Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!

The Holidays are here and they are a busy time for many people, including me. Since the Welcome to Winter Festival of which I blogged about on the weekend of December 10th, it seems I've had little time to write much of anything. Between baking Christmas goodies, shopping, helping out friends and neighbors, Christmas caroling, attending Christmas concerts, and everything else that comes with this time of year, I -- probably like many writers -- have just not had the "time" to write. Yes, time: it flies when you're having fun. And this busy time of year has been fun thus far, with I hope will continue for the 12 days of Christmas which begins tonight.

Christmas is a busy season, but what better way to remain busy than doing things for others? Helping out people in need; spending quality time with those who normally don't have any "time" at all, and just being -- yes, just being in the moment is what Christmas should be about. Yet, every other season of the year should be about these things too. Why aren't they? It's a question I'm going to ask myself and yes, try and improve upon from this moment forward. Will I fail? Probably, but then that is also an important aspect of Christmas -- that God comes to us in our weakness and helps us to live better and more full lives.

I hope I can continue to learn and grow during this Christmas season, and keep that feeling throughout the year.

Merry Christmas to everyone!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Local winter festival kicks off season of fun!!!

Since I created this blog a few months ago I have generally written about current events in politics, religion or both; however, my personal motto means that "everything is material" and I do mean everything! While I generally find inspiration to write from the world of politics and religion, I personally find so many other things enjoyable and inspiring that to not write about them as well is to cheat myself (and others) out of the larger world which exists beyond the "forbidden" topics. And so with that said, this blog post will have nothing to do with politics or religion. As it turns out there are far "crazier" things in the world -- like winter camping!

The last couple of weeks have been extremely hectic in my neck of the woods -- which are literally the Northwoods of Northern Wisconsin. Last minute efforts have been made to prepare for the coming Winter: putting up the last cord of firewood (for next year, as it's best to be a year ahead so one will always have dry seasoned wood to burn), putting away the last of the summer tools, and of course in the Northwoods searching for that 8 point buck. Of course, I'm not a hunter myself, but hunting is as much a part of living "Up North" as wearing multiple layers of clothes is -- which we do just to go to the grocery store!

But why do we all prepare for winter in such a way? Is it to hunker down for the next 4 months never to be seen again until spring? Well, there are some who live up North who do just that, but personally I like to think most of us who choose to live here are a little more adventurous than that. In fact, many of us do all of these last minute chores in preparation for winter just so we can have more time to get out and enjoy winter. Ice fishing, skiing, snowmobiling, snow tubing, snow sledding, and good old fashioned snowball fights are just some of the winter activities many of us enjoy.

Some are even crazy enough to try their hands at winter camping. Yes, winter camping! In fact this weekend the local hardware store (which is more than a hardware store) is having their second annual Welcome to Winter Festival. Yes those are real tents, and even though our low temperature this morning was 2 below zero (-2 degrees F), believe it or not they are warm and toasty inside. Of course that's because of the wood stoves keeping things at a comfortable 65 to 70 degrees but hey, it beats camping without one. Thanks to Snowtrekker Tents, people who would have never imagined doing anything as crazy as camping in the winter have been introduced to traditional winter camping and yes, they have come to enjoy it.

Yes -- winter camping may just sound crazy to some of my readers -- but then many of us think that a low temperature of 2 below zero is "not bad." In fact, some of us are so crazy for winter that all day today the Welcome to Winter Festival kicks off the winter season with a bonfire (15 feet high), music, food, and -- at 7pm -- a fantastic fireworks display courtesy of Lottig Pyrotechnics. The fireworks holds special interest for me because I am a pyro-assistant and the official videographer for Lottig Pyrotechnics. So if you're local (which up here is anything under 60 miles away) come on out to the Solon Springs Mercantile for food, fun, and fireworks. If you're not local, then some of the links I've posted will give you a taste of what us Northerners do to welcome in "old man winter," and if you think us Northerners are crazy -- well, you may just be right, and that's just how we like it!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Moving beyond "race" -- to boldly go where no one has gone before!

For centuries mankind has asked the profound question: “are we alone?” While some may see this as a religious question, most today understand it as a question pertaining to the existence of extraterrestrial life (i.e., does E.T. exist?). The question is not merely the product of the modern age, for it has been pondered by many religious thinkers and philosophers throughout the ages. What's surprising to some is that many of these ancient thinkers found no contradiction between their faith and the existence of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe.

For example, the Jewish Talmud speculates that there are as many as 18,000 worlds where some form of intelligent life may exist. Hinduism also embraces the idea of “other worlds,” and even other universes. Christianity's view is a bit more fuzzy, but a a number of recent statements made by the Vatican and it's representatives, along with 2009's week long study on astrobiology hosted by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, seems to indicate that even conservative forms of Christianity accept, at least the possibility, of the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence.

These statements by Christian leaders are quite timely given that modern astrobiology consists of very real science with very real scientific data. In our galaxy alone there are over 200 million stars and upwards of 50 billion planets, 500 million of which fall into the Goldilocks (not too hot, not to cold, but just right for life) zone in their respective solar systems. And that's just in the Milky Way galaxy. There are at least 100 billion Galaxies throughout the entire known and observable universe. The likelihood of extraterrestrial life is a very real possibility which much of Christianity is beginning to come to terms with.

Yet with mainstream Christianity's new acceptance of scientific realities, it was just a matter of time before some Christian Churches began making declarations not in favor of, but in opposition to our celestial neighbors. This week, it was reported that a Baptist Church in rural Kentucky, in a nine to six vote had banned interracial couples from Church membership and worship ministries. Of course this seems a bit premature since the last time I checked (a few hours ago) aliens hadn't visited Earth yet, but I suppose this little Church in Kentucky is simply hedging its bets. There probably are other races of beings out there in the universe (just like in Star Trek) so we best forbid these interracial couples from attending Church services and participating as active worship leaders. Such blatant racism seems counter productive to the message of Christ and may possibly lead to an intergalactic war, but I guess E.T. was a scary movie for these folks!

Oh wait, I just double checked my facts. Apparently I misunderstood this Church's intention. The Church's ban wasn't directed at “interracial” couples at all (i.e., marrying a non-human, like a Klingon or Vulcan) but at members of the same race (human beings, descendants of Adam and Eve) who just happen have a different skin color from one another and/or come from strange and far away lands – like anywhere you're not from! The ban is not an “interracial” ban, but an “intraracial” one, seeing as all human beings are made up of the same race.

Just when I thought Christianity was about to enter the 23rd century and boldly go where no one has gone before, it turns out that at least nine Christians in Kentucky want to take Christianity back to the 18th century and boldly go where humanity should never have gone in the first place – a world where we ignore the words of St. Paul who wrote that “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28, KJV). Ouch! That's a pretty rough statement to hear – if you're someone who thinks banning “interracial” couples is a good way of preserving Church unity! An even more difficult verse must be Galatians 3:29: “And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise” (KJV). Got that? If you're a Christian, Paul (a Jew) says that you're actually the seed of Abraham (the father of the Jews) who – in case you didn't know -- wasn't from Kentucky, didn't have European ancestry and was actually from what is today known as modern day Iraq!

What's even more bizarre about a Church banning humans from marrying other humans based on the shade of their skin is that we're now closer to the world envisioned by Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek (often cited as the show where the first interracial kiss took place on U.S. television) than we are to the “good old days” where being dark skinned in a light skinned world would get you banned – from Church! I mean come on, banned from Church? What happened to the idea that Christ died for all (2 Corinthians 5:14)? Maybe these good folks need to go back and read all of Galatians again. Or perhaps they need to read the entire Bible which is filled with “interracial” marriages and relationships of all kinds (Song of Songs anyone?).

If and when we ever do encounter an extraterrestrial intelligence, and if and when our relations with these lifeforms grow strong enough to seriously consider true interracial marriage (marrying someone not a part of the human race), hopefully by then we will have outgrown our race's childish ethnic and religious tribalism, and realize that the human race may come in various shades, styles, and flavors but we are one species and one race: the human race, and nothing short of that realization is worthy of humanity or anything we should dare call Christian.