Tag: news

Being Human: Break Out of the Mold – The Mass Cookie Cutter is “Scary” – Be Original

I was meandering the internets and noticed this clip from Conan Obrien’s late night show (Team Coco, as known on Facebook).  I watched this clip of television reports inanely repeating the same line over and over …and over…and over – ad infinitum.  Basically, there seems to be one writer somewhere who called the shot, and all the reporter does is read a script.  They all did try to put their own panache on the situation.  Inflections were slightly different, they laughed at different times…some left out the “Well” marker, but ultimately, the scene becomes scary as we realize that they’re basically actors/actresses – puppets singing someone else’s song.  Take a look and continue below:

My first gut reaction was the same as Conan’s – “Thats not even funny – that’s scary.”  He’s pointing out something that we really need to be wary of.  In Youth Ministry, I do source culture and have in the past used curriculums.  In fact, for my confirmation class, I have a curriculum from the United Methodist Church that is a guide as to what the church feels is important to pass on to our youth.  Someone wrote it up, placed games, pictures and activities in their.  They even made videos that we showed as discussion starters.  But when it came down to it, it was up to me to convey the passion of faith to our youth. I also had to convey that my individual relationship with  God is unique – not something that the church as pre-scripted for me.  I have the Bible as my guide, I have the church and tradition to remember and help in times of trouble, and the Holy Spirit is like a river flowing through my soul – but when it comes down to it, there is a path and a passion that God gives to me uniquely and I have to communicate that uniquely. If  I did not, the youth would know that I am a fake merely reading a script, and that is what they may do for the rest of their lives.  I can’t do that.

In your life whether a reporter or a pastor or a small business owner or an employee at McDonalds – you have a script that is all your own.  When you repeat others thoughts as your own, you become a robot.  If you agree with something, process it, think it through (deeply over time) and then articulate why it is meaningful to you and your community in your own words.  Don’t just “Scream for Ice Cream” infinitely into the void of ridiculous nothingness.  You are meaningful.  Mean what you say.  Know why you are doing what you do.

My Response to Kenda Dean and the Christian Post Report that “Student Ministry” is Failing

This is a Response to this Blog on The Christian Post website, reporting on Kenda Dean’s generalization that “Student Ministry” is failing.  The basic premise being that Youth Ministry isn’t doing a good job communicating the deep things of our Christian Faith to young people.

I have a hard time understanding how  “Student Ministry” is failing mainly due to my own observations in my ministry and as an observer of Youth Ministry as a profession. This movement away from Biblical knowledge, I believe,  is a trend of the culture at large. The Minister to Youth has been working against this tide for a long time. Students come into the ministries unable to understand basic concepts such as the oneness of the Trinity or the timeline of faith from Adam to Abraham to David to Jesus to the Apostles to us today.

There are a lot of factors working on this:
(1) Normal people don’t learn Greek and Hebrew, nor do they receive Theological instruction as they used to in “Classical” education. Most people specialize in their fields, so basic theology isn’t a foundation for the other sciences and philosophies and trades.

(2) Due to this, the “Common” or public space is primarily unable to talk to theological issues, and this includes the heads of families across the modern world.

(3) Children speak to what they know as they grow – and they do not understand the deep things of God because those who raise them do not know how to teach them. Nor is it common for faith to be openly shared, so it is not a “lived” faith. Faith matters are reserved for births, death, and times of suffering. Sundays are primarily a time of reflection, community and empowerment rather than giving all Glory to God a lot of the time.

The youth pastor, the pastor, the priest or the layperson – whoever walks into this soup and tries to teach, will find it a challenging task (I do not think this is a new phenomenon). Every youth ministry I’ve participated in or have been in connection with, has had deep theological teaching, discipleship oriented groups and lots of talking about the Story of God and lots of Bible learning. There is something bigger going on in demographics, and it has to do with the priorities of people. It has been happening slowly over time, and the church has done lots to recognize it and turn that tide – but even in scripture there is precedent for tides of culture and the times.

Thinking about the “Big Picture”, in the Old Testament books of 1 and 2 Chronicles and 1 and 2 Kings, there are generations who do turn to God and do great things. Then there are generations who take the blessings for granted and walk away. Where are we on the continuum? Are we near a time of reform like with King Josiah? Or are we at a time where the people desire to walk away?

And ultimately, that doesn’t change a thing about our mission or what we do as believers. We keep loving God, loving our neighbor, and following Jesus’ Great Commission to Go, baptize and teach.

I’m positive in nature, I’ve seen good things happen in this generation, and even if the big picture is bleak – we need to stay on point and focused on the job. Discouragement is not something that we have time for. God will work and use those who are called despite the times.

The main thing that K.Dean gets right is this: this generation’s faith has a baseline of “Moral Therapeutic Deism,” but that isn’t a reason to act out of desperation.  Thomas Jefferson once thought that the “Unitarian” faith would be the faith of our nation within 10-20 years – that didn’t happen.  If one believes in the Holy Spirit and looks on the history of God through the ages, there is reason to hope, pray and equip – knowing that the next great wave of God’s spirit is about to come.

Education of Christian Principles is part of the solution, but the primary key to everything, is connecting people to the heart of God so that they will want nothing but to be filled God’s greatness.  Education comes easier with passion, when hearts are on fire and our spirit is awakened.  This starts with a few individuals passing on the light.  Considering how many serious Youth Ministers I see, and how many Parents I see getting serious about their faith and passing it on – I believe the future is more hopeful than we think.

Food for thought: Get excited about learning about God, share it with others and dig in deep with a small group of committed people.  If you don’t know where to start, ask someone who is passionate about it, including a pastor at your church.  They would love to hear that you want to start digging in ;D

Quick Thought: Why I Am Against Gambling

(Please read this whole article and interact with my whole argument)

I recently heard that a casino has been proposed for a community that is literally down the street from where I live.  There are pictures, proposals, and a bit of media blitz revving up.  I immediately tweeted @NikkiHaley and asked her not to promote the new casino.  Today, I am happy to have read, that Haley has state on Facebook that she will not support the casino or approve expanded gambling in South Carolina, and she continued to emphasize that her administration will promote manufacturing and industry jobs to the state.  I clicked “like” immediately.

The comments section immediately lit up, and the most common arguments for gambling in South Carolina are, “Its more jobs,” “It will bring more money into the tourist economy,” and “You can do it online and in Vegas, why not here? North Carolina will get all the money,” etc, etc.  The same arguments are made in New Hampshire and Massachusetts about the Connecticut casinos that draw people in so I’m familiar with them, but I am still anti-casino, but also anti-gambling.

Why?

I don’t believe that gambling, in the big picture, benefits anyone.

It is a form of entertainment based on the adrenaline rush of possibly losing your money.  In fact most people do lose money, and that is what goes to pay profit to those who run the operations, as well as pay out the rewards to a select “few” who beat the odds.  Very rarely do the numbers work out that people gain more than is taken.  I’m not a math man, but I assume that these places wouldn’t exist if the odds weren’t heavily in their favor.  So basically, more people lose than win.  Applying basic Pavlovian psychology to this situation, and you have an atmosphere for highly addictive behavior.  In studies, when a reward is applied sometimes, but not always, it is more addictive than if the reward is always applied.  At the slot machines, you win some and you lose some, so people widdle away the hours thinking “one more, and I’m done…one more and I’m done.”  Its a system designed to draw you and and get more and more serious until you lose big.  While addictions are a part of life (caffeine being one), this one is literally giving away money.  The impracticality of it, in my opinion, makes it wrong for the individual.  To go in knowing that you will likely lose, allotting a certain amount to give away, but hoping that you will win big.

My thoughts:

(1) Our hope should not be placed in money.  Gambling places the dollar on too high a pedestal.  Getting more dollars won’t solve your problems, it won’t solve societies problems.  “More money, more problems” in other words.

(2) Our entertainment should not have the possibility of loss of income that could be used for better use.  We should be wise with our money.  Giving it away to the glowing lights is not wise and by the odds is not going to produce good fruit.

(3) Some entertainments grow us as people and make us more capable as human beings.  Gambling does not improve you physically, spiritually or mentally.  It is a behavioral adrenaline rush in which you play with risk and hope not to be wiped out.  It is a waste of our potential, our talents, and what we could be giving to our world.

(4) These buildings close people off from society and many leave thinking of only of their next return – where they will only lose more time and more potentially more money.

(5) Lastly, to address the biggest justification for a casino, to give money to something good.  This is to create a money tube.  People bring money, they game, they lose money willingly, that money is given to a cause (ex. education).   This looks great at first.  People don’t like taxes, but they’ll “game” in a casino.  Need money for education, get a casino, cash flows to state who pays for education – problem solved.  Not so!  A good society needs to value education.  Indirect funding of education through gaming brings people to value the gaming rather than the end result – a well rounded educated society.  You fund something good (educated young people for a brighter tomorrow) with something that teaches unwise investment of resources (gambling), the opposite of what you would teach in a classroom.  Unless you want to teach that Gambling is good because it funds education – which is false.  Education is good because it gives people the tools they need to be productive members of society.  Gambling can only be argued as being good on its own two feet.  What good, on its own, does gambling provide?  Adrenaline? Risk? Fun? But weigh that against its own down sides.  Loss.  Addiction.  Broken Relationships.  Distraction.  How does it stand on that alone?  My argument is this: Education should be funded.  Gambling is one way to do it, but it is not the best way.  If we really value Education, we would make a good case to the public of what we need to educate the next generation on Education’s merits alone.  Not, in what the individual can get out of it.  This thinking makes our society more selfish than it needs to be, and it is distasteful to me.

Some people say that it is your own money, and another person has no right to say what the other will do with it.  That would be a good argument if we all didn’t live together in communities where we all interact and we rise and fall on the strength of the whole.   As a person who lives in a community with many others, I do expect that everyone is being wise with their time, their money, and their talents. I expect that they use their money to produce actual products, ideas, and dreams.  I would hope that their entertainments would make them better people (by interacting and growing through reading books, informing television, physical competition and world growth challenges, expanding the mind and doing service that helps others and that grows the heart and mind).

I don’t know the statistics about how much of an economic impact this would have, nor do I know how much of it would go to education, or other tacked on provisions to make it “worthwhile”.  I do know that there are better ways for all of us to use our money.  I do know that people should be giving to education anyway – and we should be ashamed to say we would only give that money if we are “entertained” for it.  I know that the world sometimes works in the wrong ways to try and achieve the right outcomes, but I prefer to try to attain both.  The right means to the right goals.

So I’m thankful that a casino is not supported, and I hope that it will be seen as a positive safe guard of our treasure, our time, and our good work.  Let’s focus on better things.

Apple Rumors Before the Announcement at 1 PM – Iphone 5? Iphone 4S? Both? Here is a Rumor Roundup

 

JUST ANNOUNCED, IPHONE 4S is Upgraded IPHONE 4 – My PREDICTIONS WERE RIGHT (read below)

Ars Teknia, Live Feed of Apple Event.

THE IPHONE will receive a new iteration today when Apple goes live at 1 pm today in Cupertino.  Rumors and speculation have swirled and it seems that there are some big chunks that have some validity.

Rumor 1: An Iphone 4S will be released, basically a beefed up Iphone 4, with the Ipad 2’s more powerful chip and upgraded software and an 8 MP camera on the back.  (This rumor seems likely.  Apple does need to retain the Iphone 4, and since it doesn’t require a major redesign, they could put some better parts in, have very little R&D costs, and have excitement around a cheaper to mass produce handset with a proven record of popularity to continue to challenge Android.)

Rumor 2: Sprint has paid 20 Billion dollars to buy up inventory and get the Iphone 5 exclusively, basically betting the farm on the cult of Apple.  (Not likely.  While they are dropping some big change, exclusivity for Sprint isn’t going to happen.  Apple needs as wide a swath as possible to continue the proliferation of IOS, and limiting it to the distant 3rd carrier, Sprint, would be a disastrous move, even for 20 Billion bucks, and considering how much cash Apple is sitting on, $20B isn’t really scratching their back that much.  Sprint is merely buying in and ensuring they aren’t left completely behind, for a huge amount of money for them. Also, this rumor came out yesterday – probably just attention seeking with a big “?” for buzz.)

Rumor 3: The Iphone 5 will come out slightly thinner, with curved glass and a wider screen.  It will be more powerful than the Iphone 4 (close to the 4S rumors, probably using Ipad 2 specs and better camera), and will have IOS5 (like the 4S rumors).  (This rumor is not as likely as the 4S, but probable.  It is hard to determine what Apple will do here.  In the past, Apple has released an Iphone, then Iphone 3G, then Iphone 3GS, then the 4.  Whether Apple calls it the 4S or the 5, I believe it will be the same phone.  If Apple follows their track record, they will release it with the name 4S – but that would seem unsynchronized with the IOS5 aesthetically.  If apple decides to make marketing easy, they will release the phone as the Iphone 5 with OS5, thus maintaining a big ol’ “FIVE” on everything they’re pushing.  It certainly would be prettier.)

Rumor 4: Apple will release an Iphone 4S and the Iphone 5 simultaneously.  One for the low end low cost market to combat cheap Android sets, and one to retain the crown of awsome-ness and blow everyone away with the Iphone 5 as a global minded handset for every carrier.  (Not likely but would be cool.  Apple is still doing well selling the 3GS and could just drop the price on that beast of a phone to nothing OR firesale the old Iphone 4’s.  While I would love to see a beefed up yet cheap Iphone 4S and the 5, it doesn’t seem likely – too much retooling for one announcement.)

Other Rumors – Apple will announce their new Voice Command Software, which better be good.  Controlling your device better with your voice would be a godsend for multi-taskers, but watch out for people who don’t know how to turn their phones to silent response – remember NEXTEL’s walki-talkies – we better not get a repeat of that kind of noise pollution in the public space.  ALSO, Apple will talk about their iCloud which they have been prepping pretty hard and opening server farms for.  This is Apple’s future and they will expect to have a positive response. This will simultaneously make lives easier for people who sync laptops, phones, desktops and televisions; AND Apple will be able to worry less about hard drives in their future devices (who needs a 10 Terabyte drive when you can keep most of your junk in the cloud – access only the 32 GB’s you need at a time).  This will keep devices like the Macbook Air and the Ipad/Iphone momentum and smallness on the go.  LASTLY – Apple will talk a lot about Twitter and Social Media integration.  They’re launching an Iphone Texting app similar to Blackberry’s ability to communicate between RIM devices, and word is they have placed Twitter into everything in IOS5.  Will be fun to see.

Looking forward to the Event at 1 PM – be ready for a news deluge – which is sure to be fun.  Woot!

New Iphone “4S” Hints at Iphone 5 Release

Last year I had heard rumors that this summer, it would be likely that no new Iphone would be released other than a smaller version of the Iphone 4.   As the rumor mill goes, that doesn’t seem to be the case. This is especially so because Game Developers have been receiving what they call the Iphone 4S with the new A5 chip (replacing the slower A4 of the Iphone 4) and is rumored to have an 8 mp rather than 5 mp camera as well as 64 gb of storage rather than just 32 gb.  Not bad.  According to this article, the phone is to be sold in September.  I hope so, because I want to find someone upgrading so I can buy an Iphone 4 as they unload! My 3g is bogging down with the new apps and an upgrade needs to happen soon.

A Million Cold Wars: Burning Books, Blood for God, Militaries in Exile, the whims and Extremes in the Press and Molding by the Media

It is a basic belief of mine that the only technology in the world that really makes a difference is More People.  Without more minds, without more hands, without the labor of the peoples of the earth – the cultivation of our universe would not happen at the speed that it is occurring today. 7 billion people are 7 billion nodes of potential lighting up the world with ideas which lead to actions which lead to growth or destruction.  People are more intertwined, sharing of culture is more assumed and melding is becoming more complete in a broad sheet across the cities of the world.  When Haiti was hit, all of North America felt it, when Japan was hit by a devastating Tsunami, their old enemy China admired their stoic response and the world began to help and learn from the tragedy.

Natural disasters are one thing, but when disasters are because of bad decisions and based in stark us versus them attitudes (based in latent misunderstandings and distrusts of those who are not “like us”), we don’t look to the skies and ask why.  We can only blame ourselves and our own injustice when dealing with our own kind.  As much as we like to candy coat the universe and make everything neat in the Western world, all across the globe there are pockets of fanaticism that can burn every shining surface whether wood, stone, plastic or metal.  The evidence is the militaries of Western powers stationed across the globe, who push the wars off the home soil as much as possible.  There are a million cold wars on the edges of what we have cultivated for ourselves. Not everyone is on the “inside” and not everyone wants “in” to what the west has built.  Nor should we assume that all our shiny things are good for the world (but that is a very deep and long discussion in itself).  Globalism is good for profits, but not everyone benefits.

One cold war turns hot. When I first heard of Terry Jones, and his Florida church known as the Dove Outreach Center, planning to burn the Quran I was blown away.  Though Christians (myself included) believe in Christ as the sole mediator of salvation, the basic sign of our faith has been LOVE – of all God’s people.  Anytime Christians forget this, they cease to live in the spirit of Christ!  Stories ignite on contrasts like this, like an old black and white film making eye candy in the shadows.  The media eat it up, and our global culture spread the story to the four winds of the earth.  It is obvious why it perks ears and eyes – Christians spouting hate, the opposite of what Jesus preached, a fiery pastor who can be put up in effigy of what is wrong with the Wes and plenty of papers bought, click throughs clicked, and the grease of the machine goes on.  When the story hit, its tenacity shocked everyone and moved like gossip at the proverbial international water cooler.

Like anti-global folks across the world needed a reason to fight against perceived symbols of Western Imperialism. By that, I mean, imagine yourself a muslim farmer in Afghanistan in a tribe that has tended the land for generations and during your generation you have seen two governments topple, and now blue and digital camouflage helmets march from across the globe march into town and begin building bases and rebuilding the social structure in a new image.  Old resentments die away as new resentments against the Foreigner grow.  As everyone begins getting internet and television signals, many read about the burning of the Quran, the written record of their faith – and a march of protest is organized.  Those with the most anger get violent.  The crowd becomes a mob, and Peacekeepers in the UN (symbols of the west) are killed and two are beheaded.  One perceived evil leads to another.

And the rest of the people of the world, those who are in basketball leagues, saving people in Japan, or attending the Shakespeare theater or getting a haircut in Brazil just sit and watch the crazy.  Our mouths drop open and we say “how bad this is” but we have no direct attachment to it.  We don’t attend that church in Florida, we also do not report the news and lastly, we are not Afghanistan residents living in the midst of a long standing battle zone.  We are not the soldiers, though we probably know a few, and we are not a politician walking across our world.  We are considered the consumers.  We read about it among all the other evils in the world and wait for the next flash point.  A million cold wars ready to blow.  We can feel it, but we try to forget it until it comes.  Our ice cream tastes good and American Idol is so much fun.

This is where it gets hard.  This is where we want to feel guilty, but guilt doesn’t solve the problems.  The only solvent to these cold wars is for the betterment of the 7 billion individuals in the world.  The working towards true equality.  Jesus spoke of loving your neighbor as you love yourself.  This flowed out of a love for God and spilled out to the rest of mankind.  Burning another person’s book isn’t part of that love.  Neither is going into another culture and feeling bad for everyone and trying to change their world without considering the impact it has on their own survival structures.  But regardless, working together needs to become part of who we are.  The biggest story in the world that is never reported, is the fact that every person in the globe is not constantly at war with everyone else.  In fact, most people are at peace with the majority of their neighbors.  This is the miracle of the our time.  That there is still good in the world.

I believe that when Abraham was sat down by God and was told that he would be blessed, that the second part of the blessing needs to be remembered even more.

Genesis 18:18 – “Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him.

Whenever we seek to be a blessed people of God, we have to remember to love our neighbor.  Jesus reminded us all of something that is too easily forgotten, but which is a basic principle that if applied to every heart on the earth appropriately, would make earth more like heaven.

If Terry Jones considered his Global neighbors and left Florida to live in Afghanistan and loved the people, perhaps he would think differently.

If the media had thought to ignore the rantings of a man who obviously craved the attention that he craved, and left it to local news, would this have escalated.

If the people of Afghanistan valued the lives of others, even those they do not know, would the many be laying dead and beheaded?  Maybe not.

But as an optimist, and a person of belief in prayer and action, I continue to hope and love.  A truly equal world would be very different from what we have today.  It will scare those on the bottom, the middle and at the top because change is scary  – but if God is real, its coming regardless of what we want.  Which side of this are you on?

AOL Buys Huffington Post for Over $300 Mil, but Who’s Buying Who?

I remember when AOL was king.  Dial Tones were ringing in every house, and we heard the famous “You’ve Got Mail” way too much.  AOL blasted our retail centers with discs that were good coasters (and were probably used that way more often than installed), but the name meant less and less as their main function (internet provider) began being overtaken by Comcast, Time Warner, and now Mobile Phone Companies and Coffee Houses.  AOL did manage to have a portal with Keywords that many still hold onto however, and they are clutching onto the possibility with their cold hands. Thus, the buyout of The Huffington Post, aka Arianna Huffington.

She made a big deal at the Super Bown Dome yesterday when she inked a deal with AOL to buy the online Media provider The Huffington Post (including all the topical news blogs it operates).  But the devil is in the details.  Arianna made out big, with Huffington getting bought out with $300 million cash, which mostly goes to the board.  Not only that, but Arianna will remain in charge of Huffington.  So who really bought who?  With AOL struggling and shrinking and Huffington growing (from $30 mil profits with hopes to get $100 mil this year), it seems that Huffington has really taken charge of the AOL portal – or they will.  Lets hope that AOL doesn’t crunch Huffington down and merely try and force content through their media portals.  It would be nice to see some innovation beyond sticking AOL logo on The Huffington Post as well.

At the beginning of this newscast, there are some interesting details:

More details in print at Bloomberg here.