Friday, December 31, 2010

Had to Share this

Charles Colson is one of my heroes in the faith, which does not mean I always agree with everything he says (why do I even have to say that?  isn't it obvious?  apparently not any more.  Admiration now means lock step agreement, for some reason, as if we can't think for ourselves.)  This was his email of the day from Breakpoint, a good way to transition to 2011.

Live to Serve
A Weary World is Watching


December 31, 2010

Ever since I was a boy, I was driven to serve my country. As a 10-year-old at the outbreak of World War II, I could only dream that one day I could put on a uniform and fight the enemy. But I did what I could. I organized a neighborhood drive to collect scrap metal for the war effort. Before I had reached 40 years of age, I had served as a captain in the Marines and as special counsel to President Nixon.

But besides my country, there was another cause that I served wholeheartedly. That cause was me. power, a great career, money-they were all were mine. But then I lost them all in the aftermath of Watergate.

And for that, I am profoundly grateful to God.

You see, with my world collapsing around me, I received Christ as Lord and Savior. And it was in the crucible of prison that God took my desire to serve my self and transformed it into something much greater. He gave me a desire to serve others-particularly those who are abandoned by society, prisoners. I take no credit for this. None. Zero. I might as well take credit for the color of my eyes. It was God working His will in me, a great sinner.

I know all too well that since my release from prison more than 30 years ago, people have been watching me, to see if the old White House Hatchet Man turned prison evangelist would prove to be a phony.

It puts a lot of pressure on you. But I've got news for you. People are watching you, too! A weary world is watching with great skepticism all who profess Christ.

And that's one reason why we who "by grace have been saved through faith" must be about doing the "good works which God prepared in advance for us to do" (Ephesians 2:8-10). For it is through Christian acts of loving service-especially to the more needy among us-that the world will see the power and love of Christ, just as they see it in the prisons that we work in through out ministry.

History is full of examples. As plagues swept through ancient Rome, the wealthy pagans-even doctors-fled for their lives. But the Christians stayed behind to care for the sick and dying. That witness fueled the growth of the Church. Why was Mother Teresa beloved by religious and non-religious alike? Because she cared for the utterly destitute. It's why, even in this, the most secular age ever, the Salvation Army is held in such high respect.

It's that kind of selfless service that can bring even the most powerful man on earth to the verge of tears. Let me explain.
In 2008, I received the Presidential Citizens Medal from President Bush. I did so on behalf of Prison Fellowship and the thousands of men and women, volunteers and staff who make up this movement.

At the ceremony in the Oval Office, the President talked about what true redemption was. He told my family how he was with me when he met a prisoner-a convicted murderer-back in 1998 at our InnerChange Freedom Initiative in Texas. Then, five years later, the President received that very same man, Robert Sutton, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. I had brought him there with two other IFI graduates. Sutton told the President how the love of Christ, displayed through caring Christian volunteers, had transformed him. At that point, the President embraced him.

As the President told that story, tears came to his eyes.
And tears came to mine, as well. That, my friends, is why we live to serve others. So the world may know that Christ is Lord.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Fantastic Movie Experience


Just watched Winter’s Bone.  There is no easy way to describe this movie.  It is hard to watch, but not because of extreme, gory violence or awkward and unnecessary sexual content (I am of the opinion all of that is unnecessary).  One critic called it poverty porn, but that is because elitist left-wing movie critics don’t know how people really live.  People really do eat the animals they kill, have trashed cars around their rundown, cluttered, dirty houses, are satisfied with running water and electricity and any kind of heat source, and do want to join the army for a better life.   I do not know drug dealers and meth cookers, but I do know poor people.

This is the world of the movie.  It is a great story, but as in the way that New York is often a character in a movie, the Ozarks’ physical and society environment is a character in this one.  And the main human character, Ree, is embodied magnificently by the young actress.  I know that girl!  Local folks were hired as actors in the film and do almost as well.  There are no false notes.  Perhaps the character Ree is pushed beyond human endurance and we have to “buy” her doing things that are a bit unbelievable, but we can believe Ree would do what she would have to to protect her brother and sister, which is her main motivation.

If you can find this DVD, watch it, but don’t expect anything uplifting other than courage and tenacity. 

Postscript to "When Will We Ever Learn"

http://partsofspeaking.blogspot.com/2010/12/when-will-we-learn.html

The problem with poking holes in premillenialism is that it puts you in bed with some types that you don’t want to be near.   Nothing in that previous post should be construed as support for replacement theology or amillenialism or some other ‘ism.'  Nothing should be construed as teaching that the Jews are irrelevant to the second coming and end times. 

We want certainty, and we want it about end times.  Why we think we are going to get it is beyond me.  Let’s focus on something Christ said, “Occupy until I come.”  So how do we define “occupy?
Some of us define it as “lead a good moral life, pay taxes, go to church on a more or less faithful basis, pursue a career, raise children responsibly, and look forward to retirement.”

Others define it as “put Christ at the center, be a faithful follower, and work hard to bring others to Him or support those who do.”

Others would say it means, “put Christ at the center and end human suffering and by doing so bring others to him, and do it yourselves.”

All three of these will keep us occupied, but I’m not sure that being occupied and “Occupying” as a commandment mean the same thing.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

My Take on an Old Movie


The other night I watched for maybe the fourth time, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town.  I went to imdb to see what other people wrote about it.  And I was surprised to find that none of them dealt with what seemed to me to be an important part of the movie. 

Longfellow Deeds is clearly mentally ill in this movie.  Yes, he is well-meaning, wise in a naïve way, but he breaks out into violence and is extremely sensitive.  His behavior is erratic, and he can go into periods of frenzied activity.  In the courtroom scene the psychiatrist goes into detail explaining that he is manic-depressive, and he is at the end of a long period of being unable to speak due to deep depression and institutionalization.

When I saw the movie the first time, I thought, “Yes, that’s exactly right.”  But the movie seems to disregard this information even though it is carefully and thoughtfully presented.  In fact, it is discounted by Mr. Deeds’ pointing out that the psychiatrist doodles and seemingly neutralized by Jean Arthur’s character professing her love.  So while it is highly probable that Mr. Deeds is more than pixilated and that he has bipolar disorder, the whole matter is sidestepped so we can have a happy ending.

This resolution is almost unforgivable.  He’s not going to stop being bipolar because he can turn attention to the “messenger” or because someone loves him.  Hollywood is responsible for making people believe so much nonsense, and mental illness is no exception. 

But I should know better than to expect realism in old movies, or new ones.  Is Fred Astaire actually dancing in blackface in Swingtime? I don’t believe in censorship, but I’m not sure why movies with that kind of thing are shown.

Well, I Guess I'll do the Top Ten Thing Also

In fact, I am going to do two top tens:  for me personally and for "News Stories."  I'll start with the news (not really in order of importance, at least not totally).

1.  Oil Spill in Gulf
2.  Haiti Earthquake.
3.  Chile Miners
4.  Volcano in Europe
5.  Pakistani Flooding
Notice that these were natural disasters, and there were probably more I could put here
6.  Passing of Health Care Bill
7. Change in congress after elections and tea party movement, important because it engaged more people in the political process and that is ALWAYS a good thing, no matter what side they are on.
8.  End of Don't Ask Don't tell and the fact that some people are taking gay marriage seriously
9.  Shift of war from Iraq to Afghanistan
10.  The supremacy of personal information technology (social media, etc.)
11.  (Need longer list)  Economy still a problem and I'm not convinced we get it!

For Me Personally, not in any order either:
1.  Stopping taking two types of medication and starting taking two others
2.  Signing contracts for my two novels
3.   Being assigned editor for QEP
4.  Being promoted to chair of QEP
5.  Death of a close friend, Buddy Thomas
6.  Death of my father-in-law, Bill Lawrence
7.  Not getting a job I thought I wanted and being ever so thankful
8.  Seeing my mom through surgery and getting great prognosis
9.   Being reunited with lots of friends on Facebook.
10.  Seeing my son move inexorably toward graduation from college--it's in sight.
Other things happened, such as our buying a boat and learning a lot about myself and life.  When does that end? 

Just a recap

I just read a post I wrote before the 2008 election.  My feelings have not changed and I was something of a prophet (I am being ironic here).  http://partsofspeaking.blogspot.com/2008/11/100th-post.html

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Celebrate

By Christina Rosetti
In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, Whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, Whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Advent Reflections

This will probably be my last significant post for a while.  I have combined several into one.


Ancient Christians and those of a more liturgical bent sanctify two periods of time leading up to the two major holidays.  Advent and Lent are preparations for the coming of Christ and the passion and resurrection, respectively.  Lent starts forty days (forty being the number of testing) and Advent starts the first of December. 

I personally have a hard time getting into the Advent spirit until about a week to ten days before.  But as I have been studying the Christmas story for my Bible class and want to prepare my own heart (instead of just depleting my bank account) I have written these ways to reflect on the Nativity as the day approaches.  I suppose these could be done by the day, although some rearrangement might be proposed.

1.     Read Matthew’s account.  What is the real sequence of events?  What is the real time frame?  We cannot fully appreciate the Christmas narrative until we know the facts, until we separate the Christmas cards from the history.  The truth is much more interesting and meaningful than the fantasies we have added.
2.    Read the Luke account.  How is it different from Matthew’s?  Again, what is the real time line?  Why did these two gospel writers include the birth narratives, and why the way they did? 
3.    Read John 1.  This is a different kind of “birth narrative” because the whole point is that Jesus did not come into existence nine months before Christmas.  What does John’s explanation of the beginning add to the Lucan and Matthean versions, and why?
4.    Reflect on the kind of world into which Jesus came.  A world of Romans using local tribal kings.  A world where the Roman empires would start to see themselves as deities.  A world where Jews lived in close-knit communities.  A world of oppression.  How is it like our own? And how is it different, and how did the fact of Christ’s coming make it different?
5.    Reflect on the manner in which he came.  To a poor working class family living in a village.  To a man and wife (fiancée) tossed about by the whims of the Roman emperor who wanted a census taken for taxation purposes.  In a cave for animals (notice how the Scriptures don’t make a big deal out of that).  In a little suburb of Jerusalem. 
6.    Reflect on the sacrifices demanded of his earthly parents.
7.    Reflect on the natural and supernatural phenomena around his coming.  Angels and miraculous stars.  Pregnancy without sex.  Dreams.  Taxes that send his parents to a prophesied birthplace.  Crowded inns.  Straw and animals.  Shepherds.  The two coexist.  In the modern world, we have rejected that they can, and miss the wonder.
8.    Reflect on the dreams involved in the Christmas story, especially to Joseph and the magi.
9.    Reflect on the emotional reactions his coming engendered.  Mostly fear—count the times someone, usually an angel, says “Do not fear.”  But also the disturbed anger of Herod, whose power is being diminished, and the pondering of Mary.
10. Reflect on joy, peace, love, and security, the emotions we should have.
11. Reflect on the weakness he showed to become our strength.
12. Reflect on the scriptures Matthew quotes from the Old Testament.
13. Reflect on the genealogy in Mathew and how five shamed women are in it:  Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary.
14. Reflect on the consequences of obedience and disobedience, faith or faithfulness in the accounts.
15. Reflect on how wrong our traditional depictions of Christmas are—and why.  We want neat tableaux, but we don’t get that here.  Only faithful expository Bible study will get at the truth, which is more refreshing than the Renaissance paintings (as wonderful as those are).
16. Reflect on how those who saw, told what they saw.  How widely known were these things?  Herod and all Jerusalem knew, Matthew says.  Later in Acts Paul says, “These things were not done in a corner.”  There are no secrets in God’s revelations.
17. Reflect on Mary’s song of thanks—the Magnificat—and how her great joy overcomes any sense that there will be shame and derision in her life because of her honor.
18. Reflect on the unexpectedness of it all.
19. Reflect on Zacharias’ song.  He is not a minor character.
20. Reflect on the Jewishness—to understand the cultural richness—and yet the universality of the story—to understand what God’s plan was all along, to use the Jews to bring us all to him.
21. Reflect how narrow our view of the gospel is.  How big is your gospel?
22. Reflect on the “democracy” of the story.  All social classes allowed—as long as their hearts are open.
23. Reflect on the hope delivered to the elderly saints Anna and Simeon.  These two accounts are often overlooked but bring joy.
24. Reflect on worldly power vs. spiritual power.  Herod’s palace was just a few miles from Bethlehem, as close as Brainerd to Rossville.  Herod thought he would solve his “problem.”  Not quite.  He himself was soon dead.  Our political solutions are at best short-term, at worst disastrous and evil—kill all the babies born in a certain time frame to retain power.  Yes, kill all the babies.  That seems like the perennial solution.
25. Reflect on how open your heart is to his coming—then, in the resurrection and in the end times.  Do you go to bed thinking “he might come as a thief in the night?”  Do you wake up thinking “this may be the day of his return?”

When Will We Learn

There is word going out that all over the country there are billboards going up, sponsored by an obviously misled but wealthy person, stating the Jesus will return to earth on May 23, 2011.  Somehow the group that person is affiliated with has figured it out mathematically from the Bible that this is the day.  Whether this is the so-called "rapture" or the actual Day of The Lord is not clear.

I have several observations on this matter, most of them obvious.  First, history is replete with accounts of deluded Christians who thought they knew when Jesus would return.  Those incidents just cause nonbelievers (and other Christians) to mock.  Of course, nonbelievers are going to mock at Christians any way, but I would personally prefer it be for the sacrifices we make for the kingdom, not for thinking we know more than Jesus himself, who said he didn't know the hour or day.

One of the most relevant was the Millerites of the 1850s, folks up in New York state who sold all their possessions and on two occasions went to wait for the Lord on a hillside.  What many dispensationalists do not know is that their view of eschatology was largely dependent on John Darby, who was affiliated with the Millerites (and others who became Adventists).  I know, I know--Baptists today are, for the most part, dispensationalists and believe in the Rapture/7-year tribulation/Second Coming/Millenium/Last Judgment scenario.  I was taught that and understand where it comes from.  But dispensationalists have a hard time finding this teaching any time before the late 1800s.  I realize this is controversial but I would challenge anyone who has trouble with it to find a reliable history of the Seventh-Day Adventists, the Millerites, John Darby, and the early fundamentalists (circa 1900) before they argue with me. 

I am not saying the Rapture, etc. scenario is wrong.  I am saying it shouldn't be considered a "deal breaker" doctrinally.  I prefer to look for the coming of Jesus the way he and the Father and the Holy Spirit want to do it.  Specifically, the Rapture, etc. scenario always seemed to me to be a way to say, "Christians won't go through intense persecution."  It is interesting also that it was "discovered" by Americans, people who really aren't too keen on acknowledging religious persecution.  I would prefer for the American church to be aware that going through intense persecution as the Day of the Lord approaches is a strong possibility, rather than their believing that we won't have to, that we will be snatched out of it before it gets too bad.  I know, I know.  Trust me, I know the verses about how Christians won't go through judgment.  But it seems to me that Christians should be aware of the possible interpretations of the end times so that they can be approached intelligently.  Otherwise we are saying to them "You are too stupid to deal with the complexities of Scriptures."

So along with the mockery and the problem of these billboards flying in the face of clear Biblical teaching, there is the question of resource allocation.  Aren't there wiser ways to spend that money?  I can't even imagine how much that campaign is costing, but I can imagine places where that money could be better spent to spread the gospel and relieve human suffering.  On the other hand, being the capitalist I am, if the man who is financing them earned the money honestly in business, he has every right to spend it as he wishes as long as it is legal.  But I just can't help but shake my head and think that building wells in Africa to ensure clean water supplies in a way that would show the love of Christ would be a better investment.

Finally, maybe I have it all wrong.  Maybe the Lord will come back in May.  Maybe this will cause people to listen up and repent and ready themselves for the end.  Certainly we, especially the Church, don't live like we really believe in Christ's return.  Sometimes I wonder if we believe he came the first time!  We could stand some constant reminding.  But setting dates and advertising it--I have my doubts.

Almost exactly how I feel

This article by Lynne Hybels (of Willow Creek Church fame) resonates with me and a lot of people, but only partially.  Christmastime is special and we can't let it become unspecial.  We just have to find the way that what we are doing to celebrate it is productive and meaningful, not just reminiscent of a hamster running on a wheel in a cage.
http://blog.christianitytoday.com/women/2010/12/lynne_hybels_my_lazy_christmas.html

I have been noticing a lot of rhetoric about downsizing Christmas, should Christians even celebrate it, etc.  Come on people.  Let your moderation be known unto all men, Paul said.  Not "let your Scroogey abstinence from everything human and fun and celebratory be known unto all men."

Of course, this from a woman who on December 18 doesn't have her tree up yet and has determined not to be guilted into spending money I don't have, even on charities.    But all that will get done.  Perhaps that is the difference.  At 55 (as of yesterday) I realize that what needs to get done will more than likely get done, and if it doesn't, maybe it didn't need to be.  Sort of my idea of managing resources in a church.  If people won't step up to a ministry, maybe they don't want the ministry done.  God can call his servants.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Observation #49

Those Mayhem commercials from Allstate are getting more and more disturbing.

Coinage

I love the coinage of new words.  My husband just created one just for himself.  He has work apnea.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Transitions

Something that separates poor public speakers from good ones is transitions.  Good public speakers understand, even consciously or intuitively, that listeners need all the help they can get.  It is vital to give listeners directions on how to listen to one's presentation. 

It starts, of course, with a decided plan that you are committed to following.  It's called an outline.  You may balk at the old "Roman numeral thing."  Fine, but there has to be a way of enumerating points and letting yourself see that some ideas are "main" and others are "minor" or subordinate or explanatory.  Being excessively left-brained, I think in Roman numeral outlines, but understand some people don't (although I don't understand how they get anything done). 

Then the outline has to be pretty well cemented in the speaker's mind.  Not memorized, just solidly clear.  That's why all textbooks rightly say no more than five main ideas or sections.  And that would only be true if you absolutely have to have it that way because of the nature of the subject.  Three or four is better.  Simple, elegant structure is what matters.

Now, the transitions.  You need a transition between the introduction and first main section (called a preview statement of all the sections or points), between each main sections, between each point that appears in a list (more on that below), and one between the last section and the closing statement (called a summary).  Yes, lots of transitions. 

If you have a section with a long list of parallel ideas, such as steps or "to do" or examples, there should be a short transition between each one.  However, between major sections of the presentations, transitions should be more like a sentence or two. 

Transitions are not for data, stories, or new information.  They are simple guideposts to let the audience follow you as a speaker since we are not good listeners and our attentiveness falters so much.  Transitions bring us back into focus, help us see logical connections, and remind us of what we have heard so far.

Finally, don't fall into the "next" trap.  A transition needs to point backward and forward.  What has previously been "covered" must be summarized and connected to what's to come.

Movie As It Happens

TCM, the only station I watch, is showing Night of the Living Dead, the first zombie movie I ever saw (or will ever see again, if you don't count that one with Will Smith--not sure those were zombies).   It's noteworthy ersonally for many reasons.

1.  It is a classic and didn't take much money or time to make.  Art doesn't have to cost.  It also doesn't have to take a long time to create.  On the other hand, trash can be made cheaply and in a short amount of time, too.
2.  The main character's (victim's) name is Barbara, so that's especially creepy for me.
3.  There is a young African American male in it as the "hero", very rare for then.
4.  The first time I saw it was on Halloween weekend in the 80s.  I had taken my forensics team to a tournament at Appalachian state and we had a party in the hotel room and watched cheesy horror movies.  David Wells, now a lawyer in Chicago, talked me into watching it by telling me what a great movie it was.  At the end I wanted to kill him for wasting my time on it.  David, if you are reading this, I forgive you.   Now I understand.
5.  The thing about zombies is their relentlessness.  They just keep coming.  That's a great hook for a horror movie.   

For a few minutes I had Bill O'Reilly on.  My husband called from the other room to ask if I was watching Night of the Living Dead.  Yes, I said.  I am watching Dick Morris.

Something to Ponder

I like to reference essays and articles on Christianity Today.  That magazine saved my life; I told Timothy George, one of its editors, that when I met him.  He laughed and said most people complain about it.  Here is one I liked today:  http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2010/december/23.68.html

Ravi Zacharias argues that a religion should not be judged by the actions of its followers if the followers are not following the real teaching and example of the religion's founder.  His point is that a lot of people who say they follow Christ do a lot of things that have nothing to do with the example he set and the lessons he taught, so it's somewhat (but not totally) irrelevant to judge Christianity by its supposed adherents.  Essentially, go to the source.

Muhammad heard from the angel and conquered; Buddha sat and meditated; Jesus walked, healed, fed, lived,  walked some more, fellowshiped, died, rose from the dead, walked some more.  People came to him, but he went to them.  I think that sense of activity, movement, service, urgency, mission, etc. is what we must see in the gospels.  Immediately.

There is much to look askance at in Christianity, much to roll one's eyes about; much to be snarky about; much to want to vomit out of one's mouth.  But don't look at that, if you can.  Look at the source.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Top Ten Ways to Bomb with PowerPoint

1.  Use creative, fancy fonts.  Algerian is particularly good.
2.  Use the slides as your notes for the presentation (i.e., lots of small text)
3.  Put the text over pictures.

4.  Let the slide transitions substitute for oral transitions.
5.  Use automatic timing.
6.  Don't waste time with pictures.
7.  Put several pictures on each slide.
8.  Use graphs and charts with 20 or 30 pieces of information on them.
9.   Use a different background design or color on each slide.
10.  Don't waste slides on things like titles, previews, transitions, or questions for the audience.

Quotes and Quips

Be the change you want to see in the world.  (attributed to Gandhi)

Man in Mae West movie:  I've heard a lot about you.
Mae West:  Yeah, but you can't prove any of it.

A man alone is in bad company.  Jacques Cousteau

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Reading the Old Testament


I have to admit that, all things considered, I prefer to teach the New Testament than the Old.  There are many reasons for this preference, some of which I am more comfortable with discussing than others.  The New Testament seems universal to me, global.  The Old Testament can seem very nationalistic, even tribal.  That is not to say it is not universal in terms of human experience or that the narratives are untrue or aren’t great literature.  I am speaking more in terms of the perspective and worldview.

A second reason is that I think many Bible teachers do a poor job at the application.  The lesson behind David’s life events (or any other Bible character’s) is not that we should make the same kind of decisions or actions.  The main points of the Bible stories and characters in the Old Testament is to teach the sovereignty of God in history and the superintendency of the Jewish people to bring Christ to the world; also Old Testament narratives show examples of God’s character.  There are so many cultural and historical issues involved in the Old Testament that putting the figures up as role models is problematic.  Many of the “lessons” that Bible teachers (especially those on the radio who have to come up with “new material”) are insultingly obvious anyway, as if we couldn’t figure out some of it by ourselves.

However, as I had to teach on Solomon this morning, I did see some fresh (for me, of course, not for others) ideas about the Old Testament in I Kings 1-8.  The book starts like some kind of movie, with scheming among David’s family and multiple wives.  Solomon comes out the winner, as he was supposed to be, and sets about to be as good a king as his father.  He marries for political advantage, wreaks some revenge on those who betrayed his father, and otherwise begins to reign.  At this point, we moderns just don’t get it.  We don’t do kings.  I wonder how seriously we take it.  But then Solomon gets a chance few ever do:  to answer the question from God, “What do you really want.”  And he answers not just right, but in an incredibly humble fashion.

Here is where I stop.  Despite his culture and time, Solomon is thinking like a New Testament person.  He is, dare I say it, thinking like a modern, not like what he is—a king in 1000 B.C. Mesopotamia.  His answer is essentially the same as if we were to say, “The main thing I want is to be like Christ, whatever it takes.”  He says, “I want wisdom to lead God’s people.”  There is no selfishness in his prayer, and what’s more, there is no sense of the despotic middle eastern king of that time.  This is not Saul, not Shalmeneser, not Tiglath-Pileser.    Solomon understands that the law of God is king; the king is not the law.  Solomon understands (and we see later that he stands and kneels to pray) that he is just like everyone else, not a deity as would be a common in that time. 

He gets his request, and I am reminded of Eph. 3:20.  God is not stingy; he gives us exceedingly abundantly above what we ask or think.  We are just not sensitive enough to see it. 

In chapter 8 we have the “prayer” of Solomon at the dedication of the temple he is allowed to build because his father was too bloody a warrior (and a murderer as well) to do so.  That prayer is, shall we say, ahead of its time.  It has a universal, global world view, not a local one.  Read it and notice how he 1. Acknowledges the human need for grace 2. Places the Jewish nation in an international context and 3. Emphasizes that the temple is only a symbol of God’s presence with the Jews, not where a transcendent God lives. 

I live with the ghosts of bad preachers.  I have heard so many sermons on the sin of these characters, yet God didn’t look at them and see the blots.  He looked at them and sees their hearts.   Just like he does us, and just like we don’t to other people.  This is a thought for another post—seeing hearts.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Gotta say it

My husband and I have a fascination for the Billy Wilder classic, Sunset Boulevard.  I love that movie.  It's got to be one of the best ever.  But I imagine it would be an acquired taste for today's young audience because they wouldn't understand the background of the silent film era. You may watch it and think, "Barbara Tucker is a maniac to like this movie."  I'll just have to live with that!

More to the point, I have to say that I am deeply in awe of God's answering our prayers.  My mother, 82, had a hysterectomy two and half weeks ago, and at the doctor today we learned that she is cancer free and not needing any chemotherapy or radiation.

Please do not wonder about the incongruity of these two comments.  It's very indicative of my life.

Wow--451!

This is my 451st blog post.

I have been getting a lot more traffic on this blog lately, and comments are coming to my email account, but they are not all showing up on the blog site.  I am not sure why, but I will look into it.  Thank you to the people who are writing.  I am not ignoring you.  If you want one of my email addresses, use btbarbaratucker11@gmail.com. 

I look forward to writing more this weekend, but we are in the middle of finals and that is crunch time for college teachers.

Have a super day!

Monday, December 06, 2010

The Help Review

Last night I finished the book, The Help.  A very good read, although it took me about twenty pages to get into it.  I think the biggest problem was that I had accepted the "opinion" that  white person cannot write in the voice of a minority, that to do so was either unfair or would just be ineffective.  However, I had done it in my own novel, and wasn't sure how I felt about it.

Kathryn Sockett, I am sure, has heard that, but she ignored it to a much greater extent than I did so that 2/3 of her very long book is in the point of view of Black maids in the early civil right movement period in Jackson, MS.  It's all in first person, but of three characters, two of them African-American.  I would have preferred it if she had spelled their words correctly, though. 

This may be one of those books that in twenty years will be seen as cloying and dated, or maybe not.  I liked it,  at least the what.  The how I am not sure of yet, although she keeps the point-of-view technique very consistent.  I just thought one of the characters was overblown. 

Just Checking In

I have been at the SACS convention in Louisville, Kentucky for the past four days. It was very informative for me since I am the QEP Committee Chair. The QEP is an interesting animal and I will forgo any comments on it until I feel that I understand the process--which might be in July of 2012 when ours is due. In short, I will say that I can see the value of the QEP but I also think it uses up too many resources--manhours, financial, psychological, and emotional. I am not sure a cost-benefit analysis has been done.

If you don't know what QEP is about, don't worry. Nobody but higher ed folks cares.

Louisville is an interesting city. My two colleagues and I stayed at the Brown Hotel, which was quite enjoyable. The Brown was the setting for some of the movie Elizabethtown in 2005. When I walked into the lobby I thought, "I have been here before" and asked if the hotel had been in a movie. My guess was right. That was pretty neat. We ate in the hotel restaurant and the food was wonderful. More pricey than I would normally pay, but a nice treat. I had lamb chops and creme brulee.

We had a bit of snow, off and on. Nice this morning--but very cold--but not nice Saturday--cold and wet. I saw a president of a college where I used to work and learned a great deal, mostly how much work we have to do.

The trip allowed me to reflect on some things. One is that this blog is not doing what it should. This is the Seinfeld of blogs--about nothing. Now, that's not how it started. It started being about communication. Then it got spiritual. Then it got literary and cinematic, when it wasn't being random and twitterish.

In reflecting on things, I realized I need to focus it more, stop just being opinionated, share relevant information, and lay off the narcissism. So I will try in the future to approach this with helpful articles, if I can't have a singular theme.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Another Day in History

Apparently I am on a history kick. But today is the 55th anniversary of Rosa Parks taking a stand by keeping her seat and holding on to her dignity.

This was not just a "I'm fed up" thing by Ms. Parks. It was a planned act of nonviolent resistance, and she was a member of the NAACP in Montgomery. That has nothing to do with the bravery of the act; to me, the fact that it was intentional and planned makes it all the more courageous. We can do a lot of things on the spur of the moment out of anger that may or may not end up being a good idea.

So be thankful today for one woman's small act could mean so much. They usually do.

Netflix

Netflix has changed its design and now gives you a percentage match, I suppose based on what you have watched before.  Here are some interes...