Saturday, September 25, 2010

Daily Postings Because I Don't Twitter

Time for some random comments.

Why are we wasting time and money having Stephen Colbert speak before Congress? I don't think we got the joke. I am not sure who the butt of the joke was (I think it was supposed to be the arrogant character he portrays.)

We need rain in North Georgia. I just mowed the dust this morning.

Why do weeds grow even in a drought? And if you water your landscaping, why do the weeds thrive the best?

There is an old saying, "A weed is a flower in the wrong place." (something along that line.) I have some pretty weeds in my beds. But I don't want them there.

A boat is a hole you throw money into.

Is there an inverse correlation between the weight of a person and the distance he/she parks from the entrance to Walmart?

The world's worst invention: Those scooters at the grocery store. If you can't walk because of your weight, don't buy groceries! (That's really mean.) Those things take up the aisles.)

I am reading a good but saddening novel, What is the What. Yes, that is the name of it. It's about Darfur, the Lost Boys of Sudan, and displacement.

Believe it or not, I am in favor of a variation of the DREAM Act. I would make it less sweeping, but I think a child brought here at 2 or 3 by his parents illegally, raised here, graduated from a U.S. high school, trying to get through college or serve in the military, totally bilingual (often speaking English better than Spanish), with a clean record, who has lived under the threat of deportation all his life, that kid should get a break. Those are the only ones I would give amnesty. I have a pile of students like this and they are great young people.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Thought for Day #28

Ephesians 2:16: and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity (between Jews and Gentiles.)

Another benefit of the cross--the death of racial and ethnic hatred and animosity.

Now, don't get thinking I'm a hypocrite based on the next post. My views of the president's policies have no racial component, and those who accuse such, especially Christians, are not living in light of this verse. Let's recognize the death of racial and ethnic enmity through Christ.

Somebody Help Me Out Here

Could somebody explain to me why the president's aunt is living in poverty? He wants to raise our taxes to help the poor we don't know and he can't help the poor he does know?

Historical Tidbit: My Explanation of Aquinas

I give this to my humanities students to explain Thomas Aquinas

Aquinas’ philosophical work, as shown in the lengthy book Summa Theologica, is very complicated but is often attributed with making the change in the intellectual world from the medieval way of thinking to the modern way of thinking. We have to understand that up to this time there was a generally Platonic, dualistic view of the world. Spiritual things (heaven, Bible, prayer, asceticism) were good, and physical things (the body, government, secular learning) were, not so much bad, as potentially anti-good—that is, they could get in the way of the spiritual, which is what really mattered. Beyond that, Aquinas’ philosophical school was called Scholasticism; it involved epistemology (how we know truth and learn it) and influenced education for centuries and theology until the 16th century and John Calvin.

As the text (Cunningham and Reich, Culture and Values) says on p. 228: “For Aquinas, reason finds truth when it sees evidence of truth. The mind judges something true when it has observed a sufficient number of facts to compel it to make that judgment.” (This in itself is revolutionary, since faith was considered the preferable way to learn and process the world.) “The mind gives assent to truth on the basis of evidence. Aquinas was convinced that there was a sufficient amount of observable (physical) evidence in the world to conclude the existence of God. He proposed five arguments in support of such a position . . Thus for Aquinas there is an organic relationship between reason and revelation.” As p. 232 says, “’Nothing comes to the mind except through the senses’ is a basic axiom for Aquinas.”

In proposing that physical evidence pointed to the existence of God (which is actually argued in Romans 1 by Paul), and in other arguments he makes in Summa, Aquinas is now saying that the physical world is good, not bad or potentially anti-good; he is thereby dismissing dualism. In a practical way he is saying to his contemporaries, “You want to serve God with your spirit. But your spirit is in a body. When you pray, you kneel, you use your mouth, your voice—your body is part of the process. When you read the Bible, you are using your eyes, etc. Instead of seeing a split between the physical and spiritual, you should see the holism of the two.” In so doing, he has validated the physical world, its study, and its goodness, and has banished the dualistic idea that the physical world and the body are somehow “bad” or “evil.”

The text states he derived his ideas from Aristotle. If you go back to the lecture on the Greeks, you will remember the distinction between Plato and Aristotle. Plato didn’t deny the existence of the physical world, but said it was less than the spiritual (the real Real), just a shadow, and we needed to be freed from the physical world to know “true truth,” or the “real Real,” so to speak. Aristotle said no, the Reality (the form) is in the material object; they are unified. So Augustine, from around 400 CE, is considered Platonic (although that is not entirely accurate), and Aquinas is considered Aristotelian.

Aristotle also proposed a sort of chain of being from the rock up to the angels; so did Aquinas. Notice, too, that Aquinas and Aristotle both wrote on many different subject areas. “That a person would speak on psychology, physics, politics, theology, and philosophy with equal authority would strike us as presumptuous, just as any building decorated with symbols from the classics, astrology, the Bible and scenes from everyday life would now be considered a hodgepodge. Such was not the case in the 13th century, because it was assumed that everything ultimately pointed to God” (p. 230).

Furthermore, you should read the section on Francis of Assisi for your own enjoyment; I will not ask anything about him on the tests, but the authors do make a case for his historical importance. Neither will I test you on Dante, but you should understand that he wrote The Divine Comedy (using the traditional idea of comedy as a work with a happy ending) and that it performs the same function in literature that Aquinas did in philosophy and the cathedral did in architecture: to include, complexly and almost encyclopedically, all that is the medieval period within one work, and to use the physical world to point to God.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

NPR: Left but Good

I like NPR. They are very biased, and really obviously so, but they do a great job of thoroughness, and of course they are strongest on the arts and culture side. They had a good interview on the Tea Partiers this morning. I would recommend it (Jonathan Rausch, on Morning Edition, Sept. 15, 2010). They archive everything.

I haven't come to a decision about Tea Partiers. I hope they are not just a flash in the pan. Anything that gets people involved in choosing their leaders, I am for, and I seriously mean that, left or right.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

He being dead yet speaketh

This is honestly true. Cut and paste the link (I'm having trouble with this blogging software's linking system) and read the "in lieu of flowers" part.

Of course, given the record of dead people voting in Chicago in past elections, this seems like turnabout and that's fair play.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Interesting Development

Aretha Wants Halle Berry to Play Her in Biopic.

This was a webpage on Christianity Today. It is disturbing on a number of levels.

Why is CT posting this in the first place?

Do people really get to pick who plays them in biopics? (Who would you pick?) I guess like Aretha I'd go for good looking, not similar looking.

Can Halle Berry even sing?

Hasn't Halle Berry had her own problems with respect?

And most of all, did Aretha not realize the 200 pound differential between her and Halle Berry.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Meditation on Ephesians 1

How’s your vision? The book of Ephesians has a lot to say about vision and Christian living.
Up close and far away. Up close we see details but miss the bigger reality. As the old saying goes, we can’t see the whole forest for the individual trees.
As we grow as Christians, our individual vision should change.
Our lesson is the second half of Eph. 1. Last week Paul we saw that Paul starts his letter off saying “let’s get this into perspective. This is what has happened to you spiritually since and because you trusted Christ as savior. You are forgiven, redeemed, excepted in the Beloved (I take that to mean that the most beloved persons to God are the other persons of the trinity, and God sees us the way he sees Jesus). We are seated in the heavenlies (also discussed in Colossians).
In verses 15 he says,
A. I thank God for you. Are we truly thankful for people? Not just for what they give us, not for how they make us feel, not for the memories we have with them, not for what they do for us. Just for their existence. Do we ever think of people as dispensable? I have, I am ashamed to say. Paul is thankful for two things about them: they love Jesus and are faithful to him. The Ephesians are not the Corinthians!
B. He prays for them. A lot of things he could pray for, but he doesn’t, not at least in this context. He prays for them
1. That they receive, from God alone, the or a “spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened.”
a. What does this mean? It’s pretty deep. Core seems to be that they know God more; not that they know more about God, but that they know God in their experience and understanding more.
b. That this will only come from God, by revelation. The Bible seems to make a distinction here between hearing (receiving a verbal message and obeying it, therefore choice) and vision (understanding what is revealed, therefore dependent on God).
c. We should pray for others to have the eyes of their understanding enlightened, as well as that for ourselves, but don’t confuse it with “agreeing with me.”
2. If they are to have eyes enlightened, to receive understanding, what about: 3 things, which I think would truly shake us up if we understood them and held on to them.
a. Hope of his calling
b. Riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints (not that the saints will get, but his inheritance in the saints, what we are in Him)
c. Mighty power. This mighty power has four proofs behind it:
(1) God raised Jesus from dead after three days (not a near death experience)
(2) Jesus is ascended to heaven and exalted over earthly and Satanic powers.
(3) Not only is he over them but he has defeated them; they are his footstool Ps. 2. Think about that image. Ps. 8, Phil 2, Rev. 19; Colossians 1:16-17.
(4) He is the leader, head of the church. Paul treats these as four historical facts that prove how powerful God is, the power that he wants us to understand.
But even if Paul treats them as four historical facts, they are not historical facts you are going to find in history books. The world as it is does not “see” Jesus as Lord. We say it, and we say we believe, but it does not command our vision, our world view, of our circumstances and what happens around us. Paul is praying that it should, that it must. It is reality but what we see around us is only part of the story, like the close-up pictures I showed you at the beginning.
So turn your head, adjust your vision, get a spiritual eye examination, because we are not seeing everything as we should. We do not see evidence that Jesus is Lord because we see evil around us, so much of us. We do not see the good that happens every day, every second. I don’t see you as a person because I want something out of you. I don’t see what I have because of what I want. I don’t see what I retain because of what I might have lost or might lose in the future. I don’t see what is because I can imagine so much, good and bad.
Mankind never stops wanting. There’s a good aspect to that, of course; we keep digging and discovering, we learn about the world. And we pray in the Our Father that we be delivered from evil (or the evil one, it should be translated)—that is a desire God honors. But the continual wanting that makes us not look around us at what is really there, what is spiritually true, is not always health to our spirits.

The Shallows Book Review

Follow this link to my other blog to find a review of a great book. I am not posting it here because of length.


Sometimes I go back over old posts to either edit or delete. I noticed one at the bottom of this page about the murder of Christian aid workers in Afghanistan last month. I said at the time it wouldn't get much press. I was right. While it did get reported by all the media, it got reported and discussed for maybe a day or two.

Compare that to the so-called "pastor" in FL and his Quranic bonfire. We've been under that barrage of media for three or four weeks now. Discrepancy, anyone?

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Day the Earth Stood Still

That morning was typical. I think that is the first thing we all remember about it. How typically the day began for all of us. It was a pretty day; destined to still be hot down here in the Georgia mountains, but cool that morning. At the time I was working at Northwestern Technical College, an institution that does not even go by that name anymore. I was not teaching at the time; we were on quarters and summer quarter had not ended, but I was getting paid to work on accreditation matters. How inconsequential those things are now--I only remember them because they figured into why I was doing what I was doing that day.

I didn't leave the house til right before 9:00. I listen to Moody radio, which at the time, and probably still does, had a lot of programming as opposed to free DJ time. A program was coming on, but the local announcer, Andy Napier, mentioned, with an usually concerned sound to his voice, that "we are getting reports that a plane has flown into the World Trade Center." In retrospect, I know that Andy knew more than he was telling, even if it had only been ten minutes since the first crash. My response was, "Some fool in a Cessna has lost his way or gotten disoriented and run into the Trade Center." That had happened lately somewhere else and been reported. In my mind, I suppose, that would have killed the pilot or passengers but not affected the Trade Center much.

It embarrasses me to say that I didn't think about that report until I parked my car and walked to my office. When I arrived at work fifteen minutes later, clumps of students and staff workers were gathered in the hall watching the monitors we used for campus announcements. By then the second plane had hit the second tower--we now know that the first was at 8:46 and the second at 9:03. Of course, not much work was going to be accomplished that day. I had a meeting with the Vice-President of Academic Affairs about 10:00, but by then we knew the Pentagon had been hit, and that probably was when it dawned on me. If they had attached New York, and now targets in Washington, where else? Surely not Rock Spring, GA, but why not Atlanta? Who could know. The Vice-President and I could only stare at each other, numb and speechless. "All hell's broke loose." I said. Not usual for me, but the only thing that made sense.

We would a little while later hear that another plane had crashed into a Pennsylvania field; we knew it had been destined for the White House or Capitol. So what would be next? Would there be more? Of course, the military would get involved, but how quickly. So we waited and watched TV and tried to do a little work, not taking the philosophical tack that it may not mean very much but instead being thankful for something to occupy our minds.

By 11:00 there seemed to be an end to the strange commercial planes--our own planes, not some Russian or Chinese or other nation's military--targeting and killing our own people. But emotionally we were as still as the planes seemed to be. And there was such a sense of helplessness. My son was in middle school, and I really don't know why I didn't go get him. Some parents did; I suppose I figured he was as safe there as anywhere.

As usual we waited for the news media, the Dan Rathers and Peter Jennings'--I watched him the most at the time, we didn't have cable--to tell us what was going on. I think of Peter Jennings when I think of 9/11. I know that he stayed awake for over 24 hours; he probably had some sense of responsibility. We watched TV mostly that day; what else could one do. By the afternoon I had a urinary tract infection. For some reason I was starting to get those, and there are miserable. My husband and son went to dinner with a group of friends that night but I stayed home, in dull pain, miserable with the infection and watching the TV reports horizontally as I lay on the couch.

We watched the ash-covered, horror-stricken New Yorkers walk. That's another thing I remember. Those poor people, some of whom escaped the towers, some who had been inundated with clouds of smoke billowing down their street, some of whom just had to walk because all the transportation was out. Just walking. I wonder if they knew where they were going, other than simply and inexorably away from the area that would come to be called Ground Zero and represent our national tragedy.

I was only one of millions who sat helplessly for the events of September 11, 2001, to unfold. We are still traumatized; we still draw a line of before and after that day; it still defines the way we see Muslims, middle Eastern men, foreigners. For a little while there was a surge of patriotism; we were all Americans, not hyphen Americans. But today our nation is as polarized and divided as it has ever been, and I think that is largely due to 9/11 and the responses to it. The 9/11 attackers succeeded in a way they never suspected. They probably just thought they would attack and destroy symbolic sites for decadent Americans (although the attackers lived pretty decadent lives while in pilot training). They succeeded in creating the ultimate schism. Or perhaps their act just showed the schism already there, brought it into a glaring light.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

The Shallows

For those who read nonfiction (some people just don't); for those who teach; for those of middle-age who suspect their brains are working differently than they did twenty years ago; for those who turn to Google every time some fact slips their minds; for those who check email and facebook every couple of minutes; for those who begin to feel withdrawal symptoms when they haven't been online in a day--

I recommend The Shallows by Nicholas Carr. It's changing my life--well, it's in the process of making me think about changing my life, because obviously I am still blogging about it which means I am on the Internet.

The book is about neural plasticity and how the Internet really is changing our brains, how we read (probably the worst effect), how we process, and how we remember. I happen to like the way my brain was before, but now I feel like it is a frenetic mess. I can feed my workaholic nature and work all the time. How I (think I) want to leave the computer at the office and come home and garden and cook! Yet, if I get on the computer at home, I can work at home and not go to the office--a Catch 22.

Multitasking is a farce, a fiction. We are deluded and deceived about our ability to juggle so many things. I am so tired of passing through a hallway full of students all intent on their little phones and gadgets and totally oblivious of the fact there are real human beings standing beside them. Who has time for real relationships with all these devices?

A colleague in the English department was bewailing that the students have no interstitial time. I like that word--in-ter-sti-tial. She means they never let their minds rest and reflect away from incoming messages on little screens. Shoot, I want it for them, but I want it for me, too.

Nicholas Carr gives us the science behind the reasons for our frustrations. He is making me face the facts and be honest about the way my life is controlled by my tools instead of the other way around.

Well What Do You Know

So it seems the whack job in Florida who was going to burn the Q'urans on 9/11 has changed his mind and will have a sit-down with the imam behind the mosque planned for near Ground Zero. I am so surprised.

Like this wasn't a stunt for attention, and the media loved it. Let's make all Christians look bad because of this "pastor." If the media had just refused to report this, they wouldn't be threatening Christians in Muslim countries, nor would our soldiers be in even greater danger. I think the media is as responsible as this Jones fellow for all this brouhaha.

I don't think he ever intended to do it anyway, that he would respond at the last minute to whatever semblance of common sense came along. In short, a stunt.

On a different note, I wish someone would help me understand this "Islam is about tolerance" idea. Then why do Christians, Jews, and even Buddhists and Hindus face such opposition in Muslim countries (specifically where Sharia prevails?) Is Islam only tolerant when it's the minority religion? And let's not bolster our argument with examples of Toledo, Spain, in the middle ages. All three religious groups got along there for a certain period of time. Tolerance has to be mutual for it to work. One group being tolerant while another has a hegemony of intolerance is not applicable.

The irony is that radical Islamists would have used Jones' stunt to justify more violence--hurting people, not just copies of books--on of all days, 9/11.

Friday, September 03, 2010

I Find this Disturbing

Especially since I respect Dr. Land so much and he was my pastor for over a year (interim).

I realized today how much I was writing about this issue when I wrote Traveling Through (forgive the plug, but I spent eight years on that book and it means a lot, even if it's not very good). Some of us want to protect the sacred space from intrusion from politics; some of us, I suppose, feel we are providing a more holistic view if we integrate the sacred and secular. At the same time, maybe some of us are being dualistic (separating the sacred sphere too much from the public sphere), or maybe some of us are letting our passions for political causes control us.

I don't know. Christians can't protect the sacred space so much that the gospel doesn't go out; we also can't get distracted, nor can we let the world think we only welcome people who have our political views, whatever they may be. But Glenn Beck? No thanks.

Don't Know the Source--One of Those Circulating Emails

I never send or post things like this but this one is funny.


Men Are Just Happier People-- What do you expect from such simple creatures? Your last name stays put. The garage is all yours. Wedding plans take care of themselves. Chocolate is just another snack. You can be President. You can never be pregnant. You can wear a white T-shirt to a water park. You can wear NO shirt to a water park. Car mechanics tell you the truth. The world is your urinal. You never have to drive to another gas station restroom because this one is just too icky. You don't have to stop and think of which way to turn a nut on a bolt. Same work, more pay. Wrinkles add character. Wedding dress $5000. Tux rental-$100. People never stare at your chest when you're talking to them. New shoes don't cut, blister, or mangle your feet. One mood all the time.

Phone conversations are over in 30 seconds flat. You know stuff about tanks.. A five-day vacation requires only one suitcase. You can open all your own jars. You get extra credit for the slightest act of thoughtfulness. If someone forgets to invite you, he or she can still be your friend.

Your underwear is $8.95 for a three-pack. Three pairs of shoes are more than enough. You almost never have strap problems in public. You are unable to see wrinkles in your clothes. Everything on your face stays its original color. The same hairstyle lasts for years, maybe decades. You only have to shave your face and neck.

You can play with toys all your life. One wallet and one pair of shoes -- one color for all seasons. You can wear shorts no matter how your legs look. You can 'do' your nails with a pocket knife. You have freedom of choice concerning growing a moustache.

You can do Christmas shopping for 25 relatives on December 24 in 25 minutes.

No wonder men are happier.

Send this to the women who can handle it and to the men who will enjoy reading it

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Book to Read

For someone who wants to read a good book, especially to help them with the craft of fiction, I recommend Olive Kitteridge. Very, very good. I'm still thinking about it three days after finishing it.

I am now reading The Shallows, about how the Internet is changing our brains. Good grief! Quite interesting.

I read a review today of Jonathan Franzen's new book. Don't know if I'll go there. I tried to read The Corrections and just plain got bogged down in, well, the sexual stuff. Just don't care to read some of that.

It's funny how people want to say, "I'm not a prude." when discussing sex in the arts, but what they mean is they really don't want to look at very much of it but they can put up with it if they have to. What is a prude, anyway? It's like academic people not admitting they voted for a Republican when they did. For Pete's sake, take a stand.

Just Wondering Installment 27

Liberals, among other things, have a consistency problem. Even though "a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds," a foolish inconsistency boggles everyone else's minds.

First, they say there are too many people on the planet. So we need to get rid of some of them, or the potential ones. But we need to protect animals. Did it ever occur to them that animals use resources on the planet too. Let's be consistent--abortion rights for the animals. And of course, we need to protect the lives of convicted and confessed murders and not execute them (I'm not completely pro-death penalty, but I'm consistent about it).

They want law enforcement for some things and not for others.

This is just a start. Any others?

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Et tu, Glenn Beck

I got to say, I don't get Glenn Beck. I know, I know--"You're a conservative, Barbara, you're supposed to love him." Not by my definition of a conservative.

For some reason, I just find him disingenuous (an elitist word for fake). How could he not know that 8/28 was the date of MLKing's speech? Where does he get off telling Christians to leave their churches if the pastor mentions "social justice?" (There being many levels of interpretation of that word, from social concern to full-blown socialism). Why is he all of a sudden preaching like an evangelical, when he's a Mormom? (and probably one who doesn't know that much about his church's doctrine.)

I am not sure if he reminds me of the main character on Paddy Chayevsky's Network, or some other demagogue. It's just a little creepy. I am not sure what he wants, other than money and power. I am not sure he has a coherent philosophy or is capable of creating or articulating one, and if he doesn't, he should wait til he does to tell other people how to live and think. He strikes me as putting on an act--sometimes Mr. Calmness, sometimes Mr. Craziness, sometimes Mr. Patriot.

ON THE OTHER HAND, he has freedom of speech, I suppose. We have freedom not to let ourselves be affected by him. He is right about Woodrow Wilson (a scary guy). But that's about all I can say in his favor. I don't want someone else to speak for me.

Public Speaking Online, Part IV

During the Web Speech             One of the helpful suggestions from the business writers used for this appendix ...