Saturday, September 28, 2013

Job 28, Notes on a Lesson



Preliminary:

What have we learned so far about Job that we didn’t know before?

Old King James in James 3:1 said, “Be not many masters.”  The modern versions say something like, “Let not many of you become teachers, knowing we shall receive a stricter judgment.”  Many people have the gift of teaching—some of you in this room do—but we are warned of the responsibility of teaching. 
These verses appear at the beginning of a discourse on the power of the tongue, of speech.  I have been thinking lately about silence—of God and ourselves.  Let me read this article.

What have you learned in the silence?

Chapters 26-31 are Job’s long last hurrah; in fact it says at the end of 31, “the words of Job are ended.”  Except for a response to God in the second to last chapter, this is his last recorded speech. 

Is everything Job says about God true?  Is everything his friends say about God true?  I am going to be provocative and say, Yes and No.   It is a true record of what they say, and they say many true things, but often incomplete.  God has the final word, that’s the thing to remember about Job.

Job’s words are not final.  What we see in his speech are magnificent declarations about God, but like the psalms, they are filtered and express through his experience, longing, trial, faith, limited understanding, grief, pain, loss, and emotion.

How do we do that ourselves?  How do we process?

I see Job as God dealing with the arguments of men about wisdom and understanding.  Where is it found?  What is it?  How do we get it? That is what we come to at the end of this chapter and the book.

Wisdom comes from a source outside of men.

As someone living in Moses’ time, perhaps, does Job speak about Christ?  Not directly, but I think there are references.  19:21-27.  Centerpiece of book, I think. 

23:7:  a righteous one who stands before the judge.  We know that is our high priest, in the words of Michael Card, “to look into our judge’s face and see a savior there.”

Let’s look at 28. 
Verse 3:  Man puts an end to darkness.  Man’s search for technology, which is largely motivated by desire for wealth and control/power.

If Job could see our technology today and the state of mankind, what would he say?

Men dig deep for “wisdom.”  Where do men look for it?  How do men define it?  Do they even know what they are looking for?

In verses 24 and following, we see the same reference to wisdom as being existent at the beginning of creation, as in Proverbs 8.  And God’s answer to man about the where and the what of wisdom is simple and often repeated in scripture:  verse 28.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Job 22-27



Job 22-27

Some preliminary thoughts:  Job may have been contemporaneous with the patriarchs (Abraham, 2500-2000 BC).  He mentions iron; “Items that were likely made of iron by Egyptians date from 2500 to 3000 BC.”  There is also no mention of the Mosaic Law, and he offers sacrifices for his family (serving as priest), which would have been forbidden by the Mosaic Law 

23:17:  NIV/ESV:  yet I am not silenced because of the darkness, nor because thick darkness covers my face.

Job teaches us not to trust internal sources of wisdom; to mistake man’s technology for wisdom; nonBiblical versions or sources of wisdom.  It is very clear that man’s access to wisdom is very limited, that it comes from rightly understood fear of God.  

I must teach the Bible in context, so I’m going to start with chapter 22 and make a few observations, spend some time in the beautiful chapter 23, and then move on quickly to this passage today in chapter 28.

In chapter 22 Eliphaz accuses Job of the worst community sins, not taking care of widows and orphans (although as a rich person he should have and could have).  Eliphaz seems to be saying, “You are wicked” but that it would be o pleasure to God if Job were blameless.  Eliphaz seems pretty cynical.  V. 21:  Now acquaint yourself with Him, and be at peace;  Thereby good will come to you.”  It is easy to make fun of Job’s friends, but I think we miss the point.  They are saying what is commonly believed.  At least they are honest in what they think, even if wrong.  They do not sugarcoat and give platitudes, “It will be all right, think positive, all things work for good, etc.”

Chapter 23:  This is Job’s defense of his righteousness and praise toward God’s righteousness.  What really matters is what we learn about God here.
v. 1-2:  depth of Job’s anguish
3:  His searching
4-5:  What I want to do—have a chance to defend myself and understand
6-7:  If I could find God, this would happen:  I would reason with Him.  I want to be able to talk to God before the throne, face to face. 
8-9:  My knowledge  of God is limited as is my ability to know Him.
10:  But his knowledge of me is perfect. 
            Psalm 1:6
            Psalm 139:1-4
            Psalm 17:3
            Psalm 66:10
The image of metallurgy is important in Job:  testing, refining, purifying.  I see that as the metaphor for us.  While we do have sins to repent of, God is using testing to purify us of the things that are not so much bad but not part of what he wants for us in the end.  The metals that come from the purifying are not bad metals, but they are not the pure gold or silver.  What is in our lives that holds us back from being purely and wholly His?

11-12:  Job holds fast to his integrity.  He is not saying he is sinless; if so, he wouldn’t need purifying and refining.  He knows he is a frail and limited human being who cannot find God and is totally dependent on, even terrified by, Him.  But he refuses o confess to sis he didn’t commit because his friends are saying, “This has happened to you because you took advantage of the poor and orphaned,” and so on.  Likely, his friends have some jealousy of his former wealth.

Job is not browbeating himself that he is the cause of his trials.  He knows it’s not all about him. His struggle is over “why God,” not “why me.”  It’s over what meaning he should make of his experience, and how does he move on from it.  He rejects Kharma, as should Christians, even in jest, because it is totally nonChristian (like yoga). 

Of course, we should recognize that actions have consequences, and recognize those consequences as opposed to what God chooses to bring into our lives.  That discernment is the key and “the better part of wisdom.” 

Job is a plumbline about what worldly ideas about suffering and pain that we should reject. 

Confessing to sin that you didn’t commit is no virtue, but listening to the Holy Spirit show you your error is a virtue.  Everyday God shows me a better way and out of my judgmentalism, anger, defensiveness, narcissism, and vanity. 

v. 13:  “But He is unique; who can make Him change?  And whatever His soul desires, that He does.”

v. 15:  “I am terrified.”  Why?  He has seen the deep darkness.  He has experienced the dark night of the soul.  The beauty of Job is his existential honesty.  He has seen how bad it can get. 

In this chapter Job affirms God’s reasonableness, justice, uniqueness, immutability, and awesomeness.  That is what the note in my Bible says.  Maybe.  That’s part of it.  But there is more than a theological list here. 

The Old Testament (First Testament, we should say) does not make a strong distinction between head and heart, intellect and emotions, that we do today.  It also doesn’t speak of murder without a violent heart (which is exactly what Jesus said—anger is violence in our heart, the seed of murder). 

In Job 24, Job speaks of how violent and wicked people seem to do all right on earth, but there is a final justice (not kharma; “what goes around comes around” is only half the story).  Sins he mentions are lack of concern for the poor: violence, especially to the poor; murder; and adultery.  Interesting list:  the first on par with the others. 

In chapter 25, Bildad the Shuhite (shortest man in the Bible), asks, “How can a human be righteous before an all-righteous God?”

In chapter 26, Job gives his answer to the three:  Are you all that charitable, Misters Know-Everything?  And God is so powerful that we can only know a whisper (“Indeed these are the mere edges of His ways, and how small a whisper we hear of Him,” v. 14)

In chapter 27, Job defends his innocence again:  I am not a wicked person you accuse me of being; in contrast, a wicked person will be judged generationally and eternally.

In chapter 28 we come to the mystery of wisdom.  More tomorrow.

The Silence of God

This link goes to an insightful piece on the times we believe God is silent.  I am studying Job for a lesson and it is far more eloquent than I can do.

http://www.crosswalk.com/blogs/dr-james-emery-white/the-silence-of-god.html

Using silence as a teaching tool is hard for us today, but there is really no learning without silence.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Breakpoint Gets It Right, As Usual

This link will take you to a commentary on Down's Syndrome.

http://www.breakpoint.org/bpcommentaries/entry/13/23401?spMailingID=7026969&spUserID=OTQ0MjIyMjM4S0&spJobID=89847665&spReportId=ODk4NDc2NjUS1

I am not going to pretend that having a child with Down's is easy, but neither is a child with epilepsy (as mine was), juvenile diabetes (a friend), severe allergies (lots of friends), heart condition, learning disabilities, ADD, etc.  If you want an easy life, don't have a child.  the high rate (reportedly 90%) of people who abort their Down's babies is concurrent with a better quality of life for Down's children.  Ironic. 

In this link, they comment on the fact that Time Magazine put football on a cover in the U.S. but Putin on it in other countries.  While the link above is heartwarmig, this one is maddening. 

http://www.breakpoint.org/bpcommentaries/entry/13/23389?spMailingID=7018727&spUserID=OTQ0MjIyMjM4S0&spJobID=89710741&spReportId=ODk3MTA3NDES1

When will we learn that we can't trust the news media?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Artificial Intelligence, the Movie, My Thoughts

I am twelve years or more behind in posting this (there wasn't blogging back then, really).  I finally watched this movie the other night because it was on TCM, late.  I managed to stay up for it despite its going off at 1:30.

It was imaginative; it was more Spielberg than Kubrick; it was too long, with a tacked on ending.  Kubrick would have ended it with David staring forever at the blue fairy underwater; he had a darker vision.  Spielberg has a habit of sinking into some unneeded pathos at times.  His best movies are Schindler's List and Lincoln--and maybe Saving Private Ryan--where he couldn't do that.   Of course he is one of the greatest filmmakers, but that doesn't mean I have to like all of them.  Faulkner was brilliant but I am not going to read him for enjoyment.

I had two issues with the movie as far as getting emotionally involved in it.  We are supposed to fall in love with David, but I couldn't.  He was just a machine, and I would no more fall in love with a robot character than I would my microwave.  I felt emotion for the mother, the real mother in the first part of the film.  So I was somewhat detached from it, watching it intellectually to see if it was good or bad, not entering into the story.

Secondly, I got to thinking about having a replacement child like that.  David would always be eight years old.  He would always be the same.  One of the greatest things about being a parent is the never-ending possibilities of one's child because they grow, and change, and develop, and learn, and become a different version of themselves.  Every age with my son was a delight; I never wanted him to stay at the age he was, no matter how cute and charming and well behaved he was.  Raising him was about seeing him rise--to a newer level.

This is one reason I find dogs just a little bit dissatisfying.  They don't really change.  You can teach them a new trick, but they are pretty much what they are (which can sometimes be pretty disgusting; my dogs lick themselves far too much no matter how we reprimand them).  They are fun if you don't expect to much.

The conceit of the film is that a robot could be developed who could love, and that they could them evolve (to be those alien-looking beings at the end).   A second conceit is that a child who doesn't grow up would satisfy a grieving parent.  (I was so glad when Martin got better!)

So the engineer who designed David, we finally learn, really wanted a replica of his own child who had died (why didn't he take him home instead of inflicting the robot on those poor people).  Wouldn't they have been able to clone by then, if they could develop that level of robot, and get a second child that way? 

In the end, though, it was beautiful and thoughtful and violent, if too long.

Emily Dickinson Home, Gardens, and Gravesite


One can understand her poetry much better after visiting Amherst! 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Shack, Literary Quality, Heresy, and Food for Thought

I ran across this blog post.  It is more valuable, I think, for its insights on Christian literature than for its review of The Shack, although that part of it is quite good, too.

http://golfsierra.org/blog/?p=57&cpage=1#comment-104554

Friday, September 20, 2013

Blogging revisited

This week a colleague asked me to write a letter of recommendation for him for his promotion review.  I did so gladly.  We got to talking and he said he would like a funny one to put in his folder, so I said I would write one.  Unfortunately, its humor was too scathing, not of him, but of the president (of U.S., not college, of course) so it's not usable.  But I had fun writing it. 

I thought about posting it here and realized, during contemplation this morning, that that would be a bad idea.  I want to keep this blog, from now on, positive and educational, and my political views wouldn't do that.  I sincerely do not want readers to confuse my political views with my educational, scholarly, or spiritual viewpoints.  For one, the church has been too hurt by political connections; it's the biggest mistake we made in the last forty years. 

I want this blog to start to develop my brand and platform; eventually I want to get a website, but I don't have time to maintain it right now.

The Zen of Social Media Marketing

I recently received this book in the mail, having ordered it because I am teaching a course in epublishing next semester (I hope!) and I want to learn about leveraging social media.

I have only read the first chapter and realized I have done everything wrong.  I tried to get a bunch of Facebook friends.  That didn't really work because of the way Facebook works; you don't see everyone's posts, just the ones you are responding to a lot; therefore, those 1000 people aren't seeing my marketing, which is essentially spam anyway.

If one is going to market online, it's a full-time job, not an occasional post.

She says that the Zen part (I'm not a Buddhist, so I think that word is used as a marketing ploy for the book) is to not try so hard.  Baloney.  For most of us, marketing is extremely hard work.  But the book looks like it has good ideas, and I plan to use it as a text for the class, at least at this point.

Working full-time as a college professor trying to earn full professor status, being in a doctoral program, trying to actually write, and taking care of some intense family issues really doesn't give one much time for this marketing.  It would have to be something I spend an hour or two a day on.  But my eventual goal is to get the degree, market myself as an expert in a couple of fields, and write ebooks for easy download on a variety of subjects not being written on--Biblical studies and hermeneutics, teaching freshmen, teaching open access, faculty development, business communication, parenting older children, etc.

A couple of new addictions

That title was meant to hook people.  We have, as a society, taken to calling strong desires and habits addictions, even when they are not. 

But two things I have recently been "turned on to" (what a cliche) are Foyle's War and Vanilla Chai Tea.  We can watch all the old episodes of Foyle's War on Netflix, and new ones are on Masterpiece Mystery now.  I am totally enthralled by them; I find them so nuanced, with such great production values (except all the cars look new, of course, but that's always the case because the cars are classics and the owners want them taken care of.  They wouldn't be new at the time of the war in Britain.)  They take a lot of mind work, though; they are not for the casual watcher.  I have learned some history from them, and they are totally from a British point of view in terms of the war.  I also find it interesting that the only people who swear are the Americans; the British must have seen the American soldiers as pretty profligate. 

Vanilla Chai Tea is delicious but takes more time to make than other hot drinks, so it's a treat when I get it. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Thoughts from a lesson on Job

My friend from the Netherlands taught class this morning   She did very well; I don't think she realizes her gift.

Some thoughts:

God never condemns Job's grief, sarcasm, questions, doubts, despondency, emotions, cries. 

In the last chapter, Job's friends, who did not represent God correctly in their arguments, are condemned but given grace "when Job prayed for them."

Friends, although needed, are not the ultimate help. 

Job's wife is only mentioned once.  What happened to her?  I think she may have been a second wife anyway, especially if he really did have a bunch more children at her age.  But God doesn't judge her either.

Our responses to adversity, pain, loss, will be different for each person.  Our quick "I know how you feel" or "I'm sorry" is often a trope, a default, a cliche, and thus meaningless. 

Our responses in adversity are often based on our expectations of God, which might be totally wrong.

One of those expectations has to do with timing and how long God should take to get us out of this mess.

Each of us should carefully evaluate explanations offered for life's bewildering circumstances.  Most of our attempts are popular truisms rather than wisdom rooted in Biblical truth.

What is the Biblical truth:  God does not offer rational explanations; his power is too great for us to justify his ways. 

Is that last sentence a copout?  It could be.  I think most of the time there is a rational explanation; we have the word that does set up parameters.  But not all the time.  The worst of times.

Adversity is not necessarily (even usually) God's judgment against wrongdoing, even though this is a cause-effect universe in the big picture.

Human wisdom can be antithetical to the revealed wisdom of God. (New Testament, Pauline concept)

We may in adversity wonder if all our obedience was for nought.  I have felt that.

Eliphaz appealed to justice; Bildad, to tradition; Zophar, to logic.  Job appealed to God.

Being Interviewed

The other day I spent a half-hour on the phone with a researcher from a firm (no names) asking me questions about a graduate program in communication at a famous, large Midwestern university.  My son had given them my name because the interview was about parents' perceptions of the new program, but I told her I was a professor of communication and that kind of altered the course of it.  She asked me some really interesting questions and I was very candid and I hope helpful.

However, (as we say in the South, bless her heart), everything I said was brilliant.  What I mean is that she responded to everything I said with affirmations of how interesting and important they were, and at first I was pleased with myself, but I caught on after a while.  I am not that brilliant.  But she was doing her job well, because she got me talking.

A little affirmation goes a long way.

Trinity Revisited

A long time ago I posted a piece called "The Incomplete Trinity," in which I argued that Christian theology leaves the Holy Spirit out; if not the theology, the practice.  I still believe that; we are afraid of too much talk about the Holy Spirit because of charismatics, I guess.

I was taught, in fundamentalism, not to pray to the Holy Spirit, nor even to Jesus, but only to God the Father.  It was a kind of hierarchy in the trinity, I suppose, that we were supposed to follow, but I am not sure about. 

The trinity is probably the most difficult subject in Christian theology, and no physical imagery explains it; water, eggs, etc.  But making each person permanently subordinate another, and forbidding prayer to one person of the trinity (as if it were a private conversation and the other two are left out!) seems kind of silly if not heretical.

I bring this up because the early Reformation church was trinitarian and prayed to all three persons of the trinity. In the Valley of Vision, prayers are said in these poems to all three.  I like that.  I need not fear God or overstepping some boundary when I ask the Holy Spirit for something.  They are not separate, that I know. 

Tenure and Promotion

These two words are hot topics in higher education.  I have tenure; I have received a promotion to associate professor; I hope one day to be full professor, if I stay in my job after earning the doctorate.   But . . .

Tenure and promotion may just be a scam.  "It only matters if you don't have it," as a colleague said about the doctorate, may be true of tenure and promotion.  Tenure does not mean permanent job security; when we get promotions, our salaries increase just a bit, and we can't get these promotions but every six or seven years, if that.  So who made up this system? 

Tenure is a carrot held out to professors that may really be a disincentive to look for better positions.  If you don't have it at your current institution, it's harder to get a job elsewhere, so you had better fly the coop before it's too late.

Maybe this will get me in trouble!  But my views are not shared by others, certainly not.  All I am saying is that a better system may be doable, perhaps one with more promotional levels but not tenure in the old sense.

A second look at some song lyrics that made me mad

Below I have posted the lyrics to the Casting Crown's Song, Jesus Friend of Sinners.  I heard this on the radio the other day (for the umpteenth time) and got mad.

Why?  Well, maybe it's because it's self-focused, like so many of our songs nowadays.  Maybe it's the line, "Open our eyes to the world at the end of our pointing fingers."  How does he know I'm pointing fingers?

Christians do so much self-loathing that they don't see what is actually being done in terms of care for the poor, etc.  Yes, more could be done; the work of restoration will never be done.  But sometimes why don't we just celebrate what God is doing through the church than falling back on the trope--which the world tells us is true even when it's not--that all the church does is point fingers at all the bad sinners and stay in our ivory towers looking down on people?   If all we do is talk about what we don't do, isn't there a big possibility that we will misplace our energies?

On top of that, when we are asked to help the "poor," it should be the truly poor.  If a person has cable, I don't consider them poor.  Sorry.  If a person doesn't have clean drinking water, that's another matter.  I'm a bit cynical of some of our do-goodism in the church. 

Yet . . .

I have had a healthy dose of seeing my own judgmentalism today, so in the words of Dr. Seuss, We can do better.

 
"Jesus, Friend Of Sinners"

Jesus, friend of sinners, we have strayed so far away
We cut down people in your name but the sword was never ours to swing
Jesus, friend of sinners, the truth's become so hard to see
The world is on their way to You but they're tripping over me
Always looking around but never looking up I'm so double minded
A plank eyed saint with dirty hands and a heart divided

Oh Jesus, friend of sinners
Open our eyes to the world at the end of our pointing fingers
Let our hearts be led by mercy
Help us reach with open hearts and open doors
Oh Jesus, friend of sinners, break our hearts for what breaks yours

Yeah...

Jesus, friend of sinners, the one who's writing in the sand
Made the righteous turn away and the stones fall from their hands
Help us to remember we are all the least of these
Let the memory of Your mercy bring Your people to their knees
Nobody knows what we're for only what we're against when we judge the wounded
What if we put down our signs crossed over the lines and loved like You did

Oh Jesus, friend of sinners
Open our eyes to world at the end of our pointing fingers
Let our hearts be led by mercy
Help us reach with open hearts and open doors
Oh Jesus, friend of sinners, break our hearts for what breaks yours

You love every lost cause; you reach for the outcast
For the leper and the lame; they're the reason that You came
Lord I was that lost cause and I was the outcast
But you died for sinners just like me, a grateful leper at Your f

Project Keepsake

Good news! One of my pieces, and pieces by 49 other writers, will be included in the first edition (I expect more in the future) of Project Keepsake, the brainchild of my friend Amber Lanier NagleClick here for more information.  My piece is about my grandmother's quilts; I am pleased she wanted to include it. 

The book should come out in February 2014, published by Ink Smith.

Amber is a former engineer who decided to reinvent herself as a freelance writer, and she's an Edison in that regard.  She's been published in many magazines, but Project Keepsake is her big baby.  I'm looking forward to it!

Amber also does workshops about writing about keepsakes.  I am going to have her talk to my epublishing class in the spring.

Lifeboat, Metropolis

Watched this masterpiece last night on TCM.  Wonder why it's not shown before.  Definitely worth a view. Provocative film.  You can read about it on imdb.com, but reviews don't do it justice.

I also watched the full Metropolis (1925) last week.  Another masterpiece because of its vision and execution even if the story is maudlin.  It is a quasi-Christian redemption story at its core:  the evangelist Maria tries to spread a message that the head and hand must be united by the heart in order to redeem the society.  The society is a futuristic one where the workers, drones, live below to keep the elites in comfort.  The hands vs. heads, get it?  The son of the head head decides to join the workers and live with them because he sees the injustice of the system.  There is an evil genius who creates a robot that he (and this is kind of dumb) converts into a living being through sucking something out of Maria, and the robot is her spitting image, of course.  She is a temptress while Maria is virtuous (boy, don't you love how women are either one or the other?).  Any way, the evil genius tries to destroy the city, but in the end Maria and the son rescue the children for the striking workers and there is peace because the son--the heart--unites the upper and lower.   It's slow going at times and I'm just beginning to appreciate silent films, but this one is a wonder because of the set design, if nothing else.  It influenced a lot of other films.  Don't think I'd sit through it again, though.

If your eye offends you . . .

Our pastor preached on this passage this morning, from the Sermon on the Mount.  It was provocative.  The Big Idea:  get to the root of the temptation of your sin and cut it out of your life.  Be real about such things.  Don't try to deal with the symptoms; get to the root.

That is why fasting from media may be the best thing to do.  All our sinful desire will not go away if we turn off cable and the Internet; of course not, since what defiles us comes from within.  But the media does nothing but feed such practices and desires.

For some reason, my Facebook "friends" like to post pictures of gooey deserts.  I'm not sure those seductive pictures help anyone with their eating habits!

Seriously, we are just playing with this topic.  We hear the truth and say, "But God doesn't really want me to give up . . . " when that is exactly what God wants, for our own good.  If it seems like God is saying to give something up, it's worth listening to (unless of course you are one of those people who think God tells you to give up your spouse and children, practicing your faith, etc.  There are those people.  My son told me of a coworker whose supposed Christian in-the-ministry husband told her God wanted him to divorce his young wife.  How demonic!)  But if it's social media, talk radio, vampire shows, dead body shows (CSI), or worse, it's probably a good idea to do what you're being told.  At least for a while.  A while being defined as indefinitely.

We are insensitive to how we are influenced by things.  In Cracker Barrel today, I wanted--not food, but to buy some more clothes, and I have two closets full.  I wanted because I saw.  People often say all they watch is HGTV, but that station can make you desire more--a bigger, better home, furniture, etc.  

Red Letter Christians revisited

Red Letter Christians confuse me.  They say we more conservative Christians are inconsistent in our practice of scripture, and I suppose they think themselves more righteous for focusing on the red letter parts of the Bible (Jesus' words).  But . . .

The same Old Testament law that requires that in a theocracy for the poor to be cared for also requires capital punishment for sodomy and doesn't even have laws for abortion since such a thing is so unspeakable in the ancient Hebrew mind.  Only in a case of a miscarriage by force is there a discussion of penalty (and it's severe).

In the New Testament period we no longer live in a theocracy, but in a multicultural and opposing world; the church is a community apart, and should be chaste and distinctive.  Yes, care for the least of these is vital, and I espouse that and try to live it.  But their justification of left-wing social causes is just plain weird. 

So, their trying to justify same-sex marriage and abortion rights the same basis as care for the poor is disingenuous. If you are going to be left-wing, be left-wing, but don't drag the Bible into it.

Consistent inconsistencies, and inconsistent consistencies--and a box of tampons

On the same theme of my last post, I was listening to NPR today when coming home from my Sunday morning activities of church and visiting my mom.  I also went to Cracker Barrel with my Sunday School class ladies for lunch and had the friend chicken salad, which was very good, by the way.   On the radio I listened to New Dimensions.

I really don't know why a show about religion is on NPR, because they definitely wouldn't play John Piper or Chuck Swindoll.  But I digress.  I listen to this show frequently and although I object to its basic world view, I am often intrigued by it, especially when it focuses on literature or writing, which it, sort of, was today.  I do not remember the speaker, but one can go to its website to find out.  He had written a book Open Mind, Wise Mind and was speaking about openness in creativity.

I am a firm believer that we all have much more creativity than we realize, and that it is possible to "tap" into our subconscious to unleash it, and that the subconscious has a deep wellspring of thoughts, images, insights, juxtapositions, stories, words, etc. that we aren't aware of.  I believe this for two reasons:  First, we are not blank slates when we are born; there is already a lot in there by virtue of being human and having brains.  (Don't mistake this for collective unconsciousness or having an eternal existence before birth; it comes from the Imago Dei, from being made in the image of God who is intelligent and creative.)  Second, we have far more experiences that we cannot remember--or perhaps should not-- in our conscious mind but are still there.  I also believe in a type of racial memory, although I could be argued out of that.

My point is that both of these sources of the subconscious (or unconscious) are largely external, whereas New Age thought sees the sources as internal.  That is how Christian spirituality differs from other types.  When we are "spiritual," it is because an external being, the Holy Spirit, resides and controls us from within, not because our spirit is so beneficent.  Most Christians do not have a good understanding or theology of the Holy Spirit in the first place, and confuse their own with the Holy Spirit.  Our spirituality results in godliness and fruit, not inner ethereal experiences.

Now, in terms of creativity, I have experienced tapping into flow of thoughts when I start to write and then have looked at it and said, "Where in the world did that come from?"  But those times come when I write, when my body and mind are totally enveloped in the process for an extended period.

Openness is the key.  I do not think an open mind will necessarily be a wise mind.  Christian spirituality teaches openness to the Spirit of God but discernment and filtering in response to other stimuli.  If your eye offends thee  . . . walk away from that which causes you to stumble, do not embrace it.  But in openness to the Holy Spirit, experiences will be seen as gateways to service and joy that we might have otherwise missed.

Everyday people cross our paths whom we can serve if we see them in that capacity rather than as obstacles, objects of judgment, or means to our own ends.  A woman in my Sunday School class who lives in a rough place right now said an indigent woman came up to her and ask for a box of tampons.  My friend had a box.  That is the equivalent of a cup of cold water.  We have the means, we need only open our ears, eyes, hands.   

NPR extremes, feminism, oppression, and the middle way

Yesterday I spent some time in the car (on a Saturday afternoon) which meant listening to some talk programs on NPR.  I am afraid that I don't remember which ones they were, but they were on in the late afternoon, between 4 and 6 in this area.

There was an interesting juxtaposition in these programs.  One of them was an interview with a young woman who has recently written the book The Witness Wore Red.  She was in the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints cult growing up and was "married," at a young age to the patriarch Jeffs, the father of Warren Jeffs.  Her "husband" was in his late 80s at the time and died not long afterward, and he of course had many other "wives" at this time.  She was told by Warren Jeffs that she would have to marry again, since their "theology" demands marriage and childbearing for "salvation."  This young woman stood up to Jeffs but he was determined to break her will and spirit, but she managed to escape before the week's deadline she was given before she would be married off again to some other polygamous.  She was able to testify against him in court on child rape charges and wore red, a shameful color to that cult, to prove she was stronger than he. 

The other story, later, was an interview with a feminist writer who has just made a movie called Afternoon Delights, about a normal, affluent, middle-class wife and mother who gets a lap dance and decides that the sex worker should come home with her.  The discussion was adult-rated and I should have turned it off.  This writer talked about how much she admired and yet was jealous of Lena Dunham for her work on Girls because Dunham had found her voice.  She spoke of how Dunham had two parents who were both artists and so finding and expressing her voice was natural to Dunham, something this writer had struggled with and believed other women were, that women don't feel the freedom to say what they are really thinking and that this movie was her real expression.  Some clips were played that were pretty raunchy and tasteless, in my opinion, e.g., rape as funny.

Well, the end: I do understand the second interviewee's struggle about finding her voice as a woman, but I don't think that means our voice will express the deepest and nastiest parts of us.  I think it does mean that we have to be bold to see how we have allowed men to dictate our thinking about ourselves, or worse, we have allowed what we think men think to dictate our thinking about ourselves and life.  I think I write better fiction when my characters are female.  I think, I know, I have been somewhat oppressed by patriarchy, as much as I hate to say those cliched words.  Not the patriarchy of the Scriptures, if such a thing exists, but the patriarchy of church polity and my own lack of self-awareness.

But I got this sneaky feeling that NPR was saying:  Here are two choices--religion that leads to this massive, horrid, rapacious oppression, or utter freedom that leads to tastelessness and arrogance and throwing off the faith in exchange for a feeling of "I get to say what I want to say."  These are not the two choices.  While religion can be and often is used for oppression, that is not the faith once delivered to the saints--it is what we have made of that faith through our own desire for power and our own self-addiction.  It is hard, but we can find not the middle way but the right way.  We need not embrace the world's notion of freedom nor a misplaced sense of submission. 

My son told me he saw a couple at his church this morning and spoke to them (we are going to different churches now, which is fine).  I said something about how I had heard the young woman sit on her porch and scream foul language in front of the children into a phone.  It could have been taken that 1. she had not right to go to church with a potty mouth, 2. God couldn't help her change 3.  I was better than she was because I don't do that or 4) his church didn't expect much out of it members -- or all four.  I can see now why my son got annoyed with me.  I should rejoice she was in church hearing the Word.   My self-righteousness astounds me sometimes. 

My son also told me about a website that is trying to teach Christians not to send their daughters to college.  That is appalling because the underlying message is, if these girls get an education we can't control them, under the guise of "a college education teaches them not to honor home and family, marriage and wifehood."  Beyond the absurdity, it's sickening.  My son said, "I don't need a wife, I need an equal."  I think what he means by that--although he's off a bit--is that he doesn't want a woman in his life who is emotionally dependent and self-oppressed (which today in this country is really the only type of oppression there is), but one with goals and a mind and an education. 

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Olleana

I watched this movie yesterday, on a local station called THIS which has way too many commercials at key points in the movie, breaking up the flow.

I had read it years ago in a lit book.  In that book it was presented as a modern day equivalent to Antigone, so I had read it that way.  It is that (maybe) and more.

Seeing it acted is different than reading it; I experienced it differently. 

It is a controversial play/movie and one can go elsewhere for discussions about what it is or is not saying about sexual harassment.  To me it was more of a debate-causer about higher education.

What makes me qualified to stand in front of my class?  Well, SACS--the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools has a lot to do with it.  They say a college teacher must have a certain credential to teach.  I do have those credentials, two masters degrees and hopefully in two years a doctorate.  But to get started, to be allowed in front of a class, that's pretty much it.  Now, in some colleges the stakes are higher, but the educational level is pretty much it.  I must have shown myself capable of achieving that level of education in the discipline, and those who taught me had shown a certain capability, etc.  Higher education is definitely a closed system, somewhat inbred, I suppose.  And having achieved that level of education then gives me power over others who want to be accepted into that same system; they want that acceptance because some other goal they want requires them to achieve a certain level of higher education. 

Of course, getting a college degree does not mean one has really achieved a higher education.

When I meet someone who has not college education, I am torn between amazement and perturbation.  These people have either managed to attain skills that have been seen as "good enough" to maintain employment, or they have not taken advantage of what is available to them.  I guess I have bought into the system enough that a person who doesn't take advantage of what a higher education can give them appears lazy to me, but even as I write that I know it's suspect.  Not everyone should get a college education, but I have a hard time having intellectual respect for anyone who hasn't.  They may be awesome at something else, but their horizons are probably limited.

But that is highly elitist of me.  On the other hand, I have been told all my life that people with higher educations have no common sense; that is ludricrous.  An education does not keep one from being able to use one's hands, to be practical, to run a business.  Achieving a higher education does speak to some level of perserverance. 

Indescribably Hypocrisy

I can't help but feel that those who support Obama are afraid to be honest about his warmongering. 

I also can't imagine why he thinks a missile strike on Syria will help anything.  What are the possible outcomes:

1.  collateral damage (the world's worst euphemism since "friendly fire") that will be worse than the tragedy caused by the chemical weapons.
2.  Assad emboldened to do more gassing
3.  Escalation
4.  Israel threatened
5.  Other Arab/Muslim nations angered
6.  The possibility that the Muslim Brotherhood, Al-Quaeda, and such rebel groups will take over and kill more people in the middle.

If he is trying to paint this as:  "Assad did a bad thing, let's punish him," that is so simplistic and naive that either he is incompetent or thinks we are fools (both are possible).  Assad will not be punished by this move.  Worse, we do not understand the whole situation in Syria--who is fighting who.  It is not a bunch of freedom fighters trying to oust a dictator.  It's much more complicated, and it's unclear to most people who are behind the "rebels."  Assad is horrible but the alternative is worse. 

I never had a strong feeling about the Iraq war, but if that was wrong, this is wrong.  Which goes to the title of the post.  Those who protested the Iraq war, which they had reason to do, are silent about this because of their slavish loyalty to Obama because he is--what?  Ed Asner has gone on record to say it's because they don't want to be seen as "anti-black," which is incredibly stupid, as well as racist and hypocritical.  They are saying they cannot see Obama as anything but a black man and that he is not worthy of being judged by the same standards as a white man (ironically he is equally both).

Of course, maybe this is posturing to make Iran and even Syria straighten up, but it's quite a bit of brinkmanship.  If he does it without Congressional approval, maybe even the hip-hop artists will start criticizing him. 

Anger Management

Our pastor gave a vital sermon on anger this morning.  Obviously, it got me to thinking.

Where does anger come from?

Not getting what one wants.
Perceiving potential obstacles to what one wants
Certain triggers (phrases, sights, contexts) that one has been "trained" to respond to in anger
Not understanding a context or expression
A sense that in injustice is taking place, either to oneself or others
Making a huge mistake (we can be angry at ourselves)

Or a combination of these.

The only solution to anger is to recognize its causes and then rescript what is behind what we want.  I responded very angrily (but not "madly") to certain news at work the other day.  Some of that came from a sense of injustice and also from a sense of being taken advantage of, a sense that I have trained myself, by choice, to respond to in anger.   But I am taken advantage of because I let it, so I was angry and continually frustrated in myself for letting that happen.

Anger at others demands reconciliation, which in itself can be painful.

So, through this I found myself asking why I do what I do that gets me into these frustrated situations in the first place.  Part of it comes from self-definition and wanting to be excel in a professional life, perhaps above all, because no one notices when you excel in a personal life.  Therefore, being noticed is too big a motive.

My point is, unless one reflects and asks the hard questions, and then gets external spiritual help (for there is nothing in us to solve these problems) they will continue to frustrate.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Shooting Guns

My husband went up into Marion County, TN, yesterday afternoon and shot at the range at Prentice Cooper State Park.  This was my first time at an outdoor range.

We shot .22s and a 30-30 that belongs to his brother and that he has been cleaning.  I actually did not shoot the 30-30 because the kickback was too strong.  He had bought an automatic .22 for me that I didn't know about, a choice that did not make me happy, actually.  But I enjoy shooting and the open range was an interesting experience.

There were several others there, but not as many as I would have expected.  There are spaces for targets 10 yards away, 50 yards, and 100 yards.  We shot at the 50 yards.  When someone has to go get his/her target, the call "cold range" goes out so that no one will, of course, shoot or even mess with a gun while the person is walking to the target.  To save time, more than one will go at that break time.  I went out to get the targets when I was finished and had to admit that gun enthusiasts are the ones who understand and respect guns; I felt a tad uncomfortable walking out there, having to trust all these people I didn't know

There were other women there, older, like me, and a young girl with her boyfriend who was trying to impress her.  They were shooting .45s.  One older woman, with her husband, was shooting a very high-powered deer rifle that made an incredibly loud report.  It was a 260 something or other.  I thought it could have shot and killed an elephant. 

I shoot pretty well; nothing to write home about, but on the target and pretty much where I want it to be.  We have two .22s, and I preferred the nonautomatic, where I have to pull back and the bullet pops out--like in an old Western. 

One older gentleman spent all his time cleaning his gun, which he said he hadn't shot from in 50 years.  He seemed to be there for the social element.  I imagine his wife doesn't want him messing with guns in the house.  I can understand that. 

Shooting is fun, and while I am not going to picket for gun rights, people who go to ranges are not the ones we have to worry about. 

Friday, September 06, 2013

Update on Sept. 6, 2013

I am getting a lot of traffic to this blog but don't know why.  I posted a lot last weekend but will probably take a break because life, doctoral work, and actual work are demanding a lot right now.

Advent 2017, Post 12, Ancient Carols

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