Saturday, May 14, 2005


After the disaster which was my first attempt at home ownership, my wife and I decided not only to wait a little while before we considered buying another home (losing our life savings in repairing the old house also was a factor). We also agreed that we had not considered enough information before we bought our first house, and so decided to keep an open mind to anything which might help us make sure we get a good house next time.

Along the way of getting information for our next try at buying a house, we started with a clean sheet of paper. Old houses were considered, so were new. We quickly learned the obvious limits. We didn’t have the money to have a home custom built, and some of the more affordable homes were too far away to be practical as a choice. As we looked at the available choices, we realized that we really needed a new home, and one with good access to major roads, not too far from where we worked, and so on. And along the way, I discovered Feng Shui.

Westerners really misunderstand Feng Shui. Some on one side of the matter think Feng Shui is a simple art of balancing room set up, and some on the other side think it’s superstition, even sinful for attempting divination. I had to weigh the matter carefully; I am committed to serving the LORD, and not putitng Him behind anything. However, I also know that the LORD makes all manner of tools available to man. See how Solomon laid out the Temple, for example. In reading about Feng Shui, I quickly learned that there are two broad classes of thought. Essentially, the newer “Black Hat” or “Black Sect” practitioners talk and write a lot about applying Feng Shui “Cures”, and in addition to proffered charms and mantras recommended the placement of “household gods”. Yep, that crosses the line. If that had been the first thing I read, I would have thrown out the whole thing right there.

Fortunately, before I heard about the “Black Hat” practitioners, I had already studied the Classical Feng Shui, its history and the basic principles, and that is much different. Many Masters have no use for Feng Shui practitioners whose principal motive is to sell merchandise, or who think that a trinket hung on a wall can override powerful forces. Also, the discovery that Feng Shui goes back at least five centuries before the birth of Christ, indicates to me that there is something more substantive than just a few tales strung together. So, without dragging the matter out further, here’s what I have learned about Feng Shui.

It’s about Qi, pronouned “Chee”. There is a lot of argument and disagreement about what Qi is, exactly, which I found intriguing. The Chinese figured out long ago, for instance, that people are affected by magnetic waves and resonance. The Western world only began to discover that in the past 50 years. But there’s more, related to temperature, air circulation, water, and many other factors. It’s really complex in total, and it takes a lot of study to consider all the things involved.

With that in mind, Feng Shui makes a whole lot more sense. Where you live is obviously going to affect your life, and it’s just reasonable to consider things which affect how much light your house gets, how much heat, whether the air moves freely in the house, and so on. Also, one must consider Yang and Yin, or balance. For example, a house which is too dark is not going to be right, but bright lights all the time would be stressful. Feng Shui considers the balance of all the factors in your home life. And from that, the principles of balance and energy are not only reasonable, but a critical reminder to consider in so major a choice as buying a house.

Now, there’s more to Feng Shui, but for here I will leave that to your own investigation, should you find it worth your time and attention. I would remind you, though, that when He prayed, Jesus went to a private place appropriate for his purpose. So also, Jesus preached in locations correct to the purpose. If you pay close attention, the practice is clear. And the flow of Qi, I would also submit, is a thing God wishes us to understand, for our own benefit.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Why Jesus Had To Be Perfect

It begins with the definition of God's Law. From one perspective, it's totally unyielding, a thing either obeyed or violated. However, the plain fact that forgiveness from God is possible, means that an additional dimension exists. Some people confuse forgiveness to mean that God will excuse sin, which is not a valid concept to me. Others suggest that God forgives sin, but there are different levels, so that someone forgiven is still not as good are pleasing to God as one who does not sin in the first place. The account of Jacob, however, makes an early case that God's forgiveness is totally perfect, and so a sin is made as if it never happened, and will not be remembered in any form.

Assuming that interpretation is correct, then the Law is something more mysterious; inflexible, yet there is a way to obey it beyond Man's understanding, and the key is the Will of God.

In writing about sin, I think the first point to make is that sin is about Man, not God. What I mean there, is that God is holy and perfect, regardless of whatever a person does; to claim otherwise would give sin a power over God, which is not at all true. So, even if every man, woman and child on the earth were to live a wholly sinless life, God would not become more perfect or holy, as He is already the Absolute. Also, even if every single man, woman and child were to become unutterably evil and vile, it would not diminish the perfection or holiness of God at all. Therefore, the action of sin is Man’s alone, and the effect of sin is Man’s alone. Whether we mean sin to be “evil”, to “miss the mark”, or anything in between, it is Man’s condition which is concerned by sin, and so when God speaks to us concerning sin, it is our condition He addresses.

Now then, when a man becomes aware of his sin, he may react in a number of ways. He may deny his sin, which is the common response, but that only delays coming to understand his condition. When he finally understands his condition (meaning he finally stops denying he has sinned, he stops trying to blame his wrong on someone or something other than himself), he must either repent of his sin, or else he holds on to his sin. If he holds on to his sin, he accepts the full measure of the sin’s effect. If he repents, then things get interesting.

First, there is the sin which is forgiven, but some sort of consequence still happens. It’s kind of like when the Fire Department comes and puts out the fire, but you still have damage from the fire. When sin happens, there are consequences, not always obvious, but they are there and must be dealt with.

Yet, it also happens that there are sins which are made as though they never happened, in G-d’s eyes. God does not keep records on forgiven sins, nor hold a man accountable for any sin in the past, which God has forgiven. Many people do not like this point, since it appears to some to give support to the notion that a man might sin as much as badly as he pleases, provided he says he’s sorry for it later. My counter to that notion, is to note that God is not fooled by fake contrition, nor is He unaware of what a man means to do in the future. So, even if a man believes he is truly sorry, if he means to go sin again later in the same way, or if his heart still holds to that sin in spirit, the LORD knows this, and there is no forgiveness until and unless that contrition is made real.

To the third point, I remember an old story, about a wise master whose disciples hoped to learn from him. The master said he would grant full knowledge, if they could produce the ‘right stone’. So, the disciples went out and found stones; great stones, small stones, smooth stones, rough stones, of every kind and they brought them, one by one, to the master. But the master only said ‘No, wrong stone’ every time.

There is no moral to that story, because it is not that kind of story. But the story reminds me that God is not like that cruel master, who has secret knowledge he will not share. Rather, the LORD makes His gifts freely available to us all. We just have to accept them. Reading through what I know as the Old Testament, I see prophets, visions granted to men and kings, angelic visits, all to give people the instruction and direction they need. Yet throughout History, people continue to fail and fall. This is not a thing which pleases God, as is evident from Scripture.

Presuming God is in position and of a mind to help us find the way He has set ready for us, it follows to me that He would do so in the most effective way possible. Yet it also follows, that God must remain God, holy and completely perfect. How then to reach sinful Man, when Man would be destroyed by God’s presence? I find it likely that God would send Himself, once, as a perfect example, and this explains the identity and purpose of Messiah.

Jews do not, I know, accept this, but Christians very much do, that the Messiah was God in person coming to be a human, and it serves the need well. Man cannot say that God does not know what it is to be unjustly hurt, as this happened to Jesus all His life. Man cannot say the perfect life is impossible, because Jesus lived it. And because Jesus died on the cross for us, no man or power can claim the debt is unpaid.

Obviously, the first question that comes up from this explanation, is just how God can walk among us, being perfect. What happened is, knowing beforehand all that Men would do, God made Himself in three persons but of the same essence and being. It is difficult to explain the Trinity, but that should not be surprising, given the task of explaining a Divine quality necessary to allow perfect reign in Heaven, yet complete contact with humans here on Earth. As for the Holy Spirit, that one shows up many times throughout the Bible, especially in the words of David and in the Scripture concerning Moses, so God was able to be in both Heaven and Earth simultaneously from the beginning.

This also explains the requirement that Jesus should be sinless. Not because we humans must be perfect in order to be forgiven by the LORD, but because Jesus is the template for perfection, proof that it can be done. You see, when we sin, we all sin against God. Remember Psalms 51:4, where David confesses “against You, You only, have I sinned”? What a strange thing to say! Because of David’s sin, Uriah was dead, Bathsheba disgraced, and his infant son killed. Yet David says he only sinned against God (and Psalm 51 was written specifically because of Nathan’s charge against David). What David meant, was that whatever we do, as bad as it is to any person on Earth, it is God who has the full right, and to whom we therefore owe contrition and penitence. It would create a conundrum, were God to sin against God! More, Davis defines “blameless” for us in Psalms 19:13, as “innocent of great transgression”. Blameless is not perfect, but God is perfect. Consider the 119th Psalm, especially verses 97-104 and 125. Why meditate upon the Law, or work to achieve insight and discernment, if the Law is a simple matter of obeying a technicality? David makes clear, that the Law is a thing much deeper than a superficial code of conduct, and Jesus reinforced that by His actions and words in practice.

Jesus did not sin, and no man who follows His way will sin. The problem, of course, is that as willing as we are to do the right thing, we fail because we are weak.

Monday, May 09, 2005

George Lucas Killed Yoda

One of the mysteries of the Star Wars movies, is just how a story with the promise shown by the first two movies, could devolve into such utter dreck, under the same production and direction. I think I have finally figured it out.

Without revealing an utterly hopeless devotion to an adolescent concept, the 'Star Wars' theme began with "Star Wars", a swashbuckling adventure with all the bells and whistles - sleek starships, a menacing villain, an idealistic hero with multiple sidekicks, and of course, that music. Not content with a blockbuster hit, Lucas followed up with the impressive "The Empire Strikes Back", which continued the story, actually picking up the pace, complicating the plot with rivalry between the two main heroes, and opened the door into The Force and the Jedi Knights. And of course, even more of that fantastic Soundtrack. Expectations were high, especially it became obvious that Lucas was just warming up. Here we discovered that "Star Wars" was not in fact the first episode of the story, but actually Part IV in a nine-part odyssey. Interest in the series grew exponentially.

But "The Return of the Jedi" failed to match its promise. It was moderately enjoyable for a movie, but didn't match the levels of "Empire". And Episodes I and II were distinct disappointments, from the perspective of the fans. And fans were informed that despite the initial promise of nine films (Lucas once claimed he had already written up screenplays for all nine), the series would end with just six. What happened?

Well, looking back on the series, I think I see what happened. Let's chart the progress by type:

"Star Wars"

Hero: Luke Skywalker. Young but grown, clean cut and optimistic, raw but talented.
Sidekicks: Han Solo. Cocky but lovable. R2D2, all-around good guy robot. C3PO, comic relief and a classic foil, who gets ripped apart by Sand People.
Aliens: Chewbacca the wookiee. Heroic and a good fit for Solo.
Greedo the bounty hunter. Dies with the right degree of surprise.
Jabba the Hutt. Disgusting, yet does not appear for too long in the film.
Mentor: Obi Wan Kenobi. Mysterious, powerful, wise, and cool in the clutch.
Romance interest: Princess Leia. Beautiful yet not aloof, also has sense of humor.
Villains: The Empire, Darth Vader. High-tech, ominous, powerful, yet very cool.
Plot: Luke finds out he is strong with the Force. Bad guys kill aunt, uncle, mentor. Bad guy wants to blow up rebels, Luke and his friends blow up Death Star first.

"The Empire Strikes Back"

Hero: Luke learns the Force, in practice and in study from a Master.
Sidekicks: More R2D2, less C3PO. Solo shows his own stuff, Lando Calrissian introduced but not too much film time. C3PO gets blown apart.
Aliens: generic
Mentor: Yoda the Jedi Master introduced. Very impressive, especially as he turns The Force into a real set of ideals and standards.
Romance Interest: Luke pursues the Force, Han and Leia pursue each other, but nothing too mucky for young teens.
Villains: Darth Vader, who personally kills a lot of people in the film. The Emporer introduced, suitably shadowy and creepy.
Plot: Luke learns about the Force. Many explosions, surprises, humor, tension. Vader cuts off Luke's hand, Solo is captured and turned into a slab of metal. The story is clearly left unfinished, creating appetite for next episode.

"The Return of the Jedi"

Hero: Luke becomes a full Jedi Knight.
Sidekicks: Han and Calrissian are kind of weeny in this film, so is Leia. Too much attention to C3PO, who for some reason is not blown up in this film.
Aliens: Ewoks, essentially feral teddy bears who nonetheless are able to destroy high-tech equipment with sticks and stones. NOT credible.
Mentor: None.
Romance interest: None for Luke, Han and Leia make gooey eyes at each other, satisfying no age group.
Villains: None, actually. The Emporer is scary at first, but has no defense against being thrown off a balcony. Vader dies, so does Yoda, so does Emporer, Boba Fett dies in a freak accident. Billy Dee Williams exhibits a Shatneresque level of acting ability.
Plot: Everybody's got some good in them, as long as they kill the right people.

"The Phantom Menace"

Hero: Sullen 5-year-old kid, Anakin Skywalker.
Sidekicks: None. He has no friends, except for a couple token kids who disappear when not needed to show a 'human' side to Anakin. Builds C3PO, which is reason to hate the guy later, especially as C3PO does not get blown up or ripped apart in this film.
Aliens: Slimy slavers, Jabba the Hutt returns as a gangster MC at the pod races. Otherwise, three four words explains why the movie stank: Jar Jar Freakin' Binks, who also is neither ripped apart nor blown up in the film.
Mentor: None. Obi Wan and Qui-Gon try to teach the lad, who does as he pleases.
Romance interest: None, except a creepy 5-year-old's prenaturnal desire for a teenaged princess Padme.
Villains: Generic, except for Darth Maul, who turns out to be far less imposing than the lead-up to the showdown seemed to suggest.
Plot: The Force is just blood chemistry?!?!?!? Lucas sells the family jewels for nothing! Qui-Gon dies, Darth Maul dies, hundreds of token aliens die. Jar Jar and C3PO are both allowed to live, proving there is no justice in the Lucas Universe.

"Attack of the Clowns Clones"

Hero: Sullen teenaged Anakin Skywalker
Sidekicks: None. Anakin works alone. Obi Wan hangs with him, pitifully similar to a dad trying to be 'hip' with his rebellious son.
Aliens: Generic. Jar Jar shows up again, but mercifully only in bit parts. Jar Jar and C3PO still are neither ripped apart nor blown up.
Mentor: None. The Jedi Council turns out to be just a divided, politically impotent group of old fogies, who sense a disturbance but little more.
Romance Interest: The teen wins the twenty-something princess, marries her against all common sense and which slows down an already plodding plot.
Villains: The Emporer is hinted at, various assassins and groups of business-types. Daddy Fett shows promise but never delivers.
Plot: Heavy-handed, slow-moving. Vader's mommy dies, Vader kills her murderers and everyone in the same zip code, Tens of thousands of computer-generated characters dies, Obi Wan pouts, Yoda floats around, and has an indecisive battle with Count Dooku. Jar Jar and C3PO are both still allowed to live, to the displeasure of millions.

“Revenge of the Sith”

Hero: None apparent.
Sidekicks: None apparent. Everyone is either evil or a target, it looks like.
Aliens: The wookiees show up as a group, but it’s hard to see whether Chewbacca will finally get his long-overdue chance to show his stuff at full speed. Since C3PO will show up in Episodes IV-VI, we unfortunately cannot hope for his departure, but perhaps he will be ripped apart again in some amusing fashion. My hope that Jar Jar won’t show up again, is balanced against the possibility of his on-screen demise.
Mentor: Vader learns all about Evil from the Emporer-to-be.
Villains: Lots of guys in black and lots of evil robots, along with suitable legions of fell lackeys.
Plot: Everyone either turns evil, dies, or runs away. Much merchandising.

OK, what so we see from that overview? To me, the series loses its vision, pace, and integrity right about a third of the way through Episode VI, and turns from an excellent story about ideals, heroism, and the triumph of virtue over evil, to a series of slick tricks and well-timed explosions; John Wu’s vision of the Galactic Republic. And what happens at that point in “The Return of the Jedi”? Yoda dies.

Uh-huh. Right. The little green dude is able to kick the butts of all comers for nine hundred years, hoist starfighters out of the muck by sheer concentration, and teach a condensed version of Universal Philosophy, Logic, Meditation, and Filmography to a late starter with ADD, but all of a sudden, he dies. I know why.

Lucas turned to the Dark Side, specifically he got tired of the ideals he began the story with, and he found himself in touch with his dark masters at ILM, specifically the Marketing Department.

“Geooooooooooooooooooooooooorge”, intoned the Marketing Director, “I am your faaaaaaaaaaaaatheeeeeeeeeeeeer.”

“No you’re not” replied Lucas.

“I meant your iiiiiiiiiiiiiideeeeeeeeeeeeeeological faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaather” intoned the Director.

“Oh. OK. Waddya want, and can the fake Vader talk, willya? You don’t sound near as cool as James Earl Jones.” replied Lucas.

“Fine” said the Marketing Monster. “We’ve thought of a way to get you lots and lots of money. Interested?”
“Yep” said Lucas.

“All we want is your soul” warned the Marketing head.

“Fine,” said Lucas, “I wasn’t using it anyway.”

And so the deal was made. Yoda was killed off, to be replaced with more marketable action figures, and Episodes VII through IX, which dealt with silly notions like honor and justice, were trashed. Only half the money was set aside for the future Soundtracks, which is why they’re barely half as good as the first 2 films. Jones, Ford, Hamill, and Fisher were chased off after Episode VI. ILM took possession of the souls of Lucas and the plot development team, with Jar-Jarmodeus appointed as Lucas’ familiar and demon watch-beast. After Lucas killed Yoda, hope and truth faded from the series, to be replaced by foul marketing tactics and consulting advice from Dan Rather.

It wasn’t a complete success for the Dark Side, however. Despite Lucas’ best efforts, belief in the ideals of the original Force - Justice, Honor, Courage, and Loyalty - were not lost, but were recovered and redistributed, showing up in both George W. Bush Presidential campaigns, in the Boy Scouts, in the U.S. Marine Corps, and in the confederation of new defenders of Justice and Hope, carrying names like Steyn, Hawkins, Lori, and Michelle. The FOX Network also expressed interest.

As for Lucas, he’s not in the clear. I hear the Wookiees are mad that no wookiee was made a Jedi, and they plan to pay him a visit. And they visited Darth Sidious first, to take notes.

Sunday, May 08, 2005


In the course of my writing, I had meant to discuss the Rights of Man at some length. I still mean to, but recent events have humbled me, making me see the cost and purpose of some of them rather more directly.

Amanda Twellman has arranged with Medarex to get the drug she hopes will cure her cancer, and I pray God that this is a true hope. But looking at her case from an idealist POV, I see something about how the way these ideals and rights work.

Today, I want to share thoughts about Peace. To many people, peace is fairly simple, a freedom from trouble or violence, perhaps a serenity in spirit. But years ago, I had a thought which still strikes me as the most valid definition: Peace is the sense of things being as they should be.

In the matter of Amanda Twellman, the woman faces a threat against her life. Medarex faced a threat which could potentially destroy the company and undo years of research. And thousands or blog readers were upset that a decision of this importance had to be handled in an atmosphere of conflict and bureaucracy. There could not be said to be peace in this matter for anyone.

Then an agreement was struck, privately, between the Twellman family and Medarex. The details were not released, but the effect appears to be one which is acceptable to all the concerned parties. Even though it’s far too early to know whether the drug will destroy the cancer as hoped, and even though there is a lot of hard work ahead for both the Twellmans and Medarex, one clear result is that a new condition has been created. One with peace and honor.