Monday, December 31, 2007

She Walks!

You know, you can never get the camera fast enough, and once you've got it, they'll never do for you again what they just finished doing before you got the camera.
Honor had just walked back and forth between me and Macon at least a few times, a feat that required her to take 3 or 4 steps at a time each way. As soon as I got the camera, it was all over. So I am very sorry not to have recorded for all of you fine folks one of her longer jaunts. Even so, it is so fun to have a video of at least this one step. I hope that all you grandparents and aunts and uncles (and friends) enjoy!

Rollin', Rollin', Rollin'....

Ladies and Gentlemen, may I introduce a very fine young rider, Miss Honor.

All that bouncing at the beginning is totally her. Macon is not helping her bounce at all. She really likes riding Fire!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

London: The World's Financial Capital

I read this boast somewhere the other day. I can believe it. All the oil money the West sends to the Middle East is recyled back to the West through Islam-friendly Britain where, at Oxford, public loudspeakers call the submissive to prayer. But are we far behind?

Shoot! Missed asking for this at Christmas . . .

. . . maybe Valentine's Day?

Trouble in Kenya

Mary sent us an email advising that RVA is delaying the opening of the new term because of the election difficulties. She's OK, she said. But a matter for some prayer.

Lojack for Laptops

WSJ reported on Thursday about a service offered by Absolute Software Corp. under which you download tracking software to your laptop, which then sends a signal to the service's monitoring center every time it logs onto the internet. If you report your machine missing, the service will be able to trace the computer by its Internet protocol address. "The company then works with law-enforcement agencies to recover the laptop by locating the network it has logged on to - say, a local coffee shop." The article mentions two other such services, Cyberangel Security Solutions and Brigadoon Security Group.

I haven't read these sites with any care, but it seems to me that the thing to do is for the service to send a virus to the computer, having preset a sort of portal so that it gets by the firewall or general virus security. (I am assuming that everything would be backed up, so you really can survive without the machine.) Or maybe the signal would simply lock the Laptop down, if there was any chance of actually retrieving the machine.

And I would have it connected to a little mp3 program that would scream, "Help, Thief! Help, Thief, Call the Police!!!"

Friday, December 28, 2007

A Mile Wide and an Inch Deep

I heard someone say this about Christianity in Kenya when I was there. I thought, "But what about the American church?"

Bill Hybels seems to think something like that exists here and that his approach to ministry had something to do with it.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Juanita's Bible

I was looking at Juanita's old Bible last night. The frontispiece reads "Presented to Mother by Paul, Little Walter, Daddy. Birthday - November 17, 1950." She was 30 that year. Notes in the Bible, remind me that my brother Walter died the following March. (He was two years younger than I; born September 8, 1948.) My sister came along December 11, 1952.

There's a page between the Old and New Testament entitled "Deaths". Here are notes from that page:

Audrey Atrue Jordan Warren born March 13, 1902, died February 1, 1949. Buried Panthersville Presbyterian Church, Panthersville, GA, Dekalb, County. (My mother's mother. Jordan was her maiden name; Warren, the family name of the husband, Ike, to whom she was married when she died. I never heard or read of the name "Atrue" before last night.)

Walter Levi Stokes born June 6, 1877, died December 20, 1949. 5:15 PM. Buried December 22, 1949 2:00 Westview Cemetery (Atlanta) (My dad's father. I have only one memory of him, a visit, probably Thanksgiving the year he died. He was sick and in bed. I was three years old that year. I don't know where that middle name came from.)

Hettie Louise [Johnson] Stokes. Born October 24, 1884. Died July 12, 1959 7:30 AM. Buried July 14, 1959 2PM Westview Cemetery (Atlanta). (My dad's mother. She moved to Miami Springs sometime in the early 50s and lived with my Aunt Frances' family. My Aunt Frances and her family moved to Miami Springs from Greensboro about that time.)

Walter Johnson Stokes. Died October 10, 1996. Westview - ATL. (My dad. He was born August 9, 1912.)

Walter Johnson Stokes II Born September 8 1948, died March 21, 1951, buried March 23, 1951. Westview Cemetery. (Again, my little brother. I have lots of pretty clear memories of him. He was born with damage to his brain because of a lack of oxygen during the birthing process. He had "infantile paralysis" as a result, had to wear braces on his legs and had "convulsions", which is what they called seizures back then. I don't recall anything wrong with his mind. We played together a lot. He died of one of those "convulsions" at Variety Children's Hospital. By the time our kids came along, that hospital was known as Miami Children's Hospital, and again became a familiar place to me. He really wasn't a "II". He was a "Jr.", because he had my dad's name. But my grandmother called my dad "Junior" because his dad was a Walter too, even though Grandfather Walter's middle name was not Johnson but Levi. But my grandmother called my dad "Junior" anyway, so my parents gave my brother the "II". But why wouldn't they call him III then, I would ask my mother? She said it was because he did not have the same name as Walter Levi, he had the same name as my father. But why not III, then, I would ask, if they weren't going to pay attention to middle names. She would just look at me. Pretty appalling mix-up, I would say. I guess that would make my son Walter number IV. But that wouldn't make sense, because Macon always said Walter was II, but I think Macon was referring to something else and he wasn't thinking Roman numerals. My brother is buried in Westview too. I remember riding the train up to Atlanta from Miami with my Mom and Dad. I think we rode the train because the casket with my brother in it was on the same train. We had a Pullman compartment where the porter came in when we were ready to go to bed and put down the beds. I remember the funeral at the Hemperley Funeral Home, and my brother beforehand in the open casket in one of the parlors. He looked like he was asleep. I was sure all that I had to do was reach over and open his eyes and he would wake up. My mother was with me and she told me that it wouldn't work. I was 4 years old. I remember her being dressed up like we were going to church, and I remember her being very young. The memories of all that are very, very clear.)

Carlos Mason Hemperley died June 11, 1971. (This was my mother's father, and my "grandaddy" growing up. What a hero he was to me. He was just 70 when he died, and had been getting ready to come to my graduation from law school when he went to the hospital. Carol and I skipped the graduation ceremony and drove down to Atlanta, hoping to see him before he died, but got there in time for the funeral. He's buried in Westview Cemetery. I don't know where the "Carlos" came from, other than the fact that we are direct descendants of El Cid. Just kidding. The "Mason" is the family name of my grandfather's father's business partner. They were in the retail furniture business, and carried a line of caskets. They spun off the casket business into a funeral home and my great-grandfather founded Hemperley Funeral Home in East Point. My cousin, Carlos M. Hemperley III (?), son of my uncle Carlos M. Hemperley Jr., carries on that business to this day. My grandfather offered a place in that business to my dad early on. Nope. There are lots of good stories about my granddaddy.)

Nancy R. Della Lanford Jordan Born February 14, 1883 [Valentine's Day] Died September 9, 1971. Buried Corinth Baptist Church Stone Mountain, GA. (This was my mother's grandmother, Audrey's mother. When my mother's parents were divorced, I think my mother was abut 7, I'm not sure. But "Grandma Jordan" pretty much raised my mom. She was a "Lanford.". That was a strong family, and I heard a lot about them from my mother, especially "Great Grandpa Lanford". Macon's middle name is Lanford. Grandma Jordan (pronounced "JURdn" not "JORDON") and her husband were in the retail business in downtown Atlanta. I never noticed the "R." in her name until last night and don't know what it stands for. Ruth? I have lots of fond and even funny memories of her. She never stopped and was always working at something - sewing, cooking, cleaning. Not only did she raise my mother and her brother, Carlos Mason Hemperley Jr., she also virtually raised my uncle's three kids, my cousins Becky, Bobbie, and Butch (CMHIII), while Uncle Carlos and his wife, Ellen, ran the funeral business.)

Carol and Paul Baby Girl. Born and Died August 12, 1973. (We were going to name her some combination of Elizabeth and Rebeka. She is buried in a cemetery in Greensboro, now next to Carol's mom and dad.)

Frances Stokes Harris. Died September 2, 1991. (My dad's sister. She was widowed when I was in junior high and lived in Miami Springs into the 1980s. She then moved to Atlanta where her sons, my cousins Ken and Tim, had moved. She was about as sweet a person as one could ever meet, and she became a good friend to Carol and me during our young marriage and was there for our us when our first baby died. We always went by to see her in Atlanta on the way to or from NC on our vacations. She was buried in Westview Cemetery too, next to her husband Uncle Harold.)

Mary [Whiteside] Crocker. Died February 2, 1994. (Carol's mom, and the perfect mother-in-law. She made me feel welcome from the very first moment. Her house and her life had a peace to it that Carol brought to our family. She reminded me so much of Grandmother Jordan, especially how she was always working and serving others. For example, she was driving "Meals on Wheels" in Greensboro into her 80s and to people who were much younger than she. Much more to write about her.)

Willilu (Sox) Burch Hemperley. Died August 20, 1994. (This was my granddaddy's second wife, my step-grandmother. But she was the only maternal grandmother that I ever knew, and she was a great, great friend. She was a surgical nurse at Grady Hospital in Atlanta, and another lady that never stopped. She was tough too. Even though Juanita was her step-daughter, she treated her as one of her own and treated me as if I were her flesh and blood. Once there was a gathering of her family. She had several brothers and sisters and they all had children, some of them about my age, and all of them were there. Her father was there too, and he told all the grandchildren to line up in a line, because he was going to give each of them a $20 bill - big money back then. Grandmother walked me up and put me at the end of the line, and I got my $20. Her father didn't notice that I didn't exactly belong, and was totally confused when he realized that he had given one $20 bill more than he had figured. She never told him what happened.)

Mom liked to put notes in her Bible. One is handwritten by her, a quote from the poet/athlete Satchel Paige. "Age is a thing of mind and matter - if you don't mind, it doesn't matter."

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve in Miami Springs

Tonight our church had its traditional Christmas Eve service. Lots of memories of Christmas Eve services there, and lots of friends came tonight. Among them, Marti and Hank, Jim and Donna. Marti and Jim's mother, Mary Nelle, a dear friend of Juanita, died this year too. Marti gave me a poem that Ginny Combs, another Miami Springs girl, included in her Christmas newsletter. Ginny's mother also passed away this year, and she knew Mary Nelle well and Juanita. Suzie's Mom, Charlotte, also died to this world in 2007. The first Christmas Eve Service I attended at our church was on a date with Suzie when we were 16. Four Miami Springs moms, all friends with each other, all gone to heaven this year. Here's the poem:

I see the countless Christmas Trees around the world below
with tiny lights, like heaven's stars, reflecting on the snow.
The sight is so spectacular, please wipe away that tear,
for I am spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year.

I hear the many Christmas songs that people hold so dear,but
the sounds of music can't compare with the Christmas choir up here.
I have no words to tell you, the joy their voices bring,
for it is beyond description, to hear the angels sing.

I know how much you miss me. [You got that right, Mom].
I see the pain inside your heart,
but I am not so far away. We really aren't apart.

So be happy for me dear ones. You know I hold you dear,
and be glad I'm spending Christmas, with Jesus Christ this year.
I send you each a special gift, from my heavenly home above.
I send you each a memory, of my undying love.

After all "Love" is the gift, more precious than pure gold.
It was always most important in the stories Jesus told.

Please love and keep each other, as my Father said to do,
for I can't count the blessing or love he has for each of you.
So, have a Merry Christmas and wipe away that tear.
Remember, I'm spending Christmas, with Jesus Christ this year.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Don't tell the guys, but . . .

I'm reading A Voice in the Wind by Francine Rivers. When the admiring blurbs on the back cover are from Romantic Times Magazine and Affaire de Coeur, you know that, if you are a guy, you need to carry this around in a plain wrapper.

The book is the first of a three volume series called "Mark of the Lion". Francine Rivers is a gifted writer - her prose is smooth and very readable. Now and then I read someone and think, "I would love to be able to write sentences and paragraphs like that", and she is one of them. This book follows the story of a young Jewish woman, a Christian, whose family was caught in Jerusalem when the Romans leveled it in 70AD. She loses her family in the carnage but survives herself. She is taken into slavery, ending up with a wealthy family in Rome.

There are other interesting characters and a plot that carries you right along. It is a very undemanding read, which is refreshing after all the tough reading I do during the day, and the plot is just complex enough. The characters are not exactly complicated people, but they have do have flesh and blood. The themes are right out there for you to see, but that's fine. The author has done her homework on the historical period in question. It is so good to read a Christian writer who obviously knows her craft, is truly gifted, and takes great care with her writing.

Mary tells me that Francine Rivers' books are very popular among the missionary families.

Sue and Doug gave us these books last Christmas, and I finally got to open this one a couple of weeks ago. I'm on page 358 of a 500 page volume! (Francine must write all the time).

Thanks, Sue!

PS If you like this book and the series, be sure to go back and read The Robe, by Lloyd C. Douglas. It was huge best-seller in the 50s, and there was a mega-movie based on the book with Richard Burton and Jean Simmons, also worth a look. And while you're at it, pick up Ben-Hur by Lew Wallace, a book that gave the genre a kick start in 1880. That one produced two terrific movies.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Upcoming Elections in Kenya

Hank sent me this link. Mary has posted about these elections here. (Be sure to read the comments to Mary's post. Very interesting.)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The McCaffrey Report on Iraq Status

This is a fascinating and informative report by a retired General and adjunct professor at West Point. Here's one gem among many:

Mr. Rumsfeld was an American patriot, of great personal talent, energy, experience, bureaucratic cleverness, and charisma—who operated with personal arrogance, intimidation and disrespect for the military, lack of forthright candor, avoidance of personal responsibility, and fundamental bad judgment.

Read every word of it.

Something Fun

Well, it's been a while since I made the time to post anything, so I thought I'd put up a few pics.

For Halloween, Aidan was Dr. Aidan, and Honor was a Tulip Fairy (doesn't Macon look fabulous wearing Honor's little Tulip Fairy headband?)

Also, I just wanted to include a recent photo of Aidan and his pony, "Fire." Fire lives at my parents' house and has been quite the hit. And, for any of you out there who doubt that children imitate what they see on television, let me share a story. There is an episode of the Backyardigans where Uniqua is a western horse rider and Pablo is a jockey. They compete against one another and at one point as they are boasting and competing, they decide to ride on their horses, standing on one leg while the horse turns in circles. What do you think was the first thing Aidan did after getting onto Fire's back? That's right! He got up on one leg and "rode" Fire while standing on said one leg. Note: all the while he was saying, "Look, Mommy, I can ride just like Pablo and Uniqua!"

This does not bode well, and I can't wait to start explaining to the emergency room doctors about the fantastical feats that my children will no doubt soon be doing.

How Aquatic!

The Tuna to rescue the Dolphins.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Big personal life changes

I'm changing my voter's registration to Republican so that I can vote for McCain. Having gotten a new workstation at the office that has Word 2007 already installed, I'm changing to Word and saying good by to WordPerfect. Both choices are flawed and I'm turning my back on a lot of history, but the choices are the best available at this point.

UPDATE: Good company.

UPDATE UPDATE: See the video.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Baptists are Coming! The Baptists are Coming!

Huckabee corrals the endorsement of Pastor Howard's kids. He can't lose!

(Pastor Howard is my partner Jane's pastor, at the First Baptist Church of Homestead. See his blog here. Funny post here.)

Sunday, December 09, 2007

O, Christmas Tree!

We had a Christmas party at our house Saturday night for the people in our Bible study classes and their spouses. The purpose was, in part, to force us to get our house ready for the Holiday. With none of our children coming home this year, we thought we needed a little prodding like this. The rest was social.

Counting Carol and me, we had 29 people. Carol crock-potted a turkey breast (a recipe from Micki) and fixed a chicken curry dish that we enjoyed last year in Kenya at the home of one of Mary's colleagues. The curry is served on a bed of rice (or wrapped in a chapati; one of our Indian friends brought chapati, which is sort of like a tortilla, but made of wheat, I think). The curry called for toppings, chopped pineapple, raisins, chopped onions, and chopped peppers, all of them together if you like (and I liked - mmmm!). For the rest of the feast, it was "covered dish", a formula for a plentiful and varied banquet.

This is what our Christmas tree looks like. (Click on the picture to enlarge. At the bottom of the tree, on the right hand side, is a little felt christmas-tree ornament that Walter made, and it has his photo in it.) Once I got the tree in place, Carol did the decorating. (I have to confess, I don't have much patience for tree trimming. But I help with untrimming it.) The tree is in our living room, next to the bookcase.

On the bookcase are some items from Christmas past, including two Nativity creations of Mary, one on a shoe-box lid (three shelves from the bottom, on the left) and the other made from Popsicle sticks (five shelves from the bottom, on the right). The two stockings hung on the bottom are for Carol and me (Carol made them years ago, and one each for the kids). The stocking toward the top of the right bookcase belonged to Juanita, and she bought it years ago from the 10,000 Villages store in Montreat. It is embroidered and was made in India, I believe. It's there in memory of her. She celebrates her first year in heaven this year.

On the top of the bookcases, on the right, there is a reindeer head, made from the base of a palm frond, the part where the rest of the palm frond is attached to the trunk. Mary and Walter each made one of these in pre-school. The other one is hanging elsewhere in the house.

The tree, of course, is also full of memories, as family Christmas trees become over the years, and the rest of the living room, den, dining room, and kitchen are full of such objects as well.

As people are finding out that we have no kids home this Christmas, we are getting some invitations for meals and the like on Christmas day. But we are going to drive over to see my sister Julia and her family in New Port Richey, FL, after we get up and open our presents. My niece Audrey is having a party at 4PM that day, and so we will go to that party and spend the night with Julia, her husband Greg, and their son, Gregory Paul. We will drive home Wednesday morning.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Way to go, Steve!

Steve Peifer won one of CNN's Heroes awards on December 6. There's a lot at the CCN site about the show, the process of selection, video, and photos of Steve and the other winners and nominees. I would start here.

The Love of a Christian Father

At yesterday's men's breakfast, the issue of abortion came up, and Austin told us a family story of a Christian father's leadership and love.

Years ago, Austin's uncle and aunt brought into their home to live a teenage boy, 15 or 16 years of age, whose own family was so broken that the young man did not have a place even to sleep. (Austin's uncle and family are members of the Reformed Church, where Austin's immediate family were Pentecostal. He described how important and intensely held were the particular Christian beliefs of their two families, and it seemed to us that presently a great deal of that intensity has seeped out of American Christianity.)

The boy was about the same age as a daughter of Austin's uncle, and after awhile she became pregnant by the boy. I can only imagine the intensity of that crisis. Abortion would have been a quick solution and, of course, throwing that ungrateful boy out of the house.

Instead, Austin's uncle told the young people they needed to get married and, as their respective guardians, he signed the marriage license on behalf of each of them.

Now this young couple have grown up; they have 8 children and a couple of grandchildren. (Austin said the couple's own children married young.) They live in their own house, near where Austin's uncle and aunt live, with a big yard that has a big tree and a tire swing and a bunch of kids running around having fun. The young man is a cabinet maker and so good at it that wealthy people from Boston fly him to their city to do work for them. Their first baby was a boy, Josiah, and all of their children have Biblical names. Josiah attended Pensacola Bible College.

I have heard Austin tell that story before, and I love to hear it. What a wonderful story of love, of a sort of muscular forgiveness on the father's part, and of how God redeems a difficult situation, especially when those "in charge", a father this time, are obedient to him.

Monday, December 03, 2007

The Other Robert E. Lee

Maybe Robert E. Lee is not a big deal in that part of your mind's eye that looks back over American history. He wasn't at the center of my study of Southern history at Duke, but I understood something like he was the greatest man the South ever produced, etc. I did enjoy Grant's biography, which I read a couple of years ago, but I guess, from the South's perspective, Grant's best use was as a slightly disreputable, cigar smoking foil for General Lee, and that the best thing one could say about Grant was that he treated General Lee well and let the rebels keep their guns at Appomattox.

In the September 2007 issue of The New Criterion, Daniel Mark Epstein has it out for Lee, as he reviews Elizabeth Brown's Reading the Man: A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters. His review, entitled "Who Cares About Robert E. Lee?" presents the revisionist view of the great man.

For example: Lee married well, or it looked like that initially. But when he was 49, his father-in-law died, "naming him as executor in charge of a debt-ridden estate and 196 slaves on several plantations". The father in law stipulated in his will that the slaves should be liberated, and they all expected to be. But Lee didn't liberate them and, instead, leased out the able-bodied ones to raise money for the estate. He broke up families to do so and "most of these families had been together since General Washington's time". Two of the slaves ran away when they learned they would not be freed, a young man and a young woman, brother and sister, but they were apprehended and brought back. Lee supervised 50 lashes for the young man and 20 for the young woman.

This is only one part of the indictment. The indictment also alleges that he was not such a great general, that he was silent when the Virginia legislature might have stayed in the union had he spoken up, and that he resigned his commission, thereby renouncing an oath, and took up arms against the US, all out of pride and not out of a true sense of duty to Virginia. The worst charge of all (to my mind) was that he was an engineer and thought like one. Now, as a liberal arts major, I can concede that that criticism may have some merit to it.

But first Beowulf, and now General Lee. I just don't know what to say,

Friday, November 30, 2007

Steve Peifer of AIM in Grapevine, TX

December 9 at the First United Methodist Church. His new website.

UPDATE: See Mary's post on Steve.

Say, Can You See?

Yesterday I met with a delightful octogenarian lady, and she told me that in the late thirties she had sung with a band. "After one performance," she told me, " a man came up to me and said, 'You must be a lot older than you look.' I asked him why he would say that, and he said 'You know so many of the old songs, you must be older than you look.' I told him, 'Mister, I know the Star Spangled Banner, but I wasn't born in 1812!'"

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Ron Brummitt and the Miami Rescue Mission

The Herald prints something positive. Ron has preached in our pulpit at MSPC many times. The Miami Rescue Mission was doing its good work when I was growing up at Central Baptist. No references in the article to Jesus, a few to "God" if you keep reading. That's the best we can expect from the Herald. But Ron knows where his power comes from, and the people there too.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Chipotle Mexican Grill

Chipotle Mexican Grill has arguably become the country's most successful fast-food chain in recent years by rejecting almost every major technique on which the industry was built.

-WSJ 11/23/07

Cool website too.

Belief in Medicine

Faith does not necessarily make physicians more likely to help the poor, according to a survey by University of Chicago researchers Farr Curlin, John Lantos, Marshall Chin, and the Yale New Haven Hospital’s Lydia Dugdale, MD’06. They discovered that 35 percent of nonreligious physicians they surveyed worked in underserved communities, while 31 percent of self-identified religious ones did. Researchers published their findings in the July/August Annals of Family Medicine. The survey also asked physicians whether they viewed medicine as a calling; religious doctors who said yes were no more likely to practice in poor areas than those who answered no.

-From the Sept/October 2007 University of Chicago Magazine.

(I'm sure Christian lawyers do much, much better.)

What Good's a Liberal Education?

The current issue of UChi Magazine has an article on Leslie Key, who has a PhD in biophysics, and is an assistant professor in the UChi psychology department, a member of the committees on neurobiology and computational neuroscience, and an olfaction researcher. Her research team just "reported in the August Journal of Neuroscience the first direct measurement of how, as the subtlety of an olfactory decision increases, the brain's olfactory bulb intensifies coordinated neural activity." I know that this research is intensely interesting to everyone, but what I wanted to mention was how Leslie Key got to where she is, according to the article.

She earned a liberal-arts degree in 1983 from St. John's College in New Mexico, then spent three years in Los Alamos with GenBank, a forerunner of the Human Genome Project. "In 1985 she began a biophysics PhD at the University of California, Berkeley, that she interrupted after a year, traveling and working as a programmer for five years before finishing the degree in 1995."

Obviously a liberal arts degree is a sure way to get lost in the woods. I hope that by now this poor woman has settled down and been able to focus on something long term. And is she married?

Immigration and Unemployed Blacks

In September 2006, after multiple raids by federal immigration agents, Crider Inc., a Chicken-processing factory in Stillmore, Georgia, lost three-fourths of its 900-member workforce, most of whom were Hispanic illegal immigrants. To find new workers, plant owners raised wages by more than a dollar per hour and offered free transportation from nearby towns. Within weeks, Crider had hired roughly 200 local African Americans from the area's state-funded employment office to fill some of the vacancies. It was the first time since the late 1990s, when Hispanics started moving to Stillmore in large numbers, that the plant's productions line were manned mainly by blacks.

Thus begins an article on the connection being explored by a UChi professor between immmigration - both legal and illegal - and African American employment.

Although the introduction sounds like the basis of a Tancredo like argument about controlling our borders, you will see that the Chicago professor, Jeffrey Grogger, uses this example as all the more reason "to think about skill acquisition as a means to improve the labor-market position of African Americans in light of the immigraton we see."

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Stem-cell Breakthrough

Simply huge. Another promise kept. See 1 Corintheans 10:13.


(ALERT! Some people may think I give away too much in this review. I don't think so, but proceed at your own risk.)

This is not an easy film to evaluate. We saw it at an IMAX in 3D. That's a completely overpowering experience in itself, something qualitatively different, at least as I experienced it, than viewing a movie in a conventional theater setting.

The animation is astonishing. At first, one simply reacts in a sort of back-peddling way to the the 3D experience, which the film makers particularly exploit at the beginning with dramatic and explosive scenes. In addition, one is somewhat detached at first because the people in their animated forms seem less than real, but very interesting nonetheless. In other words, as you work yourself into the movie, you are a curious and fascinated and critical spectator. But after a while, your brain somehow settles down and gets involved. You start to live in the movie. That's a familiar place to be with a good movie, but this one somehow occupies you (or you it) more intensely simply on account of how the film makers put the thing together visually and aurally. Again, to an extraordinary extent it is the medium that takes you over.

The story is a different matter, and the characters, but I do not mean that the movie fails here. At first, the characters are interesting, as I already indicated, not as people as such but in their verisimilitude. But after awhile, you "forget" about that and actually accept them as "people". Although Beowulf, the hero, is a sort of screamer (at least at first) like the commander in 300, which I find annoying, he certainly becomes more of a human as the story develops than a lot of heros I've seen lately, including those in 300.

The story is about great temptation, great betrayal as one yields to it, and, finally, redemption, at least for the individual if not for the world. (What will happen to the world as it deals with evil is left hanging at the end.) I found that plot especially interesting because I have just finished reading The Kite Runner, another story of betrayal, an excruciatingly painful betrayal (I almost put the book down at that point), and redemption. Neither of these stories is written by Christians. (In Beowulf there is, in fact, gratuitous Christian bashing, which won't sell the producers any tickets to the evangelical community, and the author of The Kite Runner is of Muslim background.)

In both Beowulf and The Kite Runner, redemption is achieved by the works (and suffering) of the protagonist. But in The Kite Runner the opportunity for those redemptive works appears to be providential (or is it a plot-device, who knows). In Beowulf, the opportunity for redemption is provided by self-knowledge ("conviction"), guilt, and a second chance that the forces of evil themselves provide. In Beowulf's universe, as in ours, evil cannot keep a promise because that is the nature of evil, and that provides the redemptive opportunity.

The nature of the good is far less developed, even stunted in this movie. We see the unaccountable loyalty of Beowulf's wife and that of his friend, who engages in self-deception all the way to the end. The "gods" are remote and uninterested. There is only Beowulf and whatever he can muster. As I also indicated, we are not sure that this will be enough for anyone but Beowulf.

I have no idea of the extent to which the movie hews to the classic tale of Beowulf. I imagine it roams far afield. So it needs to be viewed on its own merits.

One other thing about the film I must mention is the beauty of Angelina Jolie. The animation moves her beauty to a place that no human can possibly occupy, something like, I suppose, what the Greeks did in idealizing beauty with their sculpture. That beauty dominates the last scene of the movie (this is not the scene from the trailers) and she is simply breathtaking. How could any man withstand her? In such a universe, where overhwelming beauty is the tool of hell, what hope is there?

The show has comic books aspects, of course, and sometimes it is simply crude, especially at the beginning. This is not Shakespeare or Homer or Tolkien. You have to allow for that. But as a total experience I would say that it is well worth seeing.

UPDATE: Good review in CT.

Running into the Winklers at Cozy Corner

Only two of our Saturday men's breakfast regulars showed up at Cozy Corner this morning. It was rainy, and probably people didn't want much to think about food at this point in the Thanksgiving Week. But Richard Miller and I were there, and we will opt for quality any time.

Across from us I noticed a young couple with a baby girl, about Honor's age. The little girl and I made eye contact, and she kept turning around and looking at me during the entire breakfast. I thought her dad looked familiar, but I wasn't sure, until his wife spoke to me about how fascinated their daughter was in Richard and me. (Richard didn't have anything to do with it.) About that time, the father asked me if I was "Mr. Stokes" and I recognized him as Mike Winkler immediately, one of Walter's good friends. They were getting ready to drive back to Orlando, having visited his family in Miami Springs for Thanksgiving. They both work for a Christian Counseling firm in Orlando, New Beginnings. Here's a webpage with their bios and pictures (scroll down).

They attend an Anglican church in Orlando that is under the authority of the Bishop of Rwanda. Kelly told me the name, but it didn't stick in my mind. I told them Mary might be coming to Orlando this summer, and they were very interested in that.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Going to see "Beowulf" tonight


With Van, Joe, and Margaret Lahmeyer. Carol will be scrapping with Juliet.

I'll give you a full report tomorrow.

The Primaries

I'm still a Democrat. Should I change parties so I can vote in the Republican primary, or stay a blue-dog Democrat? Staying a Democrat, I would vote for Hillary, and there's no question about that. Moving over, I would be in a quandry. Just whom can I trust over there? I think I know what I have with Hillary. I thought I knew what we had with GW, and I was wrong in some very important respects. As to the Republicans, I like McCain (good comments from others to that post), Romney, Giuliani, Thompson, in that order. As to Huckabee, I just don't know. Is he a dark horse or a Trojan horse? I find him worrisome, more so than, for example, Giuliani.

I'm talking primaries here. Not the general election.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Fortieth Thanksiving

Carol and I will have our fortieth Thanksgiving together tomorrow. The first two were before our marriage in 1970. They each took place in Greensboro at Carol's house. I was in law school, and I flew down from Chicago. Carol remembers that I didn't like mushrooms then, and that among the dishes her mother, sister, and she prepared for the first Thanksgiving were green peas mixed with pearl onions and mushrooms. She remembers that I picked out the mushrooms. In fact, she says that the only thing she remembers about that Thanksgiving is my picking out the mushrooms. How did I ever get this woman to marry me?

Tomorrow it will be just the two of us for Thanksgiving dinner here in Miami Springs. This will be only the second one we have spent alone together, just the two of us. The first one was my third year of law school. We had been married in September of that year, just a week or so before the school year began. We lived in an apartment in one of the law school dorms. We were "resident heads", and our job was to look after the other law students who lived there. It was a co-ed dorm, and our apartment, made from three adjoining dorm rooms, was on the floor where the women lived. The dorm was built in college Gothic style and was old and stately. The room that served as our living room had a fire place and was well furnished. It had a bay window that overlooked the reflecting pool in front of the dramatically modern law school building. The dorms adjacent to the law school (known as "Burton-Judson") had a dining hall. The ceiling was two stories high, wood beamed across the ceiling, with heavy rectangular tables and high back chairs. The dining hall crew had a Thanksgiving meal for those who stayed there over the holiday, and that's where we had our first Thanksgiving feast. So we weren't really alone, because there were students and dining people there too. Carol had to work that day at the UC Hospital, where she was employed as a "ward secretary", but she came back across the Midway for the dinner.

Carol remembers that we were alone together one other time, "when we had Macon". Then she thought that maybe Walter had been born by then too, so maybe not. I pointed out that we would not have been alone together even if Walter had not been born, if we had Macon. She thinks I misunderstood what she said, but, on behalf of Macon, I took umbrage. The fact is that one is never alone when Macon is in the same house. But she was talking about our being the only adults. So I calmed down and let the umbrage pass.

Anyway, we will truly be alone together tomorrow for the meal, although we will go down to the Lahmeyers for dessert.

By the way, I'm over the mushroom thing, but there still won't be that dish tomorrow.


To think that we could have avoided all that renovation.

Monday, November 19, 2007

On "Going Home"

Great new post on Mary's blog. And a fascinating first comment to that post as well.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Sean Posts!

Sean has interesting posts on Beowulf and on "Sibling Effect". Check 'em out.

"Therapeutic" Cloning: Right.

The idea is to create an embryonic clone of a patient, then transplant altered versions of that embryo's cells back into the patient. Because the DNA of the transplanted tissue would match the DNA of the patient, the immune system likely wouldn't reject it.

From the WSJ's Health section on Thursday, in an article reporting that monkey embryos were cloned by scientists in Oregan. (Originally reported in Nature.) The next step is to take a rhesus embryonic clone to full term "and thereby create the world's first cloned money." Next is to test "whether fresh tissue derived from rhesus clones can treat diabetes or other diseases in a monkey, a process known as therapeutic cloning."

And the next step after that? Oh, we already know that, there was a movie about that two years ago.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Primary Trouble in Kenya; RVA's First Term Nearly Over

Mary posts on primary election difficulties in Kenya this week. She links to an All Africa news post about ballot day on Friday. (The article refers to "rungu democracy". What's a rungu?)

I found it interesting how thick the news account was with stories of guns being drawn and fired. Kenya has very strict gun-control. Oh, well.

The account also reports that a particular polling place was invaded by two rogue elephants. Elephants. Hmmm. Probably Bush's fault.

Democracy is a messy enterprise, and I pray that Kenya gets through this election season in good shape. As I do for us here in the US and our own election season.

Mary reports that classes for the first term ended yesterday and that exams begin this Monday and finish on Tuesday, Then the kids are gone. On the evening of Thanksgiving, Nov. 22, commences the AIM-Kenya Missions Conference, and it goes until Monday, Nov. 26. Teacher work days are scheduled for November 27 thru November 29, with a special luncheon for the teachers in Nairobi on the 27th. Then the term is over for the faculty by November 30. (It was about that time last year that we journeyed to Kijabe. Wow, the time went by fast!) We look forward to hearing about Mary's plans for the break.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Preach the gospel to "panta ta ethne"

I am enjoying and being instructed by Fr. Donovan. He points out that when Jesus commands us to "preach the gospel to all the nations of the world, to disciple, make disciples of, to evangelize all the nations" the Greek words for "all the nations" is pantha ta enthne. Rather than to nation states, Donavan writes, the words "would refer more to ethnic, cultural groups, the natural building blocks of the human race."

It is surely here in the midst of the cultures of the world, and not in the church, that the ordinary way of salvation must lie, the ordinary means of salvation, the very possibility of salvation for most of the human race. Or else it is a very strange God we have.

The gospel must be brought to the nations in which already resides the possibility of salvaton. As I began to ponder the evangelization of the Masai, I had to realize the God enables people, any people, to reach salvation through their culture and tribal, racial customs and traditions. In this realization would have to rest my whole approach to the evangelization of the Masai.

Pretty radical, no? Sounds a little missional to me, by that I mean the idea that God is already working in peoples outside the church, and it is our job as missionaries somehow to get involved with his work. Do I have that idea of what missional means right? Anyway, I'm reading on.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Found: the Perfect Christmas Gift for You Know Who

I think I'll link it to

The Few. The Proud. The Wow.

Did you see that new commercial for the Marines? The one with the guys doing a 21st century manual of arms to a military drum beat with a whiff of hip-hop and cutting back and forth to action scenes? Where do I sign up?

(Here it is.)

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Melissa's Engagement Party

This afternoon we attended Melissa's engagement party at Jack and Lynn's house. Melissa is Mary's great friend. She is in the fashion industry in Manhattan, and will be taking her 6th trip to China shortly, where she goes to examine products intended to come stateside. She and Scott are to be married at our church in Miami Springs in March. She asked me whether I would sing, as Mary won't be able to be there as a bride's maid. I would be happy to stand in for Mary, as long as I don't have to wear a dress. (Of course, we would all like to have Mary there.)

The first photo is of Melissa and Scott. The second is of Melissa and Mary's parents.

She's Got all Kinds of skills

"I'm Confused by the Fact that I'm Happy"

WaPo articles the angst of young, beltway do-gooders who see themselves underpaid.

Hat tip to Glenn Reynolds, who picked this up and comments. Also see Glenn's follow-up post here.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

"The statistics are that 30,000 orphan children die a day."

The November 3 World Magazine has an article featuring Jim and Suzanne Faske, a couple in Brenham, TX, who have adopted to the point where they will soon have 15 children. They are in an adoption support group called Forever Families and work with a Campus Crusade group called Hope for Orphans. The title to this post is part of a statement Suzanne makes in connection with a struggle they had to adopt "Rachel, a little girl from China with arthrogryposis, a congenital disorder that gave her clubbed feet and a dislocated hip at birth". (The Faskes are on the Forever Families website here.)

The article states that China recently capped the size of adoptive families at four children and, at one point, even shut down its government adoption agency. China was embarrassed that it was pulling ahead of Russia in the number of children being adopted away.

Mary reports that Kenya discourages foreigners from adopting their orphans and taking them out of the country. See her comment.

When Carol and I were in Kenya, we spoke to a young couple who were missionaries working with one of Kenya's national prisons. They told us how a guard begged them to take newly born twins that he and his wife would not be able to support. The missionaries refused, because they said that if it became known that they would take in such children, they would be flooded with requests.

UPDATE: There is more about Rachel, mentioned in the World article, here. Warning: if you are attempting to suppress an interest in adopting a child, do NOT read about Rachel nor otherwise explore the Forever Families website.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Pirating "American Gangster"

In a post earlier this week, I described overhearing on MetroRail two young men discussing a pirated version of American Gangster. The movie opens today, and there is a very favorable review of the film in the WSJ.

In a related article in the WSJ, the movie is also discussed, along with several others that, according to the writer, are part of "Hollywood's Quality Glut" this fall. In that article, the "inside track" on American Gangster is this:

Veteran produce Brian Glazer calls this film, in development since 2000, the "hardest movie I've ever made". Under director Antoine Fuqua, the budget started to spiral upward, and Univeral Pictures shut the picture down after sinking $30 million into the project. Then Ridley Scott took the helm. The latest misfortune: Copies were leaked onto the Web more than 10 days before the film opened.

Remember, you heard it here first.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Goya in Miami

Last night Carol and I went to a reception for Davidson College alumni and parents of alumni and students. Dr. Shaw Smith, a professor in the art history department, spoke on Goya. The event was presented at the Freedom Tower, a few blocks from our office, where an exhibit of Goya's engravings is being presented. You can read about the exhibit here. We had time to see part of the exhibit after the reception, but Carol and I want to go back and see it all.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Goodbye, Central Baptist, Hello . . .

At Government Center Station, I transfer from MetroRail to the MetroMover. The MetroMover is an elevated, Disney World-like automatic train that loops around the downtown area. Each weekday morning it takes me by my Alma Mater, Central Baptist Church.

Today the gold-leaf lettering on the side of the main building, the lettering that announces "Central Baptist Church", is down. The signs at street level have been taken down as well. In their places are temporary banners that announce "Downtown Christ Fellowship".

Baptist churches all over Miami have made these sorts of name changes. Post-modern, post-denominational Christendom is here. The old has passed away, the new has come. But part of the old was some serious theology, and I fear we are trading those inconvenient truths for something that simply feels better.

But I have to add this.

I got off of the MetroMover with a man who is a security guard in my building. He is a small man, but somehow impressive physically, "coal-black" (as my mother from Atlanta used to describe such people) with a face that is almost fierce. But that face, I have noticed, will break into a smile, and over the last several years we have learned to say hello to one another. I believe he is a Haitian.

So today I fell in beside him as we walked to our office building. I asked him how he was, and he said "I'm perfect". So I said, "Well, then, you must be a Christian, and so you are perfect in Jesus." And he said, "Yes, I am a Christian, I know Jesus", and he said that proudly and with his smile. "Well", I said, "I'm covered in Jesus blood, and I'm perfect too!" He smiled again, and we wished each other a happy day, and parted in the lobby.


A friend of mine (who to my surprise looks at the blog now and then) reports that "Christ Fellowship" is formerly First Baptist Church of Perrine. So old Central Baptist seems to have become part of that organization. As I recall, at one point a retired minister from FBC Perrine served as interim pastor for Central. FBC Perrine has a great history. I would hate to analogize the network of Baptist congregations under the Christ Fellowship umbrella to a sort of post-modern presbytery. But, then, why not?

Monday, October 29, 2007

Small Time Pirates on MetroRail

As I looked in on various football games over the weekend, I saw a number of commercials for American Gangster, a movie with Denzel Washington and Whatzisname from Gladiator, which is opening in Miami on Nov. 2.

This morning, on the way in on MetroRail, two young men sat nearby me and discussed seeing the movie and then buying a DVD of it over the weekend.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

"Portion Distortion"

Carol and I had supper at the Panera restaurant in Doral and then continued with our Friday night date by going next door to Publix for grocery shopping. (Carol hit a home run in the romance department, obviously.)

The Panera restaurant serves food that seems to be pretty healthy. Carol had a salad that had a 3 oz. piece of grilled salmon on it. I had a Mediterranean salad of some sort - it had Gorgonzola pieces as its protein: really tasty.

I noticed that there were some very overweight people there, however. It seemed like the older the people appeared, the more they were overweight. It seemed odd.

Maybe the answer is in this article that we read in Publix' Greenwise magazine, which you can pick up free each week. The thesis of that article is that portion sizes do us in, particularly when we go out to eat. This is a truth that the Weight Watchers program tries to pound in our heads.

Why would Publix be concerned, other than it wanting to be a good citizen that is involved in the food industry? I think it might be that we might be less likely to over-eat when we eat our meals at home. Publix wants to sell us the fixings for those home-cooked meals. Fair enough.

On the other hand, maybe the Social Security crisis will be avoided if we continue on our course of weight-gaining. For the article includes this statement:

Experts warn that being oversized may slash our life expectancy and harm our health in the meantime due to diabetes, heart disease, and other complications of excess weight. "The 20-year-old person with a Body Mass Index of 40 [a measure of the ratio of weight to height, in this case 265 pounds at 5'8"], will live 12 to 14 years less than his counterparts who are lean," says Philip R. Schauer, M.D., director of the Cleveland Clinic Bariatric and Metabolic Institute. (Note that the CDC defines obesity as a BMI at or above 30.)

The Lion of the Masai

Van finished up with John 6 today. In verse 65, concerning the matter of belief Jesus says " . . . no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him." He says the same thing in verses 37, 39, and 44-45, my handy NIV Study Bible notes remind me.

Van closed his sermon with a great story, which I tracked down in the blog of the Christian Century Magazine and a post there by Duke Divinity School Professor Jo Bailey Wells:

Allow me [Wells writes] to indulge in a favorite story from a book that never seems to become dated: Christianity Rediscovered, by Vincent Donovan. Donovan was a Roman Catholic priest-missionary in Tanzania in the 1960s. Exasperated with conventional forms of Catholic education , he persuaded his bishop to let him simply wander among the Masai tribes, sharing their life and talking about God.

Initially he wrestled with his own doubts about how the particular story of Jesus’ cross and resurrection translated into the Masai culture all around him. But a Masai elder converted Donovan by contrasting the faith of a Western hunter with the faith of an African lion. The Masai elder showed Donovan that his notion of faith was a profoundly Western notion: it was merely intellectual assent. “To ‘believe’ like that was similar to a white hunter shooting an animal with his gun from a great distance. Only his eyes and his fingers took part in the act.” The Masai elder said, “‘For a [person] really to believe is like a male lion going after its prey. His nose and eyes and ears pick up on the prey. His legs give him the speed to catch it. All the power of his body is involved in the terrible death leap and single blow to the neck with the front paw, the blow that actually kills. And as the animal goes down the lion envelops it in his arms. . .pulls it to itself, and makes it part of himself. This is the way a lion kills. This is the way a [person] believes. This is what faith is.”

The Masai elder went on. “You told us of the High God, how we must search for him, even leave our land and our people to find him. But we have not done this. We have not left our land. We have not searched for him. He has searched for us. He has searched us out and found us. All the time we think we are the lion. In the end, the lion is God.”

Saturday, October 27, 2007

"Gotta Serve Somebody"

You may be an ambassador to England or France,
You may like to gamble, you might like to dance,
You may be the heavyweight champion of the world,
You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls

But you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You're gonna have to serve somebody,
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody.

You might be a rock 'n' roll addict prancing on the stage,
You might have drugs at your command, women in a cage,
You may be a business man or some high degree thief,
They may call you Doctor or they may call you Chief

But you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You're gonna have to serve somebody,
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody.

You may be a state trooper, you might be a young Turk,
You may be the head of some big TV network,
You may be rich or poor, you may be blind or lame,
You may be living in another country under another name

But you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You're gonna have to serve somebody,
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody.

You may be a construction worker working on a home,
You may be living in a mansion or you might live in a dome,
You might own guns and you might even own tanks,
You might be somebody's landlord, you might even own banks

But you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You're gonna have to serve somebody,
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody.

You may be a preacher with your spiritual pride,
You may be a city councilman taking bribes on the side,
You may be workin' in a barbershop, you may know how to cut hair,
You may be somebody's mistress, may be somebody's heir

But you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You're gonna have to serve somebody,
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody.

Might like to wear cotton, might like to wear silk,
Might like to drink whiskey, might like to drink milk,
You might like to eat caviar, you might like to eat bread,
You may be sleeping on the floor, sleeping in a king-sized bed

But you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You're gonna have to serve somebody,
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody.

You may call me Terry, you may call me Timmy,
You may call me Bobby, you may call me Zimmy,
You may call me R.J., you may call me Ray,
You may call me anything but no matter what you say

You're gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You're gonna have to serve somebody.
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody.

-Bob Dylan

But Not Huckabee.

John Fund in the WSJ.

UPDATE: Huckabee responds.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Monday, October 22, 2007

Awkwardly Sitting Watermelons

Another problem solved!

Frozen Embryo Adoption

Back in the early 1990s, a partner of mine brought me one of his clients to help with his estate plan. The client was a "fertility specialist", a physician the focus of whose practice was in vitro fertilization. As I had already learned, the practice was to "harvest" from the female several eggs, and then to fertilize them with the male's sperm. This process was calculated to produce more fertilized eggs than one could implant, but this over-fertilization, if you will, was seen to be efficient, because the harvesting and fertilization process was expensive. This, of course, produced embryos that were never used, a situation that has been repeated thousands of times by now, a situation that ranks with abortion as a stunning defect of the national character.

My partner was a Jew and attended a Reformed congregation. We often talked about morality, ethics, and the important things that his faith and mine have in common. He was troubled by this client's work, by the relegation of the unused embryos to a frozen status. I thought it a coincidence that the client was a German doctor, and wondered whether that fact was of any importance to my friend's point of view. Later, the ethicist Jerome LeJeune referred to the frozen embryo container as a "Concentration Can". Did my friend ever see that?

If one Googles "frozen embryo adoption" a host of pertinent links shows up. Couples are adopting these embryos and implanting them in the female's womb. Apparently there are agencies established for assisting couples who wish to adopt, applying standards similar to those who wish to adopt babies and children.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Some Great Church Music

Visiting Austin is a feast of pleasure, one of the courses is attending Westlake Hills Presbyterian Church, and one of the treats is the hymn singing there with its great pipe organ. This last visit, the congregation sang a hymn I have heard very little over the years - I believe it is "Lutheran" if one is to apply a tradition to it - and that is Open Now the Gates of Beauty. I found an MP3 of the tune here.

The lyrics are here.

We get a steady diet of "Praise Music" at our church. It has attracted some people and driven away others. I enjoy that music, but it takes a visit to WHPC to remind me of how rich is the tradition from which the popular church has turned away. I drank in that hymn like a thirsty man, as I did the singing of Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty! just prior to it. During the singing, I was off to the side, on the very front row (we were there for Aidan and Honor's baptisms), and beneath a rank of pipes, so that I could sing out without annoying anyone (at least I don't think I did.) Oh, that was fun! What a blessed background to seeing your grandchildren baptized!

Having said all that, there was a lovely song that Donna, Ginger, and Rick, the core of our praise team, sang for us today at our service, In Christ Alone. This contemporary work is hymn like, especially in the depth and extent of its lyrics, and the tune recalls "Oh Lamb of God" (lyrics here), a favorite of mine that I have solo'd a number of times.

So let's have both, why don't we?

Nightstand Report

I took to Austin with me last weekend and read Jack Goldsmith's misnamed book, The Terror Presidency: Law and Judgment Inside the Bush Administration. Goldstein is a former U of Chicago Law School professor, now at Harvard, who spent 10 months as head of the Attorney General's "Office of Legal Counsel". This is the office that gives legal opinions to the White House, opinions upon which, according to Goldsmith, one can rely and avoid war-crimes indictment, etc. It is in the genre of Beltway self-justification books, but it is worth reading and pretty well written. I got onto the book as a result of an interview of Goldsmith by Glenn Reynolds and Helen Smith that is available via podcast.

I am reading right now a great WW II book about Gen. E.R. Quesada, whom I had the privilege of knowing. The title is Over Lord: General Pete Quesada and the Triumph of Tactical Air Power in World War II. It's been a hard book to put down this weekend and I'm nearly finished.

While at Macon's house, I pulled from his well-stocked bookcases Donald G. Bloesch's A Theology of Word & Spirit: Authority and Mehod in Theology. This is the first volume in a seven volume work of systematic theology by Bloesch, a professor at Dubuque Theological Seminary. I read the introduction and the first chapter, and Bloesch's forthright and confident approach to his subject and his muscular (to say the least) writing style captured me.

I just finished reading maybe the best single investment advice book I've seen, Armstrong's The Informed Investor: A Hype-Free Guide to Constructing a Sound Financial Portfolio.

I am still reading Meredith's The Fate of Africa: Fifty Years of Independence, Oren's Power, Faith & Fantasy: America in the Middle East 1776 to the Present, and Dungy's Quiet Strength: The Principles, Practices & Priorities of a Winning Life. I'm always reading Allen's Getting Things Done. Mary gave me Casona's La Barca sin Pescador, a short book that I read in college but a book whose thesis has stayed fresh in my mind since then, so I thought I would read it again, Spanish-English dictionary in hand.

I would love to get away with these books and others for about ten days in the deep woods of the Blue Ridge Mountains!

Sunday Paper as Kettlebell

This morning's Sunday Herald had the 370 page Ikea 2008 catalog included as a supplement.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Manna Packs in Austin

Carol and I were riding with Walter and Morgan to Macon and Kellsey's house in Austin last weekend when we came to a busy intersection and stopped for the light. There was an apparently homeless person standing just off the street, with a dog and with a sign asking for food. To my surprise, Morgan asked Walter to grab a "survival pack", which Walter then slid out from somewhere under the seat, and handed it out the window to the fellow with the dog. Carol and I were in the back seat of the car, and I looked down and saw more such packs underneath the front seat. Morgan said that people at their church pack these things to give to people like the one we saw at the intersection.

Because we have so many "homeless" in the downtown Miami area, this very much interested me. I asked Morgan if I could have a pack, and she gave me one. I took two photos, as you can see. One is of the kit all ready to hand out, packed inside the gallon size Ziploc bag. The second is of the contents of the kit unpacked so you can see them.

The kit contains, as I think you can mostly see, a bottle of water, a granola bar, a can of Vienna sausage, a pair of white socks, a big garbage bag, the kind that stretches, a tract with "Selected Bible verses from the book of Romans that leads us to new life", and a paper with a list of agencies in Austin that address the needs of these sorts of people.

My idea, maybe, is to pack a couple of these in my brief-case and have them ready to hand out. Not that, on an emotional basis, I really like those people. Because I don't. I also see hand-outs as giving them an incentive to hang around. But this is sort of a bargain that I may be interested in: I give you this kit and you, maybe, will read the tract and go to one of the local agencies. (I had thought about including a one-way bus ticket to Austin, but discarded the idea.)

UPDATE: Make that "manna pack" rather than "survival pack". (Thanks, Walt.) As in John 6: 57 and 58:

57As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me.

58This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever.

Friday, October 19, 2007

But Giuliani?

"Since 1973, over 14 million black babies have been aborted, which is equal to the combined populations of eight midwestern states". Attributed to Day Gardner, president of the National Black Pro-Life Union by Nat Hentoff in "The Next President", published in the November 2007 issue of First Things. You have to wonder how the Civil Rights leaders who worship at the altar of the Democratic Party so utterly lost their way.

Meanwhile, over at the Republican Party the front runner is hardly a pro-life candidate. I've heard some very conservative friends of mine say they are ready to vote for Giuliani because he will be tough on the "terrorists". After all, the rationale goes, if we don't have a country, the rights of the unborn won't make much difference, will they?


Those of you who think that God might have something still to do with history and that he may in some respects resemble the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, may recall how He dealt with national sin in the case of his chosen people. My question would be whether a persistent pro-abortion policy will finally lead to something like Babylon wiping Judah nearly off the face of the earth.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Cake!

Aidan's birthday cake was the traditional brown cake with the brown frosting, also known as a "Texas Sheet Cake". This is its particular story, illustrated.

Photo 1 shows daughter-in-law and mother-in-law baking away in Kellsey's Austin kitchen on Saturday afternoon, getting ready for Aidan's birthday party on Sunday afternoon.

Photo 2 shows the work of art that emerged from the oven, actually one of two. This one, however, had the covering of sprinkles and the sugar baked ornaments from the Disney epic Cars, which decorations young Aidan picked when he went with Kellsey to a party store in Austin. The other was your straight Texas Sheet Cake, which was for the adults.

The stage is set. Photo 3 is Sunday afternoon at the park, just before Aidan's friends and their parents arrive. The table is nearly spread. The birthday cakes are under the tin foil, and Aidan hasn't seen them yet. Aidan is thinking about what is getting ready to happen. I'm wondering how I can sneak a finger under the tin foil hiding one of the cakes and get a scoop of icing.

The gangs all here! Photo 4 shows the crowd arrived and gathering around the great cake unveiling.

Photo 5 shows Birthday Boy in a Zen-like attitude, presiding above the Cake upon its unveiling.

But beneath that placid exterior an imp-like presence lurks, and the magic of a lightning quick shutter finger catches it, as Photo 6 indicates.

There was another sweet presence at that table, straight across from young Aidan. But give him another 12 years to figure out that sort of thing. So, Photo 7.

All of this gets to be too much for the young man, and he is seen in Photo 8 walking off with his piece of cake, to eat it quietly on the edge of all that noise and attention. I recognize that gene.

The last photo wasn't even taken at the birthday party, but she is the icing on her brother's birthday cake.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Hello from Austin!

Carol and I are at Macon's house in Austin, getting ready to go to church. Aidan and Honor will be baptized there at the main worship service this morning, so I packed my lawyer's uniform (suit, white dress shirt, red power tie, shined shoes that lace up), and today's is Aidan's birthday, and last night was Morgan's high school reunion. We also talked to Mary on the phone yesterday from here. Wow, what a weekend!

The weather is FINE in Austin, a bit of fall, dry, temp in the high 70s - low 80s in the day, night in the high 60s. For a Miamiano, this is really different. And really swell.

The first photo is of Macon, Honor, and Aidan first thing this morning. We gave Aidan his birthday gifts. It was sort of like Christmas. He woke up Carol and me, and then we went in the living room to open the presents from his mom and dad and us. He also got his "gift bag", one of a number we packed last night. The "gift bags" will be given to the other little children at the birthday party this afternoon.

The second photo is of Aidan trying out his new bike. This is called a "Skuut", and Macon and I put it together last night. It is sort of an introduction to the concept of balance and forward motion. Aidan did well with it. Next year he will be ready for a "piki" (scroll down the link).

The third photo is of me getting ready to be overrun.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Friday, October 12, 2007

Jury Duty Scams

Mary Ann alerts us to this.

Thanks, M.A.

Up a Tree

Friends of ours have given us a Carrotwood tree. Its about 5 feet high, and makes a good shade tree, doesn't drop a lot of leaves, and we could use it on the west side of our house, to shade us from the afternoon sun.

But I looked it up, and I find it is an exotic and harmful to the Florida ecosystem. So now, what to do?

Our friends come over to our house a good bit, and they will see if we don't plant it. They know that it's an exotic, however.

I think we are going to give it back to them.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Following in my father's footsteps

though more technologically advanced, natch as one would expect from the post-modern, web2.0, tech-geek, hipster-wannabe that I am.

EDITED: to avoid the second use of a form of "naturally," in consecutive posts.

Blogroll Additions

Under "Commentary", naturally:
  • Undependent Blog

  • A new blog about, variously:
    -- creators who connect directly to their audiences via the internet
    -- the general dis-intermediation of content thanks to the webernet
    -- the new economics of the new media enabled by the intarwebs

  • Despair Blog

  • The most trenchant commentary on the universe you'll ever find within one link of this blog.

    This Hurts. This Really Hurts.

    Tom Wolfe to write a book on Miami?

    That would be fun.

    Wednesday, October 10, 2007

    "Stand up for America! Bean American!"

    I saw this on a bumper sticker in the church parking lot. It was red, white, and blue, with the Stars & Stripes as a background.

    I stood there for a few moments looking at it, trying to figure it out. "Bean American!" What did that mean? Was it some sort of ad to buy American vegetables? Were we suppose to bean people who didn't stand up for America? I just stood there looking at it.

    Then I realized there was slightly wider space in the word "Bean" betwen the "e" and the "a" than the spaces between the other letters.

    Stupid bumper sticker.

    Monday, October 08, 2007

    Emirates Airlines Coming to Miami, Maybe

    The Miami Herald reports that the Dubai-based airline may come to Miami, with a non-stop flight from here to there. That would make it one more hop to Nairobi.

    No date is set for Miami, but the article reports that the airline will have a flight from Houston in December. So the Austin based family may find it an easier trip than the one through Heathrow.

    Sunday, October 07, 2007

    Not Quitting my Day Job

    Van is out of town this weekend, and he asked me to preach this morning. I worked hours on my sermon. Hours. This is not an easy thing to do, by any stretch, at least not for me.

    I did have a topic rattling around inside my head: how to deal with the Sabbath, the Fourth Commandment.

    You can read my notes here.

    Maybe not so bad for a first draft.

    The Little Church that Could

    Adrianna reports this in our church's most recent newsletter:

    This will be our ninth (9th) year receiving shoe boxes [for Operation Christmas Child] from other groups around Miami as a Relay Center (3 yrs) or Collection Center (6 yrs). Our first year we collected almost 1,000 boxes, last year over 17,000. This year we will collect in excess of 20,000 boxes from around Miami-Dade and The Keys. How much over 20,000? Jesus knows, I cannot even guess.

    Not the Best, Anymore

    We noticed this several years ago. What a shame. (Hat tip to Glenn for noting this.)

    Thursday, October 04, 2007

    The Trinity International Foundation Replies

    This came in an email to our home in response to Carol's email to TIF that protests the sale:

    Dear partners in ministry,

    Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with us on the Spirit FM
    web site. We are encouraged to hear how God has greatly blessed so many lives
    through the ministry of Spirit FM. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that
    some reactions have been strong in response to the announcement to sell Spirit
    FM. We respect your comments and are addressing in this email the principal
    concerns expressed.

    In recent years, Trinity International University received several unsolicited
    offers to buy the radio station. As a result of these offers and in order to
    fulfill their fiduciary responsibility, the Board of Regents engaged a brokerage
    firm in 2006. The broker began a process of assessing the value of the station
    and determining the level of interest in the market. This process was a quiet
    one because the outcome was uncertain and we did not want to interrupt the radio
    ministry of Spirit FM. We saw no wisdom in making this professional inquiry
    public and thereby open the door to questions the station staff could not answer about a topic under
    exploration by the board.

    We are extremely grateful to the thousands of listeners who have supported
    Spirit FM financially and in prayer for so many years. We believe that God
    places people in leadership in specific situations at specific times. Those
    leaders are sometimes called upon to make tough decisions. Trinity’s board takes
    seriously its responsibility as stewards of the resources of Trinity
    International University and approached this decision with much deliberation and
    prayer. In the end the board believed, before God, that this was the best

    Many of the matters involved in the board’s inquiry and ultimate decision are
    sensitive and confidential. However, we do want you to know that our desire was
    to sell to a Christian organization, and we attempted without success to do so
    with several different organizations.

    A significant portion of the proceeds will be
    placed in the TIU endowment. The endowment is like a long-term savings account that cannot be spent without action from the
    board. The annual interest from endowment will be used to further the mission of
    the university. Trinity College, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Trinity
    Graduate School, and Trinity Law School make a huge impact on our culture for
    Christ. The board’s vision is to do more through the educational programs these
    schools offer, including our programs in South Florida.

    We believe that we are blessed with some of the most talented radio staff in the
    nation. These faithful servants were informed of the process several weeks
    prior to the signing of the Purchase Agreement on September 24, 2007. In spite
    of this news, they continued to minister in a professional and effective manner.
    After September 24 all parties agreed that it would be impossible for the Spirit
    FM staff to continue their on-air duties as usual. Generous severance and
    placement assistance for
    the staff are being provided.

    We ask you to join us in prayer that:

    1. The sovereign Lord will pour out His Spirit on South Florida in order to
    fill any void that may be left by closing Spirit FM
    2. A strengthened unity in Christ will be demonstrated among churches and
    believers with a shared purpose of reaching the lost in South Florida
    3. The staff of Spirit FM will be sustained by God’s grace as they seek the
    Lord’s will for future ministry.

    One of the listeners responded as follows:

    "...I am encouraged in my heart to pray for your ministry as a Christian entity
    of education. I pray that the next Billy Graham will come from your school. I
    pray that the seed that is now being sowed with tears by our community grows and
    develops into a life-giving tree that will touch, not just the thousands the
    radio touched here in South Florida, but the millions that are hungry and in
    need of the love of God."

    We join in these sentiments with this listener and ask you to join us in this

    Seeking God in all things,

    Trinity International Foundation Board

    As even a first year law student would say, res ipsa loquitur.