Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thoughts from Samuel 1 and 2

UnitedStatesians say "Second Samuel." UKers says "Two Samuel." I wonder why. It's really all one book, anyway, which I'll refer to as "Samuel."

Samuel must have been inspiration for a lot of Shakespeare. David and Saul's struggle is mythic and yet very modern. I can see it happening in corporate America.

The last twelve chapters or so are real downers, but there are some bright spots. Barzillai, the story of the three loyal men sneaking into Bethlehem to get David some water (which he offers to the LORD instead of drinking himself, which a modern would find rude but really isn't), and the encounter with Araunah the Jebusite. "I will not sacrifice to the Lord that which costs me nothing." That is a life verse if there ever was one.

Of course, there is also Bathsheba, Absalom, Amnon and Tamar, the census of the people, Joab's shenanigans, and the fellow's head being thrown over the wall. Rough times.

Speaking of rough times, our new pastor this morning spoke about how he and his wife lost their home and belongings, everything, in Katrina. He showed a video. It was startling, saddening. I asked the Lord to bless us with less. Less is more. Not that level of less, but less all the same.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Weekly Reader

I should probably sign in once a week and write about what I'm reading, that is, what's in my bookbag and/or on my nighttable that I either am struggling to get through or am looking for time to finish.
1. Sue Graston's latest Kinsey Milhone book, T is for Trespass. I love these books although I don't know why. They are not quite as good as the British detective novels (Susan George and the great P.D. James) but there is something about the voice of narrative. She knows herself and yet she doesn't.
2. Frederick Buechner's Then and Now. He, like Annie Dillard and Kathleen Norris, provide a view of Christian spirituality I desperately need. Most evangelical preaching and writing can be so . . . well, I can't think of any suitable words that aren't extremely negative. Anyway, I don't read much evangelical writing. (Thinking evangelicals don't read much of it either; they read nonevangelical writing and "translate it."
3. The Naked Public Square by Richard John Neuhaus. Very interesting, but I think he could have condensed it. And now it's out of date, of course, since anything about political trends will be out of date quickly.
4. Mindful Learning by Ellen Langer. Short and sweet. I liked it and will recommend for reading group. Less than a day to read (I'm not a fast reader).
5. Learner-Centered Teaching by MaryEllen Weimer. I wish I could make myself finish this book. It seems an unnecessary rehash of Brookfield, except that she is honest about the critical predagogy and Frankfurt School stuff up front, whereas Brookfield waits until the last chapter, I think, to out himself as a Marxist.
I have about 100 books on my shelves waiting to be read. So many books, so little time. Some of us truly do envision heaven as a library. Thankfully God's in charge of that, not us.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Question of the Week

Who would have ever thought a return to 1994-2000 would qualify as change?

The more things change the more things stay the same, I guess.

Addendum

I was looking through these posts and read the one from October 13 where I said I was so tired. Soon after that I went back to taking what I call my vegetable powder. It's actually Life Essence: The Master Multiple.
The stuff is amazing. I have so much more energy and consequently am quite upbeat--back to my Type A self. And since I have to drink it with at least a pint of water in the morning, it gets that part of me going (it does "green" the urine, though). Here's the link-- http://www.pureessencelabs.com Free advertising.
I also take a cranberry pill for urinary tract health (sorry, but women need this advice), calcium, flaxseed and fish oil tablets, an aspirin, and B-12 pill in the morning.

Book idea

At this risk of giving away an idea, I have a great book project idea (to go along with my book on teaching in an open access colleges and on evangelical uses of deTocqueville). The name of this book would be All the Ways to Say He Died: Gleanings from the Obituaries.

I thought of this yesteday in reading, well, the obituaries of the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Most of them say either "He died," "She passed away," or "He went home to be with the Lord." But there will occasionally be a unique one. I propose to go through the archives of obituaries and find all the interesting ways family members find to express the thought, "He's dead."

Case in point: "(Name), 82 years after being born in (Town--and by the way, a town very far from here) has left a gaping space in this world and in the hearts of her family and friends on Thursday, November 20, 2008."

Maybe I have a perverse sense of humor, but I find this funnt. Number One, the wording seems to hint at blame--as if Name created this gaping space on purpose. Number Two, the grammar; am I the only one who seems to feel that last prepositional phrase is out of place? To me it reads that the only time the gaping space will exist in time is on that one day. The "82 years after being born" doesn't help either. And Number Three, the missed poetry. I know the writer of this obit was trying to devise a creative metaphor for death, but it just doesn't work for me.

I am reminded of John 11 (my favorite passage in the Bible). Jesus is forced to say plainly, "Lazarus is dead" because in trying to be more gentle or oblique by calling death "sleep", the disciples were missing the point. In this vein, the announcement of my death will be sufficient (and I hope a long time from now!) and I will instruct my descendants to keep it short and simple.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Most Depressing Bible Story

This week I had to teach (well, I was scheduled to teach based on SBC lit--I fudge a lot of times on that) the story of David and Bathsheba. What a sordid mess. Why did God put that in the Bible? It probably proves in and of itself that the Bible is not a totally man-made document--an ancient culture would never tell that story about its great warrrior king. And so what? Kings took other men's wives all the time back then. No big. And of course, Bathsheba was just a victim of women's oppression.

NOT.

I think the story is there specifically to say no one is ever above the law. And Bathsheba is a hootchie if there ever was one. Let's not feel sorry for her. She saw her chance and took it--sleep her way to the top. I hope gossip followed her for the rest of her life.

I'm more interested in the story two chapters earlier. In the afterglow of being promised an eternal Heir over an eternal kingdom, David acts, as he could on his best days, like that eternal Heir. He restores Mephibosheth to his birthright as Saul's son. It's a beautiful story of grace, especially when we realize M.'s real name is Meri-Baal (what's a good Jewish boy doing with a name like that?). I see myself; I see us all. M. refers to himself as a dead dog--what is more worthless and even troublesome than roadkill, something of which we know a lot in North Georgia?

When I was in Italy, we were strolling on a breezy, balmy night down the streets of Sorrento. Italy absolutely gets under one's skin and into the circulatory system; I'd love to go back except that I'm almost afraid of its power over me. But that night in Sorrento, our first night there, we were met with packs of stray dogs roaming the crowded streets. One of my co-travelers had to say, "Who let the dogs out?" which got a laugh, but I felt as if I were back in the streets of Judaea 2000 years ago, when dogs were dogs--wild, feral, stray, unloved, kicked, occasionally used for a purpose but not of much value. We Americans love our dogs--too much, probably. Even a dead dog we have trouble valuing as nothing if it was our pet. But in David's time, a dead dog was worthless.

That touches me about M's story, as does the last sentence of the chapter. Despite all David did, all David restored to M, M was still lame in his feet. He would always be. Despite all God gives us in the Christian experience and all the grace of just being human, we are still lame in our feet, so to speak. We are still in these wonderful but aging bodies. We are still haunted by memories. We are still tossed about by elections, wildfires, 9-11s, grief, wars, disease.

Already, but not yet is the phrase I like to repeat to myself. On my headstone I want the word, Yet.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Barna Rules (unfortunately)

If I hear another preacher quote Barna research about how apathetic and ungodly Christians are--I'll scream.

Perhaps people misquote Barna. Perhaps Barna wants to be misquoted. Perhaps Barna's research is questionable. I don't know. But all Barna does is find out how sorry we Christians are.

Well, yes, we are sorry. And we know it. Maybe we're more honest? Am I really to believe Christians watch as much internet porn as nonChristians? Who are these people Barna is interviewing? Maybe the nonChristians are lying about how much they watch?

It just doesn't add up to me.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Blessings

A colleague of mine, a history prof, former military, New Jerseyite, baseball scholar, and all-round good guy asked me the other day how I was holding up. I should say he used to be the sponsor of the College Republicans. I knew what he meant. We had a good conversation commiserating.

Yet not despairing. This blog is sometimes unremittingly dark, and I apologize. I am greatly blessed and it is time to count them.

1. It is raining, hard, in Northwest Georgia. WE NEED RAIN.

2. The faculty development workshops I held today went well. The speaker did a nice job, a sizable number came out on a gooey Friday, and we even had food provided (a private joke for anyone who has ever tried to get food for a university system of Georgia function. The state is scared to death of abuse of privilege. Sandwiches for an advisory council hardly seems like fraud. Some of this stems from a Georgia Tech official charging $250,000 on the school credit card for personal expenses. The rest of us peons pay the price.)

3. I cleaned up my home office this evening.

4. People are buying my book, I think. I find anyone buying it a miracle.

5. I am allowed to teach the Bible.

6. I have a great job, all things considered.

7. NPR. For all its left-of-centerness, I am thankful for the quality of NPR, and for its humanity. Example: http://www.npr.org/templates/player/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=96828169&m=96845048 I heard this Tuesday and almost had to stop the car.

8. My son is happy.

9. For having been able to make good decisions in my life, and for surviving the bad ones.

10. I can stay home tomorrow and rest.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Fascinating Interview

On the Christianity Today website there is this link to the interview Catherine Falsani did with Barack Obama a few years ago. It's about his religious beliefs. It's very enlightening.
http://blog.christianitytoday.com/ctpolitics/2008/11/obamas_fascinat.html

Now, I'm not going to criticize Obama for his religious beliefs. They are perfectly understandable, considering his upbringing. And I'm not one of those Christians who thinks the president has to believe just like I do. Most of them haven't, and there are other factors that affect one's performance as president other than his church affiliation. A lot of decent presidents have been ambiguous about that part of their lives, and it's only been since Jimmy Carter that we've much cared (well, people cared about Kennedy as a Catholic, maybe, but he discarded that problem by implying he really wasn't much of a Catholic anyway.)

But what strikes me about Obama's is that he is trying to please this interviewer with such circumspect answers. He's careful not to commit himself to any "dogma." If he doesn't commit himself to any real religious belief (all roads lead to the same place, which no religion really believes at its core), does he believe in anything political? Does he believe in anything except himself as president?

I don't know. I just ask the questions. We have elected a cipher.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Friend's blog

See http://www.lauraechevarria.blogspot.com/ for a blog on pro-life issues. Laura is a former student of mine; her husband Pedro hosts a news program on C-Span. She is very well informed on pro-life issues.

I have not taken the time to understand RSS feeds, so for now this is my way of linking to another blog!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Second Try

I could erase/delete the last (next one down) blog entry, but I'll keep it because it partially reflected my feelings about the election results. But only partially. I did not mean to imply that only "older" African-Americans (by that I supposed I meant older than me!) were the only ones who were affected by racism. I meant only to say they have been in the fight longer and had probably despaired of seeing a person of color in the Oval Office in their lifetimes, if ever. While it is hard for me to see how a person like Kobe Bryant or Tiger Woods or Oprah or even a young black person in college today has really been affected by racism, I know better. There is still a lot of racism in this country, just as there is discrimination against women. I sometimes feel that women make their own problems, however, with stupid decisions, than other groups do, so I set them apart. In the end, classism and moneyism rule the day.

Nor did I mean to take a stand on the second coming doctrine or imply in any way that Obama is the anti-Christ. What foolishness. He is a politician--a very good one. That is the nicest thing I can say about him, since I disagree so much with his view of America, or at least think I do. Maybe I will change my mind. Maybe even at my age I will be happy to see the military decimated and more taxes and more government intervention in people's lives. Maybe he can do something about this economy--I know he can do something to it, but about it may be another matter. But I am glad he's at least putting some more seasoned people on his staff, including a Zionist, and that he has reminded Americans we have one president at a time.

That being said, the real anti-christ, when and if, will make even Obama's popularity (which is probably short-lived, considering attention spans today) pale in comparison.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Oh, well, perhaps life will go on

I went to Birmingham today with a friend to visit the Birminham Museum of Art. It's magnificent. It contains many not-so-great works by great artists, but it's good to see those works anyway. For example, there is a Mary Cassatt (who doesn't like Mary Cassatt?), but it lacks the charm of all other Mary Cassatt paintings I have seen. There were some Rembrandt sketches; there is a Monet, but a pretty mediocre one; Gilbert Stuart, Rembrandt Peale, Benjamin West, Childe Hassam, Camille Pisarro, a Courbet, a Millet, a Corot, Dorothea Lange, Andy Warhol, N.C. Wyeth, and many others are represented. It was a nice surprise.

And one of my favorite paintings, Albert Bierstadt's Looking Down Yosemite Valley, was there. Ah, that was a joy. That luminism!

My friend is a borderline conspiracy theorist. She's one step away from saying Barack Obama is the anti-Christ. She's taking some kind of Bible prophecy class and insists on seeing Bible prophecy in everything. Me, I'm not even committed to the idea of a rapture. Maybe, maybe not. That's God's business. I just know Christ will come back. I sincerely doubt B.H.O. has anything to do with it (although it's tempting to think so. A colleague admitted to asking her husband if Obama was the Anti-Christ. "He's too stupid to be the anti-Christ," her husband replied. I dare say yes. The Anti-Christ would not make a smart remark about Nancy Reagan having seances in the White House. How incredibly snarky, disrespectful, and rude--the three words I would use to describe the man we have to call president-elect.)

Oh, well, as the title suggest, life goes on. I can still enjoy the Bierstadt; I can still blog; my house is almost paid for; I have a job I can work at til I'm dead; my son will be able to get out of college debt-free, thanks to our frugality; we have no other debt; our credit score is out the roof; God's blessings pour down on us. But I am frightfully angry at the abject stupidity of the American people for electing Obama. Not because liberals don't have a right to vote for someone who supports their views--I share some of those, specifically on the environment (but not on social ethics and not the economy, which I think we are overreacting to). I'm mad as h--- because millions of people voted for him unthinkingly, with no knowledge of his positions, only because of his race, only so they could say they voted for him, only because the economy is bad. Because he was elected by whim and not by principles. Like so many presidents before him.

That being said, I am happy for those older African-American folks who truly have suffered from racism in this country, who have paid the price, who have lived to see a person of their race awarded the prize. (Although I am puzzled why Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas and Condoleeza Rice and Colin Powell did not receive the same adulation for achieving those high offices--could it be only about politics after all?)

God help us. We need it.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Movie Likeness

My top six favorite comedies are:
1. Some Like It Hot
2. What About Bob
3. Tootsie
4. Bowfinger
5. Napoleon Dynamite
6. Ed Wood

Two of them are about cross-dressing men. Two of them star Bill Murray. The fourth one is extremely underrated comedy about a horrible movie director making a horrible movie by following an action film star around. #4 and #6 are very similar. The only one that doesn't share a theme or star with the others is Napoleon Dynamite (although I though LaFawnda was a drag queen the first time I saw it; she's not; she's just a very tall and very attractive African-American woman.)

In Bowfinger Eddie Murphy's character is neurotic or psychotic or both. He's a member of a Scientology-like cult called MindHead. He sees racism everywhere. In a hilarious sequence, he tries to convince his agent that a script is racist. "There are 636 K's in this script; that's 212 KKKs. Don't you see that?" "Well, I admit it's not Shakespeare." "There you go again. Shakespeare. Shake a spear. Spear chucker. See? See? The sickness is deep."

Thank goodness that Eddie Murphy can laugh at this. However, as I watch the ad, sponsored by some Republican PAC and showing in Pennsylvania, showing Rev. Jeremiah Wright ranting, I am reminded of Eddie Murphy's character's rant. "This is the US of KKKA." What????

Rent the movie, watch it, and see if I'm wrong. If nothing else, you'll see a funny movie, and heaven knows we could all stand a laugh.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

100th Post

I've reached my one hundredth blog post. If anyone reads these, please let me know! I truly feel like a meaningless voice in the cyberwilderness. I'd especially like feedback from anyone who has read my novel. I have another novel (two-parter) at the publisher now, and ideas for five more, but work and life are displacing time for writing.

Writing, especially fiction writing, is such an act of faith. Or stupidity. A friend asked me why it took me eight years to write the first novel and less than a year to write the second (which may end up being two novels). I could only say that I never thought I'd find a publisher for the first one, so any writing was purely because of the desire to get the story on paper and then perfect it (well, improve it. There are some things I would change now if I could, and I wonder if all writers feel that way).

All action, not just artistic action, is an act of hope and faith. I got my husband to the polls yesterday; I was determined to have him vote early, so now all three of us have voted for John McCain and done our duty. Voting for John McCain is an act of hope, too; Yahoo says we are glum. It always aggravates me when someone tells me how I'm supposed to feel just because some people who were polled felt that way. Anyway, I can't help but display the words of Sara Groves wonderful song. This song brought me out of a slough of despond recently.

you do your work the best that you can
you put one foot in front of the other
life comes in waves and makes its demands
you hold on as well as you’re able
you've been here for a long long time
hope has a way of turning its face to you
just when you least expect it
you walk in a room you look out a window
and something there leaves you breathless
you say to yourself
it's been a while since i felt this
but it feels like it might be hope
it's hard to recall what blew out the flame
it's been dark here since you can remember
you talk it all through to find it a name as days go on by without number
you've been here for a long long time
hope has a way of turning its face to you
just when you least expect it
you walk in a room you look out a widow
and something there leaves you breathless
you say to yourself
it's been a while since i felt this
but it feels like it might be hope

Many conservatives are feeling hopeless right now. If these conservatives are Christian believers, they are wrong to feel this way, no matter how understandable it may be. God will not stop being God on November 5th. For those of us who admire John McCain and are appalled that Americans would find Barack Obama a more inspirational figure than McCain, I would simply point out that what we admire about McCain is his tenacity, his ability to go through, by choice even, what he did, his honor. McCain has been criticized by the right for not bringing up Jeremiah Wright; I believe he was right to do so, both politically and morally. True, he didn't want to be accused of any racism in attacking a black minister, but I think he also is a man who believes things like church membership to be personal and beyond public criticism.

So I do feel a lot of anger about this election, and not just because my candidate is supposed to lose. It's why he's losing. It's the stupidity of the electorate, the short-sightedness about the economy, the gullibility, the money pouring in from foreign sources to support Obama, the lies from the left, the venomous attacks on Palin, the media's incredible bias that they haven't tried to hide and has even flagrantly admitted to, Hollywood's audacity, the voter registration fraud, the rhetoric of polling, and I could go on. And I'm mad that Bush has ruined it twice for McCain. First in South Carolina with vicious lies in 2000, and now with the overspending of his administration. And I'm mad that the Right does not live up to its higher ideals and often resorts to a lot of the same ethical problems of the left.

All that said, I have not lost hope. Obama will have to govern (what a joke, him governing) from the Center; even his own party will not go along with some of what he would like to do. In two years the American people, enough of them, will come out of their stupor, realize they are paying more taxes despite everything they believed, realize we are less safe than now, and vote in some conservatives.

Even more, I have not lost hope because even if this country becomes Socialistic (more than it already is) and antagonistic toward Christians (something even I can admit may be partially understandable considering the rhetoric of some parts of the Religious Right), God is still God.

Underneath the Path of Totality

I drove as far north as I could in the time I had to get to the Path of Totality. I was maybe 15 or 20 miles below it, i.e., Cleveland, TN. ...