Sunday, September 25, 2005


I have long since stopped asking God directly for brokenness. I suspect that most people who do don't know what they nay be getting themselves into.

Read about 75% of my posts, and you find a guy trying and failing to come to grips with why he is where he is in life. Cool, calm, or collected I am not, but I play one well at church.

But all too often I go too far. I mistake the burden I carry as worse than those others have. I have never heard "Your dad has cancer." I have never lost a child, or a spouse. Aside from some Jello-like extra baggage, I am in reasonable health. I see well, have a full head of hair, and am a deceiving 6' tall. I have friends I can confide in, a family that loves me, and a roommate that is enough of a geek like me that we can relate well.

I have lost my share of dreams. To be dog-sitting in a house that smells of dog urine while a girl you believed would reciprocate your love in the end gets married is frustrating.

Brokenness for me is not being single. This is just the mirror that shows me how empty I thought my well of faith is. I have moments of noble "I will trust God no matter what." I wish I could say that these came up more often than desperate feelings of acute loneliness and begging God for reprieve.

Once in an embittered retort (wrapped in the cold "logic" I use as a defense when hurt) to another girl I had a crush on, I explained away her rejection of me with a surprisingly-cold "you're just not the sort of person who would want to be a pastor's wife." That remains one of the things I most wish I could take back, in part because the measure I used I feel myself measured against. And I find myself lacking.

For me the cross remains the anchor point in a sea of uncertainty. I know that grace abounds to sinners - to those who have nothing but utter filth to offer God. I know that neither my failures, my weakness, my fighting, my rebellion, my anger, my hypocrisy, my legalisim, my flippancy, nor my utter non-comprehension of the overwhelming majesty of God can separate me from his love.

I dare not proclaim my endless love for God on account of the cross, for my love grows cold. I cannot say that I will trust God through shadow and fear, because I have not. I cannot pledge fealty, because my next thought may be worthy of hellfire. But I can come: weary of the burden of myself that I carry, and find acceptance. And not just a cold non-rejection, but the love of a Father whose son was dead and is now lives.

The cross. The one point at which my blasphemies are shown for the hollow utterances they are; where my dusty well of faith is filled; where my filthy garments are replaced with the very righteousness of God.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Why "Price Gouging" Isn't Evil

In the wake of a natural disaster, it is natural for politicians, pundits, and other talking heads to denounce the horrible evil of Price Gouging.

Price Gouging as popularly defined, is raising prices for essential goods and services in a crisis. The more technical definition includes the term "unconscionable profiteering." There was a letter to the editor which won the weekly award for being the most well written such letter during the week in this Saturday's paper. The thrust was "Why did your prices go up in between new shipments of gas? How could the $70/barrel price of oil have made it to my gas pump so fast?" The quick demon: Price Gouging.

Prices in the market are a function of Supply and Demand. How much do you want something? How much are you willing to pay? How much is the supplier willing to give it to you for? If prices are too high, some people will purchase, but suppliers will be left with a lot of inventory they did not sell (hurts suppliers), while many customers who would have liked that product are left without it (hurts customers). If prices are too low, the inventory is sold out below what it was worth (hurts suppliers) and people who wanted that product at that price are SOL (hurts consumers).

In a crisis, there is an increased demand for certain products, like plywood. Because no one has a magic wand to make more plywood appear instantaneously at the same cost as the existing plywood or less, supply is limited. How do we determine who gets this plywood? Market Economists will say the people who value it the most: the people who will pay the most for it. At first this seems unfair. Why should people with more money get things that poorer people need too? The answer to this good question is another good question: Why should people who wanted this plywood be unable to buy it when supplies are gone? Artificially low prices produce a shortage. If there is a demand for 15,000 sheets of plywood and only 5,000 available, what is the moral difference between allocating them to those willing to pay a higher price: say $15 per sheet, instead of those people lucky enough to grab the same sheets at $5 per sheet? In fact, I suggest the former is preferable, because then the supplier gets the full value of those 5,000 sheets.

Apply this principle (higher prices lead to fewer people consuming a good or service until a balance is reached) to the gas pump. Why is it fair for prices to go up, even when the cost per gallon is the same? (1) Because people are willing to pay it. (2) Because if gas prices are shooting up in response to high demand (in this case, panicked car buyers topping off their tanks upon hearing that oil hit $70 per barrel), increased prices both restrict demand to ward off a shortage and provide the full value of that gas to the person who had to pay for it so he could sell it to you.

I heard about people who in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew purchased generators from areas that had them north of Florida, transported them into Florida, and resold them at significantly higher prices. These people were seen as evil vampires, preying on human suffering. I see them as people providing additional generators, at a price people are willing to pay, to a market that has none because prices were too low.

What's wrong with more generators ending up in a place where they are needed, resulting in the profit of those who saw the need and moved to fill it?

Sunday, September 18, 2005


I tried. I really did. After learning that a girl I had been interested in was being, shall I say, "intentionally talked to" by a guy she was interested in, I really wanted to become bitter and even angry inside. I wanted to want her to fall for a guy and get hurt and know just how I felt. Mostly, I just wanted to not just get depressed. My typical response in the past has been the oh-so-pointless "If this will make her happy, I want that for her" that leaves me lying in bed at nights trying to figure out how to keep this from repeating again in the future.

I tried. I consciously cultivated a great deal of anger and frustration with God, and allowed that to pour over into the girl as she existed in my mind, preparing to be as cold and jaded as I could. Mostly, I wanted something, anything, other than the despairing "I hope she's happy, even if it means I may never be." Nice guys get hammered in the end, and I'm rather tired of being that nice guy.

And then I saw her. And it was all an illusion. And I didn't want to see her get hurt in the end. And I wanted her to be happy, even if it meant watching one more girl I cared about get married to someone else. It doesn't bring me even a vicarious joy. It hurts. A lot. And unlike in movies, where the hero has to demonstate that he is willing to lose that which he treasures above all else in order to receive it, I know where this road ends, and it is a rather unhappy one for me. Hpelessness. Cynicisim. Frustration.

I desperately wanted to feel something else. Noble or ignoble, I didn't really care. Just not that painful vulnerability. But in the end... Damn. I hate being a nice guy.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

New Pictures

New pictures are up on search for photos by renowiggum. Couple shots of the Yuba River valley, couple shots of Webber Falls, and one I really like of the coals from the campfire our first night up at Boca.


You have heard that it was said, "You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy." But I say to you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you in order that you may be sons of your Fater who is in heaven; for He causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax gatherers do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.

I was camping over Labor Day Weekend at a local lake. It's a campground with basic amenities - drinkable water in faucets, restrooms with toilet paper and seats. For a few years, we were able to sneak up to the site on busy three day weekends and still get a site. Last Memorial Day, we had to reserve a site for the first time, as we did this Labor Day. This increasing business may push us farther into the backcountry next year, but we shall see.

Often when camping, you meet some of the nicest people in the world. The farther you get from civilization, the nicer they get. Backpacking is a way to meet just about the nicest people in existence. Perhaps it is this overly-idyllic outlook that left me so shocked when the people at the site across from us turned out to be just about the rudest campers I have ever seen up close. They were amicable enough during the day, but come 9 or 10 at night, the men would get some booze in them and turn into yelling, howling, barking morons. At 11:30pm on the final night, after hearing several other campers shout at them to be quiet (you shouldn't be able to hear people in another campsite after 10pm) and having them respond with less than kind language, we called the sheriff. They never showed up - likely they had much more important things to do - but we amused ourselves talking about what incredibly horrible people those campers were.

I participated fully in this. But not without internal reservation. Couldn't there be a better way to respond than insulting them behind their backs? Is there a way I could share with them the fact that they are more precious than anything to the God of the Universe, so much so that he would leave 99 people that 'do not need to be saved' to reach them? To share the love of the God of the Universe with them.

All I know is that in my actions, I chose to "love my neighbor and hate my enemy." I chose to like those that acted in ways I approved of, while looking down on those who behaved poorly. I failed. I said nothing when it was burning in my heart to do so.

Thankfully, I can find forgiveness. But the solace I find from my shame I did not offer to those who desperately need it.