Friday, May 26, 2017

Purple in a Field

In Alice Walker's The Color Purple, she has Celie say a line that paraphrases to "I think God is upset when we pass by the color purple and don't notice it."  Obviously, it is said a little different from that but I'll forego the strong language.

However, I take that line to heart, and I don't like to walk by purple flowers (which are always better than fake purple anything) like lilacs or these wildflowers and not notice them.  So I share.

I also like the color of eggplant, the color of coral, and the color of babies' eyes. 

Pray Again for Christians in the Middle East

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Brave, Stereotypes, White Trash, and Yale Professors

Yesterday was an interesting day for me.  I even cleaned my house--I even cleaned baseboards--which ends up with a  wonderful feeling.  I am trying to hire a new faculty member, and that is working out.  After I brought the dog back from our walk, my husband was watching a Disney movie, Brave, so I got sucked into it because I am proud of my Scottish heritage (which also involves 3/8 of my genetics being Scandinavian, oddly).

The animated movie starts out charmingly enough, with a wild child princess enjoying a horseback ride and archery excursion with flowing red locks. Her mother is traditional and wants her to help keep the clans together by marrying one of her suitors.  The princess rebels at this, and one day in the forest meets a witch who agrees to cast a spell on her mother that doesn't turn out so well.  I'll leave it at that, not because I am afraid of spoilers but because I got tired of it and don't care to go on.

As the commenters on imdb state, the movie has nothing to do with bravery and there really is no clear moral lesson in this film, but the visuals are great.

But beyond this, I mentioned to my husband how foolish it made the Scots look.  They were ugly, fat, vulgar, brawling, drunken, stupid men.  They mooned each other by pulling up the kilt (getting that wrong, since kilts didn't come around til rather late in Scottish history).

The U.S. and dare I say the world would not be what it is without the Scots; the contribution of that tiny country has been remarkable in terms of science, government, arts, settling this country, and the furtherance of Christianity.  So why make the white people look so incredibly ridiculous?  Does Disney do that to other ethnic groups?

Don't worry, I'm not going on some reverse racism tyrant.  White people do have it better in this country, overall (but of course not always) by virtue of being white.  No argument there from me, although the term "white privilege" can be problematic, like "black lives matter."  I just don't see Disney making the Asians, Latinos, Africans, Middle Easterners, or others look the same stupid way.  Scots are safe targets.

I am reminded that in the Northeast in the 1800s, Irish immigrants were not considered white.  Southerners at the time had no trouble with Irish as white.  Southerners have had enough trouble with race relations of their own accord.   

Now, let's turn to another story--the dean at Yale who was writing Yelp reviews of local restaurants saying things like "only white trash people would want to eat there."  This dean is an Asian woman.  Fortunately, she has been disciplined, at least for a while.

I had a conversation a few years back with an Asian colleague who expressed his/her opinion on the people of a neighboring Asian country.  "They smell and are dirty," this colleague insisted.  Imagine me saying that! I wouldn't.

My point is that racism is not the province of white people. There is plenty of racism to go around, and the argument that only non-oppressed people can be racist is ridiculous.

I am safely white, though.  My genetic test (and my brother's, done by a different company) came back 95+% European, although some of that was Southern Europe and we had a little bit of genetic material from Northern Africa and the Middle East.  But no native American, despite what my family has told me and has proof of.  The 3/8ths Scandinavian is probably from the Vikings being in Scotland for centuries. 

Luke 4, Jesus' rejection in Nazareth, and Us

Below I have posted the outline for my Life Group lesson tomorrow on Luke 4, so if someone is scurrying through the Internet on a Saturday and needs help with the lesson, go for it.  But I'll start with some observations.

I really believe that ultimately, rejection by the world is part of being a Christian.  No matter how successful one is becomes at his or her career, profession, art, or work, there will be a time when the "crowd" just dismisses that person for his/her commitment to Christ.  It might be small, or it might be large. 

It might be snarky comments about a sexual ethic such as Mike Pence mentioned (not being alone with a woman other than his wife, which makes perfect sense to most of us in a public position) or rejection over the stance on marriage as heterosexual (Chik-Fil-A) or rejection of materialism as a world view, or anything.  I just think we need to accept it that there will be a glass ceiling for most of us who want to put devotion to Christ first. 

And I as strongly believe we shouldn't whine about it, like a lot of Christians in the U.S. do.  Jesus was very clear about what would come if we follow him; there is no bait and switch with Jesus' form of the gospel (although there is with megachurches and televangelists).  He's very clear about following him not being a bed of roses without the thorns. 

At the same time, if our ethics are less than the world's, we are not following Jesus and we deserve rejection for who we are, not for who Jesus is.  If we allow abuse and scandal in our midst, we pay the price and sadden God, at least metaphorically (I'm not sure God can be saddened by our misdeeds). 

I am writing a book on Daniel and leadership, and I come to chapter 6 and see that after 70 years of faithful service in government, his opponents still refer to him derisively as "the exiled Jew" and seek to depose him on the basis of devotion to God.  If Jesus and Daniel faced this, I doubt we are any better. 

In Luke:  preceded by temptation by Satan in wilderness until an opportune time
4:14-15 beginning ministry in Galilee, which is north of his hometown of Nazareth

Takeaway 1:
Jesus was not just tempted twice (in wilderness and cross).  It was continual; if we are tempted when trying to live for God, how much more was Jesus tempted?

Incident: 16-17

Message:  18-21
Passage from Isaiah 61:1-2 (refer to it)
Takeaway 2:
Jesus is clearly saying, I am the Messiah, and the judgment isn’t coming yet.

Their response and Jesus’ answer:  22-27
Takeaway 3: 
People want miracles, then maybe faith; Jesus wants faith, then maybe miracles
Takeaway 4:
Jesus is for everyone, whether you like it or not. 

The outcome-deliverance and moving on:  31-32

Takeaway 5:  Why do people reject Jesus: 
1.     because he says he is the only way, exclusive
2.     because he says everyone can come to him, inclusive (prejudice)
3.     demands on our lives – need to repent
4.     misunderstanding – that we do it on our own
5.     family pressure – fear
6.     haven’t heard

Takeaway 6:  Some level of rejection of us is to be expected and Jesus was clear about that in the gospels.  So how do we deal with it?

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Observations on Luther

This year being the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation, I have turned my attention to Luther’s 95 Theses, which got it all started.

I just read them for the first time, and they are not what I expected.  They are statements and in some ways, pointed questions directed at the Pope mostly about indulgences. The list is not a full attack on Catholic theology, but almost entirely on the indulgences.  He accepts the office of Pope as valid (at least at this point in time) but not the actions of this one.

Although these 95 Theses are the foundation of the Protestant church, they are not a completed theology, either.  I think he was trying to start a fight, which he sure did, and which I am glad about.

That is not to say these go without scrutiny, only that he got something started, thankfully.  And I was a huge Luther fan until I heard how anti-semitic he was, and read it for myself, so he’s problematic, to say the least.  But as to the Theses . . .  

The first states, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent’ (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance."

Well, it sounds good, but repentance means you have something to repent of, and I think God would prefer we not have to repent constantly, because that would mean we are sinning constantly.  On one hand, this seems like a morbid preoccupation with disobedience, which is no way to live for God.  But I get his drift.  People being what we are, we sin a lot and therefore need to repent, a lot. 

We need constant recalibration, which I think is a good way to think about repentance.  That way we can keep from beating ourselves over the head with it.  The path we are on, we get off of.  Most of us have been fussed at by our GPS’s for taking a wrong turn.  “Recalibrating” or “rerouting,” says our devices’ Siri voices. 

I recalibrate every morning.  Actually more than that.  The only thing is that I wish we could not just look at where we got off the route, but remember and enjoy where we stayed on the route.  In my doctoral dissertation research, I found that the propensity for teachers’ using reflection was to say, “I thought about what went wrong.”  I also found that a lot of them didn’t reflect much, but if all reflection was about was going over the wrong, who would want to reflect? 

Let us repent, but let us rejoice and reflect and reconsider and refresh ourselves.  

Communication as Tic-Tac-Toe

Why do we approach communication, and the teaching and study of it as a tic-tac-toe match rather than positively?

A quotation from an online course in professional communication that I am assigned to teach this summer:

"When you are in the workplace, you will communicate and interact with many people with a variety of personality traits and cultural differences.  Being able to work together well will help you succeed in workplace projects and teams, and understanding your customers will ensure that you don't alienate them!"

 Too often I have heard or read this type of thing, and probably said it myself years ago.  It is really a faulty view of communication and teaching communication, that is, the main reason we study it is "to do no harm." 

When I was a kid playing tic-tac-toe, my only strategy was to keep the other person from getting three across, but never to get three across myself.  Therefore, my games ended in "ties" if you want to call them that.  

Communication is about so much more; it is about advancement of ideas.  It is also a multi-faceted behavior.  I am developing what I call a "personal communication audit" for use with my students.  It needs work, but it includes statements such as "I talk to other people with my cell phone in my hand" and "I help people end their sentences." I use it for students as a pre- and post-test in a class I teach. 

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Another Mother's Day, with Kallmann's Syndrome

My sweet son brought us dinner for Mother's Day. 

Although I have gone off sugar and desserts, I did eat some pie.  

My son is a miracle. I do not tell him that on a regular basis, although he knows it, I think.  It's not something we talk about, that for him to be conceived I went through an interesting series of shots and scans and procedures.  He was not supposed to be, not from a natural point of view.  As I have written before, I have Kallmann's Syndrome, a condition that means much less to me now than it did when I was younger but which still casts a shadow over my life.  Kallmann's has many ramifications, but the real prospect of not having a child is the hardest.

In that light, calling my son a miracle is not a big exaggeration, and the fact that he grew up, survived  pyloric stenosis as an infant, several years of seizure disorder from 4-11, and then grew up to be a taxpayer who likes to cook for his parents.  Considering all the things that can happen to a young man and that his mother was not genetically predisposed to have children, I call that a miracle that he was able to cook for us today.

Purple in a Field

In Alice Walker's The Color Purple , she has Celie say a line that paraphrases to "I think God is upset when we pass by the color...