Friday, January 23, 2009

Reflection on a Dull Day

Today's weather was fit for the mood the economy has put everyone in. Not cold but dark clouds. I went for my walk at Camp Jordan (a two-mile trail around the recreational fields in East Ridge, TN) and was reminded that each day is filled with wonders.

The pond near the arena still had some ice on it (odd when it was 59 degrees outside). Because no one was fishing, the area was flush with birds. Canadian Geese (watch your step), white ducks and mallards, seagulls (yes, seagulls hundreds of miles inland--they come up the barges on the Tennessee River. We have them all over the place). But one caught my eye was a long-legged, slate gray-blue, graceful, elusive heron.

I stalked him, and got within twenty feet, but he escaped me and my ineffectual camera phone, only to fly to the other side of the pond. He wasn't about to let this intrusive human keep him from his dinner.

According to Wikipedia, he and his kind are not in danger of extinction, and cover the United States. Good. Another thing to be thankful for.

Personally, I think the economic conditions are
1. not as bad as the media keeps telling us (but that's easy for me to say, my job is not in jeopardy)
2. due to poor management more than anything else
3. a course correction. I mean, how many things can people own? We reached critical mass on junk.
4. not comparable to the Depression of the thirties for several reasons, and I'm tired of being told it is. I was in WalMart today and saw scores of grossly overweight people. When they start disappearing, I'll believe we're in a Depression.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


It's supposed to be 5 degrees in North Georgia tonight. I am staying in bed and reading tomorrow.

I am pleased that three colleagues in the last week, people with advanced degrees in English, praised my book. Of course, I'd like praise to translate into book sales. But I'll take the praise from people who know good writing.

Speaking of good writing, John Rawls' tome, A Theory of Justice, does not qualify. He could have written it in a fifth of the pages. Snore. At least I understood it. And his section on civil disobedience is interesting, because he distinguishes c.d. from "conscientious refusal." Christians in Acts 3 were not doing civil disobedience in the real sense.

I currently am teaching six classes, a triple overload, and running T&L Center, teaching SBS, doing a Beth Moore study (a subject for another post); trying to keep up with three elderly people and a husband, stay healthy, and read a bunch of books. I don't have time to write now, but it boils within me.

Finally, I watched President Bush's farewell address. I hope that in ten or twenty years people will realize how victimized we were by the left-wing's irrational hatred of Bush, some of it fueled by Satanic opposition to a person of faith. This is not to say he was a great president, often not even an adequate one. He just wasn't the absolute evil moron (an oxymoron; a moron can't be evil, because evil is a choice and a moron isn't smart enough to make choices) that the MSM goes on about. I saw something on the Internet about Will Ferrell (now there's a moron) doing a one-man show about Bush "to hold their feet to the fire." What the hoopie does that mean?

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Baptist Collegiate Ministries Trip "Overflow" December 28-January 1.

At 7:20 or so, in pouring rain, we left Dalton State College campus in four cars. There were 15 of us—nine females, six males, whose names took me a little time to learn. Terah, Laura, Savannah, Tina, Brittany, Beth, Kelly, Kyle, Justin, Jesse, David, Tyson, and Bill (the campus minister). And I—more than two times older than the oldest student, older than their mothers.

I was driving the school minivan with five girls. The rain stopped by the time we were on the other side of Chattanooga and did not return until south of Birmingham, and then only for a few minutes. We traveled to Birmingham as expected, but Bill’s GPS detoured us through Mobile, putting maybe an extra hour on the trip. We remedied that on the way back, taking I-59 the whole way. We stopped at an uninspiring town called Enterprise for a fast food lunch. The Burger King had no soap in the women’s restroom (never a good sign) and when one of our guys spilled his drink, the management was not worried about mopping it up (although I was).

The girls in my van were relatively quiet, but it was interesting to listen to their talk when they did. Two of them watched a DVD player; the first selection was Power Rangers, and then the Disney version of Robin Hood. One girl read for a while. They slept a lot, as I had imagined they would. They talked about high school and about some relationships (other people’s). They did not talk about politics, school (except to complain), global issues, or spiritual topics (except where they went with their youth groups). One girl is from Woodstock, GA; she did have a few things to say about First Baptist of Woodstock, a megachurch that she does not attend. They grammar and diction was discouraging; “like” abounded. At one point they referred to the “retard bus” at their school. Their conversation showed a frighteningly lack of curiosity. On the other hand, they got a kick out a woman who passed us who was dancing in her car, but they did not refer to her as “that black woman,” definitely a difference in generation. They kept their conversations in the acceptable range, and seemed to feel comfortable talking around me, the driver, who rarely spoke and listened to an odd collection of CDs.

We finally got to Lakeshore, MS, after 4:00 (Eastern time—my mind and body simply cannot deal with Central Time). Lakeshore is where we worked and ate; fifteen or twenty minutes away, in Bay St. Louis, is where we slept, in a cabinish kind of facility owned by First Baptist Church of Bay St. Louis, a quaint town right on the water. We walked around, glad to breathe and move after more than 550 miles in a car. The facility was better than sleeping on the floor of a church gym, which had been the plan. There were bunk beds, mattresses, and electric sockets (only one of which worked) and heat, and one bathroom for 11 women (it worked out, though). I sarcastically referred to it as concentration camp style living, which was unfair. Three sweet girls from Armstrong Atlantic stayed with us.

I survived and even got some sleep, thanks to Benadryl and Tylenol PM. The girls were rarely quiet, but that is how college girls are and I couldn’t expect less. They were generally a lot of fun and cooperative and not in the least catty, at least from what I saw; however, we did occasionally get on each other’s nerves in such close quarters. Being with a bunch of college girls was enlightening. They talk almost entirely about things that don’t interest me, of course, their conversation mostly seemed like prattle, very self-oriented if not self-centered.

On Sunday night we drove back down U.S. 90 to eat dinner in Lakeshore and attend a service; there was a service every night, with preaching by one of the campus ministers. The trip allowed us to see Waveland and Bay St. Louis, which had been pretty much the ground zero area for Katrina. Everything was either new and shiny or pretty beat up. Lakeshore had been under 40 feet of water, an unbelievable thought.

Bill and I got to talk to the pastor of Lakeshore Baptist, a 40-member church that had decided that rebuilding that little community not a mile from the water will be its mission. Its website is here and here Don Elbourne is an amazing individual, an inspiration, a scholar whose Ph.D. work at New Orleans Baptist Seminary was detoured by Katrina, a man who lost his home like so many others; and a Baptist, I am happy to say, who understands the Reformational roots of our faith. The church hosts groups all year round; it has built over 100 homes; it is rushing now to get people into homes before FEMA yanks all the trailers and cottages by March. Bill told me that most pastors burn out after six months of disaster relief; Don is going on three and half years. He and the church and his family deserve our prayers and support. They work with NAMB, the Salvation Army, and Habitat. They are accomplishing things that most of us only dream about.

On Monday morning we rose at 5:45 to leave at 6:30 to eat breakfast in Lakeshore; breakfasts were hearty, not just cereal and bananas—we had eggs, grits, bacon, sausage, biscuits, gravy, pastries, cereals, juices, coffee, milk, and cocoa available to us. We would need it. Our job ended up being to clear a several acre field. We set to it. I decided my job would be to look for logs and bring them to the fire. That I did. In two days the field was cleared, with over 30 people working on it. Now it’s ready for a bush hog. I don’t think the field had been touched since the storm; lots of debris that had probably been in the road had simply been pushed into the field and left. It was hard work, including chain saws and axes and several big bonfires. I wasn’t overly happy about the environmental impact of the fires (fueled by accelerant) or all the trash we created (I’m not sure where it would go!).

I have a yard and do lots of yard work, so it was not unlike being at home. I was watchful for snakes, but no one reported any. The students seemed to suffer from ADD of the work ethic at times; they would work hard to a while, maybe an hour, but then need a break to eat Little Debbies, take pictures, and mostly flirt. I saw a lot of flirting. That began to wear on me, especially one couple that liked to “wrestle.” We worked for four hours in the morning and two in the afternoon, when it got fairly warm. The daily weather was quite nice, but once the sun was down it was pretty cold, much colder than I expected, due to the constant humidity of the Coast. My husband always said it got cold in Biloxi when he was in the Air Force at Keesler, which I never believed. Now I believe it. The dampness makes Chattanooga feel like Colorado in comparison.

The field will either be used by the church for a new building or for houses. By the way, the church builds small houses, less than 1000 square feet, and obviously for those who are unable to afford the insurance necessary to rebuild. My friend who lives in Kiln told me that their church wanted to rebuild on the coast by the insurance premiums would have been $250,000 a year, something they could not pay in good conscience. Bill liked to drive along the beach to get the Lakeshore from Bay St. Louis; it was shorter but more circuitous. It was a pleasant drive. Some have rebuilt, but obviously people with money. The homes are very large and are required to be built nine feet off the ground (on stilts).

On the third day, Wednesday, we painted parts of First Baptist of Bay St. Louis; I love to paint; it’s very soothing. We had the afternoon off. Some of the groups opted to go to New Orleans on New Year’s Eve, but Bill and I had decided earlier that was not for us. A wise move; those who went couldn’t find parking, of course. I got together with a friend who lives down there and had a good time over coffee; that conversation was very personal and not relevant to this posting, except her comment on living in that area in the aftermath of Katrina. “When friends get together we try not to talk about it, not to bring it up, but somehow it always comes up, even in just discussing where things used to be that have moved but are no longer there.”

The kids stayed out on the beach on New Year’s Eve, watching fireworks from the casinos and shooting a few off themselves; it was quite cold that evening, and windy, so they didn’t have much success. I went to sleep early, since I was driving. We left in the morning by 8:20 Eastern time and I was back in Ringgold by 5:30.

Observations: Disaster relief has allowed Southern Baptist men who don’t—or can’t—preach—to be useful. That’s why I think it’s so important and successful.

We all have to debate and question why people (a) didn’t leave before Katrina came and (b) why they want to continue living there and (c) should they continue living there. I have no answers to those questions; I don’t live there nor do I have roots there. What it conforms for me is the sense of place, how important it is to people. Some still feel it in this country, although many have lost it. We think we could move to greener pastures so easily after an event like “the storm”, and perhaps we could have.

I really wish the disaster relief folks would get a handle on the environmental impact issue. I’m not a global warming alarmist, but it seems like we’d do an even better job if we recycled carefully, at the very least.

I learned a bit about youth. The boys were incredibly silly, full of energy but capable of taking long breaks and disappearing from the work site. They spent all their money on fast food despite the food being served at the camp site. Cell phones and Mp3 players were never out of sight. Not all of them have equal work ethics, to say the least. They can easily watch others work. When we went out to dinner at a supposedly nice seafood restaurant (it wasn’t), the boys never stopped—loud, not seeming to care that the other diners might not want to hear them, flirting audaciously with the waitress. They disturbed me with their attitude toward the girls; I even told them I thought their attitude was superficial, which they didn’t take well but I meant. One said how hot Jennifer Anniston was; “she’s twice your age” I responded; it didn’t matter, he said, because she had the body of an eighteen year old. Not exactly New Testament Christianity. On the other hand they were funny, and their hearts were in the right place.

I am so glad I was able to go on this trip. It was educational, fun, and inspiring. I doubt I will travel with this group again but I would like to continue involvement in the disaster relief effort and similar projects.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Oh, my . . .

I just got back this evening from a five day trip doing "disaster relief" with a group of Baptist Collegiate Ministries students from all over Georgia. We were in Lakeshore and Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. Quite an experience. I will blog about it tomorrow. I drove 530 miles today and am understandably tired.

Text of my presentation at Southern States Communication Conference on Open Educational Resources

On April 8 I spoke at SSCA on the subject of Open Educational Resources.  Here is the text of my remarks. The University System of Geo...