Saturday, October 30, 2010

I Don't Want to Hear Any More About Cracker Prejudice

Not after this story of some Florida Crackers in Key West helping some wonderful people get out of Cuba during the Mariel boatlift.

Be sure to listen to the the podcast.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Staying the Course

This weekend, Carol and I were reviewing a report on our retirement funds from our investment advisers, Investors Solutions. (Rob Gordon and Ana Maria Martinetti-Katz are our helpers there.) All the losses from the 2008 stock market downturn are restored, not because of investments we have added, but simply because we were well diversified and rode out the cycle, thanks to good advice and direction.

A friend of mine and his wife, who had approximately the same mix of stocks and bonds, sold all their stocks at the bottom of the market and replaced them with fixed income investments. This course of conduct was against advice they received from their advisers also to stay the course. This couple is not back where they were in 2008.

I readily admit that no one knows what next week will bring. But wide diversification, relatively low investment fees, faith in the future, and encouragement from competent people whom you can trust certainly help one to ride out the storms.

150,000 is the New 100,000

The November/December issue of AAA's Going Places has a short piece addressing the question of whether to "Fix It or Replace It?," referring of course to one's automobile.

"By following the manufacturer's maintenance schedule," the writer Joanna Newton argues, "the average car will last 150,000 miles or more."

But didn't we already pretty much know that?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Crystal Cathedral Files for Bankruptcy

Interesting analysis here. The nepotism had to be a very large factor. What was Dad thinking?

Schuller was really big back in the 70s, and I often listened to tapes of his sermons. He was in the center of Norman Vincent Peale's tradition. But I found him a lot easier to listen to than to watch on TV. I thought the show was a bit much. But what he had to say had truth in it. We are new creatures in Christ, we can make right choices because for the first time we are free from sin to do so. Schuller challenged us to make those right choices.

I remember a sermon where he describes standing outside a conference room door, preparing to go in to make a presentation to people whom he did not know. He pictures the people waiting inside as people who eager to see him, expectant; he pictures himself making an effective presentation, with an undercurrent of joy. And so he enters with a smile and with confidence, and the meeting goes very well.

After listening to that sermon several times, I began to do that myself, and it worked very well for me too, and I still do it to this day. I pause before going into the conference room where prospective clients are waiting to see me. I tell myself that I have something important to share with them, that I am going to share it effectively, that we will get on very well, and I will have not only new clients but new friends. Then I give the conference room door a little knock, open it, and go right in.

In another talk, Schuller speaks about losing weight, about taking care of yourself physically. He said that when you have this urge to eat the wrong thing, picture an overweight, middle aged man, grossly overweight in fact, and this man is walking down the beach in a tiny bathing suit with his big belly hanging out. He said that one should go to that scene as one considers that second helping. I've carried the picture in my head for at least 35 years, the picture of the fat man walking down the beach just so. Oh, I really don't want to be that man! No, no, NO!

I don't quite agree with the writer of the story in the L.A. Times that Schuller's message is obsolete. People have a great need, a thirst to do well, and the culture seems to say that it is not in them to do it - so buy this, behave this way, or vote for this candidate or that and he or she will get the goods for you. (Or medicate yourself into really not caring anymore, do that with drugs, alcohol, and mindless entertainment, whether licit or illicit, so that one's need to excel will be muted.) If you keep scratching at Schuller's message, I think you will see Jesus Christ at the center of it. He didn't lead with Jesus Christ, but the Lord was there, for the Lord transforms, he recasts us into resurrection bodies that are powerful because they are part of God's redemptive purpose, because those bodies are finally beginning to do what God originally created them to do.

FURTHER REFLECTION: I don't mean to say that we are "free from sin" in the sense that we no longer sin. I mean to say that we are no longer slaves to sin, as Paul writes in Romans 6. We will sin, but we will do so against our new nature, there will be choice in our misconduct as there will be in our right behaviors.

Holding Things Together

A friend of mine asked me to share with her any thoughts I have had on being called to the home as a part of our service in this world. She is currently reflecting on how many women are at home all the time, living out their lives in laundry, cooking, etc and how really there are spiritual disciplines of service to one's family. I knew that at least two or three of you have talked about this with me as well, so I thought I would share my response to her here as well. So, here is some of what I wrote to her:

More recently, I have been growing my own basil and parsley so I can make pesto from scratch and have been teaching myself to sew and have been running between 12 and 15 miles a week. I have been struck with how much of each of these things requires the practice of discipline and how each of them has parts that are just joy. With the growing, cooking and sewing I have been feeling much more in touch with the part of me that is made in the image of God as creator and maker. I have been reflecting on the joy God must have felt and must feel when he MAKES.

with my home and family I have been struck by how much of the discipline of the home is the discipline of self-sacrifice and service. And, I have felt the Lord impressing on me the importance of the stable environment all of my little tasks and chores add up to make possible. I was beginning to grow numbed to the tasks, beginning to feel like I was drowning in the mundane and doing nothing of significance. Then, the Lord spoke to my heart about the incredible gift I was giving my family by creating this environment which was clean to live in, where they had good food to eat, where they had clean clothes to wear and because of these things they were/are freed up to be able to grow and develop in healthy ways. They are not bound up in worry that is brought about by unstable environments. They had/have the chance to grow to learn a sense of rhythm and season because their minds are free to pick up on life going on around them and not stuck wondering if they will have food to eat today. I was confronted with how much of God's love for me is tied up in doing things that no one would consider sensational, but which absolutely transform me and my experience of the world around me. Colossians tells us that all things are held together in Jesus. So, at all times, part of what Jesus is doing is simply holding my environment together. Every moment He keeps it from flying apart or from ceasing to exist. He keeps all the oxygen molecules exchanging with the carbon dioxide molecules all the time making it so that I can breathe and not suffocate. He brings the rain and the sun so that food can grow and I can have water to drink. BORING. This is not the excitement of the resurrection, this is not as crazy as the creation where everything simply came into being as God spoke it into place. This is the day in, day out maintenance of the world so that I can breathe, eat and drink. I am appreciating more the "mundane" tasks that Jesus performs in the world around me so that I can live. Not to mention (of course) the more exciting things he does, the extraordinary things he does that have transformed my life and given my breathing meaning. The fact that he keeps my environment stable (e.g., gravity always works and does not unpredictably just disappear from time to time), means that more of my mind is available to pay attention to Him and what He is revealing about Himself. Lately, I have been amazed at his persistence, his presence in every moment, how he NEVER takes a break from holding all things together in Him.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Surviving Cancer

My co-worker Sue brought me this article from yesterday's Herald about a neighbor, Holly Echarte, who survived breast cancer. Holly touches on familiar issues, although "my" cancer was/is? lymphoma. For example losing one's hair. I actually went to a wig salon early on! But then decided I was fine without the hair. (I, of course, am a male. I can only cheer when I read how Holly handled the threat of her own hair loss.) Another was the weight gain and food cravings while on the chemo, which in my case I attribute to the Prednizone. (I have no excuse presently.) Another is having the "support system of my husband, family, and friends and amazing doctors." Having such a complete support system is not a given. One of the men in our support group died early on, and I believe his lack of a family support system contributed to his early death. My support system, on the other hand, was a complete blessing. Finally, I am glad to read of Holly's "life after breast cancer."

On the other hand, the Herald had on the same page yesterday an article entitled "Cancer survivors facing greater risk of memory loss." That's not good. On the other hand, I have always had trouble finding the remote.

Lucado, Stott, and Piper

From an interview of Max Lucado in the 10/10 issue of CT:

How would you address some critics who suggest your writing is simplistic?

I would give them a good John Stott book or a John Piper book. I realize the I'm kind of nightstand reading. Some people write lullabies; I write lullabies.

I'm fine with Lucado's self-deprecating assessment of his own writing. (He is a uniquely and enormously gifted communicator.) But does John Piper belong in the same sentence as John Stott?

Just asking.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Brett Favre's Wife; Brett Favre's NY Girl Friend



You've got to be kidding, Brett.

More on How Government Interferes with the Marketplace

The lead article on the front page of the WSJ today has the headline "Congress Staffers Gain from Trading in Stocks." It describes how at least 72 Congressional aides used information on pending legislation not generally available to buy stocks in companies whose price was likely to go up once Congress acted. And these were aides who complied with the requirements that they disclose such purchases - who knows how many made the transactions without making a report (or simply passed the information to family members and friends - who made the purchases).

I don't know how one would control that sort of thing other than to get government out of the way of the market generally.

FURTHER REFLECTION: But, really, this is very small potatoes. The information advantage that people in goverment have, especially House members and Senators, information that they can put to economic advantage is enormous. It's mostly a closed information system, of course, and that's where the advantage is. The ones who plainly cheat (cash in the icebox sorts of things) are the really dumb ones. The smart ones know how to take "inside" information and put it to good use, if they have a mind to do that sort of thing.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Breakfast at Crandon


A mini-camping trip Saturday morning, we imagined. Took our bikes this time, and discovered a lot of places to ride in the park. We capped it off with a visit to the office on the way back home. What's wrong with us?

At the Folkstone Inn and Bryson City










What happened to that weekend, the one where we celebrated our 40th? Up we went to Western N. Carolina, home of so many warm memories, but the weekend came and went so fast, and we were back to work so intensely, that I haven't had time to sort out the photos and the memories. Until today. Here are some shots of the Folkestone Inn near Bryson City, where we stayed. It's a bed and breakfast right near the Deep Creek entrance to the Great Smokey Mountain National Park.

The first photo shows the front of the Inn on the brilliant Sunday morning that followed a couple of rainy days. It is taken from the SE and the morning sun washes over the front of the Inn. The second shows the north side of the inn, and our second floor balcony is marked by the white railing. I took the third photo, also looking back to the north side of the Inn. In the foreground is the entrance to the herb garden, and that's where I'm standing. I turn around and take the fourth photo, and there is Carol.

Part of the Inn's breakfast comes from its gardens. Those were tasty breakfasts, but heavy on the bacon, the eggs, and the cheese. We could find our way to a vegan meal, and mostly were successful, but we ate several dishes with cheese. Of course they were tasty, but we weren't used to full-fat dairy, and our stomachs complained. And there were some very sweet, too sweet dishes too.

The breakfasts were in a sunlit, pleasant little dining room. In fact, the entire Inn and its grounds were carefully, even lovingly made-over from the farm-house it must have been originally. We enjoyed our stay there and felt very welcome.

Bryson City itself was another matter. The restaurants seemed run down (probably the economy) and the food pedestrian. The only bright spot was a Mexican restaurant in a strip mall on the edge of town: Guayabitos, relatively big, bustling, full of energy, totally staffed by Mexicans, and fun to watch the native mountain folks dig into burritos, tacos, and swigging Mexican beer. The food wasn't exactly Austin quality, but it was not bad, especially against the other offerings in Bryson. But, of course, Bryson wasn't the focus of our visit. More on our weekend in later posts.

Friday, October 08, 2010

LifeLock?

I keep getting offers from the NRA (which rivals the AARP in being substantially a marketing front) for LifeLock. Here's a post that makes a good argument that the value of their $10 per month services are things one can do without charge with just a little effort. On the other hand, the value of your effort may very well be much more than $10 per month; so $10 per month is a bargain.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Romans 6:7 and the Matter of Being "Free from Sin"

We commenced Romans 6 this morning, and there is a controversy about how to translate verse 7. Here is the NIV translation, but I need to quote both verses 6 and 7, because verse 7 alone is a sentence fragment in the NIV:

"6For we know that our old self was crucified with him, so that the body of sin might be done away with; that we should no longer be slaves to sin - 7because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. [My italics.]"

I think you can see the problem when you read how N.T. Wright translates verse 7 (again, in the context of vss 6 and 7) in Paul for Everyone, Romans: Part One at page 102, a translation with which John Stott would agree, according to his The Message of Romans at page 177. Thus, Wright's translation:

"This is what we know; our old humanity was crucified with the Messiah, so that the solidarity of sin might be abolished, and that we should no longer be enslaved to sin. A person who has died, you see, has been declared to be free from all charges of sin. [Again, my italics.]"

Are we "free from sin" or are we "declared to be free from all charges of sin." The NIV's Romans 6:7 would say we are "free from sin." Now why didn't my parents, good Southern Baptist readers of the Bible, have that firmly in mind when I was a teeneager? They insisted on setting certain limits, as if I might somehow fall short of the glory of God. But I had accepted Christ at nine years. My parents had a teenager who had been "freed from sin." What was wrong with them?

If they didn't have the NIV at that point, they did have KJV, which, as John Stott notes, translates verse 7 the same way as the NIV. (The RSV has the "freed from sin" translation too, as does the NRSV, and even the NET Bible.)

The New American Standard Bible at least has a textual footnote at the word "freed." It is "acquitted," a legal term. And that's the point, Christ paid the penalty for sin, he didn't make us impervious to sin itself. Sin no longer enslaves us but it certainly hangs around and entices us. From time to time sin successfully does so, but even then we hope it does so to our Godly shame. (The idea of Godly shame carries us to a discussion of sanctification, which I won't discuss here, although Chapter 6 in Romans is where Paul starts to talk about sanctification.) Stott points out that the Greek word that is translated "freed" in verse 7 of the NIV and similar translations is the same word that elsewhere is translated "justified" (that word is dedikaiotai.) In the Cross, we are justified, meaning Christ pays the penalty, not us.

{My thanks to Austin for forwarding to me an email from Dave Seivright of Campus Crusade in which Dave notes this translation problem. Thanks also to Van for describing the distinction this morning in his sermon between Godly shame and worldly shame.)

Another Book Recommendation

Griswold, The Tenth Parallel: Dispatches from the Fault Line Between Christianity and Islam. This one recommended by a fellow Elder at church this morning. May buy it. (Fixed the link.)

UPDATE: I acquired this book, read a couple of chapters, didn't like it, and put it down for good. Among the author's views seems to be one that holds that Christianity and Islam are morally equivalent religions. The author is a globetrotting journalist whom one can credit with a lot of courage, a Yale grad, and the daughter of a presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church. But no to her book.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Oatmeal Box Radio

My first radio project was a crystal set. I was 8 or 9 when I built my first one. (I divide up my childhood in segments, the first one being our house on Desoto Drive in Miami Springs, where we lived until 1954, and the second when we moved to the house on Falcon Avenue. I have clear memories of building crystal sets on Falcon Avenue, but none earlier.) It may have been Cub Scouts where these things first appeared in my life - Mom was a Den mother - but my dad was the major instigator. He had built them when he was a growing up, and helped me collect the parts and build my first couple of them. I found it wondrous to put some wire on a board, string more up out the window as an antenna, connect some earphones, and hear radio stations.

The "crystal" which is the core of the radio, "detects" radio signals, and was called a "crystal detector." It changed the alternating current that came down the antenna wire into direct current, which not only was able to carry the "information" in the signal, but also to power the radio itself, for it had no battery. The "crystal" was a crude semi-conductor, and my first sets actually had the little piece of crystal rock encased in a tiny metal bowl connected to the antenna. The apparatus had a piece of wire (the "cat's whisker"), one end of which you applied physically to the rock, and the other of which went to the next component. Later I graduated to a kit that had an actual "diode," which encased the bit of crystal in a tiny tube with a wire coming out of each end. Little did I know that this would be to transistors and then computer chips what my roller skates were to the automobiles I now drive. (There's a good article on crystal radios at Wikipedia.)

Lately I have come upon a website that is devloted to crystal sets, "The Xtal Set Society." Uncotrolled nostalgia, yes, but hand me my pliers. And, Aidan, save your oatmeal boxes.

(Ken, didn't you get into this too about the same time?)