Friday, February 8, 2013

Faith and Philosophy Blog Carnival, Feb 2013, 1st Edition

Meredith at  snow & mist presents: "nakkaq | to fall headlong, dive, plunge" a blog about faith and falling on one's face as an appropriate reaction to God's Goodness.  View the blog at this link,

Rick Schiano presents "The Victory is Mine" about overcoming negativity.  View the blog at this link,

Jana Moreno offers insight into "Self-mastery: Dictating Your Vibration From Within," view the blog at this link,

Raquel presents "We Are the Church," about not playing at church.  View blog at this link,

Justin Allison presents "Roundup 2/12 Christian Writing," about the digital age and the need for discourse, contemplation, and critical inspection of the great variety of available writings about biblical topics.  View the entry at this link,

Joshua Tilghman presents "Jesus’ Simple Parable on Raising Awareness" on the parable of the virgins and being prepared.  View the entry at this link,

Shelby Martin presents "What Parents Need to Know to Raise a Polite Child" about parents and raising polite children.  View the entry at

ThorNews presents "Pastor: The Sami Flag is Ugly and Full of Occult Symbols" about one pastor's very opinionated view of the Sami people's flag.  View the entry at

John presents "Fearless. Am I?" about understanding fear.  View the entry at

Jana Moreno presents "Finding Peace In Our Day-To-Day Lives" about quieting one's mind and looking for peace within.  View the entry at

Terence Stone presents "Simplicity of Meditation" about some ways to focus and meditate.  View the entry at

These are the entries so far for this month's edition of the Faith and Philosophy Blog Carnival.  Any further entries will be added to next month's edition.  Thank you all for your submissions!

Final caveat, these entries don't always reflect my views.  As the author of the host blog, Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Happiness, I'm not filtering entries by my opinion, rather if they are in the topic set forth in the blog carnival page.  There was only one entry that wasn't on the topic, it was an advertisement for something.  Many of the entries in this month's edition are not of the same faith that I hold.  That doesn't mean that I (and you as my readers) can't learn from them or be challenged by them.  I hope you enjoy this and future Faith and Philosophy Blog Carnival entries.

--Samuel Ronicker

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Notes from Afghanistan COMPLETED!

I've mentioned before and even posted an excerpt from the book here, but it's finally done.  I've been working on it for the last few months and it's good to be complete.  I ended up being much more involved in the process than I originally thought I would be.  When Steven first contacted me about this project I was just one of several people he asked to read and comment on his book.  Then, out of my love for good grammar and copyediting, I began copyediting each chapter of the book.  Aften one draft was edited and compiled I reread and edited again a little more critically but it was much easier.  Then, after that draft, with a few minor changes thrown in from the author, I worked on formatting for eBook/iTunes release.  I use Mac and there's a program specifically built for that called iBooks Author, which I used to format the text and pictures into an eReader format.  I'm excited about the book's release on the 9th.  Here's the link to the iTunes book.  However, this link is to the special kickstarter, through which you can support the release of the book and the Wounded Warrior Project.

I hope you are able to support and enjoy this text as much as I enjoyed helping make it possible.

Small sampling of pictures from the book:

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Best Wife Ever

I don't commonly talk about my wife, but I'd like to brag.

Do you have money?  Do you ever have trouble managing that money?  My wife doesn't!  She can take the little that I make in the military and save and manage it so well that we pretty much get anything we want or need any time we want.  We regularly give to church and another ministry, and have more than enough to do fun stuff like the mini-vacation that we just finished.  Before we left, seemly on a whim, my wife bought me a Nikon D600.  If you don't know cameras, just know it's a very expensive camera, to the tune of $2,000 just for the body.  Also I got a new lens about $600.  I know I said "seemingly on a whim," but in reality I've been checking out this camera for months.  This actually presents a (slight) problem.  What kind of gifts do you give a woman that has everything she needs, and since we get pretty much whatever we want whenever we want.

I know it's tough, but my wife does very well even without me.  I have to spend months abroad with my job in the military, even so, my wife takes such good care of our two boys even homeschooling them.  She cooks, cleans, teaches, manages money, and takes good care of our family in general.  I love her so much.  I need to do more to help her, and I'm glad to be home because it gives me the chance to do so.  I want to give back to her.

Today I was able to give back to her by giving her a girls' day out.  I need more ideas of ways to give back to her.  We've been talking about doing an anniversary getaway at the resort where we recently spent a couple days.  There's a gorgeous little cabin with a private beach, hopefully we can reserve it for a couple days to celebrate our anniversary in a couple weeks.

So what do I get for the woman who has everything?

Just one of the views from the resort

Christianity vs. Philosophy (Again)

I was reading one of the regular blogs I follow and the headline piqued my interest.  First, some background information.

Between 2000 and 2004 I studied music at Cedarville University; a private, Christian, baptist (even if not in name), liberal arts university in Cedarville Ohio.  I didn't graduate, so I can't technically call it my "alma mater" but I did enjoy my time there, for the most part, and I've always had at least a small desire to return there some day.  My wife attended high school in Cedarville, but that's totally unrelated.

Anyways, it's a small(ish) private Christian college, and when I saw it mentioned on a random philosophy blog, that they were abolishing their philosophy major I looked into it.  What I found was a bit troublesome.  Apparently, after the resignation of the current president, Dr. Brown, and the recent, unexpected resignation of the vice president of student life, Dr Ruby, the university has decided to cancel not only its philosophy major but the physics major as well.  This is terribly saddening to me.  Not because I care about those particular administrators, they were only there for a couple years while I was there and they made little difference in my life as a student, rather because it is apparently stemming from the University "moving back toward conservative fundamentalism."  (That's a complicated quote, quoted from Christianity Today's article, quoting the Fiat Lux blog about this turn of events.)  Don't get me wrong, I'm a conservative, fundamentalist, committed Christian and I often feel that those in my shoes should do more to curb the liberalization of the faith.  The tough part about this issue is that I really don't know why these two prominent administrators resigned and it might have nothing to do with (re)turning to a more conservative fundamentalist stance in the university.

The problem, to me, is that Cedarville Univ and other conservative Christian groups can't seem to find a balance between faith, philosophy, and science.  Is Cedarville abandoning philosophy and physics in an attempt to return to conservative fundamentalism?  I don't think that's really the case, and if that's the goal then they're doomed to fail as an educational institution.  Philosophy is in no way contrary to the Bible, or conservative/fundamentalism.  Perhaps, by the modern media definition of fundamentalist philosophy would present a problem.  The true fundamentalist shouldn't have any issues with seeking out answers to tough questions in light of his/her beliefs.  Being grounded in an unshakeable faith in God's word doesn't mean I can't question it.  My faith is made stronger by my questioning the Bible.  My faith is made stronger by my studying nature, science, and the universe around me.

I'm hoping that the administrative changes at Cedarville work out for the best, and that they bring back majors in Philosophy and Physics.  If they need professors, I'd love to help, but I'm not even remotely qualified ... yet.  Maybe someday.  That would be cool.  Finish my stint in the military/complete various degrees (already have Associates, working on Bachelors), teach overseas for a few years, move back to Ohio, become a professor of philosophy and Asian studies at Cedarville...  The possibilities are endless.

One of the Okuma resort beaches (where we spent two days on a mini vacation)

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Skipping Rocks

I've mentioned before and it's probably obvious, that I'm no stranger to technology and geekiness in general.  However, today as we were waiting to go to a friend's apartment for their child's fourth birthday party, we were walking along the beach and I was skipping rocks.  For whatever reason, this particular beach across the street from our friend's apartment had several good skippin' rocks.  It was littered with pieces of shale.  I might have mentioned it before but the typical coral rock found on the many beaches we frequent aren't very good for skipping, though they're flat, they're too light and don't have enough heft to get a good throw.  But today I was in (comparative) rock-skipping heaven.

It made me think, even as I reached into my pocket resisting the impulse to pull out my iPhone and check Facebook or while away the time in some other manner, that I sometimes dislike modern conveniences/technology and would like to go back to the way things used to be.  I'm not a hopeless romantic concerning the past, I don't look through rose-colored glasses at my childhood and want everything to go back to those simpler times.  BUT, there's a lot of therapy in contemplation and rock-skipping.  Fishing is another one, I LOVE wading out into waist-deep frigid water to cast into the weeds in search of angry Pike.  My life, wether fortunately or unfortunately, has taken me far away from those, more simple, times.  I miss them sometimes and I relish the times I do get to relax, stop checking the phone, and simply sit (or in this case walk) and think.  That's definitely one thing philosophers seem to do more often than most, sit and think.

After the party I was talking with my wife, Michelle, about our post-military life plans, and I mentioned that I'd like to come back to this island.  We were talking about that idea, and this is something like how it would go...  I'd retire, hopefully as a Master Sergeant (E7) or above, and move back to Okinawa to teach English.  I know Michelle doesn't want to live overseas forever, so I'd like to do that for just 5 years or so, right after retiring from the AF. I'd use my retirement pay to rent an apartment right on the ocean and the money I'd make as an English teacher would pay for everything else.  There are dozens of military bases on the island so we'd always be near a military hospital and be able to use the commissary and other base amenities including the many military-only resort areas.  It seems like a cool idea to me and Michelle seemed onboard with the idea as well.  We'll just have to wait see.

Regardless, one of the main things I'm looking forward to after I'm done with my, relatively short when compared to a civilian job, military career is take more time to skip rocks and go fishing.  I hope that wherever I end up at that stage in my life I live close to a place where I can do just that.

Pretty much as fair as fishing gets!  You have to swim close enough to the fish to spear it with a pole

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Guest Writers

I've sent out this invitation before and I've gotten several good responses.  If you'd be at all interested in writing an article for my blog you're welcome to submit articles via email ( or via this Google spreadsheet.

It's not that I've run out of ideas or anything, just that I enjoy sharing other's writings along with my own.

Colossians 2

I know it may seem counterintuitive but the pastor at church brought up this passage on Sunday and I thought it interesting given my intentions behind this blog.

Colossians 2 specifically verses 8-23. I won't quote the whole passage but here's verse 8 from the NASB "8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ." (emphasis mine)  It seems obvious to me that the passage isn't truly condemning philosophy and those that study it.  God's Word wouldn't really be against the love of learning, it says in Psalms 24 "The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains, The world, and those who dwell in it."  So, philosophy, logic, and all the tools of learning and science are all God's.  We (as Christians) need to use them as such.

It seems to me that the real point of the Colossians 2 passage is more along the same lines as: 1 Corinthians 3:18-21a "18 Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, '[God] is the one who catches the wise in their craftiness;' 20 and again, 'The Lord knows the reasonings of the wise, that they are useless.' 21 So then let no one boast in men..." The point isn't that the love of learning is wrong or bad, rather that so many forget Proverbs 3:5-8 "5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight. 7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and turn away from evil. 8 It will be healing to your body, And refreshment to your bones."

The warning in Colossians 2 doesn't want us to keep away from learning or loving knowledge; it is teaching us that we must never rely on our own knowledge or learning when it comes to the things of God. He offers forgiveness through Jesus and once we accept that we need to remember "...[whatever] you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." (1 Corinthians 10:31-33 (NASB))

Not my best photography work but some cool bioluminescent coral

Sunday, January 20, 2013

My Friend's Experience...

My friend and former coworker, Steven Specht, is embarking on an amazing attempt to ride across the US this year.  I'll be occasionally referencing his experiences here.

I've recently returned from my deployment to Afghanistan and I'm thinking of doing some biking in conjunction with training for triathloning.  One of my goals this year is to complete a half-Ironman and I'd like to start riding my bike to work.  I loaned my bike to a friend while I was gone and he told me that one of the pedals of my bike fell apart and that he had temporarily replaced it with his old pedals.  I've been into minimalist and barefoot running for several years now and my goal is to complete the tri barefoot.  When I talked to my friend (that had borrowed the bike) about jury-rigging the pedals with a barefoot strap, he recommended I try clip-less pedals that I could leave the shoes on the pedals easily enough and just strap my bare feet into the shoes.  I don't really have any experience in this area.  Do any of you?  Any advice?

I've looked into it some and it seems like there are some serious advantages to using the stiff shoed clip-less pedals.  According to what I've read there's a mechanical advantage to having a stiff shoe while riding, but I'm not really worried about being fast or competitive so the mechanical advantage isn't really all that important to me.  I'm also budget conscious and I really don't want to spend hundreds of dollars for fancy pedals.  Regardless of how it ends up, I'm looking forward to reading about my friend Steven's adventures and doing my own training.

Not Exactly My Bike (close) *Credit:

Return Home

I've gotten home, and completed my inprocessing work.  I have two weeks of rest/free leave before I have to return to work.  Unfortunately, I have a lot of work to do editing my friend's book and finding the same time to work on it is harder.  There's lot's of distractions, with the beaches and historical ruins and spending time with family and friends.

Already it's been only four days and I've gotten to do all sorts of fun stuff with my family including visiting a small island up on the northern end of the main island of Okinawa.

Swinging on Kouri Island

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Discard the Constitution?

I recently read two different pieces on the New York Times online opinion page, one about the NEED to give up on the Constitution, and then the various responses to that piece.

In all honesty for the first time, in a long time I really have no answer!  "Then why are you writing a blog about it?" you ask.  Well, I don't really know.  I don't like the thought of abolishing the Constitution altogether; I liken it to the foundation of a building.  Especially in an earthquake prone location, foundations are strong but flexible.  It seems that the point of the Constitution was to be a firm foundation but flexible for the times when change is needed.  Was the Constitution written by men (therefore fallible) from a different time period and different issues?  Yes.  Does that mean it doesn't apply today?  No.  They understood that times can change, but in order to have a firm foundation they made it difficult to change.

One of the sections mentioned in the initial piece was Section 7 "All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills."  Funny, that the most important part of flexibility (that Mr. Seidman seems to be neglecting) is mentioned in the selfsame section that he referenced.  Even though the only place revenue measures can originate from is the House, AND the Senate is the only place from which Amendments can originate.  Rather than abolishing our foundation and trying to rebuild from scratch, it would behoove our government to abolish the all the extraneous bills/laws that burden our country.

It's SUPPOSED to be difficult (inefficient) to make laws and change the foundation.  Imagine a government that could make new laws with little to no bureaucracy.  Laws would be passed at the drop of a hat and as knee jerk reactions to everything.  At the first shooting ALL guns would be outlawed.  I'm not saying that would be a bad thing per se, but apply that to car accidents.  At the first negligent speeding accident that kills an innocent bystander, the government would outlaw cars or make the speedlimit 5mph.  Obesity kills, there's no doubt about that.  But, do you want a government that can pass any number of laws regulating what you can and cannot eat.  What about freedom of speech?  Do you want the government to have the ability to litigate what you can and cannot say?

I liked the first response by Lawrence Tribe, while he doesn't use these words I think I agree with his sentiments about the original piece.  Mr. Seidman offers a lot of rhetoric about a broken system and dysfunctional government, but no real solution other than to throw out the foundation of our system of government.  Supposedly, we should all sit around and rationally discuss the future of our nation and stop genuflecting to the desires of the founders, just how does that work Mr. Seidman?  That's what's supposed to happen in Congress, when was the last time that happened?  If it can't happen with rules to govern it, what make you think that it'll happen once the foundational rules have been abolished?

I find myself on the opposite side of the issue, we should abandon most of the extraneous laws that have plagued and made our country's laws so complicated that no one really understand the law.  Consider this book, Three Felonies A Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent, about how federal law obscures it's meaning rather than clarify it and this book Go Directly to Jail: The Criminalization of Almost Everything.  We should abolish this bloated system of laws and go back to the basics of the Constitution.  Abolish everything EXCEPT the foundation and rebuild.