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Showing posts from October, 2011

Speaking Engagement

I will be speaking on creative fiction writing and my own writing journey at the Catoosa County Library on Sunday, November 13, at 2:00.  I will also read from my work and sign books.

Man on Side of the Road

Yesterday I experienced a searing case of cognitive dissonance.

I was driving to church for the 8:30 service.  To get to my church, I drive about 2.5 miles to get to the interstate.  Then I have to turn left at a light to get onto I-75.  Sitting at the light, I saw a man who was obvious cold and in need of something.  It was 32 or 33 degrees yesterday morning, with frost.  I locked my door.  As we sat there, he approached a man in a van who just shook his head, and then the car behind me.  The light turned and I went on.

Of course, the sermon I then heard was on giving.

If the man had approached me, I assure myself, I would have given him a fiver.  What can he do with a fiver?  It might buy a few beers, but it also might buy him enough gas to get home or a sandwich.  It wouldn't buy any high-priced drugs or pot.  But I didn't want him to approach me, I didn't want to deal with him.

The cognitive dissonance is not just about that man, who is one snowflake on the iceberg, no…

Eternity in our Hearts

One of my favorite verses in in Ecclesiastes:  3:11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.12 I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. 13 That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil--this is the gift of God.14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him.


"Eternity in their hearts."  I believe this is the reason behind most of the art, literature, music, religion, and accomplishments of human history.  

I believe it is what accounts for that most human of emotions, yearning.  We know, deep down, we will live forever.  Death will not finish us.  As C. S. Lewis wrote, "You have never spoken to a mere mortal."  But how we will live after death is what separate…

Choice?

In the uneven movie Kingdom of Heaven, there is a memorable line:  Islam says submit, Christianity says choose.

I like that, and wish it could be presented as the end-all and be-all of the differences between the two faiths.  Of course, it can't.  For one thing, Christianity has quite a bit about submission to it. 

The question I would pose, though, is how much choice do we really have in life?  How much of "choice" is an illusion?

I bring this up because we heard the choir sing a song today with the words, "I choose to believe."  We enthrone choice:  life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  We say that what makes us human is our ability to choose.  But what do we really choose?

Nothing genetic.  Nothing ethnic.  Nothing about our birth.  Nothing essentially about our looks.  Yes, we can change a lot of our looks, but not the bases.  Not our parents, and not how they raised us. Not the choices of other people who may have great influence on us.  Not termin…

Are Dictators Better than Democracy?

This is of course a rhetorical question.  No, because dictators, no matter how benevolent they may become, or seem to (it's usually just a gloss, an appearance) got to their position by violent and corrupt, unethical, unrighteous means, or his ancestors did.  And of course the majority of dictators, 99/100, commit atrocities, violate human rights, and start unjust wars.  But I bring this question up because certain middle Eastern dictators have benevolently protected, or at least ignored, the Christian minorities in their countries, but the so-called Arab Spring threatens this protection of women and minority religious groups.

(I would here recommend Philip Jenkins work on the history of Christianity in the Middle East.  It's very enlightening as to how the region of Northern Africa, the Middle East, and South and Central Asia became so predominantly Islamic when it was so thoroughly Christianized by the 7th century, even to India and China.  He is a reputable scholar, not som…

Zero Sum Game

I think this word sums up what is wrong with a lot of people's thinking.

The economy is not a zero sum game.  It is not one big pie that has to be cut up into more and more smaller pieces.  We create more pies; we can create more and more pies to feed more and more people.

Now, I know the response--this is capitalism, and capitalism exploits the environment by using up resources.  But capitalism as a way of thinking can find ways not to use resources and still create wealth.  It happens all the time.  Capitalism frees people to use their creativity and innovation to create wealth and by doing so create jobs.

Learning is not a zero sum game.  My students think their brains are only so big and that they must protect their brain capacity.   But neuroscience has proven that learning creates more synapses.  However, as capitalism creates wealth through hard work, learning creates more "brain capacity" for knowledge through hard work.   Learning takes effort, something no one …

My secret addiction: Film Noir

I love film noir.  I don't know why; they just fascinate me.  When I get a chance to see a new one, I take it; I'll watch some of them over and over.  It appeals to the pessimist in me, I guess. 

What makes film noir?

Black and white.  So much better than technicolor.  A female who is "complex" and usually in control and ready to let the male protagonist suffer if he needs to.  She's not a good girl.The male star usually dies at the end, or doesn't really get what he wants.Always about crime.There are lots of plot twists and turns.They exude the post WWII urban landscape.The problem is, I often forget the name of the films afterward, even though I remember what happened! 

Brokenness

I have in the last week been introduced to the video teaching ministry of Angela Thomas.  I like her.  She is funny but not silly; her stories are relevant and don't go on for twenty minutes; she doesn't act like she's got a seminary degree even though she actually does (I'm way impressed by that), and her segments are short, about 30 minutes long.  She's also a good- sized woman and admits to using Jenny Craig.

The segment that I listened to this morning (in a SS class) was on brokenness, and she used Ruth as the text.  She kept it general, referencing her own brokenness due to a divorce when she had four young children and apparently was ostracized in her teaching ministry.  That does not surprise me.  Regardless of how one thinks about divorce, there are those forced into it who don't want it, and they are treated very badly by churches, especially by women in the churches.  The married women act like the newly divorced woman is going to steal their husbands…

Concern for the Day

I hope I'm not breaking a copyright regulation here.  This is from Charles Colson.  

Let me say that I, like all fair-minded conservatives, tried to give Obama and his administration the benefit of the doubt.  It became apparent that we could not do that.  Please, if you are reading this and voted for Mr. Obama because you thought he was young, fresh, energetic, and hopeful, or if you just voted for him because he is of African descent, or you just voted for him because he is a good public speaker,  please study what he has done objectively and reconsider your vote.  He wanted to fundamentally transform American--why?If you voted for him because you sincerely believe in what he advocates, then that is your right and we live in a free society.  All I am saying is know who and what you are voting for.

Freedom, Schmeedom
Religious Liberty on Trial

October 21, 2011“That is extraordinary,” proclaimed Justice Scalia. “I, too, find that amazing,” Justice Kagan chimed in.
As reported by the N…

Scot McKnight, One.Life and More about Empathy

I finished my first reading of Scot McKnight's book, One.Life.  It is in the vein of some recent books, like David Platt's, calling Christian's to think more radically and "gospel-ishly" about their spiritually lives.  I like the book and recommend it, although all these books cost too much.  If someone wants to borrow it from me and lives nearby, let me know.  Interestingly, he uses Bonhoeffer at the end and I just finished one of Bonhoeffer's books this week also.  I hope to start Cost of Discipleship. 

Making these truths practical in one's life, especially at my age, however, is difficult.  I am seriously contemplating returning to doctoral work at 56, with the hope I'll be done by 60.  Is this what God wants me to do?  Should I not see my.life, or what is really Christ's.life (not sure how I feel about McKnight's cute punctuation) as only one of service and not one of preparation?  Will having the doctorate help the kingdom?  If I don…

The Limits of Empathy

Below is the link to an excellent article by David Brooks about empathy. 

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/30/opinion/brooks-the-limits-of-empathy.html

Years ago I took a test that said I did not have a lot of empathy.  It really made me mad, until I learned that empathy had nothing to do with really caring or acting on your caring.  As Brooks points out, our caring and acts of kindness come from a moral code more than from the ability to feel what another is feeling.  We can get so involved in the emotions (including our  own) that we don't have time or energy for actions.

On an only slightly related note, people talk about dogs giving us unconditional love.  I would rather have loyalty from my dog.  Loyalty results in loyal actions.  I'm not sure what unconditional love from a dog would result in.

Decision

From now on, all profits from my novels will go to World Vision to dig wells in Africa.

Wasting Away Again in Lauren Alaina-ville

I live in the same county that the runner up from last year's American Idol, Lauren Alaina Suddeth, lives.  She went (or still technical still goes) to one of the three high schools in our county (not the one my son did.)  Many of my students know her.  She is truly the local celebrity.

So I should have figured it out myself when I went to by the weekly groceries at, UHMMMM, Walmart, and there was a long line of mostly women stretching out of the store.  It was about 12:15 when I got there and she was supposed to appear, I assume to sign CDs, at 1:00.  The store P.A. system was blasting her songs.  It was a bit overwhelming.

So, the wasting away part is not targeted at her, because I'm sure she's a sweet girl.  It was my common feeling of being at Walmart period.

Explanation

The picture to the side that says me, October 11, is one that comes from the photographer who did pictures for the college's website.  A friend looked at it and said I looked 25.  I was suspicious about how good I looked in that picture (except for my wildly crooked teeth).  I asked--it was touched up.  Sorry.  I never looked that good, but like all women have enough vanity to wish I did.  He didn't make me look any thinner, though.

Mental Illness and Morality

I am often hurt, deeply hurt, when people with mental illness and mental or developmental disabilities are used as plot devices in movies and TV shows. The nature of those media precludes these folks being portrayed in all their complexity.  One of the most egregious "mistakes" is how those with mental illness, bipolar disorder especially, are portrayed as immoral people.  What do these people do, normally?  They steal credit cards, or use their own, and go on shopping sprees they can't pay for.  They demand sex 20 hours a day (Kaye Gibbons has a character doing that in one of her books).  They hurt and kill people.  Apparently, they have no moral center and no guilt after their breaking moral boundaries.

Yes, those who suffer from mental illness often do things that violate moral standards, but it is not because they have no morality in their own lives.  I live with someone with depression, and he has been told he has bipolar disorder (I think it's the lesser form, …

A Manifesto: Why I am a Conservative

Morning shows

Truth

I am wondering if there is propositional truth (as in theology), factual truth (as in science), emotional truth (as in true statement of our inner workings of mind and heart), and narrative truth.

I have lived in a world of propositional truth, but I think the last two might have more power for people.  Especially narrative truth.  That is why I want to write stories.

Christian Thinkers

In the last two days, I have heard the expression "Christian thinkers" twice--well, I read it once, in Scot McKnight's book, in reference to Andy Crouch, and from Charles Colson, in reference to the people who work with him at Breakpoint.  Now, I would not want to counter anything these gentlemen say, especially Colson, who is one of my heroes, but what in the world is a "Christian thinker?"

Aren't we all supposed to be Christian thinkers?  what qualifies one as a Christian thinker?

I am reminded of the Wizard of Oz, when the Wizard gives the scarecrow a diploma in "thinkology," so he will believe he has a brain. 

I know, I know, you get to be called a Christian thinker if you write books and porbably if you have a certain number of academic degreees.  Hey, I've done that, does that make me a Christian thinker?

We are all Christian thinkers if we are Christians and if we think.  Of course, not a lot of us do.  We feel, we act, we emote, we opi…

World's Worst Movie(s)

I am trying to make titles on these posts that will get attention.  That one probably should.

Now, I generally try to watch the best movies, not the worst.  But sometimes you end up watching a stinker so bad you just have to write about it.  I don't have a "bottom ten," just a few.  Now, it has to be understood that a movie is a worst movie if it was supposed to be a serious one.  Not some trash a film student made, but something played in theaters and advertised to the public.  A feature film we are supposed to pay money to see!

Plan Nine from Outer Space sinks to the bottom.  It is wonderfully bad, everything about it, that Hollywood made a movie about how bad it was.  Ed Wood shows the director as so sincere and misguided; that is my favorite Johnny Depp performance.

Johnny Guitar.  This was on TCM last night, but I couldn't bear to watch it; I had done so before, and once is more than enough.  There is no way to describe this movie.  Mercedes McCambridge is, for no…

Late Night

Since I was off for five days straight, I was able to hunker down and finish the second draft of my fourth novel, Abundance Coming.  It's 66,000 words now; I need to insert three more scenes that I believe will balance it all out.  My goal is 75,000, but only if they are good words.  I think this book, which has no religious themes in it, will be popular.

However, if you want to read some of my other fiction, go to Amazon or any of the online booksellers and put B Barbara G. Tucker in the search engine. 

Novel Non-Recommendation

I picked up a novel at the public library and read it the last few days.  I couldn't put it down, mainly because it was trashy and cliche-ridden but had a lot of action and short chapters.  It was Eighteen Acres by Nicolle Wallace.  The lady knows the White House, so that part was interesting.  The concept of the first woman president, and what she would be like, was interesting, too. (In this case, she's Republican).  But she could have used a better editor.  Phrases like "she melted into his embrace" and "she loved him with every fiber of her being" seem amateurish.  Actually, I wasn't innocent of cliches in my first novel, but mine wasn't published by a big house.  So I can't recommend it for its great writing or literary value, but I can as a beach read or a plane-trip read or a "put yourself to sleep at night" read.

People Before ....... ?

When I was younger a saying that "changed my life" was "There are only two things in this world that are eternal.  The Word of God, and people."

That has led me for many years.  We can all get bogged down in work, in blogging, in hobbies, in keeping up the house.  My garden, for all the work I put into it, is now a mess.  I wanted to work in it today but it's raining hard (which is ok, we need rain).  I wish I had back the time I spent in hobbies.  I like to think this blog is a ministry, but sometimes it's just an exercise in vanity.  No, the two things that I'll be able to know mattered in eternity is how much I taught (myself and others) the Word, how much I lived it, and how much I touched other people's lives.

Not that the second part of that equation is easy for me.  I am incredibly task-oriented, and a little introverted.  I am very frugal about my discretionary time.  I have learned that I must schedule my people time, not to keep me from gi…

Protesters and Protesters

As I alluded to in the post about Occupy Wall Street (where I tried to be fair, really, I did), I think there are two kinds of protesters.  One just raises hell for themselves; they want things better for their own little group.  The other raises hell for others; the protesters may or may not benefit from their activism, but their sights are set on achieving change for others  or for the long term.

Now, I'll let you figure out which movement belongs in which category.  But trying to achieve change for others does not preclude one from receiving some benefits from the change itself.  People who protest for the sake of their children and what their lives will be like fall into the second category.  Black people protesting in the '60s fit into the second.  People who protest for pro-life aren't going to benefit themselves from changes to abortion laws, so they fit in the second.

But this is just me.  Conservative that I am, I still appreciate people who put themselves out th…

Better Wisdom from Bonhoeffer

Yesterday I quoted Woody Allen, for laughs.  Now I'll quote someone with real wisdom, who achieved immortality by dying.  This quote is from Life Together, p. 110-111.

"The final break-through to fellowship does not occur, because, though they have fellowship with one another as believers and as devout people, they do not have fellowship as the undevout, as sinners.  The pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner.  So everybody must conceal his sin from himself and from the fellowship.  We dare not be sinners.  Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous.  So we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy.  The fact is that we are sinners!

But it is the grace of the Gospel, which is so hard for the pious to understand, that it confronts us with the truth and says:  You are a sinner, a great, desperate sinner; now come, as the sinner that you are, to God who loves you.  He wants you as you are; He does…

Woody Allen Wisdom

I am always conflicted about Woody Allen.  He has made some truly great movies (and some stinkers) but he is a pervert and ungodly.  My Franky Planner had this as the quote of the day yesterday.

I don't want to achieve immortality through my work.  I want to achieve it through not dying.

That gave me a good laugh, but it's sad, too.  He knows he is going to die.  And even though he claims to be an atheist, that doesn't mean he is emotionally ready to believe that death is the end.  Humor is a wonderful thing, but it doesn't change the facts. 

Distraction

We say we are too busy.  That is the mantra of our lives.  What we are is distracted.  Why don't we just admit it and quit fooling ourselves, quit massaging our egos and excusing ourselves with the excuse we are too busy to do what matters? 

Occupy Wall Street

Like many, I have been watching, with bemusement, the protesters known as, or for, “Occupy Wall Street.”  A student of mine asked me the other day if going to it would earn her some extra credit points.  She said she wanted to take her children.  I just smiled and said yes, figuring that it was as reasonable to give her points for ending a social activist meeting as it would be to give extra points for attending a workshop on test-taking.   
I have read some reports in the paper and watched some on TV, but those sources don’t seem to go into much depth, perhaps because there isn’t much depth there.  The news reports focus on what they do, not what they want, perhaps because that isn’t clear.  If you Google (can a verb be capitalized?) “occupy Wall Street demands” you get this link http://occupywallst.org/forum/proposed-list-of-demands-for-occupy-wall-st-moveme/ , but it says it is not the official list of demands and that there is no official list of demands.  That is probably a good …

Incarnation