Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Day by Day

Carol and I saw the musical Godspell during late 1971 or early 1972 during our year living in New York City.  We loved it.  That is where we first heard the song "Day by Day," one of those songs, like "It's a Small, Small World," that never quite gets out of your head. The off-Broadway version that we had seen of the musical had a record album, and we nearly wore out the disk playing it over the next 20 years or so.  During the 1980s, my friends Nancy Jones and Ralph Wakefield, produced and directed Godspell at our church.  Walter played the fig tree and I played John the Baptist.  Day by Day further embedded itself in our psyche.

I was reminded of it when Carol and I attended the worship service at St. David's Episcopal Church in Austin with Walter and his family during our recent visit.  The lyric is based on a  prayer of Richard of Chichester, the 13th Century Bishop of Sussex, and that prayer was part of the printed the order of service.  (Why do the Episcopalians get to recite those ancient, beautiful prayers, and those passages from the Book of Common Prayer, but we other Protestants do not?  Not fair.)

Here is the prayer of Richard and then the lyric from Godspell's Day by Day:

Thanks be to Thee, my Lord Jesus Christ
For all the benefits Thou hast given me,
For all the pains and insults Thou hast borne for me.
O most merciful Redeemer, friend and brother,
May I know Thee more clearly,
Love Thee more dearly,
Follow Thee more nearly.

Day by day,
Oh, Dear Lord, three things I pray:
To see thee more clearly,
Love thee more dearly,
Follow thee more nearly,
Day by Day.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Bosch: Gifted People Breaking the Rules. Please.

Amazon recently posted to Prime a TV video series called Bosch, based on the "police procedural" series written by Michael Connolly, some of whose novesl I have read.  I have viewed the first two episodes.  They are about a brilliant detective who (wait for it, wait for it) breaks the rules.

Really, I'm so tired of gifted people who break the rules, whether in the movies or TV or whom the media exults - especially sports media and in politics.  In real life, these sorts of people finally crash and burn, creating a lot of damage - unless they are protected by an exceptional institution.

By exceptional institution, I mean a political party or political institution or a sports franchise, a college or high school athletic department, or some other institution that thinks it can manage such people and profit by them.  I mean, especially, institutions that have accumulated enough power to defy the market place.

I don't include institutions in my indictment in which there are adults in charge, adults who have made a careful calculus of cost and benefit and, in a way that is transparent and makes sense, have shaped the rules so that the gifted - but otherwise undisciplined person - can perform effectively.   But usually, in "real life," these gifted people, after a certain near-point, will be expelled onto the streets.

Bosch had fine "production values," and is fairly well acted.  But like the nasty lieutenant who gives Bosch a lot of trouble, I wouldn't tolerate the guy on my team.  Bosch simply makes too many bad decisions, whatever happy outcome that the producers contrive.

Good-bye, Bosch.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Wait for It!

Our Sunday School class is well into its current study of the Sermon on the Mount.  At our last class, we considered Matthew 5: 43-48, the passage where Jesus tells his disciples to love their enemies and pray for those who persecute them, not for any purpose or no purpose, but so that they "may be sons of their father in heaven."  This passage follows directly on Jesus' admonition against retaliation in verses 38 - 42.  Indeed, John Stott, in his book on the SOM, pairs the two sections together in the same chapter, suggesting that they are of one piece.  He writes of them as two aspects of love, one passive and the other active.

What occurs to to me as I think about these two sides of the same coin, passive love and active, is the call we have to wait on the Lord.  Our enemy strikes us on the right cheek.  Well, then, we are to turn the other cheek and then just wait.  He sues us.  In that case, we settle with the plaintiff to avoid going to court for its brand of justice.  It seems to me, then, that Jesus calls us not simply to be passive in our non-retaliation, he calls us to wait on (or for) the Lord. 

We think of waiting for the Lord as an Advent activity, and I posted a beautiful hymn just below with these lyrics:

Wait for the Lord, whose day is near
Wait for the Lord, keep watch, take heart.
Prepare the way for the Lord,
Make a straight path for God
Prepare the way for the Lord!
Rejoice in the Lord always, God is at hand!
Joy and gladness for all who seek the Lord.
The glory of our Lord shall be revealed
All the Earth will see the Lord.
I waited for the Lord
God at my guard.
Seek first the kingdom of God,
Seek, and you shall find.

The Psalmist writes in Psalm 27:14 (KJV):

"Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord."
The idea of vengeance being the Lord's (and not ours) is the same idea.  Paul expressly writes in Romans 12:19, in between an admonition of non-retaliation (vvs 17 and 18) and its counter-part, the admonition of active love (vss 20 and 21), the following:

"Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord."

Putting off the urge to retaliate is such good, every-day advice.  In our indignation, do we forget that God is in control of the situation?  Do we forget what God brings to fraught confrontations?  Can our wrath match his in its perspective, in its power (and our empowerment through his Spirit), in its wisdom, and, finally, in its grace?

So I think we are not to retaliate in order to give room for the working out of God's will in the challenging situation which is upon us.  During that waiting our hearts are strengthened, getting us ready for the next step to which Jesus calls us.  That is,  we join in God's redemptive working-out of his will by feeding our hungry enemy, quenching his thirst, and so on.  In doing so, we give ourselves a time to calm down, a time to gain perspective, a time to examine ourselves and our enemy, often only to find how alike we are.  Waiting for for the Lord is not like waiting for Godot, without hope, waiting for the Lord is like waiting for Christmas, waiting for Easter, waiting for Christ's return and having it all, in a marvelous way, at the very same time.

Taizé - Wait for the Lord

Friday, March 06, 2015

Acts Have Consequences OR the Market Will Not Be Denied

In today's WSJ, an article entitled "Ports Gridlock Reshapes the Supply Chain" reports that the

labor dispute that caused months of gridlock at West Coast ports may be over, but the disruption is expected to redraw the trade routes that goods take to reach U.S. factories and store shelves.  

The article has a great graphic that shows the three major routes of shipping from Shanghai to the US, the shortest (12 days) east across the Pacific to Long Beach, CA;  another east across the Pacific, but this one through the Panama Canal and up to New York (25 days); and the third west from Shanghai, by way of the Indian Ocean, the Suez Canal, the Med, and the Atlantic to NY (32 days).

The disruption by that awful West Coast strike will take 6 months to resolve from the end of the strike, according to the article.  Furthermore, 1/3 of the shipping to the West Coast is "discretionary" anyway, that is, it can move on the alternate routes to the East Coast about as cheaply, when US ground transportation is taken into account.  Finally, the disruption tends to get the market to rethink how the other 2/3s of the goods should be moved more efficiently.  In a way, the strike may be a good thing for the economy as a whole, but not all that great for CA.

Oh, well.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

The Sedentary Twins Had "Lower Endurance Capacities, Higher Body Fat Percentages, and Signs of Insulin Resistance, Signaling the Onset of Metabolic Problems."

Identical twins in Finland who shared the same sports and other physical activities as youngsters but different exercise habits as adults soon developed quite different bodies and brains, according to a fascinating new study that highlights the extent to which exercise shapes our health, even in people who have identical genes and nurturing.

*   *   *  

It turned out that these genetically identical twins looked surprisingly different beneath the skin and skull. The sedentary twins had lower endurance capacities, higher body fat percentages, and signs of insulin resistance, signaling the onset of metabolic problems. (Interestingly, the twins tended to have very similar diets, whatever their workout routines, so food choices were unlikely to have contributed to health differences.)

The twins’ brains also were unalike. The active twins had significantly more grey matter than the sedentary twins, especially in areas of the brain involved in motor control and coordination.

-from "One Twin Exercises, the Other Doesn't" in the March 4, 2014 digital edition of the NYT.

The study is published in the March 2015 Medical & Science in Sports & Exercise Journal.  The abstract is here.

I like the reference to more  "grey matter."  I need all of that I can get.  And I'm hoping this also applies to people who exercise but don't have a sedentary twin.