Saturday, August 2

Recent Tolkienalia

I read two Tolkien books this week, coincidentally in their original editions: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl and Sir Orfeo (from USC's Thomas Cooper Library) and The Road Goes Ever On (from the Lexington County Public Library).

Sir Gawain... was printed in 11pt Garamond type, which looks to me like the typeface I first read The Lord of the Rings in back around 1980. I should try to use it more often ;-)

I'm back into Tolkien these days after reading his translation of Beowulf and thinking I should go back and read some of the stuff I haven't read before and maybe reviewing some things.

My favorite part of Beowulf was the commentary, which was essentially Tolkien's lecture notes on Beowulf. In the same way, his notes on Sir Gawain... were my favorite part of that work.

Having read through The Road Goes Ever On I wondered if it was on YouTube. Of course:

I enjoyed listening with the score in hand.

Tuesday, January 21

Willard Notes: Commencement 2011: May 7, 2011

YouTube video: Commencement 2011: Dr. Dallas Willard, May 7, 2011
Duration: 19:07

eternal life is eternal living. replace in Scripture, if helpful
our lives are caught up in God's life, what God is doing where we are
we can make our lives and moments eternal by making sure we are acting in the presence, character and power of God
we acknowledge His presence where we are and expect Him to be involved
Paul: Phil 3: foundation on Christ and then building with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble
very few of us end up where we expected to be
the three little pigs made it to brick, but we have an opportunity to go far beyond that
fire will test qualities of each man's work
I believe the fire is God Himself
morning discipline (and throughout day): God is here
the great danger is not knowing we are building eternal structures and we will only build in the visible world
we're likely to be overwhelmed by sufferings and disappointments, by what others do. you may give up and build with wood, hay and stubble
Jacob wound up in a ditch. he turned to the visible. his mother helped him. built with a lot of wood, hay and stubble
surely the Lord is in this place and I did not know it
Heidegger. geworfenheit: thrown-ness
life can be unexpected
but God is still with us
as you go into the world, people will say your faith is baloney, and you will be challenged to say i have spiritual knowledge
I know Whom I have believed
not just faith, but faith with knowledge
God will be with you and will manifest Himself in ways that cannot be denied by those who are willing to know
knowledge just not jump down people's throats. you have to want it and seek it.
expect God's presence and action
have to keep and guard heart
Prov 4.23: keep your heart with all diligence. what your life amounts to comes out of your heart
heart is direct connection with God and His kingdom. you must learn to keep your heart present to God
He is the way. not a map. a person.
have to seek Him, call upon Him, lean upon Him, cling to Him
that's the secret of the spiritual life
hope may be some time coming
watch and wait in knowledge of future to which present sufferings are not worth being compared, the glory that is to be revealed
patiently put into practice right where you are the things that Jesus teaches us to do
the key is to do it, even if you don't know what's going to happen
you will fail some, but you will learn and gradually your life will be one with the life of Christ
you know the truth and the reality of the life that sets us free by putting into practice the words of Jesus and the companionship with Jesus
you become assured of who you are as God's creature, child and co-laborer. nearly everything you meet will try to turn you away from that knowledge
being with Him and Him with us becomes a tangible fact as our life progresses
I am an unceasing spiritual being with an eternal destiny in God's great universe.

Saturday, January 4

My 2013 in Review

Thanks to the teaching of Dallas Willard, this was my best year of following Jesus. I have a ton to learn and a long way to go. I won't stop needing to learn and grow. But I've been able to often keep a different mindset and experience more peace of mind. More on this topic: I have decided to follow Jesus.

I lost 30 pounds this year. Last year at this time, losing 30 pounds would have seemed like a miracle, so I am giving credit to God for helping me, for changing my mind, for guiding me into the right change of habits for me.

Christine and I celebrated our 20th anniversary and, in my opinion, our marriage is as good as ever.

One sign of growth was my approach to Christmas and my birthday. I did not have a long or expensive wishlist. This made gift-getting a little harder, especially for Christine, but it was a good sign. I got and enjoyed a number of things I absolutely would not have wanted last year. (Annual gift post to come later). And I didn't want my actual birthday to be as focused on me as I sometimes have in the past. (It was still pretty focused on me ;-)

Finally, without getting into specifics, work went well this year, from my perspective.

I wrote a lot more in my journal that is private and doesn't come into this writeup, so this is a little shorter than I imagined.

I don't really do resolutions, but if I had one, it would be to seek God's Kingdom more this year. And I would like to lose about 10 more pounds, but maybe not until the spring. :-)

Wednesday, October 9

Review: The Annotated Northanger Abbey

The Annotated Northanger Abbey
by Jane Austen, Edited and Annotated by David M. Shapard
Anchor Books

Northanger Abbey (NA) falls outside of what I consider to be Jane Austen's Big Four novels (for the mixture of their quality and the enjoyment I get from them): Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, Emma and Sense and Sensibility. However, having taken on writing this review, I am grateful for the opportunity to re-read NA after more than 20 years. Though much of it is very silly (intentionally so on the author's part), Austen's clever humor shines through, making re-reading worthwhile.

However, there is really no call for me to review NA as a novel. That is well-covered territory. What could be valuable is a review of David Shapard's annotations in this new edition. Perhaps the first thing to say is that there are many annotations. As the publisher's description describes it, the complete text of the novel is bound with 'more than 1,200 annotations on facing pages'. In fact, I concluded early on that if I had read all of the annotations, I would never have had time to complete the book, much less this review.

Among the annotations are:
-Explanations of historical context
-Citations from Austen’s life, letters, and other writings
-Definitions and clarifications
-Literary comments and analysis
-Maps of places in the novel
-An introduction, bibliography, and detailed chronology of events
-225 informative illustrations
I found many of the annotations helpful or interesting. Many of them I flew right by. Some of the 'definitions and clarifications', especially, are very minute, bordering on the obvious. That's okay; they could be useful for some readers. Next in order of usefulness were the 'explanations of historical context' and 'literary comments and analysis'. Again, some were fairly obvious, while others provided new information. Confession: I found myself reading some of the 'literary analysis' just for the fun of thinking more about the characters.

Mostly I enjoyed the maps and many of the illustrations. I particularly liked the floor plans and architectural pictures that helped to give a better sense of the setting, especially Bath which, unfortunately, I have not visited. There were more illustrations of style of dress than I cared for, but, again, they would certainly be enjoyed by some people, to say nothing of the comparative importance of clothing in Austen's novels. The editor included many caricatures from the period that didn't do much for me.

The chronology of events could be helpful to some people. The pages-long bibliography certainly looked exhaustive from my standpoint. The introduction was okay, but uncritical of Austen in any way, further strengthening my sense of the target audience of The Annotated NA.

I think the people who would most enjoy this book and want to own it are Austen fans who are true period devotees. For those of us who are simply Austen fans, borrowing or owning the novel by itself would probably suffice. That said, this series of editions of Austen's books by Shapard would be very valuable additions to the collection of any public or academic library. They would be especially useful for people who want to read Austen with understanding but feel a little in over their heads. It is certainly easy to imagine many high school book reports being improved if the student had access to the appropriate one of these books.

One more personal note: It was funny to read and enjoy this book again, even entering somewhat into the problems of the present and future happiness of the 17 year-old 'heroine' and the 26 year-old young man she admires, considering that I am now almost 20 years older that all of the young people in the book, my twin 14 year-olds, in fact, being much closer to them in age.

Saturday, October 5

I have decided to follow Jesus

This post is an attempt to detail the next step I am taking in being a disciple/apprentice of Jesus.

I have immersed myself in the teaching of Dallas Willard for about the last nine months. One of the important things that he teaches is that we have to decide to be followers of Jesus. So here are some notes I took from The Divine Conspiracy (p.295ff):
1. Ask
Emphatically and repeatedly express to Jesus our desire to see him more fully as he really is. 
We should make our expression of desire a solemn occasion, giving at least a number of quiet hours or day to it. It will also be good to write down our prayer for his help in seeing him. 
2. Dwell
Use every means at our disposal to come to see him more fully. 
'If you dwell in my word, you really are my apprentices. And you will know the truth, the truth will make you free.' John 8. 31-32 
We will fill our souls with the written Gospels.
We will refuse to devote our mental space and energy to the fruitless, even stupefying and degrading, stuff that constantly clamors for our attention.
Read through the four Gospels repeatedly, jotting down notes and thoughts on a pad as we go.
Put them into practice.
If over the course of several days or weeks we were to read the Gospels through as many times as we can, consistent with sensible rest and relaxation, that alone would enable us to see Jesus with the clarity that can make the transition into full discipleship possible. We can count on him to meet us in the transition and not leave us to struggle with it on our own, for he is far more interested in it then we can ever be.
Seriously look at the lives of others who truly have apprenticed themselves to him. For example, Francis of Assisi, John Wesley, David Brainerd, Albert Schweitzer or one of many well-known Theresas. 
3. Decide
We should apprentice ourselves to Jesus in a solemn moment and we should let those around us know that we have done so.
I tried to do this for about five weeks. Recently I completed my third read-through of the Gospels in that time. Before that, I asked some friends to pray with me to see God's Kingdom more as it is. My guiding text there was the treasure hidden in the field (Mt 13.44-46): If I found out $100 million was buried in a vacant lot, but it would take my entire net worth (and maybe some debt) to buy it, I would totally do that. But I don't give up everything to seek the Kingdom. So I need to close that gap.

This is Dallas' direction that I did the least well with: 'We will refuse to devote our mental space and energy to the fruitless, even stupefying and degrading, stuff that constantly clamors for our attention.' I didn't read the Gospels as much as I could have in the past five or six weeks.

Still, I think it's time to take the next step, #3 above. I am apprenticing myself to Jesus in a way I have not before. I'm making official my desire to learn from Him to be like Him, to do the things that He did and said to do.

Denying ourselves, taking up our crosses and following Jesus (Mt 16.24) means, among other things, giving up the need to have our own way. Taking His yoke upon us (Mt 11.28-30) means learning to live life with Him and letting Him do most of the work. He said this is the easy way, and it is in comparison to trying to do things our way.

Saturday, May 11

Dallas Willard: More Material

These are the people we're praying for:

Dallas Albert Willard was born in Buffalo, Missouri, USA, September 4, 1935. He married Jane Lakes of Macon, Georgia, in 1955. They live in Southern California, where Jane is a Marriage and Family Therapist. They have two children, John and Becky (married to Bill Heatley), and a granddaughter, Larissa.

Picture and bio courtesy of Dallas Willard's website and Dieter Zander

Acclaimed Writer and Respected Teacher Dallas Willard Dies, IVP

A Life Renovated for the Kingdom, IVP

Dallas Willard, Jesus Freak: Todd Hunter remembers his friend, mentor
Dallas knew that much of the evangelical world had reduced Jesus to one thing he did: shed his blood. As unspeakably important as the cross is, valuing it and forgetting the rest of Jesus’ ministry has led untold numbers of people to become, in Dallas’ memorable phrase, “vampire Christians.” Vampire Christians are people who want a bit of Jesus’ blood so they dodge hell but really don’t want anything to do with him. They had no vision for, or intention of, following him.
Dallas taught and embodied something better. We heard Dallas as a teacher discuss it, but we also witnessed him carry on his life as an apprentice of Jesus. ... It was this quality of being, more than the towering intellect, skillful teaching and masterful writing that drew those of us close to him, to admire, love, and cherish him so much.
Life in the Kingdom of God, By Richella Parham

Getting the Elephant Out of the Sanctuary, Interview between Dallas and Gary Moon
When we see the altar in the church, we should think of ourselves upon it. This is our way of identifying with Christ on His Cross and in that way, entering into His life.
Dr. Willard's Diagnosis, by Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.

Wednesday, May 8

Dallas Willard: Onward to Glory

Dallas Willard died today. I have been listening to his teaching pretty much every day for the last five months or so. Though I read The Divine Conspiracy and Renovation of the Heart and really liked them, it wasn't until I started listening to Dallas that his teaching started to help me to grow. It was like I needed to hear and see (in the case of videos) his example to take his teaching all the way to heart.

As it turns out, I listened to this message this morning, which completely pertains to Dallas' transition:

Start at 19:17 and listen for at least 2 minutes.

Here I copy today's note from the Dallas Willard Center:
Early on the morning of May 8, 2013, Dallas Albert Willard awakened to a full experience of the reality of the Kingdom of the Heavens he described so beautifully. Fittingly, his last two words were, “Thank you.” 
“Thank you” is the feeling I am sure so many have for the contributions he has made to their lives. I believe Dallas Willard has been one of the great reformers of Christian thought of the past century and that his most powerful lessons were taught by how he lived an unhurried life, in love with God. 
We wanted to provide an opportunity for you to share how Dallas’ life and teachings have impacted you. We invite you to share your reflections and tributes in our forum: Please visit our forum here. 
We were delighted and honored to have Dallas share his last public teaching at our inaugural Conversation on Christian Spiritual Formation, the Knowing Christ Conference, in February 2013. We have been releasing the videos from the conference over a period of several weeks. However, in celebration of Dallas’ life, we’re releasing the final videos early as the final session on Blessing seemed particularly appropriate. These videos will remain on our site for a few weeks where you can watch them free of charge. After that they will be removed as we are working on a DVD release in the future. Click here to access the videos. 
A primary desire for the Martin Institute and Dallas Willard Center is to help fan the flames of authentic transformation into Christlikeness that is at the heart of Dallas Willard’s writing and teaching.
A Facebook note from Renovare:
"What is most valuable for any human being, without regard to an afterlife, is to be a part of this marvelous reality, God's kingdom now. Eternity is now ongoing. I am now leading a life that will last forever..." -- Dallas Willard, "The Divine Conspiracy"
And another one:

We are grateful for the life and ministry of our Ministry Team member, Dallas Willard, who we lost today. Pray for his family and friends who grieve this loss, and yet rejoice in knowing that our brother is experiencing the full reality of the Kingdom of the Heavens he so faithfully taught us about:
"..To one group of his day, who believed that 'physical death' was the cessation of the individual's existence, Jesus said, 'God is not the God of the dead but of the living.' His meaning was that those who love and are loved by God are not allowed to cease to exist, because they are God's treasures. He delights in them and intends to hold onto them. He has even prepared for them an individualized eternal work in his vast universe." -- Dallas Willard, "The Divine Conspiracy"
And here's a Christianity Today profile on him from 2006.

I look forward to knowing Dallas in eternity.

Wednesday, March 20

Jesus, Exclusivity and Tolerance

The 'problem' of tolerance has come up a few times in the Sunday School class I'm currently teaching, 'Intro to Revelation'. I didn't want to deal with it from the hip, so here's the outline I came up with for last Sunday's lesson, which was well received. And if you're really interested, here's the mp3 of the class.

  1. Jesus is the only way to the Father
  2. But, we Christians have really misrepresented Him
    1. We claim things in His name that just aren't true and do things that are wrong
      1. e.g.: Pat Robertson, slavery, colonialism, religious wars, Westboro Baptist Church, etc.
    2. Those things don't invalidate our beliefs, but some humility is called for
  3. And, too often, our approach has been Pharisaical
    1. We have spoken the truth in self-righteousness, not in love
    2. We are more interested in who is 'right' than love
    3. The Gospel is not that the good are in and the bad are out
      1. The Gospel is that everyone is lost (Luke 15) and can be found by Him
      2. The Gospel is that the sick need a physician, not the healthy (but no one is healthy -- Luke 5.27-32)
  4. So, I tend to be noncombative
    1. I advocate a strategy that begins with love and prayer and listening
    2. But, I'm a conflict-avoider. Some of you might be more effective in a more confrontational mode. But there for sure has to be love.

Monday, November 12

Today's reading on the Petraeus resignation

1. A Tale of Two Victories and Two Falls

Friend Mark Safranski's take. He surmises deeper and more nefarious things going on. I'm not convinced, yet, but I respect him greatly.

2. Former aides wonder: Did Petraeus stumble in unfamiliar terrain?

John Nagl shared this on Facebook, saying 'Greg Jaffe with the best analysis yet of how this likely happened.'

3. As Details Emerge on Petraeus Affair, Fallout May Echo Far Beyond Resignation
John himself spoke on PBS tonight (shared on Facebook). Here's the transcript of his part:

GWEN IFILL: John Nagl, you have known General Petraeus for some time. Have you been in communication with him since this all broke?
LT. COL. JOHN NAGL (RET.), President, Center for a New American Security: I have.
LT. COL. JOHN NAGL: He is devastated, deeply contrite, very, very sorry about the harm he has caused to Holly in particular, his wife of 38 years, who has been really stalwart through his many deployments.
And he really feels that he's let the team down.
GWEN IFILL: How much of a surprise was this for you, having worked with him?
LT. COL. JOHN NAGL: It was absolutely a kick in the gut. I was astounded. I was shocked. I was very hurt and very surprised.
He has been a role model to me for literally decades, for nearly 25 years, a man I have admired and looked up to, a man I still think very highly of in many ways, but who clearly made a grievous, unforgivable error.
GWEN IFILL: Because there are so many people who have said that -- just what you just said, that they are great admirers of General Petraeus, what does this do to his reputation as a military man and also as a civilian leader?
LT. COL. JOHN NAGL: My hope is that, although it obviously and should damage his personal reputation -- his long reputation of personal integrity and good character, I think that reputation will never fully recover.
But I don't think it eliminates the fact or we should ignore as we look at the totality of the man the fact that two different presidents called on him in their hour of need.
And in both cases, he went to the sound of the guns and performed admirably under two very difficult conflicts.
GWEN IFILL: Do you have any reason -- have you had any reason to meet Paula Broadwell or know anything of her work?
LT. COL. JOHN NAGL: I do know Paula.
She's a very smart, very attractive, very driven woman, a fellow West Point graduate who has been very present in the Washington policy community and the national security debate.
And I am also sickened by the damage this will obviously do to her, to her husband, Scott, who I have met, to their children. And this is a very sad story for all concerned.

4. A General Lesson: David Petraeus was a decorated leader and strategic thinker. Why did he risk everything on an affair?

Shared by friend Patrick O'Connor. Interesting backgrounder on West Point.

Saturday, November 10

A few thoughts on Petraeus' resignation

1. Had a very good discussion by my excellent Facebook friends on a post over there.

2. The first report I saw giving a deeper reason for the events was this one:
Official tells me sevrl people who knew Petraeus got anonymous harassing emails. So investigation started. Emails then traced to Broadwell. -- @MarthaRaddatz via Bryan Jones
3. In some ways, the whole thing is just all so depressingly cliche. It was obviously a serious relationship (v. a passing fling), if Paula Broadwell had his Gmail password. That she would write anonymous emails from that account shows more shockingly bad judgement on her part.

4. I wanted to find out more about Broadwell. Her personal website is down, but that's why we have Google cache.

This quote, particularly, about the biography she wrote hits the wrong note in retrospect:
While conducting research over the past three years, Broadwell was afforded extensive access by General Petraeus, his mentors, his subordinates, and his longtime friends. Over the course of Petraeus's command of ISAF-Afghanistan from July 2010 through July 2011, Broadwell embedded with the general, his headquarters staff, and his soldiers on the front lines of fighting across Afghanistan to chronicle the experiences of this American general as they are brought to bear in the terrible crucible of war. All In draws on hundreds of hours of exclusive interviews with Petraeus and his top officers and soldiers and on Broadwell's frontline reporting experience to tell the inside story of this commander's development and leadership in war from every vantage point.
5. What about the children? Each had two, and Broadwell's are comparatively young.

All in all, this is a big disappointment. We really could have continued to use Petraeus' excellent public service.

Wednesday, November 7

Thoughts on the election

+ Nothing has changed -- President, House, Senate -- so I think we can reasonably expect nothing much to continue happening in the next 4 years. I happen to think this is preferable to a Romney presidency and a Republican mandate.

+ Wow, did Nate Silver ever nail it. He was one of the big stories of this election. I've read a lot about him lately.

This was the first video I watched of him, and my first, unfiltered thought was something like 'He's got a face for radio.' Not good, I know, I think I'd just built him up into sort of a rock star in my mind. I was taken aback a little at first that he wasn't dripping with charisma and good looks.

Triumph of the Nerds: Nate Silver Wins in 50 States

Hmm: can't find the best article I read about Silver today...

+ Interesting post about the changes that had begun and will now go into effect because Romney would lead a repeal: Obama’s second term: Change you can really believe in

Thought I had more to say, but I guess that's it.

Sunday, October 21

Abraham Lincoln

I just finished reading Carl Sandburg's one volume Abraham Lincoln biography. Sandburg's work was fine. It's not how we would do biography nowadays. Lincoln was very impressive. I decided part-way through to keep a running list of some of his virtues.

  • sense of humor
  • humility -- including humble origins, being a man of the people, and being able to admit when he was wrong
    • he even sometimes took blame that wasn't his
  • didn't take things personally
  • confident
  • had one, chief goal
  • was guided by what seemed practicable given the situation
  • persistent
  • pushed the war despite failures and against contrary special interests
  • great communicator -- plain-spoken, logical, connected with his audience, storyteller
  • deliberate -- made plans and drafted letters that he didn't always act on or send
  • not vengeful -- let bygones be bygone, both big and small
  • willing to 'sit on the fence' and not be drawn into vicious partisan politics
  • basically had dictatorial powers, but did not abuse them
    • ike Washington (and Cincinnatus), he could walk away
  • moved slowly on slavery
  • built bridges -- for example, with Congress
    • curried favor with important influencers, including giving political favors, in pursuit of his one goal
And a few other reflections:
  • I can't conceive doing so well as Lincoln, nor even having agreed with all of his policies if I had lived in that time.
  • I wonder, though, if maintaining the union justified that terrible war. Could we have got away with no more slavery in new states and territories?
  • The sympathizers in England among the cotton industry, etc., were appalling.

Thursday, September 20

'Meade' etymology

Well, I know 'Meade' comes from 'Meath' (reminder: pronounced the same, with a 'd' sound), but where does 'Meath' come from? Any chance it has a Proto-Indo-European root (since I'm back into PIE these days)?

Meath (/ˈmð/Old IrishMide IPA: [ˈmʲiðʲe]; spelt Midhe in Modern Irish) was a medieval kingdom in Ireland for over 1,000 years. Its name means "middle", denoting the fact that it lay in the middle of the island. Kingdom of Meath

mid (prep., adj.) Look up mid at
O.E. mid "with, in conjunction with, in company with, together with, among," from P.Gmc. *medjaz (cf. O.N. miðr, O.S. middi, O.Fris. midde, O.H.G. mitti, Goth. midjis"mid, middle"), from PIE *medhyo- "middle" (see medial (adj.)). Online Etymology Dictionary

Sure enough: from PIE (*medhyo-) down through the Celtic side of the Indo-European family to Old Irish


Sunday, August 19

The Aeneid Rap

I wrote this when I was a sophomore in high school after Mr Anthony's lecture. First trimester of History of Europe, so I must have been 15 -- fall of 1987. Kyle even recorded it with me :-)

I have made a few changes from the original, but nothing major. In fact, this version includes some of the stuff I didn't get entirely right the first time. Never mind that 'The Aeneid Rap' only covers the first half of the Aeneid ;-)

Let's talk about Aeneas, he's a dude from Troy
those poor saps who fell for the Greeks' ploy
Odysseus had an idea about a wooden horse
inside it they hid with a mighty Greek force
And so the Greeks destroyed Ilion and took back Helen
They squashed those Trojans like a ripened melon!

Aeneas and the boys turned tail in a ship
If they'd stayed they would have died and that's not hip
Our Trojan heroes fled from shocking disaster
Then the gods said 'Now hear your future:
We want you to sail to a place on the Boot
In times to come, lands will send their loot
to this awesome-type city on seven hills
the center of an empire that the known earth fills!'

Aeneas sailed the sea in a wooden boat
'cuz that's the only kind they had then that would ever float
But his ship was wrecked and he was almost a goner
'til he washed up in Carthage, near a place called Zama
Then Dido came down and said 'Have no fear.
I'll rebuild your ships while you stay here.'
Well Dido liked Aeneas, she thought he was neat
We gotta censor this ... No, we don't, she was in heat
She said 'Yo, big guy, why don't you stay here with me.
I'll give you some land and I'll give you the key
To this awesome-type city near the sea of salt
You'll be my king and you'll have no fault!

Then Aeneas said 'Hey, I like you, too.
But, listen here, queen, I got a job to do.
The gods have charged me with a major fate.
I gotta' found a city and it just won't wait.'

But Dido took this hard, you know she had another plan
She said 'Ok, chump, since you won't be my man,
I'm gonna curse your darn city, so important to you
You'll find fighting Carthage is all that they will do!'

Our hero sailed to Italy and settled down
30 miles inland, and on a strip of ground
that was near the Tiber river and some hills, too
He had some cool descendants. I'll mention just two:
Romulus and Remus lived with wolves, without a home
But that's another story, how they founded Rome
Aeneas' city shaped our culture and we owe him that
That's all the storytelling done by the Aeneid Rap!

Thursday, April 5

Walking through Holy Week

Matthew 26-28 (New Living Translation)
(from Bible Gateway)

The Resurrection

Early on Sunday morning, as the new day was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out to visit the tomb.

Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it. His face shone like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. The guards shook with fear when they saw him, and they fell into a dead faint.

Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying. And now, go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and he is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there. Remember what I have told you.”

The women ran quickly from the tomb. They were very frightened but also filled with great joy, and they rushed to give the disciples the angel’s message. And as they went, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they ran to him, grasped his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t be afraid! Go tell my brothers to leave for Galilee, and they will see me there.”


The Burial of Jesus

As evening approached, Joseph, a rich man from Arimathea who had become a follower of Jesus, went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. And Pilate issued an order to release it to him. Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a long sheet of clean linen cloth. He placed it in his own new tomb, which had been carved out of the rock. Then he rolled a great stone across the entrance and left. Both Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting across from the tomb and watching.

The Guard at the Tomb

The next day, on the Sabbath, the leading priests and Pharisees went to see Pilate. They told him, “Sir, we remember what that deceiver once said while he was still alive: ‘After three days I will rise from the dead.’ So we request that you seal the tomb until the third day. This will prevent his disciples from coming and stealing his body and then telling everyone he was raised from the dead! If that happens, we’ll be worse off than we were at first.”

Pilate replied, “Take guards and secure it the best you can.” So they sealed the tomb and posted guards to protect it.


The Death of Jesus

At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

Some of the bystanders misunderstood and thought he was calling for the prophet Elijah. One of them ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, holding it up to him on a reed stick so he could drink. But the rest said, “Wait! Let’s see whether Elijah comes to save him.”

Then Jesus shouted out again, and he released his spirit. At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split apart, and tombs opened. The bodies of many godly men and women who had died were raised from the dead. They left the cemetery after Jesus’ resurrection, went into the holy city of Jerusalem, and appeared to many people.

The Roman officer and the other soldiers at the crucifixion were terrified by the earthquake and all that had happened. They said, “This man truly was the Son of God!”

And many women who had come from Galilee with Jesus to care for him were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary (the mother of James and Joseph), and the mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee.

Judas Hangs Himself

Very early in the morning the leading priests and the elders of the people met again to lay plans for putting Jesus to death. Then they bound him, led him away, and took him to Pilate, the Roman governor.

When Judas, who had betrayed him, realized that Jesus had been condemned to die, he was filled with remorse. So he took the thirty pieces of silver back to the leading priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he declared, “for I have betrayed an innocent man.”

“What do we care?” they retorted. “That’s your problem.”

Then Judas threw the silver coins down in the Temple and went out and hanged himself.

The leading priests picked up the coins. “It wouldn’t be right to put this money in the Temple treasury,” they said, “since it was payment for murder.” After some discussion they finally decided to buy the potter’s field, and they made it into a cemetery for foreigners. That is why the field is still called the Field of Blood. This fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremiah that says,

“They took the thirty pieces of silver—
the price at which he was valued by the people of Israel,
and purchased the potter’s field,
as the Lord directed.”

Jesus’ Trial before Pilate

Now Jesus was standing before Pilate, the Roman governor. “Are you the king of the Jews?” the governor asked him.

Jesus replied, “You have said it.”

But when the leading priests and the elders made their accusations against him, Jesus remained silent. “Don’t you hear all these charges they are bringing against you?” Pilate demanded. But Jesus made no response to any of the charges, much to the governor’s surprise.

Now it was the governor’s custom each year during the Passover celebration to release one prisoner to the crowd—anyone they wanted. This year there was a notorious prisoner, a man named Barabbas. As the crowds gathered before Pilate’s house that morning, he asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you—Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” (He knew very well that the religious leaders had arrested Jesus out of envy.)

Just then, as Pilate was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent him this message: “Leave that innocent man alone. I suffered through a terrible nightmare about him last night.”

Meanwhile, the leading priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas to be released and for Jesus to be put to death. So the governor asked again, “Which of these two do you want me to release to you?”

The crowd shouted back, “Barabbas!”

Pilate responded, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?”

They shouted back, “Crucify him!”

“Why?” Pilate demanded. “What crime has he committed?”

But the mob roared even louder, “Crucify him!”

Pilate saw that he wasn’t getting anywhere and that a riot was developing. So he sent for a bowl of water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. The responsibility is yours!”

And all the people yelled back, “We will take responsibility for his death—we and our children!”

So Pilate released Barabbas to them. He ordered Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip, then turned him over to the Roman soldiers to be crucified.

The Soldiers Mock Jesus

Some of the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into their headquarters and called out the entire regiment. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him. They wove thorn branches into a crown and put it on his head, and they placed a reed stick in his right hand as a scepter. Then they knelt before him in mockery and taunted, “Hail! King of the Jews!” And they spit on him and grabbed the stick and struck him on the head with it. When they were finally tired of mocking him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him again. Then they led him away to be crucified.

The Crucifixion

Along the way, they came across a man named Simon, who was from Cyrene, and the soldiers forced him to carry Jesus’ cross. And they went out to a place called Golgotha (which means “Place of the Skull”). The soldiers gave him wine mixed with bitter gall, but when he had tasted it, he refused to drink it.

After they had nailed him to the cross, the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice. Then they sat around and kept guard as he hung there. A sign was fastened above Jesus’ head, announcing the charge against him. It read: “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” Two revolutionaries were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left.

The people passing by shouted abuse, shaking their heads in mockery. “Look at you now!” they yelled at him. “You said you were going to destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days. Well then, if you are the Son of God, save yourself and come down from the cross!”

The leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the elders also mocked Jesus. “He saved others,” they scoffed, “but he can’t save himself! So he is the King of Israel, is he? Let him come down from the cross right now, and we will believe in him! He trusted God, so let God rescue him now if he wants him! For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” Even the revolutionaries who were crucified with him ridiculed him in the same way.

Jesus Predicts Peter’s Denial

On the way, Jesus told them, “Tonight all of you will desert me. For the Scriptures say,

‘God will strike the Shepherd,
and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’

But after I have been raised from the dead, I will go ahead of you to Galilee and meet you there.”

Peter declared, “Even if everyone else deserts you, I will never desert you.”

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, Peter—this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.”

“No!” Peter insisted. “Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you!” And all the other disciples vowed the same.

Jesus Prays in Gethsemane

Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.” He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!”

Then Jesus left them a second time and prayed, “My Father! If this cup cannot be taken away unless I drink it, your will be done.” When he returned to them again, he found them sleeping, for they couldn’t keep their eyes open.

So he went to pray a third time, saying the same things again. Then he came to the disciples and said, “Go ahead and sleep. Have your rest. But look—the time has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Up, let’s be going. Look, my betrayer is here!”

Jesus Is Betrayed and Arrested

And even as Jesus said this, Judas, one of the twelve disciples, arrived with a crowd of men armed with swords and clubs. They had been sent by the leading priests and elders of the people. The traitor, Judas, had given them a prearranged signal: “You will know which one to arrest when I greet him with a kiss.” So Judas came straight to Jesus. “Greetings, Rabbi!” he exclaimed and gave him the kiss.

Jesus said, “My friend, go ahead and do what you have come for.”

Then the others grabbed Jesus and arrested him. But one of the men with Jesus pulled out his sword and struck the high priest’s slave, slashing off his ear.

“Put away your sword,” Jesus told him. “Those who use the sword will die by the sword. Don’t you realize that I could ask my Father for thousands of angels to protect us, and he would send them instantly? But if I did, how would the Scriptures be fulfilled that describe what must happen now?”

Then Jesus said to the crowd, “Am I some dangerous revolutionary, that you come with swords and clubs to arrest me? Why didn’t you arrest me in the Temple? I was there teaching every day. But this is all happening to fulfill the words of the prophets as recorded in the Scriptures.” At that point, all the disciples deserted him and fled.

Jesus before the Council

Then the people who had arrested Jesus led him to the home of Caiaphas, the high priest, where the teachers of religious law and the elders had gathered. Meanwhile, Peter followed him at a distance and came to the high priest’s courtyard. He went in and sat with the guards and waited to see how it would all end.

Inside, the leading priests and the entire high council were trying to find witnesses who would lie about Jesus, so they could put him to death. But even though they found many who agreed to give false witness, they could not use anyone’s testimony. Finally, two men came forward who declared, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the Temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’”

Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Well, aren’t you going to answer these charges? What do you have to say for yourself?” But Jesus remained silent. Then the high priest said to him, “I demand in the name of the living God—tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”

Jesus replied, “You have said it. And in the future you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Then the high priest tore his clothing to show his horror and said, “Blasphemy! Why do we need other witnesses? You have all heard his blasphemy. What is your verdict?”

“Guilty!” they shouted. “He deserves to die!”

Then they began to spit in Jesus’ face and beat him with their fists. And some slapped him, jeering, “Prophesy to us, you Messiah! Who hit you that time?”

Peter Denies Jesus

Meanwhile, Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant girl came over and said to him, “You were one of those with Jesus the Galilean.”

But Peter denied it in front of everyone. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.

Later, out by the gate, another servant girl noticed him and said to those standing around, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.”

Again Peter denied it, this time with an oath. “I don’t even know the man,” he said.

A little later some of the other bystanders came over to Peter and said, “You must be one of them; we can tell by your Galilean accent.”

Peter swore, “A curse on me if I’m lying—I don’t know the man!” And immediately the rooster crowed.

Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.” And he went away, weeping bitterly.

The Last Supper

26:17 On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to prepare the Passover meal for you?”

“As you go into the city,” he told them, “you will see a certain man. Tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My time has come, and I will eat the Passover meal with my disciples at your house.’” So the disciples did as Jesus told them and prepared the Passover meal there.

When it was evening, Jesus sat down at the table with the twelve disciples. While they were eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.”

Greatly distressed, each one asked in turn, “Am I the one, Lord?”

He replied, “One of you who has just eaten from this bowl with me will betray me. For the Son of Man must die, as the Scriptures declared long ago. But how terrible it will be for the one who betrays him. It would be far better for that man if he had never been born!”

Judas, the one who would betray him, also asked, “Rabbi, am I the one?”

And Jesus told him, “You have said it.”

As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take this and eat it, for this is my body.”

And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them and said,“Each of you drink from it, for this is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many. Mark my words—I will not drink wine again until the day I drink it new with you in my Father’s Kingdom.”

Then they sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives.

Saturday, March 31

Leo (Messi) the Great

Jason Kottke has a couple of Lionel Messi posts lately that I loved.

First one: All of Lionel Messi's 234 goals

It begins with a YouTube video reflective of the title. My thoughts:

Fascinating video.

The first thing that stands out to me is how quick Leo is on the ball. All things being equal, he can put a great touch on the ball more quickly than you can. If you're the goalie, he can beat you one on one before you can react, the ball passing right beside you or even under your legs.

Second, I would love to see sabermetric-style stats on how many of these he made (some quite difficult) when he had an open teammate. And how many he missed taking difficult shots when he could have passed. I love Messi, but he comes off a little selfish here. Of course, we're not watching a video of his assists, which he's also very adept at.

There's a second, almost throwaway, link at the bottom of this post that I like really well, too: Barcelona's secret to soccer success

(And not just because Pep looks positively cuddly in the accompanying photo ;-)

After reading the article, I requested the author's book, Soccernomics. Looking forward to reading it.

Kottke's second post: Lionel Messi documentary

Most of this stuff I'd already read or seen somewhere. But it gets me thinking: To me, the Champions League is the highest level of soccer right now in the world, better than the World Cup. I understand the argument that Messi hasn't won a World Cup yet. He's played twice and his coaches weren't too smart. I'm not saying you have to cater to him, but you'd be wise to make better use of him.

Further, how does the World Cup of the past compare to today? When Pele and Maradona faced England, Spain, Germany, France and the Netherlands, were they teams full of superstars the way they are today? I don't know. But how can Messi beat one of those teams by himself. Sure, you've also got Gonzalo Higuaín and some other guys who aren't bad, but it's just not the same, is it?

Furthermore, you better believe Pele's and Maradona's World Cup teams revolved around them, from coach to the last man on the roster. Maradona, I'm sure, and probably Pele, took control. That's not Messi's personality. He's a much humbler guy when it comes to demanding from his teammates (he's obviously not humble in how he performs on the pitch ;-)

Monday, February 27

Extreme Literary Snobbery!

Two quotes I saw recently used for popular purposes, taken completely out of context:

1. On a mug for sale in the Barnes & Noble cafe: 'I have measured out my life in coffee spoons.'

No: this is not a cute little quote about how much we love coffee. It's from 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock', the subject of which epitome of a useless, wasted, ineffectual, small, little life. Is that how you want to 'measure' yourself?

2. Positive Valentine's Day quote: 'You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.'

Yes, it's from the 'dreamy' Mr Darcy in proposing marriage to Elizabeth (we're talking Pride and Prejudice here). But it's his first proposal, when he is intolerably proud (albeit, she is completely prejudiced). Doesn't the quote conjure the whole scene for you and make it unacceptable as a V-Day sentiment?

Flame off ;-)

Monday, February 20

Can't stop the Linsanity!

It's crazy. All of a sudden, I'm practically a Knicks fan and know something about Tyson, Landry, Steve and Mike.

Even the entire Knicks entry splash page is Linsane!

A lot of these links are coming from my friend, DJ Chuang.

[video] 23-minute interview with Jeremy Lin on MSG
DJ has embedded all 4 parts on one page

I've got it so bad, I also watched the recommended press conference videos of Jeremy and Mike from the last two games!

Liking Jeremy on Facebook (which seems to be mostly just his Twitter feed. But you have this from about a month before he blew up:
Everytime i try to get into Madison Square Garden, the security guards ask me if im a trainer LOL
A couple articles:
Faith, sin and Jeremy Lin
Jeremy Lin’s bold humility
Jeremy Lin challenges stereotypes, as well as defenses

Saturday, February 11

Jeremy Linsanity!

Wow, it's been fun watching Jeremy Lin this week! A few clips and links:

Tyson Chandler: Jeremy Lin's new best friend ;-)

'I'm riding him like freakin' Secretariat' -- Mike D'Antoni

Lin’s Appeal: Faith, Pride and Points

The Jeremy Lin Show at MSG

At 3:31 the Lakers need a timeout because of Jeremy Lin! :-)

Lin Keeps His Cool; Around Him, Heads Spin

Jeremy Lin Is No Fluke (note: Nate Silver, noted stats guru, wrote this one)

No kidding: I just added a Jeremy Lin section to my Google News :-)

Eric Metaxas Omnibus

Kurt Graves sent me Eric Metaxas' speech at the National Prayer Breakfast. It was a revelation.

Metaxas is actually not new to me. I first heard his name when my kids were still watching VeggieTales. Yep, he worked for them. I guess the name just stuck. Because when I heard it again later in relation to his Wilberforce biography, I perked up. Not sure what the order was on Socrates in the City or the Bonhoeffer biography, but I tracked them.

You're going to think I'm exaggerating, but I say this advisedly: I don't think I've ever watched a better speech. The combination of humor, challenging truth in the face of disagreement, and humility (Metaxas seemed genuinely honored to address Obama) is just stunning. I've watched it twice and I may watch it again.

Denny Burk nails it (quoted by Justin Taylor):
He had some serious and prophetic words about the humanity of the unborn. He even spoke about having a biblical view of sexuality. All of this with the President sitting just a few feet away. This was a courageous talk delivered with winsomeness and joy.
I sincerely hope that you can find the time to watch this speech. It begins below right where Eric's speech starts.

In the video, Eric tells a little of his conversion story and then points to more on his website. Here's the additional video:

Eric Metaxas Conversion Story

Some highlights from Eric's biography: son of European immigrants, went to Yale.

Interesting factoid: his popular children's book It’s Time to Sleep, My Love is the unacknowledged basis for the much-more-popular book Go the F*** to Sleep.

And does anyone else think he uncannily resembles Al Franken?

Thursday, January 19

2012 Annual Loot List

Here are most (all?) of the gifts I got for Christmas and my birthday this year. Christine, as always, is the MVP for buying and liaising with other buyers ;-). My mom and sister also do a very nice job. No men are MVPs ;-)

Ministries of Mercy, Tim Keller
The Meaning of Marriage, Tim and Kathy Keller
Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, Eric Metaxas
The Daily Message (audiobook), Eugene Peterson
The Cross and the Prodigal, Kenneth Bailey
Droid X bedside dock/charging station
Coupon books from the twins
New basketball (a little early)
Wartburg soccer shirt (a little early ;-)
New shin guards
Adidas 'slide' sandals
1 package of York Peppermint Patties
Armband case for Droid X
Amazon gift cards

Wednesday, January 18

Foreign aid analysis from the Center for American Progress

Interactive Map: Foreign Aid Analysis Made Easy
Saw this linked on Facebook by Cody Postier.

Liberal think tank, so I'm guessing they're against all of the >$1B foreign military aid and for most of the other kinds of aid :-)

What are the big dollar items?
  • $2.62B total funding to Afghanistan
  • $2.22B military funding to Israel
  • $1.45B total funding to Pakistan (I include all funding here since most of this aid is a product of the war in Afghanistan)
  • $1.04B military funding to Egypt
Total of these items: $7.29B

How would you change this? Go back in your time machine and never attack Afghanistan? Cut all military foreign aid? If we did something like that, some American jobs would be lost at Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, Raytheon, Rockwell Collins et al. Some Congresspeople would go berserk.

Stipulated: Adequate defense prevents aggression.

But we're way beyond that. And to what degree are the industrial  nations of the world arming the other nations of the world against one another in a proliferating way?

There are no easy answers, of course.

Monday, January 16

Will the real Margaret Thatcher please stand up?

Oddly enough, one of my biggest windows into Thatcher's Britain has been liberal English comic book authors. Warren Ellis and Alan Moore, neither of them particularly 'balanced', portray Thatcher as unhinged. In Moore's  'V for Vendetta' we get his obvious projection: Britain is on the slippery slope to fascism. (My take: 'V' was often artistically excellent but not prophetic at all.)

So I'm interested in some of the commentary emerging around the new Thatcher movie with Meryl Streep. That's why I clicked through to this post: If the real Margaret Thatcher had been like Meryl Streep's Iron Lady, I wouldn't have supported her.

Then I skimmed the Wikipedia article.

How about you? What do you think of Margaret Thatcher?

Opinions from Brits who lived through her administration will be particularly valued :-)

Thursday, December 15

Christmas Music Extravaganza

I'm not 100% sure why I'm enjoying Spotify so much. There are a number of things I don't like about it, and the top one is having to install a desktop application. However, that's a post for a different time.

I set myself the goal of coming up with the Best Xmas Playlist Ever. But I couldn't do it. After working on it off and on for a couple weeks, I've created six playlists so far.

One more editorial precursor: I've been really happy with the selection of Xmas albums available on Spotify. There were quite a few I'd been wanting to listen to or buy and I've found many more worth listening to.

The Best Xmas Playlist Ever is really more of a goal than a fact. And the parameters are pretty confined. I've tried to pick stuff my friends would want to hear. I have tried not to over-represent any one album or artist (this resulted in playlist two, below). This playlist is semi-serious and tends to refer to Jesus in some way.

If you're interested, here's how you should use it: I doubt many people will be interested in listening straight through. Pick a song or artist you think you might like. If you like the song and want to hear more, click over to the album or albums.

The second playlist is Merry Sufjan Christmas!, only selections from Sufjan Stevens' five-volume (though they're basically EP-length) Songs for Christmas. This remains my favorite Xmas album (I think this is the fourth year running). I've narrowed it down to 27 tracks that Spotify says run for one hour. I hope you'll give Sufjan a try if you haven't yet. If you like these selections, you should listen to the whole album. (Important note: If you don't normally like Sufjan's music, we have that in common. I love his Xmas music, but basically don't listen to anything else of his.)

I think my favorite thing about Sufjan's Xmas songs is he seems to come from a real place of reverence for the faith and tradition. From that point of departure, he does standards but also cheesy originals and downright depressive commentaries (especially the epic 'That was the worst Christmas ever').

Third: no comprehensive collection of Christmas music would be complete for me without Fun, Silly Xmas/Winter Songs. They just didn't fit, for me, in the main, relating-to-Jesus list.

Finally, a couple of outliers. Best Xmas Rejects/non-Spotify is a list of songs that didn't fit in the lists above or aren't available on Spotify so I can only listen to them through the Spotify app on my computer. Some good songs here, some I wanted to just keep track of, one amazingly cheesy song from my childhood: stuff like that.

Favorite New Christmas Songs is short: my four favorite songs I heard for the first time this year. Jars of Clay's 'O, Little Town of Bethlehem' is my favorite single this year off of my favorite new-to-me Xmas album of the year. Low is a 'slowcore' band I've been enjoying. Shawn Colvin's 'Little Road to Bethlehem' is sweet. And how did I live this many years without hearing Jackson Browne's Rebel Jesus? Jackson and I would disagree pretty quickly about Jesus, but he's got some nice critique of the excesses of the season and a good, strong point about Jesus' concern for the poor.

And then I started Classic Carols last night and it only includes one album so far and is a total work in progress.

If you've read this far you must: a) really love me (hi, Christine! :-) or b) have some similar geeky music bordering-on-OCD characteristics. I conceive of projects like this, then want to be comprehensive, and usually give up. In this case, it ballooned into something I'm sure beyond the interest of my audience. But there you have it.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, November 12

Comparing America's politics to Alice's Wonderland

My friend, Carol, sent me this article, and I thought it was really good, so I'm reposting it, along with my comments to her.
American Wonderland, by Morton Keller
From global warming to the Tea Party, our political landscape is patently absurd.
Although Morton Keller seems to come more from the right, probably a Libertarian standpoint, he has lots of good observations and criticisms. Furthermore, I think the comparisons with Alice in Wonderland are interesting and effective. Here are some of my thoughts:
In sum, we have convinced ourselves that in theory we are engaged citizens, while in fact most of us are the self-family-sports-media-obsessed folk that polling tells us we are. But not all of us, all the time. A substantial number of Americans claim some identity with regard to public life. A fifth of us are ready to say we are liberals; close to twice as many identify themselves as conservatives.
There is as well a political class that has career self-interests, or a cultural (or psychological) inclination to be steadily engaged in public affairs. Many are drawn by self-interest and by the sheer excitement of the political game. Others enjoy the ample outlet for commitment to causes that politics, as compared to much of the rest of contemporary society, provides.
while both of these paragraphs are a good start, they (understandably) don't take sin into account. so, in reality, the problems are even stronger than the proclivities that are implied here.

+ Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
+ Power attracts the corruptible (this version from Frank Herbert of Dune fame). I almost always think of this version when I think of our politicians.

i know political demonization is older than the Republic, but i still hate it. the Founding Fathers themselves treated one another unconscionably.

but wasn't there a time, say most of the 20th century, when, even if i didn't vote for him, he was still my president?

again: i think our biggest problem is not political polarization but self-absorption and lack of civic involvement.

further, part of my concern with political polarization and its rhetoric (and this is has probably also always been true) is that too few Americans think about it critically and don't know the difference between 'entertainment' and fact. if Rush or Rachel says it, and it sound ok and fits into their worldview, they accept it uncritically.

and this dynamic, along with the others mentioned here, is probably worse with our 24-hour newscycle, talk radio and tv, and that cesspool of ignorant self-expression, the Internet ;-)
A proper concern for excessive government coexists with excesses such as former Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo’s observation that “People who could not spell the word vote or say it in English put a committed Socialist ideologue in the White House.”
this kind of thing exactly typifies the problem i have with at least some of the Tea Party. and isn't it racist? i repeat my criticism from 3 years ago: if someone can exaggerate and say Obama is a committed socialist, couldn't we also say Bush was a committed fascist? my point: both have about the same grounding in reality.

Wednesday, November 9

Tim Keller addressing 9/11

I have come across two Keller items recently that I wish I had known about two months ago for the tenth anniversary of the 9/11/2001 attacks.

The first is an mp3 of most of Redeemer's first worship service after the attacks, as Manhattanites were trying to cope and process. This mp3 includes most of the service, including scripture readings, prayers and music in addition to Tim's sermon, 'Truth, Tears, Anger and Grace'.

The second item is the full text of a brief talk Tim gave at a five-year memorial service. In the form found over at Reformissionary, it includes a brief introduction by Tim's son, Michael. I reproduce both pieces in full below.
Michael Keller has provided a transcribed version of Tim Keller's "Sermon of Remembrance and Peace for 9-11 Victim's Families", given on September 10th, 2006.  It's a "must read," and I've included the full text below as well.  The White House transcribed it and sent it to the Keller's because Bush (who was present) asked Karl Rove for a written copy. 
Michael's intro to the sermon... 
Below is a sermon that particularly resonates with me on multiple levels. First, it is a sermon delivered by dad to 9/11 victims’ families and national dignitaries (Bush, H. Clinton, Bloomberg, Pataki, Giuliani, etc) about suffering and what they can do with their very personal suffering that still exists. It impacted me because I saw concisely in the sermon the power the resurrection has to those suffering. Secondly, it was a sermon given at an interfaith memorial (8 min long) and therefore as a student currently studying presentation to multiple audiences, I was impacted at both the kindness he had towards the “resources” of other faiths, but also the honesty and clarify that he still spoke from his own convictions. This is the way, to affirm others, and still not lose the distinct Gospel voice that we deem as so powerful in today’s society. Lastly, it impacted me because while many others would have used the pulpit in front of so many political figures to espouse either their own political views, or some well meaning, yet hopelessly ill-timed, alter call type message- dad focused on those suffering and in pain and tried to speak to them in their loss of their loved ones with the message that there is a God, the God, who knows exactly what it feels like and can therefore relate to them in their pain. Way to go dad.
Below is the transcribed version of the sermon done by individuals at the White House who also apparently liked it. 
Here's the full sermon text...
    Ground Zero/St Paul’s Chapel Tim Keller
    Sep 10, 2006
    As a minister, of course, I’ve spent countless hours with people who are struggling and wrestling with the biggest question - the WHY question in the face of relentless tragedies and injustices. And like all ministers or any spiritual guides of any sort, I scramble to try to say something to respond and I always come away feeling inadequate and that’s not going to be any different today. But we can’t shrink from the task of responding to that question. Because the very best way to honor the memories of the ones we’ve lost and love is to live confident, productive lives. And the only way to do that is to actually be able to face that question. We have to have the strength to face a world filled with constant devastation and loss. So where do we get that strength? How do we deal with that question? I would like to propose that, though we won’t get all of what we need, we may get some of what we need 3 ways: by recognizing the problem for what it is, and then by grasping both an empowering hint from the past and an empowering hope from the future.
    First, we have to recognize that the problem of tragedy, injustice and suffering is a problem for everyone no matter what their beliefs are. Now, if you believe in God and for the first time experience or see horrendous evil, you rightly believe that that is a problem for your belief in God, and you’re right – and you say, “How could a good and powerful God allow something like this to happen?”
    But it’s a mistake (though a very understandable mistake) to think that if you abandon your belief in God it somehow is going to make the problem easier to handle. Dr Martin Luther King, Jr., in his Letter from Birmingham Jail says that if there was no higher divine Law, there would be no way to tell if a particular human law was unjust or not. So think. If there is no God or higher divine Law and the material universe is all there is, then violence is perfectly natural—the strong eating the weak! And yet somehow, we still feel this isn’t the way things ought to be. Why not? Now I’m not going to get philosophical at a time like this. I’m just trying to make the point that the problem of injustice and suffering is a problem for belief in God but it is also a problem for disbelief in God---for any set of beliefs. So abandoning belief in God does not really help in the face of it. OK, then what will?
    Second, I believe we need to grasp an empowering hint from the past. Now at this point, I’d like to freely acknowledge that every faith - and we are an interfaith gathering today – every faith has great resources for dealing with suffering and injustice in the world. But as a Christian minister I know my own faith’s resources the best, so let me simply share with you what I’ve got. When people ask the big question, “Why would God allow this or that to happen?” There are almost always two answers. The one answer is: Don’t question God! He has reasons beyond your finite little mind. And therefore, just accept everything. Don’t question. The other answer is: I don’t know what God’s up to – I have no idea at all about why these things are happening. There’s no way to make any sense of it at all. Now I’d like to respectfully suggest the first of these answers is too hard and the second is too weak. The second is too weak because, though of course we don’t have the full answer, we do have an idea, an incredibly powerful idea.
    One of the great themes of the Hebrew Scriptures is that God identifies with the suffering. There are all these great texts that say things like this: If you oppress the poor, you oppress to me. I am a husband to the widow. I am father to the fatherless. I think the texts are saying God binds up his heart so closely with suffering people that he interprets any move against them as a move against him. This is powerful stuff! But Christianity says he goes even beyond that. Christians believe that in Jesus, God’s son, divinity became vulnerable to and involved in - suffering and death! He didn’t come as a general or emperor. He came as a carpenter. He was born in a manger, no room in the inn.
    But it is on the Cross that we see the ultimate wonder. On the cross we sufferers finally see, to our shock that God now knows too what it is to lose a loved one in an unjust attack. And so you see what this means? John Stott puts it this way. John Stott wrote: “I could never myself believe in God if it were not for the Cross. In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?” Do you see what this means? Yes, we don’t know the reason God allows evil and suffering to continue, but we know what the reason isn’t, what it can’t be. It can’t be that he doesn’t love us! It can’t be that he doesn’t care. God so loved us and hates suffering that he was willing to come down and get involved in it. And therefore the Cross is an incredibly empowering hint. Ok, it’s only a hint, but if you grasp it, it can transform you. It can give you strength.
    And lastly, we have to grasp an empowering hope for the future. In both the Hebrew Scriptures and even more explicitly in the Christian Scriptures we have the promise of resurrection. In Daniel 12:2-3 we read: Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake….[They]… will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and…like the stars for ever and ever. And in John 11 we hear Jesus say: I am the resurrection and the life! Now this is what the claim is: That God is not preparing for us merely some ethereal, abstract spiritual existence that is just a kind of compensation for the life we lost. Resurrection means the restoration to us of the life we lost. New heavens and new earth means this body, this world! Our bodies, our homes, our loved ones—restored, returned, perfected and beautified! Given back to us!
    In the year after 9-11 I was diagnosed with cancer, and I was treated successfully. But during that whole time I read about the future resurrection and that was my real medicine. In the last book of The Lord of the Rings, Sam Gamgee wakes up, thinking everything is lost and discovering instead that all his friends were around him, he cries out: "Gandalf! I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead! Is everything sad going to come untrue?"
    The answer is YES. And the answer of the Bible is YES. If the resurrection is true, then the answer is yes. Everything sad is going TO COME UNTRUE.
    Oh, I know many of you are saying, “I wish I could believe that.” And guess what? This idea is so potent that you can go forward with that. To even want the resurrection, to love the idea of the resurrection, long for the promise of the resurrection even though you are unsure of it, is strengthening. I John 3:2-3. Beloved, now we are children of God and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope purify themselves as he is pure.” Even to have a hope in this is purifying.
    Listen to how Dostoevsky puts it in Brothers Karamazov: “I believe like a child that suffering will be healed and made up for, that all the humiliating absurdity of human contradictions will vanish like a pitiful mirage, like the despicable fabrication of the impotent and infinitely small Euclidean mind of man, that in the world’s finale, at the moment of eternal harmony, something so precious will come to pass that it will suffice for all hearts, for the comforting of all resentments, of the atonement of all the crimes of humanity, of all the blood that they’ve shed; and it will make it not only possible to forgive but to justify what has happened.”
    That is strong and that last sentence is particularly strong…but if the resurrection is true, it’s absolutely right. Amen.

Keller: The Meaning of Marriage

Tim and Kathy Keller's new book, The Meaning of Marriage is out. I look forward to reading it

Nice, long interview (about an hour) with Tim and Kathy for the release last week of their new book. Some great principial and practical stuff in here.

Also, Redeemer has one free sermon to listen to all the time on their main sermon page in addition to the 150 free sermons they always have. The current freebie is a lecture Tim and Kathy gave on marriage on April 1, 2005 (no joke! ;-). This one is even a little more practical and well-worth listening to.

Tuesday, November 1

Happy Reformation Day

494 years ago on Monday, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Castle Church of Wittenberg.

The Ninety-Five Theses

The first thesis is:
1. When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said "Repent", He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.
Or, to phrase as I've heard Tim Keller do, 'All of life is repentance.'

Repentance, as Luther taught, is not a not a 'once and for all' kind of thing. Repentance is necessary daily, sometimes constantly, like every five minutes.

Repentance should be considered in a semantic domain with concepts like confession, humility and submission.

For your listening enjoyment, there are 3 different versions of 'A Mighty Fortress' performed by us, The Wartburg Choir, in 1990, the first three tracks of this album: A Mighty Fortress is Our God (and a bonus 4th track with Psalm 46 as the text).

Here is a straightforward translation of the 95 Theses, with no ads.

40. A truly contrite sinner seeks out, and loves to pay, the penalties of his sins; whereas the very multitude of indulgences dulls men's consciences, and tends to make them hate the penalties. 

Thursday, October 27

More analysis of the F-35 problem

Not much different from what I said last time, but since I read coverage of this issue everyday, the outrage just breaks out again sometimes.

First, a comment from an Ares reader:

Jeff-N is exactly right. The problem, as always, is the empty promises. 
It's like we're going to get the 2011 Honda Accord in 2016 (maybe) with 2006 Honda Accord capability, but we're paying the 2016+ plus price for it. 
In the meantime, the Hyundai's are getting better and cheaper. So are the Fords, too, btw.

(Jeff-N's is the previous comment, if you're interested. I thought his take was too mild. Sure, programs are problematic. So why in the heck do we keep buying promises of the moon and getting a plate of cheese?!)

My comment:

i like wjmb75's analogy. 
an additional problem is so much 'strategy' planned around those numbers and capabilities. the cascade effect on jets in 3 US services is massive. if we had been more cautious then with the claims, what would we have decided about F-16s, F/A-18s and F-22s and what would the end cost and capability be? without running the numbers, i sense it would be an egregious delta, likely even a criminal one (as in, some people should go to jail). 
the American taxpayer foots the bill (well, at least makes interest payments) and LM continues to make money and pay shareholders. 
to say nothing of the effects experienced by partner nations (which closer observers should feel free to add).