Friday, February 22, 2008

Please Enjoy the Music

Hey, just a short one today, as the snow continues to fall, covering the world around me in a soft, thick blanket. An ever increasing blanket that is cold, and wet, and difficult to walk through. *grin*

Anyway, one of my favorite people sent this to me recently, and I thought you might enjoy it. Some of you local folk might even know some of these people!

Be good to each other,
Rev. Josh

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Making Sense of the Violence

Sorry guys, back into the dark places for a moment. But before I get into this, let me just say right up front that while I am personally a pacifist, I am still deeply conflicted on the topic of gun control. Having said that...

As most of you must know by now, while many of us were celebrating Valentine's Day, a 27 year old man named Stephen Kazmierczak opened fire on a classroom at Northern Illinois University, killing five students before turning the gun on himself.
This kind of violence is, by nature and definition, senseless.
Without sense.
But trying to make sense of things is a deeply ingrained human drive. We can no more keep from trying to make sense of things than we can keep two circles from looking like eyes. O.O
The things that cause us the most distress as human beings are those that force us to ask the question "Why?" despite the simple truth that there is no good answer to that question.

So, I've done just a little internet research and found two news articles about that horrific crime. The first comes from USA Today, and (despite my completely understandable hesitation to praise the news media) it seems to be a good piece of journalism. It is entitled, "Police: Ill. gunman quit taking meds, became 'erratic'" and it lays out the facts and leaves us to make our own sense of them.
The second comes from the New York Post. It is entitled "COLLEGE KILLER CRAZY FOR VIOLENT VID GAME" and it seems to be less facts than sensationalized quotes.

These two articles are similar in that they try to make sense of a senseless event in their headlines. USA Today quotes the police, who state that the gunman quit taking his meds and became erratic. The New York Post summerizes the gunman's dorm mate, Ben Woloszyn, who actually said, "He played a lot of video games, especially Counter-Strike, really loud." USA Today seems to be saying that the key thing for us to think about when we consider this terrible event is that the gunman chose to go off his medications, which apparently had been keeping him sane and level. The New York Post seems to be saying (in all capital letters) that the key thing for us to think about as we consider this terrible event is that the gunman liked to play violent video games.

My most devoted readers already know how I feel about censorship as well as my take on video games. So instead of rehashing all of that I will now obey the deep-seated need to make sense of something senseless.

Stephen Kazmierczak chose to play violent video games.

Nobody and nothing forced him to do it.

Stephen Kazmierczak chose to legally purchase several guns over the past year.

Nobody and nothing forced him to do it.

Stephen Kazmierczak chose to stop taking his medications.

Nobody and nothing forced him to do it.

Stephen Kazmierczak chose to take his guns to school.

Nobody and nothing forced him to do it.

Stephen Kazmierczak chose to shoot as many people as he could.

Nobody and nothing forced him to do it.

Stephen Kazmierczak chose to kill himself.

Nobody and nothing forced him to do it.

All of these choices affected the other choices to one degree or another. I personally am inclined to believe that the choice to go off his meds had a greater impact on Stephen Kazmierczak's final choices than the choice to play video games did.

Nevertheless, I believe that the key thing to think about as we consider this senseless and horrible event is this: Stephen Kazmierczak is the one responsible. His video games aren't responsible. His guns aren't responsible. His video games and his guns do not have the ability to choose.

Stephen Kazmierczak chose.

Choose wisely,
Rev. Josh

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

On the Lighter Side

Ok, considering how very serious and down I've been on the ol' blog lately, I thought it was high time to talk about something considerably lighter. Something from my childhood that I'm fully willing to admit I still occasionally gaze at with an appreciative eye when I stroll through the toy aisle of Target. Yes, I will also admit to strolling through the toy aisle of Target. I'd like to claim that it's an occupational hazard, but let's be honest... I still like toys.

Where was I? Oh yes, today's post is about... LEGO! I have a pretty decent collection of the old Space LEGOS, which I have just descovered are now considered "vintage" on eBay. I also have a decent collection of the old--er, vintage Castle LEGOS. I even have a couple of the old (but not as vintage as the other two) Pirate LEGOS I even used my LEGO guys to create a diorama of a historical battle for school once. (I don't remember which battle, but it had something to do with Oliver Cromwell) Where other people have train sets in their attics or basements (ok, so it was my parents' attic) I had my LEGO models. In fact, it was only recently that my folks made me take them all down and put them away! Someday I'll have my own attic (or basement) and maybe I'll set them all up again, wouldn't that be fun?

Anyway, I'm thinking about LEGO again because I ran across some fun internet stuff. Apparently another use for LEGO is doing stop motion animation!

(Just in case you have a love for stop motion, or old Michael Jackson videos, check this out, too.)
I also ran across this collection of photographs of other people's work in LEGO. The site calls them "weird" but I think a bunch of them are really cool. In fact, I'd like to know how someone ends up being able to make a living as a LEGO artist!

Play with toys,
Rev. Josh

Friday, February 15, 2008

Drive Careful

I hate to put up more heavy and depressing things so soon after my post about Ben, but current events have led me there once again. And this is important stuff to think about. As you can see, I've updated my links lists to include material on teenage drivers. We have had yet another wreck, another two lives lost, and it's just so very senseless... These links take you to places that either give you information such as statistics or (more importantly) how teens can drive (and ride) more safely. I also want to share two videos with you from the first you can play right here in the blog, the second is linked here. I hope they help.

Drive Careful,
Rev. Josh

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentine Potluck

Please enjoy this footage of Meredith, 10 years old, as she performs at our annual Valentine Potluck and Talent Show!

Be good to each other,
Rev. Josh

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Just a quick note before I really get into this post: Sometimes I create links merely to provide more information to you, my readers. The link concerning A. J. Jacobs below is one of those. However, at other times, I create links to things that are much more important. There are several of those in this post, and I hope that you take the time to explore them.

I've been meaning to blog about this wonderful book my wife gave to me for Christmas. It's called The Year of Living Biblically, by A. J. Jacobs. I'm still doing that, but recent events have prompted me to start with this quote:
Day 230. Here’s a sample from a phone conversation I just had with my wife. I was at the Esquire office for a meeting.
“What time are you coming home?” Julie asks.
“Six o’clock, God willing.”
“See you soon.”
“God willing.”
It’s not an atypical snippet. For the last month, I’ve been saying “God willing” at least eighty times a day.
Both the Old Testament and the New Testament say this is a good idea. Proverbs advises us, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.” In the New Testament, James 4:13-15 cautions against saying: “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city,” but “Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that’” (NAS).
It has become a reflex. Every time I use the future tense, I try to tag on those two words: “God willing.” My mother hates it. She told me I sound like someone who sends in videos to Al Jazeera. And I know my verbal tic comes off as weird in secular settings. But I find it a profound reminder of the murky instability of the future. Yes, I hope to return home at six, but God or fate might have other plans. This, in turn, makes me value the present even more. As James 4:14 says, “For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (NKJ).
I’ve got to try to squeeze all I can out of that vapor.

I received an e-mail from my mother some time after the local news program aired a report on Benjamin Wu. Ben was in my class in high school, and my high school was tiny, so everybody knew everyone else. I doubt if anyone would say that Ben and I were close. But we got along just fine all through school. And after graduation... well, I saw him briefly at our 10 year reunion, and that was about it. I learned that Ben was doing well for himself, that he was a booker for the Webster in Hartford, Connecticut. He was one of the ones who seemed to change the least, even with the addition of a piercing or two. Smiling, quietly self-assured, vibrant... so it was a shock to hear that he'd disappeared.
The next e-mail from Mom came on February 4th. She said that Ben's roommates were there when his iPod washed up and that they were pretty convinced that he had fallen off a cliff during a rain storm and drowned. She also told me when the memorial service would be. I was sure to get there.
Many people said many beautiful things about Ben, and every one of them struck me. I might have had a good friend in Ben, if I'd bothered to reach out. And now I'll never know. The chance has gone, at least in this life. I don't know, maybe it takes a tragedy like this (one that another classmate described as the kind of thing you read about, but doesn't happen to you, not in a small town like we grew up in) to force this kind of epiphany. But there's nothing keeping you from reaching out, folks. I know I will.

Reach out to each other,
Rev. Josh