Saturday, December 10, 2005


Not As Hard As You Might Think

Al Mohler is looking at kids and the Internet -- specifically the "blogs" they create ay He extensively quotes a Business Week piece on the "MySpace Generation." Al opines:
This generation also presents the church with a missiological challenge -- how to reach this generation with the Gospel.
As someone who weekly teaches a Bible Study for high school kids all who have a "myspace" I don't think it's all that hard - sorry Al.

It seems like every time there is new media Christians want to rush to capitalize on it to "spread the Gospel." It's a new tool, and that's good, and it's a potential problem, but every generation has been confronted with those.

The Gospel is a person, the person of Christ, it's not a medium, nor is it medium dependant. In my experience, kids do MySpace because personal relationship has become so difficult. The kids my wife and I teach have responded quite well to having someone just show an interest in them. I've looked at their MySpaces and in large part found them innocuous, though many are not. They like that we know about it, but they are also quite grateful that we offer them an alternative. They revel in actual personal human contact - particularly with an adult. They are, by the way, extremely impressed with a middle-aged blogger - they thought it was "their" thing.

We so often confuse the medium and the message as Christians. Our message is timeless and pure and attractive. Our message is nothing less than Christ. That, I think, is what we need to remember when we concern ourselves with new mediums. Our message is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Our message is bigger than MySpace or any other medium can hold.


On Narnia

As I write I am awash in an emotional sea after seeing the film. I find objectivity impossible. It moved me, not like the books, but it moved me. I could play Narnia nerd for hours and tell you all the little things that were or were not "perfect." I shall resist.

GO! Suspend your critical faculties and join Peter, Edmund, Susan and Lucy on a grand adventure - an adventure that may just take you places you do not expect.

Oh, and by the way, if your theological viewpoint excludes substitutionary atonement in some form -- you are not permitted to enjoy this film, or the books for that matter. Sorry, fact of life.


A Classic Example Of The Evils OF Socialism

Consider the following from the UK:

NHS may not treat smokers, drinkers or obese

Smoking, drinking, and obesity are not healthy behaviors, but they are not immoral either. They are traditionally personal choices, bad choices but legitimate choices. And yet here a national governmental agency will seek to control that behavior, robbing individuals of that personal freedom. They do so under the banner of cost-control since they have socialized medicine. This is something of a canard since people who make those choices are probably less likely to seek medical care save at the end of their life than people who enagage in more healthy lifestyle practices.

But here's what really bothers me -- would they consider doing this for AIDS and HIV, another behaviorially based pathological condition? Heck what about other less glamourous STD's for that matter? Or what about injuries resulting from participation in highly risky sports?

Socialized medicine forces, just like socialism in general forces, the society to encroach on personal liberty and make decisions about what is and is not acceptable personal behavior -- it cannot be avoided because resources must be allocated. And what's really awful is that in some countries with socialized medicine such people don't even have the option to seek private medical care.

One of the hallmarks of a free society is that we are free to make bad decisions as well as good ones. I, for one, do not wish to give that up.


It's All Fraters Fault

I took all sorts of stuff from Hugh Hewitt this past summer when I worked with Fraters Libertas to take Ralphie on the Hugh cruise.

Well, now those guys from up north have completely ruined my life. They have found a site with all those classic Atari games from the '80's available to play on line for free. Frogger, Space Invader, Tetris -- I won't be blogging any more, I have games to play.


Comic Art

Batman was not the first superhero to tragically lose his teen sidekick, that honor belongs to Captain America. That sidekick was Steve Rogers unit mascot Bucky Barnes, or as he was known in costume, simply "Bucky."

Bucky was the teen sidekick that I wanted to be. Oh sure, Robin had the gadgets and the popularity, but Bucky, well he was obviously loved by Steve/Cap so much.

Bucky showed up the same time Cap did back in the war when such sidekicks were practically mandatory for superheroes, but in the Silver Age revival Bucky did not come along. Much of the early character turmoil that helped define Cap was based on his "failure" at the loss of Bucky. It predated and foreshadowed the angst of Batman at the loss of Robin II by nearly 30 years and was part of what made Marvel so doggoned good in the Silver Age.

The Bucky costume made a come back in the Silver Age when perpetual sideman Rick Jones (Also the guy that Bruce Banner saved when he was accidentally exposed to gamma radition and...well, you know the rest) Everybody liked Rick and when the Hulk got too wild to have anyone human close they needed to find something for Rick to do.

It was a great storyline as far as I was concerned. Cap was overprotective of Rick in the costume and that created some great tension. Rick was also far more independent than Bucky had ever been.

But in the end, there was only so much that could be done. Rick moved on eventually becoming the cosmic hero Captain Marvel where he still is today, along with playing a role in some Avengers stuff from time to time. Cap moved on to partner with Red Falcon which also created some great stories on racial lines.

The Silver Age also saw the "retelling" of some Cap and Bucky war tales. This was the Bucky that I truly loved. In comparison to Robin he was very immature and very unpolished, more hero-worshipper than hero, but he went along, did what he could and Cap always looked out for him. He did for me exactly what he was supposed to do -- gave me a place to put myself, as a kid, into the story. I could picture myself doing what Bucky did, whereas I never really could Robin.

The best way to describe Bucky would be in the context of a lot of old war movies. It seems the unit the movie followed always picked a kid somewhere that hung out with the unit, helped wherever he could, and usually met a tragically heroic end, inspiring the unit to great heights. That really is Bucky to a "T" the only difference being that he accidentally walked in on Steve Rogers putting on his Cap outfit and insisted that he join Cap on his adventures.

Bucky met his end on the same adventure that put Cap into suspended animation to be recovered by the Avengers all those years later. This panel is a classic, Bucky stays on the robot plane to try and defuse the bomb and dies in the attempt. Cap lets go and falls in to the frigid sea to be frozen. During the Silver Age this panel must have appeared dozens of times as Cap tortured himself over the death of his sidekick.

Bucky has very much been lost to the shadows of comic history, but he is one of the great all time sidekicks -- certainly the one I related to best as a child. Just writing this makes we want to dig out all those old books.


Need A Life?

This is no way to find one...

Man Creates Paris Hilton Christmas Shrine


What'd He Do?

Kenya to deport man wearing dress

I mean deportation is usually enough, but humiliating deportation?


Because Every Good Mother Deserves A Small Reward

Deputy Delivers Baby Outside Dairy Queen

What better reward than a little DQ?


A Whole New Meaning To 'Oh S^%#'

The burglar apparently stepped in Ty's poop, and, Ashton said, police told her they might be able to match the dog droppings to the suspect's shoe.
And you thought it was useles...


Well, Maybe Bats...

Smart Bats Have Smaller Testicles

...but no way that applies to humans. I should know.

Friday, December 09, 2005


Helping People Over The Wall

Yesterday, I put up a piece about wanting to be there to help people when they hit what Chuck Colson was describing as his "Soul's Dark Night." I used the metaphor that such a thing was a wall that most Christians hit at some point in ther lives. I ended that post my saying:
Why aren't we there when people hit the wall that is their "soul's dark night?" Why are we so fast to invite them in, but so slow to really live with them? Why when the going get's tough do we sound more like Peter ("I don't know him") than Jesus ("Into The Hands...").

I long for fellowship with souls that have been through the dark night and found the beauty of God on the other side. I long to help people through that night.
I think we aren't there because we don't know what do to in such circumstances. Most Christian leadership these days lacks sufficient depth of faith personally to be able to lead others through such a thing. That is, frankly, why I think pop psychology has taken over so much of what passes for ministry in the church. So what would ministry to situations like this look like?

Colson, writing in CT and agreeing in part with what I just said, lamented that fact that evangelicalism does not really give Christians the tools they need for such a thing and suggested that such events were when we turn to the authors of old.
At such times, we can turn for strength to older and richer theological traditions probably unfamiliar to many?writings by saints who endured agonies both physical and spiritual.

Teresa of Avila was a 16th-century Spanish mystic and author of The Interior Castle. Teresa, who suffered from paralyzing illnesses, wrote, "For his Majesty can do nothing greater for us than grant us a life which is an imitation of that lived by his beloved Son. I feel certain, therefore, that these favors [sufferings] are given us to strengthen our weakness."
I think that's a good start, but I have personally found reading and talking in such circumstances unsatisfactory, the crisis seemed to demand more.

I can tell you that my journey away from such dark nights can best be described as a "slow ephiphany." My charismatic friends would be tempted to use charismatic language like "baptism of the Holy Spirit" for what I experienced, but I don't think it truly applies - that's an instantaneous experience - what happened to me happened over the course of weeks or even months. It was a confrontation with the Holy Spirit to be sure, but it was not of the type traditionally described by charismatics.

So, I think my question concerning how to assist someone experiencing their soul's dark night, becomes a question of how do we help them genuinely experience God? Not learn about Him, not meditate on Him, but experience His genuine presence. Can we even do so?

Adrian Warnock is baffled by people "coached" in tongues. I am happy Adrian is so baffled -- it is in my experience in Pentecostal circles quite a common occurence, as says the post that Adrian links to. Is such "coaching" how we help people experience God. I would argue that it is not. Any manifestation resulting from coaching is of questionable origin. Generally such things cause more damage than offer help. Such things place additional burdens on a person seeking releif -- burdens of percieved inadequate spirituality.

No, the answer lies in us somehow making God real to the person in need. It lies in the Holy Spirit being so apparent in our lives that He radiates from us and provides comfort to those that need. This takes us back to the point I made earlier about Christian leadership often lacking sufficient personal depth of faith.

But it also takes us somewhere else. Consider my post of Wednesday where I longed for the fantastic church fellowship of my youth.
I'm not satisfied with "just" having church on Christmas this year -- I want it to be like it was when I was a kid. Let's not sell ourselves short here. If we look to the Lord we are indeed a part of a huge family and it will seem wonderful and natural to share our holiday with all of them. I dont want to just go to church this Chritmas, I want it to be so good that I don't want to leave.
Let's go back to Colson for a minute. Note that his moment of discovery came at a friend's house. It came in the context of fellowship. So often all we really need when come to such dark night's is to rest in the arms of love. To be amongst those that love us and will allow us our weakness, and lend us their strength.

Thus, there is a burden on the church to be more even than a house of worship and a commuity of faith. There is a burden on the church to be the family of God. It is within the context of this familial love, born of the Holy Spirit, that those who are in the dark night will find their rest and it is in that context that they can meet the Holy Spirit.

In an age of personal boundaries and isolation, broken families and anonimity, mega-marts and no eye contact, the church needs to get personal. You see, the greatest manifestation of the Holy Spirit is, as I have said before, not in the miraculous, but in the transformed. WE are His manifestation.


Big Day In Washington Yesterday

The NYTimes put up a couple of stories during the day yesterday that brightened my day when I saw them.

House-Senate Panel Reaches Agreement on Patriot Act

The radically left-wing in the Senate threaten filibuster, but most there seem confident that such could readily be overcome if it actually materializes. Opposition to the Patriot act always frames itself in terms of personal liberty, a fact which amazes me since they are the same people that would legislate against "hate-speech." It's not about personal liberty, it's about certain liberties that they think inviolate.

The other story isn't done yet, but it's an important step in the journey

House Votes to Extend $56 Billion in Tax Cuts for 5 Years

Anybody that would oppose this doesn't quite understand what has fueled our economy these last years.

Now, a political observation. Both these stories involve compromises that are time-based. The tax cuts cease in 5 years -- the controversial portions of the Patriot Act expire in four years. These time-based compromises bother me. They grant too much to the Dems. It means the Republicans still have to do all the work, despite the fact that the Republicans are in charge. To my way of thinking, if the Democrats do manage to regain the majority, they should have to work to implement their agenda rather than just achieve it by default.

But more, implicit in such compromises is that the way things used to be is normative and the current policies are abberations. In other words, the Republicans don't really have the strength of their convictions. Such compromises never really resolve the central issue, they just grant who's in charge at the moment, and in this case they admit that Democrats in charge is the default condition.

It's been a long time since a political party has enjoyed the full majorities Republicans now have. When will they figure out that means they are really and truly in charge?


OK, It's Official - A Line Has Been Crossed

I saw it first on Transforming Sermons and a little later on Leadership Journal's "Out Of Ur" blog. Apparently Disney, through, is running a sweepstakes for sermons with a "Lion, Witch, Wardrobe" mention - the prize being a trip to London/Oxford, etc. Out of Ur links to a Philly Inquirer piece
Attention, pastors: You have just four weeks remaining to work a lion, a witch or a wardrobe into your next sermon.

Walt Disney Pictures is so eager for churches to turn out audiences for The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which opens Friday, that it's offering a free trip to London - and $1,000 cash - to the winner of its big promotional sermon contest.
Random thoughts while I shudder:

You know, pastors are challenged enough trying to speak the Word and maintain an income, they don't really need this. This strikes me as a no win scenario for just about everyone involved.


The Physics Of Christmas

LameWorldView had a pretty funny post yesterday about the physics of Santa's job on Christmas eve.
Not that it matters, however, since Santa, as a result of accelerating from a dead stop to 650 miles per second in .001 seconds, would be subjected to centrifugal forces of 17,500 g's. A 250 pound Santa (which seems ludicrously slim) would be pinned to the back of the sleigh by 4,315,015 pounds of force, instantly crushing his bones and organs, and reducing him to a quivering blob of pink goo.Therefore, if Santa did exist, he's dead now. Merry Christmas!
Which puts me in mind of a pastor I had some years ago. He had been a physics major in undergrad school, but seminary had pretty well knocked all of that out of him. He was preaching on the Three Wise Men and commented on how powerful God must be to drag a star through the sky to guide them. He lamented the fact that his physics skills were so corroded that he could not venture a calculation.

Sounded like a challenge to me!

I won't bore you with the details, but a few simplifying assumptions and a little Newton later I had a number. An astronomically large number. An incomprehensible number. Had to find a way to put it in terms people could understand. At the time, a 5-liter Mustang was about most factory horses you could get without getting truly exotic, so I started there and tried to put together a team to pull the star. Well, the number of Mustangs in harness was still incomprehensible, so I scaled them up a bit -- made them the size of the sun. Finally, I came up with a number in the realm of human experience.

It would take 60 billion Ford Mustangs, each the size our our sun, to haul a star through the sky to guide the Wise Men. Now all they need is a way to get traction....


I Hate This Headline

Chemicals 'trigger cancer spread'

How about "Some Chemicals...," of "Chemicals That...Discovered," or "Newly Found Chemicals...." There is enough paranoia in this world about "chemicals," we don't need to feed it. For the record, water is a "chemical." Medicines are "chemicals." Your skin is a rather complex "chemical formulation."

But no, we have to use the word in a way that makes it look evil, making chemists, like yours truly, look like they dabble in the black arts somehow. I like chemicals -- they're interesting, hey they can even be fun from time-to-time.


Sometimes I Have Mean Thoughts

When I read this article
The Stanford-U.S. Geological Survey project is the first time geologists have dug deep below Earth's surface to within tens of yards (meters) of an active fault zone to study earthquakes, Stanford University geologist Mark Zoback said at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

"We've never been inside the fault zone before," said William Ellsworth, a principal investigator on the project for the U.S. Geological Survey. "The goal has been to understand the basic mechanics of faults," he said.
The first thought that ran through my mind was that the portion of the fault they have done all this work on, meaning they invested all this money on, will not move for the next 200 years. That's a mean thought, but kind of funny, since they beat out some of my buddies in the SoCal office for the funding...


Friday Humor


You Will Be The Past Again...Later...After...Before...

'You were the future once'


Or...It Couldn't

It's called Apophis. It's 390m wide. And it could hit Earth in 31 years time

But come on -- If you want people to fork over some money so you can study stuff, can you think of a better way than threatening potential planetary cataclysm? The line between science and blackmail can be very thin indeed.


If One Is Coming My Way, I'm More Than "Concerned"

Scientists voice tsunami concern


Treatment Worthy Of Aslan

Gold Injections Treat Lion's Arthritis

More importantly, given the timing of this bit of news, do you think Disney is behind it?


Throw The Ball...Please Throw The Ball

Scientists Decipher DNA of Dogs

Well, what else is it gonna say?


Plastic Surgery For Those That Like Them Small?

Chicken Implants Would Warn of Flu

Thursday, December 08, 2005


The Limits Of Evangelicalism

Many thanks to Between Two Worlds for the link to this CT piece by Chuck Colson. Colson sets up one of the darkest periods of his life -- two kids with cancer, wife with knee surgery, business problems -- and he says:
It struck me that I don't have to make sense of the agonies I bear or hear a clear answer. God is not a creature of my emotions or senses. God is God, the one who created me and takes responsibility for my children's destiny and mine. I can only cling to the certainty that he is and he has spoken.

I'm not sure how well the contemporary evangelical world prepares us for this struggle, which I suspect many evangelicals experience but fear to admit because of the expectations we create. At such times, we can turn for strength to older and richer theological traditions probably unfamiliar to many?writings by saints who endured agonies both physical and spiritual.
And then I thought about Challies post last week about evangelism not being our primary purpose as Christians. And Tim's post yesterday about seeker sensitive churches closing on Christmas this year. And I was sad that we don't do a better job of preparing people for what Colson calls "My Soul's Dark Night"

Scriptures started running through my head:
Heb 6:1a-b - Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity,

Heb 5:13-14 - For everyone who partakes {only} of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.

1 Cor 3:2 - I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able,

1 Cor 14:20a - Brethren, do not be children in your thinking;
And then I thought about the ongoing discussion on cessasionism and charimatics. There is a real issue at the heart of that discussion that relates here. Sometimes we just run out of intellect. Sometimes faith makes more sense than understanding. We seek to know God, not about God. I'm willing to bet most cessasionists wish they were charismatics when they get to the place where Colson was. But what Colson is really saying is what about those that never get far enough to have a dog in the cessasion/charisma hunt? Does evangelicalism take them far enough towards maturity for them to even understand what it is they are missing?

Alas, I must agree with Colson that it does not. Most Christians I know have hit this "Soul's Dark Night" wall -- and there seems to be only two ways they go. One way is to dive into their faith, to quit questioning how to be God's person and to simply start being God's person. The other way is to compromise their faith somehow -- "Well maybe that commandment isn't that important, I can bend it a little," -- "It's good to go to church on Sunday, but there are limits," -- "Moderation in all things."

Why aren't we there when people hit the wall that is their "soul's dark night?" Why are we so fast to invite them in, but so slow to really live with them? Why when the going get's tough do we sound more like Peter ("I don't know him") than Jesus ("Into The Hands...").

I long for fellowship with souls that have been through the dark night and found the beauty of God on the other side. I long to help people through that night.


On Trying Saddam

John Hinderaker over at Powerline had a great post yesterday on Saddam's trial
And Saddam himself rejects the authority of the court. That's OK, up to a point; many criminals who have no respect for the American judicial system are nevertheless tried, convicted, and on rare occasions put to death by that system. What is essential is that the tribunal assert its own authority

That's what I find disturbing about the proceedings in Iraq. They have value in that Saddam's horrific crimes are revealed; or, more accurately, his long-known crimes are recited in a forum where it is hard for the American media to avoid mentioning them. But the near-chaos that is allowed to prevail is inexcusable....

...This is unacceptable. A court must assert its own authority within its domain. Saddam's ability to joust with the presiding judge can only be interpreted by Iraqis as a sign of the fledgling government's weakness.
I am grateful to John for putting this into a reasonable context -- I have been focusing on the American aspects of the trial and not thinking about it's ramifications in Iraq.

There are some important question springing from this.

I am forced to consider all the trials that we broadcast on TV. I missed Hindrocket's points because, frankly, misbehavior on the part of defendants has become common on television in this country. Many trials that we see nothing else of, including baliffs enforcing order, we do see defendant misconduct all over TV. The widely broadcast and viewed OJ trial was very much a case of the inmates running the asylum. And then there are the fictional court shows. Are the Iraqi's learning from us, but from all the wrong places?

I learned in my recent jury duty that we do not have a very good handle on our court system anymore. The partial acquittal/hung jury in the Al-Arian case this week makes the case concerning our out of control judicial system even more.

In the trial of Saddam, we are seeing weakness in the new government - that is understandable, but we are also seeing the fruits of seeds we have planted in our own nation. Our courts are far less serious places than they used to be. From television, to frivolous litigation, to weak judges, to lawyers without morality our system of jurisprudence has become an often silly place. How can we blame those we seek to teach if they follow suit?


Free Will -- The Key Is Transformation

John Samson has an interesting piece at Reformation Theology on free will. Early in the piece he says:
Though man is commanded to seek the Lord while He may be found, and to come to Christ, we watch in vain for man to do so. Romans 3:11 literally reads, "There is no God seeker." John 6:44 says, "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him and I will raise him up on the last day." Literally, the verse says, "no one is able."

Just like man is not able to fly to the moon unaided, the clear words of Christ here show that man is not able to come to Christ without Divine intervention.
Towards the end he says:
The beauty of the gospel, however, is that, at the same time, the Spirit's work is to make His elect willing to come. He changes the disposition of rebel human hearts, taking out a heart of stone, and putting in a heart of flesh so that we willingly come.
Don't you love that! Now that's a miracle. Have you ever thought about that? The real miracle that the Holy Spirit performs in our lives is not tongues, or healing, or prophecy -- it's the complete transformation of our being. We are changed from God rejectors to God lovers.

I am continually struck by how much bigger God is than even our ability to pose questions about Him. In the end, that may be why I am a calvinist. Any systematic school of thought about God will contain mysteries, but only calvinism incorporates that fact and makes a miracle of it. God's incomprehensibility is in a very real sense the point.


Illuminated Scripture


Pardon Me While I Puke

Terri Schaivo's Widower Launches PAC
Nine months after a fierce political and legal fight over Terri Schiavo, Michael Schiavo said his experience with political leaders "has opened my eyes to just how easily the private wishes of normal Americans like me and Terri can be cast aside in a destructive game of political pandering."

Schiavo described himself as a lifelong Republican "before Republicans pushed the power of government into my private family decisions."

The political action committee, TerriPAC, will raise and spend money on Florida candidates as well as those running for Congress.
You realize, of course, that as the founder of the PAC, Michael shall be eligible to draw a salary. Thus he shall profit financially from the death of his wife, despite claims to the contrary during the huge newscycle. Hmmm...


Is This Immoral?

Need an alibi? You can buy one!
A new Web site is drumming up business from cheaters. It helps them avoid getting caught.

The "Alibi Network" was launched by two entrepreneurs in Chicago's north suburbs.

You pay a $35 dollar annual subscription fee. Then you can order up customized alibis for situations ranging from sick calls to extra-marital affairs.
Of course it is -- and I'm wondering if it should be illegal? Do you realize how important a person's word is in this society? People do, of course, lie all the time, but to make it commerically viable seems to me to be undermining one of the more foundational concepts of our thinking.


A Double Cross In The Making

It sounds like science fiction: a brain nurtured in a Petri dish learns to pilot a fighter plane as scientists develop a new breed of "living" computer. But in groundbreaking experiments in a Florida laboratory that is exactly what is happening.

The "brain", grown from 25,000 neural cells extracted from a single rat embryo, has been taught to fly an F-22 jet simulator by scientists at the University of Florida.
Come on -- it's a rat brain! You know that eventually it's going to fly that F-22 somewhere and shoot someone it shouldn't.

I think Mary Shelley wrote this one didn't she? Or was it Mel Brooks, something about Abbey Normal.


Not To Mention Ugly Babies

Large head link to brain cancer

Not to mention that when linked with a healthy dose of gamma radiation, you get this guy, the Hulk's arch-enemy, all brains, to Hulk's all-brawn -- The Leader

Seen here on the right as drawn by Jack Kirby when brains were taller.


At Your Grocer In Tights And A Cape

Cancer team make 'super-broccoli'

Accidentally mutated by a team of rogue cancer researchers, this brushy-headed champion of truth, justice, and the American way battles evil...


On Women And Relationships

Report: 2005 Will Be Hottest, Stormiest


I Wanna Be The Defense Attorney!

A 19-year-old man was behind bars Tuesday after allegedly biting the head off a gecko as part of a bet.

Derrick Ford was being held in the Orange County Jail after being charged with felony animal cruelty, police said.
Think about it -- political correctness standing in the way of genuine nutritional value. There is undoubtedly a constitutional issue here.


All That Effort, So Little Pay-off

Man escapes from jail, returns with hamburgers

I mean, a steak at least!


Of Course Not

Panel Doesn't Want Junk Food Aimed at Kids

Or anything else for that matter. Have you ever been hit in the head with a Twinkie -- it's messy and it hurts.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


Celebrating Christmas

During my elementary school years, I went to a great church. Seems like the whole church got together for holiday celebrations. I remember huge crowds (well a couple hundred, which really was the whole church) gathering and spending the entire day together. I had a lot of fun as a kid and remember this great feeling of warmth and belonging. Everybody knew me and was nice to me. I felt like I had 200 people in my immediate family.

Why can't it be like that these days? Everybody is talking about how some churches have decided to forego Sunday services on Christmas day -- Jollyblogger has a great collection of some of the better posts. David quotes Ben Witherington exstensively, I'll just borrow a couple of sentences.
Our culture does not need any encouragement to be more self-centered and narcissistic or to stay at home on Sunday. It is already that way.
Now, I have to make a confession, I look forward to worship on Christmas day, but an all day thing like I had when I was a kid really does seem like an intrusion - so why does something that seemed so wonderful as a kid seem so different today? I think the question can lead us to the causes of the general desire to cancel even an hour's worship.

For me the answer is simple -- the congregation of which I am a part simply is not as cohesive as the one I was a part of when I was a kid. Some of that is a refelction of the narcissism Witherington mentions, that's true. But some of it is that the church doesn't do a great job of building that kind of cohesiveness either, and my church has a fairly active fellowship ministry. The fellowship minstry makes allowance, to some extent, for the narcissism instead of challenging it. Most bigger churches I have checked out don't even try a fellowship ministry.

I think all this belies the central problem in most church issues these days. So called "successful" churches seem to garner that success by catering to the people in the pews. You hear talk of "customer service" and so forth. If church exists to cater to the pews, not holding services on Christmas Sunday makes perfect sense.

But that's just the thing, church is not about the people in the pews, it's about GOD! The benefits that we derive from our faith and it's practice, and they are legion, and they are wonderful, and they are marvelous, are by-products.

I heard someone say the other day that the commericalization of Christmas - at least when it comes to gift giving isn't all bad - because it's about making someone else happy; it's about considering the needs of others as more important than my own. There is some wisdom in that, though it comes with a bunch of caveats.

I'm not satisfied with "just" having church on Christmas this year -- I want it to be like it was when I was a kid. Let's not sell ourselves short here. If we look to the Lord we are indeed a part of a huge family and it will seem wonderful and natural to share our holiday with all of them. I dont want to just go to church this Chritmas, I want it to be so good that I don't want to leave.


The Cult Of Personality

In a world where narcissism reigns supreme, we focus on the person, far more than the issue, in almost every endeavor. Politicians have become rock stars (What else could explain Clinton?) and the deeply troubled, even horrifically monstrous get major coverage. (Could we go a year without another live interview with Charles Manson?)

This personalization of events also explains the genuine hatred of Bush by the left. They don't just disagree with him, they hate him. And because they hate the President, they seem to be enthralled with Saddam Hussien. What else could explain all the coverage his trail is getting, reporting in tiring details the man's antics.

The man is a butcher, a murderer on levels rarely seen among men. He belongs in the same sentence with Hitler and Stalin. His antics reveal only one thing -- whatever disconnect there is in his brain that allowed him to be so horrific.

I am interested in nothing from this trial save the guilty verdict and the death sentence. Until then, I don't want to hear about the fact that he is a raving maniac.


The Cradle Of Science

Al Mohler makes a great case, well actually, he let's Rodney Stark make the case for him, Christianity as that which made science possible.
Stark argues that the so-called "Dark Ages" were not so dark after all, and that during these centuries "European technology and science overtook and surpassed the rest of the world." In the end, "Christian faith in reason and in progress was the foundation on which Western success was achieved."
I love science because I love God - that much is most true. I see God in His creative revelation every time I learn something new.

With that in mind, here's a story about some people making sand behave like a liquid. I am always amazed when we find nature sort of bursting out of our notions. No matter how much we think we know, we seem to find something new to discover. Now consider, if God's creation is so complex, how much more so God? That is both humbling and awe-inspiring.

Then consider this story about looking for life on Mars. Who knows if we will find life on Mars, or anywhere else in the universe for that matter. Regardless, think about what it says about God's love for us. If we are alone, then that fact makes us extraordinarily special. If we are but one amongst many, consider that God still chose to incarnate here.

I see God in science, not oppostion.


Blogger Must Reading

At GodBlogCon last October, John Mark Reynolds gave one of the keynote addresses and it was a doosy. Now he is serializing it on his blog. Here's Part I. If you are the least bit serious about blogging, this is must reading stuff.


Give Me More Money!

U.S. museum artifacts in danger, group warns
Millions of rare artifacts in museums and libraries across the United States are slowly disintegrating because of improper storage, according to a survey said to be the largest-ever look at the condition of such collections....

..."It's hard to raise money for something as boring as storage, but it?s important, so we've got to do it," said Kristen Overbeck Laise, who directed the project.
Can a request for federal dollars be far behind? Which begs the question, can my wife and I get a tax break for storing some of our collections?


Tell Me Again How Much We Know About The World Around Us...

Is it a cat, a dog, a fox ? or first sighting of a new carnivore?

A new mammal? In 2005? Makes you wonder about those that think they have eco-systems all figured out, doesn't it?


The Best Of Pravda

From the "We Are Not Alone" Department comes this:

Muslims intend to take Orthodox symbols off Russia's State Emblem

This tells us why we must be careful when we have this argument in our nation -- it's not about religion, its about history. Russia's history and orhtodoxy are virtually inseperable, this move denies their national identity as much as the same moves by the ACLU in this country do.

I am not sure the Russians have marketing figured out just yet. Still mired in the age of buying simply what was available, they haven't quite discovered the need to actually appeal to the consumer:

Stinky or moldy, cheese remains most delicious product on Earth

Cheese=delicious is good marketing, but those first few words kind of spoil the affect. Back to the marketing classes.

Finally, I don't know what's funnier in this story, the fact that Pravda is reading like the Weekly World News, or the fact that the translation of the headline is oxymoronic:

Square-shaped flying disk spotted in Shanghai

I wonder if the Frisbee people have considered a square model?


Hard To Digest

Supermarket launches musical sandwich

I'm not sure I get this entirely -- when you burp, does it come out as singing or what?


Oh, So NOW It's Important

Endangered Tiger at Risk From China Spill

People without drinking water for weeks, well -- but a tiger. Now that's news...


Calling James Cameron -- REWRITE!

Titanic Sinking May Have Been Quick

Leo and Kate will never make it out now.


What?! It Sinks Into Depression And Alcoholism?

The Surprising End to a Supernova


Is Bugs Bunny Involved?

New Animation: Hubble Spots Cosmic Traffic Jam

Or maybe just Michael Jordan?


It's Only Right

Animal Lover Suspended for Squirrel Rescue

Since the little buggers are known to be organized terrorists.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


Reaching Our Souls

Yesterday I blogged about the impending Narnia movie and said:
If Lewis was worried that a movie cannot communicate the complexity of his literary Christ analog -- how much more so is that true about the real and true God? After all, we are not to make images, but Christ was the Word. In our excitiment over this movie, it's still just a movie.
Within minutes of reading that I read an Al Mohler post called - The Power of Words -- A Witness. Al's looking at and quoting extensively Michael Dirda's Review of "The Book of Common Prayer: The Elizabethan Prayer Book."
Against the modern depreciation of language, Dirda comments on his experience hearing the Christmas story read from the Gospel of Luke:
As a boy, I would hear these words spoken aloud toward the end of December, year after year, and they never failed to deliver a shivery thrill of pleasure. I used to wonder why. The sentences were utterly plain, both in diction and syntax. Neither did they possess any narrative excitement, since I knew the story already, indeed knew it far better than any other in all the world. But the language -- like that of so many other passages from the Bible -- enchanted me with what I now think of as its deeply felt seriousness.
He explains:
The solemn harmonies of such prose are largely ignored in these days of text-messaging and political newspeak. Even among our stylists, we prefer breeziness and irony, sometimes laced with snarky wit and street vulgarity. This "in your face" writing somehow feels personal and honest, more sincere or authentic than an elevated and poetical diction. No one wants epithets like "pontifical," "sermonizing" or "artificial" attached to his writing. Nonetheless, there are times when only the full organ roll of liturgical prose can match the glory or sacredness of the occasion.
To his credit, Dirda recognizes the deep Christian roots of this tradition -- and the influence of Christianity upon the very development of the language itself:
In English there are five main sources for this kind of religious eloquence: The King James version of the Bible, the Book of Common Prayer, The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan, the hymns of writers like Isaac Watts, Charles Wesley and others, and the classical traditions of oratory and homily. What links them all is a Shaker plainness and cleanness of diction, just barely covering profound spiritual conviction and emotion. This is, in short, the speech of men and women doing the Lord's work, honoring him and praising him with due reverence, ceremony and fervor.
Why is Christianity responsible for this richness of language? Jesus said:
Matt 18:7-9 - "Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes! "And if your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the eternal fire. "And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out, and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than having two eyes, to be cast into the fiery hell.
Now, I don't want to get carried away here but when I reflect on passages like this and the observations I made in yesterday's Narnia post, and Dirda's thoughts I wonder if it is not genuine a part of God's plan that communication by oral or written language is clearly superior to visual communication like the movies?

Think of the related issues -- Why did Jesus come 2000 years ago, instead of in this mass media age? Why did the Reformation come on the heels of printing?

This I know from my own exprience, movies or TV can wash over me largely undigested. In fact, it's not uncommon for me to be unable to tell you about something I saw unless it was really good or really interesting. I refuse to watch TV news, forget bias, the medium prevents enough information from being present in any story for it to be useful. But books, I always take something from books I read, even fluff.

Is our societal trend to the moving picture, be that film or television, problematic? I have thought it not so, but my critical faculties are somewhat better developed than in many people, as likely yours are if you are reading this.

Do words reach deeper into us than images possibly can. Most people would argue the opposite, but now I am wondering. I have been moved by images, but my life was changed by words, well actual The Word. What about you?


Arnold's Toast

Based on John Fund in yesterday's OpinionJournal, the Kindergarten Governor is done, put a fork in him. Fund's listing of Arnold's new Chief of Staff's resume is downright frightening;

It's not a pretty picture. Fund ends his piece this way

A Hollywood term the governor is familiar with could inform him about the potential impact of the Kennedy appointment. "Jumping the shark" refers to the precise moment when a TV show or public figure starts to go irreversibly downhill and loses all credibility. President Bush realized the damage the Harriet Miers debacle was causing him and pulled back. It's unlikely an alpha male like Arnold Schwarzenegger would do that. But then they said the same thing about George W. Bush.
I am not sure reversal can help Arnold at this point. W's relationship with his base, while not ideal, is much stronger than Arnold's. I certainly know when I voted for Arnold that he was way left of me and ideologically I preferred several other candidates, but Arnold could win and they couldn't, and his team was good. Now he doesn't seem to have a team, figuring he is the whole show. Sorry, big guy, your star power isn't that strong.

Nope, Arnold's going to have to do more than fire Kennedy as fast as he hired her. He's gonna have to take a hard right turn, and he is going to have to keep turning until the next election if he even wants me to think about voting for him.


Southern Baptists and Tongues

I haven't commented much on the recent news that the SBC has asked it's missionaries not to practice tongues. (HT: Adrian Warnock) Largely, I have not done so because, like Jeremy at Parableman, it's what I would expect from a cessasionist denomination. But, Jeremy has set me to thinking enough that I have a couple of comments.

In one sense, I find the SBC's stance admirable, they at least have the strength of their convictions. My denonmination is historically cessasionist, but I attended a prayer meeting at the PCUSA General Assembly one time that was so charismatic, I thought I stumbled into the Foursquare convention. I started looking around for the "church cops" to bust the thing. But no, that would be out of character for a denomination that values "diversity" as much as the PCUSA does. So, while I disagree with the SBC's stance, I admire their committment to doctrinal purity.

But having said that, I think in it may lie the roots of the death of the SBC. It's no secret that the church is growing throughout the non-western world at an astonishing rate. What's less well known is that the growth is largely Penecostal, especially in the third world. The SBC is, I think, largely limiting the effectiveness of their missionaries.

As we have seen in the blogospheric discussion on charisma/cessasion, most cessasionists have room for some sort of phenomena. If that's the case, and that's what the people want, don't you think it makes sense to give it to them? SBC seems to fall into this trap a lot -- they're dogmatic when they should be a little more flexible. That's been a strength here at home, but the future is out there. I wonder?


Science Lesson

Ran into this article the other day.
Torquato and colleagues have published a paper in the Nov. 25 issue of Physical Review Letters, the leading physics journal, outlining a mathematical approach that would enable them to produce desired configurations of nanoparticles by manipulating the manner in which the particles interact with one another.
Translation -- these guys claim to be able to build molecular particles like you build a house. It's never worked that way before, so this would be a big deal. I went looking for the actual paper. They want $23.00 to look at it, so I settled for the abstract.
We devise an inverse statistical-mechanical methodology to find optimized interaction potentials that lead spontaneously to a target many-particle configuration.
Now we're getting somewhere -- "Statistical mechanics" is a branch of science wherein one tries to translate things that happen on the quantum level into things that happen on the level we interact with everday, and it's notoriously black magic like. It works only in highly defined, and generally unreproducable in actuality kinds of conditions. Which leads me to this article. Herein, four physicists try to explain the current state of quantum science. One of them says
Despite its stunning success in describing a wide range of phenomena in the micro-world, quantum mechanics remains a source of puzzlement. The trouble stems from meshing the quantum to the classical world of familiar experience.
In other words, Torquato and friends are making one incredible claim. I have no doubt it works in the computer, but that's the only place they claim to have tried it. The lab is a whole different world.

So, here's the science lesson for the common person -- science, like anything, runs on money. Physcial Review Letters. a peer reviewed journal, published Torquato's paper, but the article I originally cited is on a nanotechnology industry web site, and claims stuff that is not really evident in the abstract to the paper. So what's up? Torquato is using the industry press to try and gather investment. "I have an idea -- looks good in modelling -- Don't you want to throw a bunch of money my way to see if it really works? - We could get rich!" Now, I found the original citation on Fark. And that, dear reader is how science information gets stretched and exageratted and completely out of control. Imagine it was about something people really cared about, say global warming, and imagine what happens. Think about that the next time you are reading about the end of the planet from global warming.


The Rantings Of The Lunatic Fringe

Transcript: Sen. Boxer on 'FOX News Sunday'

And this quote makes me want to set the record straight
BOXER: And my people in California and the people all over this country are not happy with the way things are going.
I am not one of "her" people, despite my California residence. Particularly given the pimping of our wounded that she does elsewhere in the interview. Propriety prevents from stating my true feeling about this woman.


It's Good To Know Hell Believes In Something

Church survey shows hell beliefs

Particularly, since many of heaven's represeentatives don't seem to believe in hell.
Up to a third of Scottish churchmen believe in hell, according to a survey.
Only a third?


Alphabet Soup

Who in America hasn't heard of Billy The Kid. One of the greatest desperado's of the American West. As with most great Old West stories, the legend far exceeds the reality, but the history is fun. Billy operated in southeastern New Mexico and in the context of something called the Lincoln County War. Lincoln, New Mexico, the "L" stop in this week's Alphabet Soup is the county seat and where a lot of the action happened. It's a ghost town these days, part of a state park, and a great place to visit.

Like most Frontier towns defense was a priority and this tower was a part of that. Indian raids were common early on and this tower provided defense against such. Most of it is a reconstruction, but it is one of the better sites in town.

But the real story in Lincoln is the wars. They were basically about control of commercial activity in the territory, before statehood. The two primary protagonists were John Tunstall, the guy that was moving in, and Lawrence Murphy.

Murphy had a monopoly on retail in the region until Tunstall set up this store as competition. Murphy did not like the competition so he had Tunstall killed.

Tunstall had taken in many ranch hands and tried to improve their lives, teaching them to read and so forth. But alas some were less stable than others, like say Billy Bonnie, AKA the Kid. Revenge became the order of the day and the war was on.

Some of the most famous names in the West were involved, John Chisholm -- the John Wayne movie "Chisholm" is one of the many movie tellings of the war -- Pat Garrett -- "Young Guns" and "Young Guns II" are movies that look at the wars too, particularly from the standpoint of the Kid and Garrett. "Young Guns II" addresses the legend that the Kid actually survivied the wars and died an old man in Texas.

Much of Lincoln survives. This is the interior of the Tunstall store. One of several museums in town dedicated to trying to give you the complete story of what really happened.

Probably the essential debate in the whole affair has to do with whether the Kid was a good guy or a bad guy. Most historians answer that he was justified in his pursuit of Murphy, but his problems came later when he kept fighting even though a truce had more or less ensued.

At one point the Kid was actually taken into custody and jailed pending trial. Arraigned in front of the bench you see here, in the courthouse just a block away from the store, where he would also have stood trial. While in jail, he became convinced that conviction and punishment awaited him and staged a remarkable and murderous escape from this very building. There was no turning back at that point.

I have visited a number of ghost towns, and especially ones with big legends attached. Lincoln is a great one, maybe the best. Not grossly commericalized like Tombstone, you get a real feel for the actual history, a history every bit as exciting as the legend. It's in the middle of nowhere, but Lincoln, New Mexico is high on my list of places to visit if you love the Old West.



Cops Follow Meat Trail to Suspected Thief

Makes it easy for the dogs. So why?

Thai Safari Pulls Elephant Meat From Menu

Which you would think might make it harder since dogs can't read, but...


An Act Of Mercy

Man shot dead at White Castle in St. Paul

This is a far more humane means of death than that which results from actually eating a Whitey's.


Reminiscent Of A Few Of My College Courses

Here, classrooms are used to store cow-dung

Although, I must say that in my case it was more of a metaphorical thing...


A Waste Of Perfectly Good Stew Meat

A Kapiti man might face assault charges after hurling a dead possum at his partying neighbour.


Which, Frankly, It's Preferable To Embracing Each Other - Particularly In Public

Same-sex couples embrace equality


Shouldn't They Put The Fire Out First?

Smoking lobby backs age increase

Monday, December 05, 2005


The Character Of God

I anticipate the Narnia movie this Friday like I have few films in my life. I am also afraid of it, because my love for the books is so strong and my vision of the stories so well formed and so personal - I wonder if personal dissapponitment is not inevitable. I have, like many others have not, avoided reading the books (I almost have the memorized anyway) so that my personal visions are not so deeply entrenched and I can take the movie on its own terms.

There sure is a lot being written about it though and one of the more interesting pieces was this one from the London Telegraph over the weekend by a Lewis biographer. He says a lot that is fascinating and I reccommend following the link, but I want to focus on this quote:
Lewis was fearful of the book being made into a film. Above all, he feared it would make Aslan a kind of Disney creature, whereas in the book he wanted to create an animal that evoked awe, as well as conveying a sense of unutterable tenderness.
One of the problems whenever literature is translated to film is that film cannot possibly develop a character as fully or as deeply as the written word. I think there are a couple of reasons literary films have worked better lately.

One is that film makers are learning how to tap into the key character attributes from the literaure and therefore invoke the whole character in the mind of the viewer without ever developing it in the film. I have read post after post after post of people that have been reading LWW in "preparation" for viewing the film. They are feeding this affect. Presuming the filmmakers find the same character touchpoints as these readers remember, as viewers they will see the whole character and not the limited version presented on the screen.

The other reason literature movies are getting better is because film as become the storytelling device of our time. When we read, we "make" the movie in our minds. We no longer deal in words, we deal in images, therefore, all a filmmaker really needs to do is tap those images.

Which brings me, finally, to my point. If Lewis was worried that a movie cannot communicate the complexity of his literary Christ analog -- how much more so is that true about the real and true God? After all, we are not to make images, but Christ was the Word. In our excitiment over this movie, it's still just a movie.

We look for ways to get to know God better. Thus we read, we watch, we learn. But how much can you know me from reading this blog. How much better to actually meet me? This movie is not a substitute for reading the books, and the books are not a substitute for reading the gospels, and reading Scripture is not a substitute for prayer. Embrace it all -- but more importantly, embrace God Himself.

So many people inside and outside of Christianity are going to attempt to say this movie is "the story." Those outside to condemn it and those inside to move the story forward. Both will be wrong. It is simply one telling of "the story" - a story so complex, so wonderful, so deep as to never be fully communicable save be supernatural means.

I want the Narnia movie to be the best movie I have ever seen. But more, I want to know God in His fullness. In all the discussion that is surrounding this movie, let's keep our lives about God, and remember -- it's just a movie.


On Party Loyalty

Sometimes Hugh Hewitt guest host Carol Platt Liebau blogged yesterday about the Kindergraten Governor's lack of party loyalty. (I'm still working on a nickname)
To me, this is offensive and disloyal. Arnold Schwarzenegger is, apparently, proud enough to be a Republican to be willing to bask in the limelight at the party convention, take party money, and use grassroots and fundraising skills to his advantage. Yet he is so ashamed of his party and his fellow Republican governors that he won't even appear in public with them (or with the President)?
Dick Armey was in the OpinionJournal on party loyalty in general.
In all my years in politics, I've never sensed such anger and frustration from our volunteers--those who do the hard work of door-to-door mobilization that Republican candidates depend on to get elected. Across the nation, wherever I go to speak with them, their refrain is the same: "I can't tell a dime's worth of difference between Republicans and Democrats." Our base rightly expects Republicans to govern by the principles--lower taxes, less government and more freedom--that got them elected. Today, with Republicans controlling both the legislative and executive branches of the federal government, there is a widening credibility gap between their political rhetoric and their public policies.
I'm not sure I agree entirely with Armey's small government thesis. The party core is committed to that, but you have to remember elections are swung by the center, and, unfortunately, the center wants their pork. But the sentence I highlighted is what I really want to talk about.

Political parties are a means to an end. They are the mechanisms necessary to get elected and therefore to govern. Few politicians have ever existed that could be bigger than their party, and thus get elected without one. Very shrewd politicians can control their party, but leave, never.

Arnold is probably correct that California Republicans need to be far more moderate than say, Indiana Republicans, but he is very, very wrong if he thinks they need to stop being Republicans. Arnold is failing in this sense -- He must lead the party as much as he leads the state. If, as Arnold obviously feels, Republicanism is the problem, he needs to reform the party, not leave it behind. Why? Because he won't get re-elected without it - and then he won't be able to govern at all.

As to Armey's comments, this path of eating our own seems to be what Republicans do best. We stand so firmly on "principle" that we sacrifice the ability to govern (because we blow the party apart) on a cyclical basis.

I counsel patience for my Republican bretheren. Let's beat the self-destructive cycle once and get ourselves firmly entrenched in power. Then let's move slowly towards our goals, at a pace that allows us to maintain our ability to govern. We have the vision, but we have proven ourselves incapable of realizing it. We want to leap instead of walk, and so we take one step forward and two steps back.

To our leaders, your job is to expand our vision -- to help us see not just the destination, but the road. Let us know when you have to make the necessary compromise what the next step will be. We're almost there, let's not blow it.


I Hate To Rain On The Parade

Amy over at the A-Team Blog is writing on the issue of interaction between the physical and non-physical.
Why did you wave? There was nothing in the physical world that compelled you through the laws of physics or chemistry or anything else to raise your arm. Your action did not begin with a physical process; your action began with your will. Your will to raise your arm was not a physical part of your body. Your thought was non-physical--it couldn't have been measured because it had no mass and took up no space. Try describing your thoughts and your will in physical terms--what color are they? how big are they? how much do they weigh? These questions are meaningless because our wills are not in the same category as objects in the physical world which can be described in such terms.
Much as I want to support Amy's central thesis in support of the miraculous, I have to pick on this argument. In this modern age of brain mapping a thought can be pretty well measured and described, not decoded just yet, but the chemical reactions and electrical impulses can be measured, traced and described.

We need to be careful in these meta-physical arguments. Science really is advancing in ways we never thought possible at the beginning of my life time, and in some ways our power is in fact god-like.

So what is the essential difference between us and God? Where does He begin and we end? I will argue in two places. The first is goodness. God is good, we are not. Thus, if God performs a miracle, it will always result in good; however, if we do something seemingly miraculous, that result of goodness cannot be guaranteeed, in fact it is unlikely. That's why power in the hands of God is not nearly so frightening as power in our hands. I may not always understand God's goodness, but I can rely upon it.

The other essential difference is God' ability to create from nothingness. Our creative ability must rely upon the pre-exisiting. We can reshape, reform, and transform, but we cannot create from nothing. In fact modern science really cannot conceive of nothing, there is always at least an energy field, that may be massless, but in this Einsteinian age it cannot be said to me nothing.

So how can God intereact with "reality?" -- simple He is fundamentally a part of it, not separate. He encompasses it and more. If I am writing a book and decide to edit it in such a way that the primary character in the book changes from male to female, when I hit "find and replace" on the word processor, to the other characters in the book a miracle will occur, but since it is my book, the interaction itself is straighforward -- I, as the author, am intimately a part of the story, I control it completely. The characters will never be able to explain "the miracle." It will seem to have come from something wholly apart from them, but to the contrary, it will have come from something that intimately encompasses them.

The key question with miracles is not "How," but "Why."


One Thing That Bothers Me

My brother-in-Christ, John at Sheep's Crib, is seriously into end times stuff. He wrote Saturday about Roman Catholic efforts against ecumenism and concluded this way
Prophecy is not something that can be ignored or swept under the narthex carpet; if it was spoken by God then it will take place on His terms and in His time. Some future generation will see a one-world religion and the persecution of all who will not submit.
I tend to not get to worked up about prophetic understanding, particularly when it comes to Daniel's and John's way out dream visions. Christ promises we will never know the time or place. But I would be a liar if I did not tell you that all the talk of globalization creates a little tick inside me somewhere.

Globalization makes a lot of sense economically, but it also creates a lot of opportunity for the kind of mischief seen in the end times prophecies. I don't know what a proper response would be, but I do think we need to be praying about it.


What Makes Louisiana Different?

Well, a lot of things, but among them is a long and colorful hsitory of political corruption. Needless to say, it's rearing its head in the hurricane recovery efforts and Mostly Cajun has a great post about it.
Yep, the same corrupt political practices that have plagued Louisiana (and New Orleans) politics for decades are still with us in the the post-Katrina/post-Rita days.

"In Louisiana, they don't tolerate corruption; they insist on it," laughs Pelican State native Fred Smith, president of the Washington-based Competitive Enterprise Institute.
Read it all, it's funny and informative.


Holiday Support For The Troops

Firepower Forward has some great tips to support those deployed this holiday season
Visit Soldiers' Angels and select from any one of the operations that they have listed there to contribute to. They are all fantastic programs that go directly to helping soldiers and families who need it most. Then just drop us a card with your well wishes, thoughts and prayers and letting us know that you have given in our honor to help our comrades who need it most. cards can be sent to:

Any JLC Soldier

c/o Claude Crisp


APO, AE 09354
Please, take his advice. Can't think of anyone I would rather give to this Christmas than the soldiers.



I posted a lot of environmental stuff this past week because of the conference of chicken littles in Montreal, so this week's official entry will be short and sweet.

In the wacky world of envrionmentalism -- even the good is bad.

From the it's never good enough department
A federal conservation official has raised serious doubts about the recently approved plan to scrape hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of hazardous chemicals from the bottom of the Hudson River, and raised the possibility that the long-delayed cleanup may never be completed.

The official, a coastal resources expert in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said in a confidential memo that General Electric intends to leave substantial amounts of contaminants in the river, capping them with additional material rather than removing them. But the cap could be washed away in a storm, releasing the remaining PCB's beneath, the memo said.
And dredging it would likely guarantee its release, while the exisiting plan simply makes it a remote possibility. Coulda-Woulda-Shoulda! Sheesh!

Such nice people we are dealing with here.
An early morning arson fire that damaged four unoccupied townhouses could be the work of a group of radical environmentalists, the FBI and the city's fire chief said Monday.
Finally, tell me how these help

Green Fuels Would Damage Environment, Critics Charge

And won't this wind farm just be lovely

I'll settle for a slight haze thank you very much.


We're Being 'Mob'bed

Seems the Minnesota Organization of Bloggers, or the MOB, is trying to take over the Blog Of The Week cometition again. They have two entries to the SoCal Bloggers Alliance one. That's OK -- We're better. Go now and vote for the "Jed Sled" over and over and over again.


I'm Betting It Was An Eight-Ball Shot

Eight die in Russia pool accident


Why Are You Talking To A Guy Named Frank While He's On The Toilet?

'It was awful,' confesses my frank squatter


What Do Personal Computers Have To Do With It?

PC rules blamed for Santa shortage

Besides isn't there really only one?


I'm SIck?

What your sneeze says about you


They're Organizing!?

Yesterday we learned that squirrels were ganging up to kill dogs in Russia. Now we learn:

Squirrels causing holiday mischief

Clearly it is a world wide plot, perhaps an alien invasion disguised as cute little furry things. Wouldn't that tick PETA off.

Sunday, December 04, 2005


Reflections On The Lesson

As I prepared the regular Sunday "Sermons and Lessons" appearing just below, I was struck by these words
For bliss or blessedness does not come from the wealth of things, but from God. In other words, bliss or blessedness does not depend on any created thing or on a creature?s work, but only on God and his works.

Therefore, I should only wait for God and his work and leave aside all creatures with all their works, first of all my own self.
Confession time: I'm a little down-in-the-dumps post Thanksgiving. Haven't put my finger on why just yet, but I am suffering that melancholy that we all get from time-to-time.

These words I have just quoted remind me how self-involved and unfaithful it is to dwell in such a place. One thing's for sure, when I feel that way it's because I am thinking about me instead of about God. Therein lies the problem - it's not really about me.

It's common to talk about God's supplying of our material blessings, and let's face it, anybody reading a blog is materially blessed. But God's blessings don't stop there.
Matt 21:22 - "And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive." [emphasis added]
God supplies all things I need.

I may take a lot of heat from this, but melancholy is, in my opinion, a symptom of a lack of faith. It means that in some sense, I am not trusting and relying upon God.

You ever had that melancholy turn into depression? I have. Ugly thing depression. In the end it wasn't the counselors that helped -- it was my coming to understand that God had not abandoned me - it was my learning once again to rely on Him, and not myself, that broke the cycle.

How can I be melancholic when I look fully at my Lord? He is a being of the most amazing beauty and the most overwhelming love.
Therefore, I should only wait for God and his work and leave aside all creatures with all their works, first of all my own self.
These words I must cherish.


I Love It When The Big Guns Agree With Me

It's becoming a universal cry at the moment, the White House needs to get out and defend itself. But I really like the way Henninger is addressing it at OpinionJournal.
The Bush administration has underestimated the changed nature of modern media. The mainstream media alone is not the problem. All these political subjects--the war, immigration--get discussed at length, all the time, on talk shows and across the great expanses of the Web wilderness. In this new environment, the emotional content has become stronger and even more important than the facts, such as they are. The facts have been demoted. What's more, the language, the very vocabulary of all these conversations, has been ramped way up. Shrillness has monetary value now, and it has political value. If this were traditional spin, as the White House assumes, it wouldn't matter. But in our time the spin has become a vortex.
He's right and the blog lays in the center of the vortex. Let's face it, not all of us bloggers are as eloquent as the traditional opinion makers and we tend to deal in volume and shrillnes and all those other things Henninger is adressing. Which is why the solution I suggested earlier in the week is a good one - A White House blog.

You can't out-yell a tornado, nor can you tame it, but Pecos Bill did manage to ride it, and while mythical, the image is appropriate. The best thing the White House can do at this point is join the maelstrom in hopes of getting out in front of it slightly.

There are some of us out here working pretty hard to get this message out, but we lack his authoritative voice, and we need it.


Africans Are Smarter Than Us

Malawi rejects 'pro-gay' bishop


Sermons and Lessons


Martin Luther, in his 1516 preface to the Theologia Germanica, observes that only God knows who wrote the book. As best we can discern, it grew out of the fourteenth-century German renewal movement known as ?The Friends of God.? Taking its name from Jesus? words in John 15:15, ?I have called you friends,? this dynamic movement stressed intimacy with God, piety of life, and complete obedience to the commands of Christ.

Written about 1350, the Theologia circulated as a kind of "tract" urging people to experience Christ living and present. In 1516 Martin Luther came upon a short version of it and was so impressed that he immediately wrote a brief introduction and had it printed in Wittenberg. Two years later he found a more extensive copy, gave it a more elaborate introduction, and published it in 1518. Luther said that next to the Bible and St. Augustine, he had never read anything as helpful as the Theologia.

The driving aim of the Theologia is to move our knowledge and experience of God from the "outer person" to the "inner person." It urges us to take quite seriously Jesus? words that out of the heart come the issues of life (Matt. 15:19). Therefore, it brings an important message to us today just as it did to those who lived in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.


1. God Wills This Ordered Life

One says-"and rightly so" that God is above and without rules, measure, and order, yet renders to all things rules, order, measure, and moral integrity.

This should be understood in the following manner: God wills this ordered life. In himself, without the created beings, he cannot have that. For in God, without the relationship to the creature, our human distinctions cannot be made between order and the absence of it, rules for living and lack of them. God, however, has ordained it thus that these structures should be.

For as far as word, work, and deportment are concerned, we always stand in a choice between, on the one hand, rule and righteousness, or, on the other hand, disorder. Now, orderliness and righteousness are better and nobler than the opposite.

2. Sour and Burdensome

Four kinds of people deal with order, command, and rule in four different ways.

Some lead an ordered life neither for God's sake nor out of a particular personal desire, but simply because they are compelled. They do the least possible and it all turns sour and burdensome for them.

A second group observes laws and rules for the sake of reward. That is, people who believe that it is possible to earn the kingdom of heaven and eternal life. They consider that person holy who observes a great many rules. The person who neglects even some little rule, they believe, is lost to the devil. They show great seriousness and diligence in keeping these rules, yet, after a time, it all turns sour and burdensome for them.

The third kind of people are the wicked, false people who think of themselves as perfect and are quick to tell you just how perfect they are. They think that they do not need any rules and laws and, in fact, scoff at any talk about "order."

3. Out of Love

Fourth, we have those who have been illumined by God and guided by the true Light. They do not practice the ordered life in expectation of reward. They do not want to acquire anything with the aid of reward, nor do they hope that they will some day reap some reward because of it. No, they do what they do in the ordered life out of love.

They are not so concerned about the outcome, about how a particular behavior will turn out, how soon, and so on. Their concern is rather that things will work out well, in peace and inner ease. And if sometimes some less important rules have to be neglected, they are not lost in despair.

They know, of course, that order and rectitude are better and nobler than the lack of it. So they want to keep the rules, but they also know that their salvation and happiness are not dependent on the observance of rules. Therefore they are not as anxious as others.

4. Keeping to the Middle

Quite often those in the fourth group are condemned and judged by persons in groups two and three. For instance, the hirelings, also called the ?reward folk? (the second group), say of them that they are too careless and sometimes call them unrighteous. The group consisting of "the free spirits" (the third group) will scoff at them: "They believe vain and silly things."

But the "illumined" (the fourth group) keep to the middle which is the best. For a lover of God is better and more pleasing to God than a hundred thousand hirelings. This also applies to their outward actions.

Note, it is the inner person who receives God?s law, his word, and all his teachings. These show him how to become united with God. Where this happens, the outer person is structured and tutored by the inner person and learns that no outward law or teaching is needed, for human laws and commands belong to the outer person. They are needed when one knows nothing better. Otherwise people would not know what to do, or what not to do, and so become like dogs or cattle.

5. The Soul of Christ Has Two Eyes

Remember how it is written that the soul of Christ has two eyes, a right eye and a left eye. In the beginning, when these eyes were created, Christ's soul turned its right eye toward eternity and the Godhead and therefore immovably beheld and participated in divine Being and divine Wholeness. This vision continued unmoved and unhampered by all vicissitudes, travail, agitation, suffering, torment, agony?tribulations surpassing anything ever experienced in a person's outer life.

But at the same time the left eye of Christ's soul, his other spiritual vision, penetrated the world of created beings and there discerned the distinctions among us, saw which ones were better and which ones were less good, nobler, or less noble. Christ's outward being was structured in accordance with such inner discrimination.

6. When Hanging on the Cross

Thus Christ's inner being, its vision through the soul's right eye, always participated in full measure in the divine nature, in complete bliss and joy.

But the outer person, the left eye of his soul, was involved in a full measure of suffering, distress, and travail. Yet this took place in such a way that the inner, right eye remained unmoved, unimpeded, untouched by all the travail, suffering, and torment that the outer person had to deal with.

It has been said that Christ, when bound to the pillar and beaten and when hanging on the cross, experienced all this in his outer person while the inner person, the soul in its function as the right eye, rested in the same bliss and joy as it did after the Ascension or as it does at this very moment.

By this same token Christ?s outer person, the soul in its function as the left eye, was never impeded or weakened in its discharge of external duties.

7. To Peer into the Eternal

Now, the created soul of man also has two eyes. One represents the power to peer into the eternal. The other gazes into time and the created world, enabling us to distinguish between the lofty and the less lofty, as I said above.

But these two eyes, which are parts of our soul, cannot carry out their functions simultaneously If the soul is looking into eternity through its right eye, the left eye must cease all its undertakings and act as if it were dead. If the left eye were to concentrate on the things of this outer world (that is to say, be absorbed by time and created beings), it would hinder the musing of the right eye.

8. Remaining Within

We should note and know what is the simple truth, namely, that no virtue and no good action, not even the confession that God is good, can make man and his soul virtuous, good, or blissful so long as it occurs outside the soul.

Conversely, the same applies to sin and wickedness. It may be commendable to ask, hear about, and gather information concerning good and holy persons, what they have done and suffered, or how they have lived and how God has worked and willed in and through them.

But it is a hundredfold better that people deeply within themselves learn and understand the what and the how of life. They need to learn what God is working and doing in them and how God wishes to use them and not to use them. Thus the saying is still true: No outgoing was ever so good that a remaining within was not better.

9. Only Wait for God

It should also be pointed out that eternal bliss is rooted in God alone and nothing else. And if people are to be saved, this one and only God must be in their soul.

You may ask: "What is that one thing?" I answer: "It is Goodness or that which comes through to us as Goodness." It is neither this nor that particular good that we may name, know, or manifest, but is all good things and that which is above all good things.

This eternal Good does not have to come into the soul, for It is already there, albeit unrecognized. When we say that we should come into the One or that the One should come into the soul, it is the same as saying that we should seek, feel, and taste it. Since it is one, it follows that unity and singleness is to be preferred to the manifold.

For bliss or blessedness does not come from the wealth of things, but from God. In other words, bliss or blessedness does not depend on any created thing or on a creature's work, but only on God and his works.

Therefore, I should only wait for God and his work and leave aside all creatures with all their works, first of all my own self.

Let me also say this: No great works and wonders God has ever wrought or shall ever do in or through his created world, not even God himself in his goodness, will make me blessed if they remain outside of me. For blessedness is only present to the extent to which it is within me, as a happening, as an inner knowledge, as love, as feeling and taste.

10. The False Light and the True Light

I have briefly mentioned the false light. I would like to say something further about what it is and how it works.

Look, all that is contrary to the true Light belongs to the false light.

It is an essential quality of the true Light that It does not know deceit, is not inspired by will to deceive, and that it cannot itself be deceived.

But the false light is deceived and constantly pulls others into its deceit.

God does not wish to deceive anyone. He cannot desire that someone be deceived. This is consequently true also about the true Light.

Note now, that the true Light is God, is divine; the false light is nature or natural.

As God is the true Light, void of all I and self and all self-indulgence, so, conversely, the mark of the natural creation and the natural false light is to pamper the I, the Me, and its outgrowths.

Man fancies himself to be what he is not. He fancies himself to be God, yet he is only nature, a created being. From within that illusion he begins to claim for himself the traits that are the marks of God.

Mark this: those who are living in the true light, perceive that everything they might desire or elect is nothing compared to that which has always been desired or elected by all crea¬tures in the depth of their being.

This realization leads them to let go of all desire and reliance on worldly things, surrendering themselves completely to God.

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