Saturday, April 28, 2007

How much is this worth?

China's One-Child policy is no all bark-no bite policy. News has leaked of some recent cases of brutal enforcement of that policy. As the article describes, Chinese officials are currently worried about their public image. They probably don't have reason to worry, because they still make the cheapest products. If you really want something, you can get it for half the price by buying Chinese.

Though we are too materialistic to let news like this bother us for more than a day, perhaps we should. Considering the communist Chinese government's role in and benefit from their industry (which, unlike the U.S. gov't, is direct, rather than indirect), we ought to realize that our purchases do impact that government greatly, which is why their government cares about how their image will be affected by this.

Is there an electronic or plastic item that would be a wonderful addition to our home? Perhaps we should consider a more expensive version made in another country. Can we not afford it? Then perhaps we can do without. Especially when we consider the alternative. Is this wonderful improvement to the life of my family worth funding the forced murder of unborn children?

Friday, April 20, 2007

Our Virginia Tech Narrative and Jarrett Lane

At work on Monday morning, one of my bosses came out of his office to ask me, “Didn’t you go to Virginia Tech? There’s been a shooting there.” On CNN’s website, I found that there had been two people shot in the dorms. I was wondering why the story was getting so much attention. I didn’t think of the story in terms of a gunman on the loose, but instead in terms of the two students who were killed. I continued to check the website for names of the people involved. Not too long after, someone in the office said that a lot more people had been shot. Someone said that I might know some of the people who were there, seeing as it was an engineering building. My answer was that there were a whole lot of engineering buildings on campus. Liv called soon afterward after getting a phone call from my mother, and she told me that the shooting had happened at Norris Hall, and she also told me that there were 20 dead. I couldn’t place in my mind which hall was Norris, but I knew that I had had some classes there.

At my first opportunity, I took my lunch break to come home. One of our close friends is a PhD student in Electrical Engineering, so we called his house to check on him. His wife said that he was ok, and that he was in Whitemore Hall at the time. We breathed a sigh of relief, and felt confident that no one we knew was hurt. We turned on the television, and looking at a map of campus, we remembered that I had had several classes in Norris Hall, and had taught class in that building 4 days a week my last semester at VT. The landscape for these events was utterly familiar to us, but the events of that day still felt far off. I returned to work relieved, but yet feeling very awkward. I wanted to understand what had happened and why. One of my co-workers was asking me about things, and I tried to answer him, but I didn’t feel like I was making any sense. I wanted to systematize the situation, but I didn’t have the tools to do so.

After work, my dad (a VT alum) called. He asked if everyone at our church was safe. I said that I was pretty sure, and that I had contacted the person most likely to have been there. My dad encouraged me to make sure, so I called our pastor in Blacksburg, David Vance. David answered the phone somberly and told us that everyone was ok. In fact, he had a story of God’s goodness in that one of our friends, Will Johnson, would have been in Norris Hall, but had overslept that morning. David encouraged us to pray that the church would be able to have a good witness during this time when many people would question the goodness of God. We retired early that night, praying that God would do this very thing, and thanking him for his clear protection of Will.

First thing the next morning, I checked the victims list on I saw one name that stood out: “Jarrett Lane.” This was merely a common-sounding name, I thought. In the car on my way to work, it struck me—Jarrett had been a student of mine. His lanky frame and short red hair had appeared clearly in my mental vision. Jarrett had come to lab just after the first quiz, and I did not have a choice but to give him a zero for that quiz, as I had been instructed to do. Instead of the confrontation that I expected, he understood why I had done what I had done, and did not complain. I was impressed. In fact, he became my favorite student, one with whom I shared many non-academic conversations after class. During class, I always found opportunities to speak against the philosophical relativism prevalent on campus. With Jarrett, I had had the opportunity after class to pursue this conversation further, actually going through a proof of the existence of God, though I tried to use subtlety in doing so. He always appeared to be tracking with my logic, and he agreed with my conclusions. I had considered going further, to share the gospel with Jarrett, but did not because I did not want to lose my job.

This recognition of Jarrett took moments to occur, but as soon as the realization completed, I had been pierced. My work at VT had appeared to me before to be faithful, but I realized my unfaithfulness. And this unfaithfulness may have hurt someone, and may have hurt him deeply. Sadness on behalf of Jarrett and his family overwhelmed me, with my guilt before God cutting me and deepening my pain. In sorrow, I called out to God, confessing my unfaithfulness and thanking him for showing me my sin. I knew that my God had heard my prayer, but my unrest did not subside. Throughout the day, God skillfully drove his healing nails into my heart, as Jesus with Peter. He did not want me to quickly forget this heinous sin, nor did I want to. At lunch, Liv encouraged me to respond by doing what the Lord was doing in me, that is, to value God’s forgiveness more, and never again to put fear of man before fear of the Lord, but to be bold in the proclamation of the gospel. Yet my prayers did not cease. Not only was I praying that God would work these things in me, I also struggled with God. “Lord, I know that you are good, and that you will make all things new, but how can this be set right? Please tell me that you have already done so, that Jarrett was a Christian all along! May I see him on the last day.” I pleaded with God to give me this comfort.

God gave me little rest, and instead by Fatherly discipline, caused godly grief to do its work. I looked for a description of Jarrett everywhere I could. I tried to contact guys that I thought might have known him. I did not find anything substantive until that evening.

In the personality profile from the A.P., Jarrett was described as humble and kind, just as I remembered him. His family said that they were leaning on the grace of God, which gave me hope. They declined to be further interviewed, needing instead time to grieve. However, the news from his hometown did not need his family to give the story. Jarrett’s life story was well-known there. He was known to be a Christian before he was anything else, and Jarrett was clear that here was his first identity. A day full of tears of sorrow turned into an evening of joyous celebration by Liv and I. We thanked God for his work on Jarrett’s behalf, and for comforting us by revealing this. We asked again for boldness on behalf of Christ, not only for us, but for our church body in Blacksburg, and for all of the Christians there.

The New York Times’ website had an opportunity for people who knew the victims to comment. The following is what I posted on the New York Times’ website:

I was a graduate student in civil engineering at VT. I taught Jarrett in a Mechanics of Materials lab. Jarrett was my favorite student during my entire time at VT. Many times, I hear people praising victims of atrocities, and I assume that people are merely trying to put glossy finishes on the lives of others. However, these descriptions of Jarrett as a very humble and hardworking and friendly guy are very apt, if not understated. I hope that people realize what Jarrett apparently always tried to get across, that his care for others was in the name of a faithful, kind, and merciful Savior, the Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ, b/c of whom he had received undeserved mercy. May Jarrett's memory encourage those of us who have tasted of God's mercy in Christ to love others as we have been loved, and to be unashamed of the message of the gospel, which is the power of God for salvation. The prayers of my family and of so many other believers are for Jarrett's family, that they would take comfort in the strong and wise love of the sovereign God. Not only this, but that they "may not grieve as those who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep." (1 Thess. 4:13-14). Also that they would be given words to speak, to be "prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you." (1 Peter 3:15).

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Vocab 015

Anna Ruth's vocabulary changes so quickly, so I wanted to make a list of her current vocab at 15 months. So, while I was at it, I thought it might be a fun thing for all of y'all to see, too.

Words: Dadda, Mama, baby, bear, ball, all done, bye-bye, amen (at the end of prayers and hymns, as well as at the end of books, turning off the TV, vacuum cleaner, etc... (We're still trying to explain the appropriate times to say it)), hey, owl, duck, dah (dog), hair, shirt, shoe, box, off (whenever a light is turned off), ra-ra (cracker), juice

Phrases: What's that?, It's a baby.

Signs: juice, eat, more, please, all done, milk (working on thank you)

Other interesting happenings and hobbies: LOVES books, LOVES dogs, dances to music (doesn't quite get rhythm yet), fake laughs (whenever she hears anyone else laughing), gives kisses (and says "Mmwah" while doing it), gives hugs (pats or rubs shoulder, also), points to parts of body when asked where they are, makes animal noises (monkey, dog (barking and panting), lion, snake, bee)

In addition
to saying "shoe",
Anna Ruth has
also begun to
find my shoes
and try to walk
around in them.

It doesn't
usually turn out
very well, but she
is never daunted
by the idea of
trying again.