Monday, December 22, 2008

The Polar Express

I watched "The Polar Express" for the first time tonight with my nephew, Howard. The movie is a good one; butI thought it was actually kind of scary in some parts. Maybe it's me being sensitive to Howard, who himself is a very sensitive little boy. But, he didn't seem to be too bothered by the parts I was concerned he might be.

While watching the movie, I was thinking about how it can be likened to the biblical stories about the lost coin, the lost sheep, or the prodigal son. The woman swept her whole house until the coin was found. The father rejoiced when his wayward son returned. And the little boy found his heart warmed by the bell that was returned to him, which symbolized his belief in Santa Claus; his belief in the wonder of Christmas. These can all be compared to faith. How there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents!*

The Polar Express is "about" a little boy renewing his "faith" in Santa Claus. But I think that it speaks to a deeper faith; the faith that gives us a reason for Christmas at all. The bell was found, lost, and then given back to the boy. How similar to our faith that tells us that Jesus seeks us, even when we feel lost, and gives us a new identity as ones linked with Christ. The hero in the story hears the bell and continues to hear the bell even when the world around him ceases to be able. There were conflicting experiences regarding the bell. May we go forth this Christmas season hearing the sounds of faith, despite the conflicting messages that tell us otherwise. Thanks be to God!

*Luke 15:10

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Lately, I've been thinking about prayer; not just the Lord's Prayer and other common prayers like, "Now I lay me." I'm thinking about how different people are perceived to have "better" or "more effective" prayers. When I was doing CPE, it seemed that some people needed an "authoritative" religious person to pray with them. Some people were content praying on their own, and some people didn't pray at all. I was also thinking about prayer because before just about every Hebrew Content and Language class, someone led us in prayer. When it was my turn to pray in Hebrew Language, I stumbled. A LOT. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not a "bad" pray-er. In fact, many people tell me I'm a "good" pray-er. But, I think what I got tripped up on was that I was trying to be too verbose. A lot of times people, especially Christian leaders, think they need to pray long, elaborate, flowery languaged prayers in order for them to be heard by God. I've fallen victim to this thinking myself sometime. And in response, I've written three prayers that I think could be done anytime, anywhere, by anyone. Here they are:

Holy and Gracious God, you are with us. Help us to remember that ALWAYS. Amen

Holy and Gracious God, you know us. Help us respond to your love. Amen

Holy and Gracious God, your mercy is new every day. Open our eyes to see. Amen.

God hears us. Thanks be to God!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

What will happen?

I am from the great state of Illinois, so I find it slightly disturbing that we have such a bad political reputation. However, I think that it would be more fair to say that CHICAGO has a bad political reputation. That being said, Rod Blagojevich WAS elected by popular majority. Conversely, since taking office, his policy has been largely for the benefit of Chicago and surrounding areas. Considering there are approximately SIX MILLION people in Cook County (the county Chicago is in), and almost one million in DuPage (the county right next to Cook), while there are only about six million people in the REST of the state, we can see how powerful Chicago can be.*

Also, I HATE when people say things like, "Not my President," or "Not my Governor." The truth is, they are elected by popular vote. However, Blagojevich is thought to be one of the LEAST popular governors in the whoe United States. He had an unprecedented 0% vote of excellence. NO ONE in the WHOLE state thought he was doing an excellent job. Something like 4% of the people thought he was doing a "good" job. But, we can dislike a politician for EVERYTHING they stand for, but the truth is, they were elected by the majority, thus making them THE POLITICIAN for whatever office to which they were elected. I'm fairly certain that he would not be re-elected during the next election, even without this new development.

Regardless of him being the state's governor, I am glad that he has been arrested. I am not happy that he'll (hopefully) be going to prison, or at the very least, be impeached, but happy that there are days coming for the entire state of Illinois when more competent and honest leaders will take the office. I am not at all a fan of Blagojevich, not only because he doesn't represent the WHOLE state, but because he is dishonest, and he is always looking out for number 1. Public servants are supposed to work for the good of the majority, and not simply for themselves and their pocketbooks. I don't like how he was trying to cut funding for Children's Memorial Hospital. I was a patient there for 4 1/2 years. The fine doctors there diagnosed me with growth hormone deficiency and started me on treatment that allowed me to grow 16 1/2 inches in four years. I would be at LEAST a foot shorter had they not treated me. Not only do I laud them for my own very successful treatment, but also because they are a leading hospital in the nation, and I would dare to say, even the world. When we would go there, we would see license plates from across the nation, and even from different countries. Just looking around at other people while traversing to where we needed to go, I could see different skin tones and different ways of dress. I could hear different languages, accents, and dialects. Different people were patients there. A funding cut would cost not only the hospital, but also the patients. Healthcare should not be an option; it should be a right.

My main peeve about the governor is not the hospital situation, though. It's his dishonesty. Older Brother the Younger is a prison guard. He used to work at Pontiac Correctional Institute, which houses some of the most dangerous criminals in the state. It is a maximum security prison which even has a condemned unit. They don't execute people at Pontiac, but instead simply house them and then move them. That being said, there is a moratorium on the death penalty in the state of Illinois, so there haven't been any executions there for almost nine years. Governor Blagojevich wants to close down Pontiac prison to make budget cuts. With the state of prisons all over the nation, Illinois included, it is a bad idea, in my opinion to save the budget at the expense of the prisons. Prisons as it is now are overcrowded, underfunded, and understaffed. When Governor Blagojevich works to close prisons down, he works to put good, honest, hard-working men like my brother in danger. I don't like that. I also don't like how short-sighted his logic is. Pontiac is a town that thrives on business drawn in from the prison. People visiting their loved ones at the prison get gas, eat in, and buy things in Pontiac. The hundreds of people who work at Pontiac prison make their work there. With the prison gone, how many families would be uprooted or thrown into even more financial crisis? And the thing is, SO MANY prison guards campaigned, put signs in their yards, and VOTED for Blagojevich because of his promises that it is even a bigger slap to their faces now. He didn't keep his word, and it's a BIG word to break. There are so many issues surrounding the potential closure of Pontiac that I can't even touch on them all.

Anyway, I am reading and watching with interest about what will be happening with the governor's legal plight. I have hope that things will look up for our fine state, because I know the people deserve better.

For some comedic relief, check out this video clip from when Blagojevich was on the Daily Show in 2006. It's humorous.

Thus ends my pontificating.