Finally, A Cure for Financial Woes

Finally, a financial strategy that makes sense.

FOUR extra ravens are being drafted into the Tower of London because of the financial crisis — to prevent a 350-year-old curse coming true.

My suspicion, though I’m unable to confirm it, is that in order to reduce labor costs, either fewer ravens were used or an inferior grade of bird was used. Perhaps the common, ordinary wren.

At least financial wizards have identified the source and are making aggressing plans at increasing the number of spare ravens in Tower of London.

I’ll certainly sleep better at night.

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Sign of the Cross

Disclaimer: I am not God. Any judgemental statements are purely a result of my own hypocritical sinful nature. I know not who goes to heaven save me for the grace of God.

That said, I’m looking for some sort of explanation. Why do… um… (heathens? Lite-Christians? Words fail.) wear a cross around their neck? Is it purely a fashion thing? And if so, why is it a fashion thing?

There’s a story this week about a couple, Trevor Blake and Nicola Fitzgerald, who were on a a British Airways flight from England to Jamaica. They drank quite a bit, had sex (twice) in the airplane restroom, then became loud and boisterous and beligerant enoguh to force the plane to be diverted to Bermuda where they were handcuffed.

This post is not so much about them, though, as it is about their picture.Trevor Blake and Nicola Fitzgerald

I’m going to repeat my disclaimer, for what it’s worth. If they want to be an unmarried, drinking, boisterous couple that has sex in public restrooms on an airplane, that’s not my business. But why wear a cross around your neck that reminds us of the sacrifice of my Lord and Savior? Is it really necessary to drag His image through the mud as well?

The Christian faith is clear about many things – we can disagree on doctrine or application, but the basics are clear. Put your faith in Jesus, obey His word. By your words and actions show your faith to others.

I’m pretty sure the heavy drinking, beligerant and threatening behavior, and a bit of fornicating in the bathroom doesn’t match up with the lifestyle Christ calls us to lead. Living a repropate lifestyle and wearing a cross around your neck – what’s that all about?

Is it a fashion statement? Is it a thumbing of the nose at Christ? Why do people wear a cross if they are not following Christ?

Kenya Mission, Day 7

January 2, 2006

Today’s Swahili phrase: hakuna matada, which means “Disney marketing phrase.” No wait, it means “no worries.”

I’ve received a lot of encouragement to continue this series – we’re about halfway through – but this next day was a very important day, full of eye-opening experiences, and frankly, just hard to get a grasp on everything that happened and put it into words. I probably started and stopped this post a half-dozen times in the last month, and I think you’ll see by the end why it took so long. While bathing the orphan children was a revealing experience 2 days ago, today really impressed upon us the great need and problems of the people of Kenya.

Sister FredaToday we went to visit Sister Freda and her hospital, and I met one of this planet’s finest women. Sister Freda runs a hospital near Kitale, Kenya, as well as an orphanage and a school. She told us that only 2 of every hundred patients can afford to pay, so she provides most of the care for free and operates entirely on faith. We had come to serve Sister Freda for the day, but she waited on us hand and foot and humbled us by showing us what a real servant was like. Here is Sister Freda; click the thumbnail to get a full size view.

Sister Freda's HospitalSister Freda first gave us a tour of the hospital. In the US we’re used to gleaming stainless steel so the concrete building didn’t appear exactly state-of-the art, but it was very clean and sterile. Plenty of care was taken to keep things clean and neat. We met some of the patients. A woman with AIDS and malaria who had had an allergic reaction to the drug combination and who’s skin appeared to be disappearing; in her case, the rich black skin of a Kenya had turned an off-white color. We stopped to pray with her. We met a pregnant woman; pre-natal care is almost non-existent here, but this woman had stopped in for a checkup and some vitamins. We met a little girl with sickle cell anemia. Another young child, perhaps 2 years old, was asleep; her mother lived in the nearby forest and had carried her baby in a backpack for so long her legs were folded under and misshapen from the lack of use, and Sister Freda was providing the physical therapy to help her walk. The baby was taken from the mother by other villagers when the mother drowned her eight year old daughter.

Breakfast at Sister Freda'sSister Freda serves breakfast to the orphans Next, we went outside to visit the orphanage and school. In Kenya, they don’t have public schools funded by taxes like the United States; instead, each parent has to provide money to pay for their children’s education. The result is that many children from the poorest families and all orphans remain uneducated. Sister Freda not only has 30+ children she feeds and educates, but she’s been doing this such a long time that some of the earliest orphans have grown up and now work in her medical clinic. Here we visited the children while they were having breakfast.

The children of Sister Freda in schoolThe children of Sister Freda in schoolWhen breakfast was over, the children returned to the classrooms. I think there were three rooms, each about 20’x20′ with a door, a window, and a blackboard, and not enough chairs for the children. That didn’t seem to be a problem for them, though, as the children happily sat on each other when necessary. The children sang “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and “If You’re Happy and You Know It” in English and were genuinely surprised that we knew the words, too.

Bananas from Sister Freda's orchardSister Freda presents fruit from her orchardSister Freda also has a fruit orchard and we toured the bananas, papayas, and avocados growing there. Many of the medicines prescribed are supposed to be taken with food, and for many of the patients food can be difficult to come by. Sister Freda solves that problem by growing her own food and cooking in her own kitchen. We were blessed by lunch with her as she served a meat stew with ugali and some of the most wonderful bread I’ve ever had called chapati, made by rolling whole wheat flour and salt into a circle, browning in a pan, then held briefly over an open flame to puff up.

Sister Freda was a fabulous host, and we found out the reason our day of service in the town of Mbasagan was cancelled was because of a funeral being held that day. On a moonless night, dark black men are hard to see, and such a recent night saw the murder of six people in town. Possibly in retaliation for a tribal disagreement, the six were murdered in their homes. We were reminded that we were far away from home and not necessarily as safe as we felt. Sister Freda instead served us lunch and presented each of us with a rungu, an African fighting stick. (I’ve tried to look this up on a web search, but the rungus I found don’t look like the ones we received. Ours look more like a samburu war club.)

Kenya girl carrying brown waterAfter lunch, we went to Mbasagan town to visit. When Mzungus like us visit, we cause a stir, and all the children turn out. The children are incredibly friendly and have none of that “stranger danger” has ever been taught to them. They walked right up along side and took our hand – those that were brave enough to come so close to a mzungu, that is. They ask for nothing but their needs are great. Some of the children would hold our hands for a while as we walked… then would also help us hold our water bottles. One by one we relinquished all of our water to the children, for we knew we could just get fresh water bottles later. What were the children drinking? The children save their bottles and walk to the river daily to refill it. Take a good look at the color of the water in this water bottle this young girl was carrying. How could we refuse? We only had maybe 6 or 8 bottles among us and there were two dozen children and I didn’t know how to choose, but that was my western materialism at play again. It didn’t matter which child we gave the water to, all the bottles ended up in the hands of a single, older girl. We were told once they had collected all the water, she’d divide it among the children fairly so they could all have a taste of fresh water.

One of the women we met showed us some maize that was at the foot of her house. It didn’t look like much, and it wasn’t. She told us that it was all she had to eat until October, but she wasn’t going to eat it. She was saving it for the rainy season to plant. She was an educated woman with a university education, and then married a local Mbasagan man. There was no opportunity to use her education and said matter-of-factly that this was just her lot in life. Her husband provided the living, carrying fruit from the market to the highway for about 35 shillings a day, about 50 cents. With that, they bought food daily. It was her job to collect firewood and water every day.

She told us of the needs of the town; many of the adults and children were dying of dysentery, cholera and malaria. The town shared a latrine, dug by hand 30 feet down, then covered with a board with a hole in it. The only well in town was also dug 30 feet down, and waste seepage had long ago contaminated the well. As if that wasn’t bad enough, there was no cemetery, so people buried their dead on their own land, about a 20′ x 20′ piece of land. They only buried them two or three feet deep, so heavy rains would wash remains into their neighbor’s yard where they cooked. They asked to get word to a group like Living Water who could drill water wells 200 feet, well below the contaminated layer of ground.

We walked back to Sister Freda’s in a somber thoughtful mood, but our day was just beginning. When we got there, a man on a bicycle had carried a woman to see Sister Freda. The woman was in obvious pain; her ankle was very swollen, she could not move her arm, and she was bleeding from one ear. She had been riding on a boda-boda, a bicycle, and had a bicycle accident. She had leaped off at the last moment. Sister Freda took her inside, cleaned her up, but said she needed x-rays, something Sister Freda could not provide. We had a van, so we split into two groups. One group went back home, picking up groceries for the night. The rest of us gave the injured woman – her name was Rosa – a ride to the Kitale hospital. Our experience here convinced us of two things. One, I would never complain about US hospitals, and two, if we became injured in Kenya, please ship us to England for emergency care.

The hospital had an admission room where they grudgingly admitted Rosa because of Sister Freda’s letter, and that’s where the hospital care ceases. There are no orderlies, no nurses, nobody that comes to help. Injured people must be accompanied by friends or relatives to move them around or… they just die. There’s a payment for admission, and all transactions are handled up front with cash. If you don’t have cash… well, I guess you die. We found a metal gurney and lifted Rosa onto it and she yelled in pain; it had been several hours since her accident and she had no painkillers. Then we waited for a doctor to arrive to take the x-rays. He was traveling among other hospitals at the moment, taking x-rays, and nobody was sure when he would arrive at this hospital.

After two or three hours, Rosa lying on the metal gurney in pain, we decided we had waited long enough. It was getting dark and Rosa was getting cold, so we went back into the ward. Beds were available back here, but there were three times as many patients as there were beds, so injured and ill people shared, 2 or 3 to a bed. When we brought in Rosa, one woman moved her injured child into another so three children shared a bed, making room voluntarily for Rosa to have a place. We wheeled her as close as we could, then lifted her to the bed, cringing because she yelled in pain. We felt hopeless, unable to compensate for her hurting.

And 2 minutes later, we found the doctor had arrived. And we lifted Rosa again in pain onto the gurney, bumped her across the concrete walkway back to the x-ray room. Then we lifted her for the 4th time that day onto the x-ray table. The doctor looked at us seriously and asked us some direct questions about whether we were missionaries. I don’t know if that would have been a problem, but we answered truthfully that we were visiting sister Freda. One of us was a pastor, the rest were engineers, accountants, miscellaneous. Not full time missionaries. The doctor looked at us for a while longer, then asked for payment. We paid the doctor and waited outside.

After a few moments, he told us her foot was merely sprained, but her clavicle, her shoulder was broken. The blood from the ears indicated some head injury, but his equipment could not x-ray a skull. There would be no way to tell if her head was damaged seriously, nor any way to treat it.

We lifted Rosa for the 5th time back onto the gurney, wheeled her along the bumpy path, then lifted her for the 6th time back into bed. We now had a prescription for a painkiller, so again we divided up, half walking down the street to get the medicine, the rest staying with Rosa for comfort. We could pray for her, but she spoke no English. Jason translated for us that we had been visiting a local church and would stay with her as long as we could. At a nearby store before they closed we bought a shawl for Rosa to stay warm, milk and fruit for when she became hungry, and made a quick trip home to grab some personal pillows we had brought from the US so she would have something to rest her head on.

In the meantime, the rest of our group, waiting in the van, had spent the afternoon witnessing to the security guard. I didn’t get the whole story, but he was Muslim and afraid of what would happen to him, but then gave his life to Christ. I hope one of our group gets the courage to post in the comments below what happened out there. 🙂

That was all we could do for Rosa that day, so we left, vowing to come back and check on her when we could. Her brother was with her so her needs could be met. The needs of the Kenyan people showed so greatly in even this hospital – no assistance, no food, no medicine, and you had to pay first or you didn’t receive care. The Lord had opened our eyes today on many things, things we would never forget.

Again, I apologize for the length of time it took to write about this day, but it was such a powerful day, and I haven’t had the time at lunch lately to write like I did earlier in the year. If you thought our day of bathing the orphan children was the most emotional experience, today was exponentially more powerful. And tomorrow? In Day 8 we will find that there’s even more needs than we could have possibly imagined. That’ll take a while to write as well, so I hope you’ll be patient. And those of you that went to Kenya with me, and especially those friends still in Kitale, please comment and correct anything I didn’t get quite write, I’ll be happy to fix it. Just comment below or email me.

Kenya Mission, Day 2 & 3

December 28, 2005

We arrived in London at Heathrow Airport after the overnight, overseas flight, about as refreshed as, well, people that had been on an overnight, overseas flight. Simple little trip over to Gatwick; our flight to Nairobi doesn’t leave until tomorrow so we have an afternoon here.

I learned something about London. It gets cold here. It was approximately -23 centipedes in some sort of metric temperature. I had no idea it got this cold here. The bus to Gatwick was challenging, trying to get 8 people and all the luggage onto a bus in the cold. I think it took nearly 3 hours to finally get to the hotel for the overnight stay. A quick cleanup, then a trip to a pub for some lunch was the plan.

We hopped on the bus outside and when we arrived at the tube station, we hopped off to buy tickets. Well… most of us hopped off. In our jet-lagged condition we left 2 teammates on the bus, and now we have no idea where they are.

A huddle with the group: what now? We decided their most likely action would be to stay on the bus until they arrived back at the hotel, and we also found out the bus made a loop that took 40 minutes. We checked every bus for the next 40 minutes, and sure enough, it was like homecoming when we found our two missing teammates. Hurrah! We’re all back together again.

A short tube ride, then off to a pub. Except… the first pub was full. Ok, we’ll walk around in the cold to a second pub… which was out of food. Then to a third pub that was too small… and this pub was juuust right, said Goldilocks. I was ready to eat some darts and coaster by this point. The traditional fish and chips were better though.
London afternoon, it gets dark early.
Afterwards, we took a short afternoon tour of London, trying to stay awake long enough to make sure the jet lag was over in a day. I wish I could tell you what we saw, but I can’t. I was sleepy and cold… just leave me, save yourselves!…. and didn’t take good notes. Buckingham Palace, Westminster Alley and St. Paul’s Cathedral, for sure.

December 29, 2005

Yes, we’re on our third day of travel. You know, the language here sort of sounds like English here in England, but we don’t seem to be able to communicate. We took a bus from the hotel that went to the airport, but not our terminal. It took far longer than we expected to finally arrive at the right terminal and get checked in, moments before the flight to Nairobi took off. We skipped breakfast this morning because of the rush but survived by eating the airplane seat cushions (which, by the way, can also be used a flotation device.)

Another 9 hour flight nearly due south and we arrived in Nairobi after dark. We were met by our driver Sammy who took us to a local Methodist Guest House. Exhausted from traveling, we all crashed early. We’re still not yet at our destination and have a long van ride tomorrow.

A Non-Christian Narna

People that hate Christians should not go see “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.”

The Guardian Unlimited, England’s ultra liberal rag, says “Narnia represents everything that is most hateful about religion.” Exceprts:

The Christian radio station Premier is urging churches to hold services on the theme of The Gospel According to Narnia. Even the Methodists have written a special Narnia-themed service. And a Kent parish is giving away £10,000 worth of film tickets to single-parent families. (Are the children of single mothers in special need of the word?)

I would say “yes.” I don’t know what the author has against single mothers, but apparently she’s opposed to them receiving Christian aid and encouragement in any form.

The president’s brother, Jeb Bush, the governor of Florida, is organising a scheme for every child in his state to read the book. Walden Media, co-producer of the movie, offers a “17-week Narnia Bible study for children”. The owner of Walden Media is both a big Republican donor and a donor to the Florida governor’s book promotion – a neat synergy of politics, religion and product placement. It has aroused protests from Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which complains that “a governmental endorsement of the book’s religious message is in violation of the First Amendment to the US Constitution”.

That would certainly be hard to prove since the words “Christ” and “God” never appear in the movie in any form.

Disney may come to regret this alliance with Christians, at least on this side of the Atlantic. For all the enthusiasm of the churches, Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ bombed in Britain and warehouses are stuffed with unsold DVDs of that stomach-churner. There are too few practising Christians in the empty pews of this most secular nation to pack cinemas. So there has been a queasy ambivalence about how to sell the Narnia film here.

If you were unsure of the author’s hatred of Christians, that should have cleared it right up for you.

Most British children will be utterly clueless about any message beyond the age-old mythic battle between good and evil. Most of the fairy story works as well as any Norse saga, pagan legend or modern fantasy, so only the minority who are familiar with Christian iconography will see Jesus in the lion. After all, 43% of people in Britain in a recent poll couldn’t say what Easter celebrated. Among the young – apart from those in faith schools – that number must be considerably higher. Ask art galleries: they now have to write the story of every religious painting on the label as people no longer know what “agony in the garden”, “deposition”, “transfiguration” or “ascension” mean. This may be regrettable cultural ignorance, but it means Aslan will stay just a lion to most movie-goers.

Explain to me again that if “Aslan will stay just a lion to most movie-goers” why the Americans United for Separation of Church and State are complaining? I find this sad, that the European young have lost touch with their faith and are no longer being taught by their parents.

Of all the elements of Christianity, the most repugnant is the notion of the Christ who took our sins upon himself and sacrificed his body in agony to save our souls. Did we ask him to?

Goodness. How repugnant. I wonder if the author feels free to insult all other religions, too, or if she’s reserved a special hatred for Christianity. The answer, by the way, is no, we did not ask Him to. God did it for us, unasked. It is a gift, it is grace.

There’s lots more hatred of Christians (and conservatives) aplenty if you’re interested:

  • So the resurrected Aslan gives Edmund a long, life-changing talking-to high up on the rocks out of our earshot. When the poor boy comes back down with the sacred lion’s breath upon him he is transformed unrecognisably into a Stepford brother, well and truly purged. (The author doesn’t say what part of Edmund’s new behavior is repugnant.)
  • Philip Pullman – he of the marvellously secular trilogy His Dark Materials – has called Narnia “one of the most ugly, poisonous things I have ever read”.
  • Because here in Narnia is the perfect Republican, muscular Christianity for America – that warped, distorted neo-fascist strain that thinks might is proof of right.
  • I once heard the famous preacher Norman Vincent Peale in New York expound a sermon that reassured his wealthy congregation that they were made rich by God because they deserved it. The godly will reap earthly reward because God is on the side of the strong. This appears to be CS Lewis’s view, too. In the battle at the end of the film, visually a great epic treat, the child crusaders are crowned kings and queens for no particular reason. Intellectually, the poor do not inherit Lewis’s earth. (The author has mistaken earthly riches for heavenly riches and so misses the point entirely – Michael.)

Children are supposed to fall in love with the hypnotic Aslan, though he is not a character: he is pure, raw, awesome power. He is an emblem for everything an atheist objects to in religion. His divine presence is a way to avoid humans taking responsibility for everything here and now on earth, where no one is watching, no one is guiding, no one is judging and there is no other place yet to come. Without an Aslan, there is no one here but ourselves to suffer for our sins, no one to redeem us but ourselves: we are obliged to settle our own disputes and do what we can. We need no holy guide books, only a very human moral compass. Everyone needs ghosts, spirits, marvels and poetic imaginings, but we can do well without an Aslan.

So ghosts and spirits are great, but not a faith in a redeeming savior. The author has preformed ideas about Christianity and uses those ideas to bash Christianity. Setup the strawman and knock it down. Do Christians use their faith to avoid taking responsibility, or do Christians feel their faith calls them to devote their lives to service in faith? There are thousands of Christian faith-based service organizations feeding the poor, helping the homeless, with millions of volunteers. That’s a far cry from the author’s portrayal of Christians.

And all of the Christian-bashing over a movie that never utters a scriptural word.

Far Left, Far Right

Far Left:

Al Franken is laughing it up, I suppose. Nobody else is, because he’s not funny.

He’s promoting his new book on Amazon with a video clip showing how good it feels to kick a conservative between the legs. Michelle Malkin has video stills and here is the video clip. Basically, he questions a reviewer who claims to be “a right wing jerk” who gave Al’s book a poor review. So Al kicks him between the legs, smashes a chair over his back, then cracks a bottle over his head. It makes Al look… deranged. Weird. Unglued.

Far Right:

Or at least, that’s how the news portrays it, labeling Fred Phelps as a far right Christian and giving Christians a poor image. Most Christians, though, have denounced Fred Phelps. I’ve read some of his stuff, and I think Fred is as loony to the right as Al Franken is to the left. It’s one thing to decry the degrading morals of western civilization; it’s quite another to gleefully rejoice over their deaths and wish for more.

The Sky Report has secretly filmed one of America’s most controversial Christian minister’s praising the London bombings.

Fred Phelps, who set up the controversial Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, told an undercover reporter about the attacks, which killed 52 people:

“Oh I am so thankful that happened. My only regret is that they didn’t kill about million of them. England deserves that kind of punishment, as does this country (America)”.

The church, which has 150 followers, recently started picketing funerals including those of American soldiers killed in Iraq, waving banners such as ‘Thank God 9/11’, ‘God Hates Fags’ and ‘Aids Cures Fags.’

This Fred Phelps fellow gives Christianity a black eye. It undoes the good works that Christians do in the name of love of our God as an expression of our faith. Fred has confused the “hate the sin” and goes all out to hate the sinner, too. While following Jesus teaches us discipline, insulting people and hoping they die does far more harm than good to Christianity. It’s not… Christian.

Nearly all conservatives denounce Fred Phelps. I’m still waiting for liberals to denounce Al Franken.

Secular Bigotry

Manual Miranda in OpinionJournal has a strong criticism of the questioning of Supreme Court nominee John Roberts. While we all expected chest-puffing and posturing from the Senators, we didn’t expect illegal religious bigotry to be so acceptable. Excerpts:

Article VI of the Constitution prohibits a religious test from being imposed on nominees to public office. The clause was motivated by the experience of Catholics in the Maryland colony and Baptists in Virginia who had been the targets of Great Britain’s two Test Acts. These infamous laws of intolerance sought to prevent anyone who did not belong to the Church of England from holding public office. The Test Acts did not say that Catholics could not hold office; the bigotry was more subtle. Officials questioned would-be public servants to determine whether they believed in particular tenets of the Catholic faith.

Hours later, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California made it worse: “In 1960, there was much debate about President John F. Kennedy’s faith and what role Catholicism would play in his administration. At that time, he pledged to address the issues of conscience out of a focus on the national interests, not out of adherence to the dictates of one’s religion. . . . My question is: Do you?”

How insulting. How offensive. How invidiously ignorant to question someone like Judge Roberts with such apparent presumption and disdain for the religion he practices. The JFK question is not just the camel’s nose of religious intolerance; it is the whole smelly camel.

Additional quotes from Judge and Jewry:

I mean how grotesque is it that the Left feels free to indulge openly in half-century-old religious prejudice? This is not some crazy person standing outside with a rusty hanger–it is a United States Senator in her official capacity on national television. And this is no off-the-cuff blurt–these questions are excruciatingly researched and drafted and worded and reviewed and approved and choreographed by teams of liberal lawyers and advisors both on her staff and off. She–the senator who keeps harping at this hearing that her concern is the protection of people of faith–thinks an obnoxious question born of religious bigotry is legitimate because it was posed in 1960?

There’s more from Concerned Women of America, the Catholic Culture of Life Foundation, the Catholic League, Fidelis, so go read it.