Monday, March 31, 2008

How Big is Honor?

Soooooooooooooo Big!!!!!!

The Money Shot

Hello on Monday

This week is Spring Holiday week for the Miami-Dade District School System, and that fact is noticeable when considering the much easier traffic. In fact, the sort of peace that has settled on the community began on Friday, when the school holiday began, and it lasted through the weekend into this morning.

And why did the holiday begin on Friday? The Spring Holiday is a sort of living fossil of Easter holidays, and so, of course, on Friday the system was closed. (Wasn't that a good Friday, now?) Will the time come when nobody will remember why the school system's Spring holidays begin on a Friday? That time, I am sure, is already here for many people.

We had some late-middle aged people visit our church Sunday for the worship service. Lynn particularly welcomed them (they were otherwise strangers), and found that they were refugees from University Baptist Church, one of the relatively few semi-mega churches that we have in Miami. They were looking for a church with traditional music, and I guess we looked as though we might be that church from the outside. Sorry. Lynn invited them to stay for the light lunch that we have after our service, but I saw them head for the parking lot right after the service. They are not interested in what our community of faith looks like; they are interested in the music. Now I would feel uncomfortable at UBC, I think, but it would be because I wouldn't know where the sub-communities are in that large assembly. But if I hung in there, I might find some real faith centers. But the canary in the coal mine must be "Just as I Am", all stanzas, at the end of the worship service. If it's not there, the bird is dead, and I'm out of here.

Not that I particularly like the Praise Music. What it must have is constant refreshing, in my humble opinion, and at our church we recycle the same songs each Sunday and have been doing so since Macon introduced such music as our worship leader the summer before his marriage to Kellsey. Now and then we get something new, but the genre itself has such a consistently low quality output, as most popular music does, that the potential classics are few and far between. I do like what is being done with some of the old hymns, and I hope we will have more of those old wine vintages in (oops) new wine skins.

The other thing about "the Contemporary Service" idea is that it needs to be upbeat with some excitement and pace. We need to "feel" the Spirit. It must be diverting and emotional, and, may I say it?, entertaining. Somehow the Holy Spirit really must come when we have just the right combination of beat, song, and caffeine, and some good looking people up there, preferably younger ones, with good voices.

(I must apologize for all that. Moving on.)

This is a busy week, as Carol and I are trying to get things fastened down so we can go to Spain on Friday and be able to forget the office for awhile.

You should see Macon's photos on his Facebook page, especially of Honor and her doll. Macon, would you put that one up over here? (I don't know if you can access Macon's Facebook page - that entire site is still something of a mystery to me.)

Short takes: The Davidson-Kansas game was exciting, but bittersweet at the end. I finally saw The Bourne Ultimatum. I'm sure the small screen diminished it's impact, but my reaction was "ho-hum", especially to the third act. I'm reading a terrific piece of non-fiction, Marine Sniper: 93 Confirmed Kills, the story of Carlos N. Hathcock II, a Viet-Nam era scout/sniper. He makes Jason Bourne look like a school-child, a cardboard school-child. (But would Jesus read that book? Or is that question impertinent?)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Culture Makes All the Difference

Glenn Reynolds points to this disturbing article written by Emily Yoffe in Slate on out-of-wedlock children.

In her article Yoffe refers to Mitt Romney's campaign withdrawal speech. It's a very good speech and well worth reading. Here is the excerpt from the speech to which Yoffe refers:

Over the years, my business has taken me to many countries. I have been struck by the enormous differences in the wealth and well-being of people of different nations. I have read a number of scholarly explanations for the disparities. I found the most convincing was that written by David Landes, a professor emeritus from Harvard University. I presume he’s a liberal–I guess that’s redundant. His work traces the coming and going of great civilizations throughout history. After hundreds of pages of analysis, he concludes with this: If we learn anything from the history of economic development, it is that culture makes all the difference. Culture makes all the difference.

What is it about American culture that has led us to become the most powerful nation in the history of the world? We believe in hard work and education. We love opportunity: almost all of us are immigrants or descendants of immigrants who came here for opportunity—opportunity is in our DNA. Americans love God, and those who don’t have faith, typically believe in something greater than themselves—a “Purpose Driven Life.” And we sacrifice everything we have, even our lives, for our families, our freedoms and our country. The values and beliefs of the free American people are the source of our nation’s strength and they always will be!

The threat to our culture comes from within. The 1960’s welfare programs created a culture of poverty. Some think we won that battle when we reformed welfare, but the liberals haven’t given up. At every turn, they try to substitute government largesse for individual responsibility. They fight to strip work requirements from welfare, to put more people on Medicaid, and to remove more and more people from having to pay any income tax whatsoever. Dependency is death to initiative, risk-taking and opportunity. Dependency is a culture-killing drug—we have got to fight it like the poison it is!

The attack on faith and religion is no less relentless. And tolerance for pornography—even celebration of it—and sexual promiscuity, combined with the twisted incentives of government welfare programs have led to today’s grim realities: 68% of African American children are born out-of-wedlock, 45% of Hispanic children, and 25% of White children. How much harder it is for these children to succeed in school—and in life. A nation built on the principles of the founding fathers cannot long stand when its children are raised without fathers in the home.

The development of a child is enhanced by having a mother and father. Such a family is the ideal for the future of the child and for the strength of a nation. I wonder how it is that unelected judges, like some in my state of Massachusetts, are so unaware of this reality, so oblivious to the millennia of recorded history. It is time for the people of America to fortify marriage through constitutional amendment, so that liberal judges cannot continue to attack it!

Europe is facing a demographic disaster. That is the inevitable product of weakened faith in the Creator, failed families, disrespect for the sanctity of human life and eroded morality. Some reason that culture is merely an accessory to America’s vitality; we know that it is the source of our strength. And we are not dissuaded by the snickers and knowing glances when we stand up for family values, and morality, and culture. We will always be honored to stand on principle and to stand for principle.

I believe that the book by David Landes to which Romney refers is The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and Some Are So Poor.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Why Thank You, Dave Barry!

A way out of the Florida Democratic Party primary mess.

"OK . . . ,"

"Let me get this straight.

"You are a Christian. You are a lawyer. Your kids are out of the house.

"But you still provide legal services for rich people.

"And this is happening."

. . . .

"Ok, just checking."

More on Short-Term Missions

"Robert J. Priest (MDiv '82), PhD, is professor of mission and intercultural studies and director of the Doctor of Philosophy/Intercultural Studies Program at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, where he has served since 1999. Previously, he served as a professor at Columbia Biblical Seminary and School of Missions and as a pastor. Born to career missionaries, Dr. Priest was raised in Bolivia and eventually returned to South America to conduct anthropological field research."

Dr. Priest wrote this positive article in the Trinity Magazine on short-term missions, using as a case study two summer mission trips of North American Christians to Peru. (The biographical paragraph quoted above is from the magazine.)

He concludes his article as follows:

The center of Christianity today, in terms of both numbers and vitality, has shifted south into Africa and Latin America. But the center of material wealth and power remains in North America, Europe, and parts of Asia. Short-term mission groups play a key role in bringing Christians from resource-rich portions of the world into collaborative projects of ministry and service with Christians living faithfully under conditions of great economic and social constraint. When short-term mission trips are underpinned by humble service, sacrificial stewardship, and wise leadership, they potentially make important contributions to the global church.

(The Trinity website can get you to some scholarly studies on this subject. I read a reference to Dr. Priest elsewhere, and I did a search on the website with "short-term mission priest" and found a trove.)

Christian Development Trip

On a subject we discussed on the blog recently, I received this email from a friend:

July 10-July 23rd, 2008


Hope everything is well with you and your family! I'm
writing this letter to inform you of an opportunity
for you to be a part of an awesome mission trip this
summer. This summer the Miami Vineyard Community
Church will be focusing on serving three different
communities: Rwanda, Africa/ Laos/ and Juarez, Mexico.

I will be a participant on the Laos Team. I am very
excited about this opportunity to go and be the hands
and feet of Jesus Christ by serving the people of

Laos: Working in partnership with the Missionary
Family, The Berry's, we will be focusing on building a
long term relationship with the local ministries in
Laos. This will be a mission's experience that will
mobilize members of the Miami Vineyard to help with
the practical needs of the Berry Family and
neighboring villages. Ministries will include: light
building construction, and encouragement and prayer
for local ministry workers and residents.

Estimated cost: $3,000 per person

I want to challenge you in two ways to partner with me
in going to the Laos mission trip.

1. Prayer Partner
Partnering with me in prayer is one of the most
important ways someone can show their support for me
on this trip. So if you are a person of prayer, please
consider being a prayer partner for me.

2. Financial Partner
Another important way to partner with me is through
your financial support for this trip. My total cost
will be $3,000, with a deposit due by February 06th
and the balance due in the following increments: $500
due on 3/5/08, $875 due on 4/16/08, $825 due on
5/7/08, and $750 due on 6/4/08.
I am hoping to get 10-20 people to support this effort
with $50 in support by each deadline date.

PS- I'm still a little short for 3/5!

There are two ways you can unite with me in realizing
this God-given desire:
1. If you would like to specifically help support my
costs in going to Laos, please write "my name" and
"Laos" in the memo line of the check and mail to :

Miami Vineyard Community Church
14301 SW 119th Ave.
Miami, Fl. 33186

Your support contributions may be tax deductible.
Please consult with your tax advisor.

2. If you would like to support the general Mission
Injustice Laos Fund with your tax-deductible donation,
please write, "Misssion Injustice Laos" on the check
and mail to the name and address listed above.

I am so very grateful for your consideration in
partnering with me on this mission trip. I pray you
will hear God's voice on how to best collaborate with
me in this challenging and inspiring mission.

My friend is a layperson.

I certainly like the "encouragement and prayer" aspect. Do you think, then, that this is more than mere Christian tourism? What about the cost? $3000 could buy a lot of school lunches in Steve Peifer's program, not to mention in the programs that the Berrys, the missionaries in Laos, are probabaly conducting. Would you feel more comfortable if the writer added something like, "I know that my participation in this trip will not change the world, and that it is likely more to change me. But I need changing, as we all do, and God is far more than merely capable of taking the mixed offering of my time and your money and making it effective for his kingdom."

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

"Development Tourism"


Mary sent me this post on a third-party's blog, for discussion purposes only. She added this comment on the post:

He [the blogger] doesn't factor in the value that the experience has on the short term tourists, in terms of their education or their future impact. But if it's about the tourist, then, and not what they'll give, then they should change their ideas from the start.

John Barry is a fellow teacher here this year--he's on a furlough year from his ministry in Lesotho (yes, furlough working at RVA; he's from Zimbabwe, so I guess you don't want to be going back there these days. :) Anyway, he's great, as is his family, and he mentioned that he would love to see "short termers" come with an agenda to witness and pray--that, he says, is valuable work that can be reasonably accomplished in a short time.

UPDATE: The third-party who posted the negative comments on "development tourism" somewhat moderated his views, and Mary brought that to our attention in her comment. Here is the blogger's "revisit" to the subject.

Sean's Boss Bursts a Bombshell

The WSJ Journal reports this morning on the resignation of Admiral Fallon, the head of the Central Command, which runs the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and would be involved in a war with Iran. The WSJ article quotes Adm. Fallon's resignation letter in part as follows:

"Recent press reports suggesting a disconnect between my view [about a war on Iran and the long-term usefulness of the "surge"] and the President's policy objectives have become a distraction at a critical time . . . "

The WSJ article goes on to report that the precipitating "press report" was an article by Thomas P. M. Barnett in the April issue of Esquire. Mr. Barnett, according to the WSJ, wrote that a premature departure by the Admiral could be a sign "that [quoting Barnett's article] the president and vice-president intend to take military action against Iran before the end of this year and don't want a commander standing in their way." Read Barnett's article here.

The WSJ writes that "the resignation makes Adm. Fallon one of the few high-ranking military officers to leave active duty amid tensions with the White House since President Harry Truman fired Gen. Douglas MacArthur during the height of the Korean War."

None of this is good.

UPDATE: On it editorial page yesterday, the WSJ editors seemed not to think it was all bad, either.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Church and State and Southern Baptists

The Southern Baptist Church in which I grew up, studied the Bible, memorized scripture and came to Christ venerated the idea of the separation of Church and State. Roger Williams was our most famous non-Biblical, historical figure. Part of our budget went to support Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Not that politicians were absent from our congregation. The most famous of our members (at least locally) was the Hon. Claude Pepper. But perhaps the most respected politician I saw at our church was Brooks Hays, a member of the House of Representatives from Arkansas, who put his political career on the line when he attempted to mediate the controversy between Governer Faubus and President Eisenhower, over the President's threat (finally carried out) to send troops to Little Rock to integrate the public schools. Hays lost re-election because of that reasonable posture, and visited our church soon after that. Later he was elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

So the Baptists knew politics, no doubt about that. But that's not what you heard from the pulpit. You heard about how Jesus lived, how he treated others, and from whom he came, why he came, was crucified, and rose on the third day, and how that gave all of us the opportunity for a new life. Somehow the clergy trusted the laity to make the connection between the call to model Jesus and how to deal with political and social issues as they arose.

The Presbyterians looked at the matter differently, as I learned in the 70's as Carol and I became active at FPC in Miami Springs. When Anita Bryant led the Christian charge against a proposed county ordinance to make discrimination on account of one's sexual preference as unlawful as discrimination on account of race or gender, our minister at the time not only preached against the ordinance from the pulpit but also organized transportation to the polling places from the church office. (The minister later left our church on account of sexual misconduct himself.) I have never been comfortable with outright politicking from the pulpit. It simply does not belong there. (Sorry Mr. Olansky, Dr. Dobson, etc,)

The WSJ has a fine article today on the IRS investigations into churches that take political positions. The article features Sen. Obama's minister, but the issue is much larger than that particular case. I think the IRS has it right, and I hope the agency continues with its efforts vigorously.

As I read the WSJ article, I thought about Islam's view that politics and religion are, by necessity, conflated, that they are or should be one and the same. How are American Muslims to understand that particular error if the Christians are not scrupulous about the separation of Church and State?

And so I read with astonishment that a group of Southern Baptist "leaders" have signed a declaration on climate change.

Has the Gospel been spread so thoroughly, have the needs of widows and orphans been sufficiently addressed, are the needy no longer with us, have church members reached such maturity that these clergy can spend their time getting involved in a politicized scientific controversy? What in the world happened to the Southern Baptists?

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Kith and Kin Band Photo

Cupcakes, Austin Style

Walter, Morgan, Kellsey, Aidan, Honor, and I had cupcakes today on South Congress (pronounced, "So-Co" if you're hip and so new to Austin that you have no idea how dumb you sound when you say it). The establishment is called "Hey Cupcake!", and the delectables are sold out of a shiny Airstream trailer sitting next to the sidewalk

Note location of restrooms.

Even the napkins are fun!

Guess which one didn't get a cupcake!

At least I was kind enough not to eat mine right in front of her.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Not as Much Fun at Parties???!!!

Night owls are more creative, more flexible and more caffeinated, studies have found. Morning people are healthier, more conscientious and more emotionally stable. They're not as much fun at parties, but morning people run the world . . .

-Melinda Beck in today's WSJ.


What do you think?

Melissa Got Married

We had a fun-filled weekend when Melissa Dewhurst got married in our church, returning to Miami Springs from New York City for the wedding, groom in tow. Friday night was the rehearsal dinner at La Carreta. The wedding was at 4:30 PM on Saturday and the dinner followed at the Miami Springs Country Club.

Melissa, Scott Fleming, and Melissa's parents, Jack and Lynn Dewhurst

Jack's brother, Don Dewhurst, was in the balcony of our church, taking pictures.

The Dewhursts economized by using local talent to do the singing.

(We posted on Melissa's engagement party here.)

UPDATE: For more photos of the wedding, go here.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Cable, Uverse, and AppleTV

So, I have recently been going through the process of attempting to save money and rethinking how much money we spend on TV. When we moved here, we set up our house with Internet, Phone (unlimited local and long-distance calls), and cable (digital with a DVR that we rented from Time Warner monthly). It cost us about $150 a month. This is A LOT, but we thought that it would be nice to be able to call anyone anywhere (in this country at least) without any added cost. We liked the internet service as it was usually quite fast, and though we did not really want digital cable with all of its 275 or more channels, we did want the DVR and you have to get digital cable to rent the DVR. We LOVED having the DVR. It was fantastic to watch tv when we wanted to instead of planning a night around when something would be showing. We ended up watching much less TV that way since we weren't surfing for something to watch, but only sat down to watch when we had something already recorded (not to mention that it took less time to watch a show since we could fast-forward through the commercials).

As this next year approached, we began to wonder if we could afford to send both kids to preschool or if it would be too much of a stretch for our budget. So, I began researching ways to save money. Lo and behold, I got something in the mail from AT&T about how you could bundle their phone, internet, and TV services and I would not have to pay for 275+ channels. I could pay for uverse100 which only had 100 channels. I could buy a refurbished Tivo for only $50 with the rebate and could then pay for a lifetime of the product tivo subscription. All this and we would save $480 a year. This seemed substantial to me and worth the loss of unlimited long distance calls (especially since we use our iphones for most long distance calls anyway).

My experience with AT&T has been less than stellar. To begin with, they messed up my order from the very beginning and I had to go through all of their call holding while waiting a second time to go through their verification by a third party process. I think it must have taken me 2 hours just to get the order in. They scheduled me for Feb. 12. That day came and so did the TV and internet guy. Unfortunately, the phone guy did not come. After calling in 4 or 5 times and spending (no joke) about 3 hours of talking with several different representatives and waiting on hold, I finally got it straightened out and had to go through the third party verification process AGAIN. They said they would come the 22nd. About the 18th I get a call saying they cannot come then. Can they come the 27th? No, I have to take my son to preschool. Can they come the 28th? yes. (ARGGGGG!!!!!!!!). Will they remunerate me for the days I have had to pay for service with TIme Warner even though I was no longer using them? (I was told not to cancel with TW until my phone was switched so I wouldn't lose my phone number. HOwever, when the TV and internet guy came, he had to pull out the TW router in order to install the AT&T one, hence the loss of my ability to access my phone line or set my home security alarm.) Yes, they would make a note to the adjuster's office that I was to be reimbursed.

So, on the 12th my tv and internet were working. I decided to try setting up the Tivo. No go. You have to have a working phone line to set up your Tivo. So, I have to wait until the 28th.

On the afternoon of the 27th, the AT&T people show up. They are a day early and I was not expecting them, but I tell them to by all means go ahead and connect the phone. They do.

So, I set up my TIvo. After MANY hours of much internet research and time on the phone with Tivo helpers, I finally get the Tivo to control uverse on my TV. Unfortunately, for some reason my Uverse is no longer working. I disconnect it from the Tivo to see if that is the problem. not the problem. Uverse simply will not work. It will show a program for 10 to 30 seconds and then freeze. No matter what channel you put it on, it is the same.

Macon says he is ready for Apple TV.

I research it. We can get the biggest Apple TV for less than the subscription service we paid to Tivo (which they refunded to us very kindly). We can buy all the episodes to all the shows we watch (which are not that many) for $350 a year (which is less at least $150 less than we would have paid for uverse). So, we make the switch.

We hooked up the Apple TV in less than 15 minutes. We had no problems doing it once we told the TV the right source to look for. We immediately rented "3:10 to Yuma" and watched it that night after putting the kids to bed. Good movie.

The only show I cannot get that I want to watch is "Smallville". It is beyond me why they will sell you episodes of now canceled "Veronica Mars" but will not sell you episodes of currently running "Smallville". Ah, well, I can live without the show. All of our other favorites are available via itunes.

So, my conclusion is that dropping cable and picking up Apple TV is a FABULOUS and very EASY way to go! We still watch TV when we want to and do not have to plan our lives around when something crops up on TV. We don't even have to fast forward through commercials because there aren't any! woo-hoo!

I think the only thing I will miss is being able to click over to the weather channel. But then, I do have

Saturday, March 01, 2008

The State of the Union, Viewed on a Saturday Morning

Mary and I have been exchanging emails about a US General who is an RVA grad and a friend and supporter of Obama. She told me that this general was against the war in Iraq and that he thinks that Obama's position has been right-on from the beginning. Here is a copy of my email back to her, for whatever it's worth:

I remember arguing with Austin Carr about going into Iraq before we started that war. He was absolutely for it, and I was not sure at all. But I thought Bush was a good man (and still do) and competent. I don't now think he is competent. By "competent", I don't mean that he is stupid. I simply think that he was not competent to be President, that is, to make those big decisions, to know when to rely on advisers and when not to. I don't know that anyone is competent to be President. Senator Smathers said that Reagan "had a good gut", and told me that before Reagan was President, but was then running for the Republican nomination the second time. Reagan didn't seem to make such bad decisions, although he did make some big mistakes.

I fault Bush with not controlling the Republican Congress, with going along with the "it's our turn" mentality with regard to pork barrel spending, with thinking that we could make tax cuts and still maintain or increase spending. I fault him with not going to the mat on Social Security and Medicare. Frankly, I think he lacked the strength of his convictions, tried to please to many people. In trying to avoid making enemies, I think he made even more than he would have made otherwise. I think that the best he can hope for from history is a verdict that he was "average".

This is not saying that Obama has "the gut" or will be competent. In the first place, there is a serious question of whether the federal government is beyond being governed, regardless of who is President. And in the second, his apparent political philosophy is that big government is capable of being fixed and of being the main solution and maybe is the only solution. I think he is wrong there. In fact, I think those are dangerous ideas. I also think that there will be the same sort of "it's our turn" approach to the people who have been out of power for the last 8 years (or past 200 years, if you consider the expressed grievances of people of color) and that he won't be any stronger than Bush on this issue.

But what troubles me are not Obama, Hillary, McCain, Bush. What troubles me are what is happening in the local public schools, what I see in the media: the decline in American creativity, the moral anarchy, the heedless accumulation of debt, the dissolution of families, the terrible health and eating habits, and the inwardly, selfishly focused and Gnostic tendencies of American Christianity.
Other than that, I'm fine.