Showing posts from March, 2010
Watching the Marx Brothers is like watching Robin Williams (times two), the Three Stooges (without the abuse), talented musicians, and Looney Tunes (plus the politically incorrect humor). I can't resist a few of these:

You've got the brain of a four-year old boy and I bet he was glad to get rid of it.

Do you know what makes wage slaves? Wages!

We'll tear down the dormitories?
Where will the students sleep?
Where they always sleep--in class.

You have a high voice.
Yes, I have a falsetto voice.
My landlady has a falsetto teeth.


Our Sunday School lessons have supposedly been about Exodus, but there have been and will be "interruptions" so I'm not able to teach it like I'd like. Oh, well. But we came to Chapter 14, where the Israelites are trapped. And we see ourselves. When we feel trapped (and by much less frightening circumstances than an approaching army, we do the same three things:

1. lose perspective
2. engage in misplaced nostalgia, yearning for good old days that were not
3. see the immediate and not the long term
4. wanting the familiar rather than the risks of freedom. I will expand on this later. It is the core of legalism. People think legalism is rules. Rules are not the problem. Legalism is about a wrong view of God and how we should live. Legalism allows us to be comfortable in rules, even when they are not comfortable rules. True freedom in Christ means we have to think, consider, weigh, examine research, and choose--not just do what we are told.

But it's easy …

Lost revisited

LOST was awesome last week. It wasn't just that we found about some key information. It was just great storytelling from the word go.

I am surprised by all the Biblical imagery in this show. Not that they necessarily always get it right, or that the persons who talk about the Biblical imagery get it right either, but there is still a lot of it. Example: The passage of the Bible Richard is reading before taken into slavery. Luke 4, the temptation of Christ by the devil, which is the whole point of the episode--Richard's temptation by Smokey. Many people think Smokey is good and Jacob is bad, but I can't see that. Smokey is just plain destruction and deception. Jacob doesn't deceive, but he makes mistakes at other people's cost, which is problematic. He wagers on them, and they lose and so does he. Smokey just kills and abuses.

And dog gone it, I think Hurley will be the candidate, the new Jacob. The least likely character at the beginning, the big lose…

I Don't Get It

Although I am trying to do something else, I have on TCM and Gigi is showing. I am told this is one of the best musicals ever made. The subject matter, however, is appalling. It's about a young girl basically being groomed to be a consort of rich men in Europe at the turn of the century. No matter how it is prettied up, it's basically about prostitution and infidelity. It reminds me of The Memoirs of a Geisha, which I read because I bought it because the author is the grandson of the newspaper mogul in Chattanooga and I heard him speak at a writer's conference. When I got to the end, I was sickened by the whole thing. I think at the end of Gigi, though, true love and morality prevail.

Speaking of which, I went to the Meacham's writing conference today, or at least a session of it. Yes, this is somehow related to the Jon Meacham of Time Magazine, or his family, also part of the aforementioned Chattanooga press mogul's family (they are all descendants of Alfre…


I am thinking about writing a book called How to Feed Yourself: Bible Study Practice for Women. Too many women think they can't study the Bible for themselves, are afraid to, are too lazy, and thus go to the gurus I was fussing about in the last post.

So I'll start now with the general outline of some of my principles.
#1: If it's not in the text, go carefully in assuming or imagining.

#2: There are some historical matters in Scripture that we can't be sure of (for example, locations of certain cites) but that doesn't affect our ability to trust the Bible.

#3: Scripture has unity and is the best commentary on Scripture itself.

#4: Don't allegorize. Everything that happens to the Jews in the Bible is not a picture or metaphor or analogy to something in our lives. For example, manna. I was taught it was a picture of us having our daily devotions. UHHH, not quite. If you forget and try to read the Bible the next day, that's as it should be . . . but in E…

No Gurus

The other day a woman spoke at the BCM on our campus. I am the faculty sponsor and try to show up for the weekly meetings, although it's hard for some reason. Well, I know the reason. I like the fellowship and the speakers, but the worship music the kids do is not my taste. Very repetitive, not much going on with the lyrics. But I do get my lunch then and the students are sweeties.

Anyway, the woman was Karen Pace, who runs a camp in middle Georgia. She was a breath of fresh air. So often Christian women speakers, especially Baptists, fall into one of two extremes. One extreme is the so sweet speaker that I feel like I've been dipped in maple syrup after listening to her, if I can bear to sit through it. These ladies are usually godly, but a tad unreal; many of them have had relatively protected and sheltered and easy lives and so have to work really hard to make their lives sound like they have faced trials. I know that last sentence was harsh and unkind and I apol…

Exciting Book

Recently finished Transforming Discipleship by Greg Ogden. How great it would be to follow that model of triad discipleship. I hope the Lord will let me go in that direction, but it's not to be taken lightly. I recommend it; it's worth reading for anyone in ministry or Christian education.

I hope to read all weekend. The weather promises to preclude gardening.

Against My Better Judgment

Let me just start by saying that Woody Allen, like Roman Polanski, are little perverts.

However, lots of great artists have transcended their own perversity to create works that simply amaze.

I just watched Interiors again on TCM. What a good movie. The connection to Bergman doesn't bother me. The acting is so good, and the dialogue very real. I feel the same way about Crimes and Misdemeanors and Hannah and Her Sisters.

Christians want art and artists to be good people, moral people. Artists are just too complicated for that. Now, that's not to take the romantic version of the elitism of artists, that they are a special, above the law, untouchable group. They don't get to rape 13-year-olds because they make good movies. But the lines just aren't so easy to draw in determining what we should or should not watch as a Christian. Before I spend my money (rarely) or time (a little less rarely) on a movie, I find out about it.

I read the movie reviews on CT. They so…


I was rather the victim (but not to my real hurt) of third-hand gossip this week. Someone overheard something that wasn't their business, then asked about it, got second hand-information, talked to someone else about it, and then communicated to me in a somewhat defensive manner before having heard my side of the story.

And what's more,the communication was by email, not the best form of communication by far. Now, the person was well-meaning. I know enough about myself not to respond to emails that perturb me, at least not quickly. So I didn't. It's been 48 hours, and I still haven't. Might not.

Lessons in life:
1. don't respond to emails that upset you. Talk to the person face-to-face. Things will only escalate with more emails, and you'll waste too much time trying to be diplomatic in writing, which is hard work.
2. don't over-react until you get the whole story. Then just act.
3. don't approach sensitive matters in an email. Emails ar…


Tonight on NPR they "admitted" that the health care bill is vague. Ha! And this is news to someone?

I teach and study how people in power use words to persuade. This health care/health insurance reform/whatever debate has been an exercise in demonization and polarization by both sides. I will not pretend that the side I am on, anti-THE BILL but not anti some improvements in the access to health care and insurance for those who want it, is the godly side, the "what would Jesus do" side, as some of the proponents of the bill have. This morning I taught William Jennings Bryan's "Cross of Gold" speech, the ones that ends, "You will not push down a crown of thorns on the brow of labor, you will not crucify mankind on a cross of gold." And this was about the gold standard! But we are no better. If we can somehow connect Jesus or God to our side, we do it.

Why a 2400 page bill was necessary to make sure the working poor could get health ins…


Due to an incredible schedule in the last week, blogging has taken a back seat, although I have had a lot of ideas. My conference on Friday went quite well, and the end of the school year gets more demanding every year. If anyone thinks a college instructor doesn't work hard, they need to spend a day in my office.

The health care bill passing is sad. Gordon McDonald wrote on Christianity Today that any bill that extends healing is a bill Jesus would like. This is the kind of thinking that makes Christians look naive. Even if I dismiss the ridiculous "executive order there won't be any abortion funding" (and if you believe that, I've got some great land in Podunk, Georgia)--even if I overlook that, the bill is a debacle. The whole "it's not perfect but we got it" sounds like the ultimate in settling. "I know the guy I am marrying is unemployed, and ugly, and smokes and drinks, and has nothing in common with me, but I managed to get a husba…

Tuesday Night

OK, it's Tuesday night so it's time for LOST. Last week's episode was definitely one of the best and so I get to watch it again. I never liked Ben and wished he had been killed, but they had to keep him around because he manipulates the others so well.

But this episode had a wonderful scene of grace. After Ben finally sees all of his sin and confesses to it, he says he, "Who will take me," and Ilana says, "I will." Of course, someone has to know the whole context, but it was sweet and shocking and wonderful in all the different ways that word is used and in the ways the show captivated me in the first two years. So I will stick with this mess until the end. It is about faith, in the end, which I never would have thought at the beginning.

It is also amazing how those in the movie/tv industry can do makeup and lighting to make anyone look anyway they want.

This week is the beginning of the life-altering problem at my house called March Madness. …

Old Fashioned Wisdom in a New Century

Over the weekend I was not feeling well so I read a lot. I finished three books (not long ones). Two were by P. M. Forni, a professor of literature at Johns Hopkins who has made his personal project to evangelize about civility. I'm glad he did, because I liked the books, although I am afraid only the already civil will read them. Perhaps not. I plan to put them on my reading list for a class I teach. The two books are The Civility Solution and Twenty-Five Rules for Civility.

Essentially, civility is about awareness of surroundings, whether physical or human; paying attention; and respect. I like that concept although I am often a failure myself. I did a lot of soul searching due to them.

The question remains, however, how a person like me, a college teacher, can "teach" civility. We can model it, and expect it, and talk about it, maybe even assess it. But whether we can transfer the attitudes about human dignity that are behind civility is another matter.


NPR and Me

Since I gave up Fox News for Lent, I have sought to get news from reliable Internet sources and the newspaper. However, the lure of NPR calls me from the car radio, so I listen to that. They do thorough jobs, usually, with their stories, and I learn a lot from them, and their stories on the arts are wonderful.

I have to overlook their partisanship that sometimes oozing from the voices and words of the correspondents and commentators, and sometimes I just have to switch it off. They only report negative things about the wars, Republicans and conservatives, and arguments against the current attempts at health care reform, and generally, President Obama can do no wrong.

This morning there was an interview with Desmond Tutu, link below, that even the clueless interviewer could not destroy. (clueless in terms of the type of internal spiritual life and personal commitment that someone like Bishop Tutu would have). This interview made me smile, and laugh, and nod. Tutu says he has lear…

Adoption: Great Work If You Can Get It

I am, as usual, sending the reader to the CT website for an article.

This one is about adoption. An old student (from way back in the early 80s) hackled my feathers (ha, ha, mixed metaphor) when he put on Facebook that prolifers don't have any right to speak a pro-life message unless they adopt. I took him to task, asking him whatever happened to free speech--it's not something we earn by adopting children, it's a God-given civil right. His argument was one of credibility, he said, not free speech. I still don't buy it, although I appreciate those who do adopt children from poor countries or in foster care. He and his wife had, so he did walk the talk.

But when people say clueless things to the infertile, or to anyone wanting children, "Why don't you just adopt," they usually have not been through the adoption process themselves. As this article points out, there is no h…


"The purpose of fasting is not to get through to God, but to allow Him to get through to you. . . . During a fast, you should spend the time you would otherwise spend eating in prayer and seeking God . . . . You may want to start with a short fast. Forgo one meal and use that time in prayer and Bible study . . . Fasting is not a requirement. Don't let it become an obligation. God should initiate and maintain a fast. It will be a privilege and a joy. A time of fasting is a time of real intimacy."

These words are by Jennifer Kennedy Dean and quoted in Cynthia Heald's book. I read them this morning and they struck me because they are so practical and reasonable. I am usually uncomfortable with anyone who talks about fasting because I am not sure what it means to them, yet at the same time I respect it.

I am uncomfortable with talk about fasting because some people don't get the first line of this quote. They believe fasting is a bargain with God, something t…


I heard Maya Angelou speak once. I know Oprah bows down to her, but I have my own opinions of Angelou, or Marguerite Johnson. Let's just say she invented herself, to some degree, that is, her persona. But perhaps we all do a little, we are just not so extreme and so public about it. Anyway, she said in the speech that she considered courage the most basic of all virtues because you can't do anything without courage.

I like that; I think she's right. But if I had to submit an alternative, it would be thankfulness, because I don't think you can relate to people, find your place in the world, or understand your self without thankfulness. Thankfulness assumes someone to be thankful to, of course, and even one rejects God as Creator and Redeemer, nobody is who they are of their own volition, not totally.

So today I am thankful that the day was warm and I could take a walk after dinner without shivering. I am thankful for my family. I am thankful for good supervisors a…

Prayer, Part ?

The other day I told a friend, who is in my Sunday Bible Class, "Sometimes I feel so blessed that I just don't want to pray and ask God for anything." It would of course sound wrong, even heretical, to some, and even though my heart was sort of in the right place, I was wrong in the thought. I was wrong because asking for things is only a small part of prayer done right.

The acronym helps some with prayer: ACTS--Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. I had never really practice the Adoration part, as it seemed odd to tell God things about Himself. Again, I had it wrong, since Adoration is about my heart rather than God's character. I don't have a sense of what to confess without reflecting on who God is. So I am trying to meditate on an attribute of God when I pray, and the one we probably need to focus on most is His goodness.

I say this because Satan would first make us doubt God's goodness, in any number of ways and from any number of…

Couldn't Resist--This Just Cracks Me Up

Unfortunately, the caption is not clear. It says, "Note to self. Fire Alfred."

Movies Where We Learn Something

A friend and I went to see The Last Station, a movie whose two leading actors are up for Oscars (like I care) but probably won't win because, as one website said, "Nobody saw The Last Station." Well, I did--and the handful of other people in the theatre on a very beautiful day in Chattanooga, so people should have been out walking rather than sitting in a dark theatre. Anyway, the movie was quite good and I learned something.
1. I have had a limited literary education despite my supposed degrees; I know Dostoeyvsky but only know Tolstoy through TV and movie versions of Ana Karenina.
2. I would rather not see women's boobs in a movie, really. But I don't like seeing men's rears either. It's just embarrassing. For some reason, it doesn't bother me in painting or sculpture, just movies.
3. I didn't know Tolstoy's religious and ethical contributions, that he was a hero of Dr. King and Gandhi, and a leader of a pacifist movement. The movie mad…


I went on an adventure with a friend yesterday—to an Ikea store. What fun! It even had a cafeteria for shoppers and a playroom for children. I felt like I was in a big box store, European style. I bought lots of fun stuff. Unfortunately, a lot of it is made in China, and we all know how I feel about that. I didn't think I'd like the minimalist aesthetic, but I forgot that I admire Stickley and there are some similarities.

I am watching a compellingly bad movie from 1960 called The Crowded Sky. It’s the prequel to Airplane, which was intentionally bad for humorous effect.

The real point of this post is that I may become the local defender of John Calvin. Quote for the day: ‘For by numerous clear testimonies of the prophets we shall confirm the truth that all those blessings which the Lord has ever given or promised to his people arose solely out of his goodness and kindness.” That is really what he is writing about for all 1500 pages plus of The Institutes—God’s goodness…

Facebook to end all Facebook posts

From a student. This is why I shouldn't let students on my Facebook page.

so this weekend,I was in D'iberville mississippi in Target. I was walkin to the bathroom when i received a call from NAMED FRIEND. As I walked in the restroom I finished my call and hung up the phone. Took a REDICULOUS dump, Then I got up to was my hands realizing a young attractive lady was standing beside me. t...urn around 2 find NO urinals on the wall.thanks Bro for "just wanting to talk"

This tops the one I got a few weeks ago from a former co-church member who was fussing and whining about people posting about their kids' vomit. And this from a woman who posted a picture of her husband's butt crack.

Snow Again

While we have nothing really to complain about, considering how the northeast has gotten hit with snow this year, it is snowing in North Georgia again. We are supposed to get six inches. HUMMMMPH. It's pretty, but ephemeral.

Real Lives of Christians

Several years ago I made a commitment to pray for the persecuted church. I am not a prayer warrior and have often commented on the struggles to pray biblically that we Christians face, but I think we get so worried about the how of prayer (most of the books go off on some idea that may or may not have anything to do with prayer) that we just don't practice the what of prayer. At any rate, when I pray, I pray for the persecuted church. Sometimes by country, sometimes by religion, sometimes by issue.

Persecution is not one size fits all. It comes in different forms.
1. Severe pressure from family unit. I have friends who minister in Japan as missionaries with a Baptist board. Their sweet letters almost always mention seekers or even believers who succumb to the pressure from family and who leave the congregation. Very sad, but not new to the Scriptures.
2. Severe pressure from the prominent religion. This is of course the case with Muslim countries, where the government may…