Thursday, March 31, 2005

Terri Schaivo

Terri Schaivo's life or death balanced precariously through a feeding tube for more than fifteen years until today. During those fifteen years, nine hundred and sixty thousand dollars was spent on hospital bills, years of legal disputes that went from low courts through seven levels of court appeals, to the Congress of the United States of America, to the United States Supreme Court, to the Supreme Court of Florida, and finally ended with her death today. For the past two months, Terri Schaivo's life was debated in court, in Congress, and at every water cooler in the country. Today, she passed away. There has been an outcry among supporters of Terri's right to live, and these supporters have largely cried with the same call. "The courts are permitting Doctors to starve a woman to death." I don't take a side on whether or not Terri Schaivo should have lived or died. What I take a side on is the absolutely inexcusably hypocritical stand being taken by that statement. Close to a million dollars has been spent over fifteen years in order to feed a woman who lacked the cognitive power to smile. Now that this woman has passed away, her supporters are crying murder.

Meanwhile: The United Nations World Food Programme states that in Darfur, Sudan more than two million people will require food assistance this year as a result of drought and a horrible Genocide. No one is saying anything. One woman unable to smile died today and the nation is split. Two million people are going hungry in Darfur, and no one says a word. The courts may have permitted Terri Schaivo to starve to death, but until we begin doing something for the children who are starving, I don't think we have a right to complain about the starvation of one brain dead woman in Florida. Maybe that's insensative. Maybe it's insensative to continue turning a blind eye to 2 million people in the Sudan.

I don't want to claim that the death of Terri Schaivo is unimportant. My friend Cris is right. Life is life. The death of Terri Schaivo is not lessened because of the tragedy in Darfur. My goal is to direct the outrage at the starvation of Terri Schaivo toward something practical. There are millions of people across the globe starving to death as we speak. Two hundred and twenty one milllion people are going hungry in India right now. These are people who can feel hunger pangs, people who sleep hungry at night. And we can do something. If we were as outraged about the mass starvation in Africa and India as we are about the singular starvation of Terri Schaivo, we can do something. Most of the time when I think of the mass starvation in third world countries, I feel like there is nothing practical I can do, so I put it out of mind. Recently I discovered the UN's World Food Programme. The WFP feeds millions of people each year, and they rely solely on private funding. Less than 9% of their funds are directed toward overhead. The rest goes directly to those in need. You can make a donation to the WFP and make a difference right now. You can help feed people who are starving in Africa and India right now. And if you want, you can select the exact part of the world that you want to support with your donation.

I think it's time to do something. I researched the UN's WFP and found that they rely on individual. If you want, you can give money to the WFP online by clicking on the link at the bottom of this post.

According to the WFP a donation of:

$11 - Will feed and help educate one child for three months.

$21 - Will provide food for one month to a woman and three of her children while she receives job training.

$33 - Will ensure that a child is fed and educated for one year.

$99 - Will allow the WFP to purchase 5,000 cups of rice to feed a community.

If you got upset about Terri Schaivo, get up and do something about the 2 million people going hungary in Darfur tonight.

The link to donate online is below. Through the end of April, every dollar you donate will be met by a private corporation to support a movement called the Feinstein Challenge. If you decide to donate, select "Feinstein Challenge" under "How Did You Learn About Us" on the donation form and your donation will be met by the Alan Feinstein Organization.

Feel free to surf around the WFP's website before donating money to the organization. Research the WFP before you put your money where your mouth is.

The WFP Website:

Donate Online:

Monday, March 28, 2005

Isaiah 43

Currently, my favorite Scripture is Isaiah 43:25 - "I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more."

A few months ago, this scripture struck me with particular force. I was wrestling, and continue to wrestle, with the idea of grace for a long time. This scripture hit me particularly because in this word I see that God forgives us because he desires to. Of course, I don't want to take this too far, and devlope a hedonistic theology based on one verse in scripture (can we say "Jabez?") but I do think that God's forgiveness of my sins is as much a result of his desire to forgive me as it is a result of my desire to be forgiven. (Hence the incarnation of the Christ.) This mutual relationship regarding the nature of justification is something with which I am currently struggling back and forth. What does it mean that God forgives me for his own sake? I don't know. Maybe this is one of the mysteries of the Gospel that I will never understand.

Whatever the case, I have been forgiven. And before I went to deeply into the unanswerable, I wanted to take a moment and place that scripture in context. So this morning, I re-read through Isaiah 43. I have read this particular chapter several times in the past few months because of the impact that verse 25 has had on me. This morning, I was equally struck by the chapter as a whole. Rather than copying the entire chapter here, I will focus on a few key points. If you are interested in reading the whole chapter, then I recommend you read it. In fact, I recommend you read from verse 30 through to the end of Isaiah in one sitting. You'll have a much clearer picture of the Messiah when you have finished.

Anyway, in Isaiah 43. I was struck by how clearly God told the Jewish nation that the Messiah would not be a person, but rather, would be God incarnate. I may be reading a bit into this, you be the judge. But when Jesus came and told Israel that He was the Messiah, they said He couldn't be because He wasn't a governmental king as they suspected. And to this day, many Jews disbelieve in Jesus because they say that God promised to raise an Earthly king. He did not say that He would incarnate Himself. To that objection, I turn now to Isaiah 43.

In verse one of the chapter, Yahweh indicates who is speaking. "But now, this is what the LORD says- He who created you, O Jacob, He who formed you, O Israel: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine." How beautiful is that?

So we know that it is God speaking. Then in verse ten He very clearly states: "You are my witnesses," declares the LORD , "and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am He." Is this God saying that He, himself, will be the Messiah? Let's read on.

The second half of verse ten. "Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me." Right. You are God, and you are the only God. Verse eleven... the money ball. "I, even I, am the LORD , and apart from me there is no savior." Wow. What can that mean other than God will be the Messiah?

Keep going. Verse 12: "I have revealed and saved and proclaimed- I, and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses," declares the LORD , "that I am God. "Yes, and from ancient days I am he."

He goes on in verse 14: "This is what the LORD says- your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: ... your Holy One, Israel's Creator, your King." ...

Verse 18: "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! How it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland." Is this a prophecy to John the baptist? Well, probably not directly. In the following verses, he goes on to explain how he is making the desert bloom with wildlife.

Then He explains how He has done such a miracle in the desert in spite of the fact that Israel has refused to offer Him the correct sacrifices. Then He makes the unforgettable statement toward the end of verse 24, and in verse 25. "But you have burdened me with your sins and wearied me with your offenses. I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more."

He goes on from there in verse 26 and 27 to remind Israel of their sins. "Review the past for me, let us argue the matter together; state the case for your innocence. Your first father sinned; your spokesmen rebelled against me." Certainly Israel is not deserving of the forgiveness that God is offering, but remember it is offered not for the sake of Israel, but rather for the sake of God.

He then finishes the chapter with this powerful statement. "So I will disgrace the dignitaries of your temple, and I will consign Jacob to destruction and Israel to scorn." I wonder if that is a prophecy to what occured at the trial of Christ. These verses are all speaking about the Holy one of Israel, the Messiah. And in this verse He says that "the dignitaries of the temple" will be "disgraced." Were they not disgraced when they sentenced God to die?

The last thing I want to come across here as is Anti-Semitic. I do not blame the Jews for the crucifixion of Christ any more than I blame Pharoah for the exodus of the Jews. I don't know how these things came about, or who is responsible for the crucifixion of God. What I do want to point out, is that maybe in these scriptures, God is saying to Israel, "I will come. I will be your Messiah. I will forgive your sins, and you will not recognize me."

Maybe that's a bad summation of the chapter. Maybe not. I would love someone to help me with this, I'm not claiming to have the answers here, I'm merely wrestling with a portion of the word. If you have thoughts on this issue... I'd love to hear them.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

He is Risen

Easter morning. There is a heavy fog outside today as if to illustrate the mystery that accompanies the occasion. Through this window, I can barely see the treetops through the cloud that has fallen. It is Easter. The most sacred day on the Christian calendar. Today is the day that separates us from the other religions of the world. This is the day that commemorates the ressurection of our Messiah and in so doing testifies to His divinity.

I think how fortunate I am. For hundreds of years Jewish priests and prophets waited for the Messiah to come. I wonder how many died wishing they could have known him. I wonder how many lay in bed at night while they were still alive wondering if he would arrive during their time on Earth. I think of Isaiah, who prophecied so clearly to what the Christ would be. I think of the nation of Israel who waited for his coming, wringing their hands in eagre anticipation. And today I say, He has come. The Messiah has come, and has payed my ransom, and He has forgiven my sins.

It has been nearly two thousand years since He rose from the dead. Nearly two thousand years of advancement, destruction, peace and war. Two thousand years of people dashing from petty concern to petty concern, and today, with all the other Christians of the world, I am priveledged to set my life aside to wonder at the mystery of the Gospel. I am priveledged to say that the Messiah has come, and today, I have been forgiven again, and once more He has made made peace between me and God.

There is candy this morning, and egg hunts across America. And through the fog of celebration lies the clearly echoed phrase "He is risen." "He is risen indeed." I am thankful. I am thankful for the morning and the cloud that rests on the grass today. I am thankful for the peace in me right now, and the clarity with which I am seeing my forgiveness this morning. I am thankful that I have the risen Christ in my heart, and he is driving me toward a gentler, kinder, softer man. I am thankful, because I am a sinner who has been atoned for. I have been justified. I have been saved. The passover lamb was sacrificed for me, by me. And through that sacrifice and His glorious ressurection, I have been forgiven, and I know that I too will be resurrected into life with him. Praise God. The Messiah has come, and triumphed sin. Today is Easter. And, today, I remember once more the joy of my salvation.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Spring Has Sprung

I awoke this morning to the buzzing sound of a table saw and walls being knocked down in the kitchen. My parents are having the room remodelled and since I don't have to be into work until noon this week (thanks to having to administer the state standardized tests at night) I am here with Frank Vidmar as he works solo on tearing out and rebuilding the kitchen. This morning he was hanging a new door to the hallway.

I have an interview with the CCO scheduled for this morning, so I had to go out to my car to get a few things. That was when I noticed spring. I love that first morning when you finally realize that winter is dead. I walked out barefoot to my car and with my soft feet splashing on the misted driveway, I heard the birds cheering from the trees. The English Starlings chattered like a thousand jacks-in-the-box and the Chicadees watered the air behind the Starlings with the Chicadee's echoing call. Across the street there was the chitter of Warblers and Titmice. And these are only the calls that I recognized. Inside, above, and beyond these calls was sprinkled the feather throated call of those thousand other species of bird that my ears have not yet learned to distinguish. All together, the song of the birds makes the triumphant call of spring. I stood in the driveway with my hand on the door handle, and looked out into the tips of the bare trees to see them leafed with tiny black birds.

During winter, when I was a child in the car, my father and I would drive under the telephone wires and every so often they would be lined with tiny statue birds wearing their black winter petti coats. They huddled next to each other perched unmoving on the thin black wires above us. I remember one day asking my father what the birds were doing, and he told me that they were going to church. The image has stuck with me to this day. Even now, when I drive under a bird clogged wire, I like to think of them sitting reverently through Church.

This morning when I stepped outside and saw the tree branches clogged with ten thousand tiny birds, I imagined that they were most assuredly going to church. I guess it makes sense to think that no matter where birds are they must, in some way, be going to church. Of all God's creation, I see birds as the most religious. The sing to Him all summer long, and then when the summer nods its golden head to sleep, most of them retreat in order to attest to the analogy that winter must be. Even with most of the birds away for the winter, a special breed always remains as if to say that even through death, the promise is not forgotten. And then, on a warm spring morning like today, and they suddenly appear in droves, shouting Hosannah's from the tree tops at the ressurection of spring.

So, this morning, I noticed that the birds who have been steadfastly going to church every day through the winter, have now joined that great winged cloud of witnesses in the trees. This morning, for the first time since the last leaves fell, the birds gathered in the trees and shouted out to the world "He is risen." And the Chicadees echoed "He is risen indeed."

Monday, March 21, 2005


I recently read some work by a man named Sigmund Freud. He's a pretty famous guy, and his work doesn't really seem like it was that hard to do. So, I'm going to try my hand at understanding a basic human relationship using nothing other than common knowledge, observation, and inference.

Common Knowledge:
Mars was the Roman god of war. Venus was the Roman god of love. Men are from Mars, and Women are from Venus.

Observation One:
About a year ago, the only relationship I have ever been in was ended without my consent. I was not very pleased that someone had decided to part ways with me without first asking my permission. However, we are human beings, and sometimes other people do things without our approval. So there I was, out of a relationship that I desperately wanted to be involved in. Not only that, but my good friend's brother had begun a relationship with the girl who had just rejected me. Naturally, I had two conflicting emotions. I wanted to find the girl, and call her bad names until she cried. Then I wanted to find the guy and call him bad names until I kicked him in the john. A day after this relationship ended, I sat on my couch with the aforementioned good friend (who's brother was partly responsible for my bad mood) and proceeded to explain to him that his brother had been born out of wedlock, and the girl his brother was dating had started a career in the oldest profession. I don't know why I drew these conclusions from the fact that they had started a relationship without my approval, but at the time, those conclusions seemed perfectly rational. So I sat on the couch opposite of my friend for about an hour shouting at him and crashing my fist down on the arm of the sofa. When I was out of breath and energy, we went on the porch and had a cigarette. He left, and I fell asleep on the stairs. That was how I dealt with my first break-up. I'm not proud of it, but I think it might be somewhat typical of the male reaction to a break-up.

Observation Two:
Today, I went outside for a smoke. When I got outside, I noticed three women co-workers shaking their heads, and gesticulating madly. When I got closer, I realized that they were talking about a break-up. One of the girls had just ended a relationship with her boyfriend, and she was not in the least happy about it. In response to the break-up, she said nothing at all, and the other two women proceeded to explain to her why every man alive should be lined up in the street and shoved one by one under a city bus.

When I experienced my first break-up, I imagined little wars with the two people directly responsible for my pain. I decided that I was hurting, and they were responsible, therefore it was my right to end their lives. When this woman experienced her break-up, she stood still crying softly while her friends proceeded to execute the male sex in their minds.

So, what do these things have to do with one another? Hang on. Here comes the money ball.

See, men are born on Mars. Mars is red. And red is the color of blood. So, for the rest of their lives, men try to spill blood. Women on the other hand, are from Venus. And Venus... is... close to the sun. If we lived that close to the sun we would all die. So women... must... want everyone to die.

There you have it. I hope that explains why men and women are so different. Men want to kill individuals, and women want to kill everything.

I guess there is only so much you can do when given nothing more than the tools of common knowledge, observation, and inference. Maybe now, you understand why I think Freud, largely, was full of shit.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

NCLB - It's a long one.

I am sick as a dog today. Which is a funny phrase because I've had my dog for eleven years now and she's been sick once. But still, I'm sick as a dog. Every time I cough I feel two neat lines of sharp pain shoot from behind my ears and meet at the top of my skull. I've been coughing all day and my mouth is raw from Citrusy Vitamin C filled cough drops. I've been eating like a gerbil the past five days, only eating leafy greens and fresh fruits and juices, nuts and seeds and letils... and now I'm sick as a dog. How does that work? Isn't eating good foods supposed to make you feel better? Oh well, that's the price you pay for working in a virus factory.

I'm sick, and that's probably why I'm so easily frustrated right now, but whatever the factors involved in today's ranting are, I still hate NCLB with a passion. I think Secretary Paige is a moron, and the No Child Left Behind Act is the worst thing to hit education since Standardized Testing was tied to funding. Many people don't even know what is entailed in this act, and I would like to point some things out.

1. Teachers are the only professionals in America who are being told how to do their jobs by people who have never been trained to do the same thing.

Why don't we have the Attorney General set up a system of measures to evaluate the performance of our Lawyers in this country? I mean, I know the educational system is a mess right now, but does anyone care that minorities make up 80% of the prison population and the average income for a prison inmate is under $15,000 a year before incarceration. Does De Facto racism in the Penal System alarm anyone? Football players literally get away with murder because they're rich, Pop Stars are allowed to molest children in their pediphile California ranches because they have the money to get away with it, meanwhile the poor minorities in America are being thrown in jail and someone is loosing the key. But we don't sick the government on the Lawyers! We yell at the teachers and pull their funding.

Why don't we have the Surgeon General set up a system of measures for Doctors in America? Does anyone care that health care costs are beyond means for a huge percentage of Americans? Does anyone care that a huge group of Americans can't even afford to see their doctor's because the Lawyers are making a killing off of Malpractice suits, and in return the Insurance companies are raping the doctors? Does anyone care that prescription drugs are more expensive in this country than they are in any other country? Of course, our drugs are more expensive because they're safe right? The FDA makes sure nothing harmful is sold in America and that's why we have to buy brand name drugs from Merk and Phizer. Why then doesn't the FDA prohibit the sale of anti-depression drugs to children because studies have shown that they lead to suicidal tendencies? The Drug Administration in Britain stopped allowing the sale of Anti-Depression drugs to minors years ago. But then again, drugs aren't as safe in Britain and Canada as they aren't they are in America. That's why we have to pay so much for our drugs. No one in Canada is dying from taking bad drugs, and yet the poor in America are dying because they can't afford any drugs. I'm sure none of this has anything to do with the money going into the politicians from the generous Drug Corporations Lobbyists.

2. The Tests that are administered are subjective by default.

In the state of Ohio, students have to pass the Ohio Graduation Test. These test scores are largely based on a student's constructed response essays. These are answers that the students are to write out on their own. These responses are graded by people in the Ohio Department of Education, and there are no regulations as to the degrees these people have to hold. They could have secretaries grading these tests if they want to. If one of my students says that the Boston Tea Party was a terrorist activity, someone who has never studies history will quite possibly be evaluating the historicity of that claim. If he or she does not agree, my student does not get credit for answering the question correctly.

3. Tying funding to test scores is inherintly racist.

It is true that students in a lower socio-economic income bracket are less likely to come to school on a given day for any number of reasons. If Mom has to work, they might have to baby sit. If Mom is out of work, they might have to work. Crime is more prevalent in neighborhoods in lower socioeconomic brackets. Children in these neighborhoods are more likely to be persuaded into gang activity which takes kids out of school every day. Poorer neighborhoods are predominantly minority populated. Meaning that the schools responsible for educating the most challenging groups of students are predominantly responsible for educating minority students. If these students do not come to school on a regular basis, the funding for the school is cut. If the school is unable to afford enough teachers to maintain a safe environment, the good students will be afriad to come to school and will transfer to public charter schools, or private schools. So, the schools that are at a handicap when it comes to education, are being penalized for trying to teach the difficult students. The teachers in these areas are paid less money than the teachers in more affluent areas. Therefore, the teachers who graduate with aplomb, will not be heading for the inner city. We are robbing the minorities in this country of a good education because we are herding the money and the best teachers into White neighborhoods that can afford to educate students in America today.

4. The passing percentages are unreachable.

Every year schools in America are responsible for passing more students through more tests. This year, a school must have 60% of its students pass the Math and Reading secitions of the State Standardized Tests. Each year, a new test is added to these requirements, and the passage rate goes up. By the year 2012, every school in America will be required to pass no less than 100% of its students through all five standardized tests. If a school fails to do so, it will be placed on the "At Risk" list and begin to loose funding.

5. Schools are encouraged to handicap students.

Schools in Ohio receive an average of $5,000 per student. If a student has a learning disability... anything from ADD to Severe Mental Retardation, that student is placed on an Individualized Education Plan. Once a student has an IEP, the school recieves a bonus in funds because it takes more money to educate a student with special needs. On average, a student on an IEP is worth $15,000. Students with severe mental handicaps are worth even more. These IEPs are granted after School affiliated psychologists evaluate the students to see if they are at risk. In other words, schools that are loosing funding are encouraged to claim that its student's are mentally handicapped in order to get more funding.

The purpose of an IEP is to give the student supplemental materials that will help him or her to eventually catch up with the other students. Once the student has done so, that student will no longer have an IEP and the school will loose roughly $10,000 a year. Meaning, if we succeed in educating these students, we are fined $10,000.

6. Testing requirements persuade schools to turn away those in need.

Students with legitimate mental handicaps are responsible for taking the same tests as gifted students. Meaning if I educate a student who has the mental capacity of a six year old, he or she still has to take the test for 10th grade proficiency. That student will fail that test because he or she is incapable of the higher level processing demanded by the constructed response questions on that test. However, this student's score will be included in my school's average. If the average is below a certian number, my school funding will be cut. In other words, I am encouraged to take students who have ADD so that I can get extra funding for them, but I want to dissuade students with Autism from attending my school because they will bring our scores down. Meaning that I want priveledged students whose parents had enough money to take them to psychologists for diagnoses, but I don't want to educate the students who are truly in need of special care.

I agree that public education is in danger. I agree that our schools need help. I agree that the future of this country is dependent on the students in our schools today. If we do these students a disservice by refusing to fund their education, we will jeopardize the stability of the country when they grow older. We need to do something, and I'm not sure what we need to do to fix education in America today, but robbing the schools who need money the most does not seem to be a good solution. I wish I could do something about it all. I am sick... and tired of NCLBullshit.