Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day

Father's Day seems to have become a commercialized phenomenon where people go out spend copious amounts on their paternal figures. I don't know about your dad, but mine appreciates that stuff only so much as it comes from the heart. If I went out to Target and bought him something it might mean something to him whether or not he uses it. But honestly, I'd rather use the gifts God gave me to honor my dad, and one of them is writing. My dad has always supported my writing even when he didn't quite understand where I was coming from when I wrote it.

For those who don't know my dad, he's into classic rock music. He has a healthy collection of Styx, but one of the staple bands of his collection is Petra. At one point we owned nearly every album by Petra in vinyl, cassette, or CD. He even named one of my sisters after the band. Not because he's some kooky weirdo that names his kids after bands or anything like that, but because the members of Petra brought Christ into a very dark atmosphere of rock and did so unapologetically. They kept going even when prominent pastors and preachers like Jim Baker were speaking out against them, because they knew that the music was bringing people to Christ. Today Petra is officially retired after 33 years of ministry, but they recently released a Classic Petra album which features a very strong line-up of musicians and the vocalist from the older days of Petra. In addition, the original guitarist and lyricist Bob Hartman and vocalist John Schlitt for the last 11 years of Petra are also on tour as II Guys from Petra.

I tell you all this to give you a little bit of background on a band that I grew up listening to. When I was younger it was pretty much Petra, dc Talk, and whatever classical music my mom was listening to. When my mom and dad were the leaders of SonLight (the Awana for anyone who wasn't Baptist) they were playing "I Love The Lord" and tons of other Petra songs during praise and worship. I'm 20 years-old now and I've heard literally hundreds of bands and thousands of songs, but I still listen to Petra. Why? Because the music continues to bring me closer to Christ. I may have heard, "Beyond Belief" a million times, but just this morning I was having a really bad day and listened to "Just Reach Out" off the album Wake-Up Call and suddenly I was reminded that no matter what happens God is always waiting for me to call out to Him and He will answer. My dad may not realize just how significant Petra is to me, but I want him to know that because he exposed me to Petra I have had access to music that has helped me hold on to my faith.

My dad may not have sat me down and gave me one of those Hollywood five-minute pep-talks that made me suddenly become a super happy plastic Christian, instead he did something so much better. He gave me all the tools and support I needed to find God knocking on the door of my heart and the all the reminders I could ever want about God's unconditional, unfathomable, unmatchable love for me. He may not have stood at the pulpit and preached to a crowd of people, because he really hates drawing attention to himself (so he may have mixed feelings that this is public blog entry), but he very well might have raised the next Smith Wigglesworth (me), Gladys Aylward (my baby sister), Mary Wollstonecraft (my younger sister), or the next Tony Dungee (my younger brother). All those people were extraordinary people who served the Lord while doing things that even the rest of the world pays attention to.

So, Dad, thanks. This Jesus-Hippy is grateful for having a father who was there and tried his best to be the dad I needed.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Why Use Linux?

I'm going to try to use as little technobabble as possible when explaining why I use Ubuntu Linux. Before I begin let me give you a few basic terms you should know when discussing Linux:
  1. PC: Personal Computer - Most computers that run Windows are referred to as PC's.

  2. OS: Operating System - Windows XP/Vista/7, Mac OS X/Snow Leopard, Linux Ubuntu are all operating systems. An OS is the software that gives you the ability to interact with computer graphically instead of having to type commands in a computer language.

  3. Linux: An open-source operating system kernal (like a template or model) developed by private interests groups who wanted a third option instead of Windows or Mac OS.

  4. Open-source: Open-source means that the software designated as "open-source" can be taken apart and modified by anyone interested in doing so. This is useful if someone has something that they want to do with the software which it cannot already do. For example, if I want to be able run an anti-spyware program in the background without the user of the computer ever having to mess with it, then I might build an anti-spyware program into operating system's start up process and make it invisible to the user unless they were to look for it. (I don't know why you would do that, but that's the only example I could think of on the spot.)

  5. Ubuntu: A Linux operating system that's popular because it has large community for support and has a lot of things like word processing (like Microsoft Word) already built into it.

As the son of a network administrator, I've always had a fascination with computers. I have had former babysitters tell me that when I was little I used to freak out when they tried to get me to do something other than spend my time on the computer. I guess I wanted to be like how I perceived my dad at the time; always in front of a computer. Little did I know at the time that the reason my dad spent so much time in front of the computer was so that I could live the privileged life I have lived. That's another story and I digress from my main point.

Most people are quite content with their OS, which is usually a Windows variant like Vista or 7. A few more daring souls have Mac OS X or Snow Leopard which are specifically designed for Apple computers. Most people don't give a second thought about their OS because one comes with their computer and by the time people wanted to upgrade from Windows 98/2000/ME they were buying a whole new computer which came with Windows XP. However, young people born before 2000AD might be aware that Microsoft released the OS called Vista which was a very flawed piece of junk which was followed by a better version called Windows 7. This is significant because it probably one of the few instances of a large number of PC users needing to get a new OS and install it on their computer. The vast majority of PC users were either excited or apathetic about getting Windows Vista/7. For them it was just the most logical course of action and an unavoidable inevitability. Do you know how much the upgrade to Vista or 7 cost? Anywhere from $70-$200!

So what?

So what?! You paid that much for something Microsoft did wrong? You're paying Microsoft for making faulty software that is essential to run your computer? If you were at a really nice restaurant, you know the kind where there's a dress code just to walk in the place, and they made your food wrong; would you pay for it? What if you knew that if you ate the food that was not prepared correctly it would make you sick, would you still pay for it? Probably not, but that's what you're doing when you buy products like Microsoft Windows OS. Now, I realize that young people like myself probably didn't pay for it themselves; Mom and/or Dad bought it for the family computer, right? Some of you were probably old enough to have had your own laptop at the time, but most Windows OS's allow you to install it onto a desktop and a laptop. So I understand that this all may not seem like a big deal to you.

It didn't seem like a big deal to me either, that is until my computer got infected with a virus/worm that shut down every last program on my computer and my "top of the line" anti-spyware/anti-virus software couldn't get rid of it. I was faced with a decision: do I go out and buy Windows 7 or do I switch to Linux? Windows 7 was going to cost me somewhere between $170-$200, which is almost the entirety of my weekly paycheck. My dad encouraged me to at least give Linux a try and told me that I have nothing to lose except for a few days. The reason he said that is because a Linux OS like Ubuntu is free. The most anyone ever pays for Ubuntu is the cost of a disk and shipping which comes to a whopping $10-$15.

How is that possible?

The real question you should you should be asking is how can big corporations like Microsoft get away with charging nearly $200 for something that should be free or at a minimal cost. Most casual PC users think that you have to be a technical genius to use a Linux-based OS like Ubuntu, but I'm not really a technical genius and I am doing just fine. I've got an office suite (like Microsoft Office) which allows me to write and save documents as .doc (Microsoft Word 98/2000) or in .docx (Microsoft 2007 and onward) so even those who are running Windows on their computer can read documents I send to them without trouble.

Microsoft and Apple don't really like this though. Linux steals their customer base away from them, so in an effort to bully Linux users into going back to Windows or Mac OS, most of their software isn't Linux compatible. For example, I have an iPod Touch which requires iTunes to sync my music with. Apple doesn't make iTunes compatible with Linux, even though Mac OS is based on Linux. Funny enough, since I switched to Linux I have come to realize that my iPod is nothing more than a distraction from what I really should be focusing my time on.

So that is why I chose Linux. I've saved upwards of $300 by switching to Linux and I'm quite content with it.

In the words of Tron, "I fight for the users".


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Going Vegetarian

Let me start by saying that I love meat. Home grilled hamburgers, bacon, chicken, sliced roast beef, turkey, and so on. I just love meat. Unfortunately, the more I learn about the industry behind what we get at the grocer the more I realize that I cannot, under my moral and ethical convictions, continue to eat meat. No, I'm not talking about some overwhelming sense of empathy for the plight of tasty animals being slaughtered for my consumption, but at the same time I am. Let me clarify what I mean. Meat is such a staple food item among the Western World that the demand for it calls for massive amounts of animals to be raised and harvested for their yummy body parts. Unfortunately, our demand greatly exceeds the natural supply that Mother Nature has and Father Jah designed for us. Instead, we rely on animal farms to breed, feed, bulk-up, and kill more animals than what would be found naturally. It's too early to tell just how big of an impact this harvesting of large quantities of animals has on our Eco-system, the very Earth that God has called us to take care of; yet we do know that it certainly isn't a good impact. To make matters worse, on average an American spends more money daily on meat than people in Third World countries have to live on daily.

Therefore, while I have no moral qualms with eating meat, my choice to go vegetarian is about reducing the demand for meat. It will certainly have other benefits, but my primary and most convicting reason to do this is the fact that God made us stewards of this Earth and yet we squander it with our selfish obsession with the meat of animals. I do not judge those who eat meat, as I said I love it myself, and on my Sabbath I will have the freedom to eat meat. If people want to say that I'm not a true vegetarian because of that, then that's your prerogative. I suspect that after some time of going without meat that I will lose the appetite for it. It's not something I seek out, but if that happens that I am not going to cry over it. Currently, my diet is primarily based on meat, which is completely unhealthy and if I were to continue would lead to serious health problems.

The problem with my particular case is that because I love meat and have very little sympathy for the animals who are being harvested to make it into my tummy, I have to simply set a date and say, "This is when I'm going to make the switch to vegetarian." If I didn't do that, I would continue eating meat and only ever fantasize about being vegetarian. That's why I have an impending date set for my switch. In preparation I have been eating lots of meat, to the point where I'm starting to get sick of the taste of my favorite variations of common meats. Through research I have read some very helpful tips about making the switch, but consistent among them all was to get a vegetarian cook book and begin to make things out of it. Now I will be trying to things at once: vegetarian dieting and cooking. I'm not averse to cooking, nor is my proverbial chef hat lacking stature, but I just have very little experience with it. I have really enjoyed the few times I cooked for my family, but unfortunately I got tired of making food and watching my siblings whine about it because it wasn't what they wanted to eat. Yeah, my siblings and I were raised with poor eating habits and we, some more than others, have very picky-eater tendencies.

By the way, that date is Monday, June 20th, 2011. I'm cutting out fast-food/restaurant eating as well for the first year as a vegetarian with the exception of when I'm a guest and the host has chosen to order take-out or dine at some place. This exception is more for the practicality that most of all the meals served at my college are catered from a local restaurant. While I could just skip these meals altogether and eat back at my dorm or in the cafeteria, these meals are integral part of building community for Shimer students, faculty, and guests of the school. Shimerians, like students of other institutions, love free food. I am in no way at risk of going hungry, but when it comes to spending $10 of my meal plan in the cafeteria or eating with my fellow Shimerians; I'll choose fellowship with my school mates any day. This also allows me to graciously accept an invitation to eat with someone and informing them that for next time I'd prefer to eat something not from a food-service industry.

I thinks that's all I have to say about that. Feel free to ask questions or comment with your opinions here.

Be blessed,

P.S. - If my language seems somewhat child-like or less than mature, it's because I'm trying to temper the forceful language I tend to use when I'm passionate about an issue. The last thing I want is for people to feel guilty about eating meat. I feel that it's very important that no one be guilt-tripped into becoming a vegetarian or vegan. I don't make a habit of referring to my abdomen as my "tummy".

P.P.S. - I changed the way I phrased my sentence about Mother Nature and Father Jah because it originally sounded like I worship Mother Nature. If it still comes across that way, please know that that was not my intention. I believe in treating Mother Earth with respect, but to worship her violates at least a couple of the Ten Commandments.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Young People Get Married... Or Not?

Today, among followers of Jesus, it seems that young people are waiting longer and longer to get married. At first, it seems to make sense: finances, housing, maturity, and so on. Then I get to thinking about the fact that for all this preparation and consideration that's given prior to taking the plunge there are still so many Christians getting divorced. So obviously marriage is not simply a 1+2=3 equation type of scenario. We cannot simply look at our finances and say, "Yes, I'm financially equipped to be married and therefore I am prepared to be married." You can insert any of the things I listed, and perhaps a few more into that sentence and it still applies. It just doesn't work that way.

But why? For those of us who follow Jesus the fact is that Christ is the first and foremost thing that should be taken into account when considering whether to marry. It starts with the question of whether we are called to marry in the first place. So many of us look at life like an equation, but how does God's will fit into that equation? Are you called to be married or single? That's between you and God, but don't just think that because everyone else gets married that you should too. We take marriage for granted like it's a right of ours when in fact it is a gift from God for whom He chooses to bestow it upon. For me, I know that I am called to marry because the calling was placed in me from a very young age. I would literally get on my knees and pray for my future wife at fives years of age. There are struggles which those of us who know are called to marry have to face, but to sum it up in a way that covers both camps (those who know and those who don't know): we can easily fall into the trap of expecting marriage which ruins the gift. How can God enjoy giving us something when we expect it, as if demanding it of Him?

Next is whether you can trust God to provide for the family you are about to create. So many of us think that if we can just get the job we want, make enough money for this or that, or just finish school that suddenly everything will be fine and you're in the right place to get married. I'm not saying be recklessly jumping into financial obligations which you cannot realistically make good on because you're marrying someone. God didn't give us brains of such high cognitive abilities to watch them go to waste of foolishness, but where is your trust being placed? Are you trusting in Jesus as your provider or are you trusting in that job you're trying to get as your source of provision? While we are certainly brilliant in nature, God's ways are higher than our own and if God tells us to marry then we need to be willing to humbly and obediently do so with absolute trust that He will teach us how to proceed.

As far as maturity goes, what is that anyway? How do you measure maturity? Are we not all strong in some areas and weak in others? Do we reach a certain point where we suddenly don't need Jesus? I pray that day never comes for me. The fact is that while there are issues that it may seem prudent to resolve prior to getting married, there is no one thing that people can look for and decide whether you're ready to get married or not. Oh, but wait, there is! Jesus! Do you love Him? Do you earnestly seek Him? Do you recognize that He is the source of all that you have and the only hope for you and your future spouse? If you answered yes to these, then you just might be ready to consider marrying someone. Obviously, the next step would be to get on your knees and seek God as to what He would have you do.

I cannot tell you what to do. I can only share what has been buzzing around in my brain and burning in my heart. I claim no experience in the field of marriage, and as my friend was apt to point out I am no longer married (I changed my status from "married" to "single" on Facebook, but married status was an allusion to being a part of the Bride of Christ). I ask all married folks reading this to offer up their own thoughts and input.

For He is the King, King Yeshua,