All content of this blog is ©2013 by "E.B.", see here, unless otherwise noted.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Songs that Stumped Shazam

Having only had the Shazam app for a few weeks now, I occasionally test it with a song I already know and am listening to. So far, Shazam has not been able to identify the following two songs, so check them out:


Sweet Song of Salvation by Larry Norman on Grooveshark

Feel free to comment and share any songs with which you have also stumped Shazam.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Thursday, January 24, 2013

What if I told you...?

What if I told you that someone very dear to me had congestive heart failure, and experienced symptoms of pain and breathlessness. Would you feel compassion for them? What if I told you my loved one had cancer. Would you find a way to show some moral support? What if I told you my family member was mentally ill and his/her symptoms are that of erratic and disturbing behaviour that is often emotionally hurtful to him/herself and others? What then would your reaction be?

In my family, there are those that completely cut themselves out of this person's life. I get that. Damage was done. And I actually don’t have a problem with that. My mentally-sick loved one has hurt every single person that has ever been close to him/her, or helped him/her. And the list of lies and betrayals is various and long. I guarantee that they have almost certainly hurt me and my family in greater ways many more times. Forgive me for getting testy with that last sentence, this isn't a contest of who has been hurt the most. I understand that everyone has to make the best choices they can for themselves. It’s a valid and often necessary choice to disengage from people that hurt and betray.

What has been most unfortunate and painful to me, is that this segment of the family seemed to go a step farther. They cut me and my family from their lives also. Presumably because we had chosen to maintain some relationship with the ill person, albeit a distant and limited one. We never insisted they maintain a relationship with our ill loved one after she/he offended them. We only kept the lines of communication open for ourselves. Without me getting too personal or specific, I will say that some relationships can be stronger than a Denali-sized heap of betrayal. Strong bonds such as a parent-to-child, can’t (or won’t) allow for ever giving up completely. And the offenses I speak of aren’t capital offenses, they are incidents of embarrassment, lies, unpredictable actions, things of that nature. I can't fully understand why they cut us off, I speculate that the inconvenience, messiness and stigma of mental illness is not compatible with their image of family life. It hurts to realize that the very people who distanced themselves from us, were among the same family members that we were supportive of while they went through their own struggles of a different sort.

Photo by smiteme.
Permission granted under Flickr Creative Commons Agreement.

Illness is illness. I can't help but wonder that if said loved one had another kind of illness, she/he and we might not have been so summarily written-off, because other medical conditions garner more understanding and empathy. Mental illness is tricky. Just as we protect ourselves when a friend or loved on has a contagious illness, we often need to have some kind of protection with loved ones who have mental illnesses. Just as we adjust our expectations of what a physically ill person is capable of, we must have realistic expectations of what a mentally ill person is capable of. Education is a key factor, as is awareness. Then the necessary precautions must be taken. However, I chose not to abandon completely my mentally ill family member. I chose not to be embarrassed by, or unnecessarily cut off from them, after many painful and awkward starts and stops throughout the years. This didn't happen overnight, this was a process that happened over time, with many trials and errors, and educating myself as much as I could as I went along. Yes, my loved one is at times erratic, insensitive, and offensive. I wonder how much is within and how much is beyond their control due to their illness? I’m not sure. It is not easy, but it is possible to still maintain a loving and supportive relationship. Sometimes a glimmer of their old self shines through and it’s enjoyable. Sometimes it’s just letting them know that someone will be here for them. Sure, we have to be more guarded, and have to protect ourselves in certain ways, but at least our loved one has some knowledge that there are a few of us that still care.

I’m sharing this story in hopes that someone reading it may have a more compassionate approach to those with mental illness or those with loved ones who have mental health issues.

In the teachings of that divine and enlightened One, Jesus of Nazareth, He said, it’s easy to love those that love you. It’s easy to be good to those who are good to you. He exhorted us to be loving and caring toward those who are difficult and challenging(see here). So, I’m trying. I have to say, the shunning from my “healthy” loved ones hurts rather more than any of the things my unwell loved-one does or did.

from a journal entry 2009/10

Monday, January 21, 2013

MLK Day thoughts

"When our most tireless efforts fail to stop the surging sweep of oppression, we need to know that in this universe is a God whose matchless strength is a fit contrast to the sordid weakness of man. But there are also times when we need to know that God possesses love and mercy.
-Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength to Love
image from Library of Congress archives

Don't let his dream die, we have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go.

Friday, January 18, 2013

A Post About The Camel Passing Through the Eye of an Needle, and Riches

Photo by lapideo

Part of my daily bible reading via my LifeJournal plan at YouVersion this past week included Luke 18:18-27.
There is a popular legend that explains this verse as such: One of the gates into Jerusalem in Jesus' day was called The Eye of The Needle. It was used by travelers who came to the city after hours when the main gates had already been shut for the night. The legend explains that this gate was intentionally made small so that marauders couldn’t overtake the city via its access. Yet, the stray traveler could enter this very narrow passageway and find safety within city walls during the night. To get through it, the rider had to dismount their camel, and all saddles and bags had to be removed. The rider had to carry the saddles and baggage, or rather push and pull through the very small opening, possibly even unpacking some of it, and the camel had to scoot through on its knees. So, the semi-popular teaching of this legend goes that a rich person can indeed go through an Eye of the Needle like camels and their riders enter through this Gate - “on their knees” and “without baggage.” It’s a very sensible teaching to stress such points - all of us indeed must humble ourselves before the Great God of the Universe, and get rid of the baggage that weighs us down. So you can see how the popularity of this legend has given it quite a following among many Western Christians.

I decided to do some digging, because I could never find any evidence of this particular gate in concordances, commentaries or study bibles I have. There is a reason for that, and really, it’s quite plainly there in the very passage. So let’s read it again with emphasis:
A ruler questioned Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments, ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said, “All these things I have kept from my youth.” When Jesus heard this, He said to him, “One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when he had heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. And Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” They who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” But He said, “The things that are impossible with people are possible with God.”

It’s right there in what I italicized and put in bold print: If this gate was a real and common feature of the city, they would have all known it and their response would not have been “Who then can be saved?” The disciples reply might have gone something like this, “Ahh, only those who strip themselves down and humble themselves on their knees can be saved.” (Which is rather the truth, by the way, so long as it is motivated by faith in Jesus and His redemptive work.) No, Jesus was messing with the common wisdom of the day that the rich were somehow automatically blessed and approved by God. One article I read, and if I find it again (I misplaced it!), I will gladly give link and credit, anyway, the writer said something like this: If Jesus had been speaking in modern day America He might have said, "The rich will get to heaven when pigs fly" because that best explains the colloquial use of language Jesus was employing in using this saying. Jesus told them, not only was it not true that wealth=equals=God's approval, but quite the opposite, that it was a practical impossibility that the rich could be accepted by God. Wow. Re-read that again. Then recall the disciples response, “Well, then who CAN be saved?” And I remind you of Jesus’ response “The things that are impossible with people are possible with God.” There is hope.

There is always hope. Jesus perceived in the rich young man from the passage the one thing He wasn’t willing to surrender or give up. God will have no idols above Him in our lives. Some of us are the same way that young man was. If it’s not wealth, it could be a relationship, a habit, pride, comfort, whatever. Some people have hobbies, goals and even "good things" they are passionate about, but those things out-distance their passion for God. Jesus’ words here should be taken soberly and it’s best not to make light of what is being said. If you think about it, what He said about riches hits you like a very strong blow, not so much a knock-out blow to the head, as a powerful whack to the gut that leaves you reeling and catching your breath as you process it.

He’s Our Teacher and He said this for a reason. It is harsh. I think that is one of the problems I have with this Needle Gate Legend. It seems like a good and sound teaching, at first glance. But it still diminishes the severe truth Jesus was stating. Jesus also stated, The Truth will set us free (see here). The whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help us God.

I cite the following sites as being helpful and informative in me writing this post: Christianity beta; The Straight Dope; Old City Gates.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

An Old Column by Charley Reese

Having spent my formative years in the Orlando-Metro region of Florida, and having been an avid Orlando Sentinel reader, I recall columnist Charley Reese with fondness. This article is neither pro nor con any particular political party, just expressive of that plain sense that seems to have evaporated from our political system. It's been making the rounds on facebook after a dormant period. It had quite an active streak as an email forward (remember those?) in the 2000s, with various incarnations and modifications that mentioned the politicians and wars of the day. I think it bears repeating, and is just as timely now, perhaps more so, as it was when it was originally published in 1984.
The 545 People Responsible For All Of U.S. Woes
BY Charley Reese
(Originally published in the Orlando Sentinel) exact date of publication unknown, circa 1984)

Politicians are the only people in the world who create problems and then campaign against them. Have you ever wondered why, if both the Democrats and the Republicans are against deficits, we have deficits? Have you ever wondered why, if all the politicians are against inflation and high taxes, we have inflation and high taxes? You and I don’t propose a federal budget. The president does. You and I don’t have the Constitutional authority to vote on appropriations. The House of Representatives does. You and I don’t write the tax code. Congress does. You and I don’t set fiscal policy. Congress does. You and I don’t control monetary policy. The Federal Reserve Bank does. One hundred senators, 435 congressmen, one president and nine Supreme Court justices – 545 human beings out of the 235 million – are directly, legally, morally and individually responsible for the domestic problems that plague this country. I excluded the members of the Federal Reserve Board because that problem was created by the Congress. In 1913, Congress delegated its Constitutional duty to provide a sound currency to a federally chartered but private central bank. I excluded all but the special interests and lobbyists for a sound reason. They have no legal authority. They have no ability to coerce a senator, a congressman or a president to do one cotton-picking thing. I don’t care if they offer a politician $1 million dollars in cash. The politician has the power to accept or reject it. No matter what the lobbyist promises, it is the legislation’s responsibility to determine how he votes. A CONFIDENCE CONSPIRACY Don’t you see how the con game that is played on the people by the politicians? Those 545 human beings spend much of their energy convincing you that what they did is not their fault. They cooperate in this common con regardless of party. What separates a politician from a normal human being is an excessive amount of gall. No normal human being would have the gall of Tip O’Neill, who stood up and criticized Ronald Reagan for creating deficits. The president can only propose a budget. He cannot force the Congress to accept it. The Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land, gives sole responsibility to the House of Representatives for originating appropriations and taxes. O’neill is the speaker of the House. He is the leader of the majority party. He and his fellow Democrats, not the president, can approve any budget they want. If the president vetos it, they can pass it over his veto. REPLACE SCOUNDRELS It seems inconceivable to me that a nation of 235 million cannot replace 545 people who stand convicted — by present facts – of incompetence and irresponsibility. I can’t think of a single domestic problem, from an unfair tax code to defense overruns, that is not traceable directly to those 545 people. When you fully grasp the plain truth that 545 people exercise power of the federal government, then it must follow that what exists is what they want to exist. If the tax code is unfair, it’s because they want it unfair. If the budget is in the red, it’s because they want it in the red. If the Marines are in Lebanon, it’s because they want them in Lebanon. There are no insoluble government problems. Do not let these 545 people shift the blame to bureaucrats, whom they hire and whose jobs they can abolish; to lobbyists, whose gifts and advice they can reject; to regulators, to whom they give the power to regulate and from whom they can take it. Above all, do not let them con you into the belief that there exist disembodied mystical forces like “the economy,” “inflation” or “politics” that prevent them from doing what they take an oath to do. Those 545 people and they alone are responsible. They and they alone have the power. They and they alone should be held accountable by the people who are their bosses – provided they have the gumption to manage their own employees.