Showing posts from August, 2012

Weighing in on the Republican Convention

I watched a significant part of this convention, on Fox of course because it was more likely to show the whole thing.  I watched Ann Romney's, Mike Huckabee's, Marco Rubio's, Clint Eastwood's, and Mitt Romeny's speeches.  I wanted to watch Paul Ryan's but was exhausted Wednesday night and just couldn't stay up.  Nor did I hear one of my heroes, Condi Rice, so I hope to watch those online today. 

I was amazed, and not unhappy, with the snarkiness of it.  Some great lines, especially Ryan's on the twenty-somethings living in their parents' basements and looking at the faded Obama posters and wanting to get on with their lives.  I have one of those twenty-somethings (he is taking care of his grandmother now, as she is going through chemotherapy).  I am angry about his job situation.  He has three interviews for a job and is told . . . well, sometimes nothing.  This has happened at least three times, maybe four. 

As to Clint Eastwood's, it was funny…

Good Writing on the Cosmic Consequences of our Lives

Giving Back

At the risk of seeming like a curmudgeon today, I am going to take issue with a common phrase, "giving back."

Giving back means something that was given is being returned.  It is a common term for community service that is voluntary as opposed to court-mandated.  People use it with good intention, but as with most cliches they aren't thinking about the actual meaning.

The people most likely to give back are people who haven't taken much in the first place, who have been giving all along, paying their taxes, making opportunities for others, teaching, working hard, building something.  It seems to me that the people who should give back would be those people who have lived off the community (or state) largesse for years, not those who are making the state largesse possible.

Yes, we all benefit from the work of those before us.  Nobody is stupid enough to argue that we don't stand on the shoulders of giants or, more likely, normal people who worked hard and did what…

Great -- and Wrong-- Expectations

On my Kindle I am reading this fabulous Dickens tale.  What's wrong with writing today is that we don't read enough Dickens.  But that is not the point of this post.

Last night, against my better judgment, I had Hannity on TV.  Not a fan.  Strident, one-note, almost megalomaniac opposition to Obama.  The point of the show was to review/dissect/promote a documentary called "The Hope and The Change."  It is about people who voted for Obama talking about how disappointed they are and how they won't vote for him again.

Well, my response to this is just plain "Duh."  I have three levels of criticism on this.

1.  Anybody who voted for Obama in 2008 and is whining now should just plain be ashamed and not have the nerve to get on a movie and be seen.  Those persons did not have the critical thinking skills to look at who Obama was then and is now.  The facts were there.  His political positions were not hidden.  They were taken in by white guilt, his charm, and…

Jeff Foxworthy: Another look

I've always thought Jeff Foxworthy was hilarious, but he's much deeper.  He also has (almost) a degree from Georgia Tech.

Don't Postpone Joy

I saw that on a bumper sticker yesterday, in Atlanta (or vicinity).  I like that. 

I did not wait until I was retired to go to Europe.  I went five times, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2003 (although I haven't been back since and haven't traveled much in general because of my son's education).   I am glad I did not postpone it, and I tell everyone they shouldn't wait.  Waiting until retirement to do everything is foolish.  I think living for retirement is foolish in general, but I have a better job than most people.  I love my job. 

Great Preaching

I teach rhetoric.  That's public speaking, among other things.  Last night I head Dr. Russell Moore of Southern Baptist Seminary preach, for the second time.  Man, is he good.  That's preaching, old school yet very contemporary. 

Great Speech by Bill Clinton on D-Day, 1994

 Although I am not a huge fan (understatement) of Bill Clinton, he is an amazing politician.  Being tall helps, I guess.  He usually went overtime when he spoke, but not this time.  I think this is his best speech, one I use as an example in class because of his wonderful line:

"Today, many of them are here among us. Oh, they may walk with a little less spring in their step and their ranks are growing thinner, but let us never forget -- when they were young, these men saved the world."

I Have a . . .

Dr. King gave the “I have a dream” speech, not “I have a plan” speech.
Unfortunately, most people only know a few quotes from that speech.  More of his writings, especially Letter from a Birmingham Jail, should be required reading.

Voskamp VIII: What We Can Rely On

In writing about her little boy’s hand being severed (almost), she returns to what we all can rely on, the Word (as distinct from her thanking journal about soap suds and bubbles) and the Cross and the Person.The Word makes clear, the Person shows us, the Cross proves it.The Person cups our face in his hands and tells us, shows he, he understands the perspectives of humans, pain, loss, torture, rejection.As Piper writes, he was tempted in all points as we were, and his temptation is not less because he could not sin, it is more—Satan would have thrown everything at him.We give in so quickly to temptation.

Voskamp VII: Seeing

Voskamp is also about seeing.Seeing is an interesting metaphor.People often talk of “looking through the lens of ……” I understand what they mean, but I would argue that lenses are on the eyes (I wear contacts), not something easily slipped on and off.Real seeing in embeddedness, not just perspective taking. We cannot be thankful unless we see with different eyes, surprised eyes, open eyes, fresh eyes.

Voskamp VI: Learning

Beautiful passage in Voskamp.I read something last night about how adult learning necessitates sensing there is never an end, that we keep learning.Retirement has caused us to stop, maybe.I learn every day.I learned last night that I cannot trust my dogs but I also make unwise and hasty decisions.My desire to see Nala run—a beautiful sight—overtook my wisdom and knowledge that she is ADD and won’t come when called, unless she is convinced I have food in my pocket.
People often preach, Unconfessed Sin keeps us from God, from having our prayers answered.”Maybe there is Biblical truth in that, but it’s only known and harbored sin.As we grow, we see sins we didn’t know were there.I am more conscious of certain sins that were there before but I didn’t see them—my racism, for one.

Voskamp V: Goodness of God

Chapter 8 of Voskamp is less poetic and wild than the previous chapter (where she is chasing a moon--that was a bit much for me).  The chapter is typically devotional, but honest.  It is about fear, faith, rust.  These are our core issues in 2012.  We do not have trouble believing God exists; I'm not sure we have trouble believing God is sovereign (how could He be God and not sovereign).  But we do have trouble believing He is good and loving, for some reason.  We do doubt He loves and cares.  We see too much pain, even if we don't feel so much of it ourselves, we see and hear of it constantly through the news media, whose only purpose is really to publicize evil, and to what end?  Unless we take what we see on the news as a call to prayer or activism, what good is knowing the stuff in the news.  I cancelled my subscription to the paper, and I've survived over a month now without it.    
Her list of 1000 things seems to be like training wheels to help her be thankful f…

Voskamp IV: Thankfulness

Ultimately, what Voskamp is saying is that all from God is a gift, all is good, and that thankfulness for everything is the core virtue, the key to all.  I cannot argue theoretically with that, but I can question it existentially.  She struggles, as do all Christian writers, with the problem of pain and suffering, the existence of the non-good, the evil.  We grapple with it the best we can, in the moment; I don't think we can store up faith and grace for the times we need it; it is a gift at the moment, when it's crucial for taking the next step.  This is walking in faith.

Job is invoked here; we see him sitting by a fire surrounded with pieces of clay pots (symbolic of the pieces of his life) and covered with sores.  Interesting that the Bible gives us a drama, with dialogue here, rather than a treatise, on suffering.

Voskamp III: Service

My favorite part, I think, is how she directs us to see our service is to God, not to men.  She quotes Dorothy Sayers, "When service is unto people, the bones can grow weary, the frustration deep.  Because, whenever man is made the enter of things, he becomes the storm centre of trouble.  The moment you think of serving people, you begin t have a notion that other people owe you something for your pains . . . you angle for applause.

The insight is that service must be, beginning to end, for Christ, and people get the benefit of it.  This is radical, because we have been influenced by the secular notions of "giving back."  What will glorify Christ most in our service o people?  That is a hard question.  Obedience first, making it clear you are doing it in his name, ot out of divic responsibility (although there can be two duties here, just don't confuse them).   That we serve because we are redeemed and loved, not out of guilt of "distribution of wealth."…

Voskamp II: Surprise

She writes about her own history of anxiety and stress and her ongoing wrestling with it.  She writes about joy and where it comes from, a lack of expectation.  Joy comes from surprise, the opposite of being continually disappointed with what you don't have, a symptom of our age.  Therefore, thankfulness is possible because of surprise.  And she writes about not punishing her kids over their rowdiness, how she tries to open to God.  I have much to be tense about right now, much to worry about.  Yet worry adds nothing, not one cubit to your stature.  I want to control this situation and it is beyond mine.

She tells a powerful story about a homeless man who accosts her and a group of teens from her church's youth group.  They are on the main drag of Toronto, headed toward a mission.  These re coutnry kids, and a city is so alien to them.  The rought-drug-burned out homeless man (so Canada has them, too?) frightens them but can recite Romans 7 and 8 from memory.  Voskamp says …

Voskamp: Please Read!

As a note, this blog is coming up on its 900th post, at which time I will take a hiatus because the school year starts for me tomorrow and my mom's treatments go forward.  I thought I had 894, but I went back and deleted drafts and found out I only have 880, now.

I recently read Ann Voskamp's work A Thousand Gifts.  I highly recommend it.  She is truly gifted, and the book gave me much to reflect on.  At times I had to laugh under my breath at some of her "gifts," such as bubbles and "jam on bread." (I would be thankful for blueberry preserves on whole wheat toast, though).  She reminds us to live a fully embodied and embedded life, to not shuck off this "mortal coil" because God said that the physical world is good, despite its being affected by the fall. 

How We Got the Bible

Not an easy story, but one filled with intrigue and martyrdom and long, quiet lives of scholarship.Just like thousands of people have died to give us the free country we live in, thousands of people have died to make sure we have these Bibles.Even today, in other countries, people put their lives in the balance to get the Word to others.For their sake, as well as the people of the past, and of course for the sake of the Lord who gave us the Word, we should have great respect.I am disturbed when I see people throwing Bibles around and not taking care of them, or worse, ignoring them.We have far too many Bibles in our house that we have accumulated over the years and I would like to put them to better use than sitting on my shelf.
But the reality is, we want a message from the Word but some aspects of Bible study are not easy.We have questions such as:How did we get the Bible, how can we be sure it’s all there and we aren’t missing parts, what is the best way to study it, is all of the B…

Narrative Theology

I wish I had written this!  Excellent look at how stories cannot be the end-all of the Christian life and message.

Jane Eyre

I was glad to see this original post was linked on The Bronte blog, a very nice literary criticism/all things Bronte blog.

On Thursday I tok a vacation from most of my life and spent the day reading (rereading, although it's been decades) Jane Eyre.  I read it on my Kindle.  I have seen five of the perhaps nine film versions.  For some reason, it seems to be the actor playing Rochester who gets remembered or top billing!

1.  Orson Welles/Joan Fontaine.  She is too pretty for the part, too ethereal.  I felt like it was a typical vanity piece for Welles, who directed also.  It didn't include the whole story and felt very truncated.  It left out the story with her newfound family; the Lowood portion is, as usual, given short shrift, except that Helen Burns is played by a very young and unbilled Elizabeth Taylor.
2.   A TV one back in the 70s with George C. Scott, which I don't recall very well.
3.  The Timothy Dalton one from 1983.  It's long; I stayed up one night quite…

Positive Proof that the Internet was made for fools

The gift that keeps on giving

Chick-Fil-A ad nauseum

Now all the Christians are being chastised for not being loving enough for going to chick-fil-A.  (I did not.  I sat with my mother during her chemo treatment all day.)

Please.  Why do people overlook all the ministries Christians do in times like this?  If the Christians all went on strike for a week, did absolutely no mission work in the name of Christ, what would happen?  Millions would go hungry.  Give me a break.  I am not going to made to feel guilty because of a chicken sandwich.  That is insulting.

Never have so many said so much and so little about a chicken sandwich.

Aftermath of August 1, 2012

Never has a martyr made so much money in one day.
Paul Tucker, my son

In reference to Dan Cathy's comments and resulting brouhaha.

Was he bullied?  Is criticism bullying?  What's the line?

Being Special, Being Ordinary

As usual, the bloggers at Christianity Today hit the nail on the head.

As someone who has tried hard to be "special" all my life, I now appreciate the freedom of ordinary.  But the younger generation has been fed a lie.  In Generation Me, Jean Twenge addresses the irony that our young people have been told they are special all their lives, have been taught to have self-esteem, etc., and yet have such trouble with depression.  They know they can't live up to the specialness they've been fed, and they feel like they have failed.  I am sitting here with my unemployed son, who did well in college and graduated in four years, has no tattoos, no debt, great credit, no record, has never been in the wrong kind of relationship--but isn't a wunderkid.  So he can't find a job.

When reading the blog at CT, I was reminded of Ann Voskamp's work.  She portrays herself as ordinary, a pig…