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Showing posts from January, 2013

Squirrel Watching, Up Close and Personal

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How the Study of Nature (i.e. Science) Praises God

"Let all your works confess to you, O Lord, and let your saints bless you [Psalm 144 (145): 10].  The psalmist prays, Let all your works confess to you.  What does he have in mind?  What about the earth?  Is it not God's work?  And are not the trees his work?  And all the animals, tame and wild, the fishes, the birds?  Are not all of them works of the Lord?  Most certainly they are.  But then how can they all confess to him?  It is not difficult to see that his works confess to him if I consider the angels, who are obviously God's works.  So are human beings, and, when humans offer their confession, this too is the confession voiced by his works.  But what about trees and stones?  They surely lack the voice to confess to the Lord?  By no means: all his works are summoned to confess to him; all, without exception.  What are you saying?  Earth and trees, too?  Yes, all his works.  If all of them can be said to praise him, why can we not say that they all offer him their con…

How Dragons (and the Weather) Praise God

"When you look at all these things [clouds, winds, storms, rain, lightning, thunder, hail, snow] in our lower world you are struck by how changeable they are, how turbulent and terrifying and prone to decay.  Yet they too have their place, for they keep their appointed order and contribute in their own way to the beauty of the whole, and therefore they praise the Lord.  This is why the psalmist, turning to them and addressing his invitation to these lowly things too, began by saying, Praise the Lord from the earth, you dragons and all the depths [Psalm 148:7].  He wanted us to praise the Lord through our study of them, for, when they move us to praise God, they themselves are praising him.

"Now dragons favor watery habitats.  They emerge from caves and take to the air.  They create major atmospheric disturbance, for dragons are very large creatures, the largest of all on earth.  This is probably why the psalm began its consideration of earthly creatures with them.  There are…

Do-It-Yourself Psalm

An exercise given to our women's group this afternoon by fellow parishioner Vinita Wright

1.  Say how you feel.  

Lord, I am lost, my nerves all a-jangle.
I practiced all week, but I still couldn't play.
Our teacher changed the rules, challenged us to play his way.
I was so nervous, my body went cold and my hands started to shake.
Even the things I could play by myself, I lost.
Why am I so afraid?

2.  Say what you know is true of God.

I know that you are with me, that you delight in my wanting to play.
I wish I knew more, but you seem so far away.
All that I know of you, I learned in a book.
Yet I hear you in the music when others play.
Why can't I hear you in mine?

3.  Ask for what you need.

I need to know that you love me and want me to succeed.
Lord, help my impatience, it is only you that I need to impress.
All these obstacles are simply steps that you are giving me to climb.
You are there at the top of the stairs, but my legs are so weak.
I am sure there are others you …

Preparing the Heart for Prayer

"I sought the Lord, and he hearkened to me [Psalm 33 (34): 5].  Where did the Lord hearken?  Within.  And where does he give you what you ask?  Within.  There you pray, there you are heard, there you are made happy.  You prayed, your prayer was heard, you are happy; yet a person standing beside you knows nothing about it, because the whole transaction took place in a hidden way, as the Lord commanded in the gospel: Go into your private room, shut your door, and pray in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will give you your reward [Matthew 6:6].  Entering your private room means entering your heart.  Blessed are those who enjoy entering their hearts, and find nothing unpleasant there....

"Do all you can to make your home-coming to your own heart pleasant.  Clean it, because the clean of heart are blessed, and they will see God.  Take the filth of disordered desires outside; get rid of the dirt of avarice and poisonous superstitions, banish profanities and evil thoughts…

The Origins of Devotion to the Virgin Mary

Q. Where have I heard this before?

"It is not my intention to enter here on that disputed point, the origin of the worship of the Madonna.  Our present theme lies within prescribed limits, --wide enough, however, to embrace an immense field of thought: it seeks to trace the progressive influence of that worship on the fine arts for a thousand years or more, and to interpret the forms in which it has been clothed.  That the veneration paid to Mary in the early Church was a very natural feeling in those who advocated the divinity of her Son, would be granted, I suppose, by all but the most bigoted reformers [i.e. Protestants]; that it led to unwise and wild extremes, confounding the  creature with the Creator, would be admitted, I supposed by all but the most bigoted Roman Catholics.  How it extended from the East over the nations of the West, how it grew and spread, may be read in ecclesiastical histories.  Every where it seems to have found in the human heart some deep sympathy--…

Arkansas Traveler

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Lesson for the week The only (and easiest) way to get better at something is to practice deliberately what you find difficult. Set the timer so that you don't over-practice, but above all make yourself work through the difficult bits over and over again until you can play them. Then, lo and behold, everything else becomes even easier than it was before--and you can play the difficult bits, too!

Too paradoxical to be true? Well, it's working, even if I was skeptical at first. Last week we had our first fiddle class since before Christmas. I had been practicing hard (or so I thought) all through the break, doing my scales and playing over and over again the songs that we learned in Fiddle 1. On Saturday, therefore, I was ready to show off how much better my playing was; maybe (I flattered myself) I would even be the best in the class since I knew that one of the women who had been in the class the first session and who had played violin for five years when she was younger …

Squirrel Watching

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Report from the Application Trenches

I think that I am going to have to slit my wrists.  Or stick my head over the side of the trench so that the enemy can shoot it off.  Or maybe just lie down and die of starvation.

Nobody applying to our graduate program has read my work.  Nobody who says that he or she wants to work with me seems to know anything about my research.  Nobody seems to care about anything that I have spent years thinking or writing about.  I don't see why I bother even trying to have a voice.  Unless I am writing about gender (which I don't), I might as well throw in the towel and quit.  Because gender is the only thing that anybody who even thinks about the Virgin (not that anybody in our applicant pool has) wants to think about.  Not devotion.  Not worship.  Not theology.  Just gender.

And most of them don't even want to think about that.

The Study of Religion and the Teaching of History

AHA Session 267
Sunday, January 6, 2013, 11:00AM-1:00PM
Roosevelt Ballroom II (Roosevelt New Orleans)

Today is the feast of the Epiphany, the manifestation or appearance of God.  Today Christians celebrate the revelation of the Son of the Most High in the person of Jesus Christ.  Traditionally, in the West, the day was marked by the story of the visit of the Magi; in the East, it is marked as the day on which Jesus was baptized in the Jordan by his cousin John.  Both were instances of revelation, of God's becoming present to the world, not mystically or spiritually, but actually, in the body of a baby born of a woman, in the body of a man anointed by the Holy Spirit and acknowledged by a voice from heaven as God's Son.

So what?  What does this feast have to do with us, sitting here in this hotel conference room rather than in the pews of a church?  Is it appropriate to call our attention to the fact that in the Christian calendar, today is one of the holiest days of the year, …

Blue Dog Blues

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Having trouble focusing, seeing giant blue dogs everywhere. I miss my Dragon Baby. Must find coffee....

Where in the world is Fencing Bear now?
Posted with Blogsy

Professor Who?

I was having a pretty good day today.  My writing is coming along better than I ever dreamed it could (see "Brief Regular Sessions").  My son got his autumn grades today and is doing brilliantly, even in History (not his favorite subject, I am sorry to say; that would be Math).  We got our new internet service installed today, so we have WiFi again.  And I might even make it to practice tonight for the first time in over two weeks.

And then I read another set of applications to our graduate program.  Let me tell you, any of you who are thinking about a career in academia, don't.  'Cause you know what?  You will spend eight years (on average) in graduate school, another six or seven proving yourself in order to get tenure (if, that is, you are lucky enough to get a tenure track job, hardly a guarantee), another ten or twelve developing your next major research project (again, if you are lucky enough to get time off from your campus responsibilities, again, hardly a gu…

What Not to Do on New Year's Day, or Why Making Lists of Resolutions is a Bad Idea

"When people have to make a big change in their lives, their efforts are undermined if they are trying to make other changes as well.  People who are trying to quit smoking, for example, will have their best shot at succeeding if they aren't changing other behaviors at the same time.  Those who try to quit smoking while also restricting their eating or cutting back on alcohol tend to fail at all three--probably because they have too many simultaneous demands on their willpower.  Research has likewise found that people who seek to control their drinking tend to fail on days when they have other demands on their self-control, as compared with days when they can devote all their willpower to limiting the booze.

"Above all, don't make a list of New Year's resolutions.  Each January 1, millions of people drag themselves out of bed, full of hope or hangover, resolved to eat less, exercise more, spend less money, work harder at the office, keep the home cleaner, and sti…