Another abduction

When I arrived home I learned about the news. Miss Cecilia Cubas, 31, was abducted and is now reportedly being held hostage for a $1 million ransom. You can see English news reports here. It seems that it was, from the beginning, a carefully planned operation. The attackers had shotguns and M-16 assault rifles, among other weapons.

The really disturbing issue here is that Cecilia Cubas is daughter of former President Raúl Cubas. For a moment, sit down and imagine. How would you feel if some mobsters kidnap Chelsea Clinton? The feeling of insecurity in the country is overwhelming.

Site update

You may already have noticed that I fiddled a little bit with the template file ;). What I did is add some information about myself for the casual visitor, and a couple of blogrolls.

What’s puzzling me is my personal blogroll, blogsphere. Initially I used for that my own WordPress link, creating a category. What I wanted is to sort the links putting the “recently updated” first and with some emphasis, but it didn’t work that way. I then switched to BlogRolling.com (as you are able to see) and I also configured it to work that way, but it is not working! For example, Tim’s blog is right now below all others when it was recently updated, and with an excellent post on confirmation to boot. Any ideas on why this is so?

All in all, my hope is that these small changes are useful and comply with their purpose. For me, it was a fun way of learning a little bit of Word Press template code. Let me know if you have something to offer in the way of feedback.

Devotional – September 22, 2004

Thus says the Word of God:

Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
(Romans 15:7, ESV)

The world where we live, despite all the empty speeches and platitudes on world peace and unity, is becoming more and more fragmented each day. This has been true since the very Fall of humanity. Sin –separation from God– also implied the mutual alienation of our race and the breakup of families and communities. We also have to acknowledge, to our regret and shame, that this divisiveness is also perceived in the Church and it has been so since its very beginning, despite the fervent prayer of our Lord that we all might be one (John 17:21). How many times we have come to regret divisions in our churches! Too many times these divisions were due to matters without importance, out of vanity or pride; but sometimes there were important issues at stake that left us with no other choice than separation.

But we know that this is not God’s idea. The Apostle reminds us of that, pointing out clearly what is the main effecting agent of Christian unity: “Therefore welcome one another.” Notice that the Apostle does not mention feelings or emotions, or some abstract and vague idea. Real Christian unity is achieved obviously through love; but St. Paul says here with devastating clarity that unity is achieved with the sacrificial and obedient practice of Christian love. We need to welcome and accept our brother, letting him enter in that intimate space of ours that we would like to tenaciously defend from outsiders; we must let our brother know that in the same way he is welcomed by Christ he will be welcomed by us without fear of rejection or eviction.

Finally, we should bear in mind two aspects of Paul’s advice: firstly, we see that since Christ is our model, we also should pay Christ’s price; we have to pay the highest price possible to love our brother. The practice of Christian love proposed by Paul is hard and difficult. Secondly, our motivation should be nothing less and nothing more than God’s glory. We show this love, we welcome our brother in our intimate beings, not out of goodness, not for our own good, or any other motivation. We should do so because God’s will is that we might do so. To welcome our brother in this way is, then, an act of discipline and obedience.

May the Lord allow us to be agents and promoters of unity in the practice of Christian love, for His glory.

Prayer
Our Lord and Father, who loved us first and sent your Son Jesus Christ to save us: Let us, by your Holy Spirit, express Your love to our brethren in the faith during our live, so that we might follow the example of your Son, who loved us to death, and death on a cross. By Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Influence of Protestant dogmatics in the thought of Immanuel Kant

Note: This is the summary of a paper I presented in the Annual Philosophical Week organized by the Faculty of Philosophy of the National University of Asunción. This year the Week’s emphasis was on Kant, in commemoration of the bicentennial of his death. I planned to offer the full Spanish version (8 pages in letter-size paper) in HTML, but that will have to wait till Monday since my LaTeX source code was left on my office workstation.

The paper was very well received. Thanks goes to Professor Sergio Cáceres, who invited me to participate, and the whole pastoral staff of the church, who generously granted me permission to work on the paper during some office hours. Special mention goes to Rev. A., who made available to me his office library.

The Paper

When one examines the thinking of Immanuel Kant, there are some readily discernible influences, such as Wolff’s rationalism, Hume’s skepticism or Newton’s mechanics. However, one influence which is as deep and decisive as all the aforementioned three is seldom mentioned and almost always forgotten: the influence of Protestant dogmatics.

It is not easy to take account into that fact, since dogmatics is no longer part of a general curriculum in the liberal arts tradition; and furthermore, since we (I am talking here of Paraguay) were situated in the part of Christendom that was the farthest away possible from developments in Protestant thinking.

It is also necessary to pinpoint that we’re not talking about dogmatic philosophy, as Kant intended it, i.e, that philosophy that takes the possibility of knowledge for granted. We are talking about dogmatic theology, that systematic reflection on the revealed material done by the Church. Finally, we need to take into account that the word Protestant here denotes the legacy of the magisterial Reformers, such as Luther, Calvin and Zwingli, and not those of the radical Reformers.

With that being said, I will explore the issue of possible points of influence in two avenues: (1) Pietism; and (2) Protestant scholasticism.

Pietism

One can say that Pietism’s influence over Kant is a confirmed and self-evident fact; but Pietism itself is ill-understood and maligned as a movement.

Pietism was formed as a reaction to the hardening of categories of Protestant thought brought on by Protestant scholasticism, especially in the excesses shown by Lutheran dogmaticians. The main trait of Pietism is the introduction of the radical subjectivity of the religious experience as the normative criterion for ecclesiology and theology, and a progressive distanciation of the more objective content of dogmatics. Thus, and together with deism and proto-liberalism, Pietism has favored the reduction of the idea of God to the immanent.

According to Roger E. Olson, you can identify four special traits of Pietism: (1) A religious expression characterized by a conversional piety; (2) A tolerant, irenic kind of Christianity; (3) The emphasis on the visibility of the faith; and (4) An activist outlook on the consequences of the faith.

Besides the abundant indications made by his biography, one can point these points of influence in Kant:

  1. It is possible to point that Kant’s transcendental subjectivity has a direct parallel with Pietism’s radical subjectivization of religious experience;
  2. Conversional piety might be the influence behind Kant’s “Copernican Revolution”, i. e., his transition from dogmatic to critical philosophy, and his account of the fact in the Introduction of his Prolegomena to any Future Metaphysics, the famous passage where he tells that Hume’s skepticism “awoke me from my dogmatic slumber” is laid out in clearly conversional form;
  3. It would be possible to link Pietism’ emphasis in Christian tolerance with Kant’s superation of the Church as an institution in his Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone and the coming of the Kingdom of God on the earth, as set forth in his work Zum ewigen Friede (“For Everlasting Peace”); and
  4. Lastly, the most common contact point between Pietism and Kant’s thought is that of ethics, so we won’t dwell on it here.

Protestant scholasticism

Protestant scholasticism was a theological movement brought forth by a natural evolution of the Reformation of the 16th century. Generally speaking, it can be characterized as a natural hardening of the categories of Protestant thinking, and the (mis)use of these categories as an instrument of controversy agains those in different theological camps. It is possible to establish some points of influence, and I am going to mention the two more evident:

  1. First, we see that Kant does admit in Book I of Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone the radical corruption of the will, a question hotly debated in all theological circles. This is surprising, since Kant more or less generally sides with the Enlightenment rationalism rather than with Christian faith; but then again, he says that despite this corruption of the will, it must be somehow able to obey the moral law.
  2. Another related question, and one equally debated, is the question of the bondage of the will, a polemic that was started with Erasmus and Luther and went on through the centuries to our very days. It is noteworthy that one of the Antinomies that Kant puts forth in the Transcendental Dialectics part of his Critique of the Pure Reason to illustrate the impossibility of a rational cosmology is that very question of bondage versus freedom. This might be more or less a jab to the contending spirit of Protestant scholastics.

Discussion

After seeing all this possible links between Protestant dogmatics and Kant’s thought, the question might arise, Why it is so? I would like to offer three possible causes:

  1. A quick survey of Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone shows a considerable number of Scripture references. This might indicate that Kant wishes to place himself not as an heretic and innovator, but as a thinker that is essentially orthodox, perhaps of a different kind of orthodoxy. Obviously, Kant’s results are far from any manifestation of orthodoxy.
  2. The use of disputed questions as the starting point of certain features of his thinking shows that Kant is very partial to Pietism’s emphasis in the superation of all denominational differences.
  3. Finally, the use of themes that figured prominently in the Lutheran-Calvinist debate illustrate the growing political tendency towards the unification of the Lutheran and Reformed churches in the Kingdom of Prussia, and in fact there was a law signed by the King Frederick Wilhelm III in 1817 mandating a church merger, only 13 years after Kant’s death and in the tricentennial of the Reformation. In my opinion, Kant saw the writing on the wall and he wanted to rally on its support with Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone.

Conclusion

The brief examination we made allows us to state beyond any possible doubt that Kant was influenced by Protestant dogmatics. Pietism was the most important factor, but Protestant orthodoxy should also be taken into account.

Birthday Gifts!

Those might or might not be insignificant, but I took them as little birthday gifts from the Lord:

  • I was able to expound my paper on Kant on the Faculty of Philosophy of the National University (more of that on other post).
  • Finally, Part III of the Stealth Desktop series appeared at OfB.biz.
  • Furthermore, that very article was slashdotted in yesterday’s front page!

As usual, thanks for the Stealth Desktop series goes to Tim.

Of Being Thankful

Today is a special day on two counts:

  1. It was exactly four years ago that the most beautiful and loving lady in the world called me long distance, from Asunción (Paraguay) straight to my Michigan dorm after a marathonic IRC session, and began to start something so wonderful I am at a loss of words to explain. In time, I came back to Paraguay, and less than a year after my arrival we got married. And here I am, your domesticated nerd and former unrepentant bachelor, happy as a clam with the fact that he’s being married ;). Thank you, my love, for bringing happiness and color to my grey life…
  2. It is also on this day that I was born, 34 years ago. While I am usually shy and I don’t like to celebrate birthdays, I am very grateful to God for all the blessings and mercies He has shown all the way upon me. Lord, allow me to be faithful to your Kingdom and be a witness of the good news of Jesus. Give me patience, give me kindness, give me understanding. And thank You for your continued protection and blessings. Amen.

Thankfully, today is a rather quiet day. I expect my parents and siblings to come visit my home later in the evening.

Don Victorio’s Pacemaker, part II

Thankfully, Don Victorio’s surgery went very well. He was conscious all the time during the procedure. Next day (on Thursday) he was released from the hospital and went home, where he is continuing his recovery.

He is in a much better mood than while he was at the hospital, which is understandable. My mother in law told me that he is eating very well and willingly (quite an achievement!).

Thanks everyone for the prayers and intercession. Keep praying for him and his family.

Don Victorio’s Pacemaker

Don Victorio (my father in law) is about to enter the surgery room for the implantation of a pacemaker. To the effect he is now being carried from the Social Security Hospital (where he is being treated) to the French Private Hospital, where the surgery is going to be performed.

Please pray for the successful outcome of the surgery and the post-surgical evolution.

Three Years Later…

It still feels like yesterday. A classmate from the lower apartment called me and told me, “Do you know what happened in New York”? “No; what’s up?”, I replied. “Come and see”, he told me.

We went down the stairs, and when we got into his room, I saw a TV scene that looked like a bad B movie or directly from the book of Revelation… only that it was live TV.

All that people (including two Paraguayans)… all those selfless firemen, policemen, paramedics, and people who helped, losing their lives and knowing it… it was simply too much to bear. The people who defied terror and chose to offer their own lives in an airplane, or amidst the ruins… I salute you!

America, I salute you at full attention today. You showed the world your true backbone of freedom, courage and liberty that day. God bless America the beautiful!

Oops!

Sorry for the relatively few posts of this month. Don Victorio is wreaking havoc with his illness. I have good news of him, though. (More on that later.)

I just had a major scare with KMail, my email program. I have several addresses and aliases, and major filters, all set up, and I moderate a mailing list, admin a website with email, and do several other things with it. You can see that this is pretty important to me.

Well, today I booted the machine, and first order of business was to start Kontact (which is an Outlook-like application that uses KMail to handle e-mail). After a few seconds, I got a dialog: “KMail encountered a fatal error and will terminate now”, with only the OK button. And then it shut down. I tracked back any runaway processes with ps -auxw, killed them, and restarted KMail. No luck. The dreaded dialog appeared again. I then invoked KMail from a console window, just to see the standard error output; perhaps the reason for all this was some esoteric misconfig or error. No luck; stderr would say the same thing as the message window: “KMail encountered a fatal error and will terminate now”.

Then I resorted to more extreme measures. First I restarted my session; no luck. Then I rebooted; no luck. And then I did a complete shutdown with power off and unplugging of the power cord. After that, I booted and restarted KMail, and it seemed to operate longer, but after some time the dreaded message appeared agan. What could I do??

I was stuck, and I needed to Do Something Now. To make things worse, today is Prayer Bulletin Day, and I have to send the bulletin via email. I began considering how to migrate to Mozilla Mail (yuck!) or Ximian Evolution (even more yuck!) or to some other app. Suddenly, I had the idea to check my .kde directory. There I deleted the links to the socket; then I deleted the HTTP cache, and after that I deleted my whole /tmp directory. Guess what? It worked!

My goodness; that big and loud pheeeeeeeew! you heard was just me, sighing of relief. 🙂

Devotional – September 1, 2004

Thus says the Word of God:

The earth, O LORD, is full of your steadfast love;
teach me your statutes!

(Psalm 119:64, ESV)

There is no doubt that the chores of daily living are difficult in so many times, and tiresome, with all the struggles and disappointments which we have to endure daily. Our Lord Jesus Christ is overwhelmingly frank when he tells us, “In the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33). Even so, our duty as servants of Christ is not to sink in despair, because he has overcome the world; instead, we are encouraged to always have in mind those things that are lovely, honorable, excellent, good and true (Philippians 4:8).

That is the reason why the Psalmist reminds us of that wonderful truth: The steadfast love, the mercy of the Lord, is in all the earth. Even in this world that brings us forth thorns and thistles, pain, sickness and sorrow, God did not leave Himself without witness; very to the contrary, evidences of His love and care for us sprout everywhere to the eye willing to recognize them. It is Him, and none other, who clothes in His glory to the lilies of the field; it is Him, and none other, who makes the sun rise over just and unjust; it is Him, and none other, the One who gave us the waters of the great sea, the silent majesty of the snowy summits, the lush and color of our tropical forest. It is Him, and none other, the One who freely gave us everything, and gave us this earth as our home, so that we might administer it with wisdom and care, bearing witness of the steadfast love of our Creator and Redeemer.

Is this earth, this world, this our home, the theater of God’s mercy. And we, the servants of Christ, are the ones who must show the world the power of God’s mercy, who fills the whole earth. And in order to bear good witness, we need to learn from God’s word. There lies the secret: to be willing to learn God’s will as stated in His Word, His statutes, and apply it to our daily life. May God allow us to show the world, by obeying His word, the mercy of He who had sent His own Son to save us.

Prayer
Our Lord and Father, whose mercy fills the whole earth: grant us, by your Holy Spirit, the grace of learning, knowing, and practicing the statutes of your Holy Word, so that we might be witnesses of your mercy that fills the earth, and show forth the love of Christ to every creature. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Don Victorio the Spaniard

I’ve been busy these days because Rev. S. is going to travel again. He is going to Dallas, TX, and also he plans to cross the border southward for a brief visit to Mexico.

My father in law is stable, but I think his worst problem is just himself. Don Victorio is stubborn in a way that mules would appear meek and mild in comparison. I guess that’s just right since his dad was a Spaniard who was even more stubborn. When the physicians in emergency care inspected him, they noted a swollen left ankle, and took X-rays just to be sure. It turned out that Don Victorio had an untreated, old sprain in the ankle, and as a result of the fall of the minor stroke, now he also had a fractured fibula. So, as first order of business, they put a plaster boot on his lower left leg and foot.

My goodness. He complained and complained and complained so much that the resident physician agreed to cut a little bit of plaster. When the traumatologist learned of this, he strongly scolded her, telling her that she should mind her own business and not meddle into traumatology stuff. Worse, a little bit later, my father in law took the plaster case off his ankle and threw it out, all by himself.

Meanwhile, he also claims that doctors want to perform “experiments” with him, and it is a real battle to have him take his medication and perform other duties. And since he cannot walk (due to his ankle…) and there’s no restroom inside the door, he is forced to use a bedpan, and usually one of my sisters in law has to clean him up afterwards; you can imagine how unpleasant the whole business is. Don Victorio the Spaniard is driving his family’s patience and understanding to the limits, and beyond…

Please keep praying for him. I really understand his situation and predicament, and I am sympathetic; but I also think he has to be more careful in what he says and does. As my wife said out of exasperation, he is making a fool of himself.

I plan to write today’s devotional and post it here later.

Sermon: The Discipline of Prayer

Sermon preached on Villa Morra Baptist Church on August 22, 2004, 19.00 (Regular church evening service)

Text:

(2) Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. (3) At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison– (4) that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.
(Colossians 4:2-4, ESV)

Introduction: There are a lot of messages and studies on prayer, but what about a down-to-earth, practical advice? Paul gives this kind of advice in this brief text on his Letter to the Colossians.

  1. Prayer is a habit, v.2
    1. Requires steadfastness, perseverance, commitment.
    2. Requires being watchful, i.e., with full dedication.
    3. Requires an attitude of thankfulness.
  2. Intercession should not be missing from prayer, v. 3
    1. Intercession –praying for— is the door to God’s power.
    2. Intercession should be always linked to the proclamation of the mystery of Christ.
    3. Remember that you should always intercede for your pastors and spiritual leaders.
  3. Prayer is always practical, vss. 3 and 4
    1. Prayer is always concerned with practical matters.
    2. It should always refer to our daily lives.
    3. It should always give us orientation for our living.

Conclusion: It is not easy to develop a prayer life. But prayer is the oxygen of the body of Christ. Let us pray that we might show Christ’s victory to this troubled world by our life of prayer.

Devotional – August 25, 2004

Thus says the Word of God:

Great peace have those who love your law;
nothing can make them stumble.

(Psalm 119:165, ESV)

It is commonplace to state that God’s law is an expression of the loving will of the LORD for our lives; it is the “manufacturer’s manual” that must be obeyed by His people. It is perfect, good and acceptable, destined to revive the soul. And this text from the longest Psalm of the Bible confirms this notion, because it states clearly that the law of God guarantees lasting peace. Now, this peace is not the mere lack of disturbances or trouble; it is a deep, inner peace, derived from the strong will to please and serve the Heavenly Father, from Whom all blessings flow.

But today’s text calls our attention because it says something else. Peace does not come from doing or not doing something, or to observe certain rules as a mere formality. The Psalmist, in contrast, proclaims that peace is the gift of those who love the LORD’s law. Loving the law of God requires from us an active obedience, which comes not from fear, but from the love of the one who freely choses to offer himself to the Father’s will, in trusting response to Him who loved us first. For those who are willing to give everything for the sake of God’s love, He promises a peace which surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7.

How many times we have wanted peace! The true Shalom, God’s everlasting peace, is out there, even amidst grief, pain, suffering and tragedy, amids the shadow of death and the challenges of life. The LORD tells us that even so, if we love His law, nothing will make us stumble. That is the peace our Lord Jesus Christ cried for, and it is the same He is offering us today.

“If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace!”

Prayer
Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world: have mercy upon us.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world: have mercy upon us.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world: give us your peace.

O Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world: take away all impiety from us and give us your peace, which surpasses all understanding, so that me might draw closer to the throne of the Father with a confident heart, always walking in loving obedience of His law, which is agreeable, good and perfect. By our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Buddy, can you spare me a copy of Latex2HTML, please?

Yesterday I had to prepare a translation. It was a five-page sermon (in fact, more like a prep-talk) that was obviously a transcription of a speech, and obviously a poor one at that, with Spanish spelling, grammar and syntax errors aplenty.

I had to deliver the translation in both PDF and HTML formats, so I thought that instead of doing it in OpenOffice.org, it would be a good idea to do it in Latex, since it is able to provide excellent PDF output, and HTML output through latex2html.

Now, problem is, today, while I was preparing to send the translation over by email, I suddenly realized that there’s no Latex2HTML in Slackware and seemingly never was there in the first place; i.e., latex2html never was part of the distro. Bummer!

Fortunately, I was able to download, compile and install it. Two hours later my HTML copy of the translation was ready, and after tidying it up some, was happily sent to the intended recipients.

A happy ending, no doubt… but boy, what a scare I had! 🙂

Swamped

Here I am, swamped in work as usual.

Friday went off normally. Lots of work, church bulletin included. A bright note is that I saw KDE 3.3 released the day before; and after leaving the machine overnight downloading (download speeds went down to a crawl, understandably), I was able to install it. Oh boy, what a treat! Something I especially loved was the fact that, after being a victim of KDE Bug 73592 the KDE 1 Window Decoration is again usable. Yahoo!! And I see a review coming 🙂

But… saturday is my only day of rest, and Saturday morning is usually the only one in the week where I do not have to worry about alarms at all. But that Saturday started out badly. I got a phone call in the morning, while I was sleeping soundly. Believe me, I usually do not pick those calls, but we are amidst our father-in-law trouble, so we took the call.

Well, it was the guy at our print shop. I usually send him the church bulletin as a PDF file over email; but this guy waited till 9am Saturday morning to tell me the file didn’t show up. Groaning, I stood up from bed, got dressed, and picked up a cab for the office. There, surely, it was a bounce message from the printer’s ISP telling me that my message was bounced because the Paraguayan national wireless network (run by a stupid monopoly) is on some stupid blacklist who is employed by the stupid ISP.

I called the printer to know how could I send him the file, and he just told me, “Eduardo, don’t worry. Your email just arrived. I called tech support and they saw your message being bounced, and let it pass.” My goodness. I saw my morning and my rest being flushed down in a bad joke. And I was furious to say the least. I told the printer about my serious displeasure, and how much of a nuisance he was, and went back home.

On Sunday I taught the Sunday School class, and left church immediately. I was supposed to preach on the evening service; and thanks to the LORD I found an excellent text. I prepared the sermon, and the message went quite good. A lot of people loved it. Perhaps I might put the outline here just to see if it might be of benefit to someone.

On Monday Rev. S. came back from his trip to La Plata. He was all OK, and I was glad to learn that his sickness went away there. He was obviously happy, and I felt also happy for him.

Now, about my father in law: He is stabilized now. It seems that his condition was caused by an arrhythmia which in turn was sparked by a stomach problem. He is still in coronary unit, but the medical staff is looking to move him to cardiology unit. Treatment is still being discussed; a possibility is the use of a pacemaker, but the family is very reluctant to let him go through another heart surgery.

He has the usual discomforts brought by hospitalization, but he is already on his way to make his own way. He requested a swinging chair to be brought to him, together with his chess set (he is a FIDE National Master). He told my wife he intended to play with docs and nurses. He also requested newspapers, books and his Bible to read. Oh my goodness… it is good ol’ Don Victorio all over again.

My wife told me that he is moved by all your prayers; I told her about all the intercession coming in from this blog and the CS-FSLUG list and he was moved. Thanks, and please keep praying.

Caring for the sick, reloaded

You might have notice a total lack of activity here after Monday, and that’s for a reason.

I’ve been swamped with work on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Rev. S. was to go on a trip to La Plata (Argentina) despite his health, and I had to commute between office and his home to do some work, preparing a lot of documents, files, and related materials for his trip. Additionally, Rev. A. wanted me to write a piece on the philosophy of our Christian School. I don’t blame him, since I am both a trained philosopher and a member of the school Board of Trustees; but I was utterly unable to come up with something. I had to tell him that I couldn’t do anything. You can’t even begin to comprehend how humiliating this could be.

Because of all the hoopla, I was unable to prepare this week’s Prayer Bulletin and that’s why there’s no Devotional for this week.

Now, on Wednesday morning, sometime after my wife and I finished dinner (that’s Paraguayan dinner for you Americans; we dine late at night, 9pm being a good time for that) and we were preparing for crash the bed after a stressful day’s work, we got a phone call. It was my sister-in-law, and it was meant for my wife.

Oh dear. My father in law had apparently suffered a minor stroke. They called an ambulance which was due to arrive at the house anytime soon. Of course this caused my wife to go ballistic; she understandably wanted to be right there with her beloved dad. I had to instill some sense in her, telling her that she was in medical care with a particularly strong variety of flu, and her presence would do her dad more harm than good right now.

The ambulance took my dad to the Institute of Social Security hospital (IPS, after its Spanish name). He couldn’t afford a private hospital. He was admitted into Emergency Room at around 11pm that Wednesday, so you think that took care of it, right? Wrong!

My father in law was left in E.R. for hours. He was given oxygen and nothing else. Meanwhile, the whole family was frantically trying to get him inspected by a specialist who could determine his condition and to which sector of the hospital he should go. Meanwhile, his dossier was misplaced and almost lost; his diagnosis was lost; his tests were lost. An order to move him up to regular hospital care came two times, and two times the hospital beds were took by other folks. Another order was issued, to take him to Cardiology, but the E.R. droids were raising a stink because the doctor who signed the order was not a cardiologist. It was 6pm Thursday, and my father in law was still stranded in E.R., without receiving anything that remotely resembled proper care.

My wife was desperate. She went into the hospital to see what she could do, despite her health. She called me and asked me for help. After praying, I got an idea. I called Dr. MP, which is the new medical director of the Baptist Medical Center. He also happens to be member of our church and my student in Sunday School. Well, I called him and asked him if he please would call one of his colleagues working at the IPS Hospital, asking him or her to take some interest in my father in law’s ordeal?

It turned out that one of Dr. MP’s buddies back in medical school was the very Medical Director of the IPS Hospital. After some calls, Dr. MP called me telling me that the IPS Medical Director was looking into the matter, and he would see that my father in law receives proper care. Soon after that, my wife told me that he was being moved into the intensive care and coronary unit.

My wife came back home in dire need of some serious rest. I bought a junk-food dinner, we ate, and after hugging her, we crashed the bed. She really slept like a stone ;).

Please keep praying for my father in law’s health, and my wife’s too.

Caring for the sick

We had a nice weekend. I generally just tried to rest a while, and I managed to do so even though I had a rather large translation to do. What troubled me the most what the fact that my wife was very sick with the flu. She picked it out from me, and did not respond to it quite well. She was coughing during all of yesterday, and despite this she was very reluctant to go to the doctor.

I finally managed to convince her after a lot of coaxing, and she should be here in around half an hour so we might go to the doctor next door. Keep praying for her health.

On Sunday morning I taught the Sunday School class as usual. After that, the service was regular stuff. Thankfully, there was no drummer, so at least I was spared from that. Preacher was Rev. J.M., who as usual screamend on top of his lungs instead of preaching. The whole service was the boring soap-opera stuff; but I have to be at services, so let it be, at least for now.

KDE 3.3 RC2

Last Tuesday, the KDE folks released KDE 3.3 Release Candidate 2 as a source-only release. Thankfully, the ever-helpful Jean-Christophe Fargette produced Slackware packages in no time, and by Wednesday afternoon the Slack tarballs were waiting in the KDE FTP server. I’ve downloaded them, and installed the packages as a first order of business yesterday.

The truth is, I’m (almost) in computing Nirvana. KDE 3.3 beta2 was already very stable, but with a few bugs remaining. This Release Candidate has a lot of the bugs squashed, and it is really a contender. So far, I’ve found no showstoppers nor big annoyances. Additionally, a pet peeve of mine (bug 73592) was fixed! I am able to use the famous KDE 1 Window Decoration again! I can’t even begin to tell you how happy I am… 🙂

Devotional – August 11, 2004

Thus says the Word of God:

I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies,
as much as in all riches.

(Psalms 119:14, KJV)

We again enjoy the never ending riches of the longest Psalm of the Bible so that we might contemplate the most precious treasure we might ever posess: the Word of God. Amidst all toils and travails of our life, in any circumstance, the Psalmist give us a call to rejoice with unrestricted, unstoppable joy. How important it is for us to remember this call from the Bible! It is a call which springs not from the cheap emotionalism so common in the world, and –sadly– also in many churches. It is, instead, a firm and steady joy, stemming from a choice of he who, once and for all and in the middle of the ruins and ashes of his world turned around and fallen down, proclaims, “I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies”.

It is telling to see how the Psalmist links this joy directly with the question of the riches. As the very Word of God states, “money answers everything” and is a “protection” (Ecclesiastes 7:12; 10:19). The relevance of the Psalmist’s experience is even more important now, when so many people have been suddenly impoverished, and hundreds of people lost not only material possessions, but also those who loved most in the world, to a whirlwind of gases and fire which will keep scarring our community for a long time to come. The Psalm tells us that there is, indeed, a source of joy which surpasses any loss: the joy of walking the way of the Word.

Finally, it is to be noted that joy does not come after complying with certain pre-established rules, or belonging to such and such group, or being this way or the other. Joy comes after walking the way, after the continuous toil of our feet in the long march over the hard way that is to follow and obey God’s will. If we really want joy in our lives, let us follow the Psalmist’s advice, and change our way; let us stand up now, and follow the way of our Lord, until the finish line.

Prayer
Beloved and Holy Father, who has shown us our way in your Word: Grant us your grace to do the pilgrimage in the way of your will, so that we, with the light of your Holy Spirit, might show Jesus Christ to this world, and embody the joy He brought us with his eternal victory. By Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

(Mostly) recovered, but…

Thankfully, after the strong bout of flu I got last weekend, I am starting to recover. The fever started receding Monday. On Tuesday I got back to the office (remember seeing Rev. S. not exactly glad about my Monday forced absence?), but this time it was Rev. S. the sick one. Hearing him cough repeatedly, like a car being ignited, was painful. He’s now at home and with strict orders to rest. He already had to excuse himself to people from Peru whom he was supposed to meet in a trip to Lima and Trujillo next month, because the doctors told him in no uncertain terms that he had to cut down his schedule or else. To complete the not so good news, my wife is also having the flu now, only that she’s aching in the throat, and that’s obviously very unpleasant. Please pray for both Rev. S. and my wife.

On other news, I did not post yesterday’s devotional out of time constraints. I plan to post it later today.

An Idea Whose Time has Come

My fellow namesake Ed considered two weeks ago on his blog the question of ministering to geeks/coders. Almost immediately Josiah jumped in and called for a fresh relationship with our fellow geeks.

As usual, my office is a sorry mess of important things that never get done, buried under an ever flowing sea of urgent things “due yesterday” and constant interruptions, so this slipped away somehow despite the fact that I really intended to blog about this. And this idea is one whose time has come.

As a Christian, and a technology-minded one at that, I feel the duty and responsibility to offer some kind of Christian witness to my fellow geeks. I can confirm the statements made by Ed and Josiah about the state of the souls of the geeks they talk about. They are people who often are isolated, cynical, extremely abrasive, often with an extreme prejudice against Christianity, and in dire need of a Christian witness. They need the Lord Jesus Christ and His blood as much as we do.

Furthermore, and although you never should expect too much, I saw a growing trend in Slashdot and other examples of “geek” culture: It is now much more frequent to see Christianity defended against flames or attacks in a Slashdot thread or discussion. There is certainly hope.

What about role models? Well, we have certainly a battle here. For instance, we’ve seen our own Linus Torvalds being quite disrespectful about religion and Christianity (see his comment about being a “god”, although he regretted it later; his communist parent, and his general lack of respect for religion); Eric S. Raymond is a neo-pagan Wiccan and rabidly anti-Christian; and Richard M. Stallman is a dogmatic atheist. And there are many people who were raised in devout Christian homes but later walked away from faith. On the other hand, we have people like Larry Wall and Professor Donald Knuth unapologetically confessing their Christianity, so there’s hope too.

I really don’t know what to do or say. But I am certain we need to do something and the opportunities are ripe. Please pray with me on the matter.

Grounded and with the flu

This was written yesterday:

The weddings were miserable. I went to the reception for the civil weddings on Friday evening, and there were so many strangers I had to greet… seriously, this is a situation I absolutely loathe.

The Saturday was even worse. It was really cold and my wife, even though she used a nice black velvet dress (and she looked stunning!) was shivering. Later I was informed that the temperature that night was 4 C (that’s 39.2 F for you Americans). We went later to the reception and the room was awful, and cold. The windows were open, and as is usual here, no building is neither insulated nor heated, so we had to endure the cold. The DJ were booming Tex-Mex music at insane dB levels.

I asked my wife to leave at repeated times, and she said every time, “wait a little bit more, it’s my brother’s wedding!” But there was a point into which the whole thing was unbearable and I simply had to enforce my authority and told her that we were leaving. She understood it, and we left. When we arrived at home, we simply crashed our bed.

I woke up on Sunday with fever, shivers, and a major headache. Additionally, I felt sick on my stomach. I spent all the day on bed, eating nothing but a sandwich and boiled rice, drinking only water and orange juice, and with Tylenol and Aspirin. Thankfully, today I woke up much better.

However, I wasn’t still fully recovered, and thus I had to call Rev. S. to tell him I was sick. He wasn’t exactly glad to learn the news. But the good news is that I’m practically recovered, and that I plan to go back to office tomorrow. What a weekend!

One Wedding and…

… simply too many funerals. The Office of the Attorney General found out that there were many duplicate entries in the list of casualties of the recent Ykua Bolaños fire. After pruning out duplicates, it seems that the official amount of deceased people is 369. There are a lot of injured ones and at least one suicide related to the tragedy. Please keep praying for our country and for all the bereaved.

While this sad event prompted many –both within and outside our borders– to an unprecedented outpouring of help, relief aid and generosity, there are also the not-so-bright spots. There are already a lot of scammers who would trick people into thinking they were making donations for the victims, when the money went to the scammer’s purse instead. Also there are many left-wing organizations who are trying to organize a march of protest, concealing their true identity and ideology in order to appear as non-radical.

But there’s one wedding! As I write this, my brother-in-law and her fiancée are getting married in the civil wedding. (Paraguayan weddings 101 for you English-speaking people: You “get married” actually twice; you have the civil wedding, officiated by a Justice of Peace or a Civil Registry officer, and this makes you married under the law; and the religious wedding, officiated by a pastor/priest and the one that makes you married in the eyes of the [Roman Catholic] Church and therefore the eyes of most of the people. The civil wedding is the preamble of the religious.)

Well, my wife had to go to my in-laws’ home to clean because her brother would get married and after the civil wedding, he wanted to have a small reception at his home. She has five other siblings, but no one was available to help!, so it was left to my wife the task of helping her aging and frail mom to clean out the living room and other partying quarters.

You can’t even begin to imagine how upset I am for all of this. My inlaws are a very large family, and yet, no one was willing to help. The bridegroom is in part guilty, since he wanted so much to have receptions after both the civil and religious ceremonies, and I don’t even begin to mention how deeply buried into debt he is because he wants to have a party and a big church wedding. I am deeply upset because my wife is not supposed to spend 12 hours cleaning the soiled rooms of my inlaws’ home. And I am forcing to stop now because I could go on and on and on rambling to no end in sight…

Now for more pleasant news. Josiah was very kind in sending me a Gmail invite. I’m delighted to have a Gmail account and I plan to do lots of nifty experimentation with it. Tomorrow I have to give a talk to InterVarsity Paraguay (local name is “Grupos Bíblicos Unidos del Paraguay”, GBUP, or United Bible Groups of Paraguay) about the inductive study of my favorite Bible book, the Book of Ecclesiastes. Even though is in “off-limits time” (Saturday morning) I really look forward to it. InterVarsity is the most enduring influence in my spiritual life and since now they are on rather difficult times, I am glad to help them in this way.

There are so many subjects I could blog on but there’s only so much time in your life. Perhaps I would add something else later. See you till then!

Devotional – August 4, 2004

Thus says the Word of God:

Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?
Look and see
if there is any sorrow like my sorrow,
which was brought upon me,
which the LORD inflicted
on the day of his fierce anger.
“From on high he sent fire;
into my bones he made it descend;
he spread a net for my feet;
he turned me back;
he has left me stunned,
faint all the day long.

(Lamentations 1:12,13, ESV)

The recent Ykua Bolaños tragedy has shaken our community down to the core. For a lot of families and people, life will never be the same. So many loved ones, friends and family are tragically gone, having died burnt by the unforgiving flames of greed and lack of adequate prevention. For many, life has become an absurd joke, a burden, an unbearable pain not worth facing nor overcoming. For all those reasons it can be expected that many pepople would ask the question asked by the enemies of the sons of Korah: “Where is your God?” (Psalms 42:3,10).

Today we can experience in a tangible way how extreme is the tragedy of sin, which introduced pain and death into human existence. Today we see why sin in all its forms quickens the “fierce anger” of the Lord, and why humankind, all of us included, will never be able of even try to get right with God using our feeble efforts. But today we could also see God’s love and mercy in a tangible way in the commitment and struggle of several pastors, brothers and sisters of different congregations who freely gave themselves to offer spiritual help, counsel and support to so many bereaved or injured people; today we saw God’s love operating in the selfless help of so many firefighters, paramedics, and service personnel; we saw God’s love move through so many support gestures from many parts of our country and the whole world, freely given without asking anything in return.

But the most important thing is what the text is saying to us. God is not a merciless tyrant who looks from above to us as the master puppeteer. He knows the pain of so many mothers without their children, so many widows, so many children without their parents. God knows the sorrow which was brought upon us, because he was next to those who were gone and those who are suffering; and because He also saw his beloved Son Jesus die, a victim of the horror of the sins of all of us. But this is also our hope; because our Lord overcame the last foe to give us hope, and so that all this pain might be over one day, thrown away in the victory of God’s love.

Prayer
Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

Almighty and eternal God, who reconciled the world with you in Jesus Christ, out of love and for your glory: forgive our sins and send your Holy Spirit, the Comforter, so that all those stricken by grief may have the comfort that only faith in your Son Jesus Christ can give, and thus give witness of your love and mercy to this world which needs you so much. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

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