Monday, August 30, 2010

It Feels Good to Be Rich

My friend Brad is giddy after visiting a Chinese ATM in 2006.
I didn't win the lottery. I haven't come into an inheritance. I'm still working as a reporter. But it feels good to know that I'm rich.

I've got a $20 bill in my wallet. It has been there for weeks. I rarely use cash, so I don't remember when I got it out of the ATM or for what purpose. Maybe it was a yard-sale stash or feed for the parking meters around Atlanta. Maybe it was left over from paying a friend back for Braves tickets. In any case, it still lingers behind receipts, coupons and business cards, just waiting for a chance to be broken.

I was sifting through the ads in the newspaper this morning. I usually only glance at a few nowadays. I took a brief look at the digital cameras, then moved on. It's not that I don't like gadgets, but looking is pretty much pointless. I already have anything that could come close to qualifying as a necessity for work or play.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Learning from the Korean Passion

Business events aren't usually known for their spiritual flair. It's a rare occasion that I walk into a trade conference in Atlanta and encounter a religious invocation.

In America, even if many attendees are Christian, general consideration for adherents of other faiths dictates that we steer clear of rhetoric or actions that could remotely be perceived as intimidating or offensive. (Politically correct translation: Words or deeds that actually express an opinion or belief.)

Refreshingly, Koreans don't seem to have this problem.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Avoiding the Seven Demons

I've always been perplexed by the passage in Luke 11, where the Pharisees accuse Jesus of using the power of Satan to drive out evil spirits.

It's not so much Jesus's refutation that confuses me. In the discussion, he coins the phrase that Abraham Lincoln borrowed - a kingdom divided itself cannot stand - to show that Satan's forces can't survive if they war against each other. He then uses a parable about robbing a strong man's house to explain to that although our enemy has a formidable powers, he is easily bound and overtaken by his maker.

I'm good up to this point, but it gets a little trickier in the teaching moment afterward, when Jesus turns away from the immediate treatment of good vs. evil and begins directing criticism toward the Jews' unbelief.

Monday, July 26, 2010

We're Not Who We Think (or Say) We Are

Social media is a really convenient tool. Some say its magic is in the fact that it allows for transparency like never before. Politicians use Twitter to stay connected with their constituents. Parents can spy on their teenyboppers' online lives. Bosses can get a glimpse of their employees' true character out of the office.

While these are noble uses, I say the true advantage of these websites is their cloak-and-dagger aspect, the fact that we can hide our real selves behind the idealistic versions we post online.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

What Would Jesus Tweet?

Come, follow me.

In the age of Twitter, "following" someone has become as easy as the click of a button.

It wasn't so simple 2,000 years ago, when Jesus searched for his true disciples. He had no email newsletter, no Facebook page on which to post photos and updates. He didn't have a website where millions could convene virtually to download sermon podcasts or submit prayer requests.

His was a day when a teacher's shoe leather was his bandwidth, and his sphere of influence was as large as the area his feet could travel. His audience consisted of real people with skin on, seen eye to eye, not faceless Google bots or Web perusers.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Will the Poor Always Be With Us? Jesus vs. Muhammad Yunus

Nobel Prize-winning economics professor and "banker to the poor" Muhammad Yunus visited Atlanta last month and spoke about the prospect of eradicating poverty to the point that one day we would take our children to see "poverty museums."

In Mr. Yunus' ideal future world, our kids would have to learn from a retrospective distance what they could not experience in the now: the sickness, starvation and abject lack that come with the inability to afford basic needs like food, clothing and shelter.

I applaud his vision and his efforts to make it a reality, but I wonder if it's a bit naive. Assuming that everyone (or even a slight majority) could learn to practice, like Mr. Yunus, the ideal of helping the poor help themselves, a world without poverty is at least imaginable. But it's hard to make that assumption, given our proclivity to act in our own self-interests at almost any cost. Even our charitable donations are mostly given out of our wealth, not any meaningful sacrifice (I'm preaching to myself here, by the way). How can we lift others out of poverty without giving up comfort and convenience? And how will people learn to sacrifice when the world's ideology tells them to get what they can in this moment?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

New Year, New Ear

For me, journals are altars, written monuments to the places and times when God has worked in unexplainable ways, either responding to faith or interrupting rebellion.

Though not as enduring or tough to construct as the stacks of stones the ancient Israelites used, my written remembrances provide the same thing: a store of faith that I can borrow against when God's presence and goodness aren't so obvious.

In January I considered writing a blog post about the new year, a wrap up of 2009 and a look ahead to 2010. I planned to make new resolutions, posting them on this blog and sharing them with friends as a way of keeping myself accountable.