Monday, April 23, 2007

On A Happier Note...

My brother and sister-in-law have some pretty exciting news.

VT: One Week Later

A week after the shooting rampage at Virginia Tech, I have so many thoughts and opinions to share, but very little time to write them out. Perhaps I will compile and edit my thoughts soon, but until then, I will simply post some articles that I found compelling and helpful during the days following the tragedy.

On our culture of passivity
Mark Steyn writes I haven’t weighed in yet on Virginia Tech — mainly because, in a saner world, it would not be the kind of incident one needed to have a partisan opinion on. But I was giving a couple of speeches in Minnesota yesterday and I was asked about it and found myself more and more disturbed by the tone of the coverage. Read the rest here.

Nathianel Blake wonders, Where Were the Men? and, just for asking, gets called the "worst person of the year"

Weighing in on the tragedy...
Doug Phillips:
Thousands will be deeply affected, probably for the rest of their lives. The most serious pains belong to the mothers, fathers, and sisters and brothers of the murdered victims. What shall we say to them? What are we to learn from these events?
Read here.

Doug Wilson on VT and atheism:
Let's tie two timely issues together. This is sometimes dangerous, because when issues are timely, they are also frequently raw, and this means that it is easy to be misunderstood. But I will try to state this basic argument against atheism as briefly and as clearly as I can.
Read more.

Resources and Statistics
Desiring God posts helpful resources for those who want to know how to respond to tragedy.

Ligonier offers this month's Tabletalk online.

George Barna has some interesting, insightful statistics.

The BBC weighs in with their opinion on gun control. They try to be balanced, but still come off sounding as though we would be better off if we, like the UK, banned firearms altogether. Thankfully, they were honest enough to provide this statistic:
There are no recent statistics available but UN figures from 2000 showed for every 10,000 Americans, 0.3 were killed by firearms... In Switzerland where every man of military age is required to keep a gun at home as part of the country's civil defence policy, the number of deaths per 10,000 population was 0.05. (emphasis mine)

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Abraham at the DesiringGod blog revisits Pearls Before Breakfast:

Here's a clarification: I don't think it was actually wrong to be one of those who walked past without the least interest. It's no more wrong to ignore Mr. Bell and his violin than it is to ignore an old man with a 3-string guitar playing bad covers of Bob Dylan. My point was to draw a comparison between Bell and God--both creating beauty and being disregarded. It is only immoral to ignore the beauty of the latter.

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

What If You Had Been There... ?

It was little more than a year ago that I had the incredible opportunity to see Joshua Bell in concert. It was very exciting for me to be able to see one of my favorite classical musicians perform in person. Better still, I sat front and center, only about 5 rows from the stage. He stood near the stage's edge, close to the crowds, and every move he made, every facial expression, even the sweat on his face was visible to me. It was a packed house that night and thunderous applause was sustained through several curtain calls and an encore. This is not surprising since this renowned, uber-talented violinist plays to crowded venues all over the world. Joshua Bell's cd's are good, but better still is it to hear him in person. It is music that is indescribable and leaves the audience breathless.

It was more than amazing, then, to read this Washington Post article about an experiment involving Joshua Bell that they staged in January with the famous artist. The article is long, but worth the reading time involved (it does contain some mild language). If you do nothing else, be sure to watch the videos that the Washington Post reporters took of the Avery Fisher winning artist performing to - not the crowds at the Carnegie, or the crowned heads of Europe, but- the bustling, rushing, working class crowds at the L'Enfant Plaza in D.C.

(I have condensed the article for those needing some background on the story before watching the videos)

At the top of the escalators are a shoeshine stand and a busy kiosk that sells newspapers, lottery tickets and a wallfull of magazines with titles such as Mammazons and Girls of Barely Legal. The skin mags move, but it's that lottery ticket dispenser that stays the busiest, with customers queuing up for Daily 6 lotto and Powerball and the ultimate suckers' bait, those pamphlets that sell random number combinations purporting to be "hot." They sell briskly. There's also a quick-check machine to slide in your lotto ticket, post-drawing, to see if you've won. Beneath it is a forlorn pile of crumpled slips.

On Friday, January 12, the people waiting in the lottery line looking for a long shot would get a lucky break -- a free, close-up ticket to a concert by one of the world's most famous musicians -- but only if they were of a mind to take note.

In the three-quarters of an hour that Joshua Bell played, seven people stopped what they were doing to hang around and take in the performance, at least for a minute. Twenty-seven gave money, most of them on the run -- for a total of $32 and change. That leaves the 1,070 people who hurried by, oblivious, many only three feet away, few even turning to look.

It was all videotaped by a hidden camera. You can play the recording once or 15 times, and it never gets any easier to watch. Try speeding it up, and it becomes one of those herky-jerky World War I-era silent newsreels. The people scurry by in comical little hops and starts, cups of coffee in their hands, cellphones at their ears, ID tags slapping at their bellies, a grim danse macabre to indifference, inertia and the dingy, gray rush of modernity.

There was no ethnic or demographic pattern to distinguish the people who stayed to watch Bell, or the ones who gave money, from that vast majority who hurried on past, unheeding. Whites, blacks and Asians, young and old, men and women, were represented in all three groups. But the behavior of one demographic remained absolutely consistent. Every single time a child walked past, he or she tried to stop and watch. And every single time, a parent scooted the kid away.

As it happens, exactly one person recognized Bell, and she didn't arrive until near the very end. For Stacy Furukawa, a demographer at the Commerce Department, there was no doubt. She doesn't know much about classical music, but she had been in the audience three weeks earlier, at Bell's free concert at the Library of Congress. And here he was, the international virtuoso, sawing away, begging for money. She had no idea what the heck was going on, but whatever it was, she wasn't about to miss it.

Furukawa positioned herself 10 feet away from Bell, front row, center. She had a huge grin on her face. The grin, and Furukawa, remained planted in that spot until the end.

"It was the most astonishing thing I've ever seen in Washington," Furukawa says. "Joshua Bell was standing there playing at rush hour, and people were not stopping, and not even looking, and some were flipping quarters at him! Quarters! I wouldn't do that to anybody. I was thinking, Omigosh, what kind of a city do I live in that this could happen?"

When it was over, Furukawa introduced herself to Bell, and tossed in a twenty. Not counting that -- it was tainted by recognition -- the final haul for his 43 minutes of playing was $32.17. Yes, some people gave pennies.

What would you have done if you had been one of the 1,000 people who had passed Joshua Bell that day? It's a question that, if I am honest with myself, I am ashamed to answer.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Happy Resurrection Day!

How deep the Father's love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
And make a wretch His treasure
How great the pain of searing loss
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the man upon the cross
My sin upon His shoulder
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection
Why should I gain from His reward
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

© 1995 Kingsway's Thankyou Music (Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing)

The story behind the song here.
More Resurrection Day songs here.
My personal favorites here and here.

How did God take evil, despicable people like us and make us acceptable? By the most evil, despicable deed ever committed.

God reconciled sinners to himself through the blood of the cross. Murder is the extent of hatred—we cannot be farther from God than when we murdered him!—yet that is how he made peace with us. We can draw near to God because of the very act that pushed us the farthest away from him.

Read the rest here.