“We understand how dangerous a mask can be.
We all become what we pretend to be.” -Patrick Rothfuss

“No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true.” -Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

“We all wear masks, and the time comes when we cannot remove them without removing some of our own skin.” ―Andre Berthiaume

Life is a Roller-Coaster

Life is a roller-coaster, not a monorail. -Dr John Walton, Wheaton College

Heard Dr Walton say this yesterday (he is the Old Testament teacher in the Bible in 90 Days study) when he was commenting on the book of Ecclesiastes.  I loved the way that he spoke of Solomon giving up the quest to finding meaning in life and simply enjoying the simple things that God sets before us. I felt that it set me free a bit of my desire to find some sort of mystical meaning in sufferings and hardships. Hearing him say that the roller-coaster life is normal affirmed something deep inside of me. I think that it gave me a permission of sorts to be content with the physical difficulties that challenge me each day. Not that I will now like roller-coasters. ツ

Christian Stereotype Sanity Check

Relevant Magazine speaks to the issue of how Christians, and Christianity, are often marginalized by stereotypical views. Here are a few of those stereotypes with explanations from the article:
  • Christians are Republican: A 2008 Barna study found 51 percent of Republicans have spiritual beliefs that qualify them as “born again” Christians. Significantly fewer Democrats hold the same beliefs, but it’s still a pretty high amount: 38 percent.
  • Christianity is Mainly an American Thing: There are 2.18 billion Christians around the world. And only 11.3 percent of those live in the U.S.
  • Christians Think They’re Better Than Everyone Else / Are Hypocritical: According to a Barna Group study, 51 percent showed Pharisaical attitudes and actions while just 14 percent showed Christ-like attitudes and actions. 21 percent showed Christ-like attitudes but Pharisaical actions.
  • Christians Don’t Care About Science: A 2009 Pew survey of members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science found 33 percent of scientists believe in God and 18 percent more don’t believe in God but do believe in some sort of "higher power."
  • Christians Have The Same Divorce Rates As Those Outside the Church: A study in the Journal of Religion and Society found that Christians have a slightly lower divorce rate (37 percent) than non-Christians (44 percent). The rates varied between traditions and were significantly lower among those with frequent church attendance.
What I glean from the piece (read it in full here) is that many of us (I know this is true for me) have embraced these stereotypes and continue to proliferate them. Perhaps this article might help to educate and inform us a bit?

Healthcare Mulligan

Sometimes we just need a do over!

The Idol of Certainty

"If I am anxiously striving to make myself feel certain that all my beliefs are true, fearfully avoiding anything that might cause me to doubt them, and fearfully suppressing any doubts that I may already be experiencing, doesn’t this indicate that I am not getting my core need for love, worth, and security from the God who is revealed on the cross? " -Greg Boyd, Benefit of the Doubt: Breaking the Idol of Certainty

I can so relate to having a quest for certainty and trying to eliminate every doubt. Then I read about how Mother Teresa had, and lived with, doubts in her later years. I agree with Cal Thomas when he says:

"It is by looking beyond our circumstances in a fallen world and beyond doubt that we find hope and faith. Perhaps Mother Teresa's doubt lasted longer than most, but doubt is not the same as disbelief and in her actions as well as her words, she exhibited more faith than any doubter -- or non-doubter -- I have known."

Reversing Nerve Damage

If successful, a new remyelinating antibody called rHIgM22 may help reverse nerve damage caused by MS. In a collaboration between the Mayo Clinic and Acorda Therapeutics, Inc., a “first-in-human” trial of the drug rHIgM22 to repair nerve damage caused by multiple sclerosis (MS) is currently recruiting volunteers.

Earlier animal studies of rHIgM22 showed improvements in motor activity, meaning a possible reversal of disability. If successful, this could be a groundbreaking achievement, particularly for those with progressive forms of MS, for which there are no treatments currently available. Read more about this drug trial here.

Conviction | ★★★★★★★★

This 2010 movie was a very pleasant surprise. It reminded me of "The Wronged Man", a 2010 made-for-tv movie about a woman who fought for 15 years to obtain the release of an innocent man. Both movies are based on true stories about women who worked with "The Innocence Project" to pursue justice for imprisoned men.

Where I think the movies part is in the stories of the two women. In this movie the love, the drive and the motivation of Betty Anne Waters (Hilary Swank) takes your breath away. After her brother is convicted of murder she never stops believing that he is innocent - even when he asks her to give up she never does. This amazing high school drop out gets her GED, undergraduate degree and a law degree all to pursue justice for her brother. Her unstoppable love for her brother is simply inspirational.

I really liked the movie and, on a scale of ten, give it ★★★★★★★★.

Catch my other mini-reviews by selecting the Movies link in the menu bar above.

On being fully alive ...

“Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it.
Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” -Howard Thurman

The quote above and the one to the right remind me how older folks often tell young people to find something that you love doing and find a way to make money doing it. I think that it is so much easier to say than to do. Even so, I found such a job in 1976 when I became a computer programmer. Something inside of me just clicked when I was designing software. It was not all that much different than what I think an artist must feel when they are painting or sculpting. It reminds me that so much of our spiritual life is not found in religious settings but in the places where we are filled with the joy of doing the things that behold God and cause our inner beings to come alive. Can you relate?

Star Wars Mogul

Which Star Wars Actor Became Enormously Wealthy Off The Film’s Royalties?

        •  Harrison Ford

        •  Alec Guinness

        •  James Earl Jones

        •  Mark Hamill

The answer is supplied to us by the How-to-Geek here.   Let me know how you did.

Eat Bacon :: Live Longer

According to an article titled "Study shows eating Bacon will make you live Longer" ...
Science has enriched the lives of bacon-lovers everywhere. A study conducted by researchers at ETH Zurich has concluded that the high levels of Vitamin B3 (known as niacin) in this meat could help you live longer.
And they told me bacon would kill me! Lets all give "science" a standing ovation!

The Blogger formerly known as Kansas Bob

One of my blogging friends posted recently about how she wanted to use a Blogspot name that is not available because it was used many years ago and is now defunct. It reminded me of how many of my friends gave me the business when I moved to Kansas City, Missouri in June, 2010. They said that I could no longer be known as Kansas Bob simply because I no longer lived in Kansas.

Over the years I have vacillated wondering if I should bother changing my blog and my blogging identity - and should I even attempt to go with a different URL? In recent days I have made a few changes. I now appear on your comment feed as "KC Bob" and my blog banner says "Kansas City Bob". Not sure that I will ever change the URL though as is already taken. ツ

Expectations get us in trouble ...

Mark and Angel offer an interesting perspective in the post titled "7 Things You Should Stop Expecting from Others". Here are the first three expectations their list ...
  • Agreement: I so agree that we should not expect this from people. In their words "You have to dare to be yourself, and follow you own intuition, however frightening or strange that may feel or prove to be."
  • Respect: "True strength is in the soul and spirit, not in muscles. It’s about having faith and trust in who you are, and a willingness to act upon it." That is spot on and is deserving of others' respect.
  • Being Liked: Man can I ever relate to this. I cannot even think of one time that pleasing others has ever done anything for me. I so agree that "In this crazy world that’s trying to make you like everyone else, the toughest battle you’ll ever have to fight is the battle to be yourself."
The fourth item on their list is the one that has gotten me in a lot of trouble. Here is how they frame it: "Stop expecting them to fit your idea of who they are." I think that this has troubled me most in religious settings where I expect people to act in accordance with my understanding of the words pastor or even Christian. And in other settings even words like friend or father can create unrealistic expectations. Sad how these expectations cause us to judge each other.

Australians, Guns and the right to Bear Arms

My Australian blogging friend Lynne had this to offer on Facebook when I asked folks if they have ever fired a gun ...
It was never much of a gun culture to start with. Sure there are gun clubs, and farmers have rifles for killing sick animals or things like rabbits (which are not native, for some unimaginable reason some early settlers thought it was good idea to bring them in, and they've been a nuisance ever since) but most of us city-dwellers (over 80% of the Australian population) have never touched a gun in our lives. After the Port Arthur shooting the government instituted a massive buy back, and people voluntarily handed their guns in. You are only allowed a gun licence (and can't buy one without it) if you fit certain tightly defined criteria -- e.g. farmer, member of a gun club etc (and gun club members have to leave their guns locked up at the club). We don't feel vulnerable -- most criminals don't have guns either, because there were never that many guns around to begin with.
To put it in some sort of cultural perspective, we don't have a right to bear arms written into our constitution (because no one has ever thought we needed it) and we have never had a war fought on Australian soil. And since the gun buy-back, there have been no more mass shootings,and that was more than 25 years ago. Most of us are completely mystified by American gun laws, but I'm sure it comes down to historical differences -- most Australians feel no need to privately defend themselves.
It does seem to me that our history here in America has greatly influenced our thinking about guns. Some of my friends tell me that they feel a need to protect themselves from criminals - some even feel a need to have a gun to safeguard against a government takeover. My thinking is that I wish we were more like Australia - on this issue anyways.

The Sapphires | ★★★★★★★★

This movie about an Australian singing group of Aborigines touring 1960s Vietnam military base camps really surprised me! First off the story is based on the wonderful real life story of these young ladies and their manager. Secondly it is set against the backdrop of a most turbulent time - the struggle for civil rights of Aborigines in Australia was so informative to an American like me. Lastly, the music was absolutely divine. Motown songs sung by Australians - who could not love that!

I also liked the way that these folks seemed so real. The tensions of family and stardom seemed to be popping up all over the place! Watching them sing to soldiers in Vietnam flashed me back to a time when my naive innocence was lost. I so resonated with those young people in that time remembering how scary those days were for me. I also liked the 'normal' way the movie came to an end.

I loved this flick and, on a scale of ten, give it ★★★★★★★★.

Catch my other mini-reviews by selecting the Movies link in the menu bar above.

Malala on the Daily Show

A few nights ago Malala Yousafzai, the brave young girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban, was interviewed by Jon Stewart on the Daily Show. Here is a snippet of the interview where she talks about what she would do if a Taliban assassin came at her.
"When in 2012, we were – I was with my father and someone came and she told us have you seen on Google if you search your name that the Taliban has threatened you, and I could not believe it, I said it’s not true, and even after threat we saw it; I was not worried about myself that much I was worried about my father, because we thought that the Taliban are not that much cruel that they would kill a child, cause I was 14 at that time.

But then later on I used to – I started thinking about that and and I used to think that the Talib would come and he would just kill me, but then I said: if he comes what would you do Malala?

Then I would reply myself: that Malala take a shoe and hit him, but then I said – then I said:

If you hit a Talib with your shoe then there would be no difference between you and the Talib, you must not treat others that much with cruelty and that much harshly, you must fight others but through peace, and through dialogue and through education."
At this, the audience broke out in cheers, and Stewart was left speechless. And I too was speechless. If you want to see more I suggest that you catch the interview on YouTube here.

Bitcoin :: Online Wampum

From an old issue of Lifehacker :: Maybe you've heard of Bitcoin—it wants to shake the entire global economy, and has become the financial bubble du jour with a skyrocketing value. It's online money—an alternative to dollars and euros. Well what's that mean?

Bitcoin is not real money. It's an online "currency"—virtual tokens that can be exchanged for goods and services at places that accept it, the same way you'd give someone a dollar for a cookie. But unlike a dollar, a Bitcoin has no serial number or any possible mechanism that could be used to trace it back to a buyer or seller. This makes it attractive to drug dealers and/or privacy advocates. ... Bitcoins are backed by no one and nothing and completely unregulated.
Unlike traditional currency, that's backed up by something, (be it gold, silver, or a central bank), Bitcoins are generated out of thin air. Through a process called "mining," a little app sits on your computer and slowly—very slowly—creates new Bitcoins in exchange for providing the computational power to process transactions. When a new batch of coins is ready, they're distributed in probabilistic accordance to whomever had the highest computing power in the mining process. The system is rigged so that no more than 21 million BitCoins will ever exist—so the mining process will yield less and less as time goes on, and more people sign up. This makes the whole system a lot sweeter for early adopters.

Compared to "real money," few places accept Bitcoin at the moment. But that's quickly changing. There's decent incentive for small businesses to accept Bitcoins—it's free to use, and there aren't any transaction fees. At the moment you can buy the services of a web designer, indie PC games, homemade jewelry, guns, and even cocaine. If the internet is the Wild West, BitCoin is its wampum. :: You can read more about the Bitcoin at Lifehacker.

Gravity | ★★★

Ann and I saw this movie in XD (yes we had to wear dark glasses to get the 3D effects) with friends yesterday at a local theater. I had high expectations for it as the KC Star gave it their highest rating. As you can see by my low rating (3 stars means that I disliked but did not hate it) I am not a fan of Gravity. Here is my rationale:

•  The movie was a bit like Speed (that great Sandra Bullock / Keanu Reeves
    thriller) without the chemistry between both the stars and the villain.
•  It was a movie about nothing. Apart from the theme of getting back to
    earth it had no story line and was pretty boring.
•  The characters were fairly vanilla and pretty uninteresting. The dialog
    seemed to be a huge waste of Bullock's and Clooney's acting abilities.
•  I would normally say that it lacked editting and was too long but if it were
    edited much it would have come in at one hour.

As I said, I did not like the movie and, on a scale of ten, give it ★★★.

Catch my other mini-reviews by selecting the Movies link in the menu bar above.

Chasing Mavericks | ★★★★★★★

I am a sucker for biopics. Especially when the themes in them reveal such deep truths. This movie is about a young boy and his surfing mentor. It weaves such a beautiful picture of how pain and loss can be redeemed when people face and conquer their fears. The story reminded me of The Karate Kid because of the way that that Frosty (played by Gerard Butler) accepted the role of a surrogate father to the young Jay (played by Johnny Weston) and used surfing to teach him about courage and dedication. Their beautiful relationship is the heart of the story.

I also loved the cinematography and the amazing water scenes. There seemed to be just enough action to keep me engaged. But even if you are not a fan of surfing there are beautiful scenes of grace and beauty that fill ones senses.

I liked the movie and, on a scale of ten, give it ★★★★★★★.

Catch my other mini-reviews by selecting the Movies link in the menu bar above.

Ingrained Skepticism

Growing up in New York City, I think that I have always leaned towards the cynical. My
predisposition is towards skepticism. LOL, I have always called it being a “realist”.

As I am ready through the scriptures, with the Bible in 90 Days group that I am leading, I am continually being confronted by people who have a different attitude than me. I cried when I read in Genesis about Joseph telling his brothers that God had a better plan and used his suffering to preserve their family – not because I agreed or disagreed with Joseph’s theology but because I saw an attitude in Joseph that I admired and want to aspire to. His perspective seems so much better than mine.

And when I read in Exodus about how only two Israeli spies out of twelve returned to Moses with a “good report” I was confronted with the fact that I would have probably been counted with the ten. Thinking about Ruth, I think that I would have been the daughter-in-law who returned to Moab and missed out on the blessing. So many of the great people in scriptures were great because of their attitude. I guess my point is that I am seeing that the scriptures are filled with Josephs, Joshuas, Calebs and Ruths – and I so want to have their attitude towards God and toward life. Maybe we who lean a bit towards cynicism and skepticism can help each other to change by praying for each other?

Love, Gratitude and the Heart

A few quotes from my inbox to challenge and inspire you ...

"Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all." -Aristotle

"Gratitude is when memory is stored in the heart and not in the mind." -Lionel Hampton

"Love doesn't make the world go 'round. Love is what makes the ride worthwhile." -Franklin P. Jones

Doc Martin, Doc Obama and the Sick

This year Ann and I have been watching a BBC show called Doc Martin. It is about a big time brilliant surgeon in London who is forced to take a job as the only doctor at a small English village. It is a pretty funny show but one that demonstrates what, in a microcosm, healthcare is like in England. Here are a few observations:
  • The Doc lives in a modest home where his office is located;
  • He is a curmudgeon but is truly interested in the health and care of his neighbors;
  • He regularly makes house calls when needed;
  • Everyone in his town is cared for the same regardless of wealth.
The show reminds me of what healthcare used to be like in the 60s when Dr. Koosman, our family physician, made house calls. I remember that day in January 1965 when he came to my bedroom and diagnosed me with appendicitis. And yes I know that, like Doc Martin, that situation is not relevant to 21st century America.

My thinking is that somehow, in the midst of the debate over Obamacare, we need to find a way in our country to better care for the sick. It breaks my heart to think of responsible people who have to declare bankruptcy because of inadequate insurance coverage. It also saddens me that people are denied coverage because of preexisting conditions.

Thinking about how, as a young and wild guy, I was forced into an assigned risk auto insurance group,  it seems to me that, like auto insurance, there should be provisions made so that everyone can be covered by health insurance. Seems like everyone in a society benefits when everyone has healthcare coverage.

Without bashing or lauding Obamacare, what would you like healthcare to be like in America?