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Archive for the ‘about me’ Category

I woke up with a bad case of pride

Posted by Chris on July 7, 2010

The last week and a half I’ve had some “spiritual sickness.”  A dryness in my throat instead of streams of living water; heart arrythmia instead of a strong heart united with Christ; a ragged body bearing poor fruit failing to live up to the promise that a good tree bears only good fruit– it cannot bear bad fruit.

My brief time in the scriptures had been good, and I came here to meditate further on what I’d read.  I don’t want this to be another time in my life that I look back on shamefully, disappointed with what I did do and didn’t do.

You see, this is a period of dryness in my external circumstances.  My wife of one year has moved 6 hours away.  10 days before I will move, she left.  She took with her my heart and my passions.  Rather than ask the Lord for more passion– passion for him, for life, for friends– I have been happy when talking to her but just existent at other times.  I’m not moping around, but there is no visible presence of Jesus Christ in my life beyond the grace of God which persists unfairly in my actions probably because of habit.  Sometimes (thankfully) I can’t help but do the right thing.  That’s my Wednesday morning 7am definition of sanctification.

But it need not be a time of spiritual dryness.  Would the Lord return to me and bless me and reconcile himself to me today?  The answer I knew would be yes if I only allowed it to be so!  Why did I wait so long?  Why, when in other similar times of dryness on the outside I’ve witnessed the same failures rise within me?

The Lord spoke to me an answer the other day when I did open the scriptures:

[23] Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, [24] but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.” Jeremiah 9:23-24

Boasting.  It’s not a problem.  The object of our boasting; that’s the problem.  Not in our wisdom, strength, or riches– that’s pride.  That’s what I’ve had.  It’s not walking around with a sense of superiority, or looking down on others.  My pride found itself in the foolish thought that my righteousness this week would be found in the amount of packing and cleaning I got done around our apartment, cultivating an environment of work and busybodiness that left no room for God.

In meditating on this verse this morning, I followed the verse references in my Bible to a few other gems.  First, some verses that expounded on the consequences of boasting in the wrong things.

Proverbs 11:28: Whoever trusts in his riches will fall.

Jer 48:7: because you trusted in your works and your treasures, you also shall be taken and… go into exile

Jer 49:4-5: Why do you boast of your valleys… saying, ‘Who will come against me?’   Behold, I will bring terror upon you,

Ezekiel 24:4-7: your heart has become proud in your wealth… therefore, behold, I will bring foreigners upon you

Trusting in your own things leads one to fall, be taken captive, under terror.  Because you own heart is proud.  The antidote is found in v24 above, boasting about knowing God.  Some verses to expand that include:

Psalm 34:2: My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the humble hear and be glad

Gal 6:14: But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.

How do I keep falling in this trap?  A really interesting verse in 1 Kings told me what I already knew but failed to remember lately.

And the king of Israel answered, “Tell him, ‘Let not him who straps on his armor boast himself as he who takes it off.’” 1 Kings 20:11

What does this even mean?  The ESV study note says

It is unwise to boast about one’s exploits before the battle has even begun; there is time enough for boasting when the battle is won.

That’s my problem.  I keep acting like the battle is over.  It’s not.  On Friday, 5 days in to my time without my wife, a dangerous thought came to me: “I’m doing pretty well.”  Instead, that was the sign that I was losing the battle.  Lord, help me to boast in you and not in my own strength; remind me that the battle is not yet over.

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The credit card thief apprehended…

Posted by Chris on March 8, 2009

This is a continuation of this story/post.

It was a woman that I knew.  At least, I had met her several times and spoken with her briefly.  Originally, she was the wife of a friend of a friend.  So there were several degrees of separation and besides helping she and her husband out a few times (putting them up in a motel for a friend who reimbursed me, buying them some food), I barely interacted with her and had not spoken with her for several months.

I ID’d the photo and the detective said he already had leads and ended up arresting her that day.  A few days later I called and she was no longer in jail.

A few disconcerting things I’ve learned since then: she is very familiar with other social service providers/folks in the community.  And her reputation is not a good one and several people I spoke to knew she was in jail and were not surprised to hear what had happened.  It is likely that they played my friend and played him big time.  What do you do with that?  How do you keep that from creating bitterness, either towards them or towards others who lead transient lifestyles?  I wanted to protect my friend from that knowledge, but unfortunately he was dragged into it because she dropped his name to the police and he received a call.  So now he knows, or can at least presume, at the deception.

There were a few other ways that she and her husband betrayed the trust given them and exhibited poor stewardship in the investment others made in them with time and money (and probably love/emotions, though that’s harder to measure and is just as much about the person giving as the person receiving).   I won’t go into any details.

I saw her husband recently while he and I were in the same room– me doing tax prep volunteering, he one of the clients  that day.  It was awkward.  I don’t know if that was my perception/expectation and he was just having a bad day, or if there was real tension.  If he wasn’t a part of it, I will assume he at least knew by this point what had happened and would expect he knew that she was using my credit card, though he could have believed it was with my permission.  (her story to the police was that it was my card #, given to her by one of my friends who had asked if I was willing to help them out).

So what do I do with that relationship, if that’s what you can call it?  I have no negative feelings towards her husband, but am I adding a burden or possibly entering into a conflict by trying to reach out to him in some way?  Or in just talking to him if I see him at the library?  I don’t know.

I have not heard from the police again, though I did receive a copy of the charges and a victim packet from the State’s Attorney’s office.  I returned that and haven’t heard from them either.  I will plan on this being the end unless something crazy happens.

Anyway, I hope this has provided some clarity about what to do if your credit card info is stolen/used, how the justice system works, and provokes thinking about what to do when we’re a victim.

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Introduction to my ethics

Posted by Chris on March 4, 2009

I have a lot of interest in ethics. I’ve got my own brand of ethics I guess you could say, and rather than try and explain it on a theoretical level, it would be easier to just do application. I have some favorite principles that I’ll briefly list and discuss.

1) Human rights discourses and contradictions. One of my favorite classes in college was Anthropology of Human Rights. Among other things, we looked at lists and beliefs in human rights and how they were often mutually exclusive. For example (I wrote my research paper on this) the United Nations supports full abortion rights yet comes down strongly against female feticide, aka targeted abortion of female fetuses. The UN, in its various human rights discourses, contradicts itself.

2) If at all possible, be libertarian. I prefer less laws, not more laws. I am (this is a generality) for legislating morality when it directly harms the object receiving the action (drunk driving, murder) but okay with allowing things, even if I think they’re immoral, if it only has an indirect effect (adultery, the argument for the legalization of drugs).

3) I’m a Christian. This impacts my moral beliefs. It impacts my goals of ethics and when and which exceptions I make to the above rules. Also, it adds a factor foreign to secular ethics’ discussions: the value of God’s character and sovereignty. Therefore an act can be unethical merely because it harms God, even if (for the sake of argument) it harms no one else.

I only expect or care to discuss the character of God and the significance to ethics with other Christians who affirm the same thing. I do not expect others with different preconditions to care about this line of reasoning, in fact, they should not be persuaded in this manner.

However, believers and non should understand that my Christian faith is the back drop for the final two principles, motives and conscience.

4) Motives matter. Ex a) if someone is drowning and you try to save them and they die, good. If someone is drowning and you don’t want to risk your own life and do nothing, bad. Same outcome, different motives, different ethical conclusion.

5) Conscience. We should follow it. This should be the final word, but it’s not because we are imperfect, sinful people. Many people have followed their convictions into doing very bad things. “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” So it’s not infallible, but in situations in which the right thing to do is not clear, it is a guide. Furthermore, it can be the determining factor of what is and is not ethical. If your conscience says go ahead, you should, and if it says to stop, stop.

Finally, the application is to find consistency. That’s the goal. It’s very impractical to have to think through every single ethical quandary. So you want to find principles and then apply them consistently. An example would be the Hippocratic Oath’s “Do no harm.” That lets you know (if you decide Do No Harm is a principle you assert) that murder is wrong, defending yourself with a weapon is wrong, etc…

I often argue my point by finding inconsistencies in another event or person’s position or circumstance.

Posted in about me, ethics, human rights | 2 Comments »

The credit card thief identified… pt1

Posted by Chris on February 4, 2009

This is a continuation of this story/post.  I really didn’t expect to hear anything else on this credit card case from the police, unless it was way later.  But i’ve been called two more times by police officers.  The first was by the same cop who had followed up the first time, gathering information because they were going to try to look at surveillance video.  I ended up providing names of homeless people I know especially those that I’ve put up in a hotel with my credit card.

The second call was today.  It was someone new, saying the case was transferred to his department (investigations maybe?).  They know who it was!  He gave me a name.  It might mean something to me.  He’s coming by my work tomorrow to show me a picture from the ID that they showed once.  So… I will leave this off here with some suspense.

This person has several warrants therefore nothing would happen until they found her (I presume they do not know her exact whereabouts for that reason, in other words).  So, either way, they will be looking for her.  My experience knowing a couple of people with warrants here is that it can be some time… on minor charges, there’s not these movie-like “APB’s for Mr. X who fits this description”.  The cops, at least some of them, know these people by name, have known them for some time.  And they don’t walk around with a mental list of who’s got warrants, so you’ve got to either have that info in mind, or be given a reason to be suspicious to look them up… and that’s after coming across the person.

Anyway, he implied that I would be making a decision whether or not to press charges.  I didn’t anticipate that.  I figured that they stole from Chase Bank, not me– I guess they stole my identity?!  This is a FELONY he said– scary.  Maybe that’s for the identity theft part of it?

What will I do if that’s the case?  Will it matter if I know the person?  Does it matter to me that it’s a woman?  (Hint: I might be slightly less likely to press charges against a woman– sorry ladies who want equal treatment– I still think you should get equal pay for equal work!  But call me a sexist if you want to).

I’m glad he’s showing me the picture tomorrow.  I don’t know that having a lot of time to think about it before seeing it would really help.

Other observations:

  • I’m really impressed with the Police Dept.  They didn’t give up quickly, but then the case didn’t die out.
  • It’s got a “cool vibe” to it.  Admittedly, that’s probably the voyeur/desire to live vicariously in me.  Too much watching TV over the years and developing unrealistic ideas of suspense and excitement.
  • I really want to mourn for the people doing this.  And if I press charges, it’s not out of malice.  Hate the crime, love the criminal.  Especially those who, even though they could go about it a million different ways, were committing a crime for which part of the motivation was a warm bed on a cold night.

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Ramblings on the swearing-in of President Obama

Posted by Chris on January 21, 2009

Today (his first day in office) he passed a series of orders that (so cnn.com says) mandate high ethical standards and transparency for his officials/appointments. It would be about time. I think he means it; not sure if it will happen. And I think it’s dangerous because to me, transparency is transparency. No secret wars, no propping up of dictators, no operating through proxies, no paying private military companies or paid foreign soldiers. Not only a lack of motives, but to me it means the presence of explanations—why we do something, of the factors involved in a decision, honest evaluation of decisions (and admitting mistakes). Thanks for setting the bar high, President Obama—but now I’m going to hold you to it.

The other things people are looking for him to do worry me or at least cause some hesitation. He seems poised to prepare a 16 month-ish withdrawal plan from Iraq—I’m glad he’s doing what he promised; I’m unsure of what the best thing to do is. Revoking the “Mexico City policy” aka the “Global gag rule.” (Google it). While I’m pro-life, I’m also pragmatic and democratic—the election of Obama is certainly an indicator of what a majority of Americans would think about this. This policy doesn’t directly impact lives, like abortion laws in the US, some I hesitate to protest based purely on moral reasons. It’s all about goals—and it’s pretty clear that it’s the goal of most of the wealthy, western world to have less people in the poor parts of the world. There are certainly understandable reasons for this (wanting to limit the effects of poverty, disease, etc…). I don’t share that goal, for both pragmatic and moral reasons, but primarily theological reasons that I don’t expect others to agree with and do not think should impact legislation/administration—the idea of the sovereignty of God; trusting it; and knowing that it’s good.

I’m certainly not excited. That’s probably got more to do with my personality than my thoughts on Mr. Obama. I wouldn’t be excited if Mr. McCain were stepping into the office either. Either way, I was going to have a heavy heart (and that’s why, ultimately, I abstained from voting for president). I’d call my state of mind “dubiously hopeful.”

I don’t expect my life to be changed much by any of this. I realized during this election season that my local officials probably had much more to do with my quality of life—I don’t discount the importance of national elections, but it elevated for me the importance of making educated decisions about local and county elections. I do think my life may be adversely affected in a way I cannot easily perceive—the amount of debt we will ring up under Obama’s economic plan (I’m sure this would have happened some under McCain as well). It is our debt. It will be paid with my taxes, or cuts in my Mom’s social security, or cause us to have a less desirable relationship with our national creditors (i.e. China) during the course of my adult life.

In the words of Derek Webb in his song “King and a Kingdom”

My first allegiance is not to a man, a country or a flag; my first allegiance is not to democracy or blood. It’s to a king and a kingdom.

Some of the enthusiasm on the parts of many Americans is really weird to me, sometimes downright frightening. It made me very uncomfortable to hear “O-BA-MA” chants. Maybe I should look at sporting events and fans in the same cynical light, however, this seems far too significant and sober and real for this kind of exultation. Because I worry that it is intentionally much more than exultation; exaltation. He is just a man.

Of course, I am pleased that we have a black president. This is truly historic. Admittedly, I haven’t thought about it much lately. The economy and other things seem to provide opportunities for our president to make much more significant things happen, besides just being the first of a demographic category. Which is kind of cool.

I don’t get the religious/spiritual stuff that has gone on around this inauguration. Many were up-in-arms about Rick Warren’s invitation to pray (“How dare Rick Warren believe what he believe!). Atheists sued to remove the language of God. Mr. Obama had several people pray and went to a prayer service the next morning. I have not heard any liberals say or write negative things about Mr. Obama. Why is none of the anti-christian and anti-religion talk directed at him? Because he ascribes to a watered-down (my words), universalized (his words) version of the faith? He still affirmed that Jesus died for his sins, the thought which one British theologian dismissed as “cosmic child abuse” and the theological tenet that offends many and has offended many for 2000 years. In some ways, he’s what I always hoped for: a Christian who could affirm something like that and everyone love him because of all the other fruits of his life! But I really can’t believe that is the case. What’s the deal? Mr. Obama invited Rick Warren. He schmoozed with him at his church. He quoted scripture, invoked God, and cheered other invocations of God.

I want to develop a habit of praying for this man/administration/government. Not because of something inherent about him, but, it’s like important and stuff. I doubt I’m going to pray as fervently or want to prioritize like some I knew growing up (for whom praying for our “presidents and leaders” was near the top of the list) but at this time it’s needed. While I disagree with him strongly on some issues, I do believe that he is concerned with what works and overall is someone with a somewhat similar moral compass. I believe he’s open-minded thus I feel that praying that God would grant him discernment and wisdom and the proper understanding on certain issues is actually something he’s humble and flexible enough to submit to.

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Three times in one calendar year!

Posted by Chris on January 21, 2009

I commented on this before here.  As a summary, in March-ish of 2008 someone stole money out of my wallet (I think, and I think I know who, and when/how, but can’t prove it).  And in August, someone broke into my apartment and stole cash, a borrowed iPod, checks, my passport (I think), and who knows what else that I’m not missing.  Each time I filed a police report.

 

The latest incident was more fortunate—for me at least.  My credit card was used at five different motel/hotels in town in about one week.  I discovered two of the transactions as I checked my account activity online.  The card was in my possession the entire time.  I reported this to the bank as fraudulent activity and filed a police report.  My goals in writing this post are to do the following: explain (i.e. provide some reassurance as to how the process works) how I took care of this with the bank; talk about working with the police; and my personal feelings/what I’ve learned.

 

Working with the bank

This was the easiest part, and I knew it would be.  As consumers in the USA, we have some really cushy laws protecting us when it comes to credit card fraud.  First, the credit card provide cannot hold you liable to more than $50 in the event of theft, regardless of the amount charged.  Many times, they will waive it completely.  That was my experience.  I’m not a huge Chase fan, but they deserve some praise here.  I have a Chase/VISA Amazon.com card so I will give them all merits in this case.

 

***It is important to know that Debit cards don’t have nearly as much protection.  You are only liable to $50, IF you inform the bank within 48 hours of learning of the fraud.  There may be a limit for credit cards but it is much longer.  This is one reason some people advise people to use credit cards rather than debit/check cards, though there are probably many more reasons to use Debit (primarily, to avoid getting yourself in debt).***

 

I was on the phone with Chase for about 15 minutes over two conversations.  They mailed me something (which showed that there were actually 5 frauds) and had me verify what I did not purchase, I sent it back, and they cancelled the transactions.  They cancelled my card and had me a new one within 1.5 weeks.  I give them an A- overall, my only complaints being the time to wait for a new card (it was around Christmas and some people might really “need” the card so they could put themselves into debt buying gifts :-/) and a letter I received that said to call someone but I never received a call back.

 

A week or so later, I decided to file a police report as well (for more on my motivations, read here).  This was not necessary for self-preservation reasons, and if you’re shaken up or just “want to put it all behind you” then maybe you decide not to do this.  Otherwise, you should, as it can help to prevent this in the future and may have some therapeutic affects as well.  Since it was not a crime that occurred at a specific time and place, I went by the station on a day off.  After waiting about 15 minutes, an officer called me into a room and took my information, what happened, etc… It was very easy, though more time-consuming than speaking on the phone with Chase.

 

About two weeks later, I received a call from another officer who had been investigating.  She told me that one of the hotels were told on the phone that it was a “reservation for a homeless person.”  This is helpful for me, in identifying what I may have done to compromise my information and how I could prevent this in the future. (However, I already suspected such, and will probably not act differently in the future, as far as helping out the homeless goes.  Unless I’m told that a specific action of mine got my credit card # in someone else’s hands, I’m not going to change my whole life and make entirely different decisions).  This makes me think that I may know the person and it may not be random, though the first officer told me that this crime is very common here.

 

Another two weeks have passed and I have not heard anything else.  Is this someone I know?  If yes, then perhaps my ignorance is not good.  Otherwise, I’m not worried.  Hopefully if this happens to you things will work out just as well.

Posted in about me, personal finance | 1 Comment »

secondhand ear pollution

Posted by Chris on October 10, 2008

I’m sitting outside of Atlanta Bread Company, working on some various and sundry writing/studying things, and there are three middle-aged women carrying on somewhat loudly a few tables down.  Thankfully, I’ve been in the zone and have some music on so I’ve been able to tune them out.  However, a few moments ago, I shifted tasks, let down my guard, while one of them got especially riled up.

What do I hear?  Something I’d really rather not hear.

Oh, she got her tubes tied.  Because I was like, ‘When is she going to stop reproducing’?

What a disgusting thing to say, and likely about one of your friends or co-workers.  My town has taken the progressive step to ban smoking in all restaurants and bars to prevent the effects of secondhand smoke; it’s too bad we can’t ban this kind of insensitive, gossipy chatter.

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Hebrews 13 challenges this morning

Posted by Chris on September 1, 2008

Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.

  • I know someone who was just sent to prison.  When he was in jail, it was easy to take a few hours to go have a 20 min visit with him every week or every other week.  Now, he’s much farther away.  Will I write?  Will I visit?  What should I do?

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have

  • I will have a fat checking account soon- several weeks of overtime, a returned security deposit, and new cheap rent will do that to you.  The money is not going to stay there.  What will I save?  What will I give?

It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by ceremonial foods, which are of no value to those who eat them.

  • I like spending time alone.  Circumstances in life have made that less frequent than in the past, but these are good circumstances.  I have my internet surfing, sports-following, other private hobbies that I’ve used to strengthen myself- in a sense, my ceremonial food.  Will I be selfish and make sure I get that no matter what?  Or will I approach the throne of grace and ask in my time of need?

And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

  • As I’ve become busier, it’s been easier to feel justified in turning down opportunities to do good.  I’ve also had to make choices between two or more things that are intrinsically good- such as honoring scheduled time with a friend vs. spending time with someone who may benefit from it but is not really a friend.
  • I live in a house now where we have many things in common.  Will I resist the temptation to be selfish?  Furthermore, will I become more selfless?  The positive should be our goal, not the lack of a negative.

Pray for us.

  • Will I pray for friends on the mission field?  Will I pray for friends who have sick family members?  Will I pray for my own family?  Will I pray for my relationships?
  • Will I pray for those I don’t know, whether it’s the poor in Champaign, those starving in Darfur, or even politicians?
  • How will I pray?  In passing or focused on the person and God?  “With many words, to be heard by men,” or privately, because “God hears what is said in secret”?

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Fantasy football draft

Posted by Chris on August 31, 2008

My main league, in which this is my 6th year participating, had its offline draft today.  Most of the guys gathered in Chapel Hill but I was here in Illinois.  We have a 10-team league, mostly standard scoring (30 yds passing/pt and 6 pts/TD pass are two differences) with no flex starter.  I had the 10th pick, so back-to-back in a snake draft.  We are starting a keeper league this year so that affected my drafting a little bit (taking fliers on some young guys near the end of the draft, and in who I would pick first and who second on my back to backs).

I did things a bit unconventionally but the draft went about as well as I could have hoped.  I got 2 RBs with potential to be solid starters in Rounds 3 and 4, and one of my top defenses and Tight Ends even though I waited till many had already been picked.  Here’s my team:

Starters

QB: Tony Romo
RB: Willie Parker
RB: Darren McFadden
WR: Terrell Owens
WR: Roddy White
WR: Joey Galloway
TE: Tony Scheffler
K: none [will pick up before week 1, or possibly after week 1]
DEF: New England (even though I rout against them about as much as any team)

Bench
Josh Morgan, WR, 49ers
Philip Rivers
Chester Taylor, RB, Vikings
Michael Turner, RB, Falcons
Matt Forte, RB, Bears
Ted Ginn, JR
Tim Hightower, RB, Cardinals
Dustin Keller, TE, Jets

The season starts on Thursday!!!

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Naive and generous

Posted by Chris on July 25, 2008

If I had to choose between being naive and generous, or discerning and stingy, I would take the former every time.

As much as I don’t want to be an enabler, it is preferable to paternalism in our personal relationships and patterns of generosity.

There are so many things we can give. The cry of the discerning and stingy, who “has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him” (1 Jn 3:17), is often a cover for an unwillingness to think outside the box or take the time needed to meet needs in a way besides giving spare change. The verse continues: “How can the love of God be in him?” The equivalent of deciding whether or not to give spare change to a drunk would have been God deciding whether or not to send good weather to sinful people in agrarian Israel. Jesus said that God “sends rain on the evil and the good”; in the same way, we should sow into those who are deserving and undeserving, those who will use the money wisely and those who will be wasteful.

Thankfully, God acts outside the realm not only of the deist imagination, or the sphere of the meteorologist, but in a way that penetrates into our deeper needs. He came to earth, sacrificing a good ol’ time in Heaven. Think about that when as we discern that “being somewhere” precludes us from being generous. When His people failed to meet the accepted standards of right and wrong, He came and offered the reward of the righteous to anyone who would accept, without them first having to reform their lives and “prove how serious they are.” Think about that when we listen to hear certain words to confirm someone’s intentions to really improve their life. And He did this in the context of seeing us fail again and again, accepting our charity and His promise of blessing, only to turn our backs and again run to a curse and death. Think about that when you get tired of seeing the same faces on the same corners.

The cry of the naive and generous is not a complaint. It is genuine tears, shed in empathy for those in need, or in a desire to themselves grow in compassion that they can love others unconditionally.

Posted in about me, christianity, ethics, homeless/needy persons | Leave a Comment »