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Showing posts from June, 2012

California Corgi

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Huntington Dog Beach, Surf City, CA.

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Theology 101

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I have another theory. Here it is: God is God because He is our Creator, not just because He is "divine" (read, more powerful than we are). Even more important, we are called to worship Him because He loves us; indeed, loves us so much that He became one of us and died out of love because it was so painful for Him that we, His creatures, not love Him.

Okay, I know. It is not perhaps the most original observation--it is in the Creed, after all--but it is one of those things that suddenly strikes you afresh and then changes everything about how you see the world.

Think about it. Why should we worship God? Because He is all-powerful? Because He knows everything? Because He could crush us like bugs? No, although it sometimes seems that this is why some would say we should. But this is to worship God as a bully, not as a Maker Who Loves Us. God is not a bully, however much some would like to feel that He is (and so either idolize or reject Him). God loves us like a fat…

Job 23:10

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"He knows what he is doing with me, and when he has tested me, I will come forth as pure gold."
--Trans. by Francis I. Anderson, Job: An Introduction and Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1976), p. 230.
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Blood Sugar

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I have a theory. Let's call it "God is glucose." Or "sweet," if you prefer.

It's been just over four months that I have been keeping myself (as well as I can count) to 25 net carbs or fewer a day. I've lost I don't know how much weight and gone from not being able to fit into my size 12 stretchy jeans to needing to buy a new pair of 8s. (My goal is still the size 6s that I have from the last time I was my ideal weight, but I threw out all of the 8s that I had in last summer's decluttering, so I needed something to wear in the meantime other than my now-too-big 10s.) I am feeling not just less heavy but (every so often) almost positively thin (it comes and goes; my thighs are still quite heavy, but my waist is nearly firm). Even better, I find myself able to move on the strip in ways that I had thought I had lost forever along with my (relative) youth. When I look in the mirror, my face looks like my real face again (not the slightly puf…

City of Sin

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It would be more impressive if it weren't all so very ordinary.

I don't know quite what I was expecting. Something more elegant. Something more, I don't know, James Bond. Something at least somewhat enticing. Something that might actually encourage you to sin. To get caught up in the glitz. To lose yourself in the fantasy of having more money, sex, and stuff than you could possibly imagine.

Although, to be sure, there were all of these things. Women in tight dresses and four-inch-high heels. Shops selling jewelry and designer-label fashions. Fake skies over pigeon-less fountains and facades pretending to be cities of culture and, presumably, class.

But it wasn't working for me. Not even the pretend interiors, which I had expected to like, if only for their sheer absurdity. It wasn't just that they were fakes. That I could have gotten into (well, maybe). It was what they were pretending not to be--and failing.

This, I realized as we strolled along th…

Into the West

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Another Day, Another App

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BlogPress wasn't working very well. Let's see if Blogsy is better.So far, so good. The photo quality is much better. Now let's try editing. Already, this is better. Blogsy gets my vote.

The Bear Went Over the Mountain

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Off-Road, Off-Leash Water Baby

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Bibliolatry

"Another way to discern your heart's true love is to look at how you spend your money. Jesus said, 'Where your treasure is, there is your heart also' (Matthew 6:21). Your money flows most effortlessly towards your heart's greatest love. In fact, the mark of an idol is that you spend too much money on it, and you must try to exercise self-control constantly."

--Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power and the Only Hope that Matters (New York: Dutton, 2009).

I could pretend that I don't know the answer to this one, but I do. It's books.

I am addicted to books. I spend my life serving books. Buying books, buying shelves for books, rearranging books, looking for more books, reading books. No matter how much they cost, no matter whether I've read the books that I already have, I can always justify to myself buying yet another book. Even when I am trying to budget for something else, a book somehow doesn't…

Road Trip, Day Two

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Playing the Harlot

"An idol is whatever you look at and say, in your heart of hearts, 'If I have that, then I'll feel my life has meaning, then I know I'll have value, then I'll feel significant and secure.'"

--Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power and the Only Hope that Matters (London: Dutton, 2009).

I miss my idols. Everything that I used to look and and tell myself, "If only..." "If only I were thin... If only I had a house... If only I had better things.. If only I could publish more... If only I were a full professor... If only I had read enough... If only I spoke more languages... If only I had written another book...then I would feel happy, loved, no longer an outsider. I would have made it. I would be somebody."

But they're all dead now. I don't believe in them anymore. They are so much colored paper and tinsel, gimcrack illusions of significance and love.

No, not quite. They are s…

My Baptismal Home

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This is the church where my siblings and I were baptized. I think it was sometime around 1971, when I was six. I haven't seen the church since I was seven, but I remember my baptism there.

Location:Omaha, NE

Omaha

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I would hide under the furniture, too.

This is where I was baptised. This is where I started kindergarten. This is where my father was stationed while he was serving in the Air Force. This is where my mother and siblings and I lived for the year that he was in Thailand serving as a surgeon during the Vietnam War.

It is beautiful here, but I am afraid. Afraid of the past. Afraid of the memories rushing in too powerfully. Afraid of not remembering accurately, of making up stories about who I might have been if things had been otherwise after my father came home.

But mainly I am afraid of the magic that I felt as we drove over the hills into this city of which I have only scattered, little kid memories. This is the first stop on our great Road Trip west. Can it rekindle the magic for me?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Corgi on Board

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Heading west...

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Location:Interstate 80,Brooklyn,United States

Try try again

I want to be able to post from my iPad rather than having to bring my laptop along, too.

Will this work?

Will it show the paragraph breaks?

Testing, testing.

Now I don't see the paragraph breaks.

Do they go away when I edit in BlogPress?

Testing again...

Okay, I can add them manually in html.

We are ready...to pack.

Right, now test the bluetooth keyboard. Good, it seems to be working this time!

And it is much easier to use than the touch screen board for putting in those pesky tags.

Still haven't started packing...

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

The Seven Deadlies: Definitions and Remedies

This would be better in a diagram, but I'm still working on the details.  Think Hieronymous Bosch.

1.  Pride:  This is the vice of Grandiosity, with its companion Depression.  It feeds on the intolerance of strong negative feelings and is rooted in a weakened sense of self brought on by the denial of said feelings (often going back to childhood).  It wants at all costs not to feel worthless, but its sense of worth is dependent upon being the best and is therefore constantly at risk.  In particular, it masks feelings of shame and gives power to other people's opinions and judgments, especially over one's feelings.  It is triggered by excessive attention to self seen as constantly threatened with judgment and the corollary need to feel oneself in control ("be like gods").

Antidote: Watch for the temptation to believe that you are (or can, or should be) "in control," that you can save yourself if only you do or say exactly the right thing.  Also, watch for …

Fencing Bear Finally Gets It, or Why Christianity Properly Understood is Not a Religion

"This may seem the greatest paradox of all.  The most liberating act of free, unconditional grace demands that the recipient give up control of his or her life.  Is that a contradiction?  No, not if you remember the points of Chapters 3 and 9.  We are not in control of our lives.  We are all living for something and we are controlled by that, the true lord of our lives.  If it is not God, it will endlessly oppress us.  It is only grace that frees us from the slavery of self that lurks even in the middle of morality and religion.  Grace is only a threat to the illusion that we are free, autonomous selves, living life as we choose.

"The gospel makes it possible to have such a radically different life.  Christians, however, often fail to make use of the resources of the gospel to lives the lives they are capable of in Christ.  It is critical for anyone reading this book to recognize this fundamental difference between the gospel ["salvation through grace"] and religio…

Envier, Know Thyself

"The envious want to be superior, for their self-esteem depends on outranking others in the relevant field of comparison.  Their own identity hangs on excelling others, but only those others who threaten that identity, that is, those close enough to be compared as rivals.  If we reflect on whom we envy, we are likely to discover how we define our identity and where we see that identity as most vulnerable.  Envy generally strikes in areas where another's superiority seems to threaten or lessen our own excellence and where that comparison leaves us feeling inferior in a way close to our identity."

--Rebecca Konynyk DeYoung, Glittering Vices: A New Look at the Seven Deadly Sins and Their Remedies (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2009), p. 49.

So, okay, I made a list: "Whom do I envy?  That is, whom do I most want to see destroyed, like Salieri wanted Mozart destroyed?"  I won't share that list with you (no, no, no, no, no, no, no).  (It had ten names on it, if you…

Ivy-Covered Envy, Or What's Really Wrong With the Humanities These Days

In case you were wondering why it is so hard to have an encouraging conversation on campus:

"My own candidate for a large group existing in a state of ressentiment [a persisting state of grudgingness against one's circumstances of life, particularly in comparison with others--FB] would be American academics, especially those in the humanities.  They feel themselves, simultaneously, greatly superior and vastly undervalued, above their countrymen yet isolated from them and insufficiently rewarded and revered by them.  They have about them a perpetually disappointed air: one senses they feel that the world has, somehow, let them down.  Sometimes this will reveal itself in a general sourness; sometimes it takes the form of hopelessly radical political views.  These political views, it does not take long to recognize, usually feature a complex shifting and reorientation of society so that people like themselves will be allowed a justly deserved role of power.

"The best accoun…

Seven Deadly SinGrams

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Anger is up, pride is down, and envy has gone into hiding.  But how can greed be so low, along with gluttony and lust?  Sloth, of course, we expect to crawl along at the bottom.

Perhaps we are using the wrong labels?

What To Do About ENVY: You Go First

"It is likely that you will overcome jealousy in proportion to the way you keep both your friends and enemies from being jealous of you.  As long as you are wanting them to be jealous of you, you reveal you are still jealous of them. But if you reach the place that it pains you for them to be jealous of you, it is a good thing.

"Like it or not, people will be jealous of you.  'I have nothing that would make them jealous,' you may say.  But they will still be jealous of you.  They will find something.  There is that in you that makes another person envy.  You may not think it, but it is true.  You may have a low opinion of yourself, but there will be something about you--whether your appearance, personality, gifting, job, friends, background, or opportunities--which will make them envious.  You simply cannot make everybody like you.

"It is our responsibility, when possible, to avoid the onslaught of jealousy from others.  We should never want to make people feel …

Proverb for the Day

"Optat ephippia bos piger, optat arare caballus." 
The lazy ox covets the horse-blankets, the pack-horse would rather plow.  
--Horace, Epistulae bk. 1, ep. 14, l. 43
Or, as Lewis and Short put it, s.v. "ephippium": "Each envies the other's condition."

What To Do About ENVY

According to R.T. Kendall, Jealousy: The Sin No One Talks About (Lake Mary, FL: Charisma House, 2010), in thirteen steps.

Step One: Admit it to yourself.

This is easy.  I know that I'm envious, jealous even.  It more or less defines my relationship with my siblings, and I have struggled for years with feeling envious of my colleagues and fellow fencers.  I am envious of my sister for being so beautiful, of my brother for his travels and his training in so many languages.  I am envious of my colleagues for the books that they have published and for their promotions to full professor, particularly those who have been promoted (unlike me) before publishing their second book.  You know, if you have been following me all these years on the blog, that I am envious of my fellow fencers, particularly those who have placed higher in tournaments than I have with fewer years of experience on the strip.  

So, we're done with this step, right?  Wrong.  Pastor Kendall says that we also need…

Self-portrait

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Trying to get things into focus...

5 Deadly Sins Down, 2 to Go

You'd think I'd be used to this, exposing my shame to the world.  But this is a big one.  Envy.  Or, if you will, in its more virulent, Satanic form, jealousy.  The gnawing fear you experience when you hear about another's success.  The malicious but oh-so-compelling voice that whispers to you, "You're nothing, you've never been anything but nothing, you will never amount to anything," whenever someone praises someone else in your presence.  The raging green monster that wants to break, destroy, kill, pound into the ground that puny god who dares challenge your status by declaring himself (or herself) better than you.

Yes, I've been there.  Many, many times.  With my siblings.  With my colleagues.  With my fellow fencers.  According to Bob Sorge and R.T. Kendall, most everyone has--not, of course, that anyone is usually willing to admit it, oh, no.  Because that would be to admit that we have something to feel jealous or envious about.  And that, of c…

Insight of the Day

While talking with my sister, who is in town for a conference on self-expression and leadership...

It's not you, it's the nature of the system (institution, career path, professional field).  Promotion from within can (and will) only get you so far.  Then you hit the ceiling, after which the only way to go is sideways.  Or out.