Sapphire Sky

March 31, 2010

Cool websites

Filed under: homeschooling — Anthony Biller @ 11:10 am

Some interesting websites, particularly for learning.

Edheads is an interactive site where you can conduct brain surgery, design a cell phone, replace a knee, and more … very cool interactive site with some real (and gross) surgery graphics.

If you have any interest in birds, Cornell has a great website All About Birds that is filled with information, pictures and birds.  If you ever wonder what a Belted Kingfisher sounds and looks like, this place is for you.

NASA’s web gallery is a great place to see the universe … or at least small portions of it.

 

The USDA is making continual efforts to popularize its new food pyramid.  The MyPyramid website has a lot of content, some of it geared for kids and most of it intended for family consumption … While the website isn’t stellar, the issue of nutrition is worth widespread attention and support given the epidemic of obesity and particularly the ever-increasing rate of childhood obesity.

Cornell also operates the best website for legal research, the Legal Information Institute.

March 30, 2010

Work at home moms

Filed under: books, culture, homeschooling, marriage and family — Anthony Biller @ 1:59 pm

My wife and I recently took a well needed, long weekend vacation – without kids .  It had been many years since we took time off together.  I’ve heard of people who do this kinda stuff regularly, but don’t think I’ve actually met anyone.  The trip was instigated by a kind friend who has repeatedly encouraged us to give effort toward not growing apart.  Wise and hard-earned advise.  Without our kids, the first several hours “alone” almost seemed awkward.  It occurred to me that typically so much of our time is talking about what the kids have done, are doing, or are going to do.  We’ve done a “night out” on occasions, however, those nights are typically taken up with whatever urgent matters filled the day and talking about the kids.  Having several days alone together was really a nice change of pace and opportunity to reconnect.  We didn’t even have to use the “conversation cards” that our friend gave us.

During the course of our vacation, we both also did a lot of reading, at least compared to the snippets we typically sneak in while on family vacations.  I started reading A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin.  He brings to life the intrigues of royal court (in a fantasy genre).  He’s an excellent story-teller and developer of characters.  (It’s by no means a homeschooling book nor appropriate for family reading as the narrative is occasionally course and explicit.)  The story places a heavy emphasis on royal families and their maneuverings.  The women of the families play key roles, particularly the queens.  Affairs of family and of state largely overlap.

At some point, not too far into the novel, it occurred to me how at all levels of the story, from the peasant to the noble, the family was the basic operating or building block of the society, which is essentially the agrarian, pre-modern society.  Family came first and nearly everything orbited around the family.  How odd in comparison to our times, where families are fractured and spread across miles and even states.  Families don’t work together very often and it’s quite atypical for a mother to actually work for her own family.  To the contrary, to the liberalized western eye, it is sometimes used as a term of condescension to refer to someone as a “house wife,” ie someone whose business is the affairs of her family.  Although it’s contrary to thousands of years of societal history, we are quite often proud when we send our wives and mothers to work for someone else, to help another person profit.  Strange times. 

This historical oddity of sending our wives and mothers to work for others is the direct result of “liberation.”  Since woman may and can compete evenly with men in commerce, we conclude that they ought to value working for others more highly than working for their own families.  That reminds me of another questionable fruit of gender liberalization – abortion and how we view birth control.  While abortion is an ongoing moral tragedy, birth control is a mixed bag.  I heard Doug Phillips say some time ago that the Bible teaches children are a blessing from the Lord and that debt is a curse to be avoided.  In our modern culture, we work to prevent such blessings while we apply for the curses!  In any event, while woman have certainly made huge advances over the past half-century in the West for the right to equal treatment under the law, we have gone further and lost at least some of what was once such a valued and proud part of womanhood — being the foundation of the family.  We should not now be surprised at the pathologies that now plague the modern family.

March 28, 2010

What is the best proof of creation?

Filed under: Atheism, agnostic, evolution, etc., culture — Steve Knaus @ 8:15 pm

There is an excellent article here about looking for convincing proof of creation.

There is a lot of talk about presuppositions.  When you start out with the presupposition that there is no God, then you are left with finding interpretation of the world around us as evidence of evolution.

However, when you believe that God exists and has provided us his word then the rest of creation shows us the evidence of his work.

Good at Heart?

Filed under: culture, theology, Uncategorized — Steve Knaus @ 12:26 am

I recently saw this quote on a popular TV show:

“That man…believes that everyone is corruptible because it is in their very nature to sin.  I bring people here to prove him wrong.”  (See the entire clip here).

This quote, as expressed by the “good guy” speaks to the essence of thought in our culture: man is basically good.

The democrats in life espouse the goodness of man by believing that people will do right if they are only educated properly, given the right opportunities, etc. When we build the proper “village”, people will be good.

The republicans in life espouse the goodness of man by believing that people do right if left alone.  When we stop meddling with others, people will be good.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Bible says that “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).   This is further shown in the New Testament (using Old Testament quotes):

There is none righteous, not even one;
There is none who understands,
There is none who seeks for God;
All have turned aside, together.
There is none who does good,
There is not even one.
Their throat is an open grave,
With their tongues they keep deceiving,
The poison of asps is under their lips,
Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness
Their feet are swift to shed blood,
Destruction and misery are in their paths,
And the path of peace they have not known.
There is no fear of God before their eyes.

-Romans 3:10-18

Apart from God, we are all corrupt and worthless.  Even when we know God, we are not much better, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8).

We are all corruptible and sinners by nature.  Thankfully, God offers to cleanse us:

Come now, and let us reason together, says The Lord,
Though your sins are as scarlet,
They will be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They will be like wool.

-Isaiah 1:18

Since God has forgiven us, we can thank him with the Apostle Paul, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us.” (Ephesians 1:7-8)

No, we are far from being good at heart.  But thanks to God that he forgives us and brings us back to him!

March 26, 2010

Contact NC Attorney General to Join Constitutional Challenge

Filed under: politics, economy, etc., Uncategorized — dadofmultiples @ 4:38 pm

I am told that Roy Cooper, the Attorney General of NC, will join with the other 13 states to challenge the constitutionality of the recently passed health care legislation.  I am not sure if he is sincere, but, in the event that he is, here is the contact link:

Here is my letter:

Mr. Cooper:

Please join with the other 13 states and challenge the constitutionality of the recently signed health care bill. Our rights under the constitution should revolve around freedoms that are intrinsic to individuals that do NOT infringe on the rights and liberties of others. There is no authority in the constitution for Congress to mandate that private citizens must purchase a good or service from a private company. It simply is not an option that is available to Congress. I would urge you to support your constituents by challenging this egregious encroachment on our liberties.

Now is the time to stand for liberty rather than to simply give the appearance of it. Esse Quam Videri

March 24, 2010

Really, it’s not about you

Filed under: culture, theology — Anthony Biller @ 10:07 pm

What an uncool and unpopular sentiment.  Of course it’s about YOU.  I mean, if I heard anything as a kid, it was “Have it your way” and “You deserve a break today” and “If it doesn’t make you happy …”  The entire sentiment underpinning most marketing is that it’s all about you.  It’s an easy premise to accept.  If most people are anything like me, I find it extraordinarily easy to think of myself first.  I’m a natural at it.  Based on my tenure on this globe thus far, I think this might be the most commonly shared talent.

I used to work in a ministry where we would visit church visitors.  Part of the visit was to see where they were spiritually.  One of the key questions we would ask was, “If you were to stand before God and he were to ask, ‘Why should I let you into my Heaven?’, how would you answer?”  So many church people talked about how they tried to live their lives like Jesus. The most common answer was about how they had lived.

Those responses remind me of what Jesus foretold as recalled by Matthew in chapter 7 of his book:

21Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

God wants for us to rely upon him and what he has done for us.  Our “goodness” will spring from that faith, from trusting in Christ for our strength, and from desiring to please the God that has given us everything.  Those who try to justify themselves based on their own actions will be rejected — even called “evil.”  Again, Paul warned the Corinthians (2 Cor. 10) that all glory is to God, not man:

26Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29so that no one may boast before him. 30It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”

Woe to the men and women who stand before God at judgement and try to explain how well they’ve lived their lives and what tragedy for them to hear, “away from me” …  Again, Paul explained to the Ephesians in chapter 2 of his letter, “8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast.”  And to the Romans, “9That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” (Rom. 10)

All glory, honor, and power shall be to our lord and God forever and ever.

That is the way it is.  It’s not because God begrudges us attention, to the contrary, in the context of holiness, it’s a mystery why he has anything to do with our rebellion.  He is pure love.  As stated, as the sons of Adam and daughters of Eve, we naturally love ourselves.  The foundation of the law is to love God with all we are and to love others as we love ourselves.  Every time we fail to do that, we rebel against God.  Hah!  I am a natural-born rebel.  On rare occasions when I selflessly love through the power of Christ in me, then, I am living as God intended.  Regardless of my rebel nature in the flesh, he covers my sin in the blood sacrifice of his son … Why?  It’s unwarranted.  I don’t know why God did it.  It’s amazing grace.  It’s all about him and what he’s done for us – our creator, our redeemer, and our perfector.  All glory and honor to Jesus Christ.  It’s not about us.  Amen.

March 23, 2010

A symbol of freedom

Filed under: culture, video — Anthony Biller @ 8:15 pm

Going the Distance

Filed under: sports — Anthony Biller @ 8:30 am

I ran my first marathon this weekend.  It lived up to the billing.  After the finish, I could relate to how Pheidippides must have felt after he delivered his message to the assembly in Athens.  (Incidentally, this year is the quinviginticentennial of that first marathon.)   The first 21 miles weren’t that bad.  The last four miles were the longest miles of my life.  I think they were longer than the previous 22.  Time was agonizingly expanded and distances stretched. 

Somewhere around mile 17, I experienced one of those periods of crisp moral and emotional clarity that I’ve mentioned before. I felt the presence of God.  If my wife had been there, I might have wept at her feet out of love for her.  As it was, the elation was relatively short-lived and followed not too long thereafter by increasing amounts of profound discomfort.  When I finally reached the finish line, I eventually fell at the feet of my wife and children, however, that was because my legs were not at all interested in holding me up further.   

Those periods of clarity are really worth the trip however.  I wonder whether it’s the same clarity people experience as they face imminent death.  After the race (and a shower), we were reading CS Lewis’ The Silver Chair, and came across the following passage, which takes place after Aslan explains to the heroine Jill Pole the signs she is to observe and what she is to do in Narnia: 

  “Here on the mountain I have spoken to you clearly: I will not often do so down in Narnia. Here on the mountain, the air is clear and your mind is clear; as you drop down into Narnia, the air will thicken. Take great care that it does not confuse your mind. And the signs which you have learned here will not look at all as you expect them to look, when you meet them there. That is why it is so important to know them by heart and pay no attention to appearances. Remember the signs and believe the signs. Nothing else matters. And now, daughter of Eve, farewell -”   

On the mountain, the air and mind are clear.  How unclear it sometimes becomes in the thick and tangle of events. As James reminds us, not only must we keep sight of what we are to do, we are then to do it.  By God’s grace, we shall. 

The first marathoner ...

 

March 22, 2010

Yes they did!

Filed under: politics, economy, etc. — Anthony Biller @ 10:42 am

The “pro-life Democrats” showed the depths of their convictions yesterday by voting for the largest expansion of federal funding for abortion in our nation’s history.  Of course, they were reassured by the most pro-abortion president in decades that he wouldn’t implement the abortion provisions of the law …  Even if that were a reliable promise (and I’ll hold out hope it was), how long does it last?  The law is in place for essentially a federally guaranteed right to an abortion with taxpayer money.

When Obama talked about a new period of politics, I thought he had some form of bipartisanship or Clinton-triangulation in mind.  What a joke — new period as in damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead with a hardcore, left-wing, statist agenda.  He and the Dems have greatly increased the polarity of our body politic.  These are not healthy times for our country.

Symbolically, the websites of the late William F. Buckley’s publication, National Review, responds today with this message: Service Unavailable.  Mr. Buckley and NR proudly state that their mission is to stand athwart history yelling “Stop!”  Looks like they’ve lost their voice today.  Speedy recovery!

March 20, 2010

Pending Healthcare Vote

Filed under: politics, economy, etc. — Anthony Biller @ 7:17 pm

Perhaps some final thoughts before the US gets what it voted for … massive expansion of federal control and authority …

The Canadian Premier’s selecting US private healthcare for his heart surgery over the socialized Canadian healthcare speaks volumes.  I’m heartened that he is unapologetic over putting his health above politics.  You have to at least admire his candor and the timing.  His obtaining care outside the Canadian system reminds me of my experience with government-run healthcare — my years in the US Army.  We suffered more than our share of broken bones and twisted bodies in the 82nd Airborne, and it was considered like winning the lottery to get referred off post for private healthcare.  Sadly, in 2007, more than a decade after I left active duty, the flagship Army medical center was roundly and properly criticized for neglecting their soldier patients (see here).  Experiencing the socialist enclave of the military was the catalyst for shedding my statist, ie liberal, leanings. 

I don’t see how the Democrats don’t pass their healthcare bill.  With such wide margins in both chambers of Congress and controlling the presidency … Unfortunately, a voter “correction” in this year’s mid-term elections and even winning the presidency and Congress back in 2012 would be very unlikely to roll back this legislation, should it pass.  It’s so very unlikely that conservatives would gain a filibuster proof Senate margin.

Regardless of whether we take the Euro-socialist plunge over the next few days and resign our children to European economic stagnation, Christ still reigns, the sun will still shine, and our God still calls us to love and serve.  Press on!

March 19, 2010

Christian Horoscope

Filed under: culture, encouragement, entertainment — Anthony Biller @ 10:51 am

I’ve been surprised by the increasing numbers of horoscopes that friends post to their Facebook pages and FB “horoscope” application invites I’ve received.  Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised.  The daily horoscope is as fundamental a part of the American daily newspaper as is the funnies and editorial page.  I seem to recall that many papers used to list the page number of daily horoscopes on the front page.  Horoscopes are an accepted part of modern American culture.

So here’s a Christian horoscope, good for any day and any sign:  Today is a day you should shout for JOY to the Lord and worship the Lord with gladness.  Come before him with grateful hearts and enter his gates with thanksgiving.  Know that the Lord is good and his love endures forever.  Take every opportunity today to pray and to bless others with love and grace.  Look for an opportunity to serve, particularly those that wouldn’t expect that from you.  Tell somebody about Jesus today.  You don’t have a lucky number or color.  Finally, don’t be afraid to shout “God is great!”, particularly in a crowded area.  If you follow this advice and place your trust and faith in Christ, a peace that transcends understanding will be yours.

LEGAL DISCLAIMER: this isn’t a “horoscope.” Bye definition a horoscope is a prediction of events based on a diagram of the stars and planets.  My forecast is not based on astrology but is based entirely on (more…)

March 18, 2010

New Paradigm Ministry: Door43

Filed under: Ministry, Uncategorized — Anthony Biller @ 12:03 pm

I have some friends and client that recently started an exciting, next-generation ministry called Door43.  The ministry is missions based, with a view of using the internet and a Christian creative commons to create discipleship tools for minority language groups in limited access countries.  I can see the ministry expanding to include major language groups as well.  The tools and content will be free of charge and released under a Creative Commons license, giving anyone, anywhere, the freedom to translate, adapt, edit, improve, re-purpose and redistribute the tools for any ministry need, without any legal concern or copyright infringement. Door43 is working to establish an open-membership network of Christians to create and translate content for use all over the world. The internet site will provide an on-line workbench that uses a wiki engine as a platform for drafting, discussing, editing, refining and distributing open discipleship tools.  Door43 is somewhat like a cross between Facebook and Wikipedia.  This is exciting, 21st Century missions work.  Please  consider joining their team through prayer, getting the word out, and if you’re able, by financially supporting this fledgling ministry effort.

March 17, 2010

A man’s best friend … and death from above

Filed under: humor — Anthony Biller @ 3:41 pm

In addition to unconditionally welcoming you home, snuggling your kids, keeping the UPS delivery man at bay, and licking your face at inopportune times, they infiltrate enemy positions and destroy terrorists … see here.  As if one needs yet another reason to prefer dogs.  I wonder whether al-Qaeda are cat lovers.

Skilled Animator

Filed under: entertainment, humor — dadofmultiples @ 12:55 pm

Apologies, in advance, for a commercial interruption.  But, I’ve been working with an extremely talented individual to do some adver-tainment.  He is doing an animated gag for a company I do some contract work for.  I just got the final draft of his first piece and I have to share the link as I think his work deserves to be seen.  Just in case you missed the hyperlink in the last sentence…..you can find the 30 second spot here.

Now, back to your regularly scheduled blog.

Sacrifices in the Pacific

Filed under: entertainment — Anthony Biller @ 12:10 pm

Mackubin Owens has a very good article at NRO on the new HBO’s The Pacific: A Story Worth Telling.  Another great story telling about the Pacific theatre is Vision Forum’s movie The League of Grateful Sons, available on DVD.  A touching intro to that touching movie is here.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Filed under: culture — Anthony Biller @ 8:59 am

It wasn’t until we started homeschooling that I learned the marvelous testimony of St. Patrick and why he’s celebrated.  Turns out it’s not because he turned beer green.  In his sixteenth year, he was kidnapped, taken to Ireland, and sold into slavery.  After six years, he heard God call him to flee, which he did.  After several days of wandering, he called down from a cliff to a boat at sea, who agreed to take him aboard, despite being famished themselves, and just happened to be sailing back to Patrick’s Britain.  After returning to Britain, Patrick had a vision of an angel or saint relaying the cries of the lost pagan Irish.  Patrick returned and spent the rest of his life, a difficult life, proclaiming the Gospel of Christ to the very people who had enslaved him.  A life well lived.

It’s not often we have a holiday for someone just because he was a faithful servant of Jesus Christ!

March 14, 2010

“Free” Government Education

Filed under: homeschooling, politics, economy, etc. — dadofmultiples @ 9:33 pm

Every time I get a property tax bill, I’m shocked to see how much of our taxes are used to fund public education.  These, of course, do not include the “education lottery”*, bonds, and other ways that our schools are funded.  This is particularly galling considering the quality of the education and the amount of indoctrination that is being done.  However, as is true with many things involving the government, it is actually quite a bit worse than most of us would have imagined.  The Cato Institute has just finished a study on the actual cost per student in various school districts across the country.  The exemplary school system in Washington, D.C., as an example, spends approximately $28,000 per student per year.

Here’s a link to a short video about their research.  There’s a hyperlink in the video to the entire written report.  This will give you a little something to think about the next time you see a politician on TV bemoaning the fact that kids are having bake sales and car washes to help pay for books.

With all of their experience in keeping education costs down, there’s no reason to think our public servants won’ t be able to do the same for health care.

*Does any one else find the premise of a lottery to pay for education strange?  It would seem that as the kids become more educated less people will be playing the lottery.  If lottery receipts go down (knowing that the state is already in the liquor and gambling business) I suppose they will  just start a numbers racket and a brothel?  “But it’s for the children!”  Indeed.

March 13, 2010

Triathlon Rules

Filed under: sports — Anthony Biller @ 4:06 pm

Triathlon season opened today for our family.  My oldest daughter started the season for us.

Our first family rule of triathlon: you can eat whatever you want after your race.  A related rule is that your fan club can also order whatever they want.  A corollary to these rules is that triathlons require some proximity to cheeseburgers. 

Cheeseburgers – yet another reason to praise God.

March 12, 2010

Legal follies …

Filed under: biz, legal, and professionalism — Anthony Biller @ 9:17 am

I believe that USA has the best legal system in the world, seriously, and that the rule of law is essential to preserving freedom and having efficient free markets.  I also believe the law is a calling and a blessing from God.  With that said …

Houston lawyer threatens lawsuit for losing his jacket, here

Depressed firefighters sue furniture manufacturers because their products burned too quickly when funiture store burned down, here.

“Celebrity” Lindsay Lohan sues for $100M for E-Trade’s use of Lindsay in a commercial, claiming her name as the same name recognition as “Oprah” or “Madonna.”  See here.  Two thoughts.  First, I know a number of Lindsays.  It’s a popular, nice name.  In contrast, I have never met an “Oprah” and only ever met one other person named Madonna (incidently, the Madonna I know is a truly good and decent person that is not a disgrace to the name and who was named well before the celebrity status of the name).  Second, Ms. Lohan is no Oprah or even a Madonna.  While I’m proudly un-hip when it comes to pop-culture, I think I still know who is “famous.”  I had to check IMDb to figure out which plastic face actress Ms. Lohan is.  Oh yeah, her.

The Wisdom of God

Filed under: encouragement, theology — Steve Knaus @ 12:35 am

The Wisdom of God

I have been reading through James lately and am being taught about the wisdom of God vs. the wisdom of the world.

Some attributes that we see from the world’s wisdom:

  • Feeds our own lusts (1:14, 4:3)
  • Builds within us a covetousness that develops into other sins (1:15; 4:2)
  • Enemy of God (4:4)
  • Jealous, bitter (3:14; 4:5)
  • Has no hope (3:15)

In contrast, some attributes of God’s wisdom:

  • Not what the world sees (4:4)
  • Pure, peaceable, reasonable, merciful, sincere (3:17) (more…)
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