August 2008

Or should I say, is it really your parents that are to blame? Here’s an interesting article from Dark Reading that cites a research study on spam. A researcher analyzed 8.9 million email messages at an ISP in the United Kingdom, and found that the first letter of your email address caused a significant difference in the quantity of spam.

[The researcher] found that the email addresses that began with “A” received 35 percent spam in their inboxes, while “Z’s” got about 20 percent — after sorting out real emails versus invalid ones that had likely been generated by a spamming tool. Clayton says it’s likely that spammers using dictionary attacks could be the cause of this disproportionate distribution of spam” (Higgins, 2008, ¶ 3).

So see, it’s not your pattern of behavior on the Internet, or the fact that some of your friends don’t maintain a current anti-virus program on their computer, that is to blame, it’s your parents. If they have named you Quentin instead of Allen, you wouldn’t have as much spam.

— Higgins, Kelly Jackson. (2008, August 28). Report: Email Address Dictates Spam Volume. Dark Reading.


It occurred to me today that one of the reasons so many people want socialized medicine, is that they don’t want to have to pay the price of their own choices. Just like the bailout of sub-prime mortgages, because people bought more than they should have and could afford, life-choices the majority of Americans make incur higher health care costs. Just research the skyrocketing increase of adult-onset diabetes. If we had more self-control to eat fewer carbohydrates, we wouldn’t be gaining as much weight as a people, and diabetes wouldn’t be the problem it is.

One of my weaknesses is Cinnamon Toast Crunch. The product really should be banned.  🙂  I do have the self-control to only buy it now and then; I just don’t have the self-control to make the product last more than 24 hours. I’ve been working on my self-control over the past few months, and as a result I’ve lost weight. I’m down lower than I have been since 2004 – for only a few weeks – and prior to that, possibly 2000.

Because of this paragraph, “I know whereof what I speak.” I know how hard it is to push away from food we shouldn’t eat, and make wise decisions when it comes to finances, lifestyle, etc. But we as a nation must start to exercise self-control, or we will be in for a world of hurt before too long. The entire population will not be able to be supported by the “rich.” We can’t keep living beyond our means and expect some magic pill of the future to solve the problems we’ve been making. Or as Albert Einstein said, “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.”

I have to admit I approached this book with a little trepidation. I know of Kay Arthur; I’ve tried to read one of her books, but I could never seem to connect with her. When the book club at church began reading it last month, I thought, “Uh oh, a chick book.”  🙂 Well, I was pleasantly surprised as I got into the book beyond the first few chapters.

The book presents an engaging and sweeping history of the Jewish people; how in the past they have been persecuted throughout the ages. This book has spurred an interest in me to read more of Jewish history and the history of the Christian church.

One of the literary techniques some of the people in my group struggled with at first was the fact that the lead character, Sarah, lived throughout the entire book, from 600 BCE through the second coming of Christ. This didn’t bother me too much, once I understood the literary license the author was using. Sarah represents the “nation of Israel.” So what happens to her, and her friends, represents what has happened, is happening, or will happen to all Jewish people.

This license allows us to really become immersed into the lives and trials of the Jewish people through the period immediately prior to and during the captivity in Babylon, the persecution through Europe and Asia around the time of the Crusades, and during World War II. One point of history I did not know was how the Jews became the enablers of capitalism throughout Europe when the Catholic Church forbade anyone to lend money for interest. The Jews were allowed to make a living by loaning money, which enabled businesses to grow. End the end though, the governments stole their wealth they had earned and forced them out of their countries, but did not allow them to take their possessions. A technique used again by Hitler and company during the 1930’s throughout Germany and the occupied countries.

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the lives of the Jewish people of the Old Testament, as well as through history after the occupation and destruction by Rome. My one complaint about the book, and I haven’t resolved it totally, is how the characters of the book never acknowledge Jesus as the Savior of the World, and yet apparantly are accepted by God after the second coming of Jesus. I don’t know if the Jewish people have a special dispensation by God which allows them to be saved without acknowledging Jesus as the Messiah or not. If I ever figure this out, I’ll post it.  🙂

This book really began to challenge me in the ways I looked at my faith and at Christianity. Well, it had actually started when I began attending a Vineyard church in town, but the more I read the book, the more interested I became in investigating the “emerging church” movement and the postmodern mind. The subtitle of the book, “Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality” is very accurate, and I love it for that fact. The more I’ve thought about my upbringing in church, and where my “head was,” the more I realized how “religious” I was. This book helped me to continue to break down those walls and preconceptions about others that were errected over the years of church-life.

One of the “light bulb” moments I had while reading this book relates to the postmodern mind. In postmodernism, [virtually] all authority is rejected; no one stands in a position of authority on truth or whether something is right or wrong. I think I realized part of the reason why this is believed today, especially in the younger crowd, when I read this section of the book:

The whole idea of everyone wanting to be somebody new was an important insight in terms of liking God. God was selling something I wanted. Still, God was in the same boat as the guy selling knives and Juliet promising to make Romeo new. Everybody exaggerates when they are selling something. Everybody says their product works like magic” (Miller, 2003, p. 29).

Those under 30 especially have been raised on television, and the marketing of products on TV. We know marketers stretch the truth a little, and at times, a lot. If a kid is raised on watching this, why wouldn’t he or she eventually begin to reject every marketing ploy as suspect. And let’s face it, some of evangelism today is marketing. Which is why I like some of the aspects of the emerging church so much, and why I like the “seeker-friendly” church I go to now. There is very little of the “religious” aspects I was raised on, and much more focus on hospitality, community, and service. If we want people to understand the saving power of Jesus, the best approach is by modeling Jesus’ life on earth today. Not by being “religious.”

I picked this book up while I was helping out at the Willow Creek Leadership Summit simulcast that was held at my church. I missed John’s talk, but I’ll catch it on the DVD when I get it. But while reading the back of the book I was intrigued with the concept, so I bought it. Now I’m so glad I did! I love the way John writes, and the way he lays out the 60-60 experiment in such easy terms.

About a year ago I started reading The Spiritual Man by Watchman Nee. These books dovetail together so well. The Spiritual Man sort of lays the theological groundwork for what the 60-60 experiment describes. Nee’s book also played more to my “modernist” mind, while Soul Revolution plays more to the pre- and post-modern mind I have been exploring. And by postmodern mind, I don’t mean the moral relativist, situational ethic concept so many have, but more toward the “follower of Jesus,” emergent church mind I’ve found growing.

Basically the 60-60 experiment is designed to reengage us with God by using a reminder to pray with God about what you are struggling with at the moment. Or as John says:

Staying connected in a brutally honest, continuous conversation allows God to do for us what we can’t do for ourselves…Get honest with God, process what’s most on your mind throughout the day, and keep your mind open to his thoughts. That’s how you begin to develop an authentic relationship with God. He will honor that effort” (Burke, 2008, p. 61).

The reminder is designed to go off at least every 60 minutes for 60 days. The idea is to gradually retrain our brains to move toward the goal of praying and talking with God unceasingly, as we are directed to in 1 Thessalonians 5:17:

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

So much of my traditional church background failed me when I would try to understand some parts of the Bible, such as how do we pray without ceasing? But through Soul Revolution, the AH HA! light is going off and I’m already beginning to feel some leading by God and I haven’t even formally started the experiment yet! I can’t wait!

— Burke, John. (2008). Soul Revolution: How Imperfect People Become All God Intended. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

— The New King James Version. 1982 (1 Th 5:16-18). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Because of another book I’ve been reading, I’ve done more investigation on post-modernism. The book, Postmodernism 101 by Heath White, is a really good introduction to the concepts and thoughts flowing around out there today. If most of what you’ve heard is the traditional arguments against postmodernism, I’d suggest you read it to get a better understanding of the mindset. I don’t agree with all the concepts, but some of it does have merit in today’s world.

It’s funny, I think we all have various aspects of pre-modern, modern, and post-modern thinking. Sort of a buffet approach to the concepts and thoughts that fit your mental assessment of who you are, society at large, other people, and how things work. While I was raised in more of the modern era and thinking, I found that most of my religious thoughts are probably more pre-modern than anything. I own a systematic theology and other research tools, but I do not think that pure thought and reason can bring me closer to God. One of my favorite phrases that I use when people are struggling to understand God is, “If we could understand God, we would be Him.” An ant can anymore understand us than we can understand God, and He is infinitely higher than us than we are higher than the ant. His Spirit will reveal Himself to me when and how He wants. Pure logic just won’t cut it. That’s not to say that the Holy Spirit won’t reveal some of who God is by researching, but it’s a “spiritual” approach also. He works with us where we are, not by formula.

One of the chapters I enjoyed the most was on language and thought, and how the postmodern mind looks at these concepts differently, even playfully, where the modern mind considered the precise use of a phrase or word. We all have frames of reference through which we view the world, and language is one of them. A metaphor I might use would seem totally out of place to someone else. There is no right or wrong metaphor. And the more you have interacted with people of different cultures or countries, the more you realize that.

In my opinion, one of the frictions in the modern/postmodern debate is how each culture views themselves as being right, especially if you’re old enough to remember 8-track tape players, 45’s, and rabbit ears on TV’s. But for the younger crowd, they have grown up in a world immersed in different cultures and new technologies. For them, their home culture may not be viewed as always being right. Witness the explosion of Starbucks in China, a country “steeped” in tea. Because of that, language, morals, authority, all might be a mix of different aspects of different cultures. This “divorce” from your home culture has probably caused a lot of consternation in older folks…such as myself, and probably why I fought it without trying to understand it…at first.

There is a lot to postmodernism I don’t agree with, especially being a follower of Jesus. And there is a lot of postmodernism that I don’t think even adherents agree with. Afterall, if there truly was no moral authority or moral absolutes, why would Amnesty International exist? Why would the world have put pressure on South Africa to end apartheid. Isn’t a culture supposed to define their own morals? Why would PETA care if I kick my cat (which I down have one by the way, and I wouldn’t kick if I did have one) since the cat lives in my world and I’m allowed to build the morals in my own world. So the idea of no moral absolutes isn’t really the case, I think the real situation is they don’t want to have to admit that maybe they are on the wrong side of a moral debate. Maybe deep down they know that living a life wholly dedicated to self-pleasure isn’t fulfilling. And it is through our own actions, the involvement of Christians in the community, truly living out the life of Jesus, we can show them that true happiness does exist, and where the source of that true happiness comes from.

Need a good reason to study postmodernism? I think Francis Schaeffer said it best with this quote:

Every generation of Christians has this problem of learning how to speak meaningfully to its own age. It cannot be solved without an understanding of the changing existential situation which it faces. If we are to communicate the Christian faith effectively, therefore, we must know and understand the thought-forms of our own generation” (Schaeffer, 1968, pp. 11-12).

— White, Heath. (2006). Postmodernism 101. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press.

— Schaeffer, Francis A. (1968). Escape from Reason. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books.

Tom Davenport raises a good question in his post on the democratization of healthcare costs and whether physicians should be online. Democratization of knowledge is basically a fancy word that means the knowledge is out there for us to find and use, all we have to do is search. Witness WebMD. You can get fairly indepth coverage of virtually all illnesses and diseases on their site. If we arrive at the physicians office with a good idea of what is wrong with us, why should we have to go into the office anyway…with the caveat that the physician has a medical history on us and has “seen” us previously.

…since you only get about 7 minutes on average of face-to-face time with your doc, it’s not as if we are giving up an intimate, in-depth relationship. No muss, no fuss, no bricks-and-mortar, and the insurance company gets by very cheaply” (Davenport, 2008, ¶ 7).

This is so true in today’s medical community. The insurance companies are constantly squeezing physicians (as well as other health care practitioners) in reimbursement rates. This seems a logical next step for the practice of medicine, provided the physician has a good medical history on any patient that is treated in this manner. I don’t know enough about the makeup of a traditional family practitioners day to know how many of those visits could be accomplished online, but if a nurse practitioner oversees most visits anyway and prescribes medication, why not let some of that interaction happen online?

This also seems to be a very good argument for electronic health records (EHR’s) that have languished in most implementations.

— Davenport, Tom. (2008, August 19). “Is It Time for Your Doctor to Get Online?” Harvard Business.

Next Page »