Sunday, December 25, 2011

How One Handles a Sneeze as a Sign of God's Calling

Yesterday Mary described scrub protocols in the operating room. She said that surgeons learn to "swallow" their sneezes. (We asked her about itches and runny noses, but those are distinct subjects that require their own posts, respectively. This post is about sneezes.)

I inherited Juanita's explosive sneeze. Here was a college educated, Southern lady, who, when she sneezed, raised the roof. Those sneezes echoed around our neighborhood. Dogs started barking. When cars began to come with alarms, the alarms went off. People who knew the source, usually laughed. The uninformed were astonished.

Carol's sneezes make hardly a sound. Imagine a chipmunk sneezing, and there you have it. But Carol can't stand the sight of blood.

I don't mind the sight of blood so much, but I have do have Juanita's sneeze.

Mary's doing well with the sight of blood and she sneezes quietly. Well, then, there you have it. Surgery.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve Breakfast at Crandon Park


Temperature in the mid 70s, a very light breeze, soft, bright winter sunlight, and two of my very favorite people.

Friday, December 23, 2011

"It's just math."

P.V.T surface model for water.

As Mary is fond of saying, "Physics is just math." (Does she quote Koski?) The model is simply a three-dimensional graph.

In fact, everything is just math. Like this is just physics, is justmath, (More on the new particle here.)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Romney's Right Answers on Iraq

A journalist named Byron York wrote this article entitled "Romney changes stance on Iraq." York writes for the Washington Examiner, a conservative counterpart to the Washington Post. As the title to the article indicates, York's thesis is that Romney changed his position on the war in Iraq over the course of a couple of interviews during the past week or two. (Instapundit links this article.)

But a careful reading of the article doesn't show the changes that York contends occurred. I find Romney's answers consistent and forthright about whether it would have been appropriate for our country to have have gone to war in Iraq had it had the proper intelligence concerning WMDs. Furthermore, his answers are valid.

What good is history if we don't learn from it?

The narrative of the war quickly turned to that of "nation-building" when our armies found no WMDs. The Constantinian idea of imposing a healthy national culture from the top down is more evidence that politicians ignore their history at the peril of the rest of us.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Market Will Get after Red China, Just as it Did the Soviet Union

And probably faster, as China has danced with it with such apparent success.

But there is the piper to pay.

Instapundit links this, as it did this six years ago.

Rant in the Middle of the Night

As for [University of Connecticut's president Susan] Herbst’s claim that the humanities “teach us how we’re supposed to live,” this is true; rather, it was true, up until about 50 years ago. The last two generations of college students have been taught by their humanities and social-science professors that principles regarding “how we’re supposed to live” are merely “values,” and that all values are as good as any others. Moral and cultural relativism are the thin gruel that the universities feed their students’ hungry souls.

-from "The Humanities Real Enemies," by Thomas K. Lindsay, linked to by Instapundit.

This cultural relativism like the plague infects PC(USA). What pushed me over the edge happened about a 9 months ago when a freshly minted seminary grad was admitted to Presbytery on a split vote after she, during examination, said something like, "Jesus is the Savior for me, but for others . . . "

Please wash my mouth out with soap the next time I say "my tradition holds that . . . "

The Creed begins "I believe in God the Father Almighty , , ,," not "I believe in a god, I call Father Almighty . . . " He is not God the Father Almighty to me, he is God the Father Almighty period. When I speak the Creed, I'm telling you "I get it," like "I get calculus" (or once I did, anyway). I'm not telling you how I feel. Whether I get it or not, God the Father Almighty or calculus, has nothing to do with the authenticity of the fact.

And speaking of the Creed and relativism, don't you hate "Holy Christian Church" when it's "holy catholic Church." Give me a break.

Monday, December 19, 2011

And the Answer?

The 5-foot, 6-inch arthritic, diabetic man weighed 185 pounds the first day of his [plant-based] diet on July 28. Today, he's an energetic, nonmedicated, 140-pound feel-good guy on a mission.

-From the Oklahoman.

When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, "Do you want to get well?"

-From John 5: 1-9.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sing and Make Music in Your Heart to the Lord!

I Thessalonians 5:16-18: Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4: 4-7: Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Ephesians 5: 19-20: Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

"Social Skills"

Glenn Reynolds links to this post at the Penelope Trunk Blog - Advice at the Intersection of Work and Life. One of the "Social Skills" Penelope lists is "Paying Attention to Personality Types." She refers to the granddaddy (my description, not Penelope's, but should I say "grandmother?") of personality tests, the Myers-Briggs. (Penelope's blog is worth a regular look, by the way.)

At our men's breakfast yesterday morning, we read 1 Samuel 11. We began talking about leadership skills, because the scripture describes Saul's leadership in response to a crisis. (He is empowered by the "Spirit of God," a small detail). That discussion lead to a discussion of personality tests. (Do you suppose we may have missed the point?)

Coincidentally, at our firm we have recently undertaken personality assessments with the help of an HR consultant. I am again reminded of what an odd fellow I really am.

Come, Holy Spirit.

Staying or Leaving

My personal calculus is this: I can envision no likely circumstances under which my theologically diverse congregation in Washington, DC, would leave the PCUSA. I have deep ties to that congregation, going back to my maternal grandmother, and I believe God has planted me there for his purposes. I have taken vows as a member, deacon, and elder within that congregation and the PCUSA. I see nothing that prevents me from fulfilling those vows, and carrying out the ministries to which God has called me, within that congregation. So I will be staying.

Yet others face a different personal calculus, and they will choose to leave the PCUSA. Can we still bless one another, as Esau and Jacob blessed one another in their maturity (Genesis 33)? Can we allow the possibility that God may be calling different ones among his servants to serve in different places?

-Alan Wisdom (last June) of the Institute on Religion and Democracy

(Yes, to his two questions, although most of the members at FPC Miami Springs, I believe, will vote to leave.)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Away in a Manger? No, at Home in the Manger.

In traditional Middle Eastern villages, one would find mangers in the typical one or two room homes, one room being the "family room" and the other, if there were another, the "guest room," according to Bailey. At one end of the family room, immediately at the single door through which one entered the little house, the family's animals entered too. The family brought them in at night. The animals stayed there, at ground level adjacent to the door, safe from thieves and providing warmth with their body heat. There were no "barns" or "stables," no separate quarters for animals.

The family slept in the same room, but on a sort of dais or raised floor. The floor slanted slightly, toward the end of the room where the animals stayed at night, so that when the floor was cleaned and washed, the water drained to the lower portion by the door. (There were steps from the raised floor, down to the part where the animals stayed.)

On the raised portion of the floor, next to the part where the animals stayed, the builders would have made two bucket-like holes, accessible to the animals. They were the mangers, kept filled with straw, so the animals would have something to eat. That's where Mary laid baby Jesus. (Some houses may have had mangers fashioned from wooden boxes.)

There were no "inns" in Bethlehem. That word should have been translated "guest room," the second room that some houses would have. In the particular home where Mary and Joseph stayed, there was no room for Mary and Joseph in the guest room. It was occupied. So they stayed in the family room, with the family that owned the house.

No self-respecting village would have refused a pregnant woman hospitality. Besides, Mary and Joseph were "royals," Bailey writes. They were of the house and lineage of David. And Bethlehem, after all, was the City of David.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes; the PC(USA) Through Middle Eastern (African, etc.) Eyes

Alec Hill sent us three IVP books after his visit to our home. One of them is Kenneth E. Bailey's Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels. We've heard of this book, are simply delighted to receive it, and sadly reminded of what Dr. Bailey said about the PC(USA) and the Article 10-A decision.

I posted on what Dr. Bailey said this past September. It's worth linking again to his article for PFR, and reposting this quote from that article:

The recent decision to change our ordination standards is a rejection of Scripture and tradition as understood by more than one billion Roman Catholics. It is also an offense to more than 300 million Eastern Orthodox in their various communities in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and around the globe.

Western Christianity has been the “superpower” of the Christian world for more than a thousand years. Across the centuries we were able to define what it meant to be a Christian. This is no longer the case. As is well-known, the numerical center of the Christian world has moved South and East. That “global South” is becoming more and more important for the larger body of Christ and they (along with the Catholics and Eastern Orthodox) will see us as having departed from Scripture and tradition as the Church everywhere has known it for two millennia. Our relationships with them are now freshly damaged.

Be an "Obstinate Christian"

Carol took note of Pliny's complaint about "obstinate" Christians in the quote in my post immediately below. Some of the Christians that fell into his clutches refused to renounce Christ and worship the Emperor, and some did not refuse. The compliant ones he simply let go. The "obstinate ones" he killed. We don't run such a risk these days. There's no good reason not to be obstinate about holding on to our faith.

Christians and Sexual Immorality

Eighty percent of young, unmarried Christians have had sex. Two-thirds have been sexually active in the last year. Even though, according to a recent Gallup poll, 76 percent of evangelicals believe sex outside of marriage is morally wrong.

-Relevant Magazine, September/October 2011 Issue.

22 Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, men who were leaders among the believers. 23 With them they sent the following letter:

The apostles and elders, your brothers,

To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia:

Greetings.

24 We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. 25 So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul— 26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing. 28 It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: 29 You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.

Farewell.


-Acts 15:22-29

But Pliny [the Younger, Roman governor of Bithynia, a region on the north shore of what is now Turkey, persecutor of Christians during the Second Century] considered himself a just man, and therefore felt obliged to find out what crimes, besides sheer obstinacy, Christians committed. All he could learn was that Christians gathered before dawn to sing to Christ "as to a god," and to join in an oath not to commit theft, adultery, or any such sins . . .

-Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity, Vol. 1 at page 40 (1st ed. 1984)

What Carol and I have seen is that this sort of disobedience is not confined to "young, unmarried Christians," but to unmarried Christian adults of all ages. Such conduct has seriously weakened our local church and its mission. I suggest that this problem is at the heart of the movement under way of many PC(USA) churches out of that denomination. It is not about homosexuality, it is about sexual immorality, regardless of how one self-identifies concerning "sexual preference." It is a good reason to leave, as much as I would prefer not to concede that it is.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Our Brothers, the Roman Catholics, Have a New Missal

Deacon Greg Kandra writes about it.

Yesterday at our Men's Breakfast, Gary Cameron, Area Director for InverVarsity, said that he thinks that the RCs may right now have a better grasp on what it means to live the Christian life than the Protestants.

A Thoughtful Article on Tebow in the WSJ


It's here, but you probably need a subscription to view it on the WSJ's online service. (Sometimes I can find full copies of WSJ articles at other websites, if I google it. I'm not sure why.)

An interesting quote from that article I can reproduce:

At the national level, however, big-time sports is big business, with billions of dollars at stake, and Americans tend to be cynical about the whole show. In this world, Mr. Tebow's frequent professions of faith can come across as a discordant note, equal parts over-earnestness and naïveté. It's hard to resist the thought that, eventually, a darker reality will show through.

Mr. Tebow may indeed turn out to be a hypocrite, like other high-profile Christians in recent memory. Some of us might even want that to happen, because moral failure is something we understand. We know how to deal with disappointed expectations, to turn our songs of praise into condemnation.

What we are far less sure how to do is to take seriously a public figure's seemingly admirable character and professions of higher purpose. We don't know how to trust goodness.

And who can blame us? We don't want to be fooled again.


Patton Dodd wrote the article. The WSJ editors describe him as follows: "Mr. Dodd is the managing editor of the website Patheos [worth looking at] and a former senior editor at Beliefnet. This article is adapted from his e-book, "The Tebow Mystique: The Faith and Fans of Football's Most Polarizing Player."

The article refers to a link called Tebowing.com, which is sympathetic to Tembow. (Somebody might buy me a T-shirt from that site for Christmas. I'm buying Sam one.)

Friday, December 09, 2011

Straight No Chaser: 12 Days of Christmas

From Writing-it-Out/Keyboard to Dictation/Keyboard to Dictation/Dragon: Part I

By the time I graduated from law school, I had done a lot of writing. My tools were the pencil, writing paper, a portable electric type-writer from Sears that I acquired at the end of my senior year in high school, index cards, scissors, scotch tape, and, toward the latter part of my student career, photo-copy machines. I didn't do very well using the type-writer directly. Instead, I usually "wrote-out" a first draft, made some annotations and changes directly on that draft, and then transcribed that draft to a type-written text. As I typed I would make more changes.

Next, on the clean type-written draft, I made more changes and corrections with my pencil. I would make more changes until the draft became messy, at which point I typed another transcription. I might go through several cycles of typing and hand-writing on the typed transcript. During these cycles I would often cut up the manuscript into paragraph pieces, rearrange the paragraphs, and then tape the thing together.

When the paper involved research, as it often did, I had index cards on which I wrote quotations from various sources. I would scotch tape the index cards into the right place during the cycle. Photocopy machines were just coming in, and Duke had a copy center, so I began to take books over to the center, especially library books, to get copies made of certain pages. I would take the scissors to those pages and scotch-tape slices to the current draft.

When I was working on a big paper at Duke, I used a type-writing service. There were secretaries in the administration offices who would take one's draft home and type it up for a fee. So as I was cycling through the process of producing the paper, I might get to the point where I would take my last type-written draft, one on which I had made relatively few and legible changes by hand, to one of these secretaries for a close-to final draft, get it back, decide whether it was good enough (it was never good enough on an absolute basis, but it was often good enough in terms of the time had left before I had to turn it in), and then either use it or cycle back one more time to the secretary for the final. One advantage to the secretary was that I could get away from the paper for awhile, and then get back with my mind refreshed to a nice, clean, professionally produced manuscript.

Dragon for the Mac

I've had success with with Dragon Naturally Speaking via my desktop at the office, which is a PC. There is a Mac version of this product, Dragon Dictate.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Tebow and Denver beat the Vikings

What Tim Tebow is doing for the Denver Broncos must be considered the top story in the NFL this year. After enduring incessant criticism and hatred from the media and so-called NFL experts, Tebow has now led the Broncos to first place in the AFC West.

-Patrick Michael at Yahoo Sports.

Bronco's defense not available for victory attribution this week. So what (that is, who) is the common denominator here?

More from Patrick Michael at the Yahoo link:

In fairness to the Broncos defense, they also forced two huge interceptions. And RB Willis McGahee rushed for 111 yards. However, Tebow was impressive as a… (Dare I say it?) passer! Gasp! On the day, Tebow was 10-15 for 202 yards and two TDs. More telling is fact that Tebow only rushed for 13 yards on four carries.

This leads to a startling potential conclusion. Could it be that Tebow is actually improving as a passer? Is it possible that NFL defenses will have to start game planning for Tebow the passer and runner? Could it be that John Elway better start scouting WRs instead of QBs? The critics may lose their minds.

Friday, December 02, 2011

"Covertly Conscious"

Three hospitalized, brain-damaged men who were unresponsive and apparently unconscious of their surroundings caught observers by surprise when they repeatedly responded to commands by researchers. Although the men, diagnosed as vegetative, couldn't physically move or speak, a headset of electrodes measured their brain activity after neurologists asked them to imagine wiggling their toes or clenching a fist. One of the patients responded over 100 times, the researchers reported in The Lancet, a British medical journal. Roughly 20,000 Americans are living in a persistent vegetative state—a condition of being awake but presumably unaware. That condition led to a national outcry over the late Terri Schiavo, whose feeding tube was removed in 2005. The results of the new study suggest one-fifth of these patients might actually retain consciousness. A brain scanning system could enable them to communicate with their families.

-from World magazine's December 3, 2011 issue, p. 10

The abstract from The Lancet article is here.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

"The Issue is One of Solvency, Not Liquidity"

Mr. King said provisions of liquidity — such as the concerted central bank action taken by the BOE [Bank of England], U.S. Federal Reserve and other major peers Wednesday — won't solve the euro zone's problems in the long term because the issue is one of solvency, not liquidity.

-from today's WSJ. Mr. King is Governor of the Bank of England.

The market brought down the Soviet Empire. The euro zone is a bump in the road next to that. The US is a bit more than a bump, but it has no special exemption either. The British, according to the article, are getting ready for the zone's fall. I trust we are as well, even as we, along with the BOE "and other peers," are throwing more money at the crisis. I suppose those actions are window dressing, so that when the zone finally goes down, we can say that we tried.