Tuesday, December 28, 2004

From the International Partnerships HQ:

December 27, 2004
Dear Friends,

Thank you for your continued prayers for Ukraine! We still haven’t heard the final count of votes, but as I am writing this we know that with 99.89% of votes counted Yuschenko (good guy!) wins by 8 %! We are VERY happy and VERY excited! We are also thankful that God allowed us to be participants in making this victory! It is such an awesome privilege!

Ps 3:8: “From the Lord comes deliverance, may your blessing be on your people”.

“Ukraine has been independent for almost 14 years, but it became free only today”, said Yuschenko at 3:00 am while speaking to 50,000 people that gathered on Independence Square to celebrate victory together. Thousands of people spent the whole night there as one big family, cheering and congratulating each other. Nick and I wished we could be there too, but kids were sleeping and we just couldn’t go. Yuschenko finished his speech with his usual words: “Glory be to God!”

We spent most of last night between TV, internet and phone calls to friends trying not to miss any important details of what was going on as the voting places closed and committees started counting the votes.

We trusted the Lord because we knew it was all in His hands. Our prayer for Ukraine was similar to one in Ps 130:5-8: “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning. O, Ukraine, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love. He Himself will redeem Ukraine from all their sins.”

But even though we gave all our concerns, dreams, hopes to God I have to confess we could not help but worry. Two of our staff, Tolic Korzhov and Igor Samohin (from Odessa team), went to Donetsk (a very dangerous place during these elections) to be members of election committees there. We were praying for their safety as we heard about cases of Yuschenko’s representatives in Donetsk being beaten up or kidnapped.

We were also concerned about threats that we had heard from Yanukovich (the other candidate ) that if he doesn’t win there will be 35,000 self-organized armed men coming to Kiev to defend him. The Orange Revolution has been peaceful so far and even though we now know that a couple times our existing president was very close to giving orders to the military to attack the crowd, he didn’t dare do it. But, these threats from Yanukovich sound very serious since everybody knows that there are criminal gangs standing behind him.

When we heard results of exit polls last night and then results of actual vote count we rejoiced! This is what the Orange Revolution was for - transparent and honest elections. But it’s still not over.

Yanukovich announced that he is going to try to prove that elections were not legitimate and will appeal to Supreme Court. He has no chance to win, but it seems that his strategy is to further destabilize Ukraine. Please pray that he will just give up and let Ukraine enter this New Year with new hopes and optimism, instead of the frustration and irritation everybody is feeling right now toward him.

We also want to ask you to pray for people in Eastern and Southern regions of Ukraine. I think we shared with you earlier that propaganda in those regions tried to set people there against the rest of Ukraine. They were successful. There is a great deal of aggression in those regions. My brother’s wife’s parents live in Donetsk region. They call their daughter and verbally attack her on the phone. Our relationships with many friends we have in Donetsk are very strained.

Half of IP teams are in the Southern and Eastern regions. They tell us about a very heavy atmosphere of fear and aggression. They say it feels like darkness.

Pray that we can love those people in the East and South so much that they see the truth. During the revolution when men from Eastern Ukraine came to Kiev, people here took food and warm cloths to them and won their hearts -not with logical arguments but with love and care. We need to keep winning with love those people who have lived in informational isolation during these past couple of years. As Romans 12:21 says: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good”

Please, keep praying for Ukraine! I see the other part of my country full of passion right now. People who participated in the revolution are inspired by victory, they are proud of making their contribution in changing the future of Ukraine, they are full of hopes and optimism! This is wonderful! But we know that if people just put their hopes only on the new president (even a good one like Yuschenko) eventually they will get disappointed.. We don’t want our people to fall into despair again. We know that what they really need is Christ; only in Him their hopes are secure.

Pray for our staff both in those regions that are in darkness of fear and aggression and in those regions that are in joyful celebration of victory. Pray that God will give them wisdom to use whatever circumstances people are in to help them find Christ.

Thank you again, our friends, for being with us through your prayers and support! We hope you feel how God is greatly using you in bringing change to Ukraine! You are in our prayers too!

In Christ,

Nick, Maia and IP staff

Saturday, December 25, 2004

We spent a lovely Christmas Day at the Nelson's with the 6 of them and our 2 Russian friends. Plenty of food and drink and sweets. We contributed a new game we picked up called Balloon Cup.

As an aside, if there's a Games Galore (or similar store) in your area, the clerks there are very knowledgeable about games and can recommend things for whatever taste or needs you have. The fellow in the Raleigh store got out 3 games and ran me through sample play on them so I could see how they worked.

I'll try to post my favorite books of the year here in the next week. One difficulty is that many of my favorites I loaned out, so they are "out of sight, out of mind." I'll try my best though.

Friday, December 24, 2004

My wife begged me to post this one. This is from my friend Ted. Ted has been studying some advanced technology field or other, but has been working as a rabbit farmer to make ends meet (and also because he likes rabbits). I know we shouldn't laugh at grammar mistakes and such, but they make me smile. Here it is :

Hello Paul!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
My best congratulations on the occasion of the coming New Year and Christmas. I wish you and your family be happy, healthy and wealthy. May all your dreams come true! I hope you are all well. I am very good. In December 16 I had finished my University. I am very happy about this. Now I have holidays and search a work. First elections in Ukraine was falsify. Every day we had many strikes. Now we have criminal government, and I believe we change government. We have good chance to change life. I think you know about situation in Ukraine. I hope new elections will be more fair. We have many observers from many countries. Our candidate Uschenko can change life in Ukraine. Many people support our candidate because they don`t want criminal goverment. Americans have liberty country and I believe after 26 of December Ukraine will have liberty country too. This strikes unite many people and gave hope and faith to live in prosperous country. We have had orange peaceful revolution. Many people, cars and houses have orange materials. It`s cool. All churches are praying for Ukraine and I believe God helps us. I saw pictures of your baby it is interesting. I hope all will be good.
God bless you!
Many of you have expressed concern over this post from a few days ago. I'm finally able to bring you a little bit of video to show what we were dealing with.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

A bit of an economic view of Santa. via Chris O'Donnell

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Nothing says winter in the great north like exploding zambonis. Would be a good name for a band as well.
[edit video available here!]

Friday, December 17, 2004

One of the things I enjoy about our area, especially over the last several months, is some of the local programming on WUNC radio (our NPR affiliate). One show is called Back Porch Music, featuring an amazingly broad variety of american folk music, music of which is just fabulous. The other, more recently in mind, is a state issues program called The State of Things. Episodes I've enjoyed lately have featured authors James Ellroy and Tom Wolfe.

Today they interviewed a man named Donald Duncan who is employed as story teller-in-residence by the Krispy Kreme Corporation (I thought about spelling it Korporation but didn't like th initials). Mr Duncan is a retired UMC pastor and now full time story teller. When asked how his work was different than that of a motivational speaker, he responded that stories are a sort of mirror which show us things about ourselves in a way that slips past our defenses. I believe he mentioned Nathan the prophet in this regard. So much of what he said seemed relevant to the things I've learned in the last few years regarding narrative theology.

I wish for all of your sakes (and mine as well) that WUNC archived and made these shows available on the web, but I believe they do not right now. Another reason for you to move to North Carolina I suppose.

[edit: they do make it available here.
Ha. It turns out that the name Trinity Foundation was already taken. Key article quote:

"It's a strange fact, but when you study the Scripture seriously it brings out all this stuff in people," Bloom says. "You'd think you were going to read the Book of Ephesians and suddenly someone was saying, 'Oh, my crack-addicted sister came over last night and slapped my daughter.' And that's what you ended up dealing with."

or this:

Later, at some local dive, he'd ask Anthony what all the ruckus was about. "Romans. We're still studying the Book of Romans," Anthony would tell him.

"What specific aspect of Romans is causing this level of interest?"
"Well, we were talking about your place in the body of Christ. And I told one guy his place was to be a pimple on the ass of the body of Christ. I just said it. It just came out."
"And he didn't agree?"
"A lot of these people are clinging to their miserable little self-images. They don't understand that it's about God. It's about them, but only the part of them that contains God. They still think they're special."

If you don't know what I meant in my first line, trust me, you are the better off for it.
On a serious personal note, my son just had the largest bowel movement in the history of the western world. I think we're going to have to burn the house down and start over.
I hope y'all notice that my son can find middle C here with very little help. Ok, maybe a lot of help, but for 3 months old I say its pretty good.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

With thanks once again to my friend who shall remain nameless (Kirk Nelson), I point you to an article on the Presbyterians, Free Masons, and Kenyan Iconoclasm. I couldn't make this stuff up, really.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Just found the website of my old piano teacher, now working as a composer. I'm enjoying the music samples quite a bit. He was a great musician, great pianist and very nice person. Hope he does well.
I bet this is getting pretty heavy traffic, but you should probably read this story on Anthony Flew. My favorite part is (atheist) Richard Carrier reassuring his followers that its only a minimal god Flew is believing in. No cause for alarm.

I think the interesting idea in this is that a philosopher and pretty much lifelong atheist would find that a) the evolutionary explanation for the origin of life was not credible, and thus b) there must be a god. I guess some of the traditional arguments still work.
If I thought Psychology Today published articles like this one all the time, I would subscribe in a heartbeat. I really couldn't agree more with the general tenor of the argument. Kids, I believe, cannot learn unless given the possibility of failure, with its accompanying pain.

I've been constantly amazed as a new parent with all the "safety" items which are now considered mandatory (either legally or socially) which did not exist when I was a child. Undoubtedly some are good, and with an infant you do have to be quite careful to prevent serious harm, but I have to think that all the insulation from pain has to have negative developmental results, as the article would suggest.

Monday, December 06, 2004

In our small group Bible study last week we were discussing Mark ch 4, which contains this passage:

21He said to them, "Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don't you put it on its stand? 22For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. 23If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear."
24"Consider carefully what you hear," he continued. "With the measure you use, it will be measured to you--and even more. 25Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him."

I asked people what they thought Jesus meant by the lamp imagery in v 21. BTW, I wasn't leading the discussion, but we're fairly democratic, so they let me ask my own questions sometime. Someone answered that Jesus was saying that we should live our lives in public in such a way as to draw attention to the gospel (or words to that effect). It occurred to me while I was reading the passage that that interpretation desn't seem to make sense at all within the context. The light here seems to be revealing things which are secret. The broad contextual idea seems to be preparing for the judgement of God. Anyone else thought about this particular verse?
I am, despite what you might hear from my wife, an acquisitive person. As you might know or have guessed the area where I allow the most free rein to this vice is in the acquisition of books. I've been relatively disciplined about this over the last year or so. I've tried to work out a plan where I'm pretty much just buying books from my amazon wishlist, thus cutting down on impulse buys. I allow myself to add freely to that list, but I restrict my purchasing. What I have been doing is allowing myself one used book purchase off the list each month. I also get occasional gift certificates (from my amazon visa card and actual gifts sometimes) which I'll use to purchase new books.

I've been keeping more or less to this plan. I'll make exceptions for odd things like library sales, or books I can use for my profession. I just get frustrated a bit looking over my wishlist and thinking how long it will take me to get to some of these books. OTOH, I've got maybe 70-80 books in hand that I haven't yet read, so it's not like I'm running short of material. Still, I wonder if I could allow myself a small raise in the old book budget. Maybe every other month buy $25+ to get the free shipping or something.

Anyone else fret over their book budget? Anyone else HAVE a book budget?

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Links all updated today. This is pretty much the list of blogs actually on my favorites sidebar in IE, so they are what I actually check regularly. There are many, many others I check occasionally, through y'all's links, and my list is always in flux, but I really hate updating this stuff, so if you made this cut, you are doing fairly well (or I owed you a favor or something).

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Calling All Geographers: Your Country Needs You!

My friend Andrea points out that the US is doing pretty badly in the geography olympics. Last check we were at 118 (Ukraine was up at number 10--those smarties). Do your civic duty. You can play up to three times each day.
A few thoughts on Paul Owen's recent post on dialogue in Acts 17.

1 Mr Owen seems to equate, with no particular argument, the Greek dialogizomai with the English "dialogue". While it might be possible to translate the word that way, the word generally means reason or argue. The fact that in English the word means a conversation between two people doesn't mean the Greeks always used it that way. In any event, we don't actually see any dialogue (in the modern sense) in the passage. We only see Paul speaking and the Greeks passing judgement on him in a general sort of way.

2 What Mr Owen calls dialogue here seems to me to be better referred to as "rhetoric". What we see illustrated is Paul's usage of the standard means of persuading others. This, of course, involves winning them to your side by arguing from some premises you know them to hold. Of course Paul did not let the Greeks determine the style, the content, or the direction of his remarks. Since the result Paul wanted to see in his audience was a total upheaval in their worldview, it would not suit to argue within their categories of thinking, but rather to use some of their terms to subvert their own thinking.

I think we would do well to think more than we do about rhetoric in the modern world, and some of Mr Owen's comments in that line are certainly helpful. But, on the other hand, we mustn't miss the fact that Paul, like any other scholar of his day, studied rhetoric formally, that is to say he practiced from early on the various means and styles available to persuade people of a point. the only place in modern american society I see this going on is in sales training (or perhaps some of the cults).

3 While dialogue may be commendable, it seems odd to praise it and yet not allow comments on the post.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Keep getting emails from Ukraine today. From the sounds of it, we are getting better quality and faster news here than they are there, but it all seems to match up. Apparently pretty much everything has shut down there. My 13 year old friend said that all the schools are closed. I think she was a bit disappointed since she's such a good student. Please pray for a peaceful resolution to their election problems.
On the random-live-journal-picture-generator-page I'm finding lots of random Ukraine pics. Here's one of Yanukovich and Yuschenko supporters getting along well enough to have their picture together. No idea what the text says though.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

I found this very interesting. I've been reading Walter Brueggeman's The Prophetic Imagination, which talks quite a bit about the idea of empires (Egypt, Rome, Babylon, and Solomon) freezing time into an eternal now. Fascinating stuff. I highly recommend Brueggemman if you haven't read him yet.
I've been pretty well glued to the news from Ukraine, thus my lack of blogging. I've gotten a few emails from friends in Ukraine in the last day or so letting me know that things are tense but alright so far. I really don't know what to expect to see. I think perhaps the most likely thing at this point is a revote with a bit more transparency, but who knows. The idea of Yanukovich just ceding the election seems a bit too much to ask for.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

A thoughtful article on personality tests by Malcolm Gladwell. Gladwell, who writes for the New Yorker, is the author of The Tipping Point, which I just finished this week and highly recommend. There are plenty of other interesting looking article on his website, so poke aound.

Friday, November 19, 2004

I've gotten about 30 calls this week from people trying to set me up with credit card payment systems. If I get one more I think I'll scream. Got an ad in the mail about it today too. There must have been some big event (some legal change as a result of the visa/mc v Walmart suit?) that kicked this off, but it sure is annoying. Anyone else having this problem?

Monday, November 15, 2004

It seems like this story really needs a punchline, or at least a moral.

Friday, November 12, 2004

One of my high school friends--which is to say someone currently in high school, not someone I went to school with--has started a "guys' movie night" at our church. I think this was the third or fourth week, but it was the first one I was able to attend. I'll give you a clue about the film we saw, it had a magic fish, and the line "love and hate are two horns on the same goat".

Unfortunately, that phrase is easily googleable, so you could find out pretty quickly that I'm referring to the 1958 Kirk Douglas pic, The Vikings.
Kudos to Christina for finding this great Jerusalem Post article on a roadmap to peace.
I really like this line of argument. As I have been thinking about the issue of marriage definition (and I suppose we've all been thinking about it), one of the nagging and difficult to define issues is the one of commitment. What legal forms of commitment can/should be attached to marriage? Also, if "gay marriage" begins to become a legal reality in various parts or the whole of our country, how many people will decide to become "legally gay" for the purpose of obtaining benefits of some kind? I'm afraid this will all be getting only messier over the next 20 years.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

If you, like us, are not entirely sure what to do for Thanksgiving this year, here's an alternative which involves very little wear on your oven or teeth.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Today in my reading queue I got to a book on ecumenicalism and utopianism (forget the exact title, by one Peter Beyerhaus. I found it on a sale rack one day and it looked well worth the 88 cents. Beyehaus is a German evangelical theologian (how many Theologians have both Tubingen and Trinity (Deerfield, IL) on thier resumes?) and missiologist who has been an eyewitness to many of the ecumencial missions conferences of the last 40 years. It seems that the book is about the split which has developed in the ecumenical movement between the conciliarists and the evangelicals. I diecided to look up his name on google top see what I could see. The top response in English shocked me once I started into it. Apparently (really) vast conspiracy theories are not limited to politics (though if you stick with it you will find the standard Rockefeller/CFR references of course).

Thursday, November 04, 2004

I forgot to mention that I enjoyed meeting this fellow a couple weeks back. Very interesting person.
Quite an article here on environmentalism and economics.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

I'm not sure if this is a reversal of the early Christians under Rome or the story of Daniel. What do you think?

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

A little election day humor to lighten things up.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Been at a Piano Technicians Guild conference in High Point for the last two days. Fortunately its close enough to commute. I've learned a lot so far, but I'm starting to see why people hate business travel. The highlight so far was the Kawai rep. showing this video in a class on voicing. (Go ahead and ask what voicing is. I dare you)

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

There seems to be a certain sort of idiocy floating around our reading american public these days with which I am pretty well baffled. I refer to those who think that a novel which is long is badly written just for the fact of being long. I encountered this yet once again today. Just having finished Richerd Russo's amazing novel, Empire Falls, a Pulitzer prize winner, no less, I turn to amazon.com to see if others were as impressed as I was. You can click on the link yourself, but I'll save you the trouble by saying that one "reviewer" thought it somehow relevant to point out that the book had 480 pages in it, and suggested that My Russo should have hired an editor. It is probably fortunate that most books are paginated as otherwise the reviewer probably would not have been able to count all the way up to 480.

I suppose this is all just part of the short attention span syndrome plaguing our once highly literate nation. Nearly every long novel I have enjoyed had gotten this treatment from readers writing reviews at amazon. For myself I always feel cheated when I buy a short book, since it seems the price per page is much higher. I guess I'm just cheap.

Anyhow, the Russo book really impressed me. My only previous experience with him was the film adaptation of Nobody's Fool, which I also enjoyed quite a bit. Russo seems to have quite a way of seeing into the hearts of his characters, and of writing about a place full of people who seem more real than the people you really know. I felt that way about Robertson Davies as well, which makes this a very high comparison in my book (so to speak).

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Looks like the anglicans aren't the only ones in the news this week.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

A Brief Word on Morality and Fiction Occasioned by Watching Ingmar Bergman's The Shame

I just want to go on the record as saying that I think that it is good for fiction to be moral. By that I mean that it is good for a story to illustrate one or more moral principles, and not only that, but that many moral principles can only be illustrated through fiction. Those of us who call ourselves Christians should be able to understand this since Jesus used stories in just such a way.

This idea is counter to much of the direction of 20th century fiction writing. I'm no expert on the history of novels, so I can only be approximate here. If one reads the victorian authors it is easy to see that the authors were promoting certain ideals. In Trollope's The Warden, e.g., the main conflict of the story circles around the idea of whether recipients of charity can or should be content with what they have received, whether it is proper to receive money for administering charity, and the corrosive effects of rumor, slander, tale-telling, etc on relationships of all sorts. Now, I have mentioned to you some of these moral questions, but they are not the sort of things that can be understood well and properly outside the realm of actual relationships. This is something fiction can approximate. By having characters with relationships to each other, with histories and places in life, one can this image how morality actually works.

Sometime around the turn of the 20th century, many novelists decided that this was not what fiction should do, that it should just picture life as it really is. Thus H. L. Mencken scoffing at the idea of those who always are trying to improve humanity. Admittedly, much of 20th century fiction simply takes a back door approach, masquerading as a "realistic" picture but working to illustrate principles the novelist has in mind, or perhaps even principles which are subconsious to the author.

Much more and more intelligent discussion along these lines can be found in Alasdair MacIntyre's After Virtue (the section on Jane Austen), and Stanley Hauerwas' essay "The Novel as School of Virtue" in Dispatches From the Front. All of this brings me back to watching the Bergman film.

Shame, or The Shame (the article is missing on the box, but included on the title screen) is a fictitious story of a fictitious war in a fictitious European country. When it started I assumed it was WWII (and certainly it has plenty of echoes of that war), but it became clear that that was not the real context. Since Bergman seems to have wanted to make a film about "war", rather than a particular war, this ambiguity was effective. It follows the lives of a young, childless married couple who are non-combatants. The film systematically tracks how the war destroys their relationships with their neighbors, with each other, their livelihood, their property and savings, and, most importantly I think, their character.

This, it seems to me, is all proper for a war film to do. This is how fiction "tells the truth" in ways that other media cannot. For me this makes Shame a better film than, e.g., Saving Private Ryan. The latter film is much more realistic, is bound to a real setting in a real time and based, if I remember correctly, on a "true story". It also illustrates some of these principles in its own way, and some others as well. But the realism seems to create some ambiguities. We all know that WWII had a purpose (defeat the evil Nazis), and thus war could be seen as an evil which must be endured to achieve that end. So perhaps the war was good. In Shame, it is never clear what the purpose of the war is, or even if there is one. This seems to tell the story of many non-combatants more accurately. They did not ask for war, did not want to participate in it, and in nearly every way were victims of forces entirely beyond their control.
Weird. Slate ran a story two days ago about who some novelists are planning to vote for. Not much worth reading there, so I won't link it. Lets just say out of about 25 novelists, 22 said they would vote for Kerry. With each novelist there was an amazon link to his latest novel. Well, some doofus went to the three Bush voters and wrote negative book reviews. All on the same day. With no comments about the books. Someone else has already pointed this out in response reviews, since it wasn't very hard to figure out.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Monday, October 11, 2004

We watched this film tonight. I have to agree entirely with the linked review, though I don't have any experiance with other Bergman films to compare with it. Certainly the most personal war film I've seen, and I think the most thought provoking.

Friday, October 08, 2004

A good 8 minute flash story about, umm, well, just watch it and see. You'll like it.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Doesn't it seem that once you concentrate on something and get it nailed dowm, everything else seems to be moving around?

We've been doing fine. Lenise's parents have come and gone and mine are staying with us for now. John sleeps often, just not exactly when we want him to. Nighttime, for instance.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Now, though science helps us to make the first diagnosis [the physical], it is of no use to us for the second [the spiritual]. A doctor whose only preparation for his career is his scientific training will remain blind to the part played by spiritual problems in sickness, and powerless to sustain his patient in his efforts to resolve them.

Of the 'meaning' of disease, science has nothing to say: from the standpoint of science, nothing has meaning--neither the universe, man, life, death, illness, nor cure. The scientific view of the world is a stupid one. We see this clearly in the anguish that can take possession of a man when he suddenly realizes that nothing has meaning for him, neither his existence, his actions, nor his destiny.

Dr Paul Tournier from A Doctor's Casebook in Light of the Bible

Saturday, September 25, 2004

With all the attention being lavished on the fine reporting work of the Columbia Broadcasting System recently, I suppose it is understandable, though just barely, that more attention has not been lavished on the rather surprising news now brought to us by ABC.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Grumpy Face Posted by Hello

Me and my boy Posted by Hello

John Sebastian shortly after birth Posted by Hello

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Just in case anyone is interested, John Sebastian Baxter was born yesterday morning at 9:25 by cesarian. He weighed in at 8 pounds 15 ounces and a reach of 20 1/2 inches. Everyone seems to be doing fine. I forgot to bring the camera home with me so no pics today.

Monday, September 20, 2004

My last pre-fatherhood blog. Potentially my last night of restful sleep for a long time. Been reading Pascal this week. Extrordinary inights interspersed with lots of random half-finished thoughts. If I ever get back to it I'll post some of the juicy bits. These was one entry about without Jesus Christ we cannot know God, followed by the statement that without Jesus Christ we cannot know ourselves.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Interesting take on the intersection of politics, history, and a classic film here.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

A slightly more detailed baby update. We went to the clinic yesterday afternoon, braving hurricane leftovers on the way, to see how Lenise's blood pressure was doing (it had been pretty high last time) and to get further assesment on the best course. Her BP, swelling and weight were all down, which is good. However, her pelvic exam showed that she had a pretty low likelihood of successful delivery. Wrong shape, it seems. The doctor encouraged us to think about a c-section delivery. We had been talking about this in the car and Lenise was fine with the idea of a C-section. As long as we get a baby out of it, the exact method doesn't seem to be of critical importance.

What really struck me in this exchange, and what I had also noticed throughout childbirth classes, was the tremendous emphasis our medical culture places on "personal choice" these days. Even though in our case every piece of available data suggested that c-section is the right and wisest and safest choice, the doctor wouldn't directly recommend it to us. He didn't ask us if it was ok to schedule it. He merely mentioned it as an option and pointed out that natural delivery would be rather difficult.

This whole thing seems misguided to me. When you have a situation where you have very unequal knowledge, i.e. trained medical staff versus patients, those with the knowledge should be in a position to make recommendations. I don't think the idea of patient choice should be eliminated, but the way things are now just seems irrational.

I think the issue of breast feeding is similar. I don't see why someone would CHOOSE not to breastfeed. Of course circumstances might make it impossible or impractical, and there are options for those cases. But I don't know why the medical staff always asked us, "are you planning to breastfeed?" Seems equivalent to me of saying, "are you going to use your sense of smell?"

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

I think this is an terrific article by one of the people I consider to be among the brightest contemporary american thinkers. Thanks to John Barach for the link.

I was especially interested in Peter's comments on charity. This is something I had begun to learn and am still trying to grasp in studies of the ancient world. The notion of "love" or "charity" was, I think, entirely different than our current ones. The ancient world, and many parts of the non-western world today I believe, are characterized by an amazingly tenacious group loyalty. This apparently existed to the extent that people always thought of themselves in terms of the group they belonged to--their parents, ancestors, tribe, village, and possibly profession. Of course the dark flip side of this is a rather strident xenophobia. Anyone from outside you family is a possible enemy. If they are from outside the nation, take out the "possibly".

In this context the satements of Jesus in the gospels seem all the more striking. Jesus proposed that these ties, ties which constituted people's basic notions of who they were (ancestors, laws, traditions, families), were to be considered done away with, no longer of primary importance, and that he would be their new family, their new law, and their new nation.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

My brother introduced me via email to one of the classics professors at Purdue. It's been fun interacting with him. One of the pleasures and pains of being a dilletante like me is that you can get into conversations with folks in lots of different felds but always feel like something of a fake. When I've read three or four books on a subject and talk to someone who has devoted thier career to it I feel like a kid talking to an adult. I'm keenly aware of how little I know. I guess kids don't always feel that way though.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

I have finished all of the submitted contest books and will put up a couple more reviews tomorrow. I'm afraid I'll have to reneg n my promise to pick a winner though. It's just too hard. I will try to send out prizes to everyone though in either the order that I liked your submission, or when you send me your wish list (or info about how to find your wish list). BTW, you cannot simply go to your amazon wishlist and copy and paste the url there. Doesn't work, trust me.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

On Stealing From Libraries

The Mebane Public Library has a perpetual library sale of donated books they have no room for. I stopped by last week on the way to the grocery store and saw a new stack of books there. I poked around and found a bunch of (OT scholar) Walter Bruggeman titles and a couple other things. On my way over to the videos I noticed a couple of VERY large hardcovers with somewhat damaged boards. I decided to take a look. It was bothe volumes of the compact edition of the OED. Total price for all the books I could carry was $10.

Today was the first day of the county seat library sale. I popped in for a while of course. Prices were not quite as good as in Mebane. $3 hardcovers, $1.50 for soft. Fortunately everything not hardcover was considered soft, so I got Norman Davies Europe: A History and Michael Chabon in trade quite cheap, and a Robert Penn Warren novel for free in the stack by the door.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

This is from the department of things-we-have-known-for-a-long-time-but-journalists-are-just-now-figuring-out.

Book contest updates.

Finished reading Lilith. I wish I had something really intelligent to say about it, but I don't. Certainly a magical novel, and certainly you can see where the influence for Lewis' Christian neo-platonism comes from here. Some of it worked well for me and some didn't. I fear in some sense this may be due to lack of concentration on my part. Despite all the reading I do, I'm still someone who grew up on tv.

Yesterday I finished It Happened in Boston?. Here's a book which contains its own handy summary, which I will reproduce at the risk of "giving it away".

But what was I give? A faithless, empty headed, burglarious woman for a wife and a conscienceless, philandering English phlebotomist for a business agent. This precious pair of vipers began it all. These two adders divided my life, subtracted my happiness and multiplied my misfortunes. It was they who tipped me into that maelstrom of flse marcheses, mercenary Bergamese whores, slippery Italian counts, witless German art experts, villainour Peruvian generals, paranoiac harpies, spiteful Russian cats, specious Polish wizards, spying pigeons, nosy janitors and ambitious Irish cops. My closest friend was driven to hang himself by my closest enemy. Somehow, through cunning insinuation and obscure machinations, I was inveigled into murdering six poor strangers and the kind and generous Leo Faber--in the name of humanity! I have been slanderd, lied to, cuckolded, robbed and persecuted. My lovely reveries have been snatched from my head and replaced by nightmares. The fruit of my years of labor--enough beauty to stock a museum--has been carried off to a foreign land, while one of my masterpieces has been plagiarized by a man dead five hundred years. I've been thwarted by an angel, duped by God and stalked by the Devil. Who would believe such things could happen in Boston?

The book had much of what I love in a novel: a wondrous main character, odd plot, and a shimmering and imaginative use of nearly every word in the dictionary. And yet, I am compelled to compare it to another book about art forgery, Robertson Davies' What's Bred in the Bone. This is certainly unfair. Davies book was written twenty years later and he may in fact have read Greenan. But it is impossible for me to avoid thinking that Davies' novel comes out better in comparison. But I did enjoy reading Greenan's book as well.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Weird pic of the day.
I'm sure this would be a better blog if I wrote something once in a while.

I'm onto part two of the 2004 Book Recommendation Contest (may do links later if I feel energetic). Just finished reading The Undertaking by Thomas Lynch. Really quite a good book. he certainly knows how to write and has a lot of good things to say. Most of his issues are ones I've thought about myself at some point, including some of the stranger topics. For instance I once though about getting into the buiness venture that his uncle Eddie tried--messy suicide and death cleanup specialist. Eddie was horrified when Dr Kevorkian became active. He was sure that this would ruin his business as all the suicides would be clean and tidy. I think I must have a dark sense of humor as I found that pretty funny.

Now I'm off to pick up and look over a curriculum for teaching the high school group at church. I'm pretty concerned about the nearly total ignorance of the Bible I'm finding among this group, so I'm hoping to do some basic level instruction in that area. I'll be glad to have some organized material to fit this into or around though. I'm always full of ideas and love teaching, but I'm pretty bad at organizing a curriculum from scratch.

And in other news, got an email from the pastor in Lviv. They will be starting a big English class next week. They expect 300 participants. Many of their folks will be called on to teach for the first time, so they are nervous about that, which is completely understandable. Maybe I need to pass on to them some of the things I learned about teaching?

Friday, August 27, 2004

There's nothing like the smell of boiled buckwheat to bring back some memories of the Carpathians. Too bad the stuff doesn't taste better, as apparently it is quite healthy.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

It's always nice to hit a random livejournal page and see something I recognize (in the top picture, that is).
We watched the Ian McKellen version of Richard III tonight. This was one I had picked up at Big Lots for 2 bucks. What an extraordinary film. I had never read the play, so I had no idea what to expect other than the horse line--which came accross oddly in this version as Richard was in a jeep at the time. It's amazing now to me that England ever survived through that period.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

I am now officially a piano teacher! I had my first student today and had a great time. I'll have two students next week as the neighbor family signed their daughter up as well. So far the only thing I feel odd about is my lack of familiarity with the standard curricula. That and the fact that most of the instructional books are, by consensus, not that good anyway. But anything is useful to start with. My first student is a very bright young lady. I was impressed already with her knowledge of basic theory and reading ability. Time to kick it up a notch I think :)

[edited for finicky people who prefer words to be spelled right]

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Cute Olympics coverage mess-up story here. Make sure to scroll down in the comments to see the newspaper article my my friend, David Frauenfelder.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Here's Yaroslav holding the "friendship bus". this was pretty funny to me since he was always a little grumpy and cynical, but he wanted me to take this picture. Lilia is next to him. Lilia missed about half the week, but was a member of the church and seemed to know everyone. She was one of our tour guides in Lviv. Posted by Hello
I've been kind of bummed about how slow my business has been lately, but perhaps there's a silver lining. I've decided to start teaching piano lessons. Yesterday I found my first student (and have at least 3 more who are intersted in talking about it). I've always liked teaching, but I've never taught piano before, so of course I'm a bit nervous about how I'll do. There's the balance between being too nice and being too pushy. The parent I met yesterday said her daughter had 2 teachers already. The first (and this is someone I know) was kinda pushy and discouraged her. The second was a group class which was so easy that the mother thought her daughter actually retrogressed. I think I'm capable of walking this line, but I guess I'll find out in practice soon enough. I think adult students would scare me less because I wouldn't worry so much about hurting their feelings. If an adult wants to pay for their own lessons, I expect them to be somewhat self-motivated and I imagine they want to be challenged rather than coddled.

Which brings me around to

Lessons from Ukraine part three:

My brother, the real academic scholar, encouraged me to make a journal of what I learned about teaching English. I did a little bit of this, but not as much as I had hoped before hand. I certainly found our three hour training session on Aquiring a Second Leanguage to be extremely helpful and reviewed my noted from that class during my week of teaching. Since I was teaching advanced students, I tried to teach them some of tht same material, since many of them I knew would also be involved in teaching English at some point.

One helpful thing, though small, was the use of a two hand model from prounoucing certain sounds. Native Russian and Ukrainian speakers have a lot of trouble with the "th" sound. If you use your hands, one to model the upper palate and teeth and the other to show the position of the tongue, it is very easy for students to see how to reproduce a sound. One of them also gave me the tidbit that for that particular sound, the person you are speaking to should be able to see your tongue.

The issue of how and when and how much to teach pronunciation was interesting to me, Dean Storelli, our ESL instructor, said we should not spend much time on it and not do any until after building some repore and listening carefully to the students. Most pronunciation, I suppose, gets picked up naturally through speaking and listening, and drills get boring and discouraging, and don't simulate real conversation. I did notice several in my class having problems with that particular sound, so we did work on it for five or ten minutes on the fourth day of class. One student in particular (Yaroslav) had learned most of his English through reading. His knowledge of vocabulary was excellent, not to mention that he was quite insiteful in many ways due to having such an inquisitive mind, but his pronunciation was horrible. Perhaps it didn't matter that much to him, since his English interactions were more textual than personal.

One comment that surprised me, and I heard it from more than one student, is that they liked learning English because it was "easier" than other languages they had studied. I think German was the next most common foreign language for them, and they found it difficult. I don't know why they felt this way, but it doesn't matter that much. It's good to know that some find English simpler to learn.

One of the things I found out about myself through teaching was that I'm not very good at trusting others with tasks. We had a lot of exercises in our text book that required the students to either work by themselves or with each other in small groups. I always felt hesitant about doing these since I felt like I needed to maximize my time in teaching them. Also since many of the students were not really close with each other, they were hesitant themselves about working in groups. I knew this sort of thing was necesary though. I knew that after I left, they would be getting most of their English practice with other Ukrainians and not Americans. One of the exercises was for the students, in gourps of four or five, write a horror story together. They had a list of possible story elements and settings in the text book. I gave them about twenty minutes. After about ten, I noticed them really working together well, which was very exciting for me.

The next day after that, I read to the class an interview with Graham Greene. It was a listening comprehension test of sorts. As I did it I started feeling the opposite of how I had before--the class was spending too much time listening to me and not practicing speaking enough. I guess it has to go back and forth a bit.

Monday, August 16, 2004

A sneak peek into the White House. Posted by Hello
I believe I already issued my own warning about one of these words. And speaking of words, I've been reading Word Freak lately. This is one of the most interesting and disturbing books I've ever read. It's a rather deep look into the world of tournament scrabble players, a world which seemed to suck the author right out of any semblance of normal humanity. When you click the link above, be sure to read the first reader review, esp. the title. The author of that review is one of the major characters in the book, known to his friends as GI Joel. Please don't ask me why, just read the book.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

I've been thinking of lots of blogworthy things in the last several days, but my energy level when I have been at home has been pretty feeble. No good reason for this aside from me being lazy. To break out of the rut, just a few recent thoughts about music, starting with,

Lesson Two from Ukraine.

One of the many things I respected about Tabernacle Church of Lviv was the way they used their musical equipment so efficiently. They had one man (I never learned his name) who took care of all the sound equipment, one young man (who was not quite sure yet if he was willing to commit to Christ) who played the guitar pretty well, and one woman who had one of the $200 type Yamaha keyboards. The latter is what caught my attention. I've been a fan of keyboards for a long time, and I know that a lot of time and engineering has gone into these keyboards, even at that price level, to make them flexible for different types of music and easy to work with. For all that, I have never once seen one of these keyboards used to its potential in any sort of public music performance in America. This woman, though, found the best style settings for each praise song we sang and was familiar enough with the controls to do a really fine acompaniment job for us. I know that most of that is not especially difficult. Finding the appropriate style setting is the hard part. After that its mostly just playing basic chords from a lead sheet. But for some reason no one in our fine country has ever seen the need, in my presence, to use such a well designed tool to fill out a small music leading ensemble.

In other news, and I'd be surpised if even one person cared about this one, I was listening to the radio and heard a fascinating piano piece. It was all over the keyboard, it was difficult, it was beautiful, and it sounded strangely like J S Bach. Knowing that Bach did not write for the modern piano and thus did not write anything that would be played in that style, I surmised it must have been a late romantic or modern composer who had studied a lot of Bach or was writing a set of variations or something like that. Turns out I was close. It was a Busoni transcription of a Bach fantasy for violin and orchestra, IIRC. Busoni, for those who don't know, made a career out of doing exactly that sort of thing--trancribing Bach pieces for modern piano. Quite a pianist and composer in his own right as well.

On a similar note, I heard a couple of months ago a transcription of a Bach organ fantasy by Elgar. I thought it was just as good as anything else I'd heard from Elgar. I think Bach is similar to Augustine and Aquinas and Barth, and perhaps Calvin in theology. You could never hope to comprehend their life's work, but you really do need to start somewhere and see what you find.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

In honor of all my Ukrainian friends, I made a big pot of borsch last night. If you haven't tried it, a good borsch is as good as any soup out there. The beets I got were white beets, so mine doesn't have that wonderful blood red color, but the tase seems pretty comparable to what I had in Ukraine. Will share recipe on request.

Monday, August 09, 2004

I think England has now gotten their priorities straight. I knew something had been missing over there for a while. Just couldn't put my finger on it.
I see some discussions from time to time about how we as Christians can get along when we disagree. This looks like a very interesting take on the subject, though I haven't read it through thoroughly yet. I like the title at least.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

I'm fascinated by the research reported here (it's several paragraphs down). I suppose one could consider this objective proof that scripture does not interpret itself.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Picture collections from the Ellisons are here, and Angie's are here. They are more fun for me than for you, since I remember all of these things, but it could give you some idea of our friends and surroundings of last week.
I was reading a little discussion of Christian support of arts and culture (or lack of said support) over at jon's blog, and it got me thinking about a couple of things I saw this past week. I was in Vienna from Sunday night til Wednesday morning. Quite a lovely city, and one where you can walk anywhere, and anywhere is worth walking to--I didn't find any "bad" neighborhoods in my constant wanderings. Anyhow, at one point I remember suggesting to one of my companions that I'd heard about a cool concert that would cost about eighteen bucks to get into. She said for that price she'd rather get a CD she could listen to over and over. I don't say that to embarass her, but rather to point it out as an example of how american typically view culture these days, i.e. something that can occur in the privacy of one's home.

To continue with the narrative, though I never did figure out where that particular concert was being held, we did attend the Vienna summer film festival showing on Tuesday night. That particular night was a concert from St Petersberg from a few years ago. There were probably a thousand people there watching classical music on a giant screen, not counting those who just came for the food and beer. I was trying to imagine how such an event would go over in the US. First of all, they wouldn't serve beer at a state sponsored event. Second, they wouldn't dare attempt to show something with such limited appeal as classical music. Third, people would be asking if they could get a live webcast they could watch at home.

I think perhaps we have become so enamored with our technologies that we are willing to substitute iamges for the real thing. We can control when and where and with whom, if anyone, we play our CD's and our DVD's. Thus we don't need public culture. And thus our souls grow smaller and our recliners grow bigger. Thus we don't need to learn to make music. We can simply push a button and hear the finest musicians in the world.

It's my website and I'll rant if I want to.

Friday, August 06, 2004

And here's another shot. Between the two I think all of my students are there. Some of them missed a few days of class for various reasons, like being translators for the beginning classes. Posted by Hello

Here's my most of my English students from camp. Posted by Hello
I tried putting up a big post yesterday, but it got swallowed into the ether. Save me the advice about how not to let that happen. I have to learn from my own mistakes somehow.

Anyway, I think it will be better to break up what I wnted to say into several posts and expand a bit on them. The general topic is "what I learned over the last two weeks." Sounds like an 11th grade paper, doesn't it? I don't think it is possible to organize these in any coherent way, but if you were looking for coherence, you wouldn't have come to my site in the first place.

My first lesson from Ukraine is that american don't know the meaning of the word "creative." In the seven days we were at the camp in the Carpathians, we must have seen forty to fifty skits performed, most of them written that same day. The skits often involved handmade props and ad hoc decorated signs. We also saw several puppet shows (there were a number of kids present), had a cake decorating contest, made table decorations, and had one night where people had to illustrate bible verses in their hair.

This isn't all be any means. The dining hall was heavily decorated. There was a contest for best door decorations for our dorm rooms. There was a "scret angel" program--just like "secret santa"--but I felt woefully behind as I gave my person only four gifts while I received about a dozen. Woefully behind is how our whole team felt throughout the week as we watched folks shouting out chants during meals--some sort of four line iambic version of "bon appetite" in Ukrainian, rendered by the teen crowd, spawning further counter rhymes by the other tables.

I think perhaps the process of the destruction of the western mind by tv and other media is much closer to completetion than I had realized. The response we got for our meagre efforts to participate in all of this seemed much like how our beginning level English teachers would respond to their students. "Wow. You are doing great! In no time you'll learn how to write your own skits. Just keep at it. In a few years, with hard work and some luck, perhaps we won't even be able to tell you are americans."

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Hey all. Still alive and flourishing in Vienna now. Had an amazing time in Ukraine, but dont have time to write about it. Also, I cannot find apostrophe on this keyboard. Will write MUCH more later, like maybe when I get home.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Leaving for the airport in about half an hour. Managed to get about half a night's sleep, which I think is pretty good before taking an exciting trip. I hope I'm able to get some rest somewhere along the way. It's probably good that we'l get to Lviv in the evening, local time, Friday, as we'll be able to get rest shortly after we arrive.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Tell me if this makes you dizzy.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

I keep feeling I should post something. I've gotten into a few controversies on other folks sites, but nothing new or noteworthy. Just stirring up some pretty old arguments.

Thurday morning I leave for Lviv for the prupose of teaching English classes and participating in Bible discussion groups with professional and academic Ukrainians. In preparation for this, our team had a meeting a couple of weeks ago with Dean Storelli who teaches people to teach ESL at Duke University. We got to learn about Stephen Krashen and some of the newish ideas regarding aquiring a second language. It was all enormously helpful and I look forward to telling my (andvanced level) students about what I learned.

The theme that the staff in Lviv picked for the week is "friends for a lifetime." I'm not sure what they are planning to do with that, but I found I had two books on my shelves on the subject of friendship, so I read them this past week.

The Friendship Factor is one I read about ten years ago but it was good to dust off and read again. I ws amazed at how much had stuck with me along the lines of "oh, THATS why I started doing that." It's a very practical and pragmatic book about how to cultivate, deepen and maintain friendships.

The other was Becoming Friends by Paul J Wadell. This is a more philosophical book by a Notre Dame educated Catholic. What really stood out was the chapter on Aelred of Rivaulx, a 12th century monk from Northumbia. Aelred studied the relaionships between the Cistercians at his monastery and decided there were three types of friendships. Carnal friends are those who are drawn together to participate in evil together, such as gossip or drunkenness. Worldly friends are those who hope to gain some advantage from their fiends. And Spiritual friends are thsoe who are joined due to their commonality in Christ. There's lots to explicate there, but you get the general idea.

I think its about time to head out to our last team meeting before we leave. Pray for us, if you would.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

My brother has taken it upon himself to make sure we are stocked with quality films at our house. We watched two that he sent us in the last two nights. Last night we watched Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. A good fun flick. One thing I picked up. One of the unseen lawmen chasing the eponymous pair was called Laforce (sp?), the greatest lawman in the West who always wore a white straw hat. Anyone remember which movie referenced that?

Tonight we watched Network. If there was a better movie made in the 70's I'd like to know. It was an amazing job of keeping up a darkly humorous tone through a film on a relatively serious subject. The writing was absolutely masterful. I can't say much more in the spirit of the film without cussing, so I'll leave it at that.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

I have a new obsession. This site just puts up the last 20 or so images people posted to livejournal pages. Some degree of this will be unsafe for work/children, but that can't be predicted in any way. Just a weird way to see random pictures.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Breaking Chess news. Seriously. (Sorry, link apparently dead now.)
Ok, dumbed down version on ABC here.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Somewhat amusing version of This Land. (not really for children)

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Voting With Our Feet?

Just looking over these numbers, there's something I noticed. The states predicted to vote for Bush have gained eight electoral votes elative to the states predicted to go to Kerry. Just to complete that, the undecided ones have lost two. Are republican states better places to live? Do they just have more kids there?

On that last point, I remember seeing some analysis recently on the affect of abortion on voting. An ever larger number of aborted children since Roe v Wade would have been of voting age, and a disproportionate number were aborted in places that vote more often for the democrats. I guess it doesn't pay to kill off your voters.
Another entry in the Headline Hall of Fame.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Over on the "big Lutheran blog", as I'll call it for now, Josh et al have been trying to point out why they think Calvinism stinks and all of us should become Lutherans. At some point it got into views of politics and I mentioned in a comment (I don't even remember under which post, sorry) that I was completely ignorant of Lutheran views on politics and would love to hear something about them. Thus is was something of a surprise to me to see bubble to the top of my reading stack a volume I'd forgotten I had, God and Caesar, a collection published by Augsburg back in 1959. Apparently there had been some regular symposium on religion and politics at Valpo in the 50's, moderated by Princetonian Otto Piper.

Having gotten most of the way through this, and assuming that it represents both typical and well-expressed Lutheran views, I would have to say that they win on this front. The Calvinist concepts of positive law seem to me to fundamentally twist the attitudes of their adherents. Not that I wish to downplay the role of the law within the scripture or to endorse the Lutheran views of law and gospel, but the american Calinist tradition, through theology and historical situation, teaches that we have to create our own society and law embodied in a just state; and while that is certainly a noble sentiment, it seems rather different than what the NT teaches us about how to act as a follower of Jesus on this earth. As Hauerwas likes to say, the church doesn't need a politics, it IS a politics.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Here's a warning from the gvt that we should probably all heed.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

From time to time I think about what I would like this blog to be, other than just getting me some practice writing. If I'm honest with myself, I realize that what I really want is legions of adoring fans. Thus I always feel a bit humbled when a post only gets comments from my wife and my mother. I want to see dozens of people writing in saying, "There was more wisdom in the second sentence of your post than in the last three generations of my family combined." Which means I want to attract flatterers with no sense of shame or honesty I suppose.

A couple of weeks ago I got invited to play a part in a VBS play. I had taken a drama class back in HS, but never got a part in a play. That's probably for the best, since I enjoy acting WAY too much. I don't need another narcissistic pursuit in my life.

Anyhow, the VBS play was based on two kids and a time machine. The particular day I was involved they were summoned to a courtroom to decide if Jesus was a prophet or a priest or a king. I was the bailiff, the formerly blind Bartimaeus. My friend Brian was the judge, and some others played Peter, John, and the widow from Nain (the witnesses). Brian's wife, Brenda, was running the show an told me to have as much fu as I could with my role. Brian told me the judge would be a cross between Shelby Foote and Freg Gwynne's character from My Cousin Vinny. I figured that gave me some license, so I went with something like a Scatman Crothers character. It seems I was a big hit with the kids. I guess that's just because I was loud and goofy. Probably the same reasons my wife keeps me around. Brian and Brenda and thier two boys, btw, are coming with me to L'viv in two weeks. Should be fun.

Friday, July 02, 2004

i wonder if there's much objective difference between web personality tests and horoscopes. For instance, I took this little one, and found myself smiling at the flattering results:

You are a WRCF--Wacky Rational Constructive Follower. This makes you Paul Begala. You are unflappable and largely unconcerned with others' reactions to you. You were not particularly interested in the results of this test, and probably took it only as a result of someone else asking you to.

You have a biting wit and intense powers of observation. No detail is lost on you, and your friends know it--relying on you to have the facts when others express only opinions. You are even-tempered, friendly, and educated. Foolish strangers may mistake your mildness for weakness--they will be surprised.

You entire approach to life is enviable. You will raise good kids

But surely everyone gets a flattering result, don't they? I suppose The Paul Begala thing bugs me a little, but at least we share a name.
Discovered an interesting blogger this week who has a nice post on a dear topic here. I suppose we all have our own distinctive ways of saying what Tim is saying, but it seems generally on the mark.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

If you ever listened to Van Halen's first album, you should check this out.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Let me also say that this is good advice for everyone, not just Canadians.
A Brief Introduction to Presbyterianism (via Kris10)

Monday, June 28, 2004

Back when many of us were discussing Mel Gibson and the issue of portrayals of Jesus I had asked a few times how people interpreted Galatians 3:1

You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified

The last time I wrote to Stan Hauerwas, I asked him, among other things, for his thoughts on TPOTC. I like his response:

I didn't think Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" was as bad as most people thought it was. My deepest problems concerning the movie are about whether film is a medium that appropriately embodies the Gospel. We become spectators to violence, and I don't think that's what the gospel wants us to be. I thought also the separation of the Passion from the life is always a problem. I made the point [not sure where] that the medium is not appropriate to the Gospel, and was asked what the appropriate medium is? Of course I said the liturgy. That just seems so obvious but people seem to miss it.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Had a very fun (role-playing) gaming session last night with Tom, David and Todd. Todd is quite the stickler for historical details. The highlight of the evening, after we had vanquished various monsters and three of the four serpents guarding the tower containing the obligatory princess, was the serpent of riddles. We had three riddles to answer, all of which came from a vulume entitled The Earliest English Poems. The riddle were, in fact, pretty hard, but we managed to come up with all three, though of course with a few clues from the GM.

Today our Ukraine team and the team from our church heading to Peru were something of a focus for the church. We were officially "commissioned" during the morning service, and in the evening there was a special prayer meeting for us. Lots of loving concern was expressed about Lenise and her care while I will be away. It's great to be at a church that loves us so well.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Update for those worried about the fate of the ducklings.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

My theory is that if EVERYONE is buying a certain book, there must be something wrong with it. Looks like I was right in this case.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

For those who have not seen this yet, John Frame's article, Machen's Warrior Children, spells out pretty evenly the majority of the controversies which have afflicted the reformed and presbyterian denominations of america over the past seventy years. Take a peek.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

I put up some of my reading from this year on amazon lists. I'd like directly, but amazon links often defeat me. I'm sure you know how to find me there. A few things didn't make it. I read a few early 70's sci-fi anthologies which I didn't even bother looking for. The rest of the Patrick O'Brian series will have to wait for the next list. You might notice I put up a couple of books where I read somthing different by that author but amazon didn't list the book I read. Also not making the list, and not listed at amazon are J S Mill's Ethical Writings, and a collection of four plays by Giradoux which I enjoyed quite a bit.

Monday, June 14, 2004

I've thought of several things to post in the last couple of days, but I keep thinking that some things are left better unsaid. I think I can say this: we had a meeting at our church last night to discuss a very difficult situation. Being a conflict-avoider person, I was dreading this meeting and thinking about not going at all, but good sense won out and I showed up. By the time I left I was thinking that this may have been the best meeting of any kind I have been to, in terms of people being honest and kind and thoughtful and wise. I am so thankful to be part of a church that has it's head on straight. I had envisioned all sorts of dreadful things, none of which transpired. I'm pretty sure only one reader (Daniel Kirk) actually knows anything about this (since he was there too) but it would be fine if we kept it that way.

I have really been fighting the urge to gossip about this. I don't think of myself as being very prone to gossip, but sometimes when you learn something bad, you you feel this incredible desire to start unburdening yourself. Talking about things in the right time and right place and with the right people, as I alluded to above, can be wonderful. Talking (talebearing) in the wrong way brings unnecessary destruction and misunderstanding.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Due to the generosity of my brother, we received a copy of the John Wayne film, Red River, and do to the gentle but repeated prodding of said brother, we decided to watch it last night.

Like the old Gary Cooper movie we also saw recently, Fighting Caravans, Red River is a rather unromantic look at the "old west." Wayne plays the very determined and very violent Thomas Dunson, a man who builds the first big cattle ranch in Texas with his "own two hands". A rather young Montgomery Clift plays his protege, Matt Garth. Together with their team of ranchers they move their now large heard northward to sell in Missouri. Most of the film takes place on this journey.

Wayne's character knows there is a railroad in Missouri and is determined to head there at any cost. He signs the men up, telling those at the ranch that if they any reservations they may stay home, but he won't put up with any quitters. A few stay behind to tend to their families. Not long after the group heads north, some dissension breaks out over whether it would be better and safer and perhaps quicker to take the cattle to Abilene, Kansas. Since neither Mr Dunson nor any of the men present have seen the railroad in Kansas with their own eyes, Dunson refuses to credit the existence of a railroad there and annouinces that they will go to MO as planned. The dissension leads to Dunson shooting three of the dissenters.

Wayne's continued hard headedness eventually leads to a sort of mutiny with all of the men and catlle heading to KS, leaving Dunson with a couple of horses and the promise of revenge. The spectre of this revenge haunts the men all the way to Abilene. In the climax of the film the cattle are sold and at the very end Dunson and Garth are reconciled through the intercession of a woman who has fallen for Garth. Dunson acknowledges that Garth is the son and heir he never had and is unable to kill him.

The ending, while being sensible and "happy", seemed somewhat out of character with the dark tone of the rest of the film. About half way though I realized that this movie was essentially a political story of the most basic, Hobbesian sort. What is it that holds men together in society with each other? Is it personal loyalty? Fear of violence? Fear of outsiders? (Indians in this case) Working together to acheive some goal? All of these were shown and tested in this story in rather vivid ways.

Go watch it for yourself and let me know what you think of it.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Last fall I stopped by the Chapel Hill Public Library booksale and ended up with a paper grocery bag full of books for $3. As I took them home I wondered to myself if I had just picked these up because they were cheap or if they would actually be useful and stimulating. The bulk of what I got were sci-fi anthologies and novels from the early 70's. I've read a few of these and found them interesting more often than not.

Among the non-fiction I picked up, though, I have found some real treasures. I mentioned a few weeks ago Will Campbell's book, Race and the Renewal of the Church, which was excellent. This week I read a collection entitled The Philosophy of History in Our Time, ed Hans Meyerhoff. The essays in it are from the most thoughtful historians and philosophers who wrote about history from roughly 1880 to 1950. These would be Dilthey, Croce, Ortega y Gassett, Collingwood, Pirenne, Toynbee, Becker, Beard, Lovejoy, Aron, Dewey, (Morton) White, Nagel, W H Walsh, Butterfield, Berlin, Burckhardt, Bullock, Popper, (Reinhold) Niebuhr, and Jaspers. Nearly all of the essay were intriguing to me, exploring the questions of whether history has meaning (of its own), what one studies when one studies history, etc.

One section I found particularly striking was this by Karl Popper (somewhat edited to save space):

How do most people come to use the term "history"? . . . They learn about it in school and at the university. They read books about it. They see what is treated in the books under the name "history of the world" or "the history of mankind," and they get used to looking upon it as a more of less definite series of facts. And these facts constitute, they believe, the history of mankind.

But we have already seen that the realm of facts is infinitely rich, and that there must be selection. According to our interests, we could, for instance, write about the history of art; or of feeding habits; or of typhus fever . . .Certainly none of these is the history of mankind (nor all of them taken together). What people have in mind when they speak of the history of mankind is, rather, the history of the Egyptian, Babylonian, Persian, Macedonian, and Roman empires, and so on, down to our own day. In other words: They speak about the history of mankind, but what they mean, and what they have learned about in school, is the history of political power.

There is no history of mankind, there is only an indefinite number of histories of all kinds of aspects of human life. And one of these is the history of political power. This is elevated into the history of the world. But this, I hold, is an offence against every decent conception of mankind. It is hardly better than to treat the history of embezzlement or of robbery or of poisoning as the history of mankind. For the history of power politics is nothing but the history of international crime and mass murder (including, it is true, some of the attempts to suppress them). This history is taught in schools, and some of the greatest criminals are extolled as its heroes.

. . .But why has just the history of power been selected, and not, for example, that of religion, or of poetry? There are several reasons. One is that power affects us all, and poetry only a few. Another is that men are inclined to worship power. But there can be no doubt that the worship of power is one of the worst kinds of human idolatries, . . . A third reason why power politics has been made the core of "history" is that those in power wanted to be worshipped and could enforce their wishes. Many historians wrote under the supervision of the emperors, the generals, and the dictators.

I know these views will meet with the strongest opposition from many sides, including some apologists for Christianity; for although there is hardly anything in the New Testament to support this doctrine, it is often considered a part of Christian dogma that God reveals Himself in history; that history has meaning; and that its meaning is the purpose of God. Historicism* is thus held to be a necessary element of religion. But I do not admit this. I contend that this view is pure idolatry and superstition, not only from the point of view of a rationalist or humanist but from the Christian point of view itself.

He goes on to explain that last phrase for about 3 pages, so I won't burden you with it now. The jist of it is that identifying God with "history", as the term is normally used, puts God into an unholy alliance with power and evil. He points to the sufferings and crucifixion of Jesus as the opposite of what we mean by history.

* Popper uses this term to mean the idea of a unified meaning of history according to a theological or rational law or set of laws, which is more or less the complete opposite of the way the term has come to be used by others.
I never really imagined a social occasion ispired by Wallace and Grommit, but I guess my imagination is too limited.
You know what stinks? Really bad news. (I guess you probably already knew that)

I think all I should say is that it is about someone outside of my family and is the sort of thing that I probably shouldn't publicize by mentioning it here. Somebody doing something which they should not have done. Probably pointless even to write at all here, but I'm just really bummed.

Monday, June 07, 2004

I'm looking into the idea of teaching piano lessons. Since I've not done this before, I've been doing some research this morning. Seems like there's a lot more to it than I had thought. I'd still like to try it, but I think I'm going to need to do some prep work for a while. The one largest site devoted to the topic recommends having a music degree AND sitting in with master piano teachers for a year before starting. I don't think that's really an option for me, but I would like to be prepared for dealing with beginning children and adults. Also, I probably need to take some lessons myself, since I'm not that great. Life is always more complicated than it seems at first glance.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

My very fine friend, Jamie Boyce, loaned me her copy of Peter Leithart's A House for My Name, which I just now finished reading. Jamie is a grad student at the University Next to Carrboro, and one of our team members going to Ukraine with me. What a terrific book. It is an overview of the story of the Old Testament and it is amazing how many thoughtful topics are raised in less than 300 pages. The book is also structured as a study guide, making it a perfect tool for small or large group discussion. I didn't actually try to answer all the study question since jamie wanted the book back.

The last chapter deals with the book of John, tying in many of the OT themes. Something that occurred to me while reading about John's passion narrative is the emphasis on Jesus speaking truthfully while still being rejected and mocked by the other characters of the story. This is similar to a point I have picked up from Hauerwas and other "post-liberal" theologians, namely that we tend to think that the gospel/christian teachings are the sort of thing that any reasonable person would believe if they are presented in the right way. The theologians show why this is not the case in theory. Jesus showed (and told) that it is not the case in practice either.

In other news, I couldn't have been more pleased yesterday that I got a chance to talk with a certain professor of theological ethics about my mission trip and that he gave me some support money. It is a very difficult thing to beg for money, but something that is, I have learned, an integral part of ministry. The professor agreed wholeheartedly with that sentiment. He said, "begging is part of Christianity; we pray, after all."

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Interesting interview with Wright here.
As a public service, I draw your attention to this. Now you know where to go if such a need arises. You are welcome.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Am I the only one who had these records as a child? I don't remember much from them, but they ARE fun to listen to now.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Lesson from children's choir:

We took the kids into the sanctuary last night to practice being on stage for their upcoming gig on Sunday (BTW, I'm a "helper", I don't actually lead the tykes). We ran through their song once, with most of the kids swaying and making faces, many not singing at all, etc. Then the director gave a short speech about how important it is not to distract the congregation from worship during the service. She also told me that on the next run-through, I was to find the three children who were doing the best job at standing still and watching the director so that they could get a piece of candy after the rehearsal. Suddenly all the extraneous behaviors stopped. All of the kids really paid attention well. I identified six who never took their eyes off the director at all, so those six got the candy. I was amazed at the enormity of change precipitated by a tiny little contest.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

One thing strikes me as very wrong with this, namely the fact tht someone would name a child "Jinger."
I hereby declare that all govt in Oregon is stupid until such time as they prove otherwise.
For some reason this big story doesn't seem to match well with this. Of course the bad news of the latter is that it holds out the possibility of a repeat of the 2000 election.

Monday, May 24, 2004

My brother points out something (which he admits he didn't think up himself) about the establishment of pornography in our society. Has anyone had an ideas about this? Should we refuse to stay in hotels which have signed deals with porn providers? Are there any major hotels which haven't? I'm not interested in ideas about self-control here, but about whether there is something proactive we should be focussing on.
Had a long weekend out of town, ergo no posts. Some good visits with friends. One complaint, and I won't mention names or places here, but at the (PCA) church we went to Sunday, the pastor was completing a sermon series on an OT book and barely made passing reference to the text in the sermon. I always hate it when I see christian teachers who don't find the scriptures interesting enough to talk about. This is an area that my own church is very strong in. I guess what Chesterton said is true about the purpose of travelling being to give you an appreciation for home.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

I don't have any way to push this other than just saying it again: I'm still raising money for my mission trip to Ukraine in July. I would love to have some support from a few blog buddies out there. Last year we had one couple we only knew from the 'net send us some support, which was fantastic. I just ran the budget numbers for this year's trip and it came out at about $2600, which is higher than last year and higher than I had originally anticipated for this year, so I'm feeling a bit pressured now. If you are at all curious about what we'll be doing, I'd love to tell you more. Just pop me an email or leave a comment with your email on it and I'll be glad to let you in. The ministry we are working with has the most amazing results--about 90% of the participants from summer projects come back for continued bible studies in the fall.

Small contributions are just as welcome as big ones too :)
Someone should invent a smell-sense equivalent to the word "deafening". "Overpowering" just seems to generic.
I guess I could turn this into just a book report blog.

Yesterday I read Will D Campbell's booklet, Race and the Renewal of the Church, and I was surprised to find it the best and most cogent piece of writing on race I've ever seen. What surprised me about it was that it was written in 1962. I tend to imagine that all progree in thinking about race in this country has happened since then. One of the stiking points he makes is how, after the 1954 integration decision, liberal churches started saying that we should practice integration because it is the law. Why does the church need a law to tell it to ignore race?

He also highlights a key point which I have seen brought out by much later theologians, which is that the church is not primarily a social reform institution, but a community. "The sin of the church is not that it has not reformed society, but that it has not realized self-renewal. Its sin is that it has not repented. Without repentance there cannot be renewal."(p. 4)

He also talks about how the Romans considered Christians to be a "third race". Coincidentally, I heard Orson Scott Card on the radio last night take up that same theme speaking of Mormons. Card was quite open in saying that many common social rituals of our culture would be one's he could only imagine rather than experience, such as having coffee with someone. I wish I could link to that interview, since he so wonderfully stated so many things about how the church should see itself vis a vis the United States.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

I was reading von Clausewitz last week. I didn't get much out of it, frankly, but I decided it had been collecting dust for too long. What I was really struck by was the opening:

We must first define war. We shall not begin with a pedantic definition, but confine ourselves to wasr's essence: the duel. War is nothing but a duel on a larger scale. If we would unite in one conception the countless uels of which it consists, we should imagine two wrestlers. Each seeks by physical force to overthrow the other, render him incapable of further resistance, and compel his opponent to do his will.

War is thus an act of force to compel our adversary to do our will.

He goes on to speak of how the use of force has no theoretical limits and that the side which does not limit it's brutality will thus have an advantage.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Finished reading The Brothers K last week (among a bunch of other stuff). This easily goes on the list of best novels I have read. It was certainly better than any novels I read last year. Were it not so plainly (though not faithfully) based on a Russian novel, it would be a contender for the mythical Great American Novel. Stan Hauerwas recommended it to me (though I'm sure my brother had done so years earlier as well), by saying it was about the only important things in life: God and Baseball.

On the not so serious side I also recommend Noah Adams' (of NPR fame) little book Piano Lessons, a diary of the author's attempts to learn piano as an older adult. Includes plenty of piano trivia which was new to me. I'm halfway through, but it has been engrossing so far.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

I supose I've been remiss in not mentioning my own brother's recently resurected blog.
News in our country still stinks. How is it that I didn't hear that the president of Chechnya and a bunch of other people were blown up two days ago at a public ceremony? And yet and on the little news scrawl on CNN yesterday I saw info about the new Jessica Simpson tour. I guess the Chechens haven't paid their bribes to the reporters to get top coverage.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

35 today

If you are one of the first 165 people, you could go buy me something from my wish list.