Inspiration is all around us

Global Religious Trends (Are we less religious)

On Friday, I posted about an article I found that suggested that intelligent people are less likely to believe in God.  With all the comments I received, it got me wondering about religious trends in general.  While none of this is conclusive, it is, however, interesting.

Using Google’s search trends analyzer, I found that search trends for religious words were generally down accross the board.  In other words, fewer people are searching on these words today than there were in 2004 (as far back as these trends go).  What’s more, all this in the context of an ever-increasing trend toward online usage.  In short far more people are online today than in 2004, usage and familiarity with search engines has climbed in that time, broadband and internet access in general has increased, yet fewer people are searching on religious terms.

Here’s what I found (more below the charts)…

Search traffic for the term “Christian

For the term “Christianity

For the term “Religion

For the term “God

For the term “Mormon

Searches for the term Faith, Church, Protestant, Catholic, Lutheran, and LDS were all down in general as well, some more than others (clearly there are myriad other search terms to look at – feel free to pick your own and peruse at will at http://trends.google.com).

Could this indicate a reduced global interest in religion in general?  Could it be another sign that as society evolves intellectually and scientifically, they push God away in general – trusting more in themselves and their own knowledge?

One possible alternative explination, is that churches in general have been slow to embrace the new medium and build up a suitable online offering.  In short, if pickin’s are slim, and search results find little of value, people will stop searching.  But is that just the optimist in me?  What do you think this means?

Rusty

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Ongofu on Twitter!

For those of you who don’t know what twitter is – it’s a micro-blogging platform.  Whereas with a blog you post fewer, but longer articles, on Twitter you post a lot more frequent (and vastly smaller) ideas, thoughts, and ramblings throughout the day.  Each “post” in twitter is called a “tweet”.  Cute eh?

In any event, just like you can subscribe to blog updates, you can “follow” someone on twitter.  They even have tools where you can get TXT updates sent to your mobile phone (only recommended if you pay for unlimited TXT messaging).

In any event, while there are lots of “older” twitter users, Twitter really has a vast youth crowd, so this really helps me expand my reach out to a younger audience.  If you’ve followed me very long, you’ll know that I’m constantly looking for ways to expand my reach and touch more lives.

But more importantly, because with a blog I feel that more than two posts a day is simply too much (please let me know if you disagree), I end up NOT talking about so many things.  I only end up picking those few items I really feel necessary to explore more fully.  But Twitter enables me to share thoughts on all those smaller, less “robust”, but often just as meaningful things throughout the day.

In any event, if you’re interested in following me on twitter – simply click here:  http://twitter.com/rustysblog.

Of course, you can also subscribe to an RSS feed to read all tweets in your favorite RSS reader.

What’s more, I’ve built a page (here) where we can discuss any particular tweet you would like to comment on.  Simply type the tweet into your comment followed by any remarks you’d like to add.  That way we know which tweet you’re talking about.

Either way, this’ll be fun.

Rusty

Lives of great men

Lives of great men

I didn’t mention in my last post, the reference made to a poem as a tribute to President Hinckley.  I believe it was President Monson who quoted it, and in quoting it, he only mentioned a single stanza (noted by the stars below) probably because of time constraints. 

It was a poem I memorized in college as a “guide to life”, and I think it typifies the prophet completely.  It covers his “put on your shoes and go to work” style attitude, his passion for life and service, his tireless drive to be better and do more, and his commitment to the other “Be’s” he’s become so well known for.

Note the stanza’s about a heart that’s stout and brave – was there ever a braver, stouter heart than that of President Gordon B. Hinckley?  And finally (‘cause you can read it yourself and draw your own connections), I’ll comment on the “Be a hero in the strife”.  He had become nothing short of a Hero amongst the saints, what else could have prompted so many Latter Day Saint youth to spontaneously decide, through an explosion of text messages, to pay public tribute to their prophet through their scholl attire the day following his death.  He will be well missed.

A Psalm of Life
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream,
for the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each tomorrow
Find us farther than today.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act, –act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!

*Lives of great men all remind us
*We can make our lives sublime,
*And, departing, leave behind us
*Footprints on the sands of time.

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us then be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

Note:  This is just from memory, and so is subject to slight inaccuracies or errors in formatting from the original.

Rusty

Introducing TimeTube

I don’t know if you’re a big YouTube fan or not, but a fascinating way to browse YouTube is through TimeTube.  TimeTube lets you put in a key word (like “Mormon”) and up pops a timeline of all videos submitted that use that keyword.  You can drill down by double clicking anywhere in the timeline, or by using the zoom feature at the top.  You can play around with other features as well, you can even set up an account for yourself and create your own timeline (I’m creating one for my Blog).  But if you follow the link below you can check it out.  It will be interesting to watch, over time, the increase in the number of YouTube posts about Mormonism, particularly since the recent encouragement for Mormon members to speak up online.

http://www.dipity.com/user/timetube/timeline/YouTube_Mormon?msg=askperm_asked

Or, if you’d like to just build a TubeLine of your own, go here:  http://www.dipity.com/mashups/timetube 

I hope you enjoy it.

Rusty

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Conference Countdown – Ways to participate

As I mentioned here, General Conference is fast approaching, and we’ll yet again have the incredible opportunity to listen to a living prophet and apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ, along with many other general authorities of the church, and hear what specific instructions they have for us, knowing the unique trials facing us today.

To ensure that the maximum numbers of people are able to participate, the Church has gone to great lengths to make conference available in almost every conceivable format and in almost 100 different languages.

First and foremost, you can watch the live worldwide broadcast (click here for a broadcast schedule – pdf), but it will also be available on the radio, as video streams, audio streams, and even an all new media player option.

 

NEW MEDIA PLAYER!

Their new media player constantly monitors your network and optimizes the stream quality accordingly so you get continuous play (no pauses).  And in addition to live video, it also gives you a number of great new features, including…

 

  • Instant access to completed talks
  • Instant access to completed conference sessions
  • Access to other video archives (so many good videos)
  • Let’s you pause and restart whenever you want

Click here to get the new media player (also available in Spanish, Portuguese, and American Sign Language).

Click here to see all your viewing links and options, including a list of all languages covered.

The 178th Semiannual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), will follow the following schedule (all times MST, click here for more time zone information).

Saturday, October 4th, 2008

10:00 a.m. – General Session
2:00 p.m. – General Session
6:00 p.m.  – Priesthood Session (not publicly broadcast, but viewable at most Stake Centers)

Sunday, October 5th, 2008

9:30 a.m. – Music and the Spoken Word (Mormon Tabernacle Choir)
10:00 a.m. – General Session
2:00 p.m. – General Session

Don’t miss it.
Rusty

So many Mormon blogs

Today as I was looking through the recent search phrases people used to find my site, I found the following, which made me chuckle.

“Is having a blog a Mormon thing?”

I can answer that.  The fact is that it didn’t used to be.  But recently an apostle, Elder M. Russell Ballard gave a speech, an excerpt of which was later published in one of our official church magazines “The Ensign”, wherein he made the suggestion that those who are able, should start engaging in new media, speaking up about Mormonism, and adding their voice to the growing online conversation.

“We cannot stand on the sidelines while others, including our critics, attempt to define what the church teaches.  While some conversations have audiences in the thousands or even millions, most are much, much smaller. But all conversations have an impact on those who participate in them. Perceptions of the Church are established one conversation at a time.”   (See the full article here).

See, Mormons believe in same structure that existed in Christ’s Primitive church, including living prophets and apostles (I explain more here).  These men have been called of God, just as in times of old, and as such, receive ongoing revelation and instruction from the Lord.  They, in turn (and just as in times of old), then endeavor to instruct, counsel, and advise the church.  We take their counsel to be of divine origin, which is to say we take it very seriously (or should).

So, to stumble upon someone out there who has made the astute observation that there sure are a lot of Mormon blogs sprouting up is just plain awesome.  We belong to a church led by inspiration and revelation, and we work together to prepare the way for the coming of Christ.

Something tells me that the momentum of Mormon’s blogging is just getting started.

Rusty

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Christianity explodes in China

In contradiction to my other post today about a decline in online searches for Christian terms (here), China seems to be one place where the public IS turning to Christ.  Since the Tianamen Square incident, a turning point in China’s history, the people are becoming increasingly bold, and the government increasingly tolerant in permitting Christianity.  Communism is becoming engulfed in the free-market society of today, led by the western world.

There was an article today in the Chicago Tribune entitled “Jesus in China“, covering the explosion of Christianity in the Mainland.

Christianity is illegal in most of China, and has been for more than half a century, but according to the article, some estimates are that there are as many as 70 million Christians now in mainland China (5% of the population and second only to Buddhism), and all through word-of-mouth evangelical efforts of its citizens.

“Please leave” was the appeal from the pulpit by Jin Mingri, a 39 year old pastor looking out at a standing room only crowd in a converted office space in Shanghai.  “We don’t have enough seats for others who want to come, so please, only stay for one service a day”.

If you’re more interested in the spread of Christianity in China, there will be a PBS special on it Tomorrow (Tuesday June 24th), on Frontline World (8 pm MST).  You can find more on their website here.

Rusty

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WordPress problems, missing posts

There was a problem tonight with WordPress, where many WordPress users, using the system during a certain period of time, had all of their custom sidebar code dissapear.  Unfortunately, I was a beneficiary of that bug.

I’ll work to restore that code as quickly as possible, since it is what granted access to all my past posts.

The post links will be there, but the categories are going to be messed up, and it won’t look pretty.  But I was intending to switch to TypePad anyway, but dreaded the ammout of work I’d have to do.  I guess the silver lining in this is that it gives me a good reason to just make that move now, instead of later.

Rusty

UPDATE:  Okay, it’s now 2:00 a.m. and I think I’ve restored links to all my posts in the same categories they were in before (although not necessarily in the same order, or location).  If you find missing links, please let me know by commenting here on this post.  Otherwise, I’ll get started moving and redesigning.

I look forward to much more discussion today!

Rusty

Beck’s $53 trillion asteroid

Today, CNN posted an article (here), where Glenn Beck discusses some frightening realities that we’re soon going to have to face.It’s worth a full read, but if you’re only interested in the summary, here it is…

  • $14.1 trillion is the size of the entire U.S. Economy
  • $53 trillion is the approximate size of the U.S. bill for Social Security and Medicare promises

In short, we’re insolvent.  With a bill this large, there will be no money for anything else – infrastructure, security, military, you name it – every dollar we pay in taxes would go to funding Medicare and Social Security.

To make those numbers more digestible (since $53trillion is a hard number to get your mind around), from the article:

“A million seconds is 12 days.  A billion seconds is 32 years.  A trillion seconds is 32,000 years.  And 53 trillion seconds?  1.7 million years.”

David Walker (former Comptroller General) says that these promises equate to an IOU of about $455,000 for every American household”.

The problem, as Beck so poignantly illustrates, is that none of this is news – the Government has known about it for a long time, and has done nothing but pass the buck to the next administration.  And what about the American people?  His illustration is that if an asteroid were heading toward earth by the tune of $53 trillion dollars, we’d demand something be done about it.  But here we sit – who’s speaking out?

As I said on my post about Hillary Clinton and honesty (here), where much is given, much is required.  It’s time to require our government to confront a problem that will make the current bickering seem comical. 

Throughout history, when the people stop getting involved, then things go awry – it’s only through ongoing intervention of we the people that keeps a government in check.  So what am I proposing we do?  At the very minimum, be aware, and talk about it.  Perpetuate the conversation.

An elected government is a government that focuses on things that will get them re-elected.  Those things that the people care and talk about the most, are those things that are bound to get the most attention.  But we have to talk.

Rusty

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Testimony of the First Presidency – Conference Highlights

In the wake of the magnificent 178th Semiannual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, many highlight videos have been posted to YouTube, successfully leveraging this new media to proclaim the gospel, and teach the truth, that a whole new generation, intimately familiar with this style of on-demand communication, might be equal benefactors in such magnificent content.

A few of these I’ll highlight here, as they are strong and compelling predecessors to my weekend post – Are Mormons Christian.

For now, here are sections of the testimony of our living prophet, Thomas S. Monson, and his counselors, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, and President Henry B. Eyring.  The First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (The Mormons).

 

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S_Zpu-VeuCE

What every parent should know about the new Google browser.

Last week Google released a new browser, Chrome, making its foray into the browser world, and already it has generated a lot of buzz, and substantial downloads (for an initial beta release). 

Google Chrome’s entry is bound to raise the bar for browsers everywhere, is remarkably fast, refreshingly simple, and sports a solid set of cool features.  What’s more, it’s from Google, which means it’s likely to generate lots of attention and become widely used in a short period of time.

One of its features, however, should be brought to the attention of parents (like me) who care about technology’s ability to impact the lives of my children.

I’m talking about what Google calls “Incognito browsing”, which allows you to surf the web in a way that creates no “footprints” on your computer.  Usually, wherever you go on the internet, you leave little traces on your computer, allowing others to see where you’ve been.  But with “Incognito Browsing”, you can go anywhere you’d like, and when you’re done, nobody will know where you’ve been.  Many critics are (favorably) calling this simply “Porn Mode”.

While there is no substitute for creating what I call a “safe browsing environment”, “safe browsing guidelines”, and educating your children on (among other things) proper internet usage, parents would be wise to be aware of these kinds of features.

As Satan becomes increasingly adept in leveraging technology to create opportunities for temptation, so too should parents remain ever vigilant in being aware of these technologies.  Simply throwing up our hands because it’s “over our heads” isn’t a proper excuse.  Part of responsible parenthood is the requirement to “keep up”, and I’ll help (as will others) whenever possible.

Within Chrome, this feature is accessed by selecting “New Incognito Window” from the menu as illustrated below…

This puts you into “Incognito” mode (notice the “spy” in the top left corner below) and brings up the following description of “incognito”:

You’ve gone incognito.  Pages you view in this window won’t appear in your browser history or search history, and they won’t leave other traces, like cookies, on your computer after you close the incognito window. Any files you download or bookmarks you create will be preserved, however.

Below is a video describing Incognito Browsing:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-3iCMkiezrs]

Google also lets you “pause” your web history tracking, and gives instructions on how to do that here.

 

Again, I don’t advocate “avoiding” Google Chrome, because it is a good browser, but rather being aware of it.  In truth, this kind of “private browsing” feature is something we’re going to have to deal with eventually, because not only is it in the new Google Chrome, but also in the new beta version of Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer (IE8).

I’ll have a separate post on each of these in case these are the preferred browsers in your home.  To further aid parents, I’m also working on an Internet Safety for Parents post, that covers topics that I mention above, including how to create a safe browsing environment, creating safe browsing guidelines etc.

If you have additional questions, please as; I would love to help.  Otherwise, please forward the URL for this post to your friends and associates, that we may lift the web of awareness amongst all parents, and collectively combat the chasm of technology awareness that is so prominent between children and parents today.

Rusty

Christianity in China – PBS Special

As I explained in my post here, PBS Frontline World had a special on about Christianity in China last night. 

Apparently Christianity isn’t exactly illegal in China.  The government hasn’t taken the hard line they’ve taken in the past with Muslim separatists or the Falun Gong.  Instead, they’re being far more they’re being far more forgiving when it comes to Christianity, simply trying to control the religious teachings.

They’ve established their own version of a Christian church… essentially a government approved church, with doctrine that has been approved by the government and teachers who have been trained and certified by the government.  But while the approved party church hosts about 4,000 members across 6 services on Sunday, Chinese Christians in general far prefer what they call “house churches” (seeking purity and freedom, and not diluted doctrine).

These house churches are underground Christian churches that grew up in the aftermath of Chairman Mao’s revolution, and they’ve really been pushing the limits, becoming increasingly more open.  One church has even sued the local government to stay open.  Pastor Jang, interviewed on the program, said “I believe only Jesus, and not the communist party, can save the Chinese people”.

But the government has tried, unsuccessfully, to incent these house church leaders to discontinue their works by persecuting them.  One particular leader was unavailable for an interview because he had just been arrested, for the fourth time.  The first time he was sentenced to 7 years in prison, the next for 11 months, and the third time was forced to serve in a labor camp. 

They showed one particular underground church that was, literally, underground.  There were these recesses built into the hills in the forest where they’d convene and teach the gospel… until the government found out about it.  Now the place is entirely deserted.

Sometimes the government will demolish the very buildings they meet in.  But attempts have largely failed to diminish the faith of the people, and there are now thought to be as many Christians as there are party members.  All over, the Chinese Christians believe this is their time to come out of the shadows. 

It’s marvelous to watch Christianity surge into China, and I find the faith of these Chinese Christians inspiring.  They sacrifice so much, and persevere through threat and trial to pursue and preach their beliefs.

May I do likewise.

Rusty

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GASP!

That was me coming up for air….

I’ve been working till 2 or 3 in the morning for the past couple of weeks trying to prepare some new products for launch at a big industry tradeshow this week. 

But, now most of my work is done and I’ve finally been able to start surfacing for air.  For instance, this morning on the way to work, I looked up at the beautiful blue sky, and focused on only the sky.  It was marvelously “present”, “real” and “tangible”.  

Sometimes life tends to drag you under the surface and grind you against the sand at the bottom.  It tries to hold you there and can be tremendously successful.

When you finally break free and clamor to the surface, you remember just how sweet it is to gain perspective and have time to think.  It’s great to dive in and work hard, but you’ve just got to come up for air sometimes.

I’ve got so much I want to write about.  My iPhone is full of the many idea-sparks that have hit me, fortunately I’ve made note of most of them and will start workign through them.

Anyway, I’m back.  Thaks for your patience.

Rusty

Sonia Sotomayor – Supreme Example

By now you’ve likely heard of Sonia Sotomayor.  This week, President Barrack Obama nominated her to fill the empty position in the U.S. Supreme Court (CNN announcement here).

As with any nomination, there’s always a lot of surrounding debate, sometimes from both sides, about whether or not that candidate is the right one for the job.  

In the case of Sotomayor, however, I’d like for us to temporarily put the issues of the debate aside, and recognize the significance of her story.

Sonya is of Puerto Rican descent, but was born and raised in the South Bronx under extremely humble conditions.

Yet somehow she rose above those conditions, and beat the odds of her environment.  She ended up going to Princeton University, and from there, Yale Law School.  Over her career she continued to excel, and became a judge on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and in 1992 was named a U.S. District Court judge by President George H.W. Bush.  She was later appointed to her current seat by President Bill Clinton.

And now, 54, she’s nominated to the prestigious, and important role as a U.S. Supreme Court Justice.  She would be the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice, and the third woman to serve on the high court. 

Obama said of her in a White House announcement (she) “is an inspiring woman who I believe will make a great justice.”

But what did she say of it all? 

“I am an ordinary person who has been blessed with extraordinary opportunities and experiences,”

Her path of excellence leaves a legacy of hope for those who find themselves in such humble circumstances as she once did, and is a beacon of inspiration for all those who dare to dream.

Within the fabric of the story of Sonya Sotomayor, we find the threads of evidence illustrating ones capacity to escape the natural limitations of their surroundings and inheritance, and to determine for themselves their path and destination.

Your potential is profound.  Your ability to realize it is real.

Rusty

Ongofu in China – blogging in Chinese!

Several years ago I had the opportunity to serve two years as a full-time LDS (Mormon) missionary in Sydney Australia, speaking Mandarin Chinese.  It was the most amazing experience of my life.

During that time I developed a great love and appreciation for the Chinese people and their language., and I’ve always wished I could somehow go to China and teach the gospel.  Unfortunately, at this time, missionaries are not permitted into mainland China.  They can go to Hong Kong, but that’s it. 

Then over the last two weeks two important things happened.  The first, was that I decided to do a blog post about my inspiring friend Lin Hao (who we saw in the opening ceremony of the Olympics, leading the Chinese team – read his story here).  Shortly thereafter, my friend Linda (his godmother), and Lin Hao himself somehow found my blog, and offered their own comments.  I was, first and foremost, humbled that they’d even bother stopping buy, and secondly, amazed at the ability for a single blog post to reach all the way across the world, to readers all the way in the heart of mainland China.

I realized that the dream I’ve had teaching the gospel to the Chinese people in mainland China was within my grasp.  Not in the future, but today, right now.

But there is a problem.  While there are many in China that do speak English, I really would need to do posts in Chinese.  But because my mission was in Australia, while I learned to speak relatively well, I wasn’t fully immersed in Chinese writing, and never learned how to read and write (there are over 10,000 characters to memorize just to read the paper).

But watching Michael Phelps this last week, and doing my posts about his example of setting and achieving goals, made me realize that if it is within my grasp, and it’s something I’ve wanted to do for so long, I should simply do it.  I should make the effort to learn to write Chinese, so that I can make my dream come true and begin teaching the gospel in China.

As I mentioned in my post here about the COP model, I have the competency (need more though), I have the passion, and there’s definitely a demand.  As I covered in my post here, Christianity is now exploding in China, so at such a critical time in the country’s history, as the government is just beginning to open up more and more to this potential, why should I sit on the sidelines and watch it all happen? 

What’s more, teaching the gospel to those who have not grown up in Christianity, means that their minds are not held hostage by the comforts and confinements of tradition, and they don’t reject concepts and teachings just because they’re new.  To them, it’s all new, so they judge principles and doctrine on their own individual merit and worth.

In short, now is the time to teach the beautiful doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to those in mainland china, in their native tongue, through the internet.

As such, and by way of holding myself accountable, I’ve decided to set the goal that by February of next year I’m going to start the Chinese arm of this blog.  That gives me 6 months to brush up on communicating and thinking in Chinese, and to figure out how to read and write.  I’ll need all the assistance from the Lord that I can get, for my brain is getting a bit decrepit in my old age.  But I’ll put my faith and trust in him, convinced that as I throw myself at the work of the Lord, he’ll magnify my effort, sanctify my work, and make it all possible.

“If ye have desires to serve god, ye are called to the work” (D&C 4:3), and “…the tender mercies of the lord are unto all those whom he hath chosen…” (1 Nephi 1:20).  For the work of God shall roll forth, as a stone cut without hands, until it fills the whole earth (Daniel 2:31-45, D&C 65:2).

In answer to my own question – what role shall you play?  I’ll be a missionary.

Rusty