the news was reporting was happening at all.
While platform positions regarding homosexuality-related issues were debated in the committee meetings I’m sure, the body of delegates didn’t discuss it even one time. Let me rephrase that in case you missed it: we didn’t talk about homosexuality even once…not one time…not even in passing…it wasn’t an issue. Yes, the platform does address “reparative therapy.” Anyone who has paid attention to the news knows this is only addressing the push for making it illegal to offer counseling available to those who do not wish to live as practicing homosexuals. This has happened in California already. The platform position only addresses this situation. This part of the platform was not discussed at all, or even voted on separately (lest you think I’m cheating in my prior statements).
Outside of the building on the first night were somewhere between 8 and 12 people with pro-homosexual marriage signs. They were not members of the convention. They were exceedingly kind, and it seemed everyone was kind to them. I firmly support anyone’s right to protest in this way. They were on the evening news and on radio. They must have had great pre-protest press releases for a dozen people to get so much media coverage.
Marijuana was discussed, and any pro-legalization efforts were soundly defeated by the body. There was no mass demonstration. There were however, a lot of pro-pot people who only showed up as delegates prior to that vote and then left shortly afterward. Four of them were in my row. I had never seen them before. One of them leaned over to his friend during the vote and said, “That just shows how dumb these Republicans are.” They were clearly not Republicans, and they were only there to try and create chaos. They failed. But they did have their NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) car out front, made to look like a cop car, but with big pot leaves on it. I have always found it amusing that the organization to legalize pot uses an acronym that proposes an alternate spelling of “normal.”
Immigration was slightly contentious, for about 45 minutes or so. But in reality, there was little difference in the ideas of the two vying groups. In fact, the only real discrepancy was that the more Conservative of the groups thought that if securing the border was allowed to be in the same legislative package as other immigration matters it would end up never being enacted. Other than that, almost everyone was in agreement. In the end, a compromise was made, smashing the two plans into one. Everyone left unified. There were no mean words, and no fighting.
But this is the opposite of everything we’ve read, isn’t it? Not in the “Liberal spin on reality” way, but just complete lies. -Ryan
This is Part 5 in a series about my recent tour in Canada. Click the link if you’d like to catch up on Part 1 of the series.
When mealtime came around, we would always stop in the parking lot of some pretty run-down Chinese buffet. When you take one of these tours, you get the chance to buy a meal plan, in which case the tour provides the meals for you. They are always Chinese buffets. We knew this. We didn’t buy the meal plan, and we ate much better food.
Two Bohemians, Sherman and his son Yale, did have the meal plan. Our assigned seats were always in the same group. At the end of every mealtime, I’d ask them how the food was. They almost always looked at me and shook their heads. On the way back, we stopped in the same town as we had the first day. Thomas told us that we would be stopping at the same buffet as before. Yale uttered a loud expletive. I am still laughing about that.
There are two reasons that the meal stops are always Chinese buffets. First, for some reason Chinese people aren’t much into eating indigenous foods in places that they travel to, in the same way that Americans often tell me how much they liked the McDonalds in Bangkok. They also like visiting Chinatown in any big city. I don’t get this at all. China towns are always a great source for cheap knock-off merchandise., but why someone would want to visit a foreign country’s poor copy of your homeland is beyond me. It is humorous that the best place in a city to buy cheap knock-offs is itself a cheap knock-off.
The second and more important reason that these groups always stop at Chinese buffets is capitalism. The Chinese buffets give the tour companies kickbacks and a cheaper price for taking the tour groups there. It is an exclusive contract. Thomas confided in me that he wouldn’t be allowed to take the group somewhere else even if he wanted to, and then made the universal fingers rubbing thumb motion for “money”.
This means that the buffets have zero incentive to make their food quality or service competitive with any other local establishment, because they are not in danger of losing any business. It just has to be good enough that no one loudly complains and nobody gets sick. This is of course, the opposite of capitalism. The tour guide is a type of dictator, the bus his kingdom, and we are the starving masses. Let us eat cake, or at least decent Chinese food.
So, whenever the bus stopped for mealtime everyone would walk in single file into the restaurant. All Chinese buffets look generally the same everywhere, so I don’t need to describe the scene. We would walk in the opposite direction, searching for some sort of Canadian fare.
As it turns out, Canadians really like pizza. Pizza in interior Canada was unavoidable. It was everywhere. In some towns pizza was the only viable alternative to pub food. We ate a lot of pub food. We also ate our share of pizza.
In one small town (the one where we stopped at the same Chinese buffet twice), we went to a local pizza chain for lunch. The lady owner was an immigrant from some indeterminate country, possibly the interior of SouthwestAsiaIndia or Somethingistan.
She was also indeterminately pleasant. The menu offered several different types of crust for you to choose. I asked for the hand tossed garlic. She smiled and said, “It is fresh I made it this morning.”
“Great,” I said. “I’ll have that one.”
Her brow furrowed. “It is fresh. Choose again.”
I was wondering if this was some game from Somethingistan, a cultural idiosyncrasy that makes customers order crusts a number of times before their choice is acceptable. She did seem quite proud of the freshness of her dough. So, I repeated my order.
“It is very fresh…made this morning. Choose again, please.”
“OK. I’ll have the hand-tossed garlic, please.” I repeated, feeling my lunch time slipping away in this Twilight Zone-esque moment.
“You will have the wheat crust.”
“Um…ok…sure.” I furrowed. “Is it fresh?”
“No, it is old. You come back 15 minutes.”
We ate the pizza back on the bus. It burned the roof of my mouth, and I couldn’t taste anything much for days. The crust was really good, though…much better than that fresh stuff you get at other places. -Ryan
It’s that time of year again: time for my predictions for 2012!
Just to clarify (as always) this no attempt at fortune-telling, tea reading, astrology, or anything involving animal entrails. Instead, I am estimating what I think might happen according to everything from Game Theory and analysis to gut feeling. Some things I get pretty accurately. Other times I am flat wrong. It seems to me that I have a pretty decent track record, but the only reason that I do this is for fun.
The challenge is for anyone to do this along with me, and see who gets things the most right. So, here goes…
- The one thing I always hate doing is presidential politics. It seems to me that in any election cycle anything over one month off is a political eternity, but there are a few points that I think will be big influences.
- Anyone but Romney will have a hard time winning at all, because they are too flash-in-the-pan-y. Every other candidate has such big negatives that it will be pretty easy for Obama to paint them as either evil or crazy. Ron Paul seems to be the one exception to that, but he does his own job of making himself seem crazy by opening his mouth.
- Romney’s challenge will be to motivate the Republican base. In the ridiculously long primary season, the fact that almost everyone has taken their turn at leading is a really bad sign for Romney. It is almost an anyone but Romney attitude that might be hard for him to overcome.
- Because of the above points, the chance of a last-minute third party run by someone seems good, but that would lose the election for the Republican, no matter who it is.
- Really poor economy pre-election loses the race for Obama.
- A war probably loses the election for Obama also.
- Even an illusion of a good economy seals the election for Obama
- All of this is completely negated by major unforseen circumstances, which will probably happen.
- Come Summer no one will be occupying anything
- Summer will see revitalized Tea Party activity
- Immigration will be an even bigger issue than last year
- I hope that I am wrong–A terror attack on US soil which will involve attackers getting here via Mexico. This will spark a major tense discussion of border issues.
- As I see it Game Theory-ed out, this is in the terrorists best interests. Although my experience has taught me that the formidable-ness of this particular opponent is definitely not in their thoughtfulness, this seems in their best interest. We have taken the fight to them. Al Qaida is mostly wiped out. I have read several articles regarding this, and they have recently raised the idea of negotiating with us (through the Taliban). In radical islamic strategy, this is the step to take when one is on his heels. Attacking the US homeland would make sense. Further, in bringing it from Mexico (also easier to sneak in that way) it would create an internal fight in the US. With a huge percentage of the population being illegally from Mexico, and without allegiance to the US, it would create turmoil. If I were a strategiest for them, I would be looking at that idea. This is the type of process that I go through in determining all of my guesses.
- I am praying that there is a constitutional backlash against the dangerous laws that have been passed to curtail citizens’ rights for the sake of security. This combined with the above could cause massive chaos politically in the US. This might be beneficial in the long run, but won’t be fun.
- Military action involving Iran. It won’t be pretty. If it doesn’t happen, look for massive war in the future. If it does happen, there might be war now. Further, this would seriously hurt the US economy. This will be an important moment for Obama. If he allows conflict with Iran it hurts the economy and is another war. These are the 2 things that would prevent his re-election. If he doesn’t push Iran, then it will probably cause big problems for the US and our allies into the future.
- North Korea will stay totalitarian communist. It is in China’s best interest. Though it could be a tense year for the two Koreas.
- Lady Gaga gets involved in even weirder stuff. I know that this seems like a non-prediction (like saying there will be weather), I am serious.
- Facebook will lose users for the first time in its history.
- The world will not end in December. No planet will pass near the earth. There will be no magnetic pole shift. But pop culture will get really obnoxious about the end of the world as you know it by year’s end. There will be a movie or two.
- The summer movie season will be populated by even more over-hyped action junk than usual. There will also be a much higher rate of raunchy comedies. -Ryan
At church on Tuesday, we were discussing how our actions, both good and bad, affect our eternity. Does God work things out like a giant scale and measure whether our good deeds outweigh our evil ones?
“Because we sin, we cannot be in the presence of God or we will die. But because Jesus died as the perfect sacrifice, he can forgive our sins, and wipe the slate clean. In order to get to heaven we need to have a relationship with him He won’t want to hang out with us if we don’t know him.” -Jessica actually typed this here. Yes, she really wrote this!
Is this what the Bible actually says? The first person with a well thought through and studied answer to this in the comments section will win a $5 Starbucks gift card. The person with the most well thought out and researched answer will also win the same prize.
The following is a reprint of an article published by Ryan Shinn in his channel on Examiner.com
This year the keep Christ in Christmas debate has heated up anew with First Baptist Church of Dallas pastor, Robert Jeffress, new website listing businesses that are refusing to acknowledge Christmas. He has appeared on Fox News as well as local news outlets discussing this apparently controversial site.
The current debate seems to have three sides, those who support Jeffress for taking a stand on this issue, secularists who are attacking Jeffress for various reasons, and Christians who think the whole debate is distracting from the purpose of Christmas.
Eric Wallace’s blog, The Unwasted Life, summarizes this last perspective quite well with a list of reasons why Jeffress is off-base. Yet while Eric makes very good points about why Christians should not take part in this debate at all, most of the discussion seems to be missing the point.
Most of the anti-Jeffress discussion falls into three basic categories. The first is that while Christmas is about the birth of Jesus, it has always been primarily a secular holiday with most of its elements derived from pagan sources that have little to do with the actual birth of Christ. People have pointed out that elements such as Christmas trees do not have Christian beginnings, but most of these things were adopted by early Christian missionaries as cultural touch points used to relate the gospel to the people’s pagan traditions. This sort of evolution is happening currently with Halloween. Many churches celebrate the holiday as a Harvest Festival and exchange the day’s original purpose with a Christ-centered message.
The second attack is that Christians have no business getting involved with political debates that play into the hands of the secularists. The problem with this argument is that it misses the point entirely. Many Christians are simply tired of the expectation that they will spend a lot of money for gifts at stores that refuse to even mention Christmas. The message is, “give us money while we disrespect you.” Many Christians are responding with their dollars. This is not as much a sign of protest, but capitalist democracy.
Finally, they attack Jeffress directly for more controversial statements he has made, particularly regarding homosexuals and Muslims. This is not surprising. When people have little of value to say in defense of their positions, they often resort to ad hominem attacks. Whether Jeffress is against homosexuality or Islam, or kills puppies, it has no bearing on this issue. -Ryan
Yesterday I worked a side-job that ended up taking me to a heavy-metal music festival. I only did it for a little extra money, but I also enjoyed the change of scenery and getting to meet some new people, most of whom aren’t Christians. I don’t know why, but I often find myself talking and praying with people who aren’t Christians. I’m not one of those people who corner someone and make them talk with me about Jesus. I detest that. But for some reason, I often end up in conversations with people who want to talk about their pain and brokenness. So many times I have to hold back telling them how broken I am. Those conversations aren’t supposed to be about me.
So, back to the music festival…
First of all to be fair, there were a lot of genuinely kind people who said their please’s and thank you’s. There were people who were there having a good time and enjoying the music. I didn’t have many people act rude to me at all. But there was a definite darker side to the crowd there, and it was spiritual.
The kind of bands playing there were not your Metalica, Guns ‘N Roses type. Think more Devil’s Blood, Kill Your Mother, type stuff. I smelled a lot of pot—I mean a lot, and saw more cups of $12 beer than I could imagine. This combined with scorching August sun and extreme heat ended up sending a decent amount of people home in ambulances. The people selling water might have actually made more money than the people selling beer.
What was really noteworthy to me were the faces. Some faces had tattoos, some had weird makeup. I even saw a guy with a Sponge Bob ski mask (that was commitment). When I looked past the disguises though, I saw a lot of anger. Some violent and vile, nearly physical force was floating around amidst the pot smoke and booths hawking phallus-shaped hash pipes. I heard the anger in their words. Most people dropped F-bombs like they were shock-and-awing Baghdad. The word was on their T-shirts, giant belt buckles that said “F*@% You,” (but without the symbols) and passed around person to person along with the joints. My favorite of the day was a shirt that said “I hate everyone.”
Some people wore a palpable rage that seemed to surround them. I found myself getting angry at their anger. I was mad that they would tattoo triple-six’s and pentagrams on their bodies, mad that they would rejoice in depravity, and even madder that they would bring children to such a place. I was falling into the same trap. I realized this and then I was angry at myself for being angry, and for having such a judgmental attitude for these children of God.
I wondered how people could allow themselves to become so angry and hateful. I have been thinking about this a lot. There are people I know who deal with a consuming rage. Like a fire it starts small but builds up momentum as more fuel is introduced. It isn’t long before this unchecked anger is starting brushfires in all the relationships nearby, and you’re unaware of this because all that you can think about is the fire within you.
I can’t figure out how we can become like that. How does a terrorist ever decide to blow himself up on bus of schoolchildren, or someone decide to wear a shirt that says “I hate everyone?” Inside I wondered if I was the only one there aware that demons of rage were throwing parties in their midst. My second thought was, “What demons are dancing around me, as I dwell carelessly?” -Ryan
“…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