You won’t read this in the New York Times

(The following is an excerpt from an Iraqi Blogger.)

The hall was busy and everyone was chatting and laughing loud. They had Al-Jazeera on (something I never managed to convince them to stop doing). Then suddenly Mr. Bremer appeared on TV reading his last speech before he left Iraq. I approached the TV to listen carefully to the speech, as I expected it to be difficult in the midst of all that noise. To my surprise everyone stopped what they were doing and started watching as attentively as I was.The speech was impressive and you could hear the sound of a needle if one had dropped it at that time. The most sensational moment was the end of the speech when Mr. Bremer used a famous Arab emotional poem. The poem was for a famous Arab poet who said it while leaving Baghdad. Al-Jazeera had put an interpreter who tried to translate even the Arabic poem which Mr. Bremer was telling in a fair Arabic! “Let this damned interpreter shut up. We want to hear what the man is saying” One of my colloquies shouted. The scene was very touching that the guy sitting next to me (who used to sympathize with Muqtada) said “He’s going to make me cry!”

Then he finished his speech by saying in Arabic,”A’ash Al-Iraq, A’ash Al-Iraq, A’ash Al-Iraq”! (Long live Iraq, Long live Iraq, long live Iraq).

I was deeply moved by this great man’s words but I couldn’t prevent myself from watching the effect of his words on my friends who some of them were anti-Americans and some were skeptic, although some of them have always shared my optimism. I found that they were touched even more deeply than I was. I turned to one friend who was a committed She’at and who distrusted America all the way. He looked as if he was bewitched, and I asked him, “So, what do you think of this man? Do you still consider him an invader?” My friend smiled, still touched and said, “Absolutely not! He brought tears to my eyes. God bless him.”

Another friend approached me. This one was not religious but he was one of the conspiracy theory believers. He put his hands on my shoulders and said smiling, “I must admit that I’m beginning to believe in what you’ve been telling us for months and I’m beginning to have faith in America. I never thought that they will hand us sovereignty in time. These people have shown that they keep their promises.”

Read the rest of this entry and a whole lot more on the blog called Iraq the Model.

The Sycamores are all dying

These big sycamore trees here in Carondelet and Holly Hills are getting old and one by one they’re all dying. It’s a turning of the page for the South Side. The trees were planted along with the neighborhood in the 1920′s and ’30′s. I started thinking about this when the big wind storms blew through here last month and took a whole lot of Sycamore limbs with them. In some case, whole trees came out of the ground and some just snapped off above the ground. And, now I think about it every night as we walk the neighborhood and I glance around from tree to tree. Some of them are still in good shape, some of them are gigantic.

Will this neighborhood survive for 50, 60, or even 100 years? What do I mean by “survive?” I don’t know. It’s so nice right now. We sat on the porch tonight, 11:00 pm or so, and it was so quiet. We feel safe walking late at night. Do I want my daughter to settle here to raise a family? I don’t know.

Two Thursday Nights

It somehow seems fitting that I just noticed that there were two entries called Thursday Night on my Blog. They’re both basically the same entry; I tried to publish it late on Thursday night, but the Blogger server was down or slow and I didn’t think it got published. I printed out what I’d written and went down early Friday morning to publish it and changed the date/time to show Thursday night. Like a time warp it was. Well, obviously, it did get published along with the second one. Oh, well.

And, to wrap up Science Camp:

It’s the next Tuesday night now, and I’m at home at the computer. It’s past midnight as usual and Annette and I just got back from our 2 mile walk/run. (Yes, we’re running a little now too.) For me, this was one of the best Camps ever. Mostly because I’m not depressed to be back. I’m usually fighting depression and grief after I get back. This year, as I mentioned in one of the entries from last week, I knew that I had to remove myself from the picture. In secular terms I had to get my ego out of the way. In Christian terms, I had to put others before me. The philosopher Jesus said, “The first shall be last and the last shall be first.” I like the way Mark puts it, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

Science Camp is all about balancing a secular world-view with open minded skepticism. Kids today get years and years of secular naturalism taught to them as if it’s the only world-view there is.

As to the answer to #4: I’ve written in a previous entry about my conversation with God concerning the Evolution/Creation debate. He was not impressed with the parameters I’d set for the argument. His answer to me was, “I love you and everything you need, you’ll have.”

I choose to believe the Bible. I also believe that God has given me a unique set of tools to help others with this problem. This is why I am prompting and facilitating discussion far more often than I am answering questions.

Thursday Night

I’m very tired but I just had to come back down to get some writing done. I can’t believe it’s already Friday tomorrow, or today actually now that it’s past midnight. We went back to the observatory tonight. It was a fruitless night astronomically speaking, but the kids had a good time hanging out with each other under the stars. The middle of Missouri is really very beautiful. Robert Heinlein wrote a story called the Green Hills of Earth. He was speaking of this part of the country and the old man in the story is him.

We’re here at Central Methodist University with about 50 or so “Local Pastors.” These are folks young and old, girl and boy, from the Midwest US who want to be pastors in the Methodist Church. We’d left one of our boards up with notes and discussion points from one of Lee’s lectures. This one was on Genesis and Creation. One of the questions asked something like “Did God create a ‘grown-up’ universe?” This was along side some other notes about maybe a “day” was meant to more than 24 hours, like in “back in the day.” We all came back in from watching a movie and I noticed two of the Preachers playing on my chess board. I asked them if one of them would play me a game later on and they didn’t even answer me. Instead one of them looked at me and said, “we want to know what the answer to number 4 is.” I said, “Huh?” He pointed at our questions and repeated, “what’s the answer to number 4?” I looked over at our board and saw that it was the one about the 7 day creation. “What are you telling those kids?” I told him we don’t hand out answers here. We ask questions.

I’m making a slide show for us with all the pictures we’ve been taking and I’ve come up with a motto: Science Camp – We want to know how everything works and what it’s all about.

There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing a light turn on inside a young person’s mind. A bunch of our pictures are up already – though not organized or formatted. Take a look.

Good night Irene.

Thursday Night

I’m very tired but I just had to come back down to get some writing done. I can’t believe it’s already Friday tomorrow, or today actually now that it’s past midnight. We went back to the observatory tonight. It was a fruitless night astronomically speaking, but the kids had a good time hanging out with each other under the starts. The middle of Missouri is really very beautiful. Robert Heinlein wrote a story called the Green Hills of Earth. He was speaking of this part of the country and the old man in the story was him.

We’re here at Central Methodist University with about 50 or so “Local Pastors.” These are folks young and old, girl and boy, from the Midwest US who want to become pastors in the Methodist Church. We’d left one of our boards up with notes and discussion points from the day, today being Genesis and Creation. One of the questions asked “Did God create a ‘Grown Up’ Universe?” This was along side some other notes about the possibility of a “Day” being more than 24 hours. We all came back in from watching a movie and I noticed two of the Preachers playing on my chess board. I asked them if one of them would play me a game later on they didn’t even answer me. Instead one of them looked at me as said, “we want to know what the answer is to number 4.”

I said, “Huh?”

He pointed to the board and repeated, “What’s the answer to number 4?”

I looked over to the board and saw that it was number 4 was a question on 7 day creation.

He asked again, “What are you telling those kids?”

I replied, “We don’t hand out answers here. We ask questions.”

The kids love these discussions. There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing a light turn on inside a young person’s mind.

I’m lecturing on Darwin tomorrow morning, so I’ve got to get some sleep.

Wednesday Night

Well, it’s late as usual and the mornings come pretty quick. Today was a great day. It always happens around this time of the week the kids start loosening up and you really feel close to them. You kind of feel like their your own kids. You know you’re going to miss them when we all go home.

This morning we went on our fossil dig. I must tell you, I love the drive out there more than the dig. We take the school van out of Fayette down to Lisbon on the Missouri River. The country side is just beautiful. Rolling green hills, corn growing too fast because of all the rain. Tobacco plants growing like they have been in this part of Missouri for 150 years. And, amber waves of grain…really!

These kids are just remarkable. The whole week before I left I promised God that I would set myself aside and give to the kids. I would forget my needs and desires and just give everything I have to them. And what happens? They give to me. That’s the way it works.

Be sure to check out all our pictures. See you tomorrow night.

Tuesday Night

Tonight, we went to the observatory. I never get tired of visiting this place. The dome opens with the rumbling sound of gears from another time, and you see the night sky through the slit that’s cranked open by hand and then you see the giant refractor pulled effortlessly with one hand into position; it’s a boy’s dream come true.

Yes, I was the young boy who gaped awestruck at the night sky. So many stars, galaxies and who knows what else. Deep sky objects like clusters and nebulae, I knew where they all were. I could tell you all about them, what they were and how they were formed. I could tell you their fate; where’d they be in a billion years or so.

This was all before my interests shifted to people over things in this universe. Now I so desperately want to see a young person stare likewise at the open skies. I want them to ask me what it all means, did God create all of this? Is infinity the same as eternity?

tonight, I stand in awe and endless gratitude to God for preparing me for this. I want only to share some small part of His love with the kids here this week.

Well, fossils await us very early tomorrow morning and I must get some sleep. (The Missouri State Fossil! Look it up.)

Monday Night

It was a great day at Science Camp. Some of us sat and watched the movie “Contact” tonight. It’s from the Carl Sagan book by the same name. That’s a pretty good movie. I think someone should make the same movie except from the Preacher’s point of view.

Today we had our chemistry lab with Professor Tiger Gordon. I was able to get some pictures up on the Science Camp Website. Take a look.

The kids are great this year. They’re really getting into the Physics Olympics. Their first project is building a catapult and they’re all basically done with them.

Looking forward to going to the Observatory tomorrow night. I’ll write more then.

Greetings from Fayette

Greetings from lovely Fayette, Missouri; population 2,700. I’m sitting in the computer lab at Central Methodist University tonight after a good start to Science Camp. This year we’ve got six girls and three boys. All of them are either 14 or 15 years old, except one boy. He’s 18 now and he’s been here every year (this is our fifth year) and he just loves it. He knows he can’t come back next year. About three of the girls are back for a second year but other than that, it’s a fresh bunch.

My room is smaller than the bathroom that I share with Lee and Andria. It’s really small. And, there’s too much furniture in it. Last year we were spoiled I guess.

On my little desk is my Bible, Stephen Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time,” and my notes on the Darwin Lecture I’m giving on Friday. I’m in Heaven, I tell you, Heaven.

Annette, Emily…keep the faith. If you want to email me go ahead and use rich@southcityfirst.com. I can read it from here. Breakfast is at 7:00 am, so I’m going to try to get some sleep. It’s hard for me to fall asleep before 12 or 1:00 am, but I’m going to try. Talk to you tomorrow.