Showing posts from December, 2009


When I was in SC recently (December 12, to be exact) I went for a walk in the morning. It was cold (well, dampy cold, as I call it, the way it gets in the south that makes you feel like it's much colder than it is). As I turned the corner away from my mother-in-law's house, I heard a fire engine siren, but it wasn't in a hurry.

I looked up the main street of town and realized,happily, that it was a parade! A standard Christmas parade in a small southern town. It was quite a democratic, big-tent, tolerant affair. Apparently anyone who wanted to parade could. There were the typical participants. Pretty girls--Miss Teen Duncan-Wellford-Lyman sitting high in the back seat of a convertible, and Miss (not-Teen) Duncan-Wellford-Lyman following, in a Camaro convertible. Politicians. Girl and Boy Scout troops. Teams and cheerleaders. Small business owners looking for some free advertising. Kiwanis and Lion's Club types. And those who just had interesting vehicles a…

Last Day of the Year

This being December 31, I will list my activities and accomplishments for the year.
This is an exercise in self-evaluation more than anything anybody has to read, so you can skip this.

Writing and scholarship: Seven editions of the newsletter for Teaching and Learning Center; one solid researched article for it; blog postings; one presentation (very short) that was included in a textbook; three speakers brought in for TLC, and many faculty presentations. Promoted to associate professor (of communication, even); asked to participate in self-study (yuch); found out my next two novels will be published (eventually)

Travel: Gulf Coast; Atlanta many times; Jefferson City, once; SC, twice; Mexico on a cruise; northern VA for reunion.

Reading: About fifty books; ten or more of them for church and ministry; several on teaching, history, politics, philosophy, fiction, spiritual memoir. Participated in two Beth Moore studies (that will do for now).

Movies: too many, most stupid, but also some…

Writing, Faith, and Merton

People who write, I'm sorry to say, are loners. It's a lonely activity and very few of us are extroverts. I'm one of the more extroverted ones, but it is a learned extroversion, and to the extent I practice my learned extroversion I cannot practice writing. I saw this because I'm reading two intensely spiritual works, memoirs in a sense, although very different--one author moving towards Protestant faith, one toward Catholicism. While a writer must be sensitive to other people in order to find an audience, he/she must first be self-sensitive, which has its good and bad points.

Yet I know that we are called to be in face-to-face interaction with people for Christ's sake, so it's a constant struggle about how much to write and how much to be with people. I like people, very much. But I'm not a talker, prefering to express my opinions in writing. Anyway, I teach college and get to talk a lot for a living, so at the end of the day my vocal words are spent a…

The End of the World as We Know It

I heard this rather upbeat song, considering the words, the other day on NPR (the home of eclectic music choices in Chattanooga). It's by REM, and most have heard it. After repeating that line three times to a bumpy, driving tune, the vocalist says, "And I feel fine." I assume it's all supposed to be ironic; I never know what to take as sincere or at face value anymore.

But the phrase has got me thinking. I've been reading editorials about "the end of the decade" and "what should be call this decade" (the "ohs"? the "uh-ohs"?) and all the bad things that have happened in the first ten years of the new millennium (without anyone really noticing that the millennium is based on the medieval notion of when Christ was born and is really wrong and arbitrary anyway, and also no one noticing that the decade doesn't really end until Dec. 31, 2010.

We've had a disputed election, 9/11, two wars, the tsunami, Katrina, an…

Blue Like Jazz

I gave this book to my son for Christmas (I didn't overdo this Christmas--socks, underwear, regifts, and used books for him) but I had to read it first, of course. I had heard or read that is was great and life-changing and all that. But I am a cynic; if everybody loves something, I approach it guardedly, as opposed to with high expectations.

I should say that right now I am also reading Calvin's Institutes I and The Seven Storey Mountain by the Catholic monk, Thomas Merton. Those are pretty high standards of spiritual writing, so reading Donald Miller's book at the same time and in some ways in comparison is really not fair.

In short, some of it was good, some of it was fair, and some of it was just silly. I liked his ideas more than I think I liked him. I want to say to him, "don't you think it's time to grow up?" He strikes me as childish, and the book's target audience is not middle-aged women, even those who would go see Star Trek or Avat…


First of all, there is something stereotypical and disturbing to me about going to a movie on Christmas, but apparently that is what people do now. You open presents, eat a lot, lie around, get bored looking at the lame TV offerings and at your family, and look in the paper to see what's playing at the local -plex. My brother and his family were visiting from Maryland (they have now gone on to New Orleans for their cruise!) and my son and nephew (same age) wanted to go to a movie. So we ended up paying $12.00 a piece to see 3-D Avatar at 7:50, missing our original choice of 2-D at 7:25. The place was packed (but not our particular theater for that particular showing).

My comments on the movie:
1. Why do I have to pay $3.00 extra for a 3-D movie? I did this two weeks ago for Christmas Carol. I can keep the glasses and save the money. I won't be going to any more and probably not to any more movies for a while.
2. The movie is worth seeing (but not worth $12.00--sorry, I…

Me and Books

I heard someone say once that heaven would be a library. As much as I love to read, that makes no sense. The making of books is a completely human, completely earthly pursuit. In heaven we will have perfect knowledge, supposedly, so books will be unnecessary; at the least, we will not care about the human pursuits that drive the writing of books. Of course, this makes heaven seem incredibly dull, for us bibliophiles, but if we just make heaven out to be a nice version of our best days on earth, we are missing the mark quite a bit there.

I will read pretty much anything that is recommended to me, but not necessarily what is given to me. I have found that people don’t always read the books you give them. Books have to be chosen, I think; that doesn’t always mean bought, of course, but chosen from a shelf, whether retail, used, or library. We are blessed by McKay’s in Chatanooga, and I can’t go in there without buying a used book. I bought John Piper’s Don’t Waste Your Life, Don…

Movie Review Number ??

I collect Christmas Carols, so I had to go see the new 3-D Robert Zemeckis version. Very nice. A little overdone at points, but spectacular visual experience. And they kept in the Christianity. Very faithful to the original, which I am happy to say I have read. Thumbs up and four stars are not original; I’ll just say it’s worth seeing, but not for young children. The old black and white scared the hooey out of me when I was a kid; this one, being 3-D as well as nightmarish, would do the same.

Worship Wars

Hardly a week goes by that I don’t get into a talk with someone about different styles of worship. Like a lot of evangelicals (I may start the new year by eschewing that label altogether) I go to a church that has an alternative service—and I’m beginning to wonder which one is the alternative! In the sanctuary, which is a beautiful building, by the way, we have two morning services that are not entirely traditional, but we do have a choir and sing some traditional songs. In the family life center we have a contemporary service. I do not mind telling people that I don’t like the contemporary service, largely because the congregation sits in the dark and people tend to wander in and out, really not focused on the service. That drives me crazy! And the legitimate reaction to that is. .. .

So what?

If others prefer that kind of a service, it’s not my business to argue against it.

Or is it?

This turn of events leads me to ask some other questions:

1. Why am I the critical person if I d…

Odd and Ends and Odd Ends

The Road

I have been able to read more since the semester ended and finished Cormac McCarthy’s The Road a couple of days ago. I wanted to read the book before I went to see the movie, but now I doubt I will go see the movie—not because it won’t be good, but because I want to preserve my own experience of the book.

It was remarkable. The first time I read McCarthy was All the Pretty Horses, and my response to a colleague is “I have no business writing fiction after reading that book.” My, he can write. He reaches a level of writing that is literary without being pretentious or inaccessible. There is plot and character and theme and setting and emotion and involvement for the reader, something I don’t always experience in literary fiction, along with an elegant yet sometimes jolting prose style.

The Road has been summarized and analyzed and reviewed plenty already; good grief, it won a Pulitzer, so I guess enough has been said about it. All I know is its effect on me. If I dream about parts…

Thoughts on Reality TV

I think we need a new reality TV show called "Who are the Kardashians and Why Should I Care?"

There appear to be certain genres of reality shows. The first version is a redo of the old "Ted Mack Amateur Hour." I know that the young audiences watching American Idol and America's Got Talent think it's new, but the only differences I can see is that instead of an "applause-o-meter" back in the '60s, we have people texting in their votes, and we have three judges of fairly predictable responses.

The second genre are competition shows where the contestants really do have to show prolonged talent. Project Runway and shows about cooking, cosmetology, and interior decorating (which obviously I do not watch because I can't name them) fit into this category, and these are probably the most educational and have some socially redeeming value.

The third genre would be Survivor and Big Daddy or whatever that show is called (I'm trying to be funny he…

Thoughts, revisited

The semester is over, my grades and reports are in, and I am enjoying Christmas, for the first time in a while. I took my mother on a yearly Christmas shopping/lunch venture, and I actually--happily--bought presents for folks. There was a time in my life when I hated to see December coming. Maybe the snow Saturday did it, maybe being in control of my classes did, and maybe it's just part of my spiritual journey.

I am listening to Bill O'Reilly's book on tape (free from the public library) and have decided it's time to start writing my own memoir. Surely I can write as well as he. I just can't bloviate about how good my writing is.

I bought more books today. Now the stack is up to thirty or more. Yikes.

Here is a good article/blog posting.

Good link

This article changed my life! Well, it changed my perspective, especially this holiday season.