Friday, September 30, 2011

Carol and Mary Ann at the Engine 2 Immersion Weekend with the Esselstyns

The gentleman on the right, Caldwell Esselstyn MD, is the father of the gentleman on the left, Rip Esselstyn.

Caldwell Esselstyn MD is 13 years older than I. I want to look like him 13 years from now.

I want to look like him 7 years from now.

I want to look like him right now.

I'm going to lose 5 pounds. Then I may lose 5 more. Then I may lose down to my weight when I graduated from high school.

(By the way, Carol and M.A. already look great! Keep on the journey!)

"The Science of Shacking Up"

The title of CT's review of the new book, The Ring Makes All the Difference: The Hidden Consequences of Cohabitation and the Strong Benefits of Marriage.

The CT review is actually an interview of the author, Caryn Rivadeneira. I love her comment on the popular idea that cohabitation helps people marry the "right person," especially what she says about Hauerwas' view:

Stanley Hauerwas, an ethicist at Duke, says that we always marry the wrong person. The sooner young couples can understand that, the better off they'll be. I hear young couples say, "You mean you don't want us to be soul mates?" But nobody marries his or her soul mate. You become soul mates by living life together through those years.

So often cohabiters are looking, in the first year, for what comes only after years—decades!—of life together. You are setting yourself up for dramatic disappointment if you think life works that way.

(More on Hauerwas on sex, marriage, politics, and love here.)

Billboard in Green Bay

I think the word is Chutzpa.

(Click on the photo to get a clearer view.)

This is from the website of the Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Get Out the Kleenex

Best Apples for Baking

Here is a post that mentions "Lady Hamilton" apples. Two weekends ago we visited Mary in NY, took a road trip and picked some delicious apples at a grove just to the west of Lake Seneca, up the slope from the water. I thought the person at the grove with whom we dealt said the apples in her grove were "Hamiltons." Carol remembers Mary saying they were "Burgandies." In any event, they were simply delicious and we picked a peck of them. I'll post a photo soon.

Groceries vs. Food


You have to understand: they really are out to get us.

(Thanks, Carol)

Politics vs. the Administrative State

Great article from the September 2011 issue of Hillsdale College's "Imprimis" by Edward J. Erler, professor of political science at California State University, San Bernadino.

From the article:

One of the proofs offered in the Declaration of Independence that King George was attempting to establish an “absolute Tyranny” over the American colonies was the fact that “He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.” Obamacare certainly fits the description of the activities denounced in the Declaration. The number of regulations and the horde of administrators necessary to execute the scheme are staggering. We have only to think here of the Independent Payment Advisory Board. It is a commission of 15 members appointed by the President, charged with the task of reducing Medicare spending. This commission has rule-making power which carries the force of law. The Senate, it is true, will have the power to override its decisions—but only with a three-fifths majority. There are no procedures that allow citizens or doctors to appeal the Board’s decisions. The administrative state—here in the guise of providing health care for all—will surely reduce the people under a kind of tyranny that will insinuate itself into all aspects of American life, destroying liberty by stages until liberty itself becomes only a distant memory.

Leaving the PC(USA)?

Van is set on our leaving the PC(USA). For one thing, the strong, more conservative churches in our Presbytery all appear to be leaving. What will Presbytery look like when that happens, the question is posed. It can't be good, the answer is given. Our little church would find itself in a "liberal" Presbytery and in a denomination where the Left has finally triumphed after decades of struggle. We had better get on board.

Probably similar preparations to leave are being made by more orthodox churches all over the denomination. The thinking among these churches, as Van tells it, is that they need to come out now, before the next General Assembly meeting, when the ability of individual churches to leave will be further restricted.

On Tuesday of this week I attended as a commissioner the September meeting of our Presbytery. The main agenda item was the adoption of a procedure providing for a "gracious" (easy) method for a church to leave our Presbytery "with its property." Since there is still a majority of conservative churches in our Presbytery, the measure would surely pass, and it did. The commissioners from churches already intending to leave were not disqualified from voting. In any event, the measure passed with only one delegate voting against it. What were the other churches thinking?

The most interesting parts of a Presbytery meeting are the conversations at the site before the session begins, during lunch, and thereafter, before we go home. At the lunch, I sat with two black delegates with whom I have served on COM for several years. After everyone else at the table left, we continued to sit together; we talked about what is going to happen to our Presbytery. (Mainly I listened.) The more outspoken of the two described what was about to happen as "the rich white churches are pulling out, leaving the poor minority churches behind." (She prefaced these words with "Apologies to Paul, but . . . ") I said to her, "Arlene, you know our church has people of color" and she said something like, "Paul, I'm not including your church in all this."

But I must say that it was instructive to see how the movement of the conservative churches out of the denomination is seen by this African-American. She remarked on how few if any of the "big, rich, white churches" had any people of color in them, especially none in leadership.

After the Presbytery meeting, I spoke with the pastor and two elders of a Cuban-American church in Miami-Dade. I knew them and their church pretty well, because I had been the COM's liaison with them as they were rebuilding, following a tough several years. I represented the COM at the installation of their new pastor a couple of years ago. I sat through several of their Session meetings, conducted in Spanish of course. (Every few minutes a speaker would stop and ask me if they needed to translate what had just been said. Sometimes yes.)

I asked them what their church intended to do, but I already knew that the Latin churches would be staying in. The three confirmed that. Then the pastor said to me, "Oh, Paul, don't go. We need to be a prophetic voice for this denomination." This pastor is about 50 years old, and had been a minister in Cuba. She said that when Castro came to power, the church organizations were taken over by the Communists and many of the pastors joined the Party. A number of Christians left the organized church, "but, she said, there was a group who decided to stay in, to be a prophetic voice, and they were that voice."

We had a special meeting of our Session that evening to discuss the matter of our church leaving. I told these two stories. As to the second one, Van said something like, "Being a prophetic voice is a special call. One needs to be very sure that God is making that call."

So is the presumption that we don't usually get such calls? Is the burden, then, upon the believer to establish that there is a call? Is it that if one believes he is called to something special, especially if it against what the crowd has decided to do - then he must be very, very sure that it is really God doing the calling? That may be so. But if so, what is the weight of evidence required to rebut that presumption? Are two stories from Presbytery, a history of flourishing in a denomination already condemned as apostate by many evangelicals, and an emotional bias toward staying in place enough?

Doing a lot of praying here.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Gators, the Heisman, and Presbyterians

Three of the four Heisman Trophy winners at the University of Florida were sons of Presbyterian ministers:

Steve Spurrier (1966),

Danny Wuerffel (1996), and

Tim Tebow (2007).

House Panel Launches Probe of Planned Parenthood

A Republican-led House committee has launched an investigation into Planned Parenthood, requesting a mountain of documents covering everything from audits to abortion-funding records to its policies on reporting sexual abuse.

In a move Democrats decried as "unfair and unjustified," Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., earlier this month wrote to Planned Parenthood informing them that the House Energy and Commerce Committee was looking at the group's "institutional practices and policies."

-from a report by

The wheels of justice grind slow, but . . .

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Bramwell, Netflix, Roku

Carol and I have enjoyed the transformation of Netflix into a sort of selective cable channel that is very inexpensive. Not only are there movies, but also older television series and among those series best of all are the Masterpiece Theater productions. Before starting a family, Carol and I were avid viewers of MP, when Alistair Cook introduced each episode. That was during the 70s, but as we became busier and busier, MP went by the way, as did TV itself, finally

But now here we are again, the two of us. With Netflix feeding into our TV set via Roku, we are catching up on 30 years of Masterpiece Theater.

Just now I viewed the first episode of Bramwell, a series about a young woman physician in London at the turn of 20th Century, making her way against the prejudice and ignorance of the male dominated profession. The first episode, hugely dramatic, was very entertaining. I can't watch any more of the episodes until Carol gets home from her weekend trip to Austin, and will go back and watch the first one again with her. This will be a series we will both enjoy. (Just don't tell Mary that the protagonist is a surgeon.)

GOP Stalwart Ros-Lehtinen Co-Sponsors "Respect for Marriage Act"

This legislation would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. Representative Ros-Lehtinen voted for DOMA, which Herald columnist Fabioloa Santiago calls an "anti-gay measure," when that legislation was enacted in 1996.

As Santiago writes:

[W]hat a difference 15 years and parenting a child who is a member of the gay, lesbian and transgender community has made. In the last several years, Ros-Lehtinen has become a significant advocate of gay rights and her leadership, advocates say, has been crucial.

For Ros-Lehtinen, the move has been gradual, thoughtful, and painfully personal. Her daughter Amanda publicly came out as a transgender man named Rodrigo; he’s (sic) field organizer for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

On Friday, Ros-Lehtinen’s approach to her sponsorship was low-key. She declined to give interviews on her evolution on the issue of gay rights, saying she had too full an agenda, and her office didn’t issue a press release on her sponsorship of the bill but pointed to the release of others announcing it.

I like Ros-Lehtenin. She's a decent, hard-working Congressperson. I sympathize with her. A beloved member of my extended family is caught in this lifestyle, and I'm sure many families deal with this heart-breaking matter. The un-culture is toxic, and it grinds up people, young and old, marriages, politics, churches, almost everything it sometimes seems. But seemingly almost, I am careful to say. A redemptive force moves upon it. Maranatha!

Church by the Glades: Jim's Church

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

And You Can Grill the Portabellos, Dress Them Up in a Hamburger Bun Fit for a Texan (Provided the Texan's from Austin)

Mushrooms are about 80 percent water by weight, but the remaining 20 percent is packed with nutrients. One medium portabello mushroom has more potassium than a banana, and a 1/2-cup serving of most mushrooms has 20 to 40 percent of the daily value of copper, a mineral with cardioprotective properties.

Mushrooms are the only plant food that contains vitamin D. Shiitakes are the highest, with one cup yielding about 12 percent of the recommended daily value.

Shiitakes also contain lentinan, a polysaccharide (large carbohydrate) that boosts the immune system. Popular button mushrooms, have phytochemcials that inhibit the activity of aromatase, and thus have a role in breast cancer prevention in postmenopausal women. Rounding out the phytochemical trio are triterpenes, steroid-like molecules that inhibit histamine release and have anti-inflammatory properties.

All this nutritional firepower comes in an easy-on-the-waistline form: One cup of mushrooms has only 15 calories.

-from Sheah Rarback's column in today's Miami Herald.


So funny!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Training-induced neural plasticity in golf novices

No wonder Mike is such a skillful physician. (Not that he is a golf novice.)

Raymond E. Brown, S.S., Ph.D

The preceding post, at it indicates, is an excerpt of a passage from Fr. Brown's first volume on the Gospel of John. The book's back cover describes him as "internationally regarded as a dean of New Testament Scholars." Wikipedia has a helpful entry on this author.

I had been looking for books to help me with our new study of the Gospel of John. Last week, in preparing for the first lesson, I used the web version of the NET Bible as a resource. One of its footnotes cited Brown, and I tracked him down. The First Edition of the NET Bible that Micki gave me includes Brown's two-volume work on the Gospel in its "List of Cited Works" on page 2463. I find it fascinating that the people who produced the NET Bible, a translation effort so closely connected with DTS, would be citing Brown, given his Roman Catholic background and his historical-critical approach: not only fascinating but commendable. I think I have found my reference books for this study.

The Gospel of John - Beyond Skepticism

[T]he trend in Johannine studies has passed through an interesting cycle. At the end of the last century [the 19th century] and in the early years of this century [the 20th century], scholarship went through a period of extreme skepticism about this Gospel. John was dated very late, even to the second half of the 2nd century. As a product of the Hellenistic world, it was thought to be totally devoid of historical value and to have little relation to the Palestine of Jesus of Nazareth. The small kernel of fact in its pages was supposedly taken from the synoptic Gospels which served as the basis for the author’s elaborations. Needless to say, few critics thought that the Gospel according to John had the slightest connection with John son of Zebedee.

Some of these skeptical positions, especially those regarding authorship and the source of influence on the Gospel, are still maintained by many reputable scholars. Nevertheless, there is not one such position that has not been affected by a series of unexpected archaeological, documentary, and textual discoveries. These discoveries have led us to challenge intelligently the critical views that had almost become orthodox and to recognize how fragile was the base which supported the highly skeptical analysis of John. Consequently, since the Second World War there has emerged what Bishop John A. T. Robinson calls a "new look" in Johannine studies – a new look that shares much with the look once traditional in Christianity.

-Raymond E. Brown in his introduction to The Gospel According to John I-XII (Yale University Press 1995).

Remarks at a Funeral

Monday I went to the funeral of the grown son of an elderly client of mine. It was at a local United Methodist Church. The service had all the right scripture and the right hymns, but at one point the presiding minister said that when the son last visited the father "it was the last time they would ever see each other again." He said that without qualification.

Maybe it was a slip of the tongue, but it seems to me that if one has the perspective that a Christian ought to have, that is of the temporal nature of the present and the eternal nature of the life prepared for us by the Lord, you just wouldn't say anything like that. Furthermore, it was simply cruel.

Don't anyone dare say anything like that at my funeral. I'll be having a great time and looking forward to seeing you.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

"In the beginning . . . "

Today is the first Sunday of our study of the Gospel of John. For the class text book we are using N.T. Wright's John for Everyone, Part One and Part Two, having had a very good time with him and his Paul for Everyone, Romans: Part One and Romans: Part Two, during our study of Romans.

From my bookshelf, I am using Godet's Commentary on John and G. Campbell Morgan's The Gospel According to John. Macon and Walter are leading a study of this gospel in their adult class in Austin. They are using the Wright books as well. In addition, Macon said that they are using the commentary on John by Bruce Milne from The Bible Speaks Today series, Calvin's Commentaries on John (the translators for which include the Torrances), and John Chrysostom's homilies on John.

I will also be digging into the NET Bible's website for help and also the helps at

Turning to our lesson today, John 1:1-18, the connection between Genesis 1 and John 1:1 is obvious even without all of this learned assistance (as are all "those things [as far as Scripture is concerned, according to the Westminster Confession] which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed, for salvation . . . "). But those "beginnings" are not quite the same. In Genesis, "the beginning" looks ahead, to creation. In John, "beginning" is broad enough to "look back" from creation, which is the best one can do, I think, in trying to distinguish the two uses of the noun. Of course, there is no time as we know it before the creation (was there?) but we are creatures caught in time. So I say that we "look back" from the beginning (or to the beginning?) in John 1:1. I liked this discussion of the problem in Godet:

"Several modern writers . . . understand by this beginning [the beginning in John 1:1] eternity. In fact, eternity is, not the temporal beginning, but the rational principle, of time. And it is in this sense that the word arche [Greek word for beginning] seems to be taken in Prov. 8:23: 'In the beginning, before creating the earth,' perhaps also in 1 John 1.1:'That which was from the beginning . . .' Indeed, as Weiss observes, the absolute beginning can be only the point from which our thought starts. Now such a point is not found in time, because we can always conceive in time a point anterior to that which we represent to ourselves. The absolute beginning at which our minds stop can therefore only be eternity a parte ante.

A child is aware of the problem and grapples with it. But grown-ups tired of such existential problems years ago. That's why they are called adults.

Child: "Dad, how did everything get here?"
Dad: "God created everything."
Child: "Who created God, Dad?"
Dad [turning back to the game]: "Uh . . . go ask your mom."

(Cf. Matt. 18:2-3)

Friday, September 09, 2011

Tell Me Again Why Republicans aren't Insisting that This Guy Run for President?

The French are Coming! Actually, they are already here.

At our Friday morning breakfast today, one of our number told us about a young French family that is buying a home near the Indian Creek area of Miami Beach. He said that a growing enclave of French ex-patriates exists in that area, especially of Parisians, who are leaving home on account of worsening crime in the city and the weakening Euro.

The immigration trends I have observed in Miami over the last 55 years have been a sort of rotation of peoples from among Latin American countries, from Cuba first (and then again and again), then Nicaragua, El Salvador, Brazil from time time time although not now of course, Columbia, Argentina, and, since Chavez, Venezuela. Now I believe we are beginning to see the flight of the middle and professional classes from Europe, a trend that I would think will widen.

Instapundit Returns the Compliment

Here. (Then click the link on Glenn's blog.)

Carol said, "This is like having your name in the New York Times!" I'm not sure Glenn would like the comparison.

And besides, as to the NY Times, been there, done that.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Abraham Lincoln Quotes

Carol recived these Abraham Lincoln quotations in an email she received from an Associate of Legal Administrators speaker she heard a few months ago:

"Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power."
--Abraham Lincoln

" I do the very best I know how -- the very best I can; and I
mean to keep on doing so until the end."
--Abraham Lincoln

"I don't like that man. I’m going to have to get to know him better."
--Abraham Lincoln

"I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go."
--Abraham Lincoln

"America will never be destroyed from outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves"
--Abraham Lincoln

"Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by
those who hustle."
--Abraham Lincoln

Monday, September 05, 2011

Inflorescence: Our Fishtail Palm Blooms

I've never seen this from our palm. It's a spectacular inflorescence.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Herzlich Survives the Cut

Cancer survivor Mark Herzlich made the New York Giants’ roster after being signed as a free agent out of Boston College. The linebacker, who beat a rare form of bone cancer in college, was on the bubble — and still may be as teams search the waiver wire—but he’s on the Giants’ roster for now.

“Herzlich didn’t bat an eye the whole camp,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. “Physically, he did everything you asked and more. I saw him improve literally week by week.”

-from the AP this morning, via Yahoo!Sports

He'll make it.

"Just fix it."

Saturday, September 03, 2011

"I wasn't going to buy another car that was bailed out by the government."

"Let the Chips Fall, Mr. Stokes"

Among the teachers I had a Duke, a few were unforgettable. I can remember specific conversations I had with those few. Things they said, in the context they said them, are not far away in my memory, even 45 years later.

Instapundit links to a column by a college professor entitled The Amazing Colossal Syllabus. He reports that he must spoon-feed detailed, written instructions to his students at the beginning of the term on what he expects of them in his reading and writing assignments, that is to say, he has to do a good bit of threshold thinking for his students because they, having been fed on the "thin gruel" of high school education, would be lost if he were simply to assign the books for the semester and require the students write essays on them.

I remember the first day of an upper level American History course at Duke, taught by Anne Firor Scott, a fantastic teacher. She announced a research assignment in words that were few in comparison to the weight of the assignment. It was my first course with her. She was a young professor and already a giant in the department. I had a small reputation as a student, and she knew who I was. I was insecure that first day of class, as usual, insecure about how I was going to do in the course generally and, specifically, about what she wanted on the assignment.

As soon as the class came to a formal end, I approached Dr. Scott and started to politely cross-examine her on the assignment. She cut me off, looked at me directly, and said firmly, "Let the chips fall, Mr. Stokes."

I immediately "got it." Rather than being even more concerned that I didn't know what the assignment was, I was liberated by those words. She wanted me to tell her what I thought about the readings and the subject matter. A large part of my assignment was that I was to devise it. I was free to think for myself. She trusted me. I smiled and said, "OK! Thanks!"

Friday, September 02, 2011

Still Praying, But I Think It's Time to Go

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

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

-from "A Tale of Elephants and the Mouse: Presbyterians, 10-A, and the World Church," By Ken Bailey, Author and Lecturer in Middle Eastern New Testament Studies, New Wilmington, PA

(Thanks, Sean)

Did You Wash Your Hands?

Mom was right.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

The Burritos Friends-with-Benefits Place on Flagler

Today Carol and I had lunch at a semi-fast, Mexican food place on Flagler Street called Lime. It opened several months ago, and has been very successful. So we visited today for the first time and tried their veggie burritos. (They were OK, but it's really hard to beat the rice-and-beans Vegetarian TropiChop at Pollo Tropico for half the price.)

Lime's had several hip signs (its ambiance is South Beach), and one of them was "Think of us as 'a friend with benefits'." Carol was not impressed. But that got us talking about how shredded to pieces was the idea of "marriage" (or, as the priest said in "Four Weddings and a Funeral" mawidge). There is so little dignity left of marriage among such a large portion of the Millineals that "friendship" is not only disconnected from it but, when connected with physical intimacy, stands on its own, and is held in greater esteem at that. Plus sex is fun and without consequence, right? So, then, Lime can sell more burritos by invoking the relationship institution of the decade.

When did marriage get so disconnected from friendship? I thought it was a gateway to greater and surer friendship, with the benefits immeasurably enhanced, at least potentially. What happened? How did we get this way?

Vaclav Klaus Speaks

The Crisis of the European Union: Causes and Significance

Enlightening, succinct, and disturbing.