Always ethereal, always eclectic, I write as the mood strikes, when there intrigue reveals itself. Usually that means something controversial or adventure of some sort.

I've tried really hard to be unprovocative, but have as yet been unsuccessful.

Tuesday, 26 December 2006

Peace on Earth

I received a couple very interesting Christmas gifts just before the holiday. The first was more joyous, a letter from the GRE board in response to the note I'd placed that perhaps a particular question was culturally biased. They didn't agree with me, but I was honored that they took such a great deal of time to investigate the question and talk with some experts, and then even respond to me. And I at least got to find out that that particular question was answered correctly.

The second gift was less sanguine, coming on Friday from Irad Medical Imaging. Regular readers may recall the enjoyment of kidney stones I had previously. Well, without insurance, that left me with a $7,000 bill from two ER visits. Actually, 4 bills, from two hospitals, and 2 radiation labs. All four are contemplating my situation, and I am waiting for them to tell me if they can reduce the bill. A good thing to pray for, surely. One of the smaller bills was for Irad Medical Imaging. As soon as I got the bill I immediately called them to reiterate my poverty (as I'd mentioned it at the time of the service). They asked me to send over a mess of paperwork, which I did. A bit later I hadn't heard from them, so I contacted them, to make sure they had my correct address, and ask what the status was. They told me they were still reviewing my case.

On Friday evening I received a letter from Irad, after it was too late to call them, as they have gone home for the holidays, along with their voicemail. The letter stated that this was a final notice, that I hadn't responded to any previous requests, and if I didn't pay in full I would be referred to collections. Although quite angry at the allegations, there was nothing I could do about it till after Christmas. So in honesty, this has been hanging over me throughout the holiday, and I have been fighting to not let the worry rule me in this time.
Me opening a book on Yemen and on Christian hedonism, from me Mom.
Last Christmas found me wandering through Sana'a and Ta'izz in Yemen. This Christmas Eve and Christmas were more normal, spent with my brother Kent and my sister-in-law Trina. A small, quiet affair. Made my My brother Kent, opening a game on predicting how well you know others, from me.signature bread, had excellent Trina-prepared food, opened presents, went to sleep, had more pancakes by the same great cook, and opened more presents. Kent's cat got me a dangling cat toy; the dog got me pork slivers for dogs. (Not being as intelligent as us, pets tend to get things for others that they might enjoy My Sister-in-law Trina, opening up perfumes, from my mom.themselves.) We actually had the most fun with the cat toy, watching the cat chase us around the house. And then after he grabbed the toy chasing the cat around the house. I got the cats a cat grass chia pet. I actually have been very excited to receive two books I've been dying to read- Obama's The Audacity of Hope, and Carter's Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. Also got a toaster oven, so I can finally start making bread at home. Then we were off to the movies.

It seems like, after a great dearth over this past summer, the theatres are now flooded with Must-See movies. But for us, on this day, I must say the chief of them is The Nativity Story. It's hard to find something wrong with this movie. Mary is done by Keisha Castle-Hughes, one of the best young actresses I've seen, from the phenomenal Whale Rider. The original writing is top-notch. The directing isn't that bad either. They have really brought to life what is what like in 1st century Palestine, from the ululating zigharat at the birth of John to the cry for release from oppression of Roman taxes. This isn't Hollywood beautiful people or even white Britains in the middle of ancient Israel- these are average looking people, and very Semitic to boot. I'd imagine actually that much of the American audience would see the classic terrorist stereotype in Joseph's face, as in truth modern-day Arab Muslims are probably the closest in culture and physical appearance to the ancient Jews of any group on Earth. And there's even some extra action and humor thrown in.

But even more than the accurate culture description was really laying out what it was like for a teenager in this situation. This was a marriage true to the culture, not aligned for the comfort of Westerners in "falling in love", but the typical one of the Middle East, then and now, arranged, and difficult to accept for Mary. The movie also showed what it was like for her to be suddenly told that she was giving birth. Who's going to believe this? An angel told me? Please! She faced ostracism at the least; death was more likely. She was an unwed mother at a time when it was decidedly not popular. Although I am familiar with the story, for the first time I really saw the bravery in Mary, and what she faced, falling a vision that no one else had initially seen.

But best of all, I hadn't realized that the movie was also filmed in Morocco. Now here are two movies I've seen in a row filmed there. Here, as in Babel, I recognized Ait Benhaddou, near Oarzazet. They actually repeatedly return to this same small village, although it becomes a number of different places through the magic of Hollywood. I'm fairly sure they also visited Tubqaal as well. I saw sights that looked like the top of the mountain- even one where I could state exactly where it was, covered with scree. And I think I saw the only level stretch along that long hike up the mountain, only this time a donkey journey up from Jerusalem.

It is true, some elements were not quite kosher. The ending was a bit rushed. And they left out the little bit of the Christmas Story that no one likes to talk about- for it makes Matthew and Luke difficult to harmonize- namely the christening of Christ in Jerusalem. Honestly though, there was a reason a woman was considered impure for seven days after birth and not allowed to travel. You ever ridden a donkey? They're better than camels, I admit. But not much. There's none of the easy canter of a horse. Now imagine that you are a woman who's just given birth. No way Mary is getting up the next day for a journey to Egypt.

It's a special kind of movie that can show real life, real people, and at the same time tie me deeper into the numinous spiritual reality behind the story. Watching this, I understood better the glory of Christ, the shock and awe of His coming, and how those who bless the poor themselves find blessing.

And speaking of that, I finally was able to talk to Irad Medical this morning. They were very kind, apologizing for what had happened, and stating that the way their system works their application for charity runs concurrent with the movement towards collections. Therefore the letter sent out was automated, but accurately reflected the status of my bill. However, they are able to reduce my bill by half, to $150. I'll just need to send out a half payment this week or else it will go into collections. It turned out there was here a true Christmas gift after all.

Sunday, 17 December 2006

A Christmas Miracle

Seattle Metro does a pretty good job of helping out the handicapped. They have these fancy steps that turn into ramps, the buses can lean to one side, and the front seats fold up to belt in wheelchairs.

Today on my way to church we waited a minute for the steps to turn into a ramp, and the man rolled on to the bus. We waited another minute while he was belted in. When I'm patient as I should be I'm fine waiting for all of this. I was fine today. We drove off.

Immediately the man in the wheelchair got up out of his chair and strode to the back of the bus. It was a miracle! Granted, he had a slight limp, but otherwise he was fine. As I and the other passengers stared in consternation, he sat in the back of the bus. He waited until we came to the very next stop, and yelled at the driver to wait. He then slowly walked to the front of the bus while we watched and waited, he unbelted his chair, sat in it, and wheeled out, as the bus leaned over to accomodate him.

All of this ended up slowing the bus down an extra five minutes. As we drove off he's pushing himself up a hill backwards, using his feet.

Moroccan Babel

When you think about it, all the problems we face on this planet between people stem from different cultures, and different languages. That's the message of the new movie, Babel.

I went out to see the movie the day after the power returned to my apartment. Thousands are still without power after the worst storm in 13 years, in terms of wind speed, with 55 mph winds in downtown Seattle. I ended up having to throw out the Thanksgiving turkey. I’m still getting scratched up by downed trees on the sidewalk as the government struggles to clean the state up. At it’s high point over a million were without power. Some are not expecting power for another week.

Babel was a stunning cinematic masterpiece. A bit too graphic at times, primarily sexually, but otherwise well-done, showing how we remain connected, across the world, despite huge misunderstandings because of language. It came out quite clearly that language is culture, and culture is language. Even within a culture differences in understanding occur between the deaf and the hearing.

I loved this movie because 1/3 of it was filmed in Morocco, and even takes place there, at a place I've been to, the area around Erfoud and Ait Benhaddou. I even had friends trying out for the position of tourists on the bus. There was Dareeja Arabic throughout the movie, although not always translated completely correctly. ("Please", instead of the stronger, "May God have mercy on your parents." for "Allayrahim alwaladin.") It showed life for the Berbers in the East central desert region quite accurately, although I fear that a couple references will make people misunderstand Morocco. A shooting occurs in the desert, injuring an American tourist. Something important to understand the subtext of the movie is how rare this is and how illegal it is to even own a gun. Even the police have empty holsters. Morocco isn't dangerous, certainly not compared to Seattle, to say nothing of New York. 20,000 gun deaths last year in the U.S.; zero in Morocco. Secondly, there's a reference to not drinking the water as it could be contaminated. While it may take a bit to adjust to new bacteria in any foreign setting, I have drunk the water in most areas of Morocco without problem.

But the differences in cultures comes through the clearest perhaps in Morocco. The pivotal moment of the movie is seen in how medical treatment occurs. (To see the spoilers highlight hidden text: The Moroccan child is killed in the middle of the desert, and the police pick him up and carry him by hand. Later they watch with the villagers as the special helicopter airlifts the Americans out for medical attention- a kind of care they would never receive because of the differences in cultural history.) Throughout we are treated to the importance of privilege, simply because of birth. The country you're born in determines who you steal from. The director isn't trying to show an extreme cause-and-effect, like dominoes falling. We simply see the sadness and tragedy that befalls us, for we are all different, not understanding each other, in both language and culture. I don't believe I've ever seen another movie that so clearly shows this.

If you now live in Morocco, or have ever lived there, you must see this movie. And toot sweet.

Thursday, 14 December 2006

It was just lunch.

A few days ago I started working customer service, temporary, 3-6 weeks, at a business downtown, which shall go unnamed. Work's fine, if low-paying and a bit slow. But I was very excited about the guy sitting next to me, also a temp, also unnamed. He sounded something like Borat, but I couldn't quite place the accent. The second day I asked where he was from, and, it's Iraq! So we started in on pidgin Arabic with each other, enough so the supervisor was totally astounded and wanted to know what language we were speaking.

Today I invited him out to lunch, to go to the Thai-Moroccan place just down the street, in Pike Place Market. We sat down, and I learned he was actually a Christian, Assyrian, but unlike the church I attended recently, Catholic. I asked if he was going to any churches in the area. He said, No, he wasn't able to interact much with people, because of the mind control.

Ok, I thought. His English isn't the best. Maybe he means something different. So I asked him to explain. He did. It was a combination of manipulation and telepathy. At first he thought it was the Iraqi Intelligence Services, but then when he got here to America, he realized that it was actually the American government, along with many others. He hadn't gotten it all sorted out yet. But they are able to control those around him and him as well, in what they do, how they think, if they're interested in a woman...He realized it was safer for him and everyone else if he didn't interact too much with others.

He wasn't joking. He was completely serious, though I kept on wondering if they were making Borat II at the moment. He said he had been in the Iraqi military, and hadn't really been tortured- except for the pain he felt when they stuck something up his nose. Another physical result was the cracks in his hands he showed me, which looked to me just like slightly chapped hands, but he said leaving the window open at night helps the mind control effects stop on his hands. I asked him if there was a possibility that all this was demonic. He told me, No, because he could tell the difference between the jinn and the mind control.

It's all quite ludicrous, of course. Until I looked at his hands. There actually was something strange about them, and it wasn't that they were chapped. I couldn't quite place it at first. He had no fingerprints. At all.

Oh. And after this week, he'll start his training for his main job. He's been hired as an engineer for Boeing, helping to work to defend this country.

Monday, 11 December 2006

Why don't we just get rid of Christmas entirely then?

It all started a couple days ago. At least I realized it a couple days ago. A story broke locally that has now made national news. SeaTac, the local airport, decided to remove it's Christmas trees. Except they had never called them Christmas trees- they called them "holiday trees". They decided to remove them because a local Rabbi had complained that there were Christian symbols up, and therefore there should be Jewish symbols. He demanded a large Menorah as well, and if one wasn't put up, he'd sue the airport. (Though, to be clear, he never requested the removal of the trees.) The airport decided that, if they gave in to this request, they would then have to celebrate every single holiday, even if it was like the Zorastrians and had only 200 members in the continental U.S. (I know this to be true because I once sat next to a member of the community on the plane.)

The list of fallacies presented here rather boggles the mind. In the first place, calling them holiday trees is just silly. Everyone knows what the holiday is. It is equally silly to argue that you'd have to celebrate every minor religion. Let's just be honest. Celebrating the major religions would be polite and make your patrons happy. Just cover the five big ones in your area- Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. If there's another major one in your particular constituency (a word I use as it seems like SeaTac is running for office), then honor them too.

Thirdly, I'm sorry, but Hanukkuh isn't a big celebration for Jews around the world. It's a rather minor one. It celebrates the oil lasting for an extra eight days in the temple. This oil represented the eternal flame of God's Spirit. It's one of those aspects that is most in contention between Christians and Jews. But it's never been a big holiday for Jews, like Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur. Not until American Jews saw a need to have something during Christmas. So to demand an equally large celebration for Jews at this time is equivalent to saying that Jews need to conform their celebratory calendar to that of the Christians. It's an insult towards Jews. A way to truly honor them would be to celebrate their true high holy days when they do occur.

The fourth point is the most important. What we're talking about is two Christmases here. They both have the same name. One is attached to Christianity, and it's point is to honor the birth of Jesus, the man who was God. The other one is attached to shopping, and is to honor Santa Claus, the man who acts like a god. The trees? They have nothing to do with the Christian version. Sure, I'll give that Luther retold their symbology to suggest that their evergreen nature represented eternal life. But this was a taking of originally pagan celebrations, rather typical of Christian approaches- retell the pagan forms with new meaning. But it doesn't inherently hold that meaning, like a creche does. It is simply a pretty tree. If we are going to say we should remove the trees because they are part of a religion, well, coloured lights represent the light of God to Christians. I understand that probably wasn't their intended original meaning, but Christians have reframed the meaning. I think all Christmas lights should be removed. Christmas trees are no more Christian than is shopping at Christmas time. Perhaps that also should be banned. Now there's a fine idea.

Once it was clear there wasn't going to be a suit, they returned the trees. And then, if you want to put up religious elements, like a Mennorah, I think that's great too. Let's also put up a Christian symbol, like a creche. Or else leave it only secular symobls, like trees. But don't insult my religion by claiming that a symbol like a tree represents it.

I wasn't going to mention this whole controversy. But then, one after another, other events came to the forefont. AOL has a wonderful system, alone of the IM providers, whereby you can listen to music or news through their pop-up. I have long enjoyed them. I thought it might be nice, now that Christmas time is here, to listen to Christmas music as well. But the station kept on playing these moder rock versions. There's just something not complete when it's Christina Aguilera singing about the holidays. I thought, not to worry, in their seven holiday channels, one of them is dedicated to "Oldies Holiday". That must be the one.

I never knew there were so many secular Christmas songs! One after the other, with not a single song about Jesus, the orignal meaning of the season. Now, you can listen to Christian music online, like at AccuRadio, which has one channel devoted to a Christian Christmas. But one of the largest providers of internet music, AOL, has chosen to remove any religious connection to this holiday. Don't get me wrong. I enjoy Jingle Bells and White Christmas. I'd just like to listen to some Silent Night and Joy to the World as well.

Now the TV ads are filled with references to a "new holiday tradition", as it's being billed. There are reeated ads for a horror movie, Black Christmas, about a man killing off sorority girls on Christmas night. The ads are so gruesome you have to look away and turn the sound off during the ad- or better yet, change the channel. It's set to open Christmas Day. I'm not speaking against horror movies in general, but rather the timing. I ask you, what kind of person decides to celebrate Christmas Day by going to a horror movie? My guess? A few million people, on opening day alone.

Everywhere businesses are now insisting on wishing a "Happy Holidays" rather than "Merry Christmas", the always honorable Wal-Mart being the most notorious recent example. It is with deep chagrin that I now realize I am on the same side of the aisle as Bill O'Reilly of Fox News. But honestly, wherever you look in America, it's beginning to feel alot like...nothing to do with Christmas. It does seem as if there is a concerted regular effort to remove the Christian meaning of it all. I wouldn't say it's purposeful, or some vast conspiracy- it could easily be something far more subliminal. But again and again, the meaning of this season is driven into us. It's not about the birth of Jesus, about the Creator of the universe merging with His creation, about helping us to become divine, or the beginnings of the story of the ultimate act of sacrifice. It's not even a message about humility and debasement, choosing to give up the trappings of divinity to be born in a smelly stable and live on the run as illegal immigrants. No, today the meaning of the season is to celebrate the high holy rituals: shop, pursue happiness, celebrate Santa Claus, and get more gifts. And the best way to do that is more shopping. After all, it's the best defense against terrorism. And now, the best way to worship Jesus. Just don't mention His name. He might get offended.

Saturday, 9 December 2006

Totally Lacking in Humility

I gotta say, I rocked on the essay portion. I was pulling in quotes and personal experiences and specific scientific examples and theory left and right. We'll have to see how it turns out and whether or not the graders agree, but I feel much better about it than I did the Biology GRE.

All General GREs in the U.S. are now computerized; the Subject test is still not. (However, there has been quite a bit of controversy lately because the General GRE still lacks a paper trail.) This means that, after answering a question, you can't go back, as every question is presented depending on how you did on the previous: If you answer correctly, you get a harder question; if you answer incorrectly, you get an easier one. Kind of a nice positive feedback loop. Although they also take into account that there are certain subjects that need to be covered, so it's not a guarantee that, if you come across a really easy question, the previous question was answered incorrectly. So, I have no idea how they determine the rubric, but somehow the test is personalized for every test-taker. And, you get to see your Verbal/Math scores as soon as you finish the test.

I got 710/590. Wasn't sure what that meant till I got home. It looks like, if past years are any indication, the Verbal is good, which is surprising, as I didn't finish, and had to randomly guess the last few questions. In fact, other than reading the instructions ahead of time, I didn't do any studying for the Verbal. And it was hard! There were a number of words there that I'd never heard of, and I had to guess the meaning based on the root. The Math score is average, despite extensively studying that aspect. Of course, evidently you have to know how to determine standard deviation in your head, among other things. Why even have calculators then? But I've learned my lesson. Studying for the GRE is a bad idea. You do much better if you don't.

If you want to read more about biology, well, I've realized that the diversity of my readers may not be equally interested in everything I post. So I've moved the World Science commentaries to a separate blog, at Imagine...A Complex Creation. Please feel free to leave your thoughts there.

Friday, 8 December 2006

Viewing the Word of God

I stopped by to read the original Dead Sea Scrolls today. They're on tour, opening for Jars of Clay right now, at the Pacific Science Center.

Unfortunately as you enter you're told no pictures. Evidently the works are copyrighted. I asked, "By who? God?" Actually, it's the Israeli Antiquities Department, and the exhibit has a strong pro-Israeli feel to it, with a large section devoted to the wonders of modern Israel, and a smaller section devoted to the Bedouin discoverers of the scrolls. And there was a great written emphasis on the importance of using "BCE" and "CE"- as if there is any less cultural bias in calling the "common era" that which is has become common only in the West.

There is a lot of exhibits on how the scrolls were found and their provenance. The walk takes you through methods of determining age, like DNA and radiometric testing; the differences between papyrus and animal skins; and some interesting discussion of the Dead Sea and saline deposits, which allowed the scrolls to still exist after 2,000 years. One of the most interesting exhibits in the early portion to me was the 2,000 year old comb. The lower teeth are for combing out tangles. The upper are for combing out nits. Also I liked that there are sandals that still exist after 2,000 years, especially since my modern shoes in the best of cases only last ten years.

After an hour you reach the main point of the exhibit. In subdued lighting you wander through the fragments on display, using the portable audioguides and reading the extensive script. The lights of the displays flicker on and off so as to protect the fragile manuscripts. Though they are made of more durable animal skins they still can't last forever. Even after their discovery it was found years later that the tape used to piece them together was tearing them apart. The one exception is the copper scrolls, indicating a vast treasure at Qumran, as yet still undiscovered.

Pictured below is a fragment of Ezekiel, one of the most interesting books to the Qumran community, judging by the number of copies discovered. They also really liked Isaiah, Genesis, Exodus, and Deuteronomy. The fragment from Isaiah was from 2nd Isaiah, as I recall. Some were sectarian works, describing how to perform Essene rituals. There were also apocryphal and pseudepigraphical works on display, like the War Rule , which described how the Essenes would one day rise up and destroy the infidels, ushering in the Kingdom of God. It made me glad that their vision didn't become reality, but how close we came to that kind of religion.

For there are more hints in the pseudepigraphical works of a desire for Son of God, who would rule over the land, bringing war, and then eternal peace. There was also a prophecy of the Seed of David to come. It indicated that the hopes found in the current Bible were in the general cultural milieu of the time, a desire for a coming king in line with the kings of old. This is especially true in Pseudo-Daniel and Pseudo-Ezekiel. But as with the Jews at the time of Jesus, the Essenes would have found him quite disappointing. For he refused the path of retribution over the Roman authorities, instead choosing something much more difficult.

To large measure these documents are the same as the Septuagint, though they follow the Masoretic more closely. Some, obviously, like the Psalms, indicate more textual differences, being that they were poetry, and less exacting in language. This is seen in all the footnotes for alternate readings one finds in one's Bible when reading through the Psalms and other poetry. But it is encouraging to see how well preserved our documents are, with only occasional differences in a letter or word, even after 2,000 years. Indeed, when accounting for the larger size of the Bible against the Qur'an, the degree of textual variance is the same. (Actually, it's a little higher in the Qur'an, but not at a statistically relevant level.) It gives a degree of confidence in the Word of God.

I must confess a certain thrill, at seeing these documents which have played such a role in revealing to us our holy texts. To think of people reading over these texts 2,000 years ago, contemplating God's message, trying to understand what God had to say to them. The highest moment was coming to part of Exodus, and seeing the Tetragrammaton on display there in the center leaf, and at least in three other places in that fragment. The very name of God, too holy to be truly written, there, 2,000 years ago.

Monday, 4 December 2006

@ The Movies

I've just seen two amazing films which came in the mail on successive days. The first I saw four years ago, at the Seattle Arab Film Festival. Then I moved to Morocco for three years and learned some of the language and culture. I just now saw it through Blockbuster's DVD by Mail program- Ali Zaoua: Prince of the Streets.

As Hideous Kinky shows a truer portrayal of Morocco than any other movie I've seen, so Ali Zaoua shows the real Casablanca. Casablanca, Dar Baida, is not like the rest of Morocco. It's big, dirty, ugly, and gritty. What it has going for it is the people. Six million of them, with three million living in shanty towns, and the rest struggling to find work and live in poverty. Dar Baida has the potential, to live with and care for the poor. This is what this movie shows. It is about kids, sniffing glue, experiencing the horror of life on the streets, with mothers as prostitutes- all life so real it's difficult to take it in. It also shows some of the hope they have; some of it tied to that greatest of all football teams, Raja.

I was just overcome with nostalgia as I watched this. Here was not only my favorite team, but the Dareeja I had grown to know and love (sometimes not completely accurately translated), the schoolgirls in white frocks, the red taxi cabs, the beggars, the docks, the Twin Towers- it brought back many fond memories as I played it over and over again to catch every nuance. For anyone interested in Morocco, or living there, I would highly recommend it. And all those times when you wished for some medium of a story in Dareeja- here it is, complete with subtitles.

The second movie was one I've mentioned afore in late August. Late last month my dad's narration of the movie Frisbee: The Life and Death of a Hippie Preacher showed on KQED. Frisbee is about the guy who comes the closest to being the founding father of the Jesus Movement. It was due to him that Calvary Chapel and Vineyard exist at all. He was there not only on the nights when the Spirit came down initially in those two churches, back when they were an Assembly of God and a Calvary respectively, but he was the impetus for their growth and the movement of the Spirit. He was the evangelist, healer, and exorcist of those churches- not Chuck Smith or John Wimbur, for all the good that they did do. He was there at Fuller Seminary the night Peter Wagner first realized about Signs and Wonders. This movie describes the power that flowed through Lonnie, which even the skeptics couldn't deny. People wary of charlatans were impressed at how the presence of the Holy Spirit was palpable when Lonnie was present.

But he's been erased from the histories of Calvary and Vineyard. As I realized how he was linked to these different pivotal moments in recent Spirit history, I tried to do a paper on him at one point when I was at Fuller. But I couldn't get Wimbur or Smith to return my calls, Lonnie the Baptizerdespite a rather high profile last name. The best I got was a note from Wimbur's son saying he was too busy. At the time I didn't realize the controversy I was stepping into.

What do you do when the founder of your church turns out to be gay? What do you do when the impetus of the growth of your movement struggles with bitterness and doesn't seem to care at all about working on a healthy relationship with his wife? What do you do when a man obviously filled with the Holy Spirit dies of AIDS? This is the story the movie addresses. David di Sabatino calls this a Biblical story, for it is the story of how God uses tragically flawed people to show His glory greater. He uses Deborah, Gideon, Sampson, Delilah, David, Peter... the list goes on and on, for not many of us were wise in the eyes of the world, or great, or glorious. That is the brilliance of Christianity, and of Christ's message. He uses the weak to confound the strong.

This movie speaks powerfully to me. When I was 13, living on the Big Island of Hawaii, I briefly met Lonnie, just before he died. He was leading a prayer time, and he laid hands on me, and the Spirit came down powerfully, perhaps for the first time for me, as Lonnie prophesied about events in my future.

I think of my Dad, and the things he's done for the Kingdom, with thousands coming to Christ through his work. But he's made mistakes at times, and like Lonnie, I am impressed at how he's been written out of histories as inconvenient.

I think of myself, and the struggles I have around evolution. I don't see it as an error, but rather a scarlet E. Seeing the power of God in it, affirming the science behind it, has closed doors to me in the Evangelical world, both in the past and the future. I think of how we all have ways we are the 100th sheep, and ostracized because we don't fit the mold- or ostracize others because they don't fit our box of who God would want. That's what this movie is about.

Sunday, 3 December 2006

Test Day

The day of the test actually began early this morning, when my neighbors came home at 2, and 3:30, as they're wont to do, making a great deal of noise. Leaving me with about two hours of sleep by the time I was able to fall asleep again. So I was fighting fatigue throughout the Biology GRE. I plan to use that as the excuse.

It was hard. 200 questions. It's a bit frustrating, as it doesn't really test the skills I would need for the field I'm interested in. Happily, many marine bio programs don't require the Bio GRE.

We had to sign a document to not reveal what was on the test, so I'll have to write the test details in hidden text- highlight to reveal:

Are you kidding me? It's illegal to share GRE Test details!

But in general terms, I'm glad I reviewed the cellular info, as it helped significantly- but there were still a lot of questions I left blank. Studying more wouldn't really have helped. Studying more plant life definitely would have helped; I had forgotten to do that. My friend Anne would have done great on those questions. And the experimental questions were even more difficult- they required you to know experimental procedure, and the intimate biological details of each experiment. This required time to answer them, and I didn't pace myself well. But I aced the marine biology questions. Both of them.

The most intriguing moment was actually after the test was over. The two proctors told us to put pencils down, which we did. Then five seconds later, one of the proctors said loudly to a woman in front of her, "Put the pencil down now!" She was still busily marking ovals. And she kept right on doing it, as if she didn't hear the proctor. So the proctor repeated it, but shouting now. And the test taker continued. This went on about four or five times, as the test taker continued taking the test a full thirty seconds after the end. Finally the proctor is yelling at her right in front of her face, and the woman stops filling in the ovals, and the test is grabbed. I was shocked. It's the kind of thing I expect from high school students, not an adult working to get into graduate school. Here she spent time studying, and $130, all down the drain. And I'd guess there will be some sort of mark on her record for attempting to cheat.

The next GRE will be on Friday- the general. I'm not so concerned about the English portion, but I need to brush up on algebra and geometry this week. My Bio scores will come in in six weeks, at which point I'll see if I want to retake that test.

Friday, 1 December 2006

Thank You For Hearing Me

It's now been a year since my first post. And you listened. What started as a travelblog has evolved through a number of morphs. Originally discussing life in Morocco, the blog is now in the Beta edition, and rarely discusses travel, having moved to the struggle of re-adapting to life in America, and dwelling on the the impressiveness of God's work in life and His intricacy within evolution. Recent reviews started to be posted on the sidebar, as are other's blogs by nation of residence. And I started up my first regular feature, a natural history commentary of an article on the latest scientific developments, as detailed in World Science, which has become so regular it's now moved to a separate blog, Imagine...A Complex Creation. I'm trying to post the unusual and interesting here- what would be worth reading. But I have such a wide audience, it's hard to do. Tales of new advances in America might be interesting for my Moroccan readers, but fairly passe for the typical American.

It's been quite an eventful year since I began blogging. I had a dream fulfilled and visited Yemen. Then more dreams become reality: seeing the Pope, and visiting the land of the man who most inspires me, St. Francis. I had an experience of death and resurrection in a stroke on Easter Day. Lisa and I put on the multi-disciplinary 2nd Annual Science Fair and a week later with Joe and Elissa, the musical Oliver. As if that wasn't enough, I left my home and moved to the other side of the world, saying goodbye to close friends, dreams, and a substantial part of my life. I then realized God was calling me into a major paradigm shift in how I see myself and my future. Shortly thereafter I received the gift of kidney stones. And tomorrow I pursue the first concrete step in this new life, with the Biology GRE. Let no one say this has been a mundane year.