Saturday, May 26, 2012

Sweet Dogs

These are my dogs, lying on my quilt, after an adventure.  The little one ran away when we were walking and I had to spend 25 minutes looking for him.  The larger one was getting concerned.  She licked him when he showed up.

For clarification, the dark one is an 18-month old pit bull (or mix) and the reddish one is a five-year-old dachschund beagle mix.  The pit bull is female and the other is male.  She defers to him despite the fact she weighs twice as much.  She lets him eat out of her bowl but he does not return the favor.  He is allowed on one piece of furniture in the living room but she is not.  However, both of them police the other's behavior.  It's quite funny.

Doctoral Journey Goes On

Fifty-six is really too old to start a doctoral program.  So why am I doing it?
1.  I always wanted to earn a doctoral degree.  Call it the main thing in my bucket list.  However, the whole concept of a bucket list is depressing to me.  I don't think in terms of what I want to do before I'm dead.  I want to think about living.
2.  This one is very cost efficient and accessible.
3.  This one is about what I really want to do the rest of my career, which is not esoteric research.
4.  I'll make more money and will be eligible for administrative jobs in higher ed, which is where the money is.
5.  My father made it to third grade.  My mother graduated from high school.   No one else in my family, which is very large, has one, but I hope others will catch a vision.
6.  I really, really believe there will be ministry doors open because of it. 
7.  I really, really believe this is God's will for me now.

I spent last week at an orientation retreat.  It was wonderful.  I was overwhelmed by the kindness I encountered.  I have already gotten the books and readings sitting on my desk for my next class.  Let's go!

Monday, May 14, 2012

New Endeavor

Tomorrow I start my doctoral program at the University of Georgia.  I should be scared!  I haven't had time to think about being nervous.  I just have to take it one day at a time.   I hope to finish in 2015.  This may mean that this blog goes on hiatus for a while, as it will sink in priority status.  So the world will be spared my opinions for a while, my book reviews, and my movie observations.  I think it will survive. 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Execution Style

Last night I watched (again) the 1957 movie I Want to Live! starring Susan Hayward.  This movie fascinates me for many reasons, not the least of which is that the main character has my birth name, Barbara Graham.  Since Barbara Graham was executed six months before I was born, I am not sure why my parents chose to name me that, but I'm ok with my name now.  Anyway, it's hard to watch a movie where they keep talking about you as a murderer who is going to be executed.  "Barbara Graham is going to the gas chamber....."

Of course the movie ends with my namesake being gassed, which is a disturbing image to go to bed with.  So I laid awake and thought about movie executions.  We've seen just about every movie execution style.  Hangings (True Grit, all westerns), crucifixions (Passion of the Christ, Spartacus), beheadings (anything about the 16th century, the French Revolution, and Braveheart), electric chair (The Green Mile), gas chamber (Daniel), and lethal injection (Dead Man Walking.)  Have I missed any?  Of course, most Hollywood depictions are designed to make us feel sorry for the executed and see how barbaric capital punishment is.  And some were; what struck me about I Want to Live is how expensive and involved the gas chamber was.  Beheading has to be the quickest, cheapest, and most effective way to execute someone.  All the others risk survival and most are not without pain and torture.

What is equally fascinating about the Susan Hayward movie is the suspense of waiting for her execution.  It's done pretty well, although the movie portrays Barbara Graham as innocent and she probably wasn't.  We used to have public executions as a warning to others.  The arguments today say that cp doesn't work as a deterrent, and that the system is stacked against the poor and too open to error.  Any death is disturbing, but .... is it more just to let a person rot in jail (and influence others from that jail) or a person be executed (and be a symbol of possible injustice?)  As with everything nowadays, there seems to be a political component. 

Facebook and Discourse

Facebook (and other online fora, Facebook is just the most popular) has redefined discourse, or allowed the worst aspects of human discourse to be realized. 

First of all, "friend" has no meaning.  A friend would not write the things I see people write on Facebook.

The discussions are full of red herrings, non sequiturs, and ad hominem.  No one stays on point.

Facebook gives you freedom of speech, but few people respect that.

The hot button issue of the day is same sex marriage, of course.  The debate boils down,on Facebook, to "God loves everybody therefore everything should be legal and that means anybody should be allowed to marry whomever they love" and "Homosexuality is an abomination and gays should be glad we straights let them live because Leviticus says to stone them."  Talk about simplicity.  No nuance, no defense.  Both show extremism in viewpoints.

One can be against same-sex marriage and still respect the humanity of gays.  Most do, but do not know how to defend their position against same-sex marriage as a societal institution and fear looking stupid and bigoted.  "You are probably against interracial marriage, too," is the general response to those who are against same-sex marriage.  And of course, some of them probably were.  It's interesting that one's evolution is only allowed to go in one direction!

A friend and I were talking about the TV show "Sister Wives."  I see that as a way of acclimating people who should know better to different versions of marriage.

It really comes down to whether marriage is seen as a way to fulfill one's desires or as a realization of a spiritual truth and about serving and loving another.  We are so far from that second view of marriage in our society that same-sex marriage seems inevitable to many.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Baloney Quotes and Ideas

Adversity is the diamond dust that heaven polishes its jewels with.

Oh, brother.  This quote is like the one by Nietzsche that every repeats, "That which does not kill us makes us stronger."  Why do people quote that?  Lots of things do not kill us but do not make us stronger.  That is pure Nazi nihilism.

I heard Jonah Goldberg being interviewed about his new book on cliches the other day on NPR.  He said he often has students say to him in forums, "I disagree with you but I defend to the death your right to say it."  He says that is nonsense, because 1.  the student is not going to take a bullet for him, and 2.  it shuts down debate.  It basically says, I am not going to debate the merits or demerits of your ideas, I'll just ignore them with a cliche. 

There are lots of religious cliches that drive me nuts, that have no biblical foundation, and that are only squelched by good theology.  One is that Jesus came to die. Then why didn't he die as a baby?  Jesus came to live on this planet, and we totally miss what he was doing when he walked the earth all those years.  I am just beginning to understand that.  Yes, it was the eternal plan that he would die on the cross, but to say that he only came to die negates a lot of the Bible.

 Add to the discussion!  What religious cliches drive you crazy?

One other that is annoying is "back in the day," especially when a young person says it.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

The Meaning of Confession

Earlier, and often, I have written about the shallowness of much evangelical teaching.  Its shallowness has several facets (mixed metaphor, I fear) but one has to do with its closeted selfishness, me-ness.

All my life I have heard, "God will not answer or hear prayer when you have unconfessed sin."  Therefore, the application is, "If you want your prayers answered, confess your sin."  In other words, if you want God to give you what you want, admit you sinned.

A doctrine of demons.  It occurred to me the other day that our confession of sin should be for no other reason than that we have sinned.  Confession of sin is not a ticket to get what you want from God.  Confession of sin is because our sins need confession and repentance and forgiveness; confession is for its own sake. 

It is because we do not want to admit we are sinners.  This morning in Bible study I was confronted with the parable (maybe more true than just a made-up story?) of the Pharisee and tax collector praying side-by-side in the temple.  "The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.': Who says Jesus didn't have a sense of humor? 

As an extension, we might say, "I got what I prayed for because I confessed my sin."  Think again.  I have had many answers to prayer and afterward I saw sin that beforehand I was not sensitive to.

My end-point is that our theology is too simple.  No, it is simplistic and reductionist.  It feeds our inherent legalism, and I know legalism.  Unless we come in prayer on the basis of mercy, we miss the whole point.  Prayer that is based on something we do is not prayer.

Thursday, May 03, 2012


At my house we are shocked and saddened to hear of the apparent suicide of Junior Seau.   A young man.  His poor mother was put on television!  How or why?

My husband says Jerry Rice was on ESPN saying that he (Rice) played golf with Seau Monday and Seau seemed fine, upbeat.

Life is daily.  Everyday we have a choice to live and how.

Not to change subjects to the spiritual to make cheap points, but most evangelical music and teaching ignores this dailiness.  The emphasis is the big dramatic turnaround of conversion, as if all is solved at that.  How sad that we are sucked into that trap.  Every day we choose to follow, to believe, to listen.  Every day is sacred and precious.  

Being the recipient of gratitude--or not

Sometimes being on the receiving end of gratitude (or not) is as challenging as being grateful.

Being gracious when one is thanked is an art.  One does not want to make light of it ("it was nothing") because a.  it probably wasn't "nothing" and b.  that demeans the pleasure of the one thanking you and also demeans their thanks.  "My pleasure to do it for you" might be better, although the second puts the emphasis on oneself, and heaven knows we have enough of that.  Saying "thank you" back reminds me of a student who sent me a rather tongue-in-cheek thank you note for a thank you note I sent him.  "I am grateful for your gratitude and appreciate your appreciation."  The simplicity of "You're welcome" and a smile stands the test of time.

I bring this up because I brought breakfast to my two classes taking final exams this week and received precious few thanks from my students, as if they were entitled to breakfast.  I brought juice, yogurt, bananas, strawberries, and snack cakes (Walmart Little Debbies), so there was some effort in it, since I had to carry two heavy bags across campus along with the paper plates, cups, and plastic utensils.  Maybe four out of forty said thank you.

Of course, I didn't do it for thanks (or maybe I did?) but I didn't expect being treated like my effort was expected.  Perhaps they were embarrassed.  Perhaps not all of them ate it (not all did).  And perhaps some of them were raised under a rock and don't have manners.

Jesus healed ten men from leprosy and only one came back to thank him, so I got about the same percentage, and to be honest, being healed from leprosy is a whole lot better than some yogurt and snack cakes.  Jesus said the disciple should not be above his/her master, so I can't expect so much.

And I am reminded that a textbook company brought food in (to sell us a product) Monday and I haven't thanked the person who arranged it.  Which I will do right now.

However, this and some recent happenings have persuaded me to not go out of my way for students anymore.  Be a good teacher and fulfill my office hours.  That should do it. 

Tuesday, May 01, 2012


After many, many months (years) of waiting and praying and editing and rewriting, I now can legitimately call myself a novelist because I have three published (not by self) novels and one self-published Kindle book.  I received the shipment today.  They look great.  Not on the online sites just yet, but will be soon. 

I learned my lessons on the first ones:

No giveaways.  Nobody gets one without paying for it.  My profits go to charity anyway.

No shyness or humility or modesty or "oh, it's nothing."  It's blasted hard work and lonely hours and sacrifice. 

Finding every venue for buzz, until people are sick of it.  But not everyday, of course. 

When will the next ones come?  Don't know; I've got one I may epublish under a different name.  But I've got about ten more ideas for novels in my head. 

Public Speaking Online, Part IV

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