Thursday, January 29, 2009

Work and Worship

The Chronological Bible Study has taken us over the last several days through the story of Joseph and his brothers. Genesis 37:1 - 46:9. During our study group last night, one of the men remarked that we see very little of Joseph's "interior life." He meant that we were not able to see into Joseph's mind. This student observed that there seems to be no reference to a prayer life, a worship life, if you will.

Another student commented on how, in these scriptures, we see Joseph working all of the time, except when he is imprisoned in the cistern. Joseph's story opens when he is 17 years old and working for his father. When we see him speaking to his brothers, it is as his father's deputy; his conversations with them take place at the work place - the fields where they tend their father's flocks.

After Joseph is sold into slavery, we see him as Potiphar's steward, in charge of that man's household. The confrontation with Potiphar's wife takes place while Joseph is working and in the workplace.

When he is imprisoned on false charges of attempted rape, we find Joseph not languishing and discouraged but working - running the prison as a deputy of the warden, a job that includes such close relationships with the other prisoners that they confide their very dreams to him.

And finally, we see him working for Pharaoh, and he becomes the most powerful man in Egypt next to the king. He is always working. But we see no prayer, no personal devotions; we see a life of apparently worshipless labor.

As Providence would have it, I listened to Robert Austell's first sermon of the year this morning as I took my walk, his first in a eight-part series. (I had downloaded it to my iPod, but did not get to it until today.) Robert's sermon deals with work and worship, and his thesis is our work is our worship. Robert notes that the Hebrew word for "work" in Genesis is elsewhere translated as "service" and "worship". The work that Adam did in the Garden was, then, a form of worship. (I cannot do Robert's sermon justice, so you should listen to it yourself.)

And so it obviously was with Joseph.

There is, in fact, an insight into Joseph's "interior life" provided in Genesis 39:9, which relates the conversation Joseph has with Potiphar's wife when he rejects her. He asks her, "How could I do such a wicked thing [as sleep with you] and sin against God?"

It is God to whom Joseph sees himself accountable, not Potiphar. An unfaithful worker is unfaithful not to the person who would appear on the outside to employ that worker but to God. Faithful work, then, is faithful worship, and Robert makes the point that this principal applies in all walks of life. We do not need to "see" Joseph's "interior life." We know that it was a rich one, indeed, by how he worked, that is, by how he worshiped.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Suggestion on Where to Release the Gitmo Prisoners

Plains, GA.

What One Thinks and Does Makes a Difference

In an opinion piece in the WSJ today, David Roche, a London expert in banking and monetary policy, discusses the liklihood that both the UK and the US will nationalize their respective banking systems. He writes, in part:

How has it come to this? The global credit crisis and the ensuing economic slump we are now entering have both ultimate and proximate causes. The ultimate cause was the ingrained social behavior of the U.S., the U.K. and many other economies over the past two decades that put instant gratification of consumption over the ability to pay for it. Thrift gave way to borrowing and excessive spending. That in turn led to huge global imbalances and distortions. The proximate cause of the crisis was how these excesses were financed through liquidity creation in innovative ways and in huge proportions.

Note the connection between individual - shall I say it? - virtue, on the one hand, and the present economic situation, on the other. And yet, as my friend Juan points out, the government appears to believe that the answer is to spend even more money, borrowing against nothing else but the future, hoping that a newly virtuous citizenry will defer its gratification, get to work, and support not only itself but also assume the inevitable burden of taxation and inflation that must surely compensate for its spending.

UPDATE: Glenn's thinking along the same lines.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Thinking about the Presidency

I saw and heard the speech, and it was stirring. The inauguration was so fraught with meaning that it transcended the people involved, and I saw most of that meaning as wonderful and some of it disturbing. (Not a mention of abortion anywhere in the speech, for example. Maybe he thinks it will go away. I hope it will go away too, and in fact there is less of it in the US than ever, praise God.)

A friend of mine posted on her Facebook page that she was so happy that now we could have a President she could be proud of. Facebook is personal and that's the place where one has permission to assess events in terms of one's emotions. But maybe it would be worth it to read the case for the Bush Presidency by his chief speech writer Marc Theissen when things calm down. I don't really think about whether I am "proud" of President Bush or not, or even whether I "like" him. I think about his performance - how did he do? He certainly made some mistakes and did things with which I disagree. But I think that the majority of Americans will come to appreciate his successes, as Theissen argues.

Monday, January 19, 2009


Don't show this to Macon.

Hannah and Joe Got Married!

This morning, at a wedding that began at 10AM, Hannah Carr and Joe Lahmeyer were married at our church. Hannah is Abby's big sister, and Joe is our pastor's son. (Hannah and Abby are daughters of my friend Austin. Austin also has a son, Cody, who was there too, and read the scripture.) Joe's grandparents from California (near Bakersfield) are staying with us for the wedding.

Hannah and Joe are at UCF and active in InterVarsity, and a bunch of their friends came down, along with the staff person there. The wedding celebration more or less started yesterday morning at the regular worship service at our church, continued last night with the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner, also at our church, recommenced this morning with the wedding itself, and then adjourned to the Rusty Pelican for a reception and luncheon, overlooking Biscayne Bay on a simply gorgeous South Florida day. We left at about 3:45. (Good thing we had a morning wedding!)

I sang at the wedding, and sort of hid behind the flowers in the choir loft. At the reception one of the people I met there said, "Oh, you are the singer! You did well. In fact, my daughter asked me if it was a recording." That was NICE! Anyway, I did OK, and sang "How Beautiful" by Twila Paris. One of Macon's friends sang that song at Macon and Kellsey's wedding, which is where I got the idea. (Hannah asked me for suggestions on the music.) The congregation also sang "Great is Thy Faithfulness," which I had suggested to Hannah and Joe after hearing it sung so beautifully at Meredith's wedding.

Ed Sagi played the piano at Hannah's wedding. He is an old friend, and was in my class at Hialeah High School. He also was our music director at FPCMS nearly 20 years ago, when we had a choir and an organ. At HHS we had a big drama department, and our senior year it mounted an unforgettable production of Oklahoma!, and Ed played Curly. He did a fantastic job. Even in twelfth grade he had this wonderful baritone voice. Ed went on to be a high school music teacher, and I think he did about everything: band, chorus, you name it. He is really fun to sing with, because he knows vocal production and he knows how to deal with amateurs - and he is a teacher.

It was a great day!

Go, Dawgs!

Moderate Dems in Congress.

Oh, to be in Philadelphia!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Honor and Aunt Mary and Second Birthdays

Mary posts on family resemblances.

Fancy Nancy Birthday!

For any of you uninitiated people out there who do not know Fancy Nancy, she is a fabulous character in a children's storybook by Jane O'Connor and illustrated by Robin Preiss-Glasser. Actually, there are several books by now, and we have five of them. Honor has been wanting to read them over and over again lately. Fancy Nancy loves using big words and loves dressing up. She is crazy about accessories and believes that she really does play soccer better when wearing lace-trimmed socks.

Anyway, I was talking with my mother about not knowing what to do for Honor's second birthday a few weeks ago and she suggested a Fancy Nancy party. What a "Spectacular" idea! So, today, we had a Fancy Nancy birthday party for Honor. All the kids got movie-star sunglasses, tiaras, wands, necklaces, bracelets, leis, tattoos with fancy things on them, and glow sticks. I chose a different colored plastic bucket for each child and crammed all their party toys in them. The kids loved it.

Honor especially looked like Fancy Nancy today because she had just received a leotard with a tutu from her Sue Sue and Pa Pa. Honor, of course, decided that THIS dress was going to be her "Party Dress." She LOVED wearing this little outfit, complete with Baby Legs (because it's cold people...January is not the best time to go running around in a leotard and not much else!)

Our friends arrived, we ate cupcakes almost immediately so the kids would have some time to really play hard and burn off the sugar.

After that we passed out party favors a la bucket, and played and played until we could play no more. Then, we all sat down with our mommas and our papas and ate pesto linguini, herb salad, and roasted garlic bread. YUM! The kiddos were also offered Pesto linguini (and all the three almost two year olds loved it, but the four year olds were not as enthused).

Then, we cleaned up and opened presents.

After that, we said goodbye to our friends and headed upstairs for nap.

Whew! What a morning!

Friday, January 16, 2009

"De-Friend" for a Whopper? What a Bad Idea!

Maybe most Facebook fans already know this, but I didn't know until today that Burger King had a promotion under which a Facebook member would get a free Whopper for "de-friending" 10 others. The WSJ reported that BK "pulled the plug on the campaign," which it launched on January 5. The article reports that "thousands of members jilted each other for burgers."

There are some really deep implications to this, don't you think? Or maybe people are so busy on Facebook that don't have time to fix dinner.

Doug recently asked me to be his friend. Do you suppose he would dump me for a burger?

Juan Reports on the Madoff Ponzi Matter

Via a post on his increasingly famous blog and direct from the UM Heckerling Estate Planning Conference in Orlando.

Lady Hawks Win!

Abby and Company win the GMAC.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

"Integrative" Medicine and the WSJ

I was very surprised to see this article on the WSJ editorial pages earlier this week. While I was undergoing my cancer treatment 15 or so years ago, I read one of the authors of the article, Andrew Weil, and I read several of his other books too. He seemed to offer the sort of hope that didn't have taking prednizone, having a port installed for the introduction of various other chemicals, and getting nauseated associated with it.

Then a contemporary who had the same diagnosis about the same time as mine died, after shunning chemo and embracing "natural" remedies.

Glenn Reynolds linked to some criticism of the article that is worth reading. Here's more.

This is not to say that I did not take to heart the "healthy living" aspects of Weil's writings and others in the genre. Carol worked very hard to "reinvent" herself as the food preparer in our home, and was very successful. We steered away from fatty foods. Although we have not become vegetarians, we have far less meat in our diets and, of that, very little beef and pork. We went to Weight Watchers and we both lost some weight (30 pounds in my case). We exercise daily. We are not total abstainers from alcoholic beverages, but we rarely drink and, in such cases, we will only have wine at dinner now and then. Neither of us smokes. We work at keeping our marriage healthy. (It's great work!) We take vitamins.

And we had during my treatment and we continue to maintain an active prayer life. I seemed actually to "feel" the prayers of others when I was in treatment, and there were a lot of them being offered. I believe that God answered those prayers through my physicians in large part and in what they prescribed, through the loving care that Carol provided, and the support of the rest of my family and other friends.

WSJ Not Happy with Obama's Estate Tax Solution

(I know this is of great interest to all readers.)

Here's the editorial board's view.

I mentioned this subject earlier this week. Obviously, the WSJ missed my comments. Strange.

More comments from Juan. Of special significance to our practice are the "portability" aspects of what this year's legislation may contain. This will be a great boon to married couples in the middle to upper middle classes and enable them to exempt the first $7 million of their estates from the estate tax at the second death (there is already no estate tax at the first death in a married couple). The idea that there is a "death tax" that threatens the hard-earned wealth of most Americans was propaganda from the white-shoe wing of the Republican Party. (And may those shoes - in both parties - be increasingly replaced by work shoes of all kinds.)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Abby stands for Ambition

The sports section of the Herald this morning has an article featuring Abby Carr, the younger daughter of Austin and Linda.

Monday, January 12, 2009

"Hi, I'm an Apple . . . "

Your Tax Money at Work

This weekend I caught portions of the NFL divisional play-off games. They were good games, but what caught my attention were the commercials from GM and Chrysler. There were many of them, and they were all about selling pick-up trucks.

They don't get it do they? And we don't get it for giving them bail-out money so that they can, among other senseless things, run those commericals.

My hat's off to Ford at this point. I didn't see so many commercials from them and they haven't taken bail-out money yet. Yes, I know that they sell the F-150 hard when we do see their commercials. But I figure it will be the F-150 that will survive that auto class and, for that matter, Ford itself will be the one to survive of the once-Big Three.

We'll Keep Eating

The WSJ this morning reports that Obama will keep the estate tax in the form in which we have it right now. (The tax was scheduled to "expire" in 2010, but come back in a much harsher form in 2011.)

This is a pretty middle-of-the-road solution to an issue that has been very big in my corner of the world since the first Bush Administration. I say good for Obama.

"Hip Hop Meets a Higher Power"

The Neighbors section of the Herald featured on its front page the Catalyst Ministry that our church hosts.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Recent Days in the Life...

So, on Christmas Day, Honor was very sick with pneumonia. Poor Girl!

Aidan, who had also had pneumonia, was feeling much better by Christmas as he had had two penicillin shots in his legs to arrest the process of the infection. As you can tell, he is quite ready to enjoy his new Christmas goodies! (this is a Bow and Mallow, affectionately termed a "marshmallow gun").

Here is a pic of Honor with Mommy after she had received three new clippies from her Nanna and Grandaddy. She looks better, but she's still looking sick.

Next we have a photo of Aidan from this afternoon. I swear, he looks like he is eleven in this picture. It freaks me out when he ages many years in a photo, something which is happening pretty often these days.
Last we have a pic of Honor sporting cutie pig tails and wearing a new clippy that her mommy made for her. What fun! She is looking so much better than her first pneumonia-fied pic (and even worse, she developed an ear infection on top of that the day after being diagnosed with pneumonia.) Seriously, people, we are very happy to be healthy around here!

Yo, Beets!

Beets: Think of beets as red spinach, Dr. Bowden said, because they are a rich source of folate as well as natural red pigments that may be cancerfighters.

How to eat: Fresh, raw and grated to make a salad. Heating decreases the antioxidant power.

From The 11 Best Foods You Aren't Eating.

(Mmmmm, folate!!)

Thursday, January 08, 2009

In Genesis: Getting to Work

God made Adam and put him to work and to rule. Thus in chapter 2 of Genesis,

15 The LORD God took the man [Adam] and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. . . . 19 Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field.

God created Eve because "no suitable helper [for Adam] was found." Help him what? To do what God had created him to do, that is to work.

Is it missing the mark to say that popular culture, to the extent that it thinks about Adam and Eve in the Garden before the fall, pictures them as innocent playmates in a sort of divine park, running around having fun without their clothes on? And that's what we want to get back to, isn't it? That's the point of redemption, no?

I see something different in these texts. Man and wife are purposefully busy in the Garden. And what Adam is doing (that with which Eve is helping him) has divine purpose, as man has been created in God's image. Man is directed to take a formless mass of creatures (not formless to God, of course, but initially, surely, to Adam, Eve) and to name those creatures, that is, to observe them carefully, to catalog them, to understand their affinities and differences, perhaps their needs and wants, the ultimate end of which is to rule them as God rules.

In Genesis 1, just after God created "male and female."

28 God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground."

Man is like God in the sense of what God calls him to do, to work, that is to observe, to understand, to care for, and, finally, to rule Creation as God's fiduciary, his trustee, his steward.

What does this say to the popular idea that one works to acquire, and then to retire, and then no longer to work? Or that our relationship to other living creatures is to exploit them without limitation? Or that, as to Creation in general, we are responsible only to ourselves, that is, to our immediate self, that is, to whatever I think I need at this moment, and that Creation and everything in it is there to serve me.

Tainted Chinese Food Imports

Last night I heard a reference on the radio to the danger of tainted food imported from China. I thought the problem was pet-food, but that may simply be a Providential "heads-up." I googled the matter and found this 2007 article from the Washington Post. We don't eat much meat at our house, but the meats of choice are chicken and turkey. The reference to chicken imports is disturbing.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Again, the One Year Chronological Bible

Last year, I read the entire Bible. I did this with the help of The One Year Chronological Bible, (“OYCB) which, according to the cover, consists of the “entire New International Version in 365 daily readings arranged in the order the events actually occurred.”

It helped that I usually take MetroRail into work each business day, which gives me about 25 minutes to myself with no distractions. By the time I get half-way through the ride (about to the Earlington Heights Station), I am able to do an entire reading. I can do two readings on a complete ride, which I often must do on Monday and Tuesday to make up for sometimes missing the readings over the weekend. I was also assisted in this project by my friends at church who attended our Men’s Bible Study meetings. We had taken as a group project reading the Bible through and discussing at least once a week (and sometimes twice a week) what we found new or relevant or confusing (or all three).

Among the things that I learned is how much we miss of what the Bible says if we simply depend on the church’s formal program to educate us. I do not mean to be critical of formal programs (I include the sermons in this category), but we have to understand that what we get from them is someone else’s idea of what we should read or listen to, someone else’s agenda, as benign, well intentioned, and generally Spirit directed as it might be. Church programs are directed at a sort of common denominator, where each of us is uncommon. Reading the Bible directly, comprehensively, daily, where we have the rest of the day to allow the passage to wander around in our minds, in and out of the rooms of immediate and long-term memory, bumping into the furniture of our anxieties, values, expectations, and learned behaviors, is a different matter altogether. And it is enjoyable.

So I started all over again with the OYCB on Monday (I'm already behind!). This time I am going to try to keep a journal on what insights occur as I read through it.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Espejos for the Third World

Think about what poor vision, uncorrected because of poverty, does to the economies of the third world, and then read this.

Pretty neat website
, too.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

No to "Cram Downs"

In a "cram down," according to the WSJ yesterday, "a judge modifies a mortgage [usually in foreclosure or bankruptcy proceedings] so a borrower can afford it." The article did not explicitly describe the modifications in question, but the variables would include lengthening the term, lowering the interest rate, or simply decreasing the outstanding loan balance. In other words, the borrower's obligation to pay back what he borrowed would be significantly reduced.

Right now, judges do not have that authority, but the WSJ reports that momentum is building in "Democrat-controlled Washington" to confer that power on bankruptcy judges.

The moral hazard here is obvious: Borrowers will be less careful about the obligations they assume. Furthermore, the cost of borrowing will increase, as the risk of default will shift back to the lenders who will, in turn, raise their rates to compensate for it. By raising their rates, people who might otherwise have afforded a mortgage on a new home might be frozen out.

And "cram downs" may not work. According to the WSJ article, "Lenders argue that loans modified by bankruptcy judges often have high rates of default on the new payment plans." (I assume that this has been in situations where the lender consents to the modification.)

Email your Congressman.

Hello 2009 and Goodbye 2008

We saw "Michael Clayton" on video last night, part of our gala New Year's celebration here on Dove Avenue. We would recommend this suspenseful film, starring George Clooney and others. (One of the villains is Tilda Swinton, who played the White Witch in the first Narnia film.) Clooney is a lawyer in a big Wall Street firm, and it was fun to see the stereotypes populating that "community." Great pace, tension, superb acting - you are happy to forgive the act of blessed Divine intervention on which the plot turns, especially if this is part of the point - that God sometimes does such things.)

Afterward, we watched on Channel 2, a PBS station here, a great live telecast from Lincoln Center of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, featuring the conductor Lorin Maazel and the mezzo-soprano Susan Graham, who is a Texas Tech graduate. Following that was a rebroadcast of a Great Performances video of a Chicago blues show called "Crossroads" featuring, among many others, Eric Clampton, B.B. King, Cheryl Crowe.

About 15 minutes before midnight, we switched over to watch the Times Square ball drop - there were two networks broadcasting the festivities, and one of them had Dick Clark as a host. He simply looked pitiful and exploited. But I guess part of the point of New Year's is to acknowledge time's inexorable march. The ball dropped on schedule, although poor Dick Clark was at least one second behind on his countdown for about 8 seconds, but finally caught up at about midnight minus 5.

I guess it's obvious that we survived midnight. That is, no bullets came through our roof. Given the way people are prone to celebrate the event by shooting up, that is vertically, up into the air, not out from one's position (get it?), we cannot assume that we are safe inside our homes here in South Florida. Here is the obligatory article about this practice that appears annually in the Miami Herald, although one must wonder why they published this year's article in the January 1 edition rather than the December 31 issue.