Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Thus ends 2008. The final "event" has passed, with UNC leaving Lawlor Events Center still undefeated. All that is left is to await the dawn of the new year, and reflect on the old. As with every year 2008 had its share of joys and sorrows. Of the latter, I don't care to elaborate, because that's rarely as cathartic as I think it will be when I'm logging my diatribe. But this post is to reflect on the former.

  • Coram Deo moved into an elementary school. I admit, I had enjoyed having Sunday mornings off, but I could see no great reason that we had to do one or the other. Since others wanted to move, I accepted. It is still exciting to see a church of over a hundered, and remember the first time we met, and had only 12 or 13 people.
  • Several friends and family members had new children. For some, like Steve & Becky, it was their first. For others, it wasn't. But always, it's exciting to see new, young people adding to the ever-changing portrait of what "in the image of God" looks like.
  • I got promoted at work. It's still not worn off - the fact that somehow I'm now a supervisor. It's a continuous novelty to see statistics that come out of our unit in the news. I'm used to having opinions. It's strange to see what they look like with the weight of authority.
  • Some good friends moved away, while others moved back to town. I'm terrible at keeping in touch with people who move away, so I'm glad to have some good friends back in town.
  • After beginning the process in late 2007, I paid off my credit card. It feels wonderful not to have that burden of debt hanging around my neck constantly.
  • The circle of friends I hang out with regularly has expanded. Of my Friday night friends, two got married this year, and I was able to enjoy watching my favorite NBC Monday Night shows with some guys from church.
  • No grief I experienced overcame me. Even though we who are "more than conquerors" sometimes feel like merely survivors - be it conquest of survival, here I am. For all the times I have declared that I am at the end of my rope, when I find those last threads slipping out of my grasp, I fall into grace.
  • The finances at Coram Deo, while slim, have sustained us. We had no church branching off to send members to us. We had a small loan from our denomination. And we had some generous gifts, from people with and without much to spare. From gifts of several thousand dollars to gifts that weren't even a single dollar, people gave. Given the current economy, I would regularly see gifts form people who I knew had lost ther jobs. For them, each gift was an act of faith. And each time, it was an encouragement to me to see that faith put into action.
What does 2009 hold? I don't know. But here it comes: 365 days to use. Once gone, they will never return. The economy will probably be lousy. People won't have jobs, and there will be real hurting in the world. Children will starve in foregin countries, and be beaten by their parents here at home. There will be abuse, rape, and murder. Terrible, unspeakable things will happen. And in the midst of it all, the gospel will spread. People will find hope where it was not expected. Love that never makes the news will spread from person to person. The church will be built, and the gates of hell itself still won't be able to withstand it. In the midst of darkness, there will be light.

That is what I expect in 2009. The ambush of love, popping up where it is least expected and most needed.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Obama: I'm imprressed so far

And this story is just part of the reason why.

That he'd invite Mr. Warren is a minor surprise. That the backlash against him for doing so would be so swift is, in retrospect, not so surprising - it's the "you owe us for electing you, now walk the line we tell you to walk."

Obama's reply can be summarized, simply, as "no."

I like that. Part of politics is reaching out to the people you disagree with on some issues because you have other things in common. It is possible for good men to disagree, and politics recently seems to be heading the opposite direction - a self reinforcing ever-harsher circle of animosity and distrust.

Read the criticisms of Obama's choice; their idea is that allowing a man like Mr. Warren a place of honor at Obama's historic moment suggests that they will then have no place at Obama's table. Clearly, Obama disagrees with Warren about this, but that logic has no place in the rhetoric.

That Obama is rejecting such rhetoric is a good sign. That he is doing so early, and asserting his indepencence immediately is a good sign that this is something that will feature prominently in his administration, and I find that very encouraging.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Endless Road

100_5100 by you.

This sight soon awaits us again. Myself, my sister, and a friend are heading up to Boise to watch Nevada play in the 2008 Humanitarian Bowl. We're making it a road trip, as gas is cheap and round trip tickets start at $210 EACH.

This is what a painfully long part of the drive looks like. Just endless highway. It has its scenic moments, but crawling through Oregon at 55 mph leaves you wishing that it would pass just a little quicker.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Charity - Vitamins for Children

Do you ever feel reluctant to give to charity because you don't know how effective your small donation can be? Allow me to introduce you to Vitamin Angel. This charity provides nutrition supplements to children in various parts of the globe. From their website:

Why Give Children Vitamin A Supplements?

Vitamin A deficiency also does its worst damage during childhood and is a major contributor to child mortality and illness. The most commonly known effect of vitamin A deficiency is blindness. Less well known is that vitamin A is also essential for functioning of the immune system. Even before blindness occurs, vitamin A-deficient children are at risk of dying from infectious diseases such as measles, diarrhea and malaria. As a result, vitamin A supplementation of vitamin A-deficient populations can reduce child mortality by as much as 23-24%.


And, $1 - just $1 is enough to provide four years' worth of antiparisitic and vitamin A to a child, when they are most vulnerable to parisites and to blindness. So I encourage you, in this season of giving, make sure to remember those whose lives can be changed for the price of something that's a mere trifle to you or me. And what's more, this charity is rated as a 5-star charity by Charity Navigator, based on the share of its donations - something like 99% - which actually are directed to the cause in question.

Read more, or donate, at

The Other Vegas

Of course, there's many sides to Las Vegas... but this is one I knew nothing about. From NPR:

It would be easy to go a whole weekend on the Las Vegas Strip without spotting a sign of a crisis. Never mind that more than 14,000 people are living on the streets — and that Nevada ranks second in the nation in homeless population per capita.

Seeing evidence of this is a matter of knowing — or perhaps choosing — where to look.

One might begin with the slot machines on a busy casino floor — tourists, blackjack tables, cocktail waitresses in impossibly tiny outfits. And if one were willing to pay the price of admission, an elevator could transport the seeker to more vice and excess upstairs — rooftop pools and lavish suites. But the homeless still wouldn't be found.

But what if there were an elevator that went downward? Let's say that you could descend below the sunken lounges, past kitchens and utility closets, through layers of concrete. It is here that Las Vegas' truly gritty underbelly can be found; a hidden matrix of tunnels beneath the strip, another version of the city born out of storm drains.

More at the source...


One of the things I have been thinking about recently is unions. By nature, my gut reaction is anti-union. I realize, though, that I ought to moderate my view because the basic idea of a union - particularly that of defending the rights of those who are less able to speak for themselves - is not a bad thing. Instead of giving in to a "Unions BAD" reaction, I need to consider whether in each situation a union is doing what is best for its workers or not.

Consider the UAW. I am not a fan of this union, because the unionized benefits that it has won for its workers render the companies that pay the workers hopelessly uncompetitive. Consider this blurb from a New York Times article about the concessions that the UAW has expressed a willingness to consider:

"Currently, the average U.A.W. member costs G.M. about $74 an hour in a combination of wages, health care and the value of future benefits, like pensions."

Assuming a full-time work schedule (2,080 paid hours per year), this is an average per-employee annual cost to GM of almost $154,000. That should scream "Unsustainable!" But the power to command this level of benefits is the power of this union. [Sidebar: read with a very large grain of salt any argument that says "Productivity has soared this decade, but wages are stagnant." Be wary, because a large part of this is not greedy executives stealing bread from the mouths of the workers, but because of the cost of non-wage employee compensation. When employer-paid health care costs are added to such macro considerations, employee compensation has stayed roughly in line with productivity growth.]

It is a good thing that the UAW is willing to make concessions, because it will eliminate the companies where it has its power if it doesn't. Workers at non-union companies don't have as sweet a deal as the UAW workers, but $25 an hour at Toyota is not what I'd call exploitation.

I think the truth is that bankruptcy would hurt the unions more than it would hurt the companies. Factories don't instantly vanish in bankruptcy, nor does everything immediately close - as the airlines who had to declare bankruptcy for restructuring discovered. But the power of a judge to alter the union's contracts means that there is a strong incentive for the UAW to do everything it can to keep the Big Three out of that court.

But in the end - I don't think that there are enough changes that can be made in time to prevent it. They are burning through a LOT of cash, and there were only 236,000 domestic light car sales in the US last month. The auto market is getting beat up, and even companies that weren't on the brink are hurting. For a company like GM...

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


I haven't posted much recently, but I've been keeping pretty busy. I've been thinking about things like unions, bankruptcy, recessions, Christmas, consumerism, defecits, debt, Pakistan, Obama, poverty, and what it means to follow Christ in dealing with all of the above, but I haven't had the time to sit down and do justice to the thoughts.

I am thankful for this, however: the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas used to be the incredibly hectic preparing-for-the-Christmas-play/musical/services season. There would be times when I'd be at the church more often than not, and be absolutely frazzled by the end of it. I'm thankful that we don't do that at Coram Deo, because the holiday season should not be something you have to recover from.