Sunday, April 26, 2015

Just remember

Arguing that something is right or just because it is defended in a Supreme Court decision is specious logic.  The Supreme Court gets it wrong sometimes.  The same one that upheld the Affordable Care Act also decided for Citizens United.

Of course, being pro-life, I also firmly believe they got Roe v. Wade and some others wrong on that issue.  Dred Scott is the most famous "mistake," where slavery was more or less upheld.

They do not seem to be immune to the polarization in the country right now, either.

Also remember this is solely my opinion and not that of any group with which I am affiliated.  I have to cover my trail.  

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Mindfulness, Thoughtfulness, and Spirit-fulness

Here is an excellent blog post on Christianity Today on the subject of mindfulness.

Mindfulness is, as she points out, a desirable thing in this insane, frenetic society, but I don't think Christians need to follow Buddhist teachings to get it.  The Christian tradition has much to say about awareness, meditation, etc., but it has a whole different meaning in Christian tradition than Eastern.  So it is unwise, and perhaps dangerous, in my thinking, to accept the mindfulness craze wholesale. 

But this morning I thought of how mindfulness, for a Christian, can be an exercise of the flesh, as opposed to using it in service of being open to the Holy Spirit and being a conduit of the fruits of the Holy Spirit.  In fact, it seems that what people are looking for in mindfulness are the fruits of the Spirit, which do not come from the works of the flesh.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet

One of my primarily thinking methods is to connect two seemingly disparate occurrences.  That happened in the last week.

The theatre students at my college produced Romeo and Juliet.  Although that is considered a standard play, the production of it is a mighty undertaking, considering our budget and limited theatrical space.  It was extremely well done.  Of course, there are many quoted lines from that play, but one of the most famous is the one in the title of this post.  "What's in a name?  A rose by any other name would smell as sweet."  Since I don't always take Shakespeare at face value and believe there are deeper meanings (especially considering the debates that someone else wrote the plays--don't hate on me, it's just a fact that there is a disagreement--and that language and its power is what Shakespeare is all about), I question if we are supposed to take this line as what it appears to be saying.  If we called a rose a cabbage, would that change the world?  Would it change the smell?  Linguists have pondered this question for decades.  Words and linguistic symbols--are they arbitrary or meaningful in their own right, regardless of what they signify?  And of course, what do they signify?  That is not a simple question in itself.

The naming of things is a human act back to the Garden.  Naming the animals was Adam's first job. I thought of this the other evening when walking Nala.  There are wetlands near the school where I walk her, which leads to some interesting wildlife and an abundance of frog noises this time of year.  In one patch, a group of large black birds were resting and feeding in cat tails.  However, these birds had horizontal orange stripes on their wings, not lengthwise but crosswise.

My first response was "neat" and the second was "Are those Scarlet Tanagers?"  A species I had not seen in a while.  I still don't know--I haven't looked it up.  What struck me was "Why do I have to know their name, their designation?  Can't I just enjoy their beauty and wildness? (when I say orange stripes, I really mean a salmon/coral type of orange, striking, beautiful).

Because naming, or to know a thing's name, is to know it, somehow.  Naming means that I am connected to other people who have seen and enjoyed it.  Naming is a social act, not a natural one.  It is like diseases; if I have a collection of symptoms, and go to the doctor and hear that I have "X" condition or disorder, I somehow think I have control of it, which is foolish, of course.

By the way, they are not scarlet tanagers.  I can look it up and see how far off I am. 

Addendum:  They are red-winged blackbirds. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

Something That Resonates With Me

I like to listen to David Brooks, the columnist, on NPR, and he has written a new book on morality.  He said this on the radio tonight:

I'm a believer. I don't talk about my religious life in public in part because it's so shifting and green and vulnerable. And so I've spent a lot of time in this book — and if you care about morality and inner life and character, you spend your time reading a lot of theology because over the last hundreds of years it was theologians who were writing about this. Whether you're a believer or not, I think these books are very helpful. It's amazing to read [The Confessions of St. Augustine, about] a guy who got successful as a rhetorician but felt hollow inside; a guy who had a mom, Monica, who was the helicopter mom to beat all helicopter moms, and how he dealt with the conflict with such a demanding mother. And so I read a lot of theology — whether it's C.S. Lewis or Joseph Soloveitchik, a rabbi — and it's produced a lot of religious upsurge in my heart. But it's also fragile and green [and] I don't really talk about it because I don't want to trample the fresh grass.

This statement resonates with me.  That faith is fragile and green and maybe we should nurture it but not parade it, which speaks to the narcissism he is addressing in this interview and his book.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Hebrews 8

Have you ever heard the term trust markets?  It was new to me.  It’s like insurance, doctors, and college textbooks. 

I was thinking this week how much our world is based on trust.  At the same time our trust is eroding, as well as our common values and mutual respect, so we are afraid of lawsuits.  We have a new employee at the college who is the OSHA director, which means every time we have any kind of function we have to fill out forms about where the food is coming from, who is cooking it, what’s in it, etc.  What it shows to me is that in a way our society’s trust has eroded. 

We can’t have trust without faithfulness.

What other types of agreements in our world require trust and faithfulness.

In chapter 8 the book of Hebrews is moving from a discussion of Jesus superiority in terms of the past legal system to his superiority in terms of our present relationship with him.  The Old Covenant with Israel was perfect in terms of God’s part in it, but imperfect in terms of the Israelites (or anyone’s) ability to hold to it.  Even though in a covenant with God, God does all the real work, our part is to accept and obey.  They did not. 

But when they were at their lowest point in exile, through Jeremiah God promised a new covenant based on personal relationship and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  We still don’t do anything in the covenant but trust and obey, and God does all the work.

There are more than two covenants, though, in the Bible.  Some others  are
The Noahic:  The Noahic covenant[Gen 9:8-17] applies to all of humanity and to all other living creatures.[1] In this covenant, God promises never again to destroy all life on Earth by flood[9:11] and creates the rainbow as the sign of this "everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth". (from Wikipedia)

The Abrahamic covenant, which is where we understand what really goes on in a covenant (Genesis 12, 15, and 17:  three parts:  to make Abraham the father of a great nation, to give the land of Israel to his descendants, and to be the father of the faithful.  This is important through the whole Bible because the prophets and New Testament writers want to remind Jewish readers that they are not a descendant of Abraham just genetically but they also have to be a descendant spiritually, having faith and obedience in LORD God as Abraham did.

The key here is that it is God who is putting himself in the covenant to be faithful to Abraham, not the other way around.  Traditionally the inferior is expected to do that, but here the “master” does.

The Mosaic Covenant (in the law)
Priestly covenant:  Aaron and his descendants would be the priests in the temple/tabernacle

The Davidic covenant, establishes David’s descendant(s) as the monarch of the united kingdom.

So which one is the writer of Hebrews talking about?  I would say the ones specific to Jews, the Mosaic and priestly. Noah’s is to all mankind, Abraham’s is about all the faithful, and David’s is about Jesus as his descendant.  Those are not really what the writer of Hebrews is talking about here, but how the law and the priests and sacrifices didn’t change the innate “being” or “hearts” of people long term.  
On the other hand,  (from Wikipedia)
“The New Covenant is a biblical interpretation originally derived from a phrase in the Book of Jeremiah, in the Hebrew Scriptures. It is often thought of as an eschatological Messianic Age or world to come and is related to the biblical concept of the Kingdom of God.
Generally, Christians believe that the New Covenant was instituted at the Last Supper as part of the Eucharist, which in the Gospel of John includes the New Commandment. A connection between the Blood of Christ and the New Covenant is seen in most modern English translations of the New Testament[21] with the saying: "this cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood".[22]
Christians see Jesus as the mediator of this New Covenant, and that his blood, shed at his crucifixion is the required blood of the covenant: as with all covenants between God and man described in the Bible, the New Covenant is considered "a bond in blood sovereignly administered by God."[23] It has been theorized that the New Covenant is the Law of Christ as spoken during his Sermon on the Mount.[24]
When Jesus said at the Last Supper, this is the new covenant in my blood, he is not just making this up at the moment, but is referring to that promise in Jeremiah that the writer of Hebrews quotes at length (it is the longest Old Testament passage quoted in the New Testament). 

So, the question I ask is, what does this new covenant mean to us today? Was it just Messianic, to take place after the second coming?  Why does Jesus then say the cup of suffering and death he is about to do is the new covenant in my blood. (we take the cup he is holding to be symbolic of what would happen the next day). 

The challenge to this lesson is that under this new covenant, we not only have eternal promises but we have the indwelling Christ to perform those promises through us.   With all these verses in mind, I think we have to reframe how we think about our everyday lives.  We live under a new covenant that is about internal relationship and power

I John 4:4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

Ephesians 1: 13: And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit,
14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession--to the praise of his glory.
Col. 1: 27 To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
Galatians 2:20 "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

Ephesians 3:17-19  so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.

1 John 3:24   The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.

John 17:23   I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.

John 17:23   I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.

2 Timothy 1:14   Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.

Romans 8:11   But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.

1 John 2:27  As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.

Ephesian 1:16-21.  I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Angels and Campaigns

Apparently the mass, commercial media is trying to convince us that the social media is ablaze with talk about the I'm No Angel campaign by Lane Bryant.  Plus-size models are showing they are as sexy and beautiful as Victoria Secret's "angel" models. 

These are attractive models, and anything that diminishes the power of Victoria's Secret unrealism is ok with me.  But I can't say I am entirely comfortable with this "my plus sizeness is good."

Obesity is epidemic and I work at a college where a large proportion of the students are, well, large.  I myself am overweight but many of my female students are much heavier than me, who is 40 years older.  They can't walk up stairs and take the elevator.  They eat very unhealthily.  So what will happen in the future to them?  Does a campaign that affirms overweight beauty help anyone, really? 

I had a student give a speech on why she respected Marilyn Monroe, and it boiled down to the fact she was "fat."  The "any size is beautiful" folks had convinced her that Marilyn Monroe, who was quite small, was "fat" by mistaken "curvy" for "fat."  This student was maybe 50 pounds overweight, which isn't good for anyone.  So, I can't get too excited about the supposed popularity of this campaign.

Which brings up another point, really.  Just because something is tweeted by a lot of people doesn't mean that many people know about it or care.  The twitterverse is not the real universe. 

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

New Cartoon Idea

Due to a misunderstanding between a student and the BCM campus minister today, I came up with a new cartoon idea.

"Hipster Hamster:  Private I."

Just visualize.  He could wear big glasses that he doesn't need.  He could have gages in his ears, standing up rather than hanging down.  He could wear skinny jeans, although that would be hard on a hamster because they have such short legs.

He wouldn't be a detective.  He would just be really narcissistic and aloof.


Speaking of narcissism, two other professors and I were talking about how our students expect to have their "needs" met immediately, whether it is advising, a paper graded, or waited on.  Is this impatience or total self-centeredness?  On the other hand, it's not an age thing.  I know middle-aged people not much better. 

What is an EXPERT?

In a discussion group with our teaching and learning center, a faculty member asked this.  I may have brought up the subject using "air quotes" in reference to a speaker the campus had hosted.  But he asked, what makes a person an expert in teaching and learning?

Well, the same question occurred to me this morning when on the Christian radio station one of the hosts was touted as an "expert in marriage and family."  Who died and made this person an expert?

I was told one time that if you read three books on a subject, you are an expert.  That seems like a pretty low standard.  Can I just put out a shingle and say I am an expert in higher education, etc, now that I have a doctorate?  I don't feel like an expert.  I feel more aware of what I don't know.

We have an epidemic of experts, and I would like to see proof of it.  Education would be one, but outcomes might be another. 

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Mr. Pip

Watched this last two nights on NetFlix.  (I rarely can watch a whole movie at once.)  Excellent, and highly recommended. A well-acted, beautifully photographed, thoughtful film about teaching, the power of literature (especially Dickens), crossing racial and cultural divides, courage, and friendship. The young actors are remarkable, and you will laugh and cry, be horrified and inspired.

My favorite scene is where Matilda's mother says, "I am God's witness" and pays with her life for standing up for truth, her community, and her child.  But there are many other heartbreaking ones.

Don't miss this one. 


Yesterday I posted on Facebook the title of the S.M. Lockridge sermon, "It's Friday, but Sunday's coming."  Portions of it can be found on YouTube. Stirring.

Today is Saturday.  I have been a neglectful this Lenten season, having sacrificed the seasons of life to advancing my education.  That is coming to a close soon, and I look forward to a return, or really a moving forward to a reasonable pace of life.  It is hard to stop the frenzy, though. 

Saturday is that valley between tragedy and triumph. Alliteration can be cheesy and preachy, but it fits here.  It is the time of expecting and hope forus, but for the followers of Jesus it was the time of grief, too early to think of the future.  Too early to process, to reassess--and those are modern words forpeople who think we havethe future all wrapped up and in our control. In the world of his followers, where Rome ruled and held their fates politcally and economically, they could only sit in silence, go about the Passover and Sabbath, days of rest anyway.  They did not expect Sunday morning.  Grief rotated and tumbled in their hearts with despair and abject fear, and I'm sure there was anger at the thought of their own misplaced faith, anger at Jesus. Perhaps there were foggy plans of returning to the synagogue, of hoping for restoration to that community.

Perhaps they just hid, and waited.

We moderns express such lack of empathy, such stupidity, and such pride when we say things about the disciples "not getting it."  We have 2000 years of hindsight.

Public Speaking Online, Part IV

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