Friday, June 22, 2012

The Joke Is On Them

There's a "joke" amongst psychiatrists to the effect that talking to God is called prayer, but hearing God means you're "nuts".

Really? If so, then tens of millions of people are "nuts", because they are committed to a belief system based on the premise that God can and does speak to people, and that he has done so throughout history. And by the way, a lot of Jews share that belief even if they reject the idea that Jesus was the messiah. Ditto for Muslims, although there are obvious differences of opinion about certain matters, when one compares their beliefs with the beliefs of Christians.

Numerous people have died martyrs deaths rather than betray their commitment to that basic proposition.

Hmmm, let's see. The aforementioned beliefs have stood the test of time for more than 2000 years. Psychiatry on the other hand is a fairly recent invention. That doesn't mean it's automatically wrong, of course, but it does strongly suggest that the aforementioned "joke" says less about God and divine revelation than it says about psychiatrists and their deep-seated anti-Christian biases. (Some Christian psychiatrists claim that faith and psychiatry are not incompatible, but when you consider psychiatrists' idea of "humor", you have to wonder.)

Sure, some people seem to be delusional in their beliefs that God has spoken to them personally, but then again, it seems arrogant to assert that one knows incontestably that they are wrong in those beliefs. Just because something seems improbable, that doesn't mean it's wrong. Miracles seem improbable to some people too.

One has to wonder what the point of talking to God is if one is not prepared for the possibility that he might occasionally see fit to reply. If one doesn't really believe that anyone is listening when one prays, then why not just be honest and admit that one isn't really a believer at all.

I find it easier to respect atheists who openly admit that they have chosen the path of unbelief than to respect people who go through the motions associated with Christianity but who, if you closely examine the way they live their lives, turn out to be faux believers in disguise.

I'm inclined to suggest that such people should defecate or get off the commode.

A Product for Absent-Minded Professors

I just learned about a cool product which is designed to enable people to minimize the loss of important possessions. It's called CobraTag.

Losing my laptop computer would be devastating to me. But the likelihood of that happening to me is slim indeed, precisely because the computer is so important to me, and because it's big and bulky and visible. I'd have to be far more absent-minded than I am in order to need the CobraTag for that purpose.

Cell phones, on the other hand, are another story. They're so tiny that they're very easy to misplace. One's cell phone can be in the same room, and still be somewhere which isn't immediately visible. "Hey, have you seen my electronic hockey puck?" Not good. You can buy another one if you lose it, but what about your investment in terms of publicizing your phone number among friends, relatives, potential employers (or potential customers) and so forth? If 400 people have your phone number and then you lose your phone, do you really want the hassle of having to tell 400 people about the change to a new number? (Admittedly cell phone companies will allow you to reassign your current number to a new device. Even so...)

I've sometimes had the experience of having to ask someone to call me when we're in the same room, just so I can hear my phone ringing. Sometimes it will be in a pocket in a pile of clothes destined for the laundry! (Imagine ruining a phone by accidentally putting it through the wash.)

I don't currently have the budget for a product like CobraTag, but I'm keeping it in mind for future reference. It might also be applicable to other small devices, such as MP3 players, cameras, etc.

Friday, June 15, 2012

God Moves In Mysterious Ways

Years ago, my parents divorced, after a protacted period of contentious relations with one another. I'd learned to my dismay that my father had been having an affair with a divorced woman named Karen Brown. Eventually she married my father, and then she later divorced my father as well. (That second marriage really didn't last very long, although it seemed to me that it lasted longer than I'd have preferred.)

In the interim, however, I found myself in a weird state of existence in which I was being bounced between my father's household and my mother's. I really felt incredibly uncomfortable whenever I had to visit my father's house. Part of the reason was that Dad seemed to feel compelled to rub my face in the fact that he'd chosen to replace my mother with Karen Brown, for whom he seemed to feel an affection he no longer felt for my mother.

Karen Brown had two sons of her own, named Jeff and Doug. During those early years, I resented both of them, for reasons which were obviously not their fault. They clearly couldn't help the situation any more than I could, but in my mind, they were symbols of my father's abandonment of the values I had once incorrectly ascribed to him. I had a particularly hard time understanding why my dad would prefer them to me and my brother. (That may not have actually been the case, but that was how it felt to me.) My awareness of the fact that they were known to use illegal drugs during this period of time enhanced the extent to which I was puzzled by what appeared to be my father's preference for the Brown family.

I'd never wanted any siblings other than my own brother, and I felt as if Doug and Jeff were in a sense forced on me by my father. I suspect that that's pretty common in cases involving divorce and stepmothers or stepfathers.

But over the years, things changed. I can now say that I am pleased to have known Jeff Brown, who seems to have met the Lord Jesus, and who seems to have really turned his life around. contains Jeff's personal life story, and it also contains blog posts which, for the most part, are well worth reading.

Unfortunately, when I learned these things, I was in no position to personally visit with Jeff, since I was already living in Bellingham, WA, and I couldn't afford to travel to Missouri for a visit with Jeff. He isn't the only one to be touched by issues pertaining to foreclosure and the poor economy. My past year has been the worst year I've ever had in some respects, and that's saying a lot. Two strokes (one in June 2011 and one in February 2012) have been hard to deal with, and the same is true with regard to the fact that I've been living in a homeless shelter ever since December 2012. (I also spent a month at another such shelter in November 2011 when I visited Dallas Texas.)

In spite of these issues, however, I have hopes that my situation will improve in the upcoming year, and that eventually Jeff and I will be able to meet one another and fellowship with each other.

That seems more likely to me now that I have learned by visiting his blog that he's now living in Springfield, MO once again.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Equine Dreams

When I was a kid, I loved to read (even though homework bored me to tears). There was a period of time when a lot of my reading consisted of reading books about horses. I didn't really envision myself mucking around horse stalls, but it's pretty hard to think or read about horses without being captivated by their beauty and their power. Daydreaming about such things goes a long way toward explaining why I fell behind in school when I was in junior high (grades 7 and 8).

One author who captured my attention was a woman named Marguerite Henry. Her books, such as Misty of Chincoteague, were well written, and even though the little "ponies" in some of her stories were not exactly the archetypical strong, bold stallions which I loved in stories about race horses, there was something about her stories which I loved nevertheless.

One summer, when my mother and grandmother took me on a driving trip to the East Coast (where we visit Washington DC, Williamsburg, VA, and similar places), they decided that I would enjoy a trip to Chincoteague Island, where Misty and Stormy had lived. We actually visit the home of the former owner of those horses, at the Beebe Ranch. I remember that she gave me photos of the actual horses, and showed me the stalls where she had kept them.

At some point, I believe that I bought a Breyer model horse which was painted to look like Misty or Stormy, down to the distinctive markings on the side of the animal. For someone whose father had never actually bought me a horse or a pony (despite my pleas that he do so), owning those plastic Breyer models was the next best thing, without the animal dung. I read so much about horses that there was a time when I was very well versed in the details pertaining to equine tack, although I have forgotten most of what I knew back then, since I eventually came to a point of acceptance with regard to the probability that I would never have a horse of my own.

Here's a little artistic rendition I created by downloading an image of a Breyer model horse. I ran it through certain filters in Photoshop Elements. It's a useful technique when you want to disguise the fact that the original photo shows a toy, not a real animal.

Giving Anonymously

I have known, ever since I started attending Mosaic Church in Bellingham, WA about half a year ago, that it was a special church, for a variety of reasons. Now I have yet another reason for believing that that's true.

Lionel and Misha Thompson attend our church. Unknown to me until now (believe it or not), Lionel created a charity called Giving Anonymously.

What makes it rather sad is that I am just now finding out about the charity, and I could really use the kind of help I might be likely to receive from that charity. (I've been staying in a local homeless shelter ever since December 2011, and that is not my idea of a good time. The two strokes I had in June 2011 and February 2012 didn't exactly help, either.) But it would seem that the "geniuses" in our government here in Washington state have decided to erect barriers to the functioning of the organization. (And people wonder why the "Occupy" movement was so popular last year.)

Here's a small photo of Lionel. (I hope he doesn't mind, but I "stole" the photo from his web site, and I slightly enhanced it in Photoshop Elements, after converting it to grayscale.)

Here, according to Lionel's web site, is the explanation of their current troubles:

Giving Anonymously is temporarily unable to process gifts as of May 30th. We don't think this is the end of GA, however, we believe this exciting work has only just begun.
Since 2007 Giving Anonymously (GA), a registered charity in Bellingham, Washington, has facilitated anonymous peer to peer giving throughout the USA and to a limited degree internationally. GA is run by a team of volunteers passionate about helping people generously give to those around them in need. To date $2.3 Million has been given through GA (currently averaging $80,000 each month). What we love most about GA are the 1000's of stories and thank you messages (
click here to listen to a few) from people helped by friends who have given to them through GA. Since 2009 the New York Times, NPR, Real Simple Magazine and NBC have run stories which included, or were about, GA.

In 2010 we inquired to the State of Washington about whether or not GA should have a money transmission license. After two years of analyzing our charitable model WA State decided that we needed to not only register for a money transmission license in WA State but in every state of the USA where we transmit money. As the cost of licensing in every state is prohibitive for us (estimated to be $700,000 and $150,000 each year thereafter) we have been advised by the State of WA and our lawyers to partner with an organization licensed to transmit money between people. We are looking for such an organization that can help us by receiving money from our donors and remitting money to our recipients.

You can help us by spreading the word about this – please feel free to share this video and link to this page. If you would like to know when our service is up and running again please
leave a comment with your email address.


The Team at GA

Yeah, that's just what the world needs: Legal requirements which make it harder for people to be good neighbors. I'm sorry, but it's hard for me to resist being sarcastic when I am made aware of such stupidity. Something is really messed up in this world when our government is intent on hindering efforts to be obedient to Jesus. I'm sure they have all kinds of rationalizations, but the bottom line is that a source of help which has been available to lots of needy people is temporarily unavailable.

In the short term, there isn't much I can do on a practical level for Lionel, in terms of financial help, but I can certainly help to spread the word about his predicament in relation to the good work he has been doing.

In the longer term, I also hope to help raise funds for a variety of charities (such as World Vision) with my own fund raising project (called the Artistic Rescue Project). Clearly, I need to add Giving Anonymously to the list of organizations I hope to help with funds acquired in that manner.

I think that Lionel and I can operate in a mutually beneficial manner, by helping to raise funds via the sale of artistic products and tickets to artistic events, such as Christian concerts.

You can contact Lionel at the contact information shown at

Feel free to leave a comment on this blog post, and feel free to contact me at as well.

By the way, the sooner you help Giving Anonymously to resolve these issues and get back to doing what they've clearly been called to do, the sooner my own financial situation will be resolved to my satisfaction. Or at lease I hope that that's the case.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Recognizing One's Enemies

One of the more profound (and abused) scriptures is the one in which Jesus tells people to love their enemies.

One aspect of that teachings is that Jesus recognized that there was a significant difference between enemies and friends. After all, in order to obey his injunction, one first has to recognize that a person is in fact one's enemy.

King David didn't have any trouble telling the difference between a friend and an enemy, which is a good thing, since his first official act of obedience to God was to slay Goliath.

Jesus knew the dark hearts of men far too well to trust them or to fail to understand that there were many human beings who would be all too happy to kill him.

The point I am trying to make is that loving one's enemies is not tantamount to being naive about the fact that they are one's enemies. You can tell an enemy from a friend by examining that person's manner of treating one. Friendship is not free of obligations. There are things one cannot do to another person if one expects to be regarded as a friend and not an enemy. I could list those things specifically by name, but the bottom line is that they call it The Golden Rule for very good reason. They do not call it the Golden Suggestion. Obeying it is not optional in God's book.

A lot of Christians claim that they understand and follow the Golden Rule, but all you have to do to know they are sometimes lying is to ask, "Do you really mean to say that you expect me to believe you would want someone to treat you the way you just treated so-and-so?"

People who endorsed slavery from the pulpit, during the antebellum era, presumably claimed to practice the Golden Rule. How curious. I can't imagine any of those folks volunteering to be anyone's slave. Slavery is only one of many possible examples of believers who lack or lacked the integrity to obey the Golden Rule.

The Golden Rule does not preclude punishing those who have deliberately done things to deserve punishment. But even wrongdoers believe in the principle of reciprocity, if one closely examines what they claim to believe.

So act with integrity, and always keep the Golden Rule in mind when deciding how to treat the people. You will be judged accordingly.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

QR Codes and Temporary Tattoos

Not long ago, I found a web site called (See the attached graphic image.)

I guess it's a better name than, since it was traditionally said that that was what prostitutes did.

It certainly could be argued that advertising products by offering to put company logos on your forehead using temporary tattoos such as those made by companies such as would be better (and safer) than having sex with men or women one barely knows in exchange for money. Compared with prostitution, there's no risk of unwanted pregnancies, so it's a potential life saver for the unborn children who might otherwise be aborted by their prostitute mothers.

When it comes to making money, there are hipper alternatives which might be better than company logos when it comes to temporary tattoos. It might be especially useful from a commercial point of view if one offered to follow the latest trend by putting a graphic QR code on the temporary tattoo. (See the attached graphic files, which I found on the Internet.)

Considering the many manifestations QR codes can take (including plain text, as well as web URL addresses, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, MeCards, VCards, and plain text), one can imagine all sorts of applications. One might even include an affiliate marketing URL, such as those used for selling products via companies such as, so that the person who scanned the QR code on one's face would be taken immediately to a web page where he or she could buy a product, thereby potentially providing one with a new source of revenue.

Note also that one can create dynamic QR codes, which is a good protection if you later change your mind or discover that you accidentally entered a typo when you created the original QR code. A Google search for the phrase "dynamic QR code generator" currently yields 467,000 search results!

One piece of advice: If the code on one's face is a potential source of income, it's probably a good idea to avoid homeless zombie face eaters high on bath salts. (Search the web if you have no idea what I am talking about, but only if you have a very strong stomach.)

Or if you prefer, use a more conventional means of spreading your QR code, such as printing it on a t-shirt or printing it on a pin-back button.

I shudder to think what Jerry Falwell would have thought of the latest craze for putting QR codes anywhere and everywhere. If he thought purple Teletubbies were covert agents for the homosexual community, he would have undoubtedly thought that a QR code in the form of a temporary face tattoo was the equivalent of the "mark of the Beast". "Don't you know," he might have fumed, "that there's a reason they're called QueeR codes!"

As a conservative Christian, I agreed with Falwell's opposition to the gay "rights" movement. But I will admit that Falwell sometimes tended to be a little bit paranoid. Not everything is a plot from hell, not even if one can easily envision it being used for nefarious purposes. I've even seen evidence that the QR code has been used, and is being used, for evangelistic purposes. Sometimes, a tool is just a tool, and its value depends on how it is used.

See the following images, which pertain to the preceding story.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Printing Unprintable Web Pages

I like to browse the web in search of useful information and interesting online articles. When I find what I want to keep so that I can print the information or access it when I am not online, I like to convert it to a PDF file, using Nuance PDF Create 7. (Adobe Acrobat would also work, of course, but it costs a lot more money, and I am not just rolling in money at the moment.)

Unfortunately, I sometimes get gobbledegook from the PDF version created by the Nuance program. It's not that the PDF program is at fault, it's that the browser I use sometimes doesn't (or can't) create decent printable files (which can be easily verified by opening Print Preview). Some browsers work better than others, SOMETIMES, but not always.

Print Friendly ( offers a service where you merely enter the URL of a web page you want to print, and they convert the page to a downloadable PDF file, with or without graphics, as you wish.

Just now, the Print Friendly web site enabled me to create a very high quality PDF from a web page and article I really wanted in that form. Ironically, the web site was one pertaining to the use of the Internet for evangelistic purposes. You would think that the web designers responsible for a site specifically pertaining to the use of the web would be capable of creating online articles which could be printed properly, so they could be shared with others. Apparently not. Fortunately, Print Friendly came to my rescue. It sounds trivial, I know, but it can make the difference between a productive online session and an unproductive one.

I'm pretty sure that Print Friendly will make it a lot easier for visitors to all my blogs and blog posts to make prints and PDF files without wasting space on superfluous and paper-wasting navigational elements. But let me know what your experience is when you try to print this blog post or turn it into a PDF file.

NOTE: Some online services (such as PDF Online, allow you to upload files in certain formats (via the form at and get them converted to PDF files they will e-mail to you. But while that's fine for things like Microsoft Word files (as long as they don't exceed the specified file sizes), it's useless for making PDF files from web pages one finds.

PrintFriendly is independent of the computer you're using, so even if you are browsing the web with a public computer, such as one of those found in libraries, you should still be able to make PDFs from whatever web site you find. That should help eliminate the need for libraries to offer printing capabilities to web surfers. What a boon that would have been to me back when I was using the computers at the Harold Washington Library for such research purposes. Back in those days, I ended up spending money I shouldn't have had to spend, just so I could archive the info I found online.

The library should place a prominent link to Print Friendly on the home page for the library's web site. Pronto! It would be the eco-friendly thing to do, and it would be a real service to the poor people who are often forced to use such free public computers.

A MINOR GRIPE: The Print Friendly service generates PDF files which are a different page size than the 8.5 x 11-inch pages which are considered "letter size" in the United States. So I am guessing that Print Friendly was created by a European company, since page sizes in Europe are slightly different from the 8.5 x 11-inch size. Ir's annoying. If one tries to print to the standard letter size page size from the PDF, you can do so, but it sometimes produces text which does not appear correctly in the new lettersize version. I just posted a question about this issue on the support page at, and I hope they answer it to my satisfaction. Otherwise, it's a great web site, and if I never print the PDF files there (which will often be the case, because the reason I want to be able to make PDFs from web pages is usually that I am trying to avoid the need to print them), it won't really matter. The thing is, though, that I would like to be able to make proper printouts from time to time. So they need to offer a dialogue button which specifies what the page size should be when making PDF files. One should even be able to print web pages to non-standard page sizes such as 11x17.

UPDATE: While PrintFriendly can often create some excellent PDF files, that isn't always the case. Sometimes the PrintFriendly PDF shows text which is clearly missing characters, and the best way in such cases can be to just select the actual text, copy it and then paste it into a plain text editor or word processor. Also, PrintFriendly isn't always capable of capturing desired graphic images on particular web pages. In such cases, one may be able to right click the photos and download them, or else do screen shots which can be saved as editable graphic files, usually PNG format. There does not seem to be a universal solution for all web pages, and I wish that the folks at PrintFriendly would figure out a way to make their program work for ALL web pages. But it's still a great option to know about.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Don't Be A Church Hater, Be A Church Rater

Not long ago, I learned about a web site called Church Rater ( is another similar web site.

The idea is that if people are able to rate products and services via web sites such as (, one should also be able to rate churches one has attended. (And in fact Yelp does offer the ability to rate churches.)

In some circles, the existence of such websites may be deemed as a sign that the apocolypse is nearly upon us. Presumably, it's one thing for people to publicly state their opinions about such seemingly trivial matters as the best pizza joint or the best lawyer in town, but when it comes to things considered by many people to be sacred and beyond reproach, we are supposed to be silent.

I don't know how we are supposed to prevent tragedies such as the many which have tainted the church throughout its history, if we do not publicly hold people accountable. The story of how power can corrupt alleged men and women of God is a long, sad and sordid tale. Burying such things under the rug is NOT in the best interest of the church.

Websites like are badly needed, in my opinion, which is based on a lifetime of personal experiences in the church --- the good, the bad and the truly ugly.

When a church is good, it can be a real blessing. I've had churches and pastors who filled my life with great joy, especially because I sometimes had to search for a long time before finding such churches.

One pastor I'll always remember fondly was a man in the Boston area, at a Missionary Alliance church in Jamaica Plain.  His name was Jordan Greely. I developed a close friendship with an assistant pastor there named Ed Williams.

Jordan and Ed came into my life just at a time when I was feeling really burned and burned out by previous church experiences in the city. (When I'd complained to my mother about the unfriendliness of one of those churches, the guy who'd been pastor there before being relocated to a church in my hometown in Missouri had told my mother that what I needed was a good kick in the behind! Nice, huh? Ironically, that man, named Cal Le Mon, had later been kicked out of the Springfield church he "served", having been accused of adultery. If you're reading this, Cal, it seems to me that YOU were the one who needed a kick in the behind. You still owe me an apology, several decades after the fact. Yes, Christians ought to practice forgiveness, but receiving such forgiveness is predicated on one's willingness to humbly confess one's sins and ask for forgiveness. Asking for forgiveness and arrogantly demanding forgiveness as if it's one's birthright are two entirely different things. God requires genuine repentance, he does not arbitrarily dole out "forgiveness indulgences" like so many lollypops.)

Back in the 80s, Jordan Greely knew that I could be trusted after we'd only talked for a brief time period about my desperate need for a piano where I could keep my chops in shape, and he actually gave me the key to the church, asking only that I respect their need for order with regard to other meetings there, and that I clean and lock the place each time before I left at the end of a practice session. Over the next year, I became very close to him and his wife, and when I heard that he had been assigned to another church, I openly wept. Now he's the pastor at Westfield Alliance Church ( Maybe I'll get to see him again one day, although we're currently at opposite ends of the continent.

I've had other similarly cherished relationships with pastors, and I count myself fortunate that I am now in what seems to be a good relationship with a Bellingham pastor named Matt Atkins (Pastor of Mosaic Church.)

But I have to be candid and say that I've also had to deal with my share of jerks. (Jerks for Jesus, I like to call them.)

There was the Springfield, MO pastor who actually called me "no better than a prostitute on the streets" because I dared to express disagreement with his policy of not paying musicians or even helping them with "love offerings" when they were struggling with the expenses which are a well known aspect of the lives of most Christian musicians, who are not usually "in it for the money".

There was the Chicago Bible study teacher who misquoted King David when David said he wouldn't "touch the head of God's anointed". (David was saying he would charitably refrain from murdering Saul, he wasn't saying he wouldn't even criticize Saul, for crying out loud.)

Pastors too full of themselves to read the Bible in the proper context can always find out a way to imply that they ought to be regarded as exempt from criticism, even though Jesus' criticisms of the spiritual leaders were pointed, to the point where he even drove out the money changers with a little whip! (Funny, I can't even recall using any such methods myself. But apparently we now live in a day and age when some pastors think it's appropriate to excommunicate people for committing the "offense" of criticm which is expressed via e-mail or voice mail messages.)

One online article I found which addresses this kind of arrogance in the name of faith can be found at, but I suspect that there are many others if I just wanted to take the time to look them up.

A position of church authority ought not to be regarded as a blank check to do anything one wants to do to members of "the flock". Jesus said "To whom much is given, much will be required."

If bad online reviews is the worst thing which happens to some abusive pastors, they ought to count themselves fortunate indeed.