The Incredible Mr. Trump

I’m constantly amazed by Donald Trump’s ability to caricature himself beyond the bounds of satire. It’s becoming impossible to tell if we are watching a heavy-handed cartoon parody or a piece of officially authorized Trump Campaign media. Take this song, which opened Trump’s Florida rally earlier this month. Of course, this is not the first time kids have been forced to literally sing the praises of a political savior, but I would be less surprised to see this song in a Trump-mocking internet skit than an actual rally.

When I first heard this, I assumed that the girls on stage were a random selection of Trump staffer children. I was also pretty sure that its clunky lyrics had sprung from the pen (or stream of consciousness) of The Donald himself, so keenly representative of his flashing wit and deftly woven wordplay as it was.

After doing a little more research, it seems that the song was performed by the local girl group USA Freedom Kids, and written by their manager. I’m still convinced he swiped most of those rhymes from Trump’s Twitter feed, though (just like he swiped the melody and chorus from George Cohen), and that song made me realize who Trump has been reminding me of all these years: The Wind in the Willows’ highly self-celebrated Mr. Toad of Toad Hall.

TrumpvsToad

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The Death of House Bill 1412

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I was at the Tennessee Capitol yesterday to see the first, and last, discussion of House Bill 1412, “The Tennessee Defense of Natural Marriage Act” in the House Civil Justice Subcommittee. I was one of about 150 supporters of the bill who showed up to watch, and most of us overflowed out of Hearing Room 31 into the hall. As the subcommittee began the order of business, we were joined by seven or eight activists who were protesting the bill. Despite our differences, we all squeezed tightly together to watch 90 minutes of wrangling on the monitor, and I don’t think either side could have counted the outcome as a serious victory.

For those that don’t know the backstory, HB1412 was a fairly simple bill, short and to the point. You can read it here in its eight-page entirety, but I’ll summarize it. It consists of seven pages of WHERASes, decrying the Supreme Court decision Obergefell v. Hodges and judicial supremacy in general, quoting historical commentary by legal scholars on the Constitutional limits of Federal courts, and praising the Tennessee Constitution’s own statement on marriage.

The final page contains the three actionable sections of the bill, which basically just state that Tennessee will continue to obey its own Constitution, and that it will defend its citizens and employees who obey their own Constitution. Pretty strong stuff, right? Imagine, a bill just flat-out quoting the Constitution instead of hiding its intent in hundreds of pages of dense vaguery. For reference, here is the relevant language from Article XI, Section 18 of the Constitution of Tennessee:

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Baby’s First Smartphone!

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I generally cringe when I see tiny children with their attention glued to an iPhone screen, or when I read gadget reviews and see commenters asking if such-and-such a device would be a good first smartphone for a six-year-old. I guess that’s a little hypocritical of me now, since I just set up a smartphone for a three-month-old.

To clarify, however, James isn’t allowed to play with this phone. It’s basically the music player for his room, and his portable baby monitor, and it’s very handy. It’s also very cost-effective; I bought this Droid Razr M used on eBay, and after three years of very hard use, it was replaced by a newer eBay phone that Heidi bought me for Christmas. So what all can we do with this scuffed and chipped phone?

Baby Monitor

For the past month or so, we’ve been using the Dormi baby monitor app to keep an ear on James when he’s napping. It has all the features of a regular old analog baby monitor, but smarter. You’ll need at least two devices, one of which is set to child mode and listens for noise, and the other is set to parent mode and waits for alerts. Instead of listening to an infuriatingly constant drone of 900mhz interference, you only hear the baby when he starts waking up.

That means that it’s very data efficient, and very battery efficient. The two devices can automatically find each other when they are on the same wifi network, or you can set them up manually over the internet if you need more distance. The connection is encrypted, you can also have multiple parent devices listening to a single child device, there’s an option for two-way communication, and you can even use the phone’s cameras to see what’s going on.

Like Father, Like Son

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Three generations of first-born sons! The first picture was taken in January of 1981, shortly after my husband Isaac was born, and he is being held by his father, Geoffrey Botkin. In the second picture, Isaac is holding our first-born son, James Arthur Geoffrey Botkin. Isaac is wearing the same leather jacket that his dad wore, and it’s only a little worse for the wear almost 35 years later. All three of these men hold a very special place in my heart and life, and I’m thankful to be related to them!

Christmas and The Gospel

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Merry Christmas, everyone! We are enjoying a snowy family time in Colorado, and reflecting on the many ways that God has blessed us over the past year. However, Christmas is also the time to give thanks for the gift of Jesus Christ, not just in our own time, but also His work over the last 2000 years. This gift is not just to us individually; His sacrifice has blessed the entire world. Of course, the redemptive power of the Gospel does save us as individuals, working directly in our hearts, but it is also a transforming power in all tribes, tongues, and nations.

Heidi and I made this map last year to show spread of the Gospel, as a tool to help us all see the constant increase of Christ’s influence and government on this earth, starting in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth. We hope that it is an encouragement to you, and a reminder to worship and glorify Jesus Christ. We praise Him for the work that He has done on earth through His saints, even as we thank Him for the work that He has done in our own hearts through the Spirit.

We often fall into the trap of focusing on a single attribute of Christ at a time, sometimes forgetting that He is fully God and fully man at the same time. This Christmas, let us remember that the Son of God, by whom all things were created, humbled Himself to became a man like us, even to the point of being born a helpless baby in a stable. In no way does His Sovereign Majesty detract from the humility of His approachable human nature, or vice versa. In the same way, the sacrificial purpose of the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world only adds glory to His rule as our King, to whom all authority has been given.

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The World View in 5 Minutes

Here’s a quick promotional video that I put together for The Worldview in 5 Minutes, a Christian news service that provides an overview of what is happening in the world, every day. I find it to be a particularly useful service, partly because it’s very flexible; I can either skim the text of the transcript or listen to the professional audio recording depending on what I’m doing. But more importantly, I really appreciate the tone and perspective that this news report provides. For example, today’s WV5 broadcast contrasted information on the San Bernardino Muslim Terror attack with testimony of a Muslim couple coming to Christ, and finished a report from Open Doors on Christian persecution by quoting Romans 8:17.

There are other Christian news sites out there, some of which only report on things that have happened directly to professing Christians, and some of which that have a wider focus, but few reporters really mention the Sovereign God who is behind everything going on in the world. The Worldview in 5 Minutes does a much better job of providing that context to events of the day.

And on a side note, this is the first project that James was able to participate in! In case you were wondering, he appears as “Baby in Background” in the first shot.

Salt and Light

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‘Tis the season for colored lights, and delicious food! What better time for Christians to be salt and light in the world… but what does that really mean? For too many of us, it means that we should gently complement the world around us. After all, salt is just one of many spices in the rack, and light comes in lots of fun decorative colors. Shouldn’t Christians just provide a pinch of flavor to a larger multicultural stew, and let the light of the Church nicely accent the world’s furniture?

Well, salt is more than a flavor. Salt is a powerful chemical that removes impurities, kills germs, and acts as a preservative. Prior to the invention of refrigeration, salt was the difference between edible meat and poisonous meat. Salt is so valuable that it has historically been used like a currency (hence the term “salary”); not because it tastes good, but because it is a nutrient that humans literally can’t live without. Sodium deficiency causes seizures, memory loss, hyponatremic encephalopathy, and death if not treated by immediate administration of salt. Not cumin, cinnamon, or cilantro.

Likewise, light is more than just a dash of color in our home decor. No matter what we would like to believe about our world being gentle shades of grey, light and darkness are unmistakable opposites. Light is the first creation. It is impossible to overstate the importance of light, scientifically or figuratively, and there is no alternative. Light from the Sun provides this planet with all of its natural energy. Without its light, everything dies immediately. God’s Son is repeatedly referred to as the Light of the world in Scripture, and He provides the world with all hope. Without the power of God and the blood of His Son, everything dies eternally.

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Tom Thumb Studio Thanksgiving Sale

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For those of you that don’t know, I have an Etsy shop, and for the next few days we are running a Thanksgiving sale! At the moment, we have several new wool jackets available, and everything in the shop is 30% off. All of our products are made by either my mother-in-law or me, and are crafted from beautiful felted wool, then hand embroidered. These classic sweaters are warm and cozy, and make wonderful Christmas gifts.  Go to the Tom Thumb Studio Facebook page to get updates, or our store to see more of what we have in stock.

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Concept Renders: Data

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Here are a few pieces of concept art I made today. I’m in the middle of building out a full marketing and branding package for a data analytics company, and today I’m experimenting with different ways of depicting the abstract concept of “data.”

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Today’s experiments are in developing the look. I’ve already done a number of tests of motion; how these blocks of “data” are animated as they are “analyzed” to reveal patterns, shapes, and relationships. Right now the process is pretty simple.

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Fear, Compassion, and Refugees

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I couldn’t help but notice that the internet is abuzz with much discussion on the subject of refugees this week. I’m trying to wrap my head around it, so allow me to generalize my observations of the political debate: Conservatives are opposed to immigration and refugees because they tend to believe that national prosperity and national security trump all else. Liberals, on the other hand, see immigrants and refugees as noble foot soldiers in the battle for multiculturalism and racial equality (and also as easily manipulated idiot voters).

When they argue, they’re completely missing each other’s points, because the conservatives won’t attack multiculturalism for fear of being called racists, and the liberals don’t want to talk about prosperity for fear of sounding like capitalists. But despite being on opposite wavelengths, it’s an argument that both sides really want to have, because conservatives like to deal with things that they are afraid of, like terrorists, and the liberals like to point out things that we all should be afraid of, like mean conservatives.

Then there is the Christian debate. I’ve read a few thoughtful articles and a lot of impassioned comments. I’ve seen memes and verses misused interchangeably, and have had a lot of people ask me which side I come down on: Should America shut down her borders to defend our families from certain death, or should the U.S. bring in any and every huddled mass and set them up with kind, loving Federally-funded financial support? Blind fear, or dumb compassion?

And the answer is: Neither. Let me explain why.

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