Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Kim Jong Il and Jesus

Kim Jong Il is dead. And some of us didn't even know he was ill. So goes one of the many forms of recent online mockery.

Today is the funeral of the "dear leader." It is a bitterly cold day in North Korea, a country some have called the world's last Stalinist state.

Mourners in parkas lined the streets of Pyongyang, waving, stamping and crying as the convoy bearing his coffin passed. Some struggled to get past police holding back the crowd. "How can the sky not cry?" a weeping soldier standing in the snow said to state TV. "The people ... are all crying tears of blood." The dramatic scenes of grief showed how effectively North Korea built a personality cult around Kim Jong Il despite chronic food shortages and decades of economic hardship.*
The cult of King-Herod-like personality shamelessly forced on millions of starving people is, perhaps, most clearly seen in the titles that have been bestowed on the the despot by the North Korean media over the last twenty years or so.

In addition to being the "dear leader" (the most common designation), he is the "wise leader," the "brilliant leader," "the Bright Sun of the 21st century." But wait, there's more: he is the "superior man" and "the perfect incarnation of the appearance that a leader should have." Let it be known to all the world that he is "the Great Man who descended from heaven." He is nothing less than "the Savior."

Kind of a shame that he is still stone cold after eleven days of death. One would think such a savior would be able to deal with rigor mortis after two or three days. Maybe that's a bit much to ask. Still, the list of superlatives above almost makes one feel just a little sorry for his son and successor, Kim Jong Un. Kind of a hard act to follow. And besides, all the best titles have been used up already.

I'm loving going through Matthew's Gospel repeatedly every 14 or so days on my android with

A slice out of today's two chapters were right on the money (that would be the North Korean "Won").
Jesus called them together and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave--just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many."  - Matthew 20:25-28.
What a contrast: King Jon Il who lived for the people's adulation and presided over a police state which regularly took people's lives on a whim. And Jesus who was so much more than the Son of Man but willingly gave up the power and prestige of genuine Godhood in order to give his life away.

Of course, "Son of Man" is only one of Jesus' titles. As a self-designating title, it is characteristically humble during Jesus' sojourn on earth. Others, however, reveal that He is "God with us" (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 2:23), that He is the Creator and Sustainer of all things in the universe (Colossians 1:16,17), that "in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form" (Colossians 2:9).

Jesus' Revelation to St John connects all the dots for us once the veil to the future is lifted. Jesus is free to reveal that He is, in fact, "the King of Kings and Lord of Lords" (Revelation 19:16). He is the "Root and Offspring of David, and the Bright Morning Star" (Revelation 22:16).
"I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. . ." - Revelation 22:13.
"I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades." - Revelation 1:17,18.
 Now there's a Savior who really saves!

The little baby who was born in humility 2000 years ago is none other than the only Savior humanity could ever need or want. He gave his life as a ransom for many and rose on the third day to demonstrate his saving power. How astonishingly privileged am I to have been told that "good news of great joy that will be for all the people" (Luke 2:10).

May the people of North Korea fare better under their new leader. May the paranoia and closed borders loosen so that they will, one day soon, hear of the real Savior who is no longer dead but invites them into eternal relationship with Him.

- - - - - - - - - - -

* Quote from

Friday, December 23, 2011

Kiwi Atheist MP on Christmas [in New Zealand]

Dr Russell Norman--Member of Parliament, Co-leader of the Greens, and an atheist--does a masterful job of articulating both the theology and implications of the incarnation in the first seven to eight minutes of his speech to Parliament. It's well worth a look, though it takes maybe 30 seconds to load.

Proud to be a Kiwi, though why this guy isn't a Christian in light of what he says is almost as much of a mystery as the incarnation.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Publishing Persona Contd (#2)

Continued from previous post. . .

. . . The temptation to "update my status" was made all the stronger by delivery the day before of my new $599 phone upgrade, the Samsung Galaxy S II, which I got for only 1 cent. I mean, even if I wasn't enjoying my anniversary (I was), a new gizmo at such a great price is the stuff of Facebook envy. "Take that, you rotten Apple people who delight to tempt and taunt me with your Iphone 4S's and Ipad 2s!"

But I have learned that playing with one's phone on a date is never endearing to one's spouse. The minute you type in the unlock code, you might as well delete "romance" or even much shorter words from your vocabulary.

Still stronger than the temptation to try out my new phone with a status update was the temptation to pad what I call my "publishing persona." The temptation to create an image of togetherness and fun and good times that I was enjoying and others were missing out on (except my wife who, alone, would be privileged to be with me and watch me type on my phone to the world about what a wonderful, intimate, private anniversary we were sharing together!).

And therein lies the absurdity of the culture which Facebook and other social media sites have created and specialize in.

The power of the status update is that it is in real time. It says, "This is what I'm doing right now!" It says, "You're at home watching YouTube updates of Kim Jung Il ponsing around in platform shoes before his heart attack, while I'm at the Melting Pot having a Samuel Adams and steak and chocolate-covered strawberries with my wonderful wife. Point: How tedious your existence must be!"

Even if a person can only scrounge up 20 people to agree to be their friend on Facebook (I've got 21 as of today), you can guarantee that at least one of them on average will be doing something fun and enviable each day. And if they're not, they'll spin it as if they are. They'll make some utterly mundane task sound exotic and noble: "Washed the car today but managed to limit it to half a cup of water to do my bit saving the planet. Bottled up the rest of what I would have used and sent it off to Somalia."

No wonder studies show that the more time people spend on Facebook, the more unhappy they are. We get bombarded by a spun version of reality and really start to feel we're missing out. Keeping up with the Joneses just got a whole lot more complicated. It means not only having the same (or better) house and car and spouse and job and dog and phone than them. It means you've got to compete with all the other experiences and realities of a whole lot more people who are spinning them every day and every which way.

Aware of this, and feeling compassion for the masses, I managed to stop myself from updating my status.

Until we got home, that is, and sat down with the kids.

I don't remember exactly, but they were probably watching Kim Jung Il reruns. Whatever the case, Doreen's attention was diverted.

I thought I could risk a quick post without her noticing. And, if she noticed, it would be a nice one about her.

I mean, that's the least she deserves. We're as different as chalk and cheese. And sometimes I can be a right pillock. And yet here we are, 29 years later, by the grace of God, still together. And still (well, most of the time) loving it. And each other.

At risk of being accused of spin, I think that's worth a post. Maybe even two.

The Publishing Persona (#1)

I just had my anniversary. Well, actually, I didn't have it on my own. Someone else showed up, which was a really nice bonus. And this is a pretty neat person. One of the nicest people I know -- except when she's mad at me. Which isn't very often, thankfully.

Getting ticked at each other over fondue (we had a coupon) is a waste of good fruit, not to mention somewhat dangerous. A strawberry just recently drowned in hot chocolate and expertly lobbed at your left eye adds new meaning to the expression, "his black eye ironically looked extremely bloodshot." (You did not read that expression in Shakespeare, or anywhere else for that matter, but I'm planning on starting my first novel with it.)

Thankfully, though, my bride and I were in wonderful spirits with each other (not alcoholic spirits, although I do confess to a single John Adams which I had merely to show my patriotic solidarity with his second cousin, President John Adams).

All in all, I can say it was a very pleasant evening. I think Mrs B would say the same. At least, she smiled at all the right times, and I didn't notice any tears. As a simple guy, I take those to be excellent omens.

The biggest dilemma of the evening was how to share this great event with the world. I mean, if people can waste my time daily on Facebook with inane posts like, "nothing much happening today, just chillin,'" then surely I can announce to the cosmos with great joy that Doreen and I have made it through 29 years without even one chocolate strawberry in the eye!

To be continued. . . 

Friday, December 9, 2011

Invisible God

I give you praise, O Great Invisible God, 
for the moon in the space of a dark night, 
for the smile on a face in the sunlight.

I give you praise, O Great Invisible God, 
for the sound of the storm on the window, 
for the morning adorned with a new snow, 
for the tears on the face of the old man 
made clean by the grace of the good Lamb.

And oh, I long to see your face, Invisible, Invisible God. 
All the works that you have made are clearly seen and plain as day, 
so mighty and tender. O Lord, let me remember 
that I see you everywhere, Invisible God, 
in the seed that descends to the old earth 
and arises again with a new birth; 
in the sinner who sinks in the river 
and emerges again, delivered.

And oh, I long to see your face, Invisible, Invisible God. 
All the works that you have made are clearly seen and plain as day, 
so mighty and tender. O Lord, let me remember, 
your power eternal, your nature divine. 
All creation tells the tale that Love is real and so alive. 
I feel you, I hear you, Great God Unseen I see you 
in the long, cold death that the winter brings 
and the sweet resurrection spring.

                                      - Andrew Peterson, "Invisible God" (Resurrection Letters, Vol II)



Thursday, December 1, 2011

Cultural Superiority and Vacation Deprivation

This Amerikiwi really struggles to disengage from reading emails while on vacation. (I have to delete the account or the temptation is too great.) So it was with great interest (especially after my last post) that I read the following article in USA Today, titled: "Who Gets the Most Vacation Time? And Who Gets the Least?" (Clue: I've just decided to move to Brazil. Questions: Are they lazy? Or are we driven? Which cultural values are superior? Hmmm.)

The average working European earns 25 to 30 vacation days annually and usually takes them all. In 2011, the typical American employee earned 14 days off, but took only 12.

That's according to a survey out today commissioned by the online travel agency The wide-ranging 2011 Vacation Deprivation study queried 7,803 adults in 20 countries about how much vacation they earn – and actually take – and also about their attitudes regarding time off.

The results differ from another recent survey on the topic by, which reported that the average American leaves 6.2 days of vacation unused each year. (That survey was based on online responses from 2,000 workers.)

Other highlights from the survey:

Asians get – and take – fewer days than residents of other parts of the world. Japanese reported taking just five days out of 11 earned. South Korean respondents, who earned 10 days off, took seven. Brazilians outpace even holiday-hungry Europeans in using time off. They typically earn 30 vacation days and use them all.

Lack of money was the most frequently cited reason for not taking a vacation. Lack of planning was No. 2.
More Americans than other nationalities cite money worries as the reason for foregoing a getaway. However, 50% characterized their financial situation as "solid" or "good," reinforcing the idea that Americans regard vacations as a luxury. Brazilians, on the other hand, were least likely (6%) to cite money issues.

The Danish find it easiest to disconnect from work mode. Only 1 in 7 respondents said they check email while away and half said they never check it. Only 25% of Americans said they check email regularly on vacation; 75% said they check in sporadically or not at all.

How about you? Will you be leaving vacation time unspent this year? And if so, why?