MSNBC: U.S. sustains 3,000th fatality in Iraq — Texas soldier’s death raises toll to new milestone; Bush weighs his options

The next few stories will tell of another victim of the Iraq who won’t make the official list of war dead . . .

WSWS.org: Maryland Reservist killed by police after refusing deployment to Iraq

Washington Post: Reservist Due for Iraq Is Killed in Standoff With Police

Washington Post: Distant War May Have Claimed Md. Soldier — Veteran Slain in Police Standoff Was Devastated by Call-Up, Family Says

Words can’t express the tragedy of this death and many others who have died unnecessarily.


Happy New Year’s!


I’m at my house this New Year’s. I haven’t decided yet if I’m going downtown or not (I’m leaning towards not, it’s just too cold tonight… and besides I have a Rogue Shakespeare Stout in the fridge).

One tradition I will be observing is listening to the song “New Lang Syne” (a/k/a “Thank God it’s over”) by the band Jim’s Big Ego. I first heard the song back in 2001 (click here to read my blog post from back then… this btw was when I was living out at the farm for awhile) on a segment on NPR’s All Things Considered that discussed the origins and many version of the song Auld Lang Syne. Since then it has been a holiday staple for me.

Also, here’s a new (and rather corny yet endearing) video of the song.



LA Times: Feud may cast mosque beside swine — A Texas man’s response to a he said-he said dispute with Muslim neighbors: pig races on Friday nights.

MSNBC: Houston suburb in dispute over mosque plan — Some residents object to plan; neighbor threatens to hold pig races

KIAOnline.org: Katy Islamic Association’s official website

KatyIslamicAssociation.net – hate website created by a member of the Katy community — this website is way scary. These folks are super-paranoid racists/religous bigots (a prime example is on this page)

What a sad situation. It definitely speaks volumes as to the fear that is prevalent in America today. Muslims are overall good people. There’s bad apples in every religion, but frankly I think the percentage of bad apples in Islam and Christianity are pretty comparable (in fact, I would rather have a Muslim neighbor than a Christian neighbor, because the Muslims are more likely to be nice people in my experience)

I’m also blown away by how upset folks are getting about this mosque, when Christians build massive buidings all of the time. 11 acres for a building and parking would be about average in the OKC metro for a congregation of 500 folks.

On a sidenote, I find it interesting that the cowards who run the hate website don’t sign their name to it. And if you look them up in whois you’ll find that they have concealed the identity of the domain registrant there as well. Pretty chicken if you ask me. Sounds a lot like how cowardly Klansmen used to wear white hoods to conceal their identities.



CNN: Hussein executed with ‘fear in his face’

AP/Hindu Times: Execution tragic, says Vatican

VATICAN CITY: The Vatican on Saturday termed the execution of the former Iraqi President, Saddam Hussein, “tragic.” It risked fueling revenge and new violence in Iraq.

“An execution is always tragic news, reason for sadness, even in the case of a person who is guilty of grave crimes,” the Holy See’s spokesman, Rev. Federico Lombardi, said in a statement released by the Vatican press office.

Earlier in the morning, Rev. Lombardi made similar comments on Vatican Radio.

“The position of the Catholic Church — against the death penalty — has been reiterated many times,” he said in the statement, referring to the Vatican’s overall opposition to capital punishment.

I agree with the Catholic Church on this. Saddam undoubtedly did some evil things, but his execution was still tragic and unnecessary. I also think that his execution highlights the complete failure of the puppet government in Iraq to at all be just or fair, and certainly sends a clear message that the new Iraq government is increasingly moving into to the barbaric practices of the few regimes left on earth that still kill criminals as punishment.

On a slightly different note, here is an article that discusses the death penalty from a very different perspective.

MSNBC: When your brother is ‘The Unabomber’ — David Kaczynski talks about turning in his brother Ted, the death penalty


Sex on MSNBC!


I came across several interesting articles on the subject of human sexuality on MSNBC today…

MSNBC: One preacher’s message: Have hotter sex — Minister Joe Beam says good Christian marriages walk on the wild side — I actually have heard Joe Beam speak back in the mid-90’s, when he spoke at a Gospel Meeting in Weatheford, OK (back when I was still part of the Churches of Christ). I don’t recall him talking about sex in his sermons then, but he did talk about an equally controversial thing in the COC (the role of the Holy Spirit today).

Overall though I think it is refreshing to hear Christians speak of human sexuality in a positive way. I myself don’t see eye to eye with Joe (or other COC folks) on how they read the Bible, but I do think there are plenty of scriptures to back a pro-sex viewpoint even if you take a more literal read of things.

MSNBC: Even Grandma had premarital sex, survey finds — Americans weren’t any more chaste in the past, researchers report — This doesn’t really surprise me really. The only big difference was that 50 years ago there was more preasure to get hitched after you got pregnant.

MSNBC: Cartoon penises have their say on syphilis — Ad campaign proves effective in encouraging testing among men



CNN: University to reconsider Confederate statues on campus

I can understand the arguments on all sides of this issue, but I’m inclined to oppose removing the statutes. (I knew them well when I lived 2 blocks from the south mall at UT, and made lots of late night walks on campus) History is history and it is messy, complicated and sometimes downright ugly. I think that whitewashing the history of the Confederacy is not the answer, but rather it is important reframe that history. Tell the rest of the story. I think the beautiful and inspiring Dr. Martin Luther King statute on the east mall (I was incredibly proud to be at the dedication ceremony for that statute when I lived in Austin) is a good start, but I think it might make sense to erect some statues to other civil rights leaders on campus.

In fact my first recommendation would be of Cesar Chavez. He should be on campus for sure.

And another idea… why don’t they make a statute honoring the janitorial and physical plant staff of UT? Those folks have worked and worked through the decades but are so often ignored and overlooked. Why not celebrate their contribution?


Putting down roots


Seeking Truth Now: Video clip

My brother’s blog has a video clip from the CBS evening news about a 17 year guy in Truman, Minnesota who has bought a grocery store (using his college savings to make the down payment) that was otherwise going to be closed in his small town. It really is a very beautiful story and certainly makes you see how different things could be if folks decided to put a fight to destruction of small-town America.

(btw, another local grocery store in Oklahoma has recently met its demise. I found out yesterday that Lightner’s Grocery in Chickasha has been killed off thanks to Super Wal-Mart)



A Different World — Looking through the eyes of Mary at how the world could be, sermon by James M. Branum

I normally preach from a loose outline, but this sermon from Christmas eve that I preached at Joy Mennonite ended up being closer to a manuscript/essay form when I prepared it, so anyway I decided to go ahead and finish it up and put on the web. I’m not that excited with how I wrote it, but I am excited about the main idea in it, that Mary’s Magnificat was an expression of the revolutionary idea that the world not only can be better, but will be better.


Happy Holidays!


I just wanted to say a quick Happy Holidays to all of my friends and regular readers!

I’ve had a good last few days with lots of time with my family (one of the best Christmases that I can recall in some time) and am looking forward to a few days of almost work-free vacation (I have a few clients that I need to work with, but I can do that from home).

My favorite times of the Advent season was going to some of the Advent services at a friend’s presbyterian church (I so love the beauty of their worship), getting to preach on Christmas eve morning at my church (with my parents and my two youngest brothers visiting), seeing the excitement of my youngest brothers when they opened their presents on Christmas, singing Christmas carols with my Mom, and getting to spend some good time with my other two brothers who are closer to me in age (I’m 30 and have brothers who are 27, 23, 7 and 7).

My vacation plans are still a bit up in the air. I was hoping to visit the Red Plains Monastery out in Piedmont with a friend, but it looks like their retreat house is closed until New Year’s so I guess that is out of the plans. I think I am probably going to head to the farm (my grandparent’s old farm which my Mom inherited) sometime this week, and I’m thinking some of maybe going camping too, either to the Wichita Mountains or I might head to Southeastern Oklahoma. Mostly though I want lots of time to read, to paint, and to just think and be.

And of course I have some chores to do too. I’m planning on finishing my house cleaning/organizing (something I’ve been working on for the last few weeks), and I probably will be painting one of the rooms at the Farm.

I’m not sure if I’ll be blogging much over the next week or so. There’s so much going on in the world, so much to be sad about, that I kinda think I need to take a little time to recharge my batteries and reflect on the big picture. I so badly need to have faith that the world can be different and that God is at work to make it so, but it is so easy to forget that in the midst of all of the suffering and sadness of everyday existence.



MSNBC: Illegal immigrants evicted from open-air church — Wealthy homeowners in Southern California canyon fed up with squatters

. . . “My children are studying, and they need pencils. They don’t have enough money,” he said. Ramirez makes $6.75 an hour plucking tomatoes six days a week, and sends two-thirds of his wages to his family while he sleeps under a tarp tied to trees. It’s a slim return on the $2,000 he paid a smuggler to sneak him across the border last summer.

Other migrants live in ramshackle camps elsewhere in the country, but few live next to exquisite homes like those overlooking McGonigle Canyon. Just north of the canyon lies Rancho Santa Fe, where the median home price is $2.8 million. For San Diego County as a whole, the median home price this year is $575,000.

Homeowner Julie Adams, an outspoken critic of the squatters, said the huts pose fire and safety risks.

“It’s a transient camp in the middle of the community and that shouldn’t be allowed,” said Adams, whose husband and son stopped mountain biking on trails in the canyons because they felt unsafe.

Other homeowners are sympathetic.

“They get kicked out of one place and go to another,” said Barry Martin, 54, a retired airline pilot. “As long as people are willing to hire them, as long as there are jobs, they’ll be around.”

The priest told his parishioners at the recent Mass that he would follow them.

“Even though you find yourselves strangers in another land, we pray that you will still feel welcome from some,” Fawcett said.

Shame on the rich who surround McGonigle Canyon and who are persecuting the migrants. I bet most of those rich folks are even in church on Sundays, feeling pious and holy in their places of prividge. Shame, Shame on them. Kicking around the poor migrant (the “stranger in the land”) is about as low as it gets.

I’m glad to see the Catholic church though is sticking with the oppressed in this situation. They do provide one little bit hope and love in this situation.