Sunday, February 24, 2008

The presidential election finally gets interesting.

This morning on Meet the Press, Ralph Nader announced that he's running for President.
I'm finally excited about this year's election campaign.

Unfortunately, many people will respond to his announcement with a groan of "he's running again? All he's going to do is pull votes away from the other candidates."
I know that's how people respond, but it's how I used to respond; thinking this man was just trying to throw a wrench in the political process. But... even if that was his only goal... would that be so bad? If anything needs a wrench or two tossed into the works it's our political system.

This year, however, my view of Ralph Nader is different. I was hired by a client in California to write a review of one of his books "The Seventeen Traditions" - a book I highly recommend. As part of the writing process, I researched Nader himself, because I knew him by name only. I learned that his accomplishments are great, and that he's spent the majority of his life advocating for the common American citizen, and working to hold both the government and Corporate America accountable for their actions. He played a large part in the development of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Freedom of Information Act... just to name a few. He was one of the first to raise his voice about automotive safety with his 1965 book "Unsafe at Any Speed". His work eventually prompted the automotive industry to develop safety harnesses and air bags.

So, before you roll your eyes and dismiss Ralph Nader as a viable presidential candidate, research his life, his work and his accomplishments. Thus far, he's been a vocal and successful advocate for American citizens. And wouldn't it be nice to have finally have an advocate in the White House?

Read more about Ralph Nader.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

What is the lesser of two evils?

Last week I read a statement from Steven Spielberg stating that he was resigning as an artistic adviser for the opening and closing Olympic ceremonies in China this year. He cited China's strong ties with Sudan and the continued violence in Darfur as his reasons.

My brain goes in so many different directions with this one.
My first thought is "Awesome!". As violence in Darfur continues, it's public statements like this one that will keep it out front where it can't be ignored or forgotten. That's a good thing.

My second thought is "His only protest about China is its tie to Sudan??!"
Spielberg gives no other reason for resigning his very prestigious post. While Sudan/Darfur is a valid reason, it's certainly not the only reason to have issues with China. This is a country known for its persecution... it's "crimes against humanity". While I appreciate Spielberg's nod to Darfur, I'm a bit appalled by the fact that he made no mention of the countless atrocities China has inflicted (and continues to inflict) on its own people. It's this very pattern of continued persecution that has caused me, countless times, to wonder why China was given such a profound honor as hosting the Olympics. Maybe someone who better understands international diplomacy/relations can explain it to me.

My final thought is about the Olympic athletes themselves. I don't envy those who will compete in China this year. What should be a celebration of athletic ability will instead be continually overshadowed by protests and political statements of every kind (which again - in my mind - begs the question "why did they choose China??). These athletes have worked hard, sacrificing so much for so many years. They should be the center of attention during these Olympic games but I have a terrible feeling that they will, instead, only be the follow up story.

That, then, makes we wonder which choice is better; using the China Olympics to draw attention to some of the horrible things that happen in the country, or keeping politics and social justice issues out of it and letting the games be what they're meant to be - a spotlight shining on the world's greatest athletes? Would we have missed an opportunity had we kept quiet? Or have we ruined these games for the ones who have worked hardest to get there?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Ode to Winter

O, Winter
You've outstayed
The welcome we extended.
We're needing a reprieve,
So, we must ask you, now, to leave.

Dear Winter,
Don't take it personal.
We don't like you any less.
But we'd like you to make room
For Spring and Summer,
Whom we miss.

We'd like to pack away
The sweaters, coats, hats and mittens.
We'd like to run and play
Without need of thermal knickers.

So, Winter, it's time to go.
Please pack your cold and snow.
No season should stay forever.
And we're longing for warmer weather.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

"So... how was it?"

That's the question of the hour. For the next several days, the first time I see or talk to anyone, this will (likely) be the first thing they ask me. I'm not complaining. I'm glad that people want to know... I'm just not sure how to respond.

The "it" is a week-long trip that I took with a group of 11 other (possibly) semi-crazy people into Joshua Tree National Park in California. It was meant to be a time of fasting, silence and solitude. A time of seeking... seeking peace, seeking answers, but mostly seeking God.

1 day of silence. 3 days of fasting. 5 days of solitude. Preceded by a two-day hike into the park, carrying an 80lb backpack (more like 60lb for me because I got some help carrying in my drinking water.) In the harshest environment I've ever encountered. It wasn't supposed to be like this. People who had gone on the trip in previous years talked about warm weather and sunshine. Though we got some sunshine, we didn't get much warmth. The wind was bitter cold and was blowing most of the time. Nighttime temperatures dropped to the mid- to low-20s... difficult to endure when all you've got is a tent and a sleeping bag. And then there was the rain... 16 hours straight from Saturday night into Sunday. 16 hours of rain... in the desert...

No, it wasn't supposed to be like this. 5 days of solitude became 4 when personal issues required me to hike out early. I could have hiked back in to finish the final day of solitude, but.. honestly... I was done. Physically; I've never felt so weak in my life. I couldn't even carry out my own backpack, someone else had to carry it for me. Emotionally; the harsh conditions were frustrating and exhausting. Spiritually; I had nothing to prove. One day more of solitude wasn't going to prove that I loved God any more. One day fewer wasn't going to make Him love me any less.

So... how was it? It was hard. It may have been the hardest thing I've ever done.
But it was also good. God was there. He challenged me, encouraged me, but mostly... He was simply there. With me in my tent, as I paced through the wash where my tent was set up, as I sat up on the rocks and looked out at the mountains... He was there. I didn't always *feel* His presence, mostly because I would get distracted by the cold, the wind, or the rain. But I can also point to specific times and places when He assured me that He was with me.

I came back with a greater appreciation for both silence and solitude. There's something powerful about unplugging from the world. If you can really embrace it, it's something God can use to move you to a different place inside. A place that's more settled, more at peace. A place where the things of this world and the opinions of those who inhabit it matter a little less, and the things of God matter a little more. I'm hopeful that God will teach me how to stay in that place. 'Cause I like it.

Would I do it again? I'm not ready to think about that yet :) (though I have been thinking of things I'd do differently). I'm not ready to think about the hike, the cold, the solitude, the complete aloneness. But it's only been a few days. Ask me again in a few months. ;)

Monday, February 04, 2008

old school

I just spent a week in the desert. 3 days of fasting and solitude.
This song was continually running through my head, so I thought I'd share it
I can see the tears filling your eyes
And I know where they're coming from.
They're coming from a heart that's broken it two
By what you don't see.
The person in the mirror doesn't look like the magazine.
But when I look at you it's clear to me:

I can see the fingerprints of God.
When I look at you,
I can see the fingerprints of God.
And I know it's true
You're a masterpiece
That all creation quietly applauds
And you're covered with the fingerprints of God.

Never has there been,
And never again will there be another you.
Crafted by God's hands
And perfectly planned to be just who you are.
And what He's been creating since the first beating of your heart
Is a living, breathing, priceless work of art.

I can see the fingerprints of God
When I look at you,
I can see the fingerprints of God
And I know it's true
You're a masterpiece
That all creation quietly applauds
And you're covered with the fingerprints of God.

-Fingerprints of God, by Stephen Curtis Chapman