Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Arrgh!

As I think through what to write on the blog today, I find that there are a great many things I'd like to complain about, and little in the way of positive outlook to offer. Some of these are pet peeves (Mr. President, for the billionth time, it's pronounced "NOO-klee-ahr", not "NOOK-yoo-lar." It's pronounced like it's spelled....), and others are more serious (my wife's end-of-quarter workload is rather overwhelming, and there seems little I can do to help. To make matters worse, she's being rather "dumped on" by both her employers and the small group that she is assigned to for one of these end-of-quarter assignments.). However, I would rather not have my blog become nothing more than a complain-fest....

So, in an attempt to provide myself with some perspective, I'm simply going to conclude by quoting the chorus of one of David LaMotte's songs (written after some inspiration from Robert Frost's "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening")

From "Dark and Deep"
by David LaMotte

If I could die just for a moment
Let these worries work themselves out
If it would all go on without me
Tell me what's all this worry about
A promise is not like a moment
A moment's not something you keep
I've made too many promises lately
And the woods are lovely, dark and deep

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Support your (not-so) local independent musician

It occurs to me that I've gone almost an entire month without mentioning folk artist David LaMotte! How could I have been so negligent? For those of you who aren't familiar with David (which I'm sure is most of you), he is an independent folk artist based out in Western North Carolina (near where I went to college) who has been playing professionally for about 15 years now. You can check him out at http://www.davidlamotte.com, where you can also find ordering info and a few songs available for free download.

One of the songs I often recommend to David LaMotte newbies is "Peter." It one of few songs in his repertoire that is explicitly influenced by his Christian upbringing. I'm one of those people who often makes fun of "Christian art" as being cookie-cutter or somehow empty, something that we should never be when putting our Christian faith on public display. I truly believe that many would-be believers are driven away from Christ by the way that Christians talk and act when proclaiming themselves as "Christian." David LaMotte takes another route. He very seldom talks about his faith. He's certainly too liberal for many Christians. But he does what he's called to do (write and play music), does it very well, and lets his faith be a part of that in a very organic way.

"Peter" is a wonderful example of a non-standard message that is entirely within the bounds of what Scripture says to us. If it's a "Christian" song, it's a song meant to make "Christians" rethink their faith, as opposed to make us feel good about ourselves. There's too much "preaching to the choir" already. I invite you to listen to it, and make whatever comments you wish here.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

RIP Tony the Tiger

Just heard on NPR last night that Thurl Ravenscroft died on Sunday. I always rather enjoyed his voice, which was most famous for shouting "They're Grrrr-eat!" on cereal commercials, but also for singing "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" and participating in a whole slate of cartoon voice-overs, especially in the 60s and 70s.

The world is a little emptier today.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

More reflections on I Samuel (Chapters 3-6)

Continuing my reflections on I Samuel, I'm struck by how some Christians argue that the Bible is supposed to be "clear" on certain moral issues, while apparently not thinking through certain passages, such as the parts of Chapter 1 I mentioned yesterday that give no statement about whether or not the multiple wives of Elkanah was morally permissible. (In fact, I would argue that the absence of such a statement suggests that it was, although conservative Christians would be appalled at such a notion.)

I should be very clear that I'm not trying to read these passages with a "hostile" eye. The way that an atheist would read them, for example. Rather, I'm trying to put myself in the mind of how someone might read them who is not yet familiar with these stories (or may half-recollect only certain parts), yet is honestly curious about them. So far, I'm finding that the text raises quite a lot of questions that the church is not only not answering, but seems to actively ignore.

Ah, well, on to the reflections on Chapters 3-6 (Which looks like it should be more to do than for Chapters 1 and 2, but the actual amount of text works out to be pretty close. Again, for those following along, I'm using the TNIV):
Reflections on I Samuel Chapter 3

V1: Would seem to imply that there was a particular time (possibly the present when this was written?) that visions from the Lord were common?

V3: is this the ark of the Covenant? Or were there lots of “arks?” If the former, why does Eli, of all priests, have it?

V13: We’re reminded that Eli failed to restrain his sons. This is certainly true, though I note again that he tried to do so. Did he not try hard enough? Or is he responsible for his (obviously adult) sons actions regardless?

V19-21: Clearly time is passing. How much, I wonder, between the word of God as related earlier, and the fulfillment of it in chapter 4?


Reflections on I Samuel Chapter 4

V3: It does seem clear (with the explicit references to “Shiloh” and the full statement “the ark of the LORD’s covenant”) that the ark in ch3v3 really is the ark.

V4: Eli’s sons are named again, this time with language that could be taken to mean these are his only two sons, though this is not absolute.

V15: We get a current age for Eli: ninety-eight. I think this is the first time, so no way to gauge how long since chapter 3, but Eli’s gone from being “barely” able to see (ch3v2) to apparently being totally blind, yet he’s “watching” (v13) for news of the battle….

V18: Apparently Eli dies from the bad news (falling off his chair at the hearing of it). By “heavy” do they mean Eli was fat? The number 40 is such a loaded number, I have doubts about whether it should be taken literally.

V20: “You’re going to die, but at least your baby’s a boy!” Yeah, that’s really reassuring. Would Phinehas have had to die in despair if the child was a girl? And what about that prophecy (c2v32) that ensured that the family line (always measured through the male children) would not survive to old age? Did Phinehas' wife not know about this? Did her attendants?

V21: If the previous prophecy is any indication, young Ichabod won’t have to worry too much about not having any parents, since he’s likely to die soon himself….


Reflections of I Samuel Chapter 5

V5: Must be something about thresholds, because this “explanation” means absolutely nothing to me….

V7: I guess it never occurred to the people of Ashdod (nor the rest of the Philistines in later verses) that ceasing the worship of Dagon was an option. What might have happened if these people kept the ark, but became worshippers of the LORD?

V10: At least the people of Ekron are starting to get the message that having the ark of the LORD isn’t good for them….


Reflections on I Samuel Chapter 6

V11: It occurs to me that any Israelite who touched the ark wrong was pretty instantly toasted. That doesn’t seem to happen here….

V14: “Thanks, cows, for returning the ark for us. Now we’ll kill you.”

V19: This is more like what I remember. Don’t look at the ark wrong. It’s not healthy.
As a final note, I was curious about that kid (Ichabod) for whom I'd predicted an early death on the basis of the prophecy against Eli's family (see Chapters 2 and 3). I therefore got out a concordance and looked him up. Apparently this is the only time we see him directly. The story very clearly jumps to a tale of the ark of the Covenant. However, he is mentioned one other time. In I Samuel 14:3, we meet Ahijah, "son of Ichabod's brother Ahitub son of Phinehas, the son of Eli, the LORD's priest in Shiloh." Since Phinehas died before his wife did, we must assume that Ahitub is an older brother. Yet mentioning Ichabod implies that he was important somehow (and therefore presumably lived), although the Bible says nothing more about him itself. Although Ahitub is mentioned here for the very time, it appears that he does figure more in the story as it continues on, but apparently never in his own right. The name Ahitub is always mentioned in the context of being the father of someone or the son of someone else (in which case, he's not the same Ahitub anyway). As to Ahijah, the name shows up elsewhere, but I assume that they do not always refer to the same person, as Ahijah is given a different father in at least one reference. Oddly enough, at least one reference is to an Ahijah that is a prophet of Shiloh. Either this decendent of Eli was not cut off, or we see a very interesting coincidence.

Either way, I'm getting ahead of myself, and would need more proper commentaries and histories to learn more, which goes against the original intention of this exercise....

Monday, May 23, 2005

Random Reflections on I Samuel (part 1?)

Some time ago, I mentioned our church's endeavour to go through the entire Bible in a year. As part of that project, I started reading through I Samuel at about the time our church did (a month or so ago, now). I decided to just read it, attempting to allow questions to come to my mind as though I had not read through this story before, and knew nothing outside of the text as it stood in front of me. I may or may not have been entirely successful in that attempt, but continued to write responses and questions to the text without the aid of any commentaries or other translations. Here are my responses to the first two chapters (note: for those who care to follow along or want to know what translation I used, I was using the TNIV):
Reflections on I Samuel 1

V2: Elkanah had two wives. No comment that this was wrong. Many other OT figures had multiple wives. When did this change? Why? What does God think about this?

V8: Elkanah to Hannah: “Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?” Besides the implicit value placed on having children, one wonders how Hannah felt about Elkanah having multiple wives. Certainly the other wife didn’t make life easy on her (cf v. 6-7), but I’m sure I may be reading modern notions into this….

V14: Eli: What a jerk!

V22: One wonders why it was so important for Hannah to have a son if she apparently isn’t going to spend hardly any time with him.

V23: And the boy’s father certainly doesn’t seem to care!

V26-28: I can just see Eli trying to follow this conversation. “Uh, ma’am. Lots of people pray to the Lord here. Why do you think I’d remember you?” After all, the scene in v.9-18 would have been a couple of years earlier! And even more: “why do you think I’d want your kid?”


Reflections on I Samuel chapter 2

V3: If Hannah is praying, who is the object of the 2nd person here? Clearly she’s not telling God not to “keep talking so proudly” etc….

V5b: While an obvious parallel to Hannah’s own barren situation, this does not on its surface look to be autobiographical.

V6-10: Again, part of the “prayer” (according to TNIV), but God is consistently spoken of in the third person. In, fact, God hasn’t been addressed directly since v2!

V11: For the first time, it is explicitly stated that Eli’s stuck with the kid….

V19: So it would appear that the boy gets to see his parents once a year….

V20: Eli’s blessing. Yep, because kids are easy to replace…

V21: So Hannah has six kids overall eventually. Definitely doesn’t match v5. Not that I expected it to….

V23-25: Eli gets a bad rap for not keeping his sons under control. Perhaps this is deserved, but these verses would seem to indicate an attempt….

V25: In fact, this verse says that God wants to kill Eli’s sons! There’s a God of love and mercy for you!

V34: This seems to be the first time Eli’s sons are named. How odd…. In fact, as I look back, I shouldn’t even know we’re only talking about two sons apart from this….

Friday, May 20, 2005

Reality? TV

I admit it. I've gotten into watching "The Apprentice" this past couple of years. Last night was the season finale, where Kendra Todd was hired to work for Donald Trump. Although I'm not really a fan of Trump himself, and definitely take issue with some of his decisions in the course of this (and previous) season(s), I absolutely think Kendra was the right choice.

What bothers me at this point is how pathetically they tried to build up the suspense at season end as to whether Trump would hire Kendra or Tana (the remaining possibility). Besides the fact that Kendra displayed strong competence throughout the season (especially displayed during an episode where she almost single-handedly completed a promotional flyer for the Pontiac Solstice when her teammates, including Tana, had abandoned her), her performance on her Final Task outstripped Tana's in nearly every way. Where Tana was critical of her teammates from the beginning and spoke poorly about them (even asking if there was any chance for a trade almost the moment after her teammates were revealed), Kendra took the opportunity to mend fences (all the teammates on both sides were people who'd been "fired" previously) and saw her teammates as valuable contributors to the final task. Where Tana's task had several large-scale mistakes (including the publication of sensitive personal data as promotional material, the loss of an American flag to be used in an Olympic-style processional, and brushing off the Governor of New York), Kendra's potential disasters (including a mishandled meeting hijacked by one of her teammates, and the need to relegate one of her sponsors to a basement display area) were deftly handled and the situation resolved before they could get out of hand.

Do the producers of "The Apprentice" really expect us to believe that there was any question as to which of the two candidates was to be hired? The live finale consisted mostly of Trump and his lackeys saying things that attempted to portray an equal amount of good and bad about each candidate. Yet while there were serious problems to talk about regarding Tana, all the "bad things" they could pull up for Kendra were serious stretches of the imagination. Not untrue, to be sure, but definitely nothing of the same scale. (And to be fair, Tana did have some good points.) When George says to Trump "I'm glad I don't have to make your decision," are we really expected to believe him?

Of course, the fact that "reality" TV isn't all that "real" shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. But I still wish they wouldn't insult my intelligence by suggesting that the obvious is anything less than obvious.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

The Wait is Over (or just starting, depending on your point of view....)

The first real Transformers news in quite a few weeks finally broke today: the Transformers comic license has been given to IDW Publishing. While this is definitely good to those of us who've been waiting anxiously for new comic news ever since former publisher Dreamwave folded (in what can only be described as the most acrimonious of circumstances), it really did come out of left field. Many fans were hoping that the license would be picked up by a company called Devil's Due, who publish the G.I. Joe comics. (G.I. Joe and Transformers were considered something of siblings back in the 1980's) Some had speculated that Hasbro would rather give the TF license to a company that was better known, such as DC, the publishers of Batman and Superman.

I'm not at all familiar with IDW.

The press release indicates that IDW has done comics based on several well-known television shows, and I confess to hearing something about such comics in the back of my mind. However, I'm not really a fan of any of those shows (no offense to those who are), and don't know what that means for the TF comic.

There seems little chance that IDW will attempt to pick up the TF storyline where Dreamwave left off. Why should they? I just hope that they don't end up folding, leaving yet another storyline in limbo just as it's getting good.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Taking the Risk

In this post last month, I introduced you to some custom Transformers boxes I was working on. I had earlier mentioned here that I was considering selling some of my packages on eBay. This involves a small amount of risk, as if I try to sell an item that does not, in fact, result in a sale, I'm out the money that eBay charges to put the item up for auction. Well, eBay did a special offer yesterday reducing their usual listing fee for auctions, and I decided that the risk of having these not sell was less now than it would usually be, so I'm giving it a shot. If you're interested, you can see what I'm auctioning (including a couple of items that I had no hand whatsoever in creating) here. (If you don't know much about Transformers, just look for the word "custom" in the listing, and you'll know that was one I did the box for myself.)

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The Gospel According to Sherlock Holmes

Over the past few weeks, I've dusted off my old copy of the Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and have been reading them in the order of their publication. (For those who understand such things, I'm only mid-way through the "Adventures" at the moment.) I've taken a certain mischeiveous enjoyment out of catching errors in Doyle's text and pointing them out to my wife.

Here are some examples:
  • Was Watson's war wound in his shoulder (A Study in Scarlet: the first Holmes story) or in his leg (The Sign of Four: the second)?
  • Watson gets married at the end of The Sign of Four, which apparently takes place in July, 1888 (by inferrence from three separate references), yet stops by after his marriage in March, 1888 (!) to check in on Holmes in the very next story (A Scandal in Bohemia).
  • How is it that Watson's wife is visiting her mother (The Five Orange Pips) when we know that her mother has been dead for years (The Sign of Four)?
  • And why does Watson's wife refer to him as "James" in The Man with the Twisted Lip, when Watson's name is very clearly spelled out as "John H. Watson" in A Study in Scarlet and elsewhere?
Being a seminary graduate who rather enjoys studying the Bible, I cannot help but look at such textual issues with much the same eye as I look at textual issues in the Bible. Apparently, I'm not the only person to have made a connection. I stumbled upon this sermon earlier today, and rather than type the whole thing out, would suggest you just check the link. I won't claim to agree with this preacher on every point, but he definitely says much which is worthy of thought and discussion.

(Incidentally, a possible answer to the James/John question is posed therein.)

Monday, May 16, 2005

Don't Try This at Home

It was time for the children's sermon. The church member assigned the role for that particular Sunday asked the children to come forward. Some 40-50 young children dutifully filed forward and sat down in a crowd by the leader to hear what he had to say.

The man began by holding up a picture of George W. Bush, the President of the United States. He then held up a picture of some General whose name escapes me. The exact identification of which General it was proved not to be important anyway. The man then proceeded to describe to the children how, when the President walks into a room, the General would stand up and salute. Why, the man asked the assembled children, would the General do this?

An eager child smartly raised his hand, and offered the answer: "Because the President is more important?" The children's sermon leader wasn't sure how to respond. This was clearly not the answer he was expecting.

"Actually," he replied, "that actually goes against the entire point of what I'm trying to say." It turns out that the leader was attempting to draw a parallel between the situation concerning the military chain-of-command and the roles of husband and wife in a marriage. The General isn't less important than the President, the leader wanted to say. Rather, the General's role is to repect the President and do what the President tells him to. Just like (so said the children's leader) the role of a wife is to follow the husband. (By this time, I'm furiously writing snarky notes to my wife, sitting next to me, in an attempt to poke fun at the situation and to keep from pulling my own hair out in apoplexy.)

Leaving aside the extremely conservative interpretation about what the Bible has to say about gender roles in marriage, the problem with this whole analogy was that the kid was right. The President is more important than the General. There are lots of Generals, but only one President. If a General were to be lost in battle, it would be a tragedy, but the war would likely progress much as it had before. If a President were to die while in office, the entire country would be affected. One cannot say that about a marriage. A husband and a wife are both equally important to the marriage (a fact that even the conservative children's leader would agree with). If one person is removed, the marriage ceases to exist.

But let's go back to this idea of roles for a moment. Now, I certainly don't mean to argue that men and women are exactly the same in all respects. Clearly, if I tried to suggest that the man could bear the children in a marriage, I'd rightly be laughed at. Only the woman has this capacity. So, yes, there are some roles specific to the husband, and some specific to the wife. Yet, nearly every time I hear someone talk about such roles, they talk about things that are wholly not intrinsic to the nature of being male or female. Now, I know the Biblical passages that conservatives use to promote the idea of marital heirarchy as well as anybody. To quote Inigo Montoya, "I do not think it means what you think it means." I could spend time going through such passages to demonstrate how a Biblical understanding of these passages is far closer to mutual submission than is generally supposed, but that's better left for another time (this particular post is getting long enough already!). Suffice it to say for now that if people would spend more time thinking of ways that husbands and wives could empower each other, instead of trying to enforce rules limiting each other to their "designated roles," Christian married couples would be a far greater force for evangelism in the world today, rather than an example that non-Christians look at with scorn and disdain.

One last note: Egalitarian thinkers have often been accused by traditionalists of weakening marriages by arguing against traditional gender roles. About a year after this children's sermon was presented, the conservative church in question suffered a seismic shock when its pastor announced that his wife was leaving him. The details are still being sorted out, but the church is already losing leaders in protest of the way that the pastor and the session have mishandled the situation. I pray that God will bring healing to the many broken hearts involved. At the same time I pray that enlightenment may come even in the midst of such suffering.

Friday, May 13, 2005

I Love You, Lord?

A few months back, my wife (who's finishing up her MDiv in anticipation of doing a PhD in Theology and Liturgy. She's also a professionally trained flutist.) did a paper on how praise songs are used in many American churches. She observed that many songs emphasize an individualistic relationship with God that's full of touchy-feely language, and that they often are fairly shallow theologically. Ironically, one of the songs that seems to fall prey to this phenomena was intended to argue for greater closeness with God. The song in question is "Heart of Worship."

Mischevious type that I am, I sought to illustrate this issue by creating a parody of that song. Changing very few of the words, I came up with the following:
"The Heart of Praise Songs"
With apologies to Matt Redman

When the music fades
and all is stripped away
I am simply numb
Longing just to sing
More about my worth
God will bless my heart

He’ll bring me more than a song
For a song in itself
Is not what I have required
I’ll search much deeper within
Through the way things appear
Till I’m convinced of my part

I’m coming back to the heart of praise songs
Where it’s all about me
All about me, myself
I know the Lord will agree I’ve made it
‘Cause it’s all about me
All about me, myself

I’m of endless worth
No one could express
How much I deserve
I’m not weak or poor
All I have ensures
I’m a crucial part

He’ll bring me more than a song
For a song in itself
Is not what I have required
I’ll search much deeper within
Through the way things appear
Till I’m convinced of my part

I’m coming back to the heart of praise songs
Where it’s all about me
All about me, myself
I know the Lord will agree I’ve made it
‘Cause it’s all about me
All about me, myself
I'll be the first to admit that such a parody overstates the point. I actually think that emphasizing a personal relationship with God is a very good thing. However, I would also argue that we do not place enough emphasis on our need as Christians to come together in corporate praise of God. We should sing more songs (and they are certainly out there) that emphasize the "we," rather than the "I" in our relationships with God. After all, if I love God, I will also be attuned to the people around me, and not keep my love of God to myself.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Top Ten Reasons Why Men Should Not Be Ordained

As a man seeking ordination (someday) myself, I'm quick to note that this is all tongue-in-cheek. I'm also quick to note that this is not my list, but something I got from Dr. David M. Scholer, who didn't write it, either, but got it from the internet. It's made the rounds in a few forms over the past several years. I've taken the liberty of making a couple of small edits from the form in which I got it.

Top Ten Reasons Why Men Should Not Be Ordained (think David Letterman)

10. A man's place is in the army.
9. For men who have children, their duties might distract them from the responsibilities of being a parent.
8. Their physical build indicates that men are more suited to tasks such as chopping down trees and wrestling mountain lions. It would be "unnatural" for them to do other forms of work.
7. Man was created before woman. It is therefore obvious that man was a prototype. Thus, they represent an experiment, rather than the crowning achievement of creation.
6. Men are too emotional to be priests or pastors. This is easily demonstrated by their conduct at football games and watching basketball tournaments.
5. Some men are handsome; they will distract women worshipers.
4. To be ordained pastor is to nurture the congregation. But this is not a traditional male role. Rather, throughout history, women have been considered to be not only more skilled than men at nurturing, but also more frequently attracted to it. This makes them the obvious choice for ordination.
3. Men are overly prone to violence. No really manly man wants to settle disputes by any means other than by fighting about it. Thus, they would be poor role models, as well as being dangerously unstable in positions of leadership.
2. Men can still be involved in church activities, even without being ordained. They can sweep paths, repair the church roof, and maybe even lead the singing on Father's Day. By confining themselves to such traditional male roles, they can still be vitally important in the life of the Church.
1. In the New Testament account, the person who betrayed Jesus was a man. Thus, his lack of faith and ensuing punishment stands as a symbol of the subordinated position that all men should take.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Why Christians often irritate me

If you're bothering to read this far, you probably already know that, as a Christian myself, I'm probably not talking about all Christians as irritating. However, it does seem as though there are quite a few out there who give the rest of us a really bad name.

Today's example: for the past several weeks on the alt.toys.transformers newsgroup, the following message has appeared.
Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life: no one can come to the Father(God)(in Heaven), but by me." (John 14:6) This means that if you die without trusting in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour you will die in your sins and be forever separated from the love of God in a place called Hell. The Holy Bible descibes Hell as a place of eternal torment, suffering, pain and agony for all those who have rejected Jesus Christ. The good news is that you can avoid Hell by allowing Jesus Christ to save you today. Only then will you have true peace in your life knowing that no matter what happens you are on your way to Heaven.
Now, besides the fact that this kind of message has nothing to do with Transformers whatsoever, the person who posted this (and continues to do so on a regular basis) has placed all this text in the subject of the post. There's no avoiding it. If it were in the main body, as any message of this length should be, I could just ignore it by not clicking on that post. But as the subject, it takes up the better part of the screen in bold text. This is annoying enough, but one expects spammers to post off-topic messages from time to time. But this guy (I assume it's the same one, although that may not be the case) keeps posting something of this nature once every few days. And there's no way to stop or block such messages using Google as my newsgroup reader.

Is it really too much to ask that Christians treat other people, non-Christians included, with respect by not posting such off-topic proselytization material all over the place? I'm pretty confident no new converts are to be won by such tactics. In fact, I expect most non-Christians are even further driven away from Christ by them!

As an Evangelical, I'm all for spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ, but this is most assuredly not the way to do it.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Seeking clarity

The church my wife and I go to has embarked on a rather ambitious endeavour to go through the whole Bible in a year: "a whirlwind tour," our pastor says. Now, this isn't like some of those "One Year" Bibles where you read every word of the Bible, usually averaging out to about three chapters a day. (A laudible goal, but unrealistic for many people.) Rather, our worship committee intends to survey, over the course of a year, the "story" of the Bible ("God's story: Our story" to use another quote our church is employing). If one thinks about it, there are good reasons for such a "survey" approach, as opposed to the "every word" variation. In a given year, there are 52 Sundays (most years, anyway). There are 66 books in the Bible, so there would be no way to give a sermon on every book of the Bible in a year, let alone dealing with every chapter and verse. So some areas are highlighted (we actually spent several Sundays on Genesis and Exodus alone) while others are used in summary (I expect we'll deal with the prophets as a unit, rather than dealing with each one). To encourage more Bible-reading outside of Sunday morning worship, the church distributes bookmarks every month with a list of 5-10 chapters to be read for each week, roughly corresponding to the part of the Bible the sermon for that week will deal with. While it's not the "every word in a year" approach, it's still clear that we are encouraging the members of our congregation to get deeper into the words of the Bible itself.

One of the advantages to this format for me, personally, is that we are focusing on the Old Testament far more than I have been used to. I'm so used to churches dealing almost exclusively with the New Testament and the Psalms. Being able to reincorporate the Hebrew Scriptures into "our story" is something I'm anxious to learn more about.

But as I spend more time in this not-quite-so-familiar (I can't really say "unfamiliar." I am a seminary graduate, after all.) part of the Word, I'm finding myself more and more frustrated with just how un-clear so much of the Bible is. I'm already jaded enough to scoff as those who insist that the Bible is "clear" to all who wish to be led by God, regardless of educational background (although I'm not really talking here about the anti-intellectual streak that goes through so much of Evangelicalism. That's for another time.), but I really find myself wishing I had a complete set of commentaries readily at my disposal. I'm not talking about a complete set of all the volumes of, say, Word Biblical Commentary. By "complete," I mean multiple commentaries for each book of the Bible to reflect the variety of different perspectives available on each book. Of course, the fact that, in some cases, so many different perspectives exist is enough to make my point on the lack of clarity in many passages.

One way or another, I'm definitely being challenged. It's impossible to read the Old Testament in depth and come away with a bland theology of God as loving creampuff. Here we see a God who, for example, strikes down a person dead for catching hold of the Ark of the Covenant, because the oxen pulling the cart it was on stumbled. (The TNIV translation for 2 Samuel 6:7 cites the poor sap's "irreverence.") So God would rather the guy have allowed the Ark to fall off the cart? I'm sure there's something about the story I'm not getting, and I'm sure that there are completely reasonable explanations. But the Bible itself doesn't spell it out and make it clear. All we get is a guy who God zapped for doing a forbidden act in a moment of accident. I could cite lots of similar examples, but you get the idea.

I'm sure further revelations and frustrations will present themselves as this "whirlwind tour" continues....

Monday, May 09, 2005

Blow out the candles!

A cultural icon turns 50 today. No, it's not Disneyland (which, despite starting it's 50 year celebration last week amidst enormous publicity, doesn't actually reach its 50th birthday for another month), but rather Kermit the Frog.

Yep, Kermie turns 50 today. Of course, he wasn't actually a frog when he was first created. Just some "lizard-like" creature. And one presumes he wasn't singing about the "Rainbow Connection" for some time yet. But Jim Henson's creation was there all the same, and with the new movie "The Muppet Wizard of Oz" being prepared for release soon, Kermit definitely continues to outlast his creator in longetivity.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Kitty Pride

Oddly enough, our cat has already been used, either in pictures or by mention, on at least two other people's sites (that we know of) already. It only seems fair that I should put a picture on my own blog.

Her name's "Turtle." Cute, isn't she?

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Having is not so great a thing as wanting. I know it isn't logical, but it is very often true.

Mr. Spock's quote seemed appropriate to some "news" that arrived on the Transformer message boards today, informing us that the first "collector's club exclusive" toy should arrive sometime at the end of the spring/early summer. This actually isn't anything we didn't already know: anyone who signed up to become a member of the new club (if you're interested, here's a link) by the middle of March was told that it would be sent at pretty much exactly that time. What is perhaps notable is the fact that 3H, the former owners of the club, had a reputation for setting back such dates ad infinitum, and so the fact that this news actually does have the same dates is considered a very good thing. I'm also reminded on Hobbes' (as in "Calvin and...") comment about lowering expectations to the point where they're already met....

But back to Spock's quote, I'm still deciding what I want to do with this thing when I get it. It's supposed to be the first part of a combiner that will take five years to complete. Each year, a new part is released. This, of course, not only assumes that I remain a member each year for that long, but that the club will still continue to exist at that time (call me a cynic). Since I don't have the other parts, and won't for so long, I'm toying with the idea of creating packaging for it. Of course, if the club actually puts this toy in a box or on a card, there's no point in my creating one. But usually these come in either an unmarked white box, or in a plastic baggie; neither of which would be suitable for display. Cards are easier to create and print at the size needed, but I wouldn't have a plastic bubble suitable for it unless I buy the "mass-market" version of this mold (oh, I forgot to mention, nearly all "club exclusives" are nothing more than recolors, or at best slight remolds, of existing toys). That wouldn't be a problem with a box (a flat sheet of plastic is easy to grab from practically anywhere), but I don't have a printer capable of printing to paper large enough to contain this size of figure when folded (the Happy Meal toys are pretty much the limit. I can't even do all of them....). I suppose Kinko's (I'll never get used to calling them "FedEx Kinko's," but that's another rant.) could do it, but that would cost a fair bit of change....

But as long as the toy is still something I'm waiting on, rather than something I have in my hands, I can continue to plan and to dream of possibilities. Which isn't such a bad thing....

Monday, May 02, 2005

Who Is This Oolon Coluphid Person Anyway?

God is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly hugely mind-bogglingly big God is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to God.

(With apologies to Douglas Adams' "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," the movie of which is now in theaters.)

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