Saturday, December 30, 2006

I Shall Not Rejoice, pt. II

The second reason relates to the title of this article. I remember September 11, 2001. After the attacks were over and news spread worldwide of the carnage that occured, news stations were covering international reaction to the attack on our country. One segment showed Palestinians, cheering and laughing in the streets, firing off weapons into the air in celebration. According to some reports, candy was distributed to children in the streets. One would think that they had all just won the lottery, judging from the reaction.

The segment was quickly pulled from the air by all networks by request of the president. Their elation over the deaths of their fellow human beings was unthinkable. "Why are you celebrating, while the rest of the world grieves?" I thought.

I am glad the reign of Saddam is gone, and shall no more murder, rape and repress those in in Iraq. No more feeding people into giant paper shredders. No more gas attacks. No more tortures, brutality or dismemberment in Saddam's name. It's kind of hard to rejoice though, when these things have been replaced by entire regions bent on killing one another- through mass kidnappings, blowing bystanders into red clouds of goo, and other assorted atrocities. The cycle is repeated over and over again.

Both are examples of what happens when we teach children to hate, by our own example. The seed grows and soon becomes something that is beyond control. A spiritual Frankenstein's monster. Proverbs 24:17 says it best "Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, And do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles."

I Shall Not Rejoice, pt. I

It's an unusual topic for an unusual article, one I had not expected to write. News hit yesterday that Saddam Hussein, the former leader of Iraq, was executed by hanging. I have heard news stories about former citizens of his country, now in the US, who greatly praised his execution, citing the persecution of their own families and their need for revenge.

Vengeance is a big, big thing in the middle east. It fuels the civil war with the get back game which never stops between the sunnis and the shiites, with numerous terrorist organizations providing new acts of atrocity and new deaths to feud over. Some countries that surround Iraq are either providing financial assistance to "religious organizations" to purchase weapons (Saudi Arabia), or are directly providing explosives and war material within the country itself (Iran and Syria). I recall how the US government did the same thing when the Soviets were at war with Afghanistan. It provides an interesting perspective, now that the shoe is on the other foot.

There are two primary reasons why I feel this way. The first is a directive from God. "Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord." There is not a lot of wiggle room there. It's true that I have no relatives that have been murdered by Saddam. In honesty, I do not know how I would react or if my views might be different had this occured. It's easy to say vengeance is the Lord's when you have no personal reason to be vengeful.

Did Saddam deserve execution? I believe so. Should he have been executed by means of a war initiated by the US to topple his regime? Questionable. Why? It is not the place of the US to be the world's peacekeeper/enforcer/policeman/etc. History is written by the victor, although I doubt that God perceives human conflict (war) the same way we do. He sees all things truthfully, including the invisible, spiritual wars that are waged each day in our lives, and in the bigger, broader sense of regions, countries and the world.

Conntinued in part II

Friday, December 29, 2006

Falcons Fans Upset

As a follower of the Atlanta Falcons, I have watched our team though its ups and downs over the years. Some of you who follow football know what I mean, others may not. There was a post on the Falcons message boards that summarizes some reasons why Falcons fans are upset. Here is an excerpt which states well why Falcons fans are red faced and angry:

  • To lose to Detroit and Cleveland, Unacceptable!

  • To face a must-win game against an opponent that throws the ball only seven times (SEVEN TIMES!) and lose at home, Unacceptable!

  • To pine for a college job that isn't even open, while preparing for arguably the most important game of the year, Unacceptable!

  • To score 41 against Pittsburgh and only manage a combined 41 against the Giants, Cleveland and Detroit, unacceptable!

  • To have no fourth-quarter comebacks in two+ seasons, Unacceptable!

  • To have one of the worst red-zone offenses in football when you have a great tight end, a dual threat quarterback, the league's top rushing offense and two 6-5 receivers, Unacceptable!

  • To have a former offensive line coach coaching wide receivers who are continuously lazy coming in and out of breaks, running sloppy routes and NOT CATCHING THE BALL, Unacceptable!

  • To not have one bruising running back in your stable, and to be unwilling to use a two back set in the meantime, Unacceptable!

  • To turn a blind eye as an organization to horrible pass protection on the offensive line, Unacceptable!

  • There are great pockets of talent on this team: linebacker corps, defensive end (when healthy), fullback, tight end, quarterback (although terribly inconsistent and poorly cast in the offensive scheme), and the kicking game has always been solid. There's certainly enough talent, and money invested, to where an owner has a right to look at a 7-8 record, and two years of mediocrity and say, Unacceptable!

Credit goes to FloridaFalcon from the Atlanta Falcons message board for his well worded statement. I disagree with the part about Michael Vick being an asset to the team, but shall save my thoughts on this for another post.

There is an upside for this: at least we are not the Washington Redskins, whose owner, Snyder, is copying from Steinbrenner's management and is signing high priced free agents with ballooning pay scales in an attempt to purchase himself a winning team. Unfortunately for him, the NFL has a salary cap. Major League Baseball does not. Snyder further has my ire for bankrolling (BANKROLLING!) Tom Cruise, but that is another story for another day.

Next time I get around to this subject, I will compare the six million dollar man, Steve Austin, with the 100 million dollar man Michael Vick, to see who is really getting their money's worth.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Neal Boortz is Wrong

OK, I have a few other topics I want to discuss and this is one that crossed my mind. I often browse through his daily comments ( ) as well as others that can be found at, for viewpoints not found in the news. Neal's world is skewed by the rose-colored glasses of self-sufficiency, pragmatism and pseudo-intelligence. His arguements are quite good, and he makes a lot of common sense, but sometimes he misses the boat. One needs to listen carefully in order to pick up on these things. Here's what I mean:

Neal argues that in all things the free market must reign, and also that the law is the definitive guidemark for morality in America. Specifically, I will point to two examples.

One arguement he made was about gas prices when they went up so high. "Let them go as high as the market dictates," [not an exact quote, but close] he remarked. He can afford high gas prices. Gas makes up a miniscule amount of a fraction of a tiny percent of his budget. He can afford to argue this point. My question is, what about the hardest working people at my school, the custodians? What percent of their budget goes towards gas? Oh, it's their fault for not making more of themselves. Is it? What about our mentally retarded citizens, Neal?

Furthermore, we live in a society where much of the market is dictated by gas. Its not like we can walk or bicycle to the center of our hamlet to buy food brought in from the farm. Nearly all consumer goods are delivered by way of truck to our markets. In the wintertime, fresh produce has to be shipped from the southern hemisphere. Gas prices have a direct effect on all our consumer goods. But thats ok, Neal can afford $20/per gallon without missing a beat, so therefore the have-nots have to suffer. Well, I am INTELLIGENT. I am HARD WORKING. I made myself who I am today! Who gave you your intelligence, Neal? Who gave you your ability to work hard in the first place? Let's give credit where credit is due. I can't do that! Humility is a virtue Neal.

Now the libs like to legislate through feelings; they view the government as a giant, beaurocratic, warm, fuzzy band aid. A political Robin Hood, so to speak, and I disagree with this most heartily. I believe that it is not the governments job to make people feel good. It is not the governments responsibility to be our pinch hitter when it comes to aiding the poor, and I say this to my own disgrace. It is our individual responsibility to be our brother's keeper. We should never say, "I gave to the poor through my taxes," but with a liberal governmental philosophy we do, whether we admit it or not.

What about hurricane Katrina? I don't have an answer for that. On one hand, people who refuse to get insurance in an area that is below sea level next to the coast are asking for it. On the other hand it is the lawyers (hear me Neal?) and insurance companies that are driving and artificially inflating prices well beyond the level of being exhorbitant, just ask anyone who lives in Florida. It is part responsibility, for people not moving to a place they can afford, and part greed on the part of these industries.

Neal will at times cite the law as being all important as the guiding moral standard for our society, and I will agree that it's a good place to start. However, he waffles as well as Bill Clinton does when it comes to whether the law supports his agenda or not. Oh, we can't outlaw abortion! It's against the law. Neal. Its November 10th, 1938 and Jews are being rounded up and sent to prison camps. Whattya do then? Its December 16th, 1773, and England is making up taxes just to make a buck off of the Colonists. Ya gonna be a Benedict Arnold? Herod the Great is looking for Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus. You going to take the place of Judas and turn them in cause its the law? [in fairness, many of the things I attribute to Neal I have not heard him state directly, but I have heard him use the arguement about the law being the ultimate guide for Americans]

The fact is that over 1 million unborn children were killed in the United States alone last year by means of abortion. One million tiny little voices. One million fellow humans. One million, in 2005 alone. "Its my body." Not according to DNA evidence. One need only look at a Y chromosome to determine that. "Its my right." Maybe, but it was also "the right" of the Nazis to exterminate 6 million Jews. We'll weep over them and build community centers and holocaust museums, but ignore our fellow Americans that we chop up into little bloody bits. But thats ok, because it's the law, right Neal?

Consequently, there needs to be a line drawn. The answer is not complete pragmatism, based on views which are born from self-sufficiency and financial independence. Ultimately, we are all utterly dependant on God, our maker, for our being, our existance, our reason for living. The answer is not in liberal love-by-proxy, by means of government programs. We bear individual responsibility for the group actions of our society. The answer, Neal, is love, which comes from God.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

I cried and cried

My family loves me so much. For Christmas I got some financial assistance from Dad and Carol, and that enabled me to keep gas in my car, food in my belly and to be able to purchase and prepare Christmas lunch for my colleagues at school. Amy and Laslo gave me Seinfeld Season 7 and a new, warm and toasty electric blanket. From mom I asked for and received a very special video, called The Keith Green Story: Your Love Broke Through. As I watched it last night, I was completely broken by the wonderful, beautiful story of this man, Keith, and his search for truth and meaning, and the love of God which shined so very brightly through his words, lyrics, music and message. I often listen to his music at work before the day starts as I get things ready for class, and never get tired of hearing it.

I guess part of it is that when I was young, I was going through the same thing that he was, only 10 years later. Keith died at the age of 28, yet God accomplished so much through him. It humbles me, because here I am, 44 years old, still taking baby steps in my Christian faith; praying, talking with God, not being terribly serious with my devotions and basically frittering away my life.

I pray at least once each day and sometimes several times, "God, let me love. Thank you for my beautiful life." I think prayer is under rated, but perhaps that is just a way of justifying myself for not being more committed to my heavenly Father. I need to get off the bench and back into the game, so that somehow, perhaps in some small way, I might make a difference.

Monday, December 25, 2006

You Are My Favorite Teacher !

Shortly before Christmas break during finals week, a young girl, one of my students, stayed after class. She skipped up to me and gushed, "You are my FAVORITE teacher, Mr. Houtchens!" I was flattered and honored.

"Thank you so much!" I replied. "That means a lot to me."

"Can I have a Jolly Rancher?" she asked.

"No," I replied.

"Never mind," she said as she bounced out of the classroom.

Christmas Time is Here !!!!!

Its Christmas day, and I am reminded of the song the children sing from the Charlie Brown cartoon when I was young. As they skate about on a frozen pond, they sing these words: "Christmas time is here, Happiness and cheer, Fun for all the children call, Their fav'rite time of year."

I am somewhat remorseful this year as it is customary for relatives and freinds to exchange gifts. This month one of my dogs had to go into the vets and the final bill wound up being over $1,000. Then my heater, which is 2 years old, broke down completely. As my salary each month is $2,700, and the mortgage and utilities had to be paid, I am left with seemingly empty hands. I, as many of you, am rather repelled by the commercialism for "making a buck" that retailers have turned Christmas into. The Christmas trees in stores and holiday decorations are merely shades of greed, disguised as a form of acceptability. In spite of technology, mankind's nature does not change.

Yet this is not what Christmas is truely about. As I was enroute to church Sunday morning (and thats a whole nother story) there is a particular hill on Bells Ferry Road near Freedom Middle School where one can see a wide part of the skyline. As I was talking to God, up in the sky there was an unusual line of cirrus clouds. These clouds (which were not the result of contrails) formed the shape of a cross, complete with a head sagging from the apex. I have never seen cirrus clouds form this particular shape before. As I continued along, I noticed that the cloud formation which had caught my eye could only be seen from this hill and was hidden partially by the surrounding terrain.

Christmas is about God's gift to us. Jesus Christ, His son. Therefore it is with love alone that I will join my family this year. I thank you, Lord, for your very special Christmas gift to us. I thank you for the lives and health of those I love. It is with joy in my heart that I wish you the happiest of birthdays, Lord Jesus!

First Post

OK, since this is a new endeavor for me, my first goals are to somehow learn how to get my picture up here and then set up a way of publishing articles with a place for responses. I know, I know, any 3rd grader can do such a thing without even thinking, but I am old, not of the generation of hapless immediate reward types who cannot add 2 + 2 without a calculator.

There are a number of issues I would like to address, keeping in mind that these posts will be available for public consumption. Also, I will be adding to this bit by bit, a little at a time, so that hopefully in the end I will have a decent place for folks to visit.

armchair coach
amateur historian