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Quintessentially American

Originally posted January 24th, 2006. Written while in Italy a few weeks earlier.

I’m writing this on a notepad while on a train speeding across Italy. While passing through the Formia station a few Americans got off the train and stood for some moments on the platform before moving off to their destination. I’d spotted and heard them while on the train and, though I’d not talked with them I just wanted to let them know another American is adventuring in Italy and our paths had crossed (don’t think this makes sense? try living alone in a foreign land and see what odd things come to mind).

So I’m casting about for a sign or signal they’d immediately recognize which would associate the signer (me) as American. Thumbs Up? No, everyone does that, everywhere, and it’s universally recognized. V for Victory? No, I’d just look like a blond-haired, fair-skinned, blue-eyed Asian posing for a photograph trying to look American. Several other signs where thus considered and discarded before I found one that would unmistakeably label me as America.

I did not make this sign as I was too far away while the train was at the platform, and they’d moved off before the train passed by where they’d been, and they’d likely have been very offended.

Yes I have not seen this particular gesture since leaving the good ol’ US of A, and I’ve not really missed it either, until now. The one sign I could show that would definately label me as American was the binary 4, the raised central, the birdie, “the finger”.

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Repost: Adult Stem Cells FTW

A colony of embryonic stem cells, from the H9 ...
Image via Wikipedia

This is a repost in light of the recent news that the news media finally picked up on the fact that adult stem cells are cutting the butter and embryonic stem cells are still only a load of hype… er, tripe.

Anyway, here’s what we knew 3 years ago:

In case you didn’t know: adult stem cells have been used for years to successfully treat a wide range of conditions successfully. Private companies have seen the success and have poured large amounts of money into programs exploring the benefits of stem cells derived from adult adipose (fat) tissue, marrow, and other sources.

So what’s all the hubbub over skin cells? And why are embryonic stem cells such a hot topic?

In a chokingly self-important article which seems to further support Dennis Prager‘s assertion that liberals can go their whole lives without meeting a conservative, Time Magazine claims the recent discoveries about the ability of skin-derived stem cells to differentiate (grow into different organs, technically called pluripotency) will not benefit the GOP. Come again? What does good science have to do with politics? And do you even know the history of the issue? I thought not, the MSM conveniently does not read any medical journals unless their tipped off by some juicy tidbit they may use to further their own radical agenda.

The article’s author, Michael Kinsley, says he has Parkinsons, a disease for which stem cells hold great potential in curing. Current Parkinsons treatments using embryonic stem cells turns the patients into shaking, slobbering babes incapable of the most basic self-care. Embryonic stem cells have a more direct and immediate potential for pluripotency as that is what they do: they turn into cells for each organ and tissue in the body. Unfortunately their growth is uncontrollable right now and they end up turning effectively into tumors in the brains of those who are injected with them.

On top of this, the ethical and moral issues involving the harvesting of human embryos are staggering and I fall in with those myriad souls who fight to stop the harvesting and destruction of human life with the goal of bettering human life. How far removed are we from Nazi Germany, when diabolical doctors of death practiced upon innocents by the millions to further the happiness of the rest of humanity? Is that a worthwhile trade?

In fact, to date there has not been a single successful treatment of any condition or disease using stem cells harvested from embryos.

Private sector investment has shunned embryonic stem cell lines, which means the only group which can be coerced into paying for these death-dealers research projects is… us. The government largess is available to any who crow loud and long enough, and it comes from yours and my pocket books and paychecks.

Private sector research has all gone towards adult stem cell research which offers very potent benefits over embryonic stem cells.

  • Adult stem cells suffer no chance of rejection from their host. Adult stem cells are collected from the person they will be used on, meaning the organs grown from them carry the exact biological and genetic “fingerprint” of the rest of the body, there is zero chance of rejection of these treatments.
  • Adult stem cells are given voluntarily as part of treatment. There is no moral or ethical morass involved in the collection of the these cells.
  • Adult stem cells can differentiate under controlled conditions. Unlike embryonic stem cells, which differentiate wildly and which we are currently unable to control, adult stem cells pluripotency can be controlled in application with greater reliability.

So we have an issue where the successful treatment and therefore all the private money has gone in one direction, but a few stubborn souls insist on using disinformation and outright lies to promote a morally reprehensible treatment system which would have been likely looked upon with distaste by most of the Nazi death doctors in hopes of getting us to pay for a treatment process with no current success and little promise.

“If human embryonic stem cell research does not make you at least a little bit uncomfortable, you have not thought about it enough.” ~James A. Thomson

UPDATE:

Hugh Hewitt references Charles Krauthammer’s article on the issue. Bush was right, technology vindicates morality:

Even a scientist who cares not a whit about the morality of embryo destruction will adopt this technique because it is so simple and powerful. The embryonic stem cell debate is over.

Which allows a bit of reflection on the storm that has raged ever since the August 2001 announcement of President Bush’s stem cell policy. The verdict is clear: Rarely has a president — so vilified for a moral stance — been so thoroughly vindicated.

Why? Precisely because he took a moral stance. Precisely because, as Thomson puts it, Bush was made “a little bit uncomfortable” by the implications of embryonic experimentation. Precisely because he therefore decided that some moral line had to be drawn.

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Have We Forgotten?

With the elections of November 2006, the overall victorious party, the Democrats, claimed they’d been given a “mandate” regarding many issues, particularly the War on Terror. They claim the American people have spoken and that the only allowable course now is withdrawal and defeat. Though they speak specifically of the Iraqi War, their master policy is reflective of their general disenchantment with the whole war against terror. This belief in a “mandate”, the word du jour for giving credence to the questionably credible, does seem to be born out by the recent polls, as reported on CNN and the BBC, showing 2/3 of Americans don’t see a good plan for winning the War in Iraq.

While it is only barely debatable that the Iraq War is not going the way we’d hoped, not even complete failure is a viable reason for ever giving up, especially in this war where it is our homes, families, businesses, our way of life, and our lives themselves which are at stake. After all, this war began, at least this current phase, with the enemy attaching us, on our turf, killing our husbands and wives, sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, sisters, brothers, innocents all. Even many jihadists agree that non-combatants, civilians, and innocents are off-limits to any kind of attack. But attacked we were, and though it has now been several years since that attack we vowed we’d never forget, it was neither the first nor will it be the last, the danger is little abated. Is there then reason for throwing up our hands collectively, defeated?

Liberals would say emphatically “Yes!”

The current strategy, according to liberals, is not working, and therefore we must tuck tail and run. Defeatism leading to disengagement, with the ultimate goal of isolationism. An island we will be, literally and figuratively. And we having cried “uncle,” the rabid dogs hounding us around the world will allow us a gracious defeat and will let us be, alone. A final Vietnam this will be, America will no longer find the will to project itself and then indeed others will take the reins of power in the world. Except for several things, but first: Where in our governing documents and illustrious history do we the people determine the minutiae of war policy?

We expressly give the President power to direct and wage war as necessary and as he sees fit to protect our interests. This is, in part, why it is so very important that there be people of Character in high office leading this great nation. There cannot be a part-time person of character, for if at the first change of wind that person reassesses and changes their position, they are not truly a person of character. President Bush, for all anybodies disagreements with him personally and politically, has not changed course. He has stated his goal simply: to defeat terrorism whenever and wherever it is found, and has not changed. Whether agreeing with him or not, one can know what President Bush will continue to do. And the job is not finished. Far from it. The very fact of our experiencing difficulties in Iraq should be cause for us to redouble our efforts, reaffirming the need for such a battle now, before it is too late. And resolving to continue the fight we did not start in order to destroy the enemy who would destroy us.

For that is their goal whether we leave or not. The militant, radical, extremist Muslims, or Islamo-Nazis or Islamo-Facists, who began this war have a very public goal which they are not loath to tell, yet which we seem to have forgotten, it would seem. That goal is shouted by radical Imams (preachers or prayer leaders) and written officially as Fatwahs (edicts) and published to their adherents around the globe. America is the Great Satan and it and other nations which do not submit to their extreme Islamic theology, philosophy, and government must be destroyed, period. For them there is no discussion, no arguing the points and possibilities of peaceful coexistance. If we give up in Iraq and the other fronts of the War on Terror we are signing our own, our childrens’, and out entire futures’ death warrants. They will be utterly defeated or they will rule the world, there is no third option for them, and therefore there isn’t for us either.

So then, the only choice for us must be to continue to face them in classic American projectionism. To battle evil is the calling and constant duty of the good. Evil at different times and places takes different faces. Consider the World Wars of the last century. What if we’d given up because too many were dying? What if we’d accepted defeat at the hands of the Nazis? It is likely all of Europe would be enslaved to this day by them or another despotic regime along with most or all of Africa and the East. Prior to our engagement in that war it was the Republican Party arguing for isolationism against engagement, just to show how times and ideas change.

Just as in the World Wars, others are depending, both admittedly and unadmittedly, on our success. The United Kingdom continues to be our staunchest ally, showing classic British, Scottish, Irish and Welsh pluck and courage and an indomitable spirit. Mr. Blair has perhaps been more eloquent in his defence of the War and has used his bully pulpit more often explaining the rationale for our continued involvement in this fight than President Bush. Spain has given up after suffering great pain and loss of its own on its own shores. Instead of steeling its resolve as the London Train Bombings did for the United Kingdom, Spains’ Madrid Train Bombings broke the resolve of Castilla. Regardless of the allies individual or collective spines, though, if we fail, Spain will once again become a Moorish conquest, and this will not be an Islamic Kingdom such as that of the Moors of old who valued art and learning and to whom we owe a great debt for their careful preservation and translation of many priceless works of knowledge and beauty.

So if America were indeed to falter and fail, and retreat within its borders, who would then take the lead in the world? Who has the strength and ability, and more importantly the moral fiber and the national will?

There are few countries indeed who do not have the desire to lead the world the way America has led. The relevant question really is not would they, but could they and should they. The UK has perhaps the nearest moral fiber (nationally) to America. Willing to take unpopular stands around the world in what they see as preservation of good. However, by size they are physically unable to produce enough to lead economically. A leading nation must be able to produce enough to be nearly self-sufficient if necessary. They must be an economic powerhouse challenging all others to give it weight enough for it’s word to mean something. The European Union has shown it does not have the moral fiber to stand against evil at crucial times. Like the UN, when it comes to actual meaningful action, the EU is hampered by it’s own universality, someone is always involved with the enemy and therefore no one can do what must be done. Further, being based on “old-world” economies, it does not produce or consume enough, even collectively, to give it’s word weight beyond it’s member n ations.

In Asia, both China and India have the size, and economic and political/military might and/or potential. However, China is hampered by an immoral, communist quasi-dictatorship, and even if democracy or some less greedily repressive and philosophically backward form of government than comunism were to take over immediately, the people would not soon be ready for world domination and protection. India perhaps has the best chance of becoming a or the world dominant nation, post America, but even they suffer under a socially restrictive religion, social order, and government.

African and South American nations suffer almost universally under corrupt, despotic governments and appear too busy enriching their own upper crusts illegitimately to worry too much about their being the trailing end of the nations of the world. Russia seems unable to throw off cronyism and corruption in business or the siren song of a communist government.

Those nations among our allies in the Middle East have their hands much too full trying to set their houses in order without offending any of their geographical or theological brethren, and many of them officially support ideologies as destructive and evil as any of their more violent neighbors who we’re now in struggle against

So that leaves America. Oh, and not to offend anybody, but who’s heard anything out of our northern neighbor Canada recently? I’m told it’s a beautiful place and the people there are special and nice and kind, but they appear to be content, in a global perspective, being frosting, a whole lot of white stuff, on top of the United States. That and trying to win the title “More Socialist Than France While Still Drinking Beer (Wine Is For Sissies).” So here we are, the lone strongman holdout against the encroaching darkness, to whom all others cling. Some more grudgingly than others. But this is what we are fighting for, the whole world. This is the responsibility that comes with being the nice big kid on the block: We have to face every bully. And if we don’t win, this particularly bully is a rapist.

Priorities Of Preservation

There is a push today to limit human suffering, to prevent any pain from occurring at all. This cringing drive is so rabid that a father sues his daughters’ school when she is stung by a bee on the school yard. There are schools refusing to allow recess, there are schools sanitizing their play equipment, removing anything which may remotely cause any risk. The schools don’t have a choice, the parents will sue them out of existence if their children encounter the slightest discomfort.

This issue here is contained in the fundamental difference in perspective cause by a proper understanding of mans inherent value before a creator God. A humanist will not

Compare this to the lifestyle lived by many Christians seeking to save the soul and the mind. In God’s design the body is temporary, it dies, but the soul is immortal, it is freed from the body by death and lives forever. To a Christian, more important than the body is the soul. A Christian may be called to give up their life, literally or figuratively, to save peoples’ souls. A Christian does not discount the value of a body. You find Christians at the forefront of most of the humanitarian efforts around the world, seeking to protect the bodies of millions of human lives, regardless of whether or not those being protected are Christian or not. The Christian seeks to preserve the body because under God we are all equally valuable, and because the body is the corporeal home of a soul which either needs saving or has a life to live and purposes yet to accomplish.

The world seeks to preserve the body, while summarily dismissing the mind, allowing anything whatsoever to creep its way into the receptive, untrained recesses. And even then they desire to allow anything we want to be used on our body, so long as we do the choosing. We can choose abortion, we can choose drugs, we can choose tattoos, just so long as we do the choosing. It is a matter of control. God is God, He holds choice in His hands. He allows us to choose all the time, but there are many times He chooses for us,for His glory, for our good. Mankind does not want God to choose for us. All of nature are God’s tools, and He wields Nature for the furthering of His plans. As we seek to limit the influence of God over our lives we will find Nature rising up and thwarting our plans, exerting His control over us.

I love butterflies. I have lots of experience with butterflies. I worked over the course of 2 or 3 consecutive summers for a local butterfly farm in my home town. We bred and raised monarch butterflies and sold them for weddings funerals, graduations, research, etc… There is a crucial stage of every butterflies development when the caterpillar has grown to the right maturity level it crawls to the underside of the leaf in the wild or our special rearing containers in the lab and in a weird jerking dance encloses itself in a chrysalis. The caterpillar goes through a metamorphosis, a fundamental change in it’s very nature and emerges and beautiful and brilliant butterfly. The escape from the chrysalis is one of the most important passages in its brief life. Without this struggle the butterfly will die. With the metamorphosis complete the chrysalis turns transparent and the orange and black wings are scrunched against the body in the little space left by the bulging abdomen of the butterfly. The butterfly braces itself against the chrysalis wall and pushes until the skin of the chrysalis breaks at the butterflies shoulders. The butterfly pulls itself with great difficulty out of the chrysalis shell and hangs from it, pumping its wings slowly it pushes the fluids from it’s distended abdomen into its wings, inflating them slowly until they are stiff and straight.

If the butterfly were to fall too easily out of the chrysalis, it would not have the strength to pump its wings full of the fluid. The stunted wings would hang limply in a bundle at the doomed insects side and it will die. There is not an option here. The butterfly either engages in an intense and painful struggle or it dies.

We as humans need pain and need struggles to grow many times. Pain and discomfort serve many purposes and there is no way I can explore all of them here. Pain can mean we’re human and we live in a physical world. It is a sensation, a feeling. A bee sting means that we offended a bee and he is willing to give his life in order to offend us a little. Pain can be a warning. A hot stove burns us and we are careful not to put out hands there again. Pain can be growth. The aches and pains of childhood as our bodies stretch to new and unfamiliar heights are not bad, but merely a sign that we’ll not be looking quite so far up at the rest of the world very much longer. Pain is not bad, it is an indicator, a sign.

And yet, in spite of the necessity and normalcy, the elite of our culture push for protection of the body. Control.

The Christian perspective is different. The soul and the mind are more important because they exist eternally. The body is just a temporary home.

Our Story, From Matthew’s Eyes

She was smart, beautiful and funny, and most of all, she loved God.

February 11, 2007: Sunday morning I walked into Sunday School with the other Young Adults at Brainard Avenue Baptist Church. It was my second week back after being gone just over two years in California.

I had met the church and felt at home and accepted and appreciated back in 2003, and with that knew that I was to relocate at least for a while to Chicago after spending a few more years at home. After spending just over 2 years back in California, I returned to Chicago at the end of January 2007 and thanks to the generosity of friends church family in the area I was putting down roots.

Little did I know where those roots would grow and how my life was to change. Soon.

Back to that Sunday, February 11th. In my visits back to Chicago while living in California, I’d met some new members of the Sunday School class, students at Moody Bible Institute who were able to drive out to the suburbs for Sunday services at Brainard. It was good to see these people again in addition to the regulars and long-timers.

The Moody students had brought friends this Sunday. One young lady, in her first semester at Moody, had been searching for a church she could feel at home at while attending school, had taken advantage of her friend’s extra car seats, and was visiting the church for the first time.

The quiet, beautiful girl did not return for a few weeks.

When she did visit Brainard again, I made a point of talking with her for a few minutes. Making her feel welcome, I told myself.

It began as a friendship, nothing special. But I quickly moved beyond an average interest in her.

This was a Godly woman, beautiful, caring, very loving. All that attracted me very intensely. I had to get to know her better.

And so I did. Grace visited family in Washington for spring break. I missed her those weeks she did not come to Brainard.

I had offered to drive students to church from Moody when they needed extra seats, and one beautiful spring day they took me up on the offer. Three students needed a ride and so I went out early Sunday morning to pick them up. Due to the beautiful weather, the two others decided they were going to ride a motorcycle out to church that day, leaving Grace to ride with me by herself. She was not exactly comfortable with this situation at the outset, being alone in a car with some guy she hardly knew. But it was that or miss church, and I’d already driven out, so to not make a scene, she got in the car.

We began talking and found we had similar standards and backgrounds, and we both liked country music.

That afternoon several of us spent the afternoon at my apartment eating lunch, playing games, listening to music, relaxing. Grace and I continued to talk and get to know each other. I drove her back to school too, and said goodbye.

Over that spring the associate pastor and his wife invited several college students over for extended times of fun and fellowship, watching movies and entertaining their young boys. Grace was able to take some time off studying to attend one of these, so I volunteered to pick her up from school and bring her out to the suburbs so she could spend time with us.

The other Moody students had come out earlier in the day and so again I was able to spend time just with Grace, getting to know her better.

We also spent a Saturday helping some other students move to an apartment off campus. While there were others around, I sought out Grace and helped her and asked her to help me in specific tasks. I was twitterpated. And I believe she knew I was possibly interested in more than friendship.

Our friendship continued to grow and as the semester drew to a close I was trying to decide if I should ask her if we could move into a potentially romantic relationship or talk to her dad first. Various things led me to decide to speak with her dad first, but as I drove her and a mutual friend to the airport that morning in early May I bit my tongue.

Our parting was awkward as our relationship was possibly changing and yet neither of us had mentioned it to each other. We parted with an awkward side hug and I drove to work while she winged her way home to Dallas.

Earlier in the semester she had given me her cell phone number but had informed me her phone was broken and so I had not called her. As she left for the summer, she left a few boxes of things which would not fit in the summer storage at Moody which I was to take to the associate pastor’s house for storage. The boxes had her home address.

I spent the weekend visiting friends in Louisville, Kentucky and trying to work up the courage to call her or her dad. I still wasn’t very sure of her interest in me and I feared rejection. So I decided to try and talk with her one more time, just to gauge her possible interest.

Leaving Louisville late Sunday afternoon for the long drive back to Chicago, I called her. I’d used the address on her boxes to look up her home phone number in the phone book online. And now the phone was ringing.

Her mother answered.

“Can I speak with Grace, please? This is Matthew, a friend from Chicago.”

The phone call and the trip went quickly, all 4 hours of both. And I had my answer. We still had not talked specifically of our relationship, but I knew that if it was that easy for both of us to spend 4 hours talking and with similarities between us in standards and beliefs, I knew I wanted to pursue this lady.

The next day I called her dad. I spoke to him on Tuesday and asked if I could begin courting his daughter.

Over the next few weeks he asked me questions regarding my views and opinions on various matters and eventually told me he and his wife would allow me to court Grace.

I was planning a trip down to Missouri by then to see her for a weekend. She was working at Child Evangelism Fellowship’s headquarters outside St. Louis.

June 15th, 2007: The Friday before I drove down to see her, when we were having what by then was a regular evening phone call, I told her I’d been talking to her parents about courting her (she knew that already) and I asked her if she was willing to court me.

She said yes.

Over the summer she traveled to New York to work with children in the projects and other parts of the city, returning to Missouri and then Dallas in August, where I spent a week meeting her family and friends and having fun together.

We flew back to Chicago together: her to begin classes and me to get back to work.

Through the semester and now these months together I grew to appreciate more and more her strength, her tenacious love, her sense of direction and purpose, and her Godliness. Not to mention her beauty and her spirit, her consistency and organization. I knew rather quickly that she was definitely the one I wanted to marry.

Apparently she knew too.

After a winter trip to California meeting my family and friends and receiving further counsel from my parents, I began seriously considering marriage to this wonderful woman God had brought into my life.

After an intense period of counsel, thought, and prayer we were still unsure when the best time would be for our wedding to occur and our marriage to commence: Whether to marry this year or after she graduates in 2010.

Grace and I decided to have a period of time where we were to not contact each other but to spend that time seeking the Lord’s will and answers in our lives.

Ending Valentine’s Day, 2008, these 7 days were painful but rich, and we both, individually, felt God leading us to marry this year.

In the church parking lot, on February 25, 2008, 1 year and 2 weeks after we’d first met in the Sunday School classroom not too far away, I got down on one knee and asked Grace if she would marry me, be my wife and the mother of our children.

She said yes!

American Texan and I will be married August 2nd, 2008, in Dallas TX.

See our website at MattLovesGrace.com