Saturday, August 31, 2013

Grace and Consequences

I don't think we realize as "good church people" how sinful we are because (a) we lack imagination to compare ourselves to Christ rather than to others around us, and (b) we do not see how grace covers the unforeseen, unknowable, and unrealized consequences of our sin.  I don't think grace just covers the sinful act; it erases, or negates, or mitigates, or perhaps transforms the after-effects of it.  I made many mistakes as a parents, But God forgave me and allowed my son to thrive despite it.  I have been protected from knowing, seeing, and living the consequences of my sin but more, I believe others have to.  Much of my sin is in my heart and in my mouth. 

The Valley of Vision continues to amaze me.  "Thou dost stand as a rock between the scorching sun and my soul, and I live under the cool lee-side as one elect."

Hillary for President?

Oh, please.  She couldn't even throw her cheating husband's clothes out the window.  How can she lead the country?

Yesterday I was forced to listen to "The View" because I took my mother to the doctor's office and it was on.  How I despise that show.  Barbara Walters acts like she has never had an original thought in her head (although I know she has), and Whoopie Goldberg, oh, my, word.  She tells how America has been replaced as the fattest country in the world by Mexico, and that 33% of Americans are obese.  She was not the one to tell that story.  She is huge.  Then they get into some discussion about how old Hilary would be if she was elected president, 69.  "That's ok with me, I like the person in charge to have some experience and age and wisdom" she says.  What a hypocrite!  She voted for Obama, the least experienced person ever elected president.  She just looks for something to justify her choices.

I don't usually get so adamant and opinionated on this blog, but heaven deliver us from Hillary Clinton.

Life Sort of Imitates Art

While I was getting my picture taken in the group for National Seersucker Day (below), I was also waiting to have my picture taken for Blue and Silver Day, the school colors.  That one attracted a lot more people.  I was standing with another professor who is a biologist with a Ph.D. from Oxford.  She's delightful.  She laughingly asked, "Where are the cheerleaders?"  Now that we have sports at our college, we also have cheerleaders, and she is fascinated by them "in their little skirts and with their bows."  We talked about how this was a new cultural thing for her.

Ironically, even as I said that, I remembered that I wrote a novel about a professor from Cambridge who had her first experience with an American football game.  I have posted it below, hoping to get some book buzz.  This is from Cross Road

Celia seemed willing, at least for now, to accompany him on weekend dates and excursions, but not to make a point to see him on campus. That was probably for the best, he knew.  Although none of his attraction had diminished, and although he treasured every moment in her company, he recognized there were many obstacles to their union.
Not the least of which was her thorough un-Americanness.  The language was the same, but not; it was the same song but in a different arrangement.  She didn’t know any pop culture references, from any decade; she barely knew where anything in the North American hemisphere was located; American politics were a mystery.  But he was equally ignorant about Europe and Africa. 
They did attend a high school football game, where the team from Emily’s private school was thoroughly humiliated by their public school opposition in the last game of the season.  This was also the first time Emily met Celia, but Jeff knew better than to expect his social butterfly daughter to sit with them when dozens of classmates were flirting, gossiping, visiting, and even occasionally watching the game.
They picked Celia up and took her out for burgers before the game.  It was by now early November, and dark by 6:00.  Emily was only a little reticent with Celia; halfway through the sandwiches she had told Celia her life story—well, the last few years of it—and more details than Jeff was comfortable with.  About her Iowa grandmothers and how they were different, about their summer in Venezuela, the names of the cute boys—Jared was now medieval, if not ancient, history—at her school and their relatives merits compared to the boys at the school she had attended in Ohio.  Celia responded with nods and a smile that translated to Jeff as mild amusement at this talkative thirteen-year-old.
Once at the game, Emily politely asked if she could disappear, and Jeff decided she’d done enough damage for one evening.
“Sorry,” he said to Celia as Emily climbed down the bleachers.  “She’s a talker.”
“Why should you apologize for her?  She’s delightful.  That’s what healthy thirteen-year-old girls do, isn’t it?”
“Then Emily is surely healthy.”
“Nonsense.  Would you rather she were one of those sullen types dressed in black they show on the television?”
“No, no, not at all.  She’s, well—oh, wait, we have to stand up here.”
The crowd was rising to its feet at the command of the loudspeaker to sing the national anthem.  Jeff joined in, unconsciously.  After the big, off-key ending and the applause, the announcer began to introduce the starting lineup for Heritage School and Roanoke County High.
“All right.  You’re going to have to start explaining this event to me, Jeffrey.  What was that song?”
“Oh, that.  For some reason, it’s played at the beginning of all sporting events.”
“But what is it about?”
“A battle in the War of 1812.”
“Oh—bombs, rockets, I see.  But why—“
He looked at her and shrugged.  “I have no idea why that song.  It’s patriotic, and one thing you’re going to find out here—Americans, especially in this part of the country—are desperately patriotic.  To a fault.  Any chance they get to wave the flag, they do.”
She remembered how he had said he used to abstain from even voting and noticed that he said “they,” not “we.”
“’They?’  Don’t you include yourself in that number?”
“More now than I used to.  Going to Venezuela for the summer cured me of my cynicism.  Landing on American soil was like taking a step over a huge divide.  There’s no place like the U.S., even though it’s corny sometimes about the flag-waving.”
“Uh, sentimental.”
“Yes, that’s true.  I’ve seen that.”
They turned their attention to the players on the field.  The players were lining up for the kick-off.
“Oh, my, they wear a lot of equipment.”
“They have to.  It’s very rough.”
“It is?”
“Oh, yes.  Oh, you’re thinking it’s like soccer.”
“Soccer.  That’s what you Americans call football here.”
“This may look more like a free-for-all to you.”
The play started.  Heritage elected to receive, and County High kicked it high and far, to the ten-year line, where a Heritage player caught it and ran fifteen more yards until he ended up beneath six of County’s defenders.  Jeff applauded.  “That was a good play.”
 Celia sat open-mouthed.  “Good heavens.  That was extremely rough.  He was literally attacked by the player in blue and gold.  How do they avoid getting terribly hurt?”
“They don’t always.  Some get injured every game.”
“So why would anyone want to play?”
“It’s a big macho thing.”
“You know, tough guys.  Physical.  Football is like war.  The language has lots of military terms.”
“Did you ever play this?”
“No, I was too skinny when I was a kid, and to be honest, I wasn’t into the macho thing.  I ran track—minimum of bruises and broken skulls.”
They watched a few plays.  Heritage failed to get another first down, and it seemed from Celia’s perspective that this odd game was more fits and starts than real action.  Every one would line up against each other, a player in the center would push the ball between his knees to another lad, who would jog around a bit, and try to throw it to some one ahead of him.  The thrower either was mauled or the throw didn’t get caught, or the one catching the ball—which wasn’t even spherical—would get knocked down.
A line of young girls in matching outfits with short skirts would jump up and down and yell, but the oddest aspect of it all was that the crowd seemed only half aware of the action—what little there was of it—on the field.
“What are those young women doing?”
“Those are the cheerleaders.  They’ll do some stunts later, I think.”
The girls were very exuberant.  Perhaps they were supposed to lead the crowd in being cheerful.  They surely were.  Finally, the team in red and white—the team that Jeffrey supported, she concluded—kicked the ball to the other team way down the field.  This time, the young man who caught the ball quite agilely jumped over and dodged his attackers and ran to the end of the field, where he was greeted by a teammate.  The people seated around her, including Jeffrey, were groaning, but the people across the field were rejoicing.
“I suppose that was a bad thing for Emily’s team?”
“Oh, yes.  They couldn’t stop him.  He’s quite a receiver for his age and size.”
“So, did he make a point for his team?
“Actually, they get six points, and now they will try to get an extra point by kicking it through the goalposts.”
“Six points?  Why so many?”
“Because a touchdown is hard to get, it’s like invading enemy territory and taking a city in war, so there’s more points.”
The ball, when kicked, did go through the two raised poles, and the fans on the opposite side yelled again.  “This doesn’t look good for Heritage.  Five minutes and already behind by seven.”
“I thought you said a touchdown was hard to get?  It didn’t seem too hard for that player.”
He laughed.  “No, it didn’t.  Theoretically, it’s hard.  For Heritage, it’s hard.”
The only sport Celia knew or understood was real football, which was played as fanatically by the Africans as the Europeans.  Its action never stopped, and a goal was very hard to score and still only yielded one point, and while the players did get hurt, it wasn’t the point of the game.  These players seemed to relish the piling on top of a smaller, running player.  But she sat back and looked around, trying to take in the strange sounds and accents and smells of this vast country. 
Americans, although most of the ones she saw were white, and may have had some ancestry in Scotland or England, as she was told, didn’t look like the people back home in the UK.  They were darker, heavier, with wider faces.  They smiled more.  They touched more than the people in England, but less than Africans, her Hutus and Tutsis.  Ah, those lovely people.  And now so many of them were dead.  Most of the students in the training school and seminary.  Most of the villagers where she helped with the medical mission.  Most—no, almost all--of the children who played around Gikongoro.
And most of the world would never think of them as lovely, but only as barbaric killers and their victims, if the rest of the world ever stopped to think at all.  How many people had she run into even at the university, who knew nothing about Rwanda, even asked if it was in Africa.  And why wouldn’t the world think that?  It made no sense, how even some professed believers had been caught up in the evil, although she didn’t know how a true follower of the teachings of Christ would succumb to the madness she saw that last day, those few hours before the helicopter came to whisk her and the others away.
The crowd was yelling and jolted her back to where she was.  Jeffrey was standing, applauding.  She looked around.  Where was she?  In her mind a second ago, she was in Gikongoro.  It was so real, and it happened so fast—she could be back there before she knew what was happening. 
Her heart was racing.  This man, his name is Jeffrey.  We are at a sporting event.  She had to talk to herself and regulate her breathing.  He’s a teacher, a professor with me.  I’m in the United States.  She had to stop the dizziness before it overwhelmed her.  She couldn’t have a panic attack here, in front of all these people, not with a date.  I’ll be all right.  You’ll be all right, Celia.  She breathed as slowly as she could, she focused on one of the—what did he call them, cheering leaders?  She was a tiny girl; she couldn’t be five feet tall, with those metal straps all the children wore on their teeth. The girl was awaiting a cue from the director of the cheerers, perhaps.  The girl’s shoulder length hair was pulled back and held by a red ribbon.  Her red and white outfit was spotless.   The youngster seemed bored, but she also seemed totally sure of who she was and what she was doing, that amazing way some teenagers have of looking totally secure and oblivious of insecurity.  “I used to be like that.  I can be like that again.  I can be like that now.”
“Celia, did you see that?  It was a two-point conversion.  I haven’t seen that in a while.”
She turned her head quickly to him, but said nothing.  The confused look on her face startled Jeff.
“Celia, are you all right?”
She only nodded, barely perceptible.
“Are you sure?”  He reached for her hand.
“Yes, I’ll be fine.”
“Is something wrong?”
“Ah, no, just, long week, I’m fatigued.”
“If you like, I can take you home.  This is probably enough culture shock for one evening.  And Heritage is greeting creamed.”
She took that to mean they were not scoring touchdowns.  “Is there an intermission?”
“Uh, yes, half-time.”
“Let’s stay until that, and I’ll see how I feel.”
“Do you want me to get you a drink, a soda?”
Americans loved those carbonated beverages, but they were so sweet.  Besides, she didn’t want to be left alone.  “No, to be honest, I’d rather you stay with me.”
“All right.”  Perhaps, he thought, he should pay more attention to his companion than the game.  It was an embarrassment for Heritage, anyway.  But what went wrong with Celia?  Maybe she was just tired.  It was hard to know what was going on in her head, but her face looked like she was panicking.
Celia could feel her heart slowing.  It was good Jeffrey spoke to her at just that moment.  She really did feel as if she would faint.  She’d have to renew her prescription for the anti-anxiety pills.  She hated them, but the alternative was the rash of memories that smothered her and made her forget where she was, with whom, even her own name at times.  She’d tried not to use the pills in the last two weeks, but now was not the time to experiment on herself.   Yes, she’d ring the chemist in the morning.
The seat was hard, so she decided to follow the lead of those surrounding her and stand up, even if she didn’t know why.  She didn’t want to judge something—or a person—prematurely, but if Jeffrey really enjoyed these so-called football games and expected her to attend them, that might be a problem.  Perhaps it was just an avenue for meeting his daughter and acclimating herself to the U.S., something she had asked him to do.
His daughter was remarkably cheerful and extroverted for a child whose mother had died when she was six or seven and in such a violent way.  No, Celia, stay away from violence.  That was rather hard to do, when these athletes looked like violence was more the goal than running with the ball that didn’t look like a ball.  At any rate, Emily was an enigma to her, as was Emily’s father.  What did he want?  A friend?  More?  Don’t be foolish, Celia.  You know what he wants.  He wants to marry you.  She may as well say it; it was abundantly clear.
So what do you want?  You want to be back in Africa, two years ago.  To know and to warn everyone what was coming and to tell them before it was too late.  The only thing you want is for the massacre not to have happened.
How could this man be serious about marriage?  Well, of course, he could be serious about it.  He’s probably dreadfully lonely, away from his family, and his son, too, trying to raise his daughter.  He’s trying to find his way, too.  No, the question is, how could he be serious about marriage to me?  He has no idea what a package of—of what?  Madness?  No, of grief and fear and uncertainty I am.  How I don’t turn off the lights when I sleep, and how I keep music playing, and how I must take pills to sleep, and how I drink half a bottle of wine every evening.   He’d be scandalized.
I should break this off now, tonight.  Well, not with his daughter with us.  But soon.
Yet there was something to be said for not succumbing to loneliness.
They were on their feet; again a pile of bodies was trying to extricate themselves from their opponents.  Are we supposed to give a standing ovation every time that happens? She thought.
“Heritage stopped County from getting a first down.”
“I see.”  She didn’t.
The game dragged on.  Finally, a buzzer sounded.  The score was 21 to 0, in favor of the opponent.
“Now what happens?”
“It’s half time, and there’s a show.  Do you want to leave?”
“A show?”
“Yes, a marching band does a routine.”
“A band, that marches?”
“Yes.”  He held back a laugh at her innocent lack of comprehension.
“We have to stay and watch that.”
“Are you sure?”  He looked disappointed to her.
“What’s wrong?”
“Oh, nothing.  It’s just that, if the Star Spangled Banner was corny, you’re really in for corny now.”
“What is the etymology of ‘corny,’ by the way?”
He laughed out loud this time.  “Let me see.  Probably farmers, country people.  Unsophisticated.  They grow corn.  Where I come from they grow lots of it.”
“Nevertheless, I’d like to see a band that marches when it plays.  They don’t run into each other and knock each other down, do they?”
“No, let’s hope not.”
“Good.  I think I’ve seen enough of that.”

National Seersucker Day Lives On in the Hearts of Many

I love this picture.  Thank you, Linda Massey, Dalton State's wonderful photographer.
Yes, white does make one look heavier.  Apparently so does seersucker.

Anyway, Thursday was National Seersucker Day and last year a couple of teachers (the ones in the middle with the hats) decided to start a tradition of having the seersucker-wearers be photographed at the bell tower.  So, the above photograph.  I would name the people but a couple I don't know, and they may not want their names on this blog.  But I'm third from the left, trying to hide because I look like I weigh 250 pounds.  The woman fifth from the left is tiny and she looks heavy in this picture for some reasons.

Ignorant of the Faith

Christians concerned about evangelism often say that when you talk to someone of a different faith, those persons often do not really know anything about their faith.  He/she is a ___ for family, ethnic, or cultural reasons but not because of choice, knowledge of the teachings of the faith, or personal commitment.

Well, don't jump to criticize too much.  I believe that is probably true of most people who call themselves Christians in this country.  Barna has proven how little the average church person knows about the Bible and doctrine.  I find it in my own teaching.  I cannot even assume that people know the difference between John the Baptist and John the Apostle.  They define religion as denomination, so a Methodist is a different religion from a Baptist. 

Bible study is hard and most of the books that purport to be Bible studies are unsystematic, emotion- or self-oriented, or agenda-driven.  I hope to write a book on Biblical hermeneutics for dummies one of these days. 

I had this discussion with a student the other day, who was concerned about how she related to the Muslims with whom she worked.  I told her to show honest interest in their beliefs, if they could articulate them--but I hope she can articulate hers.  I think she will; she seemed pretty savvy.  But we who think ourselves "teachers" in the church will have a lot to answer for, as the book of James says.  No names,please.

Great Minds Think Alike

I am reposting a Joni Tada devotional a friend sent me.  I was going to post on this but hers is better.  It's a reference to Hezekiah in Isaiah.  He had a faith but it was self-oriented.  He is not alone; he would fit right in today.

Joni is my hero.

Guard the Storehouse
"The word of the Lord you have spoken is good," Hezekiah replied. For he thought, "There will be peace and security in my lifetime."        Isaiah 39:8
Based upon his pleadings before God, Hezekiah had been spared a painful death and guaranteed another fifteen years of life. Upon his recovery, God had also promised that his kingdom would be spared from the Assyrians. Hezekiah was doubly blessed.    
It seems, however, that Hezekiah's gratefulness had only himself in mind. A Babylonian emissary visited Hezekiah upon hearing of the king's recovery. He was shown the king's storehouses containing armor, silver, gold - everything to whet Babylon's appetite for conquest. After the emissary left, God made it clear to Hezekiah that those treasures, as well as Hezekiah's own children, would be carried off to Babylon someday.  
Hezekiah's response to God's news in this verse reveals how selfish he was. The prophet had just announced to him that Israel - the treasures and the descendants - would be taken captive. Nothing would be left. And the children were going to be made eunuchs in the palace of Babylon. But Hezekiah seems unphased by the prospect. "There will be peace and security in my lifetime." Self-preservation seemed to the order of the day. No matter that his children would suffer. No matter that Israel, the apple of God's eye, would be enslaved. "At least I'll have my peace and security," he said.
There is no room for selfish rationalizations like that of Hezekiah's. Just because we live in dangerous days does not give us an excuse to ignore the next generation. And it will not do to delegate the responsibility to youth pastors and teachers. Each of us must protect our storehouse of faith and ensure through whatever means available that we make decisions beyond our lifetime. Our words, our wallets, our votes, our prayers- all must be harnessed to protect our descendants from captivity to a reckless world.
Lord, may I not be content with peace in my lifetime. May I sacrifice today's luxury for tomorrow's freedom.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

He Had More Than a Dream, by the way

Very good thoughts on Dr. King's speech.  I agree.  I teach Letter from a Birmingham Jail and consider it more important than I Have a Dream and one of those texts necessary for graduation. 

One poster wrote:  MLK was not a saint or orthodox Christian, but he was influenced by the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth like Gandhi, William Wilberforce, and many other civil rights reformers of the past, and would be marginalized in today's society for this reason. What passes for civil rights these days is an attempt to normalize morally questionable behaviors, rather than the protection of society's most vulnerable members. MLK believed rights are given to all by God, as opposed to today's movements that advocate force or bribery to take rights from one group and give them to another. Public discourse has become a platform for demonizing and talking past each other, instead of reasoning and listening to opposing views. The current civil rights groups have left those who are most in need of protection - unborn children, human trafficking slaves, the religiously persecuted, and victims of many other injustices in the world.

Just thinking . . .

It seems that as people get older and retire, there is a direct connection to their starting to send out silly emails (the kinds with jokes and animation on them).

Leadership without Empathy

I have seen a lot of leaders come into organizations over my life.  Most of the times, these so-called leaders have their own visions and enough clout, at least early on, to enact their own vision.  The message is often "you guys are screwed up and I'm here to fix you and this situation."  Rarely have I seen any one of these leaders come in and just listen, develop empathy for the people to be led, negotiate visions and goals, and co-lead rather than forge ahead.  Why is that so hard?  Is it a matter of impatience or of timing, of charging through while the "leader" still has enough charisma to get away with things? 

Microwave Grieving

When I was on vacation, there was a national news story about a bus crash in a large midwestern city (I don't want to be too specific here).  A young couple was killed, as was another woman, a mother of five.  The group was returning from church camp and was only a mile or so from the destination.

The young mother who was killed is the daughter of a college friend.  I have not seen her in decades, and only know of her life through a mutual friend.  I saw her on TV speaking at her daughter's memorial service.  I am glad that at least through this tragedy so often there were words of Christian hope and truth presented on television.

I sat down last week to write my old friend a letter.  I did; I still have it; I won't send it.  It was rude, tasteless.  I think I will keep it to remind myself that our good intentions sometimes need to be kept under wraps.  The letter came off pretentious; that's the nicest thing I can say about it.  I have no right to write my friend at such a time and no words to say to her.  I will send a card with a few words soon.  She and her family have been inundated with messages, I know.  Two months afterward people she will need a message of concern, but not my overblown, preachy prose.

Grieving is so underrated in our culture.  We are expected to move on.  Microwave grieving; get it over with, no mess, no pots to clean.  Older men remarry within six months of their wives' deaths.  Women marry them. I suppose one can grieve too long if, in grieving, one is blaming and still in the anger stage, the nonacceptance stage.  Grieving as acute sense of absence, nostalgia, missing the other, not desiring to think about remarriage--that should be honored and protected. 

As Good As It Gets

The movie with the title listed above is a favorite of mine.  I can watch it every year or so.  It's just plain good in every way.

There is a line in the film when Jack Nicholson is leaving the psychiatrist's office, and he looks at those sitting in the waiting room, and says, "What is this is as good as it gets?"

But, the movie slyly proves him wrong.  The way it was for his character was not as good as it was going to get. It got better; it gets better.  The movie is about hope.

In a bigger sense, beyond a movie, this is not as good as it gets.  It gets better, in many respects; spiritually it truly will get better.  My students were discussing suicide online (it's a half-online class).  I pointed out what a psychologist friend told me once; suicide is about losing hope.

What drives us corporately and individually is the belief that this is not the end; there is not just a chance, but a likelihood, of it getting better not because of blind, dumb luck but because we have choice and act in this world.  I don't believe in luck; I believe in the sovereignty of God and hard, smart work.  I also believe that human relationships will make it better.

Star Trek: Yes, I Went

I have given up superhero movies--no more Iron Man or Superman and Batman (although I don't consider him a superhero).  I am not ready to give up Star Trek, so I went to see the latest iteration last Sunday at what we call the dollar movie that is now $3.75.  Inflation.

I really like Benedict Cumberbatch, and I didn't know he was Khan and this was the reboot of the Wrath of Khan (true confession, that's the only Star Trek movie I haven't seen, and not sure why.  It's on Netflix so I guess I will).  So, I was experiencing the movie without preconceptions.  I enjoyed it, but the whole conceit of the ship saving the day no matter what the problem, and the ruse of everything being at the very last minute, get old.  The characters use too many slang expressions that wouldn't be used in 200 years (or whatever it is), such as "throw me under the bus."  (Buses in that world?)  It is truly an issue of buying into the characters who have been around since the '60s and sticking with them for nostalgia's sake or just because we think the emotionlessness of Spock, the boldness of Kirk, and the irascible emotion of Bones works.  Also, the pace of JJAbrams work is so frenetic, so fast, in contrast to how the old ones were slow. 

My husband sings the praises of 2001:  A Space Odyssey, always pointing out the slowness of space.  I think he has a point.  In space life would have an entirely different pace.

I'm no Trekie.  I thought the '80s-'90s version on TV was the best in terms of characters and even plots (although some of those fell into "the ship will save us" mode).  The Borg was ingenious.  Avery Brooks and Patrick Stewart were believable in an unbelievable setting.    Data was priceless.  But those folks seem to have accepted the end of that era.  The current return to "pre-Star Trek" Star Trek is interesting but I don't know if it will go down in memories like the others.

Status of My Doctoral Work and Reality

Yesterday I mailed off the prospectus for my dissertation.  I am taking two research methods classes this semester.  I edit an online journal, I am the vice president of a professional organization, I teach six classes right now (with another coming, constituting four preps), sponsor a student organization, lead a writers' group, and oh, yes, have relationships with lots of people.  But . . .

Yesterday I was in a Panera, standing at the drink station, getting my water.  A tall young man stood beside me.  I happened to look down and saw that he had not one, but two, prosthetic legs.  To that point, I thought--"basketball player."  I was overcome, not knowing the reason for his loss of limbs but feeling acutely that I had both of mine; I have never even broken a bone. (Lately I have been surrounded by people with major  broken bones).  How we  whine and complain about inane things.

Yet the idea of being driven to gratitude because of the misfortune or tragedy of others is pretty disturbing.  Nevertheless, we do it; it is sometimes a  wake-up call, I suppose, but practicing the art and grace of gratitude everyday is a good way to free ourselves from having to be shocked into gratefulness.  

So, I do not whine about the workload of the doctoral program, thankful for the opportunity.  It's paid for, for one thing, through my work.  My teachers are experts in the field (the joys of an R1!) 

The News Media gets it wrong

Last Saturday I went out to get the mail from our mail carrier.  Sometimes she has heavy packages and she has a disability, so we don't want her to have to deal with them, so we watch for her. 

"I thought you guys were going to stop delivering mail on Saturdays," I said.

"Why did you think that?"  she asked. "They haven't said anything to us about it."

"It was all over the Internet back in the spring that the Post Office was going to stop Saturday service."

"They lied," was her two-word answer.

How often I could have said that about the news media in my life.  How often have they not lied but told the partial story.  The other day Michael Yousef, the Egyptian pastor, was being interviewed on Janet Parshall's show, about what's going on in the Middle East.  His organization has "boots on the ground" doing ministry there.  I trust his word a whole lot more than AP, Fox, or New York Times.

Someone posted on Facebook "Why are people so upset over Miley Cyrus when children are being killed in Syria?"  Indeed.  I have been praying for Syria for months, with vague understanding.  I have little sympathy for the leaders of the rebellion because I fear they are Islamists who want a revolution like Iran's, but of course Assad is an unjust leader/ruler.  There is no nice in-between for the people of Syria.  As much as I dislike Representative Grayson from Florida, he is right when he says, "Where did we get the idea that when there is an internal problem in another country the solution is to drop bombs on it?"  I don't see how sending Cruise Missiles will help.  There is a role for diplomacy. 

(In reference to Miley Cyrus, though, I think our capacity for outrage can take in both of them.  But the two instances are not comparable.)

Detective Fiction and Western Civilization

I am a fan of procedurals.  My husband has gotten me onto "Foyle's War" and I find it quite irresistible.  It helps that it is on Netflix (our cable has been cut dramatically because the company found out we were getting lots of stations for free that we weren't supposed to have, and this is maybe for eight years).

Detective fiction started with Poe, or maybe Wilkie, in English speaking countries.  I believe detective fiction is a particular Western phenomenon.  First, it emphasizes that the death of one person is important.  There is something about the value of an individual life and finding justice for that one person that permeates detective fiction.  I am not saying that other cultures do not value these things, but Western culture does in a particular way.  Second, it values logic, although as my husband says, sometimes it seems like the detectives pull the solutions out of their ___.  Third, the detective is not always a good person per se; he/she is relentless, though, and no one is above suspicion.  No one is too good to commit the  murder; I definitely see Puritanism and Calvinism in that one!

Why blog?

I have not been blogging much lately, for a few reasons that boil down to other pressures of life make it hard to focus on blogging anything of value.  Yet I have this compulsion to come back to this page and type in ideas, reviews, observations, experiences.  Maybe it is just an electronic diary that I have to censor.  Maybe I want to drum up business for my novels.  Maybe I fancy myself a writer people want to read.  A lot of spammers apparently do.

Maybe I just want to share things like this that I just can't share on Facebook.

Some of my more conservative friends would misunderstand, maybe.  I think the Onion is terribly funny, but it's also terribly offensive at times.  This article is a good discussion of humor.  The editors of the Onion point out that 1. they make their headlines follow the style of news so the style elevates it to something that gets attention, and 2.  sometimes they just tweak one word to make it funny.  

So I'm going to catch up on my blogging tonight.  I am home from work, and not feeling like going out into the 90 degree heat (it has finally gotten hot) and not feeling particularly well anyway.  We have new carpet in our building (it's hideously ugly) and I am beginning to wonder if it is causing me nausea and headache (the chemicals, not the design).  I also moved downstairs to a different office that may not have as good circulation of air.  This gives me an excuse not to be in my office anymore than I have to.  Even better, I turned in the prospectus to my dissertation yesterday (overnighted it to Athens at the cost of $64, thank you).  I feel that I can take a breather from it.  I also feel maybe I will actually finish this program.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

This article explains it all

What does this explain?

First, I have heard all my life about the great saints who got up to pray at 3:00 in the morning.  But they probably went back to sleep!  yes, if you wake up at night (and apparently you should, from this research) use it to pray, to write, to read!

Second, I have slept like this for years and thought it was just to go to the bathroom! 

Third, we don't sleep enough, and we think we are special if we don't.  Baloney.  If we slept like our body wants us to, we would be thinner, happier, and more productive.  I must sleep eight hours a night to function, and I'm not going to feel guilty about it just because someone else says they sleep six.  Good for them. 

We would be much better off if we slept the same every night.

Homeschooling parents: MUST READ

This writer is spot on. 

I have taught college for over 30 years, in two Christian colleges, a technical college, a community college, a university, and a state college.  Plagiarism became rampant with the Internet, and most college professors take it seriously.  I do not always fail a student but I don't give them credit for plagiarized work, either.  I use plagiarism detection software and assignments that do not allow for easy borrowing, although it happens.

What struck me in this excellent article is that narcissism is alive and well and doesn't just exist in the Kartrashian family.  A parent who would defend a child's lying and misrepresentation is saying, "I am so involved in my child's life that it's all about me, and I can't separate from him or her."

However, I edit a (small) scholarly journal and had to deal with plagiarism from a professor at another college this summer.  Crazy.  Obviously I didn't publish the article, which was only 1/2 original, if that.  Unfortunately, it didn't go further.  The writer (well, I'm not sure I can call her/him that!--the copier) should have been censured at her/his institution.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

A Day at the Beauty Shop

The other day I went to get my haircut.  I will be the first person to admit that hairstyles are a low priority for me.  They should be higher--I am a professional woman and do care about my appearance.  But I am very busy and do not want to have to make appointments, get touch-ups to color, or wait for long periods.  Or pay much. So I go to a chain "budget salon" and get my hair trimmed every 6-8 weeks.  It is what it is right now.  No color, no perm, short, a little curly.

I need a haircut a few days back and went to said budget salon chain near me, where I always go.  I usually get a different stylist, although in the past I used to ask for a certain woman who did a good job.  My stylist today was a talker.  Sometimes I get one who is as silent as the grave and my attempts at small talk go as flat as my hair (cliche day, I guess).   I want to say to the mum ones, "Don't you know you're never going to make any money in this business unless you have some personality?"

My stylist the other day had personality.  My hair was dirty so I asked for a shampoo.  She started as she squirted the water on my head inclined into the sink.

"That woman who was just in my chair wanted to keep talking.  She knew my brother from high school and she wanted to talk about people she knew from high school but I knew everything she talked about.  She said her son had died but I already knew that.  He was a drug addict.  I told her the only thing that would fix that would be to get saved.  I just said that straight out.  If you are coming to me asking for sympathy about someone being a drug addict I'm just going to tell the truth.  But she and her husband were both addicts and they were the ones who got the boy into the drugs.  That would be a terrible thing to live with."

Now, I don't want to give the impression I didn't say anything.  I affirmed her witnessing, indelicate as it may be; I also commiserated because these women only make money on volume and someone wanting to sit in their chair and talk takes away money.  But I don't think she was listening all that much.

Then we went to the chair to get a cut.  She knew what she was doing and I am happy with the cut.  She started again.  "I dyed my hair Sunday.  It's red now, it was blonde before.  I went to church that morning with my mother and this woman I didn't even know came up to us and asked if we were kin and we said we were mother and daughter and she asked who was the mother.  Can you believe that?  That is so rude.  Church people can be so rude.  Rude rude rude.  So I went home and dyed my hair red and went back to church that night.  She won't be asking that question again.  I did look kind of washed out with that blonde hair, though, it needed a color job."

She got the stylist beside her in one this conversation.  Then she changed topics.

"Talk about rude.  My sister-in-law gave her sister a gift coupon to get her hair done at a salon and went to this other girl instead of me.  And then the girl didn't do it right and they came to me for me to fix it.  Then she asked what I would charge and I said nothing because I wanted her to feel guilty for going to that other girl in the first place."  When I asked what salon it was, she said, "Oh, it's just that girl's salon.  She got distracted by a phone call about her child and messed up on how long she kept the color in and I had to fix that and then the girl didn't finish cutting her hair, left a big part of it not cut.  You'd think she would have noticed that."

I commented that the girl wouldn't be in business too long.  "Well, they'll probably go back to her anyway because they said they wouldn't come to this salon because they didn't like the clientele.  They didn't like the class of people here.  Can you believe that?"

Well, actually I could.  By now I was checking out, and I mentioned, since African-Americans come and work there, "You know, some people may not want to come here because black and Latino people do."  "Well, those people just have to remember this is a budget salon, so we serve all kinds of people," she said.

I had to laugh that I go to a salon that doesn't serve the "right" kind of people.  I get very prickly when people act like they are a better class of people than me based on the car I drive (the year of it) or some other superficial nonsense.  These people usually have little education, although not always.

She was my character for the day. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Dreams and visions

I may have a limited perspective on this subject, but I believe I have very vivid dreams.  They often have long, complicated plots.  While all dreams have juxtaposed, surreal elements, mine tend to be coherent narratives.

The other night I dreamed that I left teaching--gave it up.  I was taking a job with an insurance company making six figures, and very pleased with myself, although I was conscious in the dream of how much I would miss teaching and that kind of life.  Then I saw the actual title of my new position:  Executive Vice President in charge of assessment of Cremains (cremation remains). 

Assessment is a big term in higher education today, so I guess that's where that came from.  But cremation?  I had been having some discussions about it.  And people in this part of the world think of one thing when you say cremation--Noble, Georgia, the little community where the man who was supposed to cremate bodies from the local funeral homes did not, for several years.  This was a disturbing incident because so many people around here were defrauded and so many people believed their loved ones' bodies to be desecrated.  So cremation pulls forth a deep reaction in me (that's not to say I am against it in all cases, just that I don't see it clinically).

In my dream, I accepted the new job.  I wanted to, but could not, go back to my college position.  I had to move on, at least making a lot of money.  I could earn enough in a few years to enjoy it.

This is a silly incident, but I do not believe dreams should be discarded.  They mean a great deal about what is bothering us, for example.  Even more, there are thousands of reports from the Muslim world that dreams of Jesus are leading to conversions.  We cannot dismiss those as superstition, even if some of that is involved.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

American Exceptionalism

It might peg me, but I do believe in this concept.  I don’t see how anyone could not.   In my Franky Planner today is this quote, “A man’s country is not a certain area of land, of mountains, rivers, and woods, but it is a principle, and patriotism is loyalty to that principle.”  (George William Curtis).

Well, I am going to disagree with Mr. Curtis in one respect.  I don’t believe this is true of other countries.  The United States is a principle, and it always was.  I know, I know, the founders had lots of flaws, but they had it right.  We are a country founded on ideals and principles, not tribalism.  Perhaps you could take this quote to mean that the idea of a country is always a principle.  Countries are not natural, as ethnic groups are; a group of people define a country either by peaceful means or warlike ones.  But the US colonies combined under a set of beliefs and principles and agreed to follow them.  I don’t know that this has ever happened before or since, at least not by choice (some countries are formed by outsiders forcing the insiders to make a country).

So, yes, I’m an American exceptionalist.  So sue me.  I just finished a 3300-mile trip and saw America in all its generic, corporate-controlledness but also it’s law-and-order-, adherence to principle-ness.

Public Speaking Online: Part III

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