Tuesday, December 28, 2004

From the International Partnerships HQ:

December 27, 2004
Dear Friends,

Thank you for your continued prayers for Ukraine! We still haven’t heard the final count of votes, but as I am writing this we know that with 99.89% of votes counted Yuschenko (good guy!) wins by 8 %! We are VERY happy and VERY excited! We are also thankful that God allowed us to be participants in making this victory! It is such an awesome privilege!

Ps 3:8: “From the Lord comes deliverance, may your blessing be on your people”.

“Ukraine has been independent for almost 14 years, but it became free only today”, said Yuschenko at 3:00 am while speaking to 50,000 people that gathered on Independence Square to celebrate victory together. Thousands of people spent the whole night there as one big family, cheering and congratulating each other. Nick and I wished we could be there too, but kids were sleeping and we just couldn’t go. Yuschenko finished his speech with his usual words: “Glory be to God!”

We spent most of last night between TV, internet and phone calls to friends trying not to miss any important details of what was going on as the voting places closed and committees started counting the votes.

We trusted the Lord because we knew it was all in His hands. Our prayer for Ukraine was similar to one in Ps 130:5-8: “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning. O, Ukraine, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love. He Himself will redeem Ukraine from all their sins.”

But even though we gave all our concerns, dreams, hopes to God I have to confess we could not help but worry. Two of our staff, Tolic Korzhov and Igor Samohin (from Odessa team), went to Donetsk (a very dangerous place during these elections) to be members of election committees there. We were praying for their safety as we heard about cases of Yuschenko’s representatives in Donetsk being beaten up or kidnapped.

We were also concerned about threats that we had heard from Yanukovich (the other candidate ) that if he doesn’t win there will be 35,000 self-organized armed men coming to Kiev to defend him. The Orange Revolution has been peaceful so far and even though we now know that a couple times our existing president was very close to giving orders to the military to attack the crowd, he didn’t dare do it. But, these threats from Yanukovich sound very serious since everybody knows that there are criminal gangs standing behind him.

When we heard results of exit polls last night and then results of actual vote count we rejoiced! This is what the Orange Revolution was for - transparent and honest elections. But it’s still not over.

Yanukovich announced that he is going to try to prove that elections were not legitimate and will appeal to Supreme Court. He has no chance to win, but it seems that his strategy is to further destabilize Ukraine. Please pray that he will just give up and let Ukraine enter this New Year with new hopes and optimism, instead of the frustration and irritation everybody is feeling right now toward him.

We also want to ask you to pray for people in Eastern and Southern regions of Ukraine. I think we shared with you earlier that propaganda in those regions tried to set people there against the rest of Ukraine. They were successful. There is a great deal of aggression in those regions. My brother’s wife’s parents live in Donetsk region. They call their daughter and verbally attack her on the phone. Our relationships with many friends we have in Donetsk are very strained.

Half of IP teams are in the Southern and Eastern regions. They tell us about a very heavy atmosphere of fear and aggression. They say it feels like darkness.

Pray that we can love those people in the East and South so much that they see the truth. During the revolution when men from Eastern Ukraine came to Kiev, people here took food and warm cloths to them and won their hearts -not with logical arguments but with love and care. We need to keep winning with love those people who have lived in informational isolation during these past couple of years. As Romans 12:21 says: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good”

Please, keep praying for Ukraine! I see the other part of my country full of passion right now. People who participated in the revolution are inspired by victory, they are proud of making their contribution in changing the future of Ukraine, they are full of hopes and optimism! This is wonderful! But we know that if people just put their hopes only on the new president (even a good one like Yuschenko) eventually they will get disappointed.. We don’t want our people to fall into despair again. We know that what they really need is Christ; only in Him their hopes are secure.

Pray for our staff both in those regions that are in darkness of fear and aggression and in those regions that are in joyful celebration of victory. Pray that God will give them wisdom to use whatever circumstances people are in to help them find Christ.

Thank you again, our friends, for being with us through your prayers and support! We hope you feel how God is greatly using you in bringing change to Ukraine! You are in our prayers too!

In Christ,

Nick, Maia and IP staff

Saturday, December 25, 2004

We spent a lovely Christmas Day at the Nelson's with the 6 of them and our 2 Russian friends. Plenty of food and drink and sweets. We contributed a new game we picked up called Balloon Cup.

As an aside, if there's a Games Galore (or similar store) in your area, the clerks there are very knowledgeable about games and can recommend things for whatever taste or needs you have. The fellow in the Raleigh store got out 3 games and ran me through sample play on them so I could see how they worked.

I'll try to post my favorite books of the year here in the next week. One difficulty is that many of my favorites I loaned out, so they are "out of sight, out of mind." I'll try my best though.

Friday, December 24, 2004

My wife begged me to post this one. This is from my friend Ted. Ted has been studying some advanced technology field or other, but has been working as a rabbit farmer to make ends meet (and also because he likes rabbits). I know we shouldn't laugh at grammar mistakes and such, but they make me smile. Here it is :

Hello Paul!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
My best congratulations on the occasion of the coming New Year and Christmas. I wish you and your family be happy, healthy and wealthy. May all your dreams come true! I hope you are all well. I am very good. In December 16 I had finished my University. I am very happy about this. Now I have holidays and search a work. First elections in Ukraine was falsify. Every day we had many strikes. Now we have criminal government, and I believe we change government. We have good chance to change life. I think you know about situation in Ukraine. I hope new elections will be more fair. We have many observers from many countries. Our candidate Uschenko can change life in Ukraine. Many people support our candidate because they don`t want criminal goverment. Americans have liberty country and I believe after 26 of December Ukraine will have liberty country too. This strikes unite many people and gave hope and faith to live in prosperous country. We have had orange peaceful revolution. Many people, cars and houses have orange materials. It`s cool. All churches are praying for Ukraine and I believe God helps us. I saw pictures of your baby it is interesting. I hope all will be good.
God bless you!
Many of you have expressed concern over this post from a few days ago. I'm finally able to bring you a little bit of video to show what we were dealing with.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

A bit of an economic view of Santa. via Chris O'Donnell

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Nothing says winter in the great north like exploding zambonis. Would be a good name for a band as well.
[edit video available here!]

Friday, December 17, 2004

One of the things I enjoy about our area, especially over the last several months, is some of the local programming on WUNC radio (our NPR affiliate). One show is called Back Porch Music, featuring an amazingly broad variety of american folk music, music of which is just fabulous. The other, more recently in mind, is a state issues program called The State of Things. Episodes I've enjoyed lately have featured authors James Ellroy and Tom Wolfe.

Today they interviewed a man named Donald Duncan who is employed as story teller-in-residence by the Krispy Kreme Corporation (I thought about spelling it Korporation but didn't like th initials). Mr Duncan is a retired UMC pastor and now full time story teller. When asked how his work was different than that of a motivational speaker, he responded that stories are a sort of mirror which show us things about ourselves in a way that slips past our defenses. I believe he mentioned Nathan the prophet in this regard. So much of what he said seemed relevant to the things I've learned in the last few years regarding narrative theology.

I wish for all of your sakes (and mine as well) that WUNC archived and made these shows available on the web, but I believe they do not right now. Another reason for you to move to North Carolina I suppose.

[edit: they do make it available here.
Ha. It turns out that the name Trinity Foundation was already taken. Key article quote:

"It's a strange fact, but when you study the Scripture seriously it brings out all this stuff in people," Bloom says. "You'd think you were going to read the Book of Ephesians and suddenly someone was saying, 'Oh, my crack-addicted sister came over last night and slapped my daughter.' And that's what you ended up dealing with."

or this:

Later, at some local dive, he'd ask Anthony what all the ruckus was about. "Romans. We're still studying the Book of Romans," Anthony would tell him.

"What specific aspect of Romans is causing this level of interest?"
"Well, we were talking about your place in the body of Christ. And I told one guy his place was to be a pimple on the ass of the body of Christ. I just said it. It just came out."
"And he didn't agree?"
"A lot of these people are clinging to their miserable little self-images. They don't understand that it's about God. It's about them, but only the part of them that contains God. They still think they're special."

If you don't know what I meant in my first line, trust me, you are the better off for it.
On a serious personal note, my son just had the largest bowel movement in the history of the western world. I think we're going to have to burn the house down and start over.
I hope y'all notice that my son can find middle C here with very little help. Ok, maybe a lot of help, but for 3 months old I say its pretty good.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

With thanks once again to my friend who shall remain nameless (Kirk Nelson), I point you to an article on the Presbyterians, Free Masons, and Kenyan Iconoclasm. I couldn't make this stuff up, really.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Just found the website of my old piano teacher, now working as a composer. I'm enjoying the music samples quite a bit. He was a great musician, great pianist and very nice person. Hope he does well.
I bet this is getting pretty heavy traffic, but you should probably read this story on Anthony Flew. My favorite part is (atheist) Richard Carrier reassuring his followers that its only a minimal god Flew is believing in. No cause for alarm.

I think the interesting idea in this is that a philosopher and pretty much lifelong atheist would find that a) the evolutionary explanation for the origin of life was not credible, and thus b) there must be a god. I guess some of the traditional arguments still work.
If I thought Psychology Today published articles like this one all the time, I would subscribe in a heartbeat. I really couldn't agree more with the general tenor of the argument. Kids, I believe, cannot learn unless given the possibility of failure, with its accompanying pain.

I've been constantly amazed as a new parent with all the "safety" items which are now considered mandatory (either legally or socially) which did not exist when I was a child. Undoubtedly some are good, and with an infant you do have to be quite careful to prevent serious harm, but I have to think that all the insulation from pain has to have negative developmental results, as the article would suggest.

Monday, December 06, 2004

In our small group Bible study last week we were discussing Mark ch 4, which contains this passage:

21He said to them, "Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don't you put it on its stand? 22For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. 23If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear."
24"Consider carefully what you hear," he continued. "With the measure you use, it will be measured to you--and even more. 25Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him."

I asked people what they thought Jesus meant by the lamp imagery in v 21. BTW, I wasn't leading the discussion, but we're fairly democratic, so they let me ask my own questions sometime. Someone answered that Jesus was saying that we should live our lives in public in such a way as to draw attention to the gospel (or words to that effect). It occurred to me while I was reading the passage that that interpretation desn't seem to make sense at all within the context. The light here seems to be revealing things which are secret. The broad contextual idea seems to be preparing for the judgement of God. Anyone else thought about this particular verse?
I am, despite what you might hear from my wife, an acquisitive person. As you might know or have guessed the area where I allow the most free rein to this vice is in the acquisition of books. I've been relatively disciplined about this over the last year or so. I've tried to work out a plan where I'm pretty much just buying books from my amazon wishlist, thus cutting down on impulse buys. I allow myself to add freely to that list, but I restrict my purchasing. What I have been doing is allowing myself one used book purchase off the list each month. I also get occasional gift certificates (from my amazon visa card and actual gifts sometimes) which I'll use to purchase new books.

I've been keeping more or less to this plan. I'll make exceptions for odd things like library sales, or books I can use for my profession. I just get frustrated a bit looking over my wishlist and thinking how long it will take me to get to some of these books. OTOH, I've got maybe 70-80 books in hand that I haven't yet read, so it's not like I'm running short of material. Still, I wonder if I could allow myself a small raise in the old book budget. Maybe every other month buy $25+ to get the free shipping or something.

Anyone else fret over their book budget? Anyone else HAVE a book budget?

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Links all updated today. This is pretty much the list of blogs actually on my favorites sidebar in IE, so they are what I actually check regularly. There are many, many others I check occasionally, through y'all's links, and my list is always in flux, but I really hate updating this stuff, so if you made this cut, you are doing fairly well (or I owed you a favor or something).

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Calling All Geographers: Your Country Needs You!

My friend Andrea points out that the US is doing pretty badly in the geography olympics. Last check we were at 118 (Ukraine was up at number 10--those smarties). Do your civic duty. You can play up to three times each day.
A few thoughts on Paul Owen's recent post on dialogue in Acts 17.

1 Mr Owen seems to equate, with no particular argument, the Greek dialogizomai with the English "dialogue". While it might be possible to translate the word that way, the word generally means reason or argue. The fact that in English the word means a conversation between two people doesn't mean the Greeks always used it that way. In any event, we don't actually see any dialogue (in the modern sense) in the passage. We only see Paul speaking and the Greeks passing judgement on him in a general sort of way.

2 What Mr Owen calls dialogue here seems to me to be better referred to as "rhetoric". What we see illustrated is Paul's usage of the standard means of persuading others. This, of course, involves winning them to your side by arguing from some premises you know them to hold. Of course Paul did not let the Greeks determine the style, the content, or the direction of his remarks. Since the result Paul wanted to see in his audience was a total upheaval in their worldview, it would not suit to argue within their categories of thinking, but rather to use some of their terms to subvert their own thinking.

I think we would do well to think more than we do about rhetoric in the modern world, and some of Mr Owen's comments in that line are certainly helpful. But, on the other hand, we mustn't miss the fact that Paul, like any other scholar of his day, studied rhetoric formally, that is to say he practiced from early on the various means and styles available to persuade people of a point. the only place in modern american society I see this going on is in sales training (or perhaps some of the cults).

3 While dialogue may be commendable, it seems odd to praise it and yet not allow comments on the post.