Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Year Long Plan

Last night, as I sat at a party with some friends, I had a moment of genius. We were discussing things that we had been wanting to accomplish, but had yet to do. Some were difficult because of cost, but we all agreed that the biggest "block" was simply letting the projects slip through the cracks of busy lives.

This led to a thought, and I think I am going to try to bring it to fruition.

Sometime in early January, I am going to throw a party. Those who attend the party will be asked to plan one year long project. It could be learning a new language. It could be building something they have always wanted to try. It could be traveling somewhere. Or writing a book. Seriously. Anything. The level of difficulty will be up to the person.

Then, we will write it all down in a notebook, and each person will sign their "commitment".

In one year, there will be another party, and people will bring their accomplishments to the party. We will all share in and enjoy each other's success of achieving something fantastic in one year.

Oh, and there is a penalty for not. If anyone does not accomplish their goal (barring personal tragedy of course), they will be required to pay $100 to a community fund. This will then be donated to charity.

It may sound a little cheesy, but I am actually excited by the thought of making this happen.

Anybody down for a challenge?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Christmas Spirit

It is November 19th.

I usually have a staunch rule against Christmas music, decorations, or movies until after Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving, I believe, should not be forgotten.

This year, however, I have started early. Last night I purchased Harry Connick Jr's new Christmas album, as well as Casting Crown's. I am already thinking through the movies I will watch this season. I am brushing up on my Linus reading of Luke.

I am ready for the season.

I think it is because I am excited for family and friends.

I think it is because I am excited for the cold, head clearing weather.

I know it is because I am yearning to feel a closeness to God that I always feel at Christmas. And don't give me the line about how I can have that year round. I know I should. But Christmas is a grand catalyst.

So bring on the holly jollies. Bring on the mistletoe. Bring on the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

And bring on the baby Jesus. The reminder that God so loved this world that he gave his one and only son to be born in a barn and raised in fear. God could have smote us. He could have washed His hands of us and let the Devil take us. Instead He sacrificed for us, where he knew we couldn't.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Story continued....

For the beginnning of this story, check out A Boy and his Blog.

After what you have been through, trusting another stranger is the last thing you want to do.

You roll off the road into the dense brush in the run-off ditch.You are wet, tired, bleeding, and it is four hours until dawn. But you know you cannot die out here. You must get back to the one you love, and besides, you are not wearing clean underwear, and your mom always told you that if you ever died on the side of the road, you had better have on clean underwear. But it was laundry day.

As you get up and force yourself to walk, it begins to rain. Through the lightning flashes you see what appears to be a cave. Inside you could be warm and dry, at least until dawn.

As you approach the cave, you hear a loud screech that sounds as though it has come from within. Your blood runs cold.

Do you go into the cave to get dry or do you keep walking along the ditch?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Sunday Funday

This Sabbath, as I sit here in my brown polyester sweatpants and fuzzy green sweater ( I know, you wish you could see me), I feel the need for some fun.

Perhaps it is the weather. Perhaps it is the recent election which seemed to tear our communities apart. Perhaps it is the feeling I get that some of my friends are burdened by life.

Whatever the reason, I need to highlight some fun, sweet goodness that life is offering me these days.

The Zoo
Yesterday was free zoo day here in the Promised Land. My friend Rachel invited me to join in on the festivities. While many animals, including the elusive cheetah, hid from the cold, we were able to see the Maned Wolf, a native of South America, and a large Bengal Tiger. We also heard a Sloth Bear bark. My bet is none of you...except Rachel and Luke, heard a Sloth Bear bark yesterday. I know, you are jealous.

New Friend
I have a new friend. His name is Nataraj Sundar. He is from Bangalore, India. He rocks. We have some very interesting conversations as we discuss and compare cultures. Today I am going over to his house for some traditional Indian food. Excitement level....pegged.

I know what you are all thinking. A pirate queen from the late 15oos brings John joy? The answer is....perhaps. But the greatest Grania I know is the nearly year old lab/houndog mix laying on my feet as I write this. She is a crazy pup, but really does bring me great joy, even though she likes to get up and pee at 4 in the morning.

I was going to type books, but I thought Literature made me sound more sophisticated. I love books. I love all genres of books. I am currently reading Hocus Pocus by Kurt Vonnegut, Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, Motoring With Mohammed by Eric Hansen, and re-reading The Drowned and the Saved by Primo Levi. I recently finished The Wayward Bus by John Steinbeck and The Baby Thief by Barbara Bisantz Raymond. Books have always been a fun adevnture for me. There are so many to read, and so little time! I will have to do an entire post of them, methinks.

The Cold Weather
Fun for me, dreaded by most. Suckers.

Season 7 comes out on DVD Tuesday. Feel free to come by Tuesday night and watch it.

I am ending on a cheesy note, but my friends have truly been a fun part of my life lately. Whether it is random trips to the zoo, hanging and watching movies, or just some lively conversations, friends are truly the spice of life.

Well, I just felt the need to show off the joys in my life these days, and these are only a handful.

What kind of fun/joy are you experiencing?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Why Vote?

I have some friends who are really excited to vote.

I have some friends who love Barack Obama.

I have no friends who love John McCain.

I have one friend who loves Bob Barr.

I have some friends who have decided not to vote.

And that, dear reader, is what I take issue with tonight.

Voting, to me, is one of the greatest honors that comes with being born in America. We are a unique and fascinating experiment in government. We are not a true democracy, but we are a country striving to move, as much as possible with the will of the people.

Perhaps we have forgotten that we are an experiment. In the modern world of instant gratification and self centered thought, we tend to think we are the peak of civilization. So did the Vikings. And they had a god that threw hammers. But I digress.

Our experiment is not that old. It is, however, reaching stagnation. And I believe that it is because people have forgotten that this system was set up by a group of people who believed that in order to have a succesful and free nation, citizens MUST be involved.

Our forefathers saw what being complacent and going with the flow accomplished. They saw that when people allow the government to solve all of their problems, they become pawns in that government's scheme to grow stronger.

So the founders fought to create a more perfect union. NOT a perfect union. They realized that a perfect, Thomas More Utopia was impossible. To do this, they worked hard to create a system that worked for them in their time. BUT, they also had the foresight to see that the system would not work forever. So they built, as best they could, tools to change the government to better serve the people as time went on.

Thus, when the country needed to end slavery, there was a way to change the face of the country to do so.

When the country wanted to insure voting rights for all, including African Americans and women, the system was there to allow it.

When it was time to limit the presidency to two terms to keep a single person from gaining control of the office for life, it could be done.

As men returned from the Vietnam War and realzied they could die for their country at age 18, but not vote for or against the people who might send them to die, the Constitution was ammended to give them a voice.

When the country wanted to stop the production of alcohol, it had the means to do so, and when the country realized this was a terrible policy that should never have been implemented, it had the means to reverse it.

As the country has grown, matured, lost and gained ground throughout the world, the ability has always been there for The People to be heard, and the country they live in to be changed.

As we come to the eve of the 2008 elections, I believe that Americans, especially Americans of my generation have forgotten how the system works. Which I thoroughly don't understand because we all had School House Rock to show us how it was done.

We look at the candidates for the two major parties, and perhaps we don't like either of them. We hear about ACORN and voter fraud. We hear about campaign finance scandals. We see our "future leaders" acting like a pack of middle schoolers throwing insults across the the lunch tables. We know that the electoral college is a messed up system that is outdated and needs changing.

And we become discouraged. We begin to believe that it does not matter what we do, because the big money lobbyists, the national parties, the entire political machine is too powerful to stop. We know that true "statesmen" get eaten up in Congress by those with agendas. It all seems too big for us to attack.

So we begin to whisper that we should give up. That we should ignore D.C. and focus on doing what is right in our hometowns. We decide that if we want to change the world, we must hide from the political part and pursue the "grassroots" change.

And to a degree that is correct, but be careful about following the rabbit hole too far. Of course we need to personally fight for the change that we want. Of course we need to change the world around us, even if the political world doesn't listen. The end of slavery, civil rights movement, women's suffrage, union formation, even what little political reform we have had has started with individuals who would not give up on the need to change. But they saw, just like we must see, that for real change to have teeth, it must first be fought for in the streets, then in mass public opinion, then in politics, then CONTINUED on the streets.

It is a long and grueling process. It is painful. It takes too long. And my generation does not like things to take too long. We want our instant gratification. Don't believe me? Watch our face when the computer takes 3 minutes to send a simple e-mail. Damn machines.

Now, how does this all tie in to voting you ask? Thank you, excellent question. We can't change the world this election. No one running will do it. But we can continue to be involved and understand the meaning of the vote.

For those who think that the vote is not that important, I ask you to talk to the Vietnam Vets who came home from war and fought to have a voice. Talk to the African Americans who were blocked from the polls because of Jim Crow laws. Talk to women in Saudia Arabia who have no say in the lives they must lead. Talk to those who live in countries where the choice is vote for the guy in charge or don't vote at all.

Any of them would give their lives to have a say, to feel like, in some small way, they were heard.

I think, in the end, it boils down to laziness and helplessness. If we choose not to participate, we are choosing not to change. It is difficult, it is a fight. If we want to change the party system, the electoral system, the judicial system, it is going to take years. We may not even get to see the change. But to simply leave it, to decide that we will pursue better lives on our own and let Washington go to hell, is the lazy, and the dangerous answer.

And I know, there are many of my fellow Christians who are asking if Jesus would vote. Should a Christian invest time in a worldy system, or just pursue the life Christ told us to. And the answer is, you talk to Jesus and figure that out. I personally think it is far too dangerous to just pursue my God and let the government run itself. I think Corrie Ten Boom would agree.

That's right, I made the leap to the Nazis. I know, I lost some people there, but hear me out. The National Socialist German Workers' Party was able to move as they did because the German people were so disillusioned with the world they lived in that they stopped paying attention. They elected the person they thought would do the greatest good and the least harm, and quickly found themselves in a deadly situation. And there are countless accounts of Christians and non-Christians who decided to just live their lives and not worry too much about the politics. If life improved, or they could find a way to improve the lives of others, then everything would be okay.

But it wasn't okay. And a monster grew. And it could certainly happen again. Primo Levi spent the last years of his life screaming for people to not forget not only that the Holocaust happened, but how it happened. Becuase he knew that with time we would forget, we could become desensitized. And that we could fall into the same trap again.

Barack Obama and John McCain will not be the next Hitler. Biden...maybe. Just kidding. But to decide to not take a stand, to let the power that we DO have slip away is a dangerous precedent to set.

Our system is not perfect., It is absolutely flawed and outdated. There is a better way. But on Tuesday, I say that we continue to participate, And if we don't like it, let's fight to change it. It will be difficult. It will cause tears and pain and frustration. But it will remind us and others that "We The People" have a voice, we just have to get off our asses and find it.

After a comment I received from a wise friend, I feel I need to further explain the lazy/hopeless conclusion. I am not saying that if you choose not to vote you are a lazy person. My friends who are not voting are industrious people, active in the world they live in. I am however, saying that not voting is lazy citizenship. We have a responsibility that goes with calling ourselves Americans. Part of it is to vote and take part in the political system. I say take part, not give all of ourselves to it. As a Christian I try to give my all to God. That does come first. But I also realize that I live within a governed nation, and that I have a unique ability to have a say in that nation. And I believe that it is my duty to do so. So I am saying that, in my view, the hopelessness that comes with being a voter, especially in Kansas, should not be enough to keep us from the polls. Indeed, it should be what drives us to them, and to take the time in the upcoming years to discover how we can have better candidates in the next election.

We can change the world, even the United States without taking part in the political machine. But we cannot ignore that machine. If it gets too powerful, then our freedom to work outside of it can and most likely will be destroyed.

And I want to close by saying that while I feel strongly about this, I do not meant to attack people. We live in a country where you can vote, but also may choose not vote. After Tuesday you will not hear my cries until the next election day. I will not tell you that you cannot have a say in the country because you didn't vote. But I will wear my "I Voted" sticker proudly for the next year.....