Saturday, July 31, 2004

Political Convention Reality Check. Zell Miller, the Democratic senator from Georgia, tells why he skipped the convention in Boston but will be at the one in New York. Then there is the British pundit, who seems to have the Kerry speech about right.

Monday, July 26, 2004

What does Bin Ladin want?  I am reading the 9/11 Commission Report.  The other night I heard on television a pundit ask whether Bin Ladin's objective is to get us out of Saudi Arabia, where the "holiest of Muslim shrines are located".  Bin Ladin's objective is a bit more ambitious, according to the 9/11 Commission.  It reports that in February 1998, Bin Ladin and his associate Ayman al Zawahiri issued a fatwah in which "they called for the murder of any American, anywhere on earth, as the 'individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it.' "

Three months later, the Report states, in an interview in Afghanistan by ABC-TV, Bin Ladin said, "We believe that the worst thieves in the world today and the worst terrorists are the Americans.  Nothing could stop you except perhaps retaliation in kind.  We do not have to differentiate between military or civilian.  As far as we are concerned, they are all targets."

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Cripples at the Gate called Beautiful.  Today in Van's Sunday School class, we considered Acts 3 where Peter heals the crippled beggar.  I thought of the beggar as representing me, perhaps representing all of us, especially those of us who are older, but especially representing me. 

By now, some of us older folks have made peace with our shortcomings and disabilities.  We sit just where we are, we have given up trying to move closer to Christ's character.  I remember a very difficult woman who was a member of our church and, to our relief, left us a few years ago.  She insisted that her very difficult and self-involved attitude was "the way I am", and it was up to the rest of us to accept her as she was.  That's what unconditional love is all about, she insisted.  She had made peace with her neuroses, and we were to make peace with them too.  She is not so different from me.

What have I decided that I cannot do?  I have decided I cannot do a lot of things.  I see a way that Christ would have me grow, and I say that I cannot go there.  I have tried over the years to move in that direction in this respect or that, but I am 58 years old now, and what's the use.  I will sit here at the gate called Beautiful, ask for a hand-out from my friends and from strangers, and watch them pass by into the Temple.

Then Peter said "Look at us!".  So the man gave him his attention, expecting to get something from them.  Then Peter said, "Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you.  In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk."

(But I gave up trying to walk decades ago, the beggar said to himself.  I haven't even thought about walking in years.)

Taking him by the right hand, Peter helped him up, and instantly the man's feet and ankles became strong.  He jumped to his feet and began to walk.    Then he went with them, Peter and John, into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.  They went to the place called "Solomon's Colonnade", named for the most successful of all the Kings of Israel:  more wealth, more wives, more wisdom than anyone ever.  One wife is plenty, but more wealth and more wisdom, I'll take that.   Frankly, at this point I'll more than settle for the wisdom.

Take my hand, Precious Lord.  Make my feet and ankles strong.  I want into the Temple.  Help me look at others the way you do.  Help me look at myself in relation to them, to see myself as you would have me to be.  I want to jump up and begin to walk.

Friday, July 23, 2004

The Demise of Literature.  George Will's column on this subject is well worth reading.
I wonder what Solzhenitsyn thinks of Cool Hand Luke?

probably something like, "Forty Eggs? Such gluttons, even in their work camps!"

He does have this to say, "Somewhere young men of our age were studying at the Sorbonne or at Oxford, playing tennis during their ample hours of relaxation, arguing about the problems of the world in student cafes. They were already being published and were exhibiting their paintings. They were twisting and turning to find ways of distorting the insufficiently original world around them in some new way. They railed against the classics for exhausting all the subjects and themes. They railed at their own governments and their own reactionaries who did not want to comprehend and adopt the advanced experience of the Soviet Union. They recorded interviews through the microphones of radio reporters, listening all the time to their own voices and coquettishly elucidating what they wished to say in their last or their first book. They judged everything in the world with self-assurance, but particularly the prosperity and higher justice of our country. Only at some point in their old age, in the course of compiling encyclopedias, would they notice with astonishment that they could not find any worthy Russian names for our letters--for all the letters of our alphabet."

The Gulag Archipelago Two

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Changing Majors

I just finished reading, The Worldly Philosophers, by Robert L. Heilbroner. Walter suggested it to me and lent me his copy a few months ago.

If I had read this while a freshman at Davidson, I would have been strongly tempted to major in economics. Maybe the Econ Department at Davidson was trying to limit their number of majors, but the Econ 101 class I took was so mind-numbingly uninteresting that I couldn't get out of there fast enough. Now that I've read Mr. Heilbroner's fascinating account of how and why we're where we are economically, I might actually find that 101 class interesting and even want to take more. Mr. Heilbroner also helped me understand more fully the ongoing conservative/liberal discussion on what makes an economy go, particularly interesting to me in light of all of the current commentary on why/why not Pres. Bush's economic policies are beneficial.

I thank Walter for recommending the book, and pass on that recommendation to you.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Eat Every Bean and Pea on Your Plate.  "Losing weight, eating more fruits and vegetables and exercising your brain and body" is a formula for preventing not only heart disease but also Alzehimer's disease.  At least I think that's what this article said . . . I can't remenber.
Patrick O'Brian and the Aubrey-Maturin Series.   Patrick O'Brian's Jack Aubrey suceeded C.S. Forester's Horatio Hornblower, and succeeded him pretty well.  I read the HH books as a teenager, then discovered O'Brian's novels in my late 40's, and then I read the HH series all over again.  As you probably know, the recent motion picture Master and Commander is based on the O'Brian novels.  (The first novel in the series is titled Master and Commander, but the movie takes pieces from several books in the series and weaves them together for the screenplay.)   If the subject interests you, you might like to read two related articles in the December 2003 issue of the Smithsonian Magazine, the first about "Thomas Cochrane, the Napoleonic era's nautical maverick [who provided] the spark behind the fictional Jack Aubrey" and the second about O'Brian himself.  These articles are available in a PDF file on the Smithsonian Magazine website here.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Barbara Britain - Barbara Seaman.   Barbara is a Christian, an elder in our church, a legal secretary with a Broward firm, a single mom with grown up children.  She has a fine eye for photography and began selling her photographs several years ago.  Here is where you can see them on the web.  Her name is "Barbara Seaman", but there is an author of some fame by that name, so she has a nomme d'art, "Barbara Britain".  She is from England.
From the "Get thee a Wife" Department.   A recent study indicates that sex is a better key to happiness than money.  What would we do without "studies"?
But is God really a vegetarian?  My previous blog refers to Gen. 1:30 and 31 as pointing us to a vegetarian diet.  I mentioned this at my Friday morning men's breakfast, and my friend Pat Talbott started rattling off scripture in which God appears to approve non-vegetarian items on one's plate.  For example, we have the quail that the Lord sent to the children of Israel in the wilderness, and we have the loaves and the fishes  that Jesus distributed to the five-thousand.  (Notice the balance: in the wilderness manna in the morning and quail in the evening; on the hillside far out of town, loaves and fishes .)  So if originally God planned a vegetarian diet, he was soon away from it after the fall.  
But perhaps changing the menu could be among God's redemptive acts, those acts that allow us to live as sinful beings if only for awhile, his common grace, and his accommodation to our fallen state and us living in a fallen world.
If God moves towards us by such ordinary things as changing the permissive diet, are we to move toward him and away from foods that are not good for us?  Can we do this without making it a Pharasaic practice and being annoying (by that I mean unfriendly) to others?  Can we do this without being focused on ourselves, but by making such a practice a way that we love others?  

Saturday, July 17, 2004

We should not envy rich movements that are organized and led by an alternative bureaucracy living on the problems it is supposed to solve. We want a movement that is a movement because it is advanced by all its members in their daily lives.

--Wendell Barry

Friday, July 16, 2004

Reading the Bible in a Year.  At the recent Christian Life Conference we attended, one of the two major speakers was John Huffman,  the pastor at St. Andrews PC in Newport Beach, CA.  John said that you could read the Bible through in a year if you read two chapters from the Old Testament each day and one from the New.  So I started that yesterday.  I read Gen 1 and 2, but didn't get to Matthew 1, because I had to stop and think about what I read in Genesis, and ran out of time.  What a refreshing thing to read those two chapters!  So many things appeared new to me.  I realized that it had been a long, long time since I had read them.
Here's one thing that struck me for the first time (probably something that has been always obvious to you and certainly to many others): In Gen. 1:29 and 30 God appears to describe the first diet for men and animals.  Its a vegetarian diet.
I thought "What about the lions?  Did they not eat other animals?"  But maybe the lion we see today is the evolutionary result of sin having later come into the world.  (Such speculation!).  Maybe we are as different in our characters from Adam as the present day lion is from what God originally created.
And where does that leave us?  If the original intention was for us to be vegetarians,  do we eat meat as an appropriate accomadation to the fallen world or should we move away from that?

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Thank you Letter to my Aunt and Uncle.
July 15, 2004
Dear Ann and Don,

We had a wonderful time in Eastman with you. Thank you for your great hospitality and for letting us have an entire day and two nights with you. There could not have been a better way to start a vacation. It was such a rush to get away from Miami, we were wound up to say the least, and to sit on that porch with you and have that time together was a balm.
We reached Montreat in plenty of time after leaving Eastman on Saturday. Walter, Morgan, and Mary drove up with Carol’s sister, Mary Ann, in time for dinner there. We all enjoyed each other and the conference activities. My seminar on "End of Life Issues" was well received. We heard some fine preaching. We saw old friends from prior conferences, including a young lady whom we had met years before, Becky Capps. She graduated from Princeton Seminary in 2003 and had recently joined the staff at Westminster PC in Spartanburg as an associate minister. Is that the church you attended?

On Tuesday at Noon the conference ended. We said good bye to Mary Ann, and Mary, Walter, Morgan, Carol, and I drove to the Blue Ridge Parkway and headed north toward Blowing Rock. We stayed for three nights at a National Park Service campground just off the Parkway: no electricity, no showers, but a "comfort station", which you had to find at night with your flashlight. Despite all of those deprivations (maybe a little because of them), we enjoyed it. The weather was cool and dry. One day we canoed down the New River. Another day we went to Linville Gap, to the viaduct on Grandfather Mountain, to the Mast General Store near Boone, and we did some hiking.

On Friday we drove to Spindale and visited Carol’s Aunt Evelyn. Macon and Kellsey met us there and we spent the night. On Saturday, we drove Walter, Morgan and Mary back to Greensboro, but stopped for lunch in Winston-Salem. In W-S Mary showed us the school where she will be teaching and the house that she and two other young women will be renting for the year. Then we dropped Walter and Morgan off at the Greensboro-High Point-Winston Salem airport for their flight back to Dallas. From there we went to Mary Ann’s house and dropped off Mary. About 3PM we headed for home. We got as far as Savannah Saturday night, and then drove the rest of the way to Miami on Sunday.

Now its Friday, two weeks from the Friday that we spent with you. The velocity of time seems to accelerate as I get older. But I am still enjoying those moments with you, and I always will.

We hope you will come visit us soon.

Thank you again for making us feel so welcome and loved.