Sunday, February 24, 2008

canadian rage 2


Less than 24 hours after writing my “Canadian Rage” post, the screen on my laptop was shattered. It’s going to cost me £100 to replace! Apparently God is a Canadian too! And He has Canadian rage!!! Who knew???

That said, I went and saw Rambo 4 last night and I’m pretty sure he could take Canada all by himself!

Friday, February 22, 2008

oh canada...sigh

I never thought much about Canada. To me, Canada was nothing more than that country north of the U.S. which spoke a strange form of English and, apparently, had eccentric outsiders as its citizens. I never thought about it, that is, until I started working at a Camp in Pennsylvania that hired international staff every year. It was then that I first encountered the Canadian rage.

The Canadian rage is what happens when a Canadian feels slighted by the United States or one of its citizens. Imagine how Eli Manning feels trying to measure up to Peyton, and you’ll have some idea of the frustration and bitterness that Canadians carry around in their hearts on a daily basis. Even the British have recognized it. In fact, the British (and its many immigrants) are so aware of it that, upon hearing a North American accent, they’ll first ask if that accent is Canadian. They’ve learned the lesson that Americans don’t mind being called Canadians, but that Canadians will fly into a Canadian rage if they’re called Americans. Which brings up another point Canadians like to make; they’re Americans too. After all, Canada is in North America. Now here’s the thing; I won’t dispute their geography. In fact, I’ve long thought the same thing. The problem is, abroad, Canadians are known as Canadians, and U.S. citizens are known as Americans. I spent two years telling people in the UK that I was from the U.S. or the States, but nobody ever knew what I was talking about. It was only when I said “I’m from America” that people understood. Still, they keep asking me if I’m Canadian. I just give them a knowing smile and say, “American”.

With that in mind, it came as no surprise when, upon checking out the leader board for Hasbro’s “Monopoly Here and Now: World Edition”, that I noticed that Canada had two cities in the top twenty. Hard to believe, you say? Not when you account for the Canadian rage. In fact, go to Google, type in “vote on Monopoly” and some of the first links you’ll come to are links to a network of Canadian blogs, rallying the “troops” (a term we have to use very lightly, since we’re talking about Canada) to go to the site and vote for Canadian cities. Think about it; they contribute nothing to the global economy. Don’t have a single professional sports league that is recognized globally. Offer nothing in the way of protection or aid to developing countries. And don’t have a single textile or agricultural product that can’t be found in several other dozen countries across the planet. Even their flag tells the story. Most flags have colors, stripes, or other symbols which tell the story and significance of the country in which it represents. Canada’s flag has a maple leaf on it…which represents all the maple trees in Canada.

Fact is, Canada is the one country in the world that could sink into the ocean tomorrow and not impact the world in the slightest. We wouldn’t miss them at all. Probably wouldn’t even notice they were gone until Autumn came around and we all started having to order our syrup from New England instead of Canada. And yet they’ve managed to get two cities onto the international Monopoly board? With all of the above noted, I guess it’s safe to assume that Canadians have nothing better to do than sit around all day, voting for their cities on Monopoly’s website.

As I said, I never thought much about Canada until I started having to work with Canadians and had to spend six days a week, for six straight weeks, hearing them wine about America and watching them hang up their flags on “Canada Day” (apparently the day they all get together and thank the United States for winning them their freedom). So my hat is off to you Canada and I send you this note of encouragement; If nothing else, fifty years from now our grandchildren will be able to point to Toronto on an international Monopoly board and say, “What’s that?” It’s then that we’ll turn to our grandchildren and tell them the story of Canada, that other country that sank into the sea.

Incidentally, though Oklahoma City has not made the top twenty, I can at least revel in the fact that no city from the State of Texas has either! Freaking arrogant, know it all, red neck, big mouthed, waste of a state!

Vote for Oklahoma City HERE. : )

ashley simpson disease

My appointment was for 3:40, but I had already been waiting in the doctor’s office for an hour and a half. To be fair, I had showed up half an hour early out of fear of being late. Still, it was 4:40 and I wasn’t too impressed.

I had been dealing with throat problems since returning from the United States. I absolutely could not shake them. I had had sore throats before, but this time was different. I could not sing more than five notes without become horse, could not speak up at all without the same result, and my throat became tired after just a few minutes of conversation. I had visited the doctor twice already and had taken several different medical concoctions (including a few I had found online that involved gargling with salt water and several other ingrediences, like Tabasco sauce). At one point I felt as if I had been punched in the throat. I could not sleep at night, could not swallow without flinching, and was beginning to worry that I might lose my voice permanently. Then, upon my third visit to the doctor, I was asked if I had any history of “illness” in my family. I thought for a moment and said, “only heart disease” to which he replied, “what about cancer?” And so I was set up with a specialist. Within a week, I was sitting in the lobby of the specialist’s office.

And so there I sat, in a hospital in North London, waiting to get in to see the doctor. At 4:40 I finally went up to the attendant to make sure that I had not been forgotten about. I hadn’t, but ten minutes later I was sitting in a chair, answering questions, and having something sprayed up my nose. Then I was sitting back out in the lobby again, waiting for the spray to numb my throat.

I began to look around me. Talk about diversity. Not only were there people of all different races, but ages and mental capacity too. There were several parents there with their children. And then there was this lady in the back. She was clearly crazy. She kept laughing hysterically. At what? Nothing in particular. She was just crazy. I continued to look around. There were people of all nationalities represented in that room. People of all different financial backgrounds as well. I sat there, taking it all in. And then it hit me; the reason I had to wait was because here, everybody has access to medical help, not just those of us who are fortunate and/or educated enough to have the kind of job that provides health coverage. Here, working at McDonalds, Asda (Walmart) or a petrol (gas) station doesn’t mean that you’re out of luck if you come down with health problems. Here, everybody gets to go. I was waiting because everybody gets to go.

Since the early 90’s, when Bill Clinton first became President of the U.S., I’ve heard a lot of debate about national health care. Socialized medicine is the term we conservatives like to use. It makes it almost sound ungodly since, as we all know, God hates socialism (though the New Testament church seems to have revelled in it). I’ve also heard a lot of horror stories concerning national health care. Now, to be fair, the UK certainly hasn’t perfected national health care. For one thing, you still have to pay to go to the dentist’s office or to get glasses. But for all the horror stories I’ve heard about national health care, I’ve heard at least that many about HMO’s. And honestly, who hasn’t waited on a doctor before? And for the record, I rarely wait to see my local doctor. He’s usually right on time.

I share all of this because, no doubt, national health care will be one of the strikes against whoever wins the Democratic nomination. But, when those debates do start up, consider why you’ll have to wait an extra half hour to see your doctor; because everybody gets to go. Not just you.

After another half hour, waiting for my throat to numb, I was finally ushered back into the torture chamber where a long tube with a camera on the end was sent, roto rooter style, up through my nose, and down my throat. After a few uncomfortable minutes of looking around, the doctor pulled the tube out of my throat and informed me that I had laryngitis caused by acid reflux…the same “disease” that Ashley Simpson claimed to have had. I just looked at the guy. “Are you sure?”, I said, thinking that I couldn’t possibly go back and tell my friends that I had Ashley Simplson disease. But apparently it’s true. I’m now taking capsules that I can quite literally smell coming out through my pores, and also steroids that I have to spray into my nose. Guess my professional sports career is finally over (though I’m still considering The Tour De France).

In all, I got in about an hour and a half after I was supposed to. Was it worth it? Yes. In fact, if it means that everybody gets to go, I’ll bring my ipod and a couple of magazines and wait a few more hours if it will help. Join me?

(Incidentally, and after watching several of the debates, it appears that Hillary’s hope is to change the U.S. health system completely, replacing it with nationalized medicine. Obama, on the other hand, hopes to simply add to the already existing health system by providing health vouchers for those under a certain income that would allow them to access doctors/medicine as well. I have to believe, in either case, that they’ll learn from the mistakes of countries like the UK and Canada, and come up with an even better national health system. One easy way will be to digitize health records, something that will initially cost a lot of money, but which will save a lot of money in the long run and also make it easier for those in communities, where hospitals are being shut down, to seek medical help in another part of town.)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

fair trade me please

I’m not sure how familiar you are with the Fair Trade label. Before coming to the UK, I wasn’t very familiar with it at all. But, as I have several American friends who buy fair trade across the U.S., I do know that it exists and that it is possible to support fair trade in the States.

The fair trade industry basically exists to point out the areas in which developed countries are ripping developing countries off. As if developing countries didn’t have it bad enough, when they finally do get their act together and start growing (in particular) agriculture, too often developed countries come in and buy it for only pennies on the dollar. The most notable products which get sold unfairly are coffee, cocoa (anything made of chocolate), sugar, tea, bananas, honey, cotton, wine, fresh fruit, and handicrafts. Like so much of what we buy in the West, if it seems too cheap too be true, you can bet that somebody is being treated like a slave on the other end (ala anything that comes from China, like children’s toys). However, all of these products can actually be purchased fairly, you've just got to look for the label, or ask your local store for it if they don't have it.

I make mention of this now because this week and next have been designated as Fair Trade weeks with the goal of not only buying fair trade when possible, but also to maybe point out the areas where it is not, but should be. One easy way to address this is to make sure that we purchase fair trade chocolate for our children’s Easter baskets. I’m being more and more convicted over the idea of not celebrating religious holidays or anything involving my children by purchasing things that lead to poverty for somebody else. When I do I fear that I am laying on my child’s shoulders a heritage of injustice.

In addition to making the effort to shop fairly over the next two weeks, HERE is a link to the above sign that you can print off and tape to candy machines, coffee cans (at your work…or church), tea cans, the front of a Walmart/Asda store, etc., to point out when somebody is about to consume something that has impoverished somebody else. It’s a small effort that can help make people aware and hopefully reap big rewards someday.

Incidentally, Lucy over at Attempting Abandonment reminded me of this. Her entire blog is dedicated to getting Christians and the church involved in social justice and I really appreciate the things she writes. She also has several great links over in the right hand column of her blog. I've just added a new one to my right hand column that was stolen from hers. Thanks Lucy!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

a foreskin's lament

by Shalom Auslander

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

paying it forward, also called "the gospel"

As a believer that the Gospel is a plan, put into motion by God, not only to answer the question of eternity, but also to solve the social evils that plague us now, I found the film Pay It Forward particularly poignant and can’t help but believe that it was a great tool that the church totally missed.

We’re discussing it tonight at Streetwise as an introduction to the Gospel.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

friends who know your history

This evening we held our first overtly Christian youth meeting. It was actually a combination dinner/small group time where I presented a video clip, shared a 2 minute thought on the Christian tradition of the Good Samaritan, and then gave them some questions to discuss at their table. It went surprisingly well and all of our young people, including those of other faiths, got very involved in the discussions and it all seemed to go very positively.

One story I’ll pause to tell is that, after the evening was over and we were shuffling kids out the door, one of our girls stopped to look at one of our human trafficking posters. She stopped and stared at it for what seemed like an eternity. I was both touched and excited at the same time. My first thought was, “Wow! I didn’t think anybody even paid attention to those posters!” My second thought was that of sheer joy at the thought that one of our young people might be concerned and interested in the subject. Then suddenly she pointed at one of the young girls in the picture and said, “that’s how I wanted my hair to be done.” Sigh. Guess we can’t win every battle in one night.

Though the evening exceeded our expectations, I have to admit that it was slightly anti-climactic for Jamie and I. After four long years of building bridges of trust throughout our community, those who had battled alongside us for all those years weren’t around to see the culmination of all that work (Mel). Most of our volunteers over the past few years have been youth ministry students and, as we’re working with no money, none of them have ever been able to stay on once their studies were over. All of our current volunteers except one have been with us for one year or less. For them tonight was great, but they know too little of our history to understand the true significance of tonight’s success.

Which brings me to the topic of this post.

My wife has a saying that she often turns to when down or homesick; sometimes it’s nice to be around friends who know your history.

Moving around as much as we have, we’ve experienced this desire on lots of occasions. A couple of our friends are experiencing that now as they go through a tough time with their church.

I’ve known Brad since I was a senior in high school. I girl I was dating at the time introduced us. Actually, she spent several months talking about this “great guy” she went to school with. In fact, by the time I actually met Brad, I just wanted to punch him in the neck. But I eventually broke up with the girl and Brad and I remained friends. Eventually we became very close friends and spent a couple of years travelling and leading retreats and workshops for young people around Oklahoma and Texas.

One retreat in particular comes to mind. We’d had a long day of teaching and leading worship and found ourselves in the room we were sharing for the night. I contest that, because I was the first to actually get into my bed, Brad was responsible for turning the light out. Brad contests that, because my bed was actually closest to the switch, I was responsible for turning the light out. We discussed it for a few minutes, then debated it. After about five minutes we decided that this was definitely one of those battles worth fighting and, determined to stand our ground, both rolled over and attempted to sleep…with the light on.

I don’t know what time it was, but at some point in the wee hours of the morning, I grabbed a shoe that was next to my bed, and threw it at the light switch in an attempt to turn it off…WITHOUT leaving my bed! This, in turn, woke Brad up who, without saying a word or looking in my direction, got out of bed and turned out the light. Lesson learned Brad; Tim is more stubborn than you are. I can play this freaking game all night!

That’s a dumb story and we were both pathetic for even going through it. But, by next morning, we were back to our old selves, brothers in arms, and never again spoke a word about it. It’s good to have friends who not only know your history, but whom you can fight with and still remain brothers. I miss he and his wife dearly.

When we got to Uni, Brad actually went off and spent a year with the military to earn money towards college. When he got back he married his high school sweetheart and they spent a year having me over for Ramen Noodles. I don’t miss the classes I was taking that year, but I definitely miss those very dear times in Brad and Jenn’s apartment, with their charity shop pictures on the wall.

I’m thinking of several of you tonight. Those who know our history. I think you would have really rejoiced with us tonight. I know that cell groups happen every week in churches across the world, but this first one took us four years of blood, sweat, and tears to get started within the most culturally diverse community I’ve ever experienced in my life. I wish you could have been here to see it. You were dearly missed.