Friday, September 30, 2011

Perverse Sense of Humor

I hate to admit it, but these comments on the People of Walmart website are just hilarious.

If I were to add one, it would be, "In Walmart, nobody knows you're a dog."

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Trailer for Novel

 My first attempt at using MovieMaker!

What Fundamentalism didn't teach me

This an addendum to an earlier post.

It didn't teach me to love.

It didn't teach me humanity, and to deal with my humanity.  It didn't teach me to look for the humanity of Christ.  It didn't teach me to accept other people's humanity. 

It didn't teach me flexibility.

It didn't teach me to feel and be honest about what I feel.

It didn't teach me to relax.  Or have fun.

It didn't teach me that human beings matter even if they aren't of my faith, and that I can't define a person just by whether they are of my faith or not.

Monday, September 26, 2011


I have several copies of my novel that I will sell for $10.00 a piece, signed.  That is my cost.  I will mail them or deliver them. 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

What do we call it? Words for Becoming a Christian

This is post 661.  Hummmmm. 

Recently in class a student said in a speech, "I got saved."  The student sitting in front of me whispered to another one, in my hearing, "What does that mean?

My point exactly. Let's talk about the ins and outs of what we call the experience.

Getting saved sounds country and doesn't really communicate. 

Accepting Christ as your savior is a little better, although some groups would say He already is the savior in a general sense, and they accept that, so what's the big deal.  Oh, change it to "accept Him as your personal Savior."  Then there is the problem of accepting.  Who is doing the accepting?  Isn't Jesus accepting us?  Who are we to accept Him?  The "he stands at the door and knocks" idea is from Revelation 3:20 and is in the context of the church as a whole, so does it apply to this experience?

Then there is "conversion."  If I say "I converted" it's very me-centered, and people say that when they convert from one religion to another that has nothing to do with Christianity.  If I say, "I was converted" I think that's closer, because it's not me doing the work, although some would think you were Jewish or Buddhist, not just general American pagan beforehand.

Then there is the now trendy, "become a Christ-follower."  I can see that, although a lot of people who use it are using it to be trendy and not because they are really following Christ.  They are using it instead of "I became a Christian" because of the misconception of what a Christian is, as if there isn't a misconception about what a Christ follower is.

"Become a believer" is another phrase.  I am not sure it translates, so it should at least be "a believer in Christ."

"Being born again" is totally Biblical in origin, but had been co-opted, thank you, Jimmy Carter. 

Obviously, I am playing some semantic games here, with the understanding that semantics is the study of how persons understand the meanings of words, not just that words can be taken many ways.  In our discussion of what happened when we passed from death unto life, when we moved from being an enemy of God to a child of God, it is difficult to find phrases that  1.  have not been taken away from us and twisted by others;   2  have not lost their cultural meaning;  3. do not place the bulk of the work on ourselves when we often had little to do with the choice at the time; we are surprised by joy, as Lewis said.

I would appreciate input here. 

What Fundamentalism Taught Me

I used to be a fundamentalist, or at least I belonged to a fundamentalist group.  I really don't know how much I was one.  In some ways I still am one, but I eschew such labels.  I am not fond of evangelical either, as it means something different here than it does in Europe, etc. 

And there are different types of fundamentalists, and I am not talking about Muslim or Hindu fundamentalists.  "Fundamentalists" was coined when two Los Angeles businessmen at the turn of the 19th century (or 20th, depending on one's perspective, I guess) financed the writing and production of tracts called "The Fundamentals" to battle the German-based liberalism floating into mainline churches.  The Fundamentals at that time were doctrinal, and nothing that any conservative Protestant would have trouble with:  inerrancy of Scripture, original sin, atonement by Christ on the cross, second coming, and a few others.  Then it all got mixed up with the dispensationalists and then with the prohibitionists, and then with certain preachers and their followers, etc.  Then fundamentalism began to mean any radical group that claimed to be more faithful to the original teachings of a faith, as they saw it.  It is sad that the origins of fundamentalism were lost in all kinds of nondoctrinal and nonessential elements. 

By the 1960s and '70s, fundamentalists were a group, not all Baptists but largely, who were known for not liking other people; for prizing separatism; for fighting innovations, rock music, certain forms of dress, evolution, changes in the culture's sexual norms, and the Democratic party.   I'll blame Jerry Falwell for that last one.  There are Black fundamentalists, too, but you wouldn't have known it from the media, who pretty much looked for ways to make fundamentalists look bad even when they were doing the right thing, feeding the poor, helping the homeless, etc.  In fact, while we had our quirks, we were pretty normal people on a daily basis.  We paid our bills, went to jobs, had children, paid taxes, etc. 

But our quirks could become worse.  Some of the leaders were cultic, horribly so.  Furthermore, being against a cultural trend is not so bad, unless you don't have a truly cultivated and complete world view to know why you should be against a cultural trend.  And legalism was rampant.  Not only was legalism extensive, not knowing what legalism is was extensive, and that's even worse.  So when some people left fundamentalism they thought they had left legalism, forgetting that "the problem lies not with our stars, but in ourselves."  Legalism is not in a system.  Legalism is within us.  There's a reason we fall for legalism and have to be rescued from it--we like it!  Even when we know we can't live that way, we hold on to it.  It's very hard to give up, because legalism puts us on a level with God.  We can bargain with Him.  We can control Him, or think we can.  We can feel good about ourselves and dog gone it, we can feel superior to other people.  The same fundamentalism that taught us what rotten sinners we are for some reason also taught us how superior we were for living a certain way. 

I did not step out of fundamentalism like going through a door, because it took me years to shake off some of it (the bad parts), to discern what the good parts are (the adherence to good doctrine and exegetical Bible teaching), and, what I'll be doing the rest of my life, to come closer to Christ so that inherent, insipid legalism diminishes day by day, year by year.  So what did fundamentalism teach me?

That Christian discipline is not legalism.  But as Scot McKnight writes, the disciplines do not exist for themselves.  They have a kingdom, not a self-centered, purpose.  I don't practice the disciplines of the Christian life to feel good about myself or for any personal reason, but to participate in the larger kingdom (and body) of Christ.

That you should always be leery of demagogic leaders or those who rise to prominence due to public speaking or preaching abilities.  I am a cynic about anyone who is a glib speaker; part of that comes from being a rhetorical scholar and knowing what speakers are doing.  So many people were wowed by Barack Obama simply because he is a good orator.    For some reason, we prize "fast talkers."  Been there, done that.

That I am not swayed when someone says, "You must do ..... for your Christian life."  When the movie The Passion came out, people who should have known better told me, "You've got to see this, it will make you understand the cross."  No thank you.  I don't need anything Hollywood offers, or even some Christian publishers, for that matter, to make my life better.  I don't fall for that stuff any more.

It's made me broaden my horizons.  I read more liberal writers (or those I was told were liberal) and Catholics.  I once met Timothy George of Beeson Divinity School and thanked him for working for Christianity Today, because it changed my life.  It left me see that there were thinking people who trusted Christ the way I did.  He laughed and said that usually he got criticized more than thanked.  But I was sincere.  CT is not liberal, but I've gone way beyond that.

That there is more than one way to think about the second coming, as long as you believe in it (bodily, end of the world, etc.)

That people who you might think are legalistic love the Lord, that a choice not to go to movies does not mean the person is bound by legalism and may just have good reasons not to waste their money and time in entertainment. 

And most of all, that obedience to Christ is the one thing that really matters.

Higher Education by Hacker and Dreifuss

This is also published on my teaching and learning blog.

I finished this book last night, although I have to be honest and say I skipped the chapter on athletics.  No one has to convince me that college athletics is a big problem all the way around, for the athletes, the non-athlete students, and the college system.   The only winners are the over-paid coaches and the maniacal boosters. 
The book questions whether higher education in this country really is higher education (thus the ? in the title).  To some extent the writers come at the question as I interpreted it—is what’s going on in colleges and universities really higher than, say, high school, in terms of intellectual activity, thinking processes, challenges, etc?  More about that below. 

They, however, are more concerned with the bang for the buck end of it.  Students, or their families, may pay over $100,00 for a college education, but why, and what is the value added?  The why is due to sports, fancy dorms that don’t look anything like the barracks we had back in the ‘60s and ‘70s, ridiculous pay for presidents (why should a college president make more than the President of the U.S.?), and escalation of non-instructional faculty on campuses, with directors of diversity, etc.  Another big culprit is tenure, which is supposed to protect us from encroachments on academic freedom and free speech, but is unnecessary for that and only allows tenured faculty to stay around past their usefulness and/or get lazy and less and less productive. 

Now, I am tenured, although  some would argue I don’t deserve it or qualify for it (limited research, no doctorate).  And occasionally I say to myself, stop knocking yourself out, you have tenure and can’t get another promotion, so what’s the point?  And I do plan to work until I’m 70, which may be past my prime, but I don’t know what Social Security will do in ten years.  And I still would like to finish the doctorate so I can get an administrative position.   So I sort of buy their tenure argument and think something new should take its place.  On the other hand, I have it, and worked hard for it, and tenure is very hard to get in many places, more because of politics and infighting than quality of performance.  The old timers control it, and can sabotage anyone whom they don’t like or think is ideologically in the right direction.  Ending tenure might bring new and fresh ideas in to the academy (and get rid of a lot of old-style left-wingers).   It might mean a college has to work to get good faculty because there is more mobility—an assistant professor doesn’t feel like he or she has to stay somewhere to get the golden ring of tenure.

As for whether college adds anything, as my son said today, it shows you can learn.  It shows a certain level of independence, of initiative, or stick-to-itiveness, and yes, intelligence.  It shows a certain level of exposure and awareness.  It does not show moral reasoning or living, as it should, however.  It doesn’t necessarily show good writing or critical thinking skills, although it should (here, I refer you to Academically Adrift).  There’s a reason only one-third of the population has a bachelor’s degree.  It demands something of you.  But I would agree that for some reason, it’s not doing all it should, and just like the dollar has devalued over the past fifty years, so has a college education.  My son, even in this economy, should not have had to apply for 250 jobs in the last four months and find that his best offer is in retail sales. 

Another concern is whether college creates any social mobility, especially for minorities.  It has for women and Asians, but not so much for African-Americans, American Indians, and Latinos, at least not yet and not to the extent it has for white females and Asians of both genders.   This is also the argument behind Academically Adrift (Higher Education? is in many ways a just more breezily-written version of Academically Adrift).

Hacker and Dreifuss also go after the lifestyles of presidents and tenured faculty and students of the private colleges that are considered elite, Williams, Davidson, the Ivies, etc.  The schools cost too much, the families who send their children there are wealthy, the presidents make too much, and so do the faculty, who get sabbaticals.  They go on and on quite a bit about these matters before they get to the reality of higher education:  community college and state colleges, where instructors teach 5-5 or 5-4, where there is really no faculty governance, where there is no such thing as a sabbatical, and where salaries are dependent on state legislators and faculty are in danger of furlough. 

My main fight with the book is that it presents the elites as the norm and rule rather than the exception, although they admit that the vast majority of students  are in the “salt mines of higher education” (my phrase).  However, they don’t talk about what’s going on in these places, where tuitions are pretty low and teaching is the goal and instructors work 40-50 hours a week and there is no prestige, but we like our jobs anyway and there’s some great teaching going on.    It’s a lot sexier and divisive to talk about six-figure salaries at Hofstra and Princeton. 

So, I’ve read the book, but I can’t recommend it to anyone outside of academia because it perpetuates myths when we “real” college instructors need to do some P.R. about our job requirements. 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Reading on a Beautiful Day

I am reading today.  What a blessing.  I am one of those people who believes, if Heaven is not a library itself, it has a really, really big one. 

But it's a beautiful day, and as Martin Buber wrote, we can al ways open the door and talk to people no matter how much we get involved in books.  So later I will enjoy it, but not to do yard work.  I did that all summer. 

I have posted about what I am reading on my other blog,

Life has been very busy.  Last week I spent the weekend with my Baptist Collegiate Ministries students at a conference in McDonough, Georgia, at a very large church.  It was an excellent conference.  Michael Kelley, whom I would recommend, was the speaker and DownHere was the band.  I give both 5 stars out of 5.  The theme was "where being human and being Christian meet."  That "collision" has plagued me for many years.  Sometimes the two just don't seem to fit.  But whose fault is that?  All the values we think are human values in the modern world are watered down versions of Christian values.  Tolerance is a watered down value of love; diversity is a watered down version of Rev. 5:9. 

So this week I have tried to process, something I am not good at because I am ADD and let myself get overstimulated. 

We bought a used Volvo from an individual two weeks ago.  My husband has been working on it.  It's really nice.  The dogs like it.  The dogs are ruling our lives. 

I am taking an anti-inflammatory that has many side effects, mostly in terms of stomach upset.  It's for my feet--I went to the podiatrist yesterday and have many problems.  I am supposed to exercise them!  I need new orthotics for my shoes, and need to stop wearing non-New Balance shoes.

I hope to get back to blogging--I have a list of topics to consider.  

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Traveling through: Reading Recommendation

I have been reluctant to push my writing.   But I have come to the conclusion I am a good writer.  A family member, bless her heart, said she liked my book better than The Help.   I don't put it in that category, but it's still a good read.  You can get it on Kindle for 7.89. 

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Dumb comment on art

A friend and I visited the Cheekwood Museum in Nashville last week.  Walking through, I heard a patron say,

"This can't be art because I don't understand it."

That is about the dumbest comment I have ever heard about art.  It is the same as saying, "This can't be art because I don't like it." 

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Gumby robs store!

 SAN DIEGO (AP) — A person dressed as Gumby walked into a Southern California convenience store, claiming to have a gun and demanding money, but costume trouble and a skeptical clerk thwarted the would-be robber.

The caption to the picture for this story from the Associated Press said that police were looking for a suspect in a Gumby suit.  Seems like he would have taken it off pretty quickly.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Zookeeper and a Rainy Labor Day

After five weeks or more of intensely dry weather, we are getting torrential rains due to Hurricane Lee.  That means floods.  It also means Labor Day is a fizzle for many people.

Yesterday I spent a Sunday in an entirely different way.  My son and I were going to go to Atlanta, but I was not feeling up to it.  Something with my head, my stomach, and great fatigue.  Today I feel great, so it's done.  However, I gathered the strength for us to spend some time together in Chattanooga.  We went to the Chattanooga Market, which was crowded but I got some good bread from a bakery in Marietta, Bernhard's Bread Bakery LC, some lettuce from a local grower, and some cards from New Canaan Publishers (trying to support local businesses here).  Then we went to the Hunter, largely because it is free on the first Sunday of the month and because I expected to see some of my students there; I saw two.  Then we went to Mall and I bought rugs and we went to separate movies.

I saw Zookeeper.  Great cinema it is not, but it was not crude, I laughed a lot, and I've seen much worse.  Not a King of Queens fan though.  Rosario Dawson is beautiful.  I rarely recommend movies because there is a cost involved, but this would be worth the $1.00 on Redbox.

Came home and watched an Inspector Lewis (those have really convoluted plots but I like him and his relationships with all the supposed smart people in Oxford).  Reading a book called Higher Education which is making me perplexed. 

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Click, by Ori and Rom Brafman

Just finished a book I picked up at the local library.  Ironically, the book made an instant connection with me and I picked it up, and the book is about instant connections between people!  It's called Click; these two brothers wrote another one, called Sway, which I will look for.  The book reminded me of Making it Stick, in the way it took complicated research and interpreted it.  Since I will be teaching a human communication course soon, I will consider the book for my reading list.  It's easy reading (I read it in one day and am not a fast reader) but thought-provoking.  I have long struggled personally and academically with the difference between propositional truth and experiential truth, and that is sort of the subject of this book.

Also on my reading list right now:
Academically Adrift by Arum and Roska (for a faculty learning community)
Developing Learner Centered Teaching by Blumberg (also for a faculty learning community)
Diary of a Country Priest
Higher Education by Hacker and Dreifus
Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, fascinating and life transforming

I struggle with the issue of a Kindle; I have too many books that I have to read first before getting more on an Ebook.  I also don't know that I'd enjoy it.  The research isn't favorable, according to Nicholas Carr.

For light reading I work on my own next novel, an excerpt of which was posted earlier in August.  Tentative title is Opportunity Coming.  It was Prosperity Coming until I found out there is a town in South Carolina named Prosperity, so I couldn't use it.

Friday, September 02, 2011


I visited an old colleague's blog today.  What I noted was that his was more whimsical.  By that I don't mean silly.  It was serious.  But it wasn't so opinionated as mine, not so dead-handed.

We could all use some whimsy.  I'm going to get off the computer and make fried okra and fried green tomatoes and brownies to go with the pinto beans and cornbread.  That's not so much whimsical as desirable. 

As my colleague, Jerry Drye, a humor scholar says, Laughter is a necessity, not a luxury.


A lot of advertisers talk about bundling nowadays; for example, cable packages.  I'd like to address a different type.

The gospel is a bundle.  It's not the cafeteria plan.  We don't get to take out pieces we don't like.  Now, that doesn't mean we all agree on everything in the gospel, or give everything equal emphasis.  But we don't get to discard parts.

Specifically, my friend and I were talking about another acquaintance who dismissed the second coming, rather offhandedly, but would still call himself/herself a Christian.  If Jesus came once, he's coming back.  Now, I would be the first to say I'm not tied to the rapture as it is currently taught, but that doesn't mean I don't believe in the second coming.  And it really doesn't matter if I believe it or not.  It's going to happen, and even more, it's part of the whole package. 

Restaurant Recommendation: O'Charley's

We don't go out to eat much.  We usually limit it to Cracker Barrel (excellent quality control--you always know what you are going to get), Ryans Buffet, or Fast Food (Arby's Market Fresh sandwiches, Chick-Fil-A--great company, Wendy's maybe).  I recently discovered Panda Express--good Chinese meal for a good price, looks clean and tastes fresh.  Portofino's in Chattanooga also gets a nod.  Chef Lin's in East Ridge also.

But the other day when my friend and I went to Nashville to visit the Cheekwood, we ate at an O'Charley's.  It had been a while since I'd been to one.  We both had the Calypso Spinach Salad.

It was excellent.  I am still tasting it, and I mean that in a good way.  The salad was a generous portion of fresh spinach, with sliced tart apples, craisins, bleu cheese, bacon, slices of chicken, and pecans.  Then what they called a honey-apple dressing, sort of a vinaigrette.  I totally recommend it. 

Whistlin' Dixie in a Nor'easter by Lisa Patton

I met the author of this novel in April and found her to be a charming woman, even prettier than the picture on the back flap.  I would recommend this for a light and entertaining read.  She would be the first to say it's not great literature, but I did like the heroine and applauded her for her growing strength.  If anyone wants to borrow my book, they can.  The story is basically that a well-off, somewhat pampered and sometimes naive girl from Memphis agrees to follow her husband when he wants to buy and run a B & B with a four-star restaurant in Vermont.  She meets lots of interesting characters and has to learn how to stand on her own. 

Excellent Biblical Resources

Ok, let's start with the assumption that if someone blogs, he/she wants people to read it.  And that means finding ways to get traffic.  And that means exciting or grabby titles that will show up in Google, right?  So forgive me for calling these excellent.  
I am up to about 650 blog posts, and many of them are indepth lessons for my class, which I am not teaching any more.  But a blog should have resources, so I've made this list to help people find specific topics.  You can also look at the archive if you have the patience.  I may do the same thing for communication, movies, etc.

Public Speaking Online: Part III

This is a continuation of articles below on speaking for webinars, etc.  Experts give a few other preparation tips...