"Look, we all know that babes require milk, so can we please stop beating up the milkmen?"

- Phil in CA
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From The Boar's Head Tavern
Guns

Bill: I only carry while on my own property (approx. 60 acres) because of wild hogs and wild dogs. My 357 magnum revolver is a Ruger GP100, which has the transfer SAFETY bar. So yes, I carry it fully loaded. The weapon, not me. LOL.

FTR, remember, I live in rural (cue banjo music) Arkansas. Seeing someone carrying a gun in my neck of the woods is fairly normal, and generally raises no alarms/

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
Taking a Break from Contracts

History author Susan Wise Bauer talks about taking a break from writing under deadline--well, behind deadline--for a few years.

"So about a year ago, I promised myself that when I hit my last big deadline, I wouldn't sign another contract immediately. Instead, I decided to take six months and just write. Go down to my office and work on anything that struck my fancy. Read, reflect, experiment, let my horizons expand."

A few weeks into this hiatus, she entered 'fish mode', and you'll never guess what happened next. It completely blew my mind. I was weeping by the end of her story. Ok, I'm not saying what you might easily conclude I'm trying to say. All I'm saying is click the link to her post to see what 'fish mode' is and how Bauer feels it.

That's all I'm saying. Really.

Oh, and I should also say that Bauer is the excellent author of several history books, such as The History of the Medieval World: From the Conversion of Constantine to the First Crusade. Her newest book is The Story of Science: From the Writings of Aristotle to the Big Bang Theory.

From internetmonk.com
Lent with Walter White

o-BREAKING-BAD-facebook

In case you suspect that I’ve been distracted lately, it’s because I have been living in the Old Testament. Old Testament Albuquerque, that is.

I just finished binge-watching Breaking Bad, an act of self-flagellation worthy of the most rigorous Lenten discipline. I’ve known about the show, and had heard about its magnificent writing and performances and its labyrinthine plot line, but hadn’t committed to watching it all the way through. A co-worker highly recommended it, despite her misgivings about subjecting herself to scenes that were deeply troubling to watch. If you haven’t seen it and are thinking about giving it a try, I must warn you that its physical and emotional brutality can take a toll. But it is a remarkable program.

Back to my original point — Breaking Bad captures a story worthy of an Old Testament narrative. A steady drumbeat of retributive justice pervades each twist and turn. In every episode, someone pays for his or her sins or for someone else’s. God, or the universe in this case, will be satisfied. No adult is pure, everyone finds it necessary to lie, deceive, and cover up at times, and you can be sure they’ll pay for it. Only the children are innocent, and too often they suffer for the sins of their fathers and mothers.

Breaking Bad does contain its share of tender, touching scenes, and its characters are full human beings. Therefore, we do root for them at times, long for the triumph of the better angels in their natures, and hope against hope that one or another of them will take a way of escape from the madness, but most of the time the paths they choose just create more chaos. And rain down more judgment.

Walter White is the main character. A genius chemist, he nevertheless finds himself teaching high school chemistry when he receives bad news: he has terminal lung cancer. With a pregnant 40-year-old wife and a 15-year-old son with cerebral palsy, he realizes he will have little to leave them to secure their future when he dies. So he hooks up with a former student named Jesse and begins cooking and distributing the purest methamphetamine (crystal meth) that has ever hit the market. This decision, this choice to “break bad,” leads Walt, his family, Jesse, and a host of others on a downward spiral that both exhilarating and excruciating to watch. Walt’s first intention is to help his family, but it’s not long before demons long suppressed within him arise and take over. Over the course of time he constructs a mental world in which his choices are always justified and the best course of action because he’s making them “for the family” and all else be damned. Few are safe in that world.

In a commentary in CT, Mockingbird’s David Zahl describes the “moral logic” of the show:

[T]he show runs on a frightening moral logic: No one gets away with anything. Breaking Bad revolves around the least fashionable concept imaginable: wrath. It offers something quite different from the fatalism of The Wire, where things start off ugly and pretty much stay that way. In Breaking Bad, things get steadily worse.

The further Walt “advances” in his new career, the more obstacles he overcomes, the more he believes himself to be invincible, and the deeper he descends into a hell of his own making. When he tries to manage his crimes, he begets worse crimes. Intoxicated on the fumes of self-righteousness, Walt consistently mistakes atrocities for victories. And each time, we come to detest his rationalizations a little bit more—especially how he relegates right and wrong to the realm of less evolved, less scientific minds.

As I’ve said, Walter White is not the only sinner in this Sodom, just the most prominent and powerful. His wife Skyler reflects another way sin gains advantage: through confusing us and putting us in the midst of moral dilemmas so thick we can’t see our way clear. Skyler’s sister Marie is well-intentioned but weak, a secret shoplifter who somehow has the answers to everyone else’s problems. Uncle Hank, Marie’s husband, is a DEA agent (setting up some delicious storylines) who covers his little boy moral idealism and fear with a tough exterior and potty mouth that keeps everyone at a distance. Jesse, Walt’s companion in crime, is sin’s punching bag. Every time he thinks life might be smiling on him, it all comes crashing down. He’s an addict with a heart of gold, a loser we can’t quite seem to give up on, the frustrating anchor that at one moment drags everyone down and the next moment rights the ship.

These characters reveal the genius of Breaking Bad — it is a study of human brokenness and pride in all its fractured forms. Unfortunately, the show is a closed universe operating strictly in terms of retributive justice. It’s a universe without mercy, without reconciliation, without forgiveness or redemption. In this regard, the series is clearly unlike the Old Testament or any other part of the Bible. No Spirit of God hovers anywhere near these waters of chaos. There is no outside intervention. No rescue. No salvation. It’s strictly survival of the fittest, the strongest, the most determined, the smartest.

Walter White insists that he must be that person. In season 4, he gives a lecture to another man waiting to get tests in the cancer ward. This speech captures Walt’s spirit as well as any words from Breaking Bad:

4274-9967367-largeOther Patient: One minute I’m starting a new business; my wife and I are thinking about kids. Walk into a doctor’s office and suddenly . . . phhht . . . I mean, life as I know it — Anyway, so for me, that’s been the biggest wake-up call. Letting go, giving up control. You know, it’s like they say, “Man plans and God laughs.”

Walt: That is such bullshit.

Other Patient: Excuse me?

Walt: Never give up control. Live life on your own terms.

Other Patient: Yeah, no. I get what you’re saying. But cancer is cancer, so . . .

Walt: To hell with your cancer. I’ve been living with cancer for the better part of a year. Right from the start, it’s a death sentence. That’s what they keep telling me. Well, guess what? Every life comes with a death sentence. So every few months, I come in here for my regular scan, knowing full well that one of these times — hell, maybe even today — I’m gonna hear some bad news. But until then, who’s in charge? Me. That’s how I live my life.

Without spoiling any of the details, in the end Walter White is able to remain in charge, accomplish some of his goals, and go out on his own terms. Is the cost worth it? What future does he actually gain for his family?

As I watched the final episode last night, I suddenly heard the words of Eleanor Rigby running through my head:

Eleanor Rigby, died in the church
And was buried along with her name
Nobody came
Father McKenzie, wiping the dirt from his hands
As he walks from the grave
No one was saved

In Lent I have looked in the face of Walter White, and have learned to fear a world in which there is only judgment.

Unless mercy triumphs, there is no hope.

From The Boar's Head Tavern

Granted, but I’m not actually keen on shooting someone. I said deterrent. A shotgun is more intimidating than a handgun.

It’s unlikely that the type of gun is ultimately what decides whether a home invader attacks you or not.

The recoil is trivial and unless I inexplicably find myself in a shootout, one shot at close range will be sufficient.

Unless you hit vitals, your attacker may keep coming at you, hence the need for more than one round. That’s why many of those police shootings that people get so worked up about involve the attacker being shot multiple times. Also, it’s easier to grab a shotgun barrel than a handgun barrel, and it’s easier to to do things like turn on lights, call the police, open doors, or hold a flashlight when your gun doesn’t require two hands.

From The Boar's Head Tavern

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
Why Star Trek Matters

Steven D. Greydanus writes about the important contribution Star Trek made to American or world culture.

"Star Trek as a whole promoted techno-optimism and wound up instilling countless fans with a love of science, space and technology, not to mention inspiring a number of real-world inventions - but Spock in particular helped make being a scientist, along with being smart and calmly rational, cool for countless Americans."

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
Asking Honest Racial Questions

When testing the instincts of police officers, subjects in Josh Correll's test revealed that they usually saw young black men as threatening, but they did so much less often than civilians did. "'We're more likely to shoot a black man with a wallet,' Semien (a former officer) says, 'and we're less likely to shoot a white man with a gun.'"

With this background, we must ask why we perceive young black men the way we do (and other types of people as well) and how we can make better judgments.

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
The Hunt for Michigan's Best Coffeeshop

I don't know if any of these places ship their beans via civilian drone, but if you're in Michigan, you may want to look one of these up. "For the last 5 days," John Gonzolez writes, "I traveled to 22 shops that were nominated and voted on by the readers of MLive. Along the way we discovered some true hidden gems, and some coffee shops known for roasting incredible, award-winning coffee."

From The Boar's Head Tavern

I read an article in Businessweek that said there are tens of thousands of incidents per year where guns are used by civilians in self defense. That’s pretty compelling. I don’t know where they got their statistics but I don’t have reason to doubt them. And as FP points out, there are relatively few accidental gun deaths for the number of people who own guns. This is my point: sometimes you can be so fearful of danger that you become a danger. And as Jeremiah points out, no one thinks they fall into that category.

From Semicolon
Five Things to Make You Smile on March 2nd

Texas independence Day. On March 2, 1836, Texas declared its independence from Mexico.

Coincidentally, March 2, 1793 happens to be the birthdate of that most famous Texan, Sam Houston. If you haven’t read Jean Fritz’s biography of Mr. Houston (see list below), you should.

Read Across America Day. Oh, the Places You’ll Go when you read!. March 2, 2015 is NEA’s Read Across America Day and this year, the book is the Seuss classic, Oh, The Places You’ll Go. Be sure to follow Read Across America on Facebook and Twitter with #readacrossamerica.

“You’re never too old, too wacky, too wild, to pick up a book and read with a child.”

Not coincidentally, March 2nd is Dr. Seuss’s birthday also.

Related books that I have in my library:
By Dr. Seuss: The Foot Book, Green Eggs and Ham, And To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, ¡Cómo el Grinch robó la Navidad!, Horton Hatches the Egg, The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins, and several more.
Sam Houston, the Tallest Texan by William Weber Johnson.
Make Way for Sam Houston by Jean Fritz.
Remember the Alamo! by Robert Penn Warren.
The Story of the Lone Star Republic by Conrad R. Stein.
Remember the Alamo!: The Runaway Scrape Diary of Belle Wood, Austin’s Colony, 1835-1836 by Lisa Waller Rogers.

From The Boar's Head Tavern

Handguns are lighter and easier to manipulate in tight spaces, like hallways. They also hold more rounds and recoil less.

Granted, but I’m not actually keen on shooting someone. I said deterrent. A shotgun is more intimidating than a handgun. The recoil is trivial and unless I inexplicably find myself in a shootout, one shot at close range will be sufficient. The recoil thing is debatable anyway, depends on the gun.

From internetmonk.com
Music Monday: Music for Daily Prayer

Today on Music Monday we feature music for daily prayer by Margaret Rizza. The album is called, Officium Divinum, and it is performed by the Convivium Singers under the direction of Eamonn Dougan. It was recorded at Portsmouth Cathedral and many of the pieces were accompanied by David Price on organ.

Rizza is an English composer of classical and contemplative choral music. I came to know her through a daily prayer podcast that I love dearly, “Pray As You Go,” which regularly uses Rizza’s pieces to create a calm, meditative, Christ-centered atmosphere as you participate in the readings and prayers.

Officium Divinum features musical settings for the four periods of daily prayer: Morning, Midday, Evening and Night based on the Daily Prayer services from “Common Worship, Daily Prayer.”

Here is her rendition of the “Song of Mary” (Magnificat) for use in Evening Prayer:

11 Song of Mary
Portsmouth Cathedral

Portsmouth Cathedral

Officium Divinum is available at Amazon and other vendors and I recommend it as a good companion on your Lenten pilgrimage. You can also go to Margaret Rizza’s website and listen to examples from her other albums of equally sublime music.

I find that music, particularly choral music that is contemplative in nature, aids me greatly in my own practice of prayer. It is in that spirit that I commend this collection to you, hoping that it will likewise enable you to find a sense of rest and prayerfulness in God’s presence as you journey throughout these holy days and the rest of the year.

Below is a video featuring Margaret Rizza discussing Officium Divinum, with excerpts from some of the other songs on this album.

As our prayers rise before you, O God,
so may your mercy come down upon us
to cleanse our hearts
and set us free to sing your praise
now and for ever.
Amen.

From The Boar's Head Tavern

Annual accidental gun deaths: About 600
Annual accidental auto deaths: About 30,000
Annual accidental poison deaths: About 50,000

Source: CDC

Irresponsible household chemical ownership is clearly far more common and a far more pressing danger than irresponsible gun ownership. Judging by accident stats and the fact that half of all US households have firearms, it appears the average person is more likely to treat a gun with the respect it deserves than a bottle of toilet bowl cleaner.

I would think a shotgun would be a bigger deterrent to an intruder, and easier to hit your target as well.

Handguns are lighter and easier to manipulate in tight spaces, like hallways. They also hold more rounds and recoil less.

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
'Werewolf Cop,' by Andrew Klavan



He parked in a little neighborhood near the service road. He sat behind the wheel with his eyes shut, his fingers pinching the bridge of his nose. He told himself that this would pass. He'd track Abend down. He'd "confront" the dagger, whatever that meant. After that, he'd be free to turn himself in or die or... do something to make this stop. Meanwhile, though.... The guilt and horror were like thrashing, ravenous animals in him. Guilt and horror - and grief too. Because he'd lost something precious, something he'd barely known he had: he'd lost his sense of himself as a good person. Even death wouldn't restore that. Nothing word.

As you know if you've been following this blog for a while, I'm a confirmed fanboy when it comes to Andrew Klavan. I discovered him after he'd become a conservative, but before he became a Christian. I consider him one of the foremost thriller writers - and one of the best prose stylists - of our time.

Still, although I've praised all the books he's written since then (specifically since the Weiss-Bishop novels, which I consider unparalleled) I've honestly thought he's been kind of treading water, not quite sure where to go with his art.

Who'd have thought he'd hit his next home run with a horror-fantasy book? But Werewolf Cop, in spite of its William Castle title, is an amazing reading experience. Klavan has moved in on Dean Koontz's turf, and done the genre proud.

Zach Adams is the hero of the book and the titular werewolf cop. He's a Texas native relocated to New York City, where he works for a shadowy government police agency called "Extraordinary Crimes." Along with his partner, "Broadway Joe" Goulart, he's become a legend and a sort of a celebrity. He has a beautiful wife and a family he loves. But his life isn't as great as people think it is. He's worried about his partner, who has come under suspicion for corruption. He's afraid of being blackmailed by a woman over a mistake he made. And he's got the murder of a gangster by a mysterious, almost legendary European criminal to solve.

And that's before he gets mauled by a werewolf.

I could quibble a little about the fantasy element in this story - werewolves here are pure Universal Pictures, rather than the genuine folklore article. But Klavan mines that old movie scenario for amazing psychological - and spiritual - insights. I was riveted from the first page to the last, and deeply moved at the same time.

You should be cautioned - there's rough language, as in all Klavan's books, and the gore element is what you'd expect in a werewolf story.

But if you can handle that, and wish to see old material raised to new levels, Werewolf Cop has my highest recommendation.

From internetmonk.com
Sundays with Michael Spencer: March 1, 2015

4dcf751a9c7cf3a6_shutterstock_133259819.xxxlarge_2x

Note from CM: In 2015 we will mark five years since the death of Michael Spencer, the Internet Monk. Today, we continue our “Sundays with Michael” series with another excerpt from a post that was originally published in February 2005. Last week, from this same post, we heard Michael critique approaching the Bible like a “magic book.” Today he suggests another metaphor to describe a common, inadequate way of reading the Bible.

 • • •

Another way of approaching the Bible is by collecting verses. The “grocery store” analogy is particularly helpful in describing how mainstream evangelicals approach scripture. The appearance of concordances and computer searching has allowed the emphasis on verses and lists of verses to develop to a high level. One need only find the proper book or software, and a search can be conducted to retrieve a list of verses relating to any subject, word or term. I compare this to going into a grocery store with a shopping list. I many need verses on marriage, parenting and forgiveness. I take my list, run up and down the aisles, and find the verses I need. (Or to be more true to today’s technology, I present my list to the man at the front, and he sends a runner to pick up my verses for me, while I simply meet him at the checkout.)

The idea that the Bible is a library of verses has been propagated through Bible study tools, but also through methods of preaching. Many popular preachers today NEVER engage a text unless it is a story with a lesson that speaks to a “felt need.”. They engage a topic that has been focus-grouped to gain the interest of the audience. (See Ed Young, Jr. for a good example) Then verses are marshalled to present an outline of principles. The Bible is the source of the verses, so it is routinely asked, “What does the Bible say about assessing potential spouses?” Since the collection of verses comes from the Bible, the conclusion seems sound. The “Bible” in this case is a humanly arranged collection of verses, out of context, with a variable degree of likelihood in relating to the truth.

While I am not saying that abuse of this method is universal, it is common. I could easily accumulate grocery lists of texts on polygamy, slavery, stoning rebellious children, demonic exorcism to solve physical problems, the need to exterminate unbelievers, and so on. All my lists would answer a “What does the Bible say?” question. And all could, potentially, seriously misrepresent the overall message that God has sent us in scripture, because the meaning of larger texts, especially books, has been ignored. I could even use the Bible itself to teach the very opposite of what the Bible teaches. In seminary, I was taught that the Bible was pro-abortion by a selective accumulation of texts. And no one laughed or cried, Orwellian as it was.

The use of the grocery store method is entirely dependent on how the accumulator understands the way verses relate to one another in larger contexts. For instance, the basic idea of old and new covenants would seriously affect how someone selected verses on worship and presented them as, “The Bible says we should worship by….” Some verse accumulation preachers are excellent. It is a method that can bear much fruit and be helpful, IF done in a context of actually understanding the larger framework of scripture. (Much like I could find lists of sentences in Walden on self-sufficiency that might misrepresent or well-represent Thoreau’s intentions in the book.)

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
The Myth that Religion and Science Constantly Conflict

"The so-called 'war' between faith and learning, specifically between orthodox Christian theology and science, was manufactured during the second half of the nineteenth century. It is a construct that was created for polemical purposes."

Justin Taylor explains this quote from historian Timothy Larsen by pointing to the popular work of two men:

  • Andrew Dickson White (1832-1918), the founding president of Cornell University, and
  • John William Draper (1811-1882), professor of chemistry at the University of New York.
He says these myth lied about history in order to create the impression that orthodox Christians had always opposed scientific investigations and inventions. Two of the myth they popularized were that the church-dominated medieval world believed in a flat earth and that Christians opposed anesthetics in childbirth based on an interpretation of the Genesis curse.

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
Pound Eats a Peacock

Poet Ezra Pound, whose hair launched a thousand conversations, planned a luncheon with his employer, William Butler Yeats, to serve a distinguished older poet, Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, a peacock at his manor. "The maneuverings of poets and literary people, jostling for fame behind the keyhole of glimpsed conviviality, is as old as Rome, older even; but Pound had a special gift for P.R."

From Semicolon
Happy Birthday, Monsieur Montaigne

Michel de Montaigne, b. 1533.

Advice for bloggers from Montaigne:
Don’t discuss yourself, for you are bound to lose; if you belittle yourself, you are believed; if you praise yourself, you are disbelieved.

When I am attacked by gloomy thoughts, nothing helps me so much as running to my books. They quickly absorb me and banish the clouds from my mind.

It is more of a job to interpret the interpretations than to interpret the things, and there are more books about books than about any other subject: we do nothing but write glosses about each other.

It is good to rub and polish our brain against that of others.

There were never in the world two opinions alike, any more than two hairs or two grains. Their most universal quality is diversity.

He who has not a good memory should never take upon himself the trade of lying.

I speak the truth, not my fill of it, but as much as I dare speak; and I dare to do so a little more as I grow old.

From internetmonk.com
Saturday Ramblings, February 28, 2015

Hello, imonks, and welcome to the weekend. Ready to ramble?

I hope you dressed up today!

I hope you dressed up today!

First, let’s get the heavy news out of the way.  Thursday is what the internet (or at least social media) was made for. dressFirst, we had #the dress. It seems, by some quirk of biology that I don’t understand (I grew up Baptist) two people can look at the picture at right and violently disagree about its color.  Is it blue and black? Or white and gold?  You can read the scientific details here.  What do you think, imonks? Do you have a dog in this very important fight?

Also on Thursday, a pair of Llamas, one white and one blackescaped from their owners and ran wild through the streets of Sun City, Arizona, on Thursday. Police and pedestrians chased them for a few hours before both were apprehended by use of a lasso. The white llama was released on his own recognizance. The black llama had bail set at 1 million dollars.

Another pair of Llamas, this time in Washington State, also escaped on Thursday.  They were caught more quickly, but not before creating a stir as to why so many llama couples were on the lam. B-33TAbUIAE-Ri8

Yes, this is silly, but hey, this is the Saturday Ramblings.  You want profundity you read that Chaplain Mike guy.  Anyway, you’re here so you might as well watch this video of the llama drama set to the William Tell Overture:

Winter is soon to be over.  Right?  I mean, it can’t go on forever, can it?  This isn’t Narnia, I’m told.  So before we wave a tearful goodbye at the cold, lets post a few pictures of the beauty it leaves behind:

Morning Glory Pool, Yellowstone

Morning Glory Pool, Yellowstone

Iceberb on Mendenhall Lake

Iceberb on Mendenhall Lake, Alaska

Cedar Waxwing, Indiana

Cedar Waxwing, Indiana

Bison in Wyoming

Bison in Wyoming

Lighthouse, St. Joseph, Michigan

Lighthouse, St. Joseph, Michigan

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls

Denmark is promoting religious solidarity between Jews and Muslims.  That’s because both groups are incensed about the new law there that bans kosher and halal meat preparation. Israel’s deputy minister of religious services Rabbi Eli Ben Dahan said, “European anti-Semitism is showing its true colours across Europe, and is even intensifying in the government institutions”, while Danish Halal described it as “a clear interference in religious freedom limiting the rights of Muslims and Jews to practice their religion in Denmark”.  Noting that a surplus giraffe was publicly slaughtered at the Copenhagen Zoo, David Krikler tweeted: “In Denmark butchering a healthy giraffe in front of kids is cool but a kosher/halal chicken is illegal.”  What was more amazing/amusing to me was the defense offered by the minister for agriculture and food Dan Jørgensen that “animal rights come before religion”. Ummm….how is that not a religious sentiment?

Our good friend Eagle has started a blog, and it should be interesting. You can find it here.

Oh, this should be fun. The Donald says he is seriously looking at running for president.  But Trump assures us this isn’t an ego trip, or done to promote “the brand”. No, this is will be a sacrificial decision undertaken only because “the country is in serious trouble”. And Trump already got the whole “pandering to the religious base” thing down: “I believe in God. I am Christian. I think the Bible is certainly, it is the book. It is the thing. I’m a Protestant, I’m a Presbyterian. And you know, I’ve had a good relationship with the church over the years. I think religion is a wonderful thing. I think my religion is a wonderful religion.” Wow, such articulation!  Such insight! The Bible is “the thing”.  Sooo deep! He’s like Saint Paul for the 21st century, isn’t he? Picture3

The Academy Awards were held on Sunday night, for those of you who care how a group of aging, elitist, white guys voted for pictures that neither they nor the populace bothered to watch.

Sigh.  Really deep sigh.  Did you know that 54 percent of Republicans believe that “deep down” President Obama is a Muslim?  And only 9 percent take his claim to be Christian at face value?

Jesus defeats ISIS?  Starting in 2016? That’s the prediction a group of religious, end-time enthusiasts are increasingly making. Oh, and did I mention that these are Muslim end-time enthusiasts?

And now for something completely different…

What do you find when you do a CT scan on an 12th century Buddha statue?  You find that it houses the mummy of an ancient Chinese Buddhist monk whose organs have been replaced by ancient Chinese scrolls.  Well, of course.

ancient-chinese-buddhist-mummy-inside-statue-ct-scan-liuquan-1

Actually, I’m just REAlly good at meditation

Odd headline of the week: Nutella Jar Sparks Massive Fire, Destroying Family Home. Yes, it seems the Murphy Family of West London had gone out to celebrate the couple’s anniversary, when solar rays were magnified through an empty Nutella jar sitting in a bedroom window. More than 20 firefighters fought the blaze, which destroyed the roof and seriously damaged the first floor.

The strange humming sound you heard this week was John Wesley spinning in his grave like a jet turbine. Wesley University posted a new campus housing option: “Open House is a safe space for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Transsexual, Queer, Questioning, Flexual, Asexual, Genderfuck, Polyamourous, Bondage/Disciple, Dominance/Submission, Sadism/Masochism (LGBTTQQFAGPBDSM) communities and for people of sexually or gender dissident communities.” If you’re counting, that’s 15 categories of sexual identification (not even counting the antiquated categories of male and female) which I believe sets a record of some kind, though no doubt a short-lived record. First Things took the high road on this:

If very few of the sexual acts of today’s identity politics are procreative, that has certainly not inhibited their proponents’ impressive ability to give birth to endless categories of sexual preference. This is the result of more than a mere lack of conceptual contraception. It also indicates the loss of any sense that sex in itself might carry some kind of larger moral significance. Indeed, the plethora of sexual identities now available witness to the fact that there is no longer any basis for rejecting any kind of sexual act, considered in itself, as intrinsically wrong. The multiplication of such categories is part of rendering sex amoral: When everything is legitimate, then nothing has particular moral significance.

This endless expansion of sexual categories is a necessary consequence of what is now the fundamental tenet of modern sexual politics, and perhaps a key element of modern politics in general: That a person’s attitude to sex is the primary criterion for assessing their moral standing in the public square. If you say that sex has intrinsic moral significance, then you set it within a larger moral framework and set limits to the legitimate use of sex. In doing so, you declare certain sexual acts illegitimate, something which is now considered hate speech. This constant coining of new categories of sexual identity serves both to demonstrate this and to facilitate its policing.

Wesleyan College is not to be criticized but congratulated, at least in terms of the transparency and consistency of its vision. It is simply an honest and consistent example of the moralizing amorality of this present age. It denies intrinsic moral significance to sex and enforces this through a proliferation of sexual categories designed to outlaw any claims to the contrary.

Leonard Nimoy died yesterday.  Of course, he will always be known as Mr. Spock to the unlettered masses, but to us cognoscenti he will be remembered for one thing especially: The Ballad of Biblo Baggins.  Please, please, for the love of all that is numinous, set the speed to 2x and watch this clip. It may be the best 70 seconds of your life.

By the way, do you know the origins of Spock’s famous vulcan hand gesture (“live long and prosper”)?

For what would soon become known as the Vulcan salute, I borrowed a hand symbol from Orthodox Judaism. During the High Holiday services, the Kohanim (who are the priests) bless those in attendance. As they do, they extend the palms of both hands over the congregation, with thumbs outstretched and the middle and ring fingers parted so that each hand forms two vees. This gesture symbolizes the Hebrew letter shin, the first letter in the word Shaddai, `Lord.’ … So it was that, when I searched my imagination for an appropriate gesture to represent the peace-loving Vulcans, the Kohanim’s symbol of blessing came to mind.

Best long read of the week (actually, it’s not that long) was from Christianity Today.  The question it poses is this: Do Digital Decisions Disciple? (Apparently their headline writer used to be an evangelical preacher). The article first describes the trend:

  • The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) has shifted its focus to online evangelism and the change seems to be paying off. In 2014, the BGEA shared the gospel with almost 9.5 million people around the world. Of those, only about 180,000 were in a live audience at a crusade, while 7.5 million were reached through BGEA websites.

  • Of the 1.6 million people who told the BGEA they prayed “to accept Jesus Christ as [their] Savior” in 2014, less than 15,000 did so in person, while more than 1.5 million did so with the click of a mouse. At the end of the BGEA’s four-step gospel presentation or video, visitors are given two buttons to click: “Yes, I’ve prayed the prayer” or “No, but I have a question.”

  • More than 20,000 people view a gospel presentation every day, essentially “a crusade a day online,” said John Cass, the BGEA’s Internet evangelism director.

  • And the BGEA isn’t even the biggest kid on the block. Global Outreach Media (GMO) reports more than 30 million online decisions for Jesus in 2014 out of 400 million viewed presentations across its 250 sites.

How many of these are real decisions? “Even if only 2 percent of the more than 135 million indicated decisions [since 2004] were long-term, with real spiritual transformation, I still haven’t seen anything that rivals that in terms of effectiveness,” said Michelle Diedrich, GMO’s chief marketing officer. But the critics point out:

  • “It can set up the false expectation that you have salvation” by clicking the right button. “Belief is a regular and frequent turning toward Jesus, not a single event that guarantees your salvation.”

  • It’s also too quick. The average time spent on a visit to a GMO website is about seven minutes, with visitors hitting just six pages. “Is seven minutes enough time to enter into the momentous decision to follow Jesus in a wholehearted way?”

  • The lack of a physical presence can make online evangelism look like online education. “There are real advantages in terms of delivery, but it’s primarily a transmission of information.”

I doubt many of us here would disagree with those objections, but I want to pose a question: Do online evangelistic campaigns like this do more harm than good?  Or should we simply celebrate that the good news about Jesus is getting out, and praying some of the seed falls on good soil? What do you think?

Finally, imagine what would have happened if M. C. Escher had photoshop?  Something like this, I imagine: optical-illusions-photo-manipulation-surreal-eric-johansson-1 optical-illusions-photo-manipulation-surreal-eric-johansson-6 optical-illusions-photo-manipulation-surreal-eric-johansson-3 optical-illusions-photo-manipulation-surreal-eric-johansson-8

From Semicolon
Saturday Review of Books: February 28, 2015

“Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill. Without books, the development of civilization would have been impossible. They are engines of change, windows on the world, ‘lighthouses’ (as a poet said) ‘erected in the sea of time.’ They are companions, teachers, magicians, bankers of the treasures of the mind. Books are humanity in print.” ~Barbara Tuchman

SatReviewbutton

Welcome to the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon. Here’s how it usually works. Find a book review on your blog posted sometime during the previous week. The review doesn’t have to be a formal sort of thing. You can link to your thoughts on a particular book, a few ideas inspired by reading the book, your evaluation, quotations, whatever.

Then on Friday night/Saturday, you post a link here at Semicolon in Mr. Linky to the specific post where you’ve written your book review. Don’t link to your main blog page because this kind of link makes it hard to find the book review, especially when people drop in later after you’ve added new content to your blog. In parentheses after your name, add the title of the book you’re reviewing. This addition will help people to find the reviews they’re most interested in reading.

After linking to your own reviews, you can spend as long as you want reading the reviews of other bloggers for the week and adding to your wishlist of books to read.

You can go to this post for over 100 links to book lists for the end of 2014/beginning of 2015. Feel free to add a link to your own list.

If you enjoy the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon, please invite your friends to stop by and check out the review links here each Saturday.

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
Leonard Nimoy's Other Roles

The actor best known as Mr. Spock died today. Leonard Nimoy leaves behind many appearances in shows outside the Star Trek universe, such as The Man From U.N.C.L.E.



Outlaws



Mission Impossible, where he played Paris from 1969-1971



On Perry Mason (spoiler)



The fear-fest movie THEM!



And here's his 1974 appearance on What's My Line? Nimoy published poetry and other books, which you can browse here.

From Gospel Driven Church
The Glory of Christ

“It is by beholding the glory of Christ by faith that we are spiritually edified and built up in this world, for as we behold his glory, the life and power of faith grow stronger and stronger. It is by faith that we grow to love Christ. So if we desire strong faith and powerful love, which give us rest, peace and satisfaction, we must seek them diligently beholding the glory of Christ by faith. In this duty I desire to live and to die.

On Christ’s glory I would fix all my thoughts and desires, and the more I see of the glory of Christ, the more the painted beauties of this world will wither in my eyes and I will be more and more crucified to this world. It will become to me like something dead and putrid, impossible for me to enjoy.”

– John Owen, The Glory of Christ

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
Engaging the Natural World

African-American poets write about nature from a perspective of working the land or engaging it personally. Poet Camille Dungy observes, "There is kind of this tradition to western nature poetry that is about objectification and idealization of the landscape. Kind of city boys writing about how lovely it would be to live in the country." This isn't how African-American poets think of the land as shown in 400 years of writing. (via Books, Inq.)

From Gospel Driven Church
To Be a Letter of Christ

[A]nd you show that you are a letter of Christ, prepared by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
– 2 Corinthians 3:3

I love that. “Show that you are a letter of Christ.” Like walking, breathing epistles — emissaries under Christ’s Lordship, ambassadors for Christ’s kingdom — we testify with our very lives to the good news of Jesus. This isn’t just a relaying of information; it is a subsisting on revelation. It’s carrying the Spirit-illumined Word of God in our blood, in our marrow.

They are not just idle words for you — they are your life. By them you will live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess.
– Deuteronomy 32:47

I am in constant need of repenting of using God’s Word and returning to being used by it. I try too often to live by bread alone.

In my heart of hearts, however, I want to stop using Jesus, appropriating Scripture, and doing church and begin trusting Jesus, living Scripture, and being the Church.
I want to be a letter of Christ.

From Semicolon
Happy Birthday, HWL

“The student has his Rome, his Florence, his whole glowing Italy, within the four walls of his library. He has in his books the ruins of an antique world and the glories of a modern one.”
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

American Authors of the 19th Century - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow




Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, b. 1807.

It Is Not Always May:
“Maiden, that read’st this simple rhyme,
Enjoy thy youth, it will not stay ;
Enjoy the fragrance of thy prime,
For O ! it is not always May !”

Paul Revere’s Ride:
“In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
And the midnight message of Paul Revere.”

Evangeline, A Tale of Arcadie:
“Fair was she to behold, that maiden of seventeen summers.
Black were her eyes as the berry that grows on the thorn by the way-side,
Black, yet how softly they gleamed beneath the brown shade of her tresses!”

Travels by the Fireside:
“Let others traverse sea and land,
And toil through various climes,
I turn the world round with my hand
Reading these poets’ rhymes.”

The Children’s Hour:
“Between the dark and the daylight,
When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day’s occupations,
That is known as the Children’s Hour.”
*Why is it that the Children’s Hour lasts all evening at my house?

Excelsior:
And from the sky, serene and far,
A voice fell like a falling star,
Excelsior!

The Wreck of the Hesperus:
He wrapped her warm in his seaman’s coat
Against the stinging blast;
He cut a rope from a broken spar,
And bound her to the mast.

The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere:
“So through the night rode Paul Revere;
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm, —
A cry of defiance and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo forevermore!”

What The Heart of the Young Man Said to the Psalmist:
“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.”

A little inspiration from from Mr. Longfellow.

From internetmonk.com
They’ll know we are Christians by our language

left-out-kid

I passed a church sign the other day. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to stop and take a picture of it to show you, but I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind since I saw it. The sign said:

God makes useful saints
Out of useless sinners.

Believe me, I understand black/white, in/out, saved/lost, saint/sinner thinking, having been a member of faith communities that ate that stuff up for years. There is a lot we could talk about here.

In fact, there is a lot that has been talked about, especially in so-called “emergent” and “missional” teachings. Missiologist Paul G. Hiebert’s writings on understanding Christian identity in terms of bounded and centered sets have had a profound influence on the discussion. Hiebert observed differences in how people in different cultures answered the question: “Who is (and isn’t) a Christian?” His concern was that missionaries, who had assumed they were acting “biblically” were actually reflecting the cultural perspectives of their backgrounds and churches concerning the answer to this question and that it was adversely affecting their ministries. Hiebert loved mathematics, and as he began to think about set theory, he developed his ideas and captured them in his missiological writings.

This article in Leadership Journal by John Ortberg captures the thinking well. “Bounded-set” thinking emphasizes the boundaries of a set. Those within the boundaries are “in” the set, and those outside its walls are “out” — not part of the set. In a “centered-set,” on the other hand, the set is not defined by its boundaries as by what is in the center, and “the key question is whether I am oriented and moving toward the center or moving away from the center. I’m defined on where I am, and where I’m moving, in relation to the center.” Ortberg commends that latter as a better way of thinking about Christianity and points out one of the main problems with “bounded-set” thinking that led him to abandon it:

The problem with a bounded-set approach to Christianity is not that it highlights the difference between Christians and non-Christians; it’s that it highlights the wrong differences, and encourages us to exaggerate and claim differences that don’t exist. For instance, Jesus had a lot to say about concern for the poor. But if we think that non-Christians are also concerned for the poor, we won’t focus on it much because it doesn’t highlight “how we are different.”

If we focus on Jesus as the center, then the key question becomes whether someone is oriented toward him or away from him. We realize that God is in a much better position than we are to know who’s in and who’s out. We also realize that everyone has something to learn, that everyone has a next step to take, and we don’t have to make ourselves seem more different than we really are. We embrace our common humanity.

Ortberg puts his finger on what I consider to be the main problem with this church sign. For not only does it represent in/out bounded-set thinking, its use of adjectives grossly exaggerates the supposed “differences” between Christians and their non-Christian neighbors. In fact, it does so with insulting bluntness.

  • Christians are useful people.
  • Non-Christians are useless people.

How’s that for “embracing our common humanity”?

I don’t know much about “bounded sets” and “centered sets.” But I do know a little bit about people. If my neighbor knew I was a follower of Jesus and that this is what I thought of him, I can’t imagine he would feel the warmth of my Christian love.

Theology matters, and the language we use to talk about it matters even more.

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
Which of Marvel's Avengers Is the Best?

Here's a good example of this blog's need for a politics category. Here's a post ranking all the Avengers according to their value to the team. For example, The Wasp comes in at #3. "If Captain America epitomizes the Avengers, Janet Van Dyne is still its heart and soul. She was a founding member, has led the team through some of its most difficult moments, and has the unequivocal respect of gods, robots, and the most powerful beings in the cosmos. Marvel actually put it best when it said if the Avengers were asked to rank themselves, The Wasp would likely be #1."

From Gospel Driven Church
Pastoral Pitfalls

To be sure, the minister of the Gospel is vulnerable to trials and temptations distinct to his calling:

jealousy (“Why are his gifts more esteemed than mine?”)

bitterness (“Why does the congregation criticize everything I do?”)

fear (“Will they leave the church if I teach particular redemption?”)

depression (“Will this church ever grow?”)

grief (“Why have there been so few conversions?”)

frustration (“Why does the board appear to distrust my motivations?”)

doubt (“Why has God caused such suffering in the life of this family?”)

anxiety (“How will we ever afford to send our children to college?”)

sexual indiscretion (“Why does it seem that my wife is not as responsive to me as other women in the church?”)

despondency (“Why doesn’t the congregation love Jesus with greater fervor?”)

desperation (“Have I rightly discerned my call to ministry?”)

It is imperative, then, for pastors to structure their lives in order to insure that ample time is given in prayer for the protection and promotion of their own spiritual condition.

– Arturo Azurdia, “Reforming the Church Through Prayer.” In Reforming Pastoral Ministry

From Gospel Driven Church
The Gospel-Constructed Church

So how do we navigate the modern method maze? Is there a compass we can use that will lead us out? Is there a way to rise above the underbrush of synthetic ministry models so that we can get a bird’s-eye view of the way forward?

What these and many other ministry models assume is that method isn’t really all that important to God. “If it brings people to church or helps them feel like they’ve really worshiped on Sunday, it must be a good thing, right?”

When it comes to building a people for His own name and glory, God cares how we go about participating in His redemptive purposes . . . [T]he Gospel itself is God’s constructive power for building the body of Christ. The Word builds the Church. Our power is not in having small groups, or meeting the felt needs of our target audience, or using the right evangelism program, or having funny skits, or providing plenteous parking, or targeting our ministries to postmoderns. Our power is in our unique message — the Gospel (Greek, euangelion) — not in our innovations. As such, our primary method must be to clearly communicate that message as widely as possible. Biblically, that means that we must faithfully preach it (Greek, euangelizo), fearlessly calling for repentance and belief as the only saving responses.

- Mark Dever and Paul Alexander, The Deliberate Church

From MzEllen - For the Life of Me
Orange Jumpsuits

So, I lost the "blog every day" bug (yeah, it happens every February, but this year I want it back  ;-)

This is going to be sort of "stream of consciousness" sort of post, but this is something I want to articulate and I'm not sure how to do it.

I read in one place that the writer would never be able to read Hebrews 11 without seeing orange jumpsuits...

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth...

 

of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

And in the midst of this, I read in other places that "Coptic 'Christians' are not saved, since they don't get the nature of Christ right."

The Coptic church is the one that the apostle Mark founded when they was sent out to evangelize the world - it's not like they made up their own religion.

The split happened later on, when Arius was preaching his heresy.  Arius taught that Jesus was not God.  Jesus (Arius taught) was a created being, and thus, he denied the Trinity.

There was a big church council, and Arius was declared a heretic.  Here's where I'm a little fuzzy, but I think I have the basics.

All of the "streams" - Alexandria (Coptic) and Constantinople (Orthodox) and Rome (well...Rome) agreed that Arius was wrong.  They all affirm the Divinity of Christ, they all affirm the doctrine of the Trinity.  They all affirm salvation by faith.  They all affirm the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the remission of sin.

If a person is going to judge the salvation of Roman Catholics, Orthodox, Copts, Arminians, and pretty much everybody other than the "truly Reformed" because of the works debate, I cannot go there.

Even if I don't understand the role of works, is it Jesus Christ who saves me through faith?

Do I hold Christ through my faith, or does He hold me?

How right does my doctrine need to be before Romans 10 is found to be valid?

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

Is it "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead *AND you get the hypostatic union right...you will be saved?"

Is it "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead *AND you get the relationship between works and faith right you will be saved?

 

Is it "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead *AND you get TULIP right, you will be saved?

Is it "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead *AND** you can quote from the Catechisms and Confessions, you will be saved?

How big is your asterisk?

 

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
Are You Ready to Write a Book?

Stephen Altrogge, Barnabas Piper, and Ted Kluck have recorded 29 episodes of their Happy Rant Podcasts, talking about stuff, junk, and things, to be specific. Here they chat about when one is ready to write a book and buying your way onto the bestseller list. They introduce proven schemes to move your book forward and reach readers you wouldn't have reached with the subject or quality of your writing. If your book is mediocre, these guys are willing to take your money and move your book. Some may call this selling out. The Happy Rant crew calls it selling up. The bottomline is giving them your money. I'm sure it works. I haven't tried it, but I'm sure it works.

From internetmonk.com
Tokah: On the Sunday of Forgiveness

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It is my second favorite day of the year, the Sunday of Forgiveness, also known as Cheesefare Sunday. We gather for the Forgiveness Vespers in the evening, candlelight dancing in front of paintings of those who have walked this path before us. Vespers starts normally enough, until we come to the prayer, “Vouchsafe, O Lord”.

This prayer is in every vespers service, but this time the reader chants it slowly and repeatedly. As she does, the colors of the church are changed from light to dark. The priest changes his vestments to the dark red. Great Lent has begun.

If you are from a different tradition, the change in the color in the midst of the service, the sudden change in the melody of the litanies might not strike you. For us, it is like a great and clanging bell. The Lenten spring has sprung. There is no turning back. The sea of the great fast is before us, and on the other side is Christ’s resurrection.

This service, which began as a normal vespers, ends in the lenten pattern instead. The prayer of St. Ephraim makes its first appearance. “O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust for power, and idle talk. Grant instead a spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love to Thy servant. Yea Lord and King, grant me to see my own transgressions, and not to judge my brother. For blessed art Thou unto ages of ages. Amen.”

16424597929_8639224fb1_bThen, in the midst of a church shrouded in dark vestments and lit mostly by candlelight, an amazing thing occurs. That night’s choir director puts a different binder on her stand, and a small group gathers around her. She gives the pitch, and the sound of the Paschal canon quietly fills the church with all of its joyful news of Christ’s victory over death. As the rest of us get on line for what happens next, we quietly sing along with our favorite parts. How can we not? Christ is risen from the dead!

I am not the first person on line, I need a few moments to compose myself. When I am ready, I take my place. When my turn comes, I approach the priest. He crosses himself and bows before me in full prostration. “Forgive me, a sinner.” When he stands, I scoot my wheelchair back and do the same. (Prostrating looks more exciting when done from a wheelchair, it is something of a planned fall, but they know me here and no one tries to catch me when I do it.) I transfer back up into my wheelchair, and he bends down to my level. His beard on my right cheek, his beard on my left cheek, then the right again. “God forgives and I forgive.” He looks me in the eye as he pronounces a blessing.

Like a reception line at a wedding, I move on to the next person. We each cross ourselves, bow, and attempt to touch the floor. He bows stiffly and I try to sit as high as my wheelchair will take me, as he is among the ambulatory disabled. He rubs the middle of my back as I depart.

The next, the wife of one our priests, uses my name, a mark of extra thought and attention. “Tokah, forgive me, a sinner.” I do the same. We exchange the kiss of peace, our assurance of God’s forgiveness, and our own mutual forgiveness. Then we hug, and it is a long hug.

The next woman in line has dementia. I ask her forgiveness. Even if she doesn’t understand why, it is important to do so, for she bears the image of God. Later I will have a similar exchange with a girl that has Down’s sydrome. She isn’t big on the words, but she loves the hugs and is grinning by the time she reaches me.

Several people down is a friend. I had dinner at her house a few weeks earlier. She too says my name with great care as we exchange forgiveness. The next day she will suddenly be in the hospital with a difficult diagnosis, but tonight she looks fine. I am glad that she and her husband know she is part of our army, that she goes into this new fight with a clean slate and the love of every one of us.

She is the last one on the reception line at that point, so I take my place next to her and wait for the person who will be taking their place beside me. When she arrives, she finishes off the ritual with, “You know I love you, Tokah?” and a pat on the shoulder.

cheesefareSo it continues, bowing to the floor, embracing cheek to cheek, the ritual words and sometimes a little extra. One person has confessed a sin against me in the past year, and we take the time to make our exchange particularly meaningful. Another person looks me in the eye and then makes a joke about how much we’ll be seeing each other. Someone who has not always been willing to interact with me any more than necessary exchanges forgiveness with a very warm smile on her face. There is peace between us.

The kids are funny. Some are old enough to get it, but hate the kiss of peace portion. The babies and toddlers are carried, and probably do not understand why they keep getting kissed on the head. They too are worthy of recognition, little brothers and sisters all.

A woman who speaks almost no English approaches. As we go through the motions of the ritual, she speaks in Russian and I in English. The actions speak louder than words. She is deliberate in her motions, and finishes them with a hug that surprises me. Before she goes, she grabs my hand in hers and looks me in the eye, her own eyes shining with tears. I don’t understand what she says, but the sentiment is unmistakable.

Eventually the Paschal canon stops, and the mix of tears, laughter, names, and the words of forgiveness becomes the dominant sound. It is time for those who sang to take their turn. When they are done going through the line and adding to its number, we circle the greater part of the nave. The priest tells us to go in peace, and on this night of all nights, we certainly do.

Lent has begun, but we go into it together. These are the people we will spend the extra services with, eat lenten potlucks with, and the people who will take on this season’s offensive push against sin and death together. This is our army.

Most disperse quietly, but I sit there a while longer. I who in many christian’s books would be untouchable, who grew up thinking I was, have been touched by each and every one of my fellow parishioners. Many have done so more than is part of the ritual itself, more than was necessary. I too am part of this army, though I struggle to comprehend how true that is.

If the Kingdom of God is indeed breaking into this present world and time, it looks and feels like this.

Brother and sisters of Internet Monk, forgive me, a sinner.

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
KFC To Offer Edible Coffee Cups

KFC in the UK is running the final tests on their new Scoff-ee Cup, an edible cup to be offered with Seattle's Best Coffee brand beverages. "The 100% edible cup is made from a special, wafer-like biscuit, then wrapped in sugar paper and lined with a layer of heat-resistant white chocolate."

Naturally, this is a fabulous idea, but they want to make sure it works well in many circumstances before releasing it to the public. No one wants their little dessert cup to melt in their hand while chatting up a cute girl they just met. No plans for US release yet.

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
Great Fun Being a Journalist

Mollie Z. Hemingway offers great advice on how to excel in journalism in today's world.

"Don't Sweat the Details. Is there a difference between an Evangelical and an evangelist? Who cares?"

"Don't question authority. ... if a politician suggests that the reports of scandal surrounding his administration are overblown, leave him alone already. Would he lie?"

A journalist's job is to advance his ideological narrative. "CNBC's John Harwood said recently, 'Those of us in political-media world should just shut up about "narratives" and focus on what's true.' Spoken like a real nobody."

She's got a good piece. I recommend it too all non-fiction writers. Of course, all of it could be summarized by quoting Henry Kissinger, who said, "Allow me to be the first to say that what we have done here is not a good thing. It's definitely not a good thing. But it was, given the circumstances, the smart play."

From Book Reviews, Creative Culture - Brandywine Books
No Plans to Publish 'Jefferson Lies'

Though Lifeway still sells The Jefferson Lies, Thomas Nelson does not and after an investigation will not publish it. The author, David Barton, has stated Simon & Schuster will pick it this year, but that claim has been denied by the publisher's spokesman.

From Semicolon
Showers of Blessing

I am taking a blog break for Lent, but I thought I’d share some of my old posts from years gone by. I’ve been blogging at Semicolon since October, 2003, more than eleven years. This post is copied and edited from February 18, 2005:

It was supposed to rain this afternoon here in Houston. No rain, however, and no one is disappointed. We can always count on having rain sometime soon, probably more rain than we want. It rains frequently in Houston.
In San Angelo where I grew up, it was a different story. We appreciated rain. Not far from the house where I grew up, there was a huge billboard with this year-round message: “Pray for rain.” There may have been a Scripture reference, too. The one I always heard in church when we were asked to pray for rain was 2 Chronicles 7:14:

.

. . if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

Sometimes we had so little rain that water was rationed. You could only water your yard on certain days of the week, and after a while, all the yards started to turn brown in the scorching summer heat. Droughts always seemed to come in the spring or the summer for some reason. A few people had wells, and they put signs in their yards so that no one would think they were cheating with their green grass: “Well Water Used Here.”

So we’d pray for rain, and the city would spend money to hire an airplane to go up and seed the clouds, if there were any clouds. But as often as not, the clouds that San Angelo paid to have seeded would move on to Big Spring or Midland or Abilene and pour down all that rain on one of those undeserving towns instead of raining on our parched lawns. The ranchers would start talking about how they were having to bring in feed for their sheep or cattle so they’d have enough to eat. Then we’d have a day of special prayer for rain, or maybe even a week of prayer meetings, asking God for those showers we knew we needed.

And when it did rain, we knew that our prayers had been answered. We knew that we were dependent on the grace of God and His provision, day in and day out. One rain wouldn’t last forever; we’d need God to provide over and over again, every year.

In Houston, we take the rain for granted. It rains all the time. We complain because it rains too much, and it messes up our soccer game or spoils the picnic we had planned. We need the rain here, too, but we don’t know it. God provides in abundance, but we don’t appreciate it.

Maybe everybody ought to live in West Texas for a while. I’ve been in Houston for almost thirty years, but I still love the rain. I like to go walk in the rain and soak it into my skin. I like to watch the rain come down in my backyard and see the drops bounce off puddles and plants. The showers are still a blessing.

From Semicolon
Happy Birthday, Mr. Grimm

Wilhelm Carl Grimm, b. 1786. While he and his brother Jacob were in law school, they began to collect folk tales. They collected, after many years, over 200 folk tales, including such famous ones as Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, Hansel and Gretel, The Bremen Town Musicians, and Rumpelstiltskin. Both Wilhelm and Jacob were librarians. Here’s a Canadian website with stuff for children: games, coloring pages, animated stories, etc.

True story: I once worked in the reference section of a library in West Texas. We often answered reference questions over the phone. One day a caller asked me, “How do you spell Hansel?” “H-A-N-S-E-L,” I replied. The patron thanked me and hung up. About an hour later, I heard one of the other reference librarians spelling into the phone, “G-R-E-T-E-L.”

Here’s a list of some of the most famous of Grimm’s fairy tales, along with a short list of books and other media based on each tale. Do you like to read fairy tale revision novels?

Cinderella, or Aschenputtel
The Captive Maiden by Melanie Dickerson.
Bound by Donna Jo Napoli.
Princess of Glass by Jessica Day George.
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine.
Bella at Midnight by Diane Stanley. Brown Bear Daughter’s review.
Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix.
The Amaranth Enchantment by Julie Berry.
A picture book series of Cinderella stories from around the world by Shirley Climo, including The Egyptian Cinderella, The Persian Cinderella, The Korean Cinderella, The Irish Cinderlad, etc.

The Fisherman and His Wife
The Fisherman and His Wife by Rachel Isadora. (picture book)
The Fisherman and His Wife by Margot Zemach. (picture book)

The Valiant Little Tailor
Mickey Mouse appeared in a Disney cartoon, Brave Little Tailor, based on this tale.

The Elves and the Shoemaker
The Elves and the Shoemaker by Paul Galdone. (picture book)
The Elves and the Shoemaker by Bernadette Watts. (picture book)
The Elves and the Shoemaker by Jim Lamarche. (picture book)

The Goose Girl
The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale.
Thorn by Intisar Khanani.
The Goose Girl by Harold MacGrath.

Snow White and the Dwarves
Black as Night by Regina Doman.
Fairest by Gail Carson Levine.
The Fairest Beauty by Melanie Dickerson.
Snow in Summer by Jane Yolen.
1937 Disney film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
The 2011 TV series Once Upon A Time features Snow White, Prince Charming, and the Evil Queen as the main characters.

Snow White and Rose Red
The Shadow of the Bear by Regina Doman.

Little Red Riding Hood
Little Red Riding Hood by Trina Schart Hyman, Beautiful picture book version of the traditional tale.

Rapunzel
Zel by Donna Jo Napoli.
Letters from Rapunzel by Sara Lewis Holmes.
Rapunzel: The One with All the Hair by Wendy Mass.
Rapunzel Let Down by Regina Doman.

Hansel and Gretel
The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy by Nikki Loftin.
The Magic Circle by Donna Jo Napoli.

The Bremen Town Musicians

Rumpelstiltskin
Straw into Gold by Gary D. Schmidt.
The Rumpelstiltskin Problem by Vivian Vande Velde.
A Curse as Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce.
Rumpelstiltskn’s Daughter by Diane Stanley.
The Witch’s Boy by Michael Gruber.
Spinners by Donna Jo Napoli.
Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff.

Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book cover here to go to Amazon and buy something, I receive a very small percentage of the purchase price.

From MzEllen - For the Life of Me
The Rock

layersThere was something about THIS rock that caught my eye.

the layer that separates the flat layers from the tilted layers, the pebbles in the water...

This was taken in Utah on our honeymoon, walking through a "slot canyon" - the swooping of the canyon walls.  I don't make a secret that I lean "old earth creationist" - but no matter the age of the earth I am sure of this.

God is everlasting.  God created.

From MzEllen - For the Life of Me
Stir, Skim, Dig

Okay, at the beginning of yesterday's sermon, the pastor showed a PowerPoint slide of a yogurt foil label.

I took that visual in a different direction than I think the pastor intended.

Stirrers, skimmers, diggers...We have all of these types in the Christian body.

STIR,

Those who stir, those who skim, and those who dig.  The beauty is that each of us shows all of these tendencies at some point or another.

When you hear "stir" - what do you think of?  Is it the negative "stir up bottom muck?"

Or do you think positive?

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, (Hebrews 10:24 ESV)

As believers, do we stir up one another to look more like Christ?  How does this work?  For me, getting into the fringes of something, then finding another person, taking that "something" and running with it...with that other person, pulling more and more people into this "something."

Or simply encouraging another into a deeper walk.

Or

STIR,

I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, (1 Peter 1:13)

what was Peter "stirring?"  The list begins... faith, virtue, knowledge.

I see (rightly or wrongly) a lot of anti-intellectualism in a lot of people.  "Knowledge" is third on Peter's list and knowledge is what leads to self-control,  steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, love.

They're in this order for a reason, and each acts a foundation for the next.

How do we stir our spiritual siblings to greater faith, virtue, knowledge?

Then...

SKIM

Merriam-Websters has one definition:

to look over or read (something) quickly especially to find the main ideas

Yeah, okay.  That works.   Why would a Christian "skim?"

We may skim a chapter of Scripture, then settle on the "main idea" and go for a deeper study of that idea that the Holy Spirit is laying on our heart and mind.

We may skim the church bulletin and rest our eyes on something that intrigues us.

We may skim community groups until we find one that we really click with.

Somebody may ask a question and we skim material looking for information.

These can show good fruit.  I know a little bit about a lot of different things.  Enough so that if somebody asks me a question, I can point them to good resources.  A lot of these things I have not dug into deeply.

I pass over a lot of ministry opportunities that are not in my range of interest...

Waiting to find the right place is good.

but...you if you stay in that "skim" place, or if ALL of your places are skim place, that shows a shallowness that does not show good fruit.

You have to

DIG

I can skim Philippians, then land on "I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel,"

What does the Bible say about persecution?  Start digging...

I can skim the church bulletin, then land on one opportunity that screams at me...start digging.

But we don't exist in a vacuum.  Help others dig!

So, in some things, I'm a skimmer, others places a digger.  In still other places, I can stir up others to do their own skimming and digging.

And...that's where I took that PowerPoint slide...

From The Living Room
all things new.

I had a dream maybe a month ago–one of those where you’re sort of half-awake. I was married to a man created by my imagination, and in my dream he confessed to me: “I cheated on you.” Dream-me was understandably upset, and so was my husband, and I had to walk away for a while and cry it out, but then I came back and told him: “I still love you. I’m not leaving. If you want to leave, go ahead, but I want to make this work.”

And then I woke up crying, because even as I said that in my dream, the voice of God said in words beyond words: “And that is exactly how I feel about you. Come back.”

* * * *
It’s been a completely crazy first five weeks of the year–in the course of 38 days I’ve signed a lease on an apartment, totaled my car, started a new job, and accumulated all kinds of things to do. I’ve been tired and anxious and freaked out, and I must confess that in my attempt to escape I frequently turn to things to distract or numb myself. I’ve been cranky and frustrated and irritable and I find myself wanting to control other people. And as a result I feel like I’ve only caught occasional glimpses of God–even though I know He’s still there, and He is still faithful, my emotions haven’t quite caught up.

I keep circling back to the fact that despite the fact that I currently feel crazy and tired and a long way from God, He objectively sustains and loves and continues to stick around, despite my frequent infidelity. My stress and busyness and forgetfulness become tools in His hands to make me more like Jesus. That is a wonder and a beauty.

* * * *
What else is going on? Lots of things at church. I’m reading Gilead in preparation to tackle its sequels Home and Lila, and also Karen Swallow Prior’s rightfully praised biography Fierce Convictions. I’m also looking for a new car (see above re: totaling my old one–long story I don’t want to tell here). Trying to write more and maybe plan a vacation for later. Rocking out to Sojourn Church’s new album, which I stole the title of this post from. Looking to the future, always.

What’s new with you, friends?


From The Wilsonian Institute
The Day The Music Died: 02.03.59



From MzEllen - For the Life of Me
lunes linkage – 2/2/2015

Wow, a month into 2015 already!   I've got a few links this week, so...

~~~
"From bombings to bubblehead income: The diversity of persecution in new testament perspective"

According to the New Testament, persecution occurs in various forms — from beatings (Acts 5:40), stonings (Acts 7), and imprisonment (Acts 16) to insults (Matthew 5:11), slander (Acts 14:2), and lies (Luke 26:59). The New Testament does not define persecution by the kind of action taken against Christians. Rather, the New Testament defines persecution by the nature of the hostility. Simply put, the New Testament labels any hostile action against Christ or his righteousness a form of persecution.

~~~

I follow a ministry called "Trash Mountain" - and they're starting an aquaponics project!  (I have a mini aquaponics set on my desk, where I grow peace lilies and green onions, and where the "four horsemen of the aquapocalypse" live.)

“Teaching people how to provide food for their community is sustainable poverty alleviation,” Gibson said. “It brings dignity and hope to the community. To modify an old adage, if you give a man a fish, he can eat for a day, but if you teach him to run aquaponics, he can feed his entire community.”

~~~

LGBT groups says "No compromise."

This "compromise" is a poison pill that the LGBT civil rights movement must never accept. We can never allow "because Jesus" to become a legally protected excuse to discriminate against LGBT folks in the public square.

Liberty for me, but not for thee...AKA "you will celebrate the gay."

~~~

"Save the Earth, Don't Give Birth"

just...ewww.

 

From The Wilsonian Institute
Small Talk(ing)


If you're a fan of comedy you might enjoy watching comedians talk about the craft of comedy. I always find it interesting (and entertaining) to hear the thought processes that go into writing a joke or bit or even a set of jokes. In Jerry Seinfeld's web series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, as the title implies, Seinfeld picks up a fellow comedian in some unique car and they simply go out for coffee. It's usually entertaining because comedians are typically funny and it's often fascinating because you get a behind-the-curtain look at how comedians think.

In a recent episode Jerry's guest was comedian/actor, Kevin Hart. During their discussion something stood out to me that I think has striking implications outside of comedy. Seinfeld began professing his disdain for the use of pyrotechnics, flash, lasers, stunts, etc. before a stand-up comedy routine. He mentioned it might work for some people (like guest Kevin Hart) but he preferred a much more yeoman-like approach, similar to Mike Tyson's approach to a boxing match. Tyson went against the grain of the flashy, bombastic performances that many prize fighters were known to embrace by coming out in a simple terry cloth "poncho" instead of a silky long, embellished robe. As Seinfeld remembered, "He would cut a hole in the hotel towel... no socks... so stool... he came ready to fight... It's a reduced essence."

Seinfeld's reasoning? Too much lead up to the actual stand-up routine "makes the talking seem small." I couldn't help but to transfer this assessment to modern church culture. A lot of churches with vast resources create fantastic events which help to raise attendance and interest. The danger, though, is what Seinfeld fears about his shows: that the talking (sermon) might be made to seem small. The message from God's Word is meant to be the centerpiece of a worship gathering. If there is more emphasis placed on creating an exciting environment or attractive event than on hearing from God, we've missed the mark. There is an adage in ministry that says "what you win them with is what you when them to." The idea here is that if people are "hooked" by hype then that is what they will desire and will often find themselves dissatisfied and unfulfilled.

A similar scenario unfolds in the Mark 8. After we read about Jesus miraculously feeding a multitude, some Pharisees demand a sign from Him as a test. But Jesus questions their desires, "Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation."
NOTE: I am not saying Jesus' miracle is empty hype. I am simply pointing out that people are often attracted to the fantastic and then err by letting it distract them from a richer truth.

If we are truly longing to know and follow Christ we will, like Paul, keep the Gospel as our top priority (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). This was Jesus emphasis, too, when asked for a sign in Matthew 12. He replies, "An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah." Knowing that the people were testing Jesus out of curiosity as a test and wanting to simply see something amazing, Jesus responded with a prophecy about His resurrection from the dead!

Stay alert, folks! Let's not be considered an evil generation that only longs for a fantastic event and dismisses the message of God's truth as it gets overshadowed. God talks to us through His Word. He talks to us through the Spirit. He talks to us through faithful preaching.

Let's avoid anything that makes "the talking seem small."

From MzEllen - For the Life of Me
Old Earth…Young Earth…

layers

I've read on this for a while (years) and I remain a creationist.  I believe that God created - not evolved.  I don't think that God-directed evolution is correct.  God created.

I'm just not sure that the "day" of Genesis 1 represents a literal 24-hour period.

Then Justin Taylor wrote "Biblical Reasons to Doubt the Creation Days Were 24-Hour Periods"

One of his points I've heard before.

Genesis 1:1

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

Okay...are we reading a prelude, a heading title, or a summary of what follows?

Taylor writes:

Genesis 1:1 tells us that “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

This is not a title or a summary of the narrative that follows. Rather, it is a background statement that describes how the universe came to be.

In other words.

At some point in the past, God created the universe.

Then (starting in Genesis 1:2) He formed our planet into our place.

At some point, the universe came into existence, then some time later,

The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. (Genesis 1:2-3)

In this case, even the six days of creation took place inside of a larger history.

 

From MzEllen - For the Life of Me
Transcendence

We visited The Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo  on Saturday.  The lasting and plain beauty of the exterior spoke of the quest for beauty in a difficult place.   Inside, the Roman Catholic eye for transcendence shone all around, yet the building reflected the area it sits in.

IMG_2752

Rough textured walls, meeting fine painting and sculptures.

Modern playground equipment adjoining tile patios.

Last year's monument overlooking last century's garden.

Phil and I walked on through the hall, looking at over two centuries of vestments that priests have worn here.

We saw a place of beauty, steeped in tradition, salted with education, but also with the bitterness of a history that we sometimes wish never happened.

 

IMG_2755 We also saw the oldest library in California.

Imagine the care it would have taken to get these books to this remote place!

To me, this seems to say that reading, education, knowledge, learning, played an important role here.

 

Even now, the mission has a school on the grounds.

I believe that Rome has a lot of things wrong. But they worship God with majesty and a seriousness that we have lost.

We reject liturgy, we reject tradition, we reject transcendence.

My soul longs for a serious, adult, deep and wide worship that lifts my heart and my hands to the sky.

Just sayin'

From MzEllen - For the Life of Me
lunes linkage – 1/26/2014

"Just Getting a Drink"

Beyond the basic rules of the game, the blue shirts had only two requirements. The first was that they needed to be allowed to ref the game as well as play it, and the second requirement was that if anybody on the red team questioned any call, it was an automatic technical, and they had to go sit on the racist bench, or on the misogynist bench, depending on which eyebrow they had raised in protest.

~~~

"The Heresy of Worshiptainment"

(this is wonderful!)

HALLOWEDNESS, NOT SHALLOWNESS

Like Tozer, we should be concerned that so many people in our churches want to be entertained while they worship. We should be concerned when we no longer recognize the difference between the two. And we should be concerned by the growing belief that adding more entertainment value to worship is necessary for the church to accomplish its mission.

I may stand alone, but it grieves me when I see worship services characterized more by props, performances, and pep rally atmospheres than by any sense of divine sacredness; and hallowedness giving way to shallowness.

This is not about worship styles. The issue is not traditional versus contemporary versus blended worship. It’s not about organ versus worship band. That discussion misses the point completely. This is about the heart and focus and intent of worship. The real issues, for me, are these:

~~~

From MzEllen - For the Life of Me
Psalm 45…a wedding song

My heart overflows with a pleasing theme;
I address my verses to the king;
my tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe.
You are the most handsome of the sons of men;
grace is poured upon your lips;
therefore God has blessed you forever.
Gird your sword on your thigh, O mighty one,
in your splendor and majesty!
In your majesty ride out victoriously
for the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness;
let your right hand teach you awesome deeds!
Your arrows are sharp
in the heart of the king's enemies;
the peoples fall under you.
Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.
The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness;
you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness.
Therefore God, your God, has anointed you
with the oil of gladness beyond your companions;
your robes are all fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia.
From ivory palaces stringed instruments make you glad;
daughters of kings are among your ladies of honor;
at your right hand stands the queen in gold of Ophir.
Hear, O daughter, and consider, and incline your ear:
forget your people and your father's house,
and the king will desire your beauty.
Since he is your lord, bow to him.
The people of Tyre will seek your favor with gifts,
the richest of the people.
All glorious is the princess in her chamber, with robes interwoven with gold.
In many-colored robes she is led to the king,
with her virgin companions following behind her.
With joy and gladness they are led along
as they enter the palace of the king.
In place of your fathers shall be your sons;
you will make them princes in all the earth.
I will cause your name to be remembered in all generations;
therefore nations will praise you forever and ever.

From MzEllen - For the Life of Me
Fit Friday

Two nice walks this week, found this on one of themIMG_2713

From MzEllen - For the Life of Me
Outrageous Grace.

On thinking that God only has one begotten son – the rest of us are children by adoption – and that Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers…This is pretty long, and it’s worth the read.

Our church is doing "Adoption month."  Yes, an entire month on the topic of adoption - and I had the following story a few months ago...it's great.

 PROOF” by Daniel Montgomery and Timothy Paul Jones - is a reworking of TULIP - I like the book.

“Because I’m Yours”

I never dreamed that taking a child to Disney World could be so difficult – or that such a trip could teach me so much about God’s outrageous grace.


Our middle daughter had been previously adopted by another family.  I [Timothy] am sure this couple had the best of intentions, but they never quite integrated the adopted child into their family of biological children.  After a couple of rough years, they dissolved the adoption and we ended up welcoming an eight-year-old daughter into our home.

For one reason or another, whenever our daughter’s previous family vacationed at Disney World, they took their biological children with them, but they left their adopted daughter behind with a family friend. Usually – at least in the child’s mind, this happened because she did something wrong that precluded her presence on the trip.

And so, by the time we adopted our daughter, she had seen many pictures of Disney World and she had heard about the rides and the characters and the parades.  But when it came to passing through the gates of the Magic Kingdom, she had always been the one left on the outside.  Once I found out about this history, I made plans to take her to Disney World the next time a speaking engagement took our family to the south-eastern United States.

I thought I had mastered the Disney World drill.  I knew from previous experiences that the prospect of seeing cast members in freakishly oversized mouse and duck costumes somehow turns children into squirming bundles of emotional insecurity.  What I didn’t expect was that the prospect of visiting this dreamworld would produce a stream of downright devilish behavior in our newest daughter.  In the month leading up to our trip to the Magic Kingdom, she stole food when a simple request would have gained her  a snack.  She lied when it would have been easier to tell the truth. She whispered insults that were carefully crafted to hurt her older sister as deeply as possible — and as the days on the calendar moved closer to the trip, her mutinies multiplied.

A couple of days before our family headed to Florida, I pulled our daughter into my lap to talk about her latest escapade. :I know what you’re going to do," she stated flatly.  “You’re not going to take me to Disney World, are you?”  The thought actually hadn’t crossed my mind, but her downward spiral suddenly started to make some sense.  She knew she couldn’t earn her way into the Magic Kingdom — she had tried and failed that test several times before — so she was living in a way that placed her as far as possible from the most magical place on earth.

In retrospect, I’m embarrassed to admit that, in that moment, I was tempted to turn her fear to my own advantage.  The easiest response would have been “If you don’t start behaving better, you’re right, we won’t take you”  But by God’s grace, I didn’t.  Instead I asked her, “Is this trip something we’re doing as a family?”

She nodded, brown eyes wide and tear-rimmed.

“Are you part of this family?”

She nodded again.

“Then you’re going with us.  Sure, there may be some consequences to help you remember what’s right and what’s wrong — but you’re part of our family and we’re not leaving you behind.

I’d like to say that her behaviors grew better after that moment.  They didn’t.  Her choices pretty much spiraled out of control at every hotel and every rest stop all the way to Lake Buena Vista.  Still, we headed to Disney World on the day we promised, and it was a typical Disney day.  Overpriced tickets, overpriced meals, and lots of lines, mingled with just enough manufactured magic to consider maybe going again someday.

In our hotel room that evening, a very different child emerged.  She was exhausted, pensive, and a little weepy at times, but her month-long facade of rebellion had faded.  When bedtime rolled around, I prayed with her, held her, and asked, “So, how was your first day at Disney World?”

She closed her eyes and snuggled down into her stuffed unicorn.  After a few moments, she opened her eyes every so slightly.  “Daddy,” she said, “I finally got to go to Disney World.  But it wasn’t because I was good.  It’s because I’m yours.”

It wasn’t because I was good…it’s because I’m yours.

That’s the message of outrageous grace.

Outrageous grace isn’t a favor your can achieve by being good; it’s the gift your receive by being God’s.

From The Living Room
in the name of love.

I haven’t seen Selma yet (although I fully plan to), but I have read this interview with its lead actor, David Oyelowo, and he says this in response to the question “Why should American Christians see this movie?”:

Because you see someone who doesn’t just talk about their faith; you see someone who walks it out, with sacrifical love. The Bible says, Greater love hath no man than to lay down his life for his friends.

That is not only what Dr. King did ultimately (in being assassinated); it’s what he did for those 13 years that he led the civil rights movement. Every day he sacrificed seeing his kids. He had to endure death threats. He had to endure ill health. He often went into the hospital for exhaustion, because he was constantly putting himself on the line for others. That’s what the Bible tells us to do.

It’s very easy to hold someone like Dr. King out at arms’ length, make him into an untouchable icon instead of a flawed, sinful, regular guy who got thrust into a particular time and place in history. (I’m not the only one thinking about this; I’ve seen similar sentiments all over Twitter today.) But that’s what he was, which is a comforting thought–if a normal, flawed guy can make a difference, that means I can, too. But it’s also convicting–if a normal, flawed guy can be called to that kind of difficulty and sacrifice, that means I can, too.

* * *
I just started work in a public library branch in what used to be the largest unincorporated African-American community in the South, what’s now a largeish neighborhood in northwest Houston. It’s unfortunately known for its high crime rates, something I was warned about repeatedly when I let people know I was going to work there.

I drive past a sign every day marking a street that’s called Ferguson, and wonder if that name feels weightier now in light of the events of last summer and fall. Likely not. But it reminds me.

And I’ve always been keenly aware of race, as a daughter of both the Korean forests and hills and of the American South and Midwest. Ever since I was a kid I’ve been aware of the history of minorities in this country. But now I find myself working with and for a neighborhood I’m not familiar with, and I occasionally catch myself thinking horrifying things.

This is now the opportunity for me to put into practice all the things I said during Ferguson–I am there to serve and not be served, to listen and to learn and to love my neighbor as myself, but also just to do my job well and treat people as people instead of obstacles, business as usual. Race, so far, hasn’t really been a big deal, but I still look around and think, let justice roll like a river here, too.

I’m just one woman. And I’m not a prophetess, nor the daughter of a prophetess, but if all my thoughts on the gospel and race and culture aren’t relevant in Acres Homes, I don’t know what use they are.