Showing posts from December, 2014

Year in Review

I had a very busy and in some ways, I guess, productive year.  It was also extremely difficult but external circumstances kept me so busy I could not process the bad adequately. 

In January and February we had a lot of snow for North Georgia, which meant two things:  I was off work quite a bit which allowed me to have time to work on my doctoral research, and I had a hard time getting my students back on track.  I also was expected to run a conference for a professional organization at a university in Atlanta, and that ended up being nothing but a stress-inducer.  It ended up OK, and I was named the president of the organization, which looks great on a CV, and that's all it's about now, isn't it?  I took two doctoral classes in the spring and managed to achieve ABD status by the end of the semester. But by then everything else was changing.

My mother decided in May not to have another round of treatment for her cancer that had returned, and we were dealing with the reality…

My new job and Daniel 1-6

I start a new job Friday.  It is an administrative one, and the name sounds impressive.  I am excited and a little anxious.

I take heart from the book of Daniel.  I am sure others have done so, but I would like to write a book about leadership in Daniel one day.  Fascinating. I am teaching Daniel 6 this Sunday.

Daniel was able to be shrewd but sincere, savvy but spiritual, respected but uncompromising.  I want that. 


I have followed, to some extent, the "controversy" about the movie The Interview.  I do not know which of these opinions are right; I have felt all of them at one point.

1.  Why would a reputable movie production company greenlight a movie about killing a real leader of a real nation?  Maybe the term "reputable movie production company" is an oxymoron.

2.   It was a really good scam to sell tickets.

3.  I do believe in free speech, pretty absolutely, so caving to North Korea was not a finer moment for those who did so.

4.  Seth Rogen is not exactly Orson Welles, so this is not a hill anybody should die on.

But one opinion has not changed for me.  Kim Jong Un is NOT funny.  Totalitarian murderers are NOT funny.  I know, Mel Brooks got away with it in The Producers, well, maybe.  But Brooks is a Jew, and he is allowed, I think, to skewer Hitler all he wants, to put him to as much ridicule as possible.  It's a long tradition:  read Esther and Daniel.  The vicious,…

Into the Woods

Just got back from the now-so-common Christmas experience of going to a movie.  I was not familiar with the musical upon which this movie is based, so I was pretty fresh as an audience.

I liked it.  It was clever.   None of the songs really stick with me.  The performances were excellent, and direction good.  The second part is very different in tone, but that is the point.  I think the point was, "Life has no happy endings and no real moral compass, you just have to figure it out as you go but there are other folks in it with you."

When you compare that to "When you love another person you see the face of God," you kind of get my summation.  It just didn't have any emotional or psychological power for me, not like Les Mis, for sure.  Not that I was expecting Les Mis, but I got the feeling that I was supposed to get all invested with these characters and I didn't.  Maybe because it's, like--fairy tales! 

"Agony" is funny, too. 

I learned a lo…

Advent Thought #25, December 25

I am posting this one a day early so as not to do so tomorrow.  Anyone reading this, I wish you and yours Merry Christmas. 

I am not sure how much I will be blogging after today.  The dissertation and new job will take up most of my time, along with other writing projects.   I have a plethora of topics here, which you can see by clicking on the months and years to the right of the screen.  I have written on a broad range of topics in the arts, theology, communication, education, and writing.  You can also go to my other blog, for more scholarly work.

The Christian faith is embodied.  It embraces the body; it doesn't ignore it or consider it evil.  The flesh in the Bible sometimes means the physical body but usually in the New Testament refers to the sinful nature that must be redeemed.  This is not to say the body is just a tool that can be used for good or evil.  It is more than that.  It is a tool to some degrees, but it is a re…

Advent Thought #24, December 24

I may have two advent thoughts for today, or an early one for December 25.  I am watching King of Kings, and one of the pieces of dialogue that is not really in the Bible but meant to give "Jesus" motivation to say something, was for an older couple to say, "We believe in you but we have nothing to give you."

It occurred to me, and I know this isn't original, that Jesus took worship freely but there really isn't a record of people giving him money.  Would not some of those people have done that?  Since money would have been as important then as now, it seems that there would be some mention in the New Testament of Jesus taking money from someone. 

Of course, this leads us to question how did they live anyway, but it was a simple life.  The culture was hospitable, so disciples or family would have given them shelter and food, and to be honest, I don't know that the apostles really stopped working totally. They walked--no cars, no car insurance, no gas.  …

Jane Eyre, Just Saying

Last night I watched on NetFlix (and my new Mac with a new super dooper router for wireless) the 2011 version of Jane Eyre.  Since I consider the 2006 PBS version with Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens to be the definitive Jane Eyre (just like the '90s, 5-hour version Pride and Prejudice with an absolutely knockout Colin Firth as Darcy) this production seemed at best superfluous.  The set pieces and visuals were nice, and Rochester (Michael Fassbender) was pretty good, but Mia Whatever her spelling is was just not good. I kept wanting her to be Jane, to show that inner passion that Jane kept so under lock and key, and I wanted to see what it was Rochester falls in love with.  Alas.  It was not to be.  I didn't have trouble with the in media res approach of the screenplay, but they left out too many important scenes to keep it to two hours.

I know, I know, a movie is not a novel.  But don't mess with greatness, and I love Jane Eyre the novel. 

Advent Thought #23, December 23

I "stole" this from a friend on Facebook, but I think he was quoting someone.

"In recounting this part of the story (the census), Luke reminds us of several things. First, Palestine--the Holy Land--was at that time an occupied territory of the Roman Empire. The people within its borders were not free. They did what the Romans told them to do. Most were not Roman citizens. They had limited rights. They could be forced to serve Romans , and they certainly were required to pay Roman taxes. By telling us about the Roman census, Luke explains how Jesus came to be born in Bethlehem, not Nazareth. At the same time, Luke helps us see Mary and Joseph as a poor couple who were forced to travel ten days, when she was nine months pregnant, out of fear of what would happen to them if they did not." from Adam Hamilton in "The Journey." As you prepare for Christmas, remember that the Holy Family was on an 80-mile, 10-day journey across difficult terrain with…

Advent Thought #22, December 22

I like to think of Advent as a journey.  When my son was little, we had a flannelgraph picture of Mary and Joseph traveling over the landscape, each day getting closer to Bethlehem.  When they arrived there on December 25, the baby came out and so did the angel and shepherds.  A nice way to teach the story.

So our destination gets one day closer.  And what does that mean? 

That we have a God who deigned to know human living, without human sin; who knows human suffering; who "learned obedience by the things which he suffered." (a mystery verse).  What else?

Advent Thought #22, December 22

I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father.  In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world.  But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

Galatians 4:1-5

We always have a proclivity to comment on the straight words of Scripture, as if God needs our postscript, which is always longer than the original letter.  I'll leave this as is, thank you very much.

Advent Thought #21, December 21

I was reading from Ravi Zacharias this morning on the problem of evil and the cross.  It is something that has to be read multiple times to fathom.  (from Jesus Among Other Gods)

Christmas and Easter are, in a sense, holiday bookends to the Christmas story, although the story precedes Christmas and goes on after Easter.  And I hear people argue about which is more important, but I think that is a pointless argument.  We can't have a cross and resurrection without a born body.  We can't have the end without the beginning.

Someone posted on Facebook this from C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle.  Some of my favorite words in literature.

“And as He spoke, He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this …

Advent Thought #20, December 20

In line with yesterday's post on Christina Rosetti, I will put the link to another of her Christmas songs.  This video does have actual pictures with it, but they are some unique old paintings of the nativity that I thought added to the song.

Advent Thought #19, December 19I

I evened out the number today on the dates and thoughts.

Breakpoint's daily article was about Christina Rosetti's poem, "In the Bleak Midwinter," a hymn I find haunting and melancholy but hopeful, so here is a link to it on YouTube without any background pictures or video to distract, only the words.  I was pleased to see Gustav Holst wrote the music.  (Love The Planets!)

Advent Thought #18, December 17

Thinking about my mom this Christmas . . .

I heard a talk show host today interviewing an author of a book entitled I Love My Mother, But . . .

It seems to me that whenever you put "but" after a statement, there's a real negation going on, especially when the first statement is about love. 

Let's not at Christmas time put a but after the love we profess for family.  What is the point?  And what would follow the "but?"  But she has faults?  But I can't get along with her?  But she criticizes me? 

But she made sacrifices for me growing up? But she held it together when many today wouldn't? But she supported me through crazy stunts I tried? 

Sugar Rush

I was telling a fellow church member about the Myers Briggs Type Indicator test the other day.  I recommended she take it.  I realize there are reasons not to go by it, but it does have a huge data base to test for external validity; I found it quite accurate for me.

I am an ENTJ, which means I am an extrovert.  Well, not always.  Not this morning.  I woke up in a rotten mood and not wanting to be bothered with anyone.  That is not typical of me.  So I was trying to figure out why.

I now know why.  I watched a Hallmark Movie last night--well, I had it on while I was writing (not the world's best way to write a dissertation chapter, but I am ADD).  It gave me a huge sugar high; my blood sugar spiked and by this morning it had dropped to new lows.  That is what is wrong.

How the mighty have fallen!  When I was younger, Hallmark Hall of Fame shows were considered special occasions.  Now you know the exact plot five minutes in.  I have written about this elsewhere.

In Defense of Lecturing, epilogue

Earlier I posted on this subject, and going over my research notes for the dissertation has led me to a further comment.  Just like in the Mommy Wars there is an implication that mothers who breastfeed, grow organic vegetables, homeschool, or whatever trendy thing is being advocated, that these mothers are better and love their children more, there is a strong implication that professors who do not lecture, who use active learning techniques, etc. are more committed to student learning and somehow more concerned about the humanity of the students or some such thing.  If you are on the NO LECTURE side of this issue, you are not going to win any friends who lecture by implying that they are not concerned about students.  Don't go there.

Also, if you do not require writing in your classes, or you only require writing as process or reflection (that is, you do not grade for form or quality, only existence of the writing), tread very carefully when you are around English or history prof…

Advent Thought #17, December 16

Approaching Christmas is a good time to reflect on the names of Jesus.  In the ancient world, names had more personal and contextual meanings, and people often had more than one name.  (Sort of like Russian novels!) Here are a few in the Christmas story.

Immanuel - God with us.
Jesus - savior
Messiah - annointed
Prince of Peace (one we really don't think about much in this violent world)

In defense of the semicolon

Again with Facebook.

Someone posted on the Chattanooga Writers Guild that semicolons are "ugly," and "unnecessary," and not used right.  I would say no, no, and yes.

How can a punctuation mark be ugly?  Eye of the beholder.

They are necessary in academic prose. As a code switcher I use them a lot, but they don't really belong in poetry, plays, or novels.  They indicate a deeper level of connection and analysis that you wouldn't see or need in oral communication.

And yes, most people do weird things with them, putting them where commas should go for no reason whatsoever.  As I tell my students, semicolons have two purposes:

1. to connect two independent clauses into one sentence because they are logically connected.  In this case, a conjunctive adverb (transition word) should be used.
2. to separate items in a list when the items have commas in them.  This usage is for clarity.

Beyond that, avoid them.  I overuse them, I admit, which is why my writing group …

Advent Thought #16, December 15

A young wife (very young in terms of marriage and age) posted one of those links on Facebook to a Christian article; those things are all over Facebook, at least my pages.  "Eighteen ways to know your boyfriend is one of David's mighty men."  If I could get rid of all of that stuff and all the ads and dumb videos I might enjoy knowing what my real friends are doing.  Too much clutter, like my house.

Anyway, this one was about whether you should teach your children about Santa Claus.

When did Christians become such killjoys?  Having Santa Claus in a child's life is not like smoking weed in front of them or exposing them to porn.  My word!  Santa Claus is a wonderful tradition--if done rightly.

He was a real saint, adopted by the northern Europeans as the spirit of giving.  Our ridiculous parodies of him should be corrected and redeemed.  I saw a guy dressed in the typical suit on a motorcyle the other day. I think they were a group of bikers doing a fundraiser.  It…

Advent Thought #15, December 14

My house is decorated for Christmas.  Some would look and say it is a pitiful attempt--one tree, for instance, and not exterior lights--but it is a comfortable home and looks festive and that's all I care about.

Controlling one's stress at Christmas can be as hard as giving in to the stress. 

Except perhaps for children, we should all forgo presents and give the money either to a true charity or just sock it away and stay out of debt.

However . . . I bought three pretty ornaments yesterday!  Preacher, follow thyself!

Now to advent thought:  Isaiah 9:6 - And his name should be called Wonderful Counsellor . . .

Source of wisdom, source of consolation and comfort.

I can't think about those words without hearing the beat of Handel's music.  Wonderful! (deedeedeedeedeedeedee)  Counsellor! (deedeedeedeedeedeedee). 

Advent Thought #14, December 13

I have been thinking about the stress we (pretend to) go through at Christmas, and wondering about its origins and uses.  It's consumer-driven, and many of our "traditions" were created by department stores going back 150 years.  I am just now decorating my tree today, so I clearly don't let the holidays stress me!  I just don't do anything until grades are in, every year.

I was also thinking about the difference between Advent and Lent.  Advent is about someone coming, Lent about someone leaving.  Advent is about celebration, Lent about sorrow and repentance.  Advent is about traditions, Lent about doctrine. And ironically, we face Advent with all kinds of manufactured stress, and Lent we put in the back of our minds, too much.

At Advent we take on the faked stress; at Lent Jesus took our real stress.

Sure, I have some things to do today, but I am more stressed about my dissertation and upcoming schedule.  I don't need to be stressed right now.  I don't…

Daniel 1

Advent Thought #13, December 12

Quoting Ravi Zacharias, Jesus Among Other Gods, p. 84.  (In context he is recounting the plot of Our Town, one of my favorite plays, when Emily, now dead, exclaims to the stage manager that "Do any human eings very realize life while they live it--eery, every moment?"  And the stage manager says, "No. The saints and poets, maybe--they do some."  A laconic reply.)

"The saints and poets, maybe--they do some," because they slow down, and think and look beyond the activities to their longings and somehow broach the possibility of meaning that transcends their actions.  In short, if we are to truly understand who were are, we must understand what bread can and cannot do."

I would add this morning, a clear and cold (27 degrees) December morning in Northwest Georgia, that we should do the same for Christmas.  We must understand what Christmas can and cannot do.  It cannot do magical things.  It is a day on the calendar.  We worship the day and some mystique t…

Grief at Christmas

This says it better than I can.

I check my mom's mail and she got a Christmas card yesterday.  I thought I had written everyone a note, but I guess not.  I will have to send responses to some of these. 

As Ms. Warren points out, grief is different for everyone, although there are similarities.  I miss my mother but not because I miss the experience of having a mother.  Not to judge, but some people grieve because of the loss of a role in their lives.  I miss the person, not the role. Especially now, because she liked to decorate her house so much.

Advent Thought #12, December 11

Black Lives Matter.

They really do.  Not just after Ferguson and Staten Island.  All the time, everywhere. Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cleveland, Atlanta. 

And so do Latino, Asian, Muslim, Israeli, Syrian,  Iraqi, and Indian lives.

And white ones.

And Christian ones.

And pre-born and post-born.

The message of Christmas is that all lives matter. 

It really is.

God came to earth among the poorest of the poor, in an unimportant place, politically speaking.  Among the powerless, he was powerless.

Peace on earth, good will to men.  My "church tradition" teaches that message is for later, after the apocalypse, and that men will make sure there is no peace on earth.  Hummmm. 

Yet we were taught to pray, "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."

We really were.

Advent Thought #11, December 10


We are often preached at that happiness and joy are not the same, that joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (I think we should be clear about what spirit when we say that) and consistent through trials and happiness is temporal and situational.  Oh, give me a break.  Let's not split hairs.

Joy fills the realm of Christmas.

Tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy.
Joy to the world (not originally a Christmas song, by the way)
Joy, Joy, Joy!  Sing we noel!
Luke 2:10:  And the angel said to them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. . . ."

Christmas is joyless if we fall into the trap of trying to impress with perfection.  I have a dear friend who is a perfect hostess but makes it look seamless and effortless and visits with her guests rather than fuss around.  That is a gift, a gift of joy. 

This is my first day of break (sort of) and I am joyous to be able to devote some time to Christmas even if it's clean…

Advent Thought, #10, December 9

Some say that prophecies about Jesus' coming go back to Genesis 3:15, that the seed of the woman will bruise the head of the serpent.  This is a very earthy prophecy, when you think about it.  The woman will be the parent, the symbolic serpent will be disabled, but not destroyed.  Interesting that God does not destroy angels and people.

The other night I heard a wonderful program of music at my church (kudos to Brainerd Baptist Orchestra and Choir and Bryan Skinner and Michael Hill) and I got to thinking about how we talk about the night at Christmas.  Although there is no reason to think Mary gave birth at night (or that she didn't have a midwife, give me a break!) Luke 2 does say that the shepherds were watching over their flocks by night when the angels appear.  We take poetic license and go from there, with beautiful songs. 

Did the birth and lives of other religious figures produce so much wondrous music?

Childhood Relived

I heard that NBC was going to present Peter Pan live, but I missed the performance.  I saw a clip on YouTube and wasn't overly impressed, although I appreciate any attempt so bold.

But finding myself yearning for some Peter Pan, (and not the peanut butter), I found the color, 1960 version with Mary Martin and Cyril Ritchard on YouTube, and watched it Saturday after a long day of driving in the rain and doctoral presentations. 

Oh, how wonderful.  It's not just reliving the fun of watching that every year.  Mary Martin was so incredible lithe and having fun.  Entertainers have no right to entertain if they are not having fun at it,or in the case of drama, showing their passion for it.

So I've been thinking a lot about childhood and what the Peter Pan "myth" means for our age.  It is interesting to me that we treat the two wonderful stories of the 20th century, Peter Pan and The Wizard of Oz, as if they were ancient, timeless classics.  They do reach deeply into u…