Saturday, December 28, 2013

Pastrix: I Choose To Believe God

I've been reading the book Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber. My phone says I'm on 144 of 206, so I plan to finish it tonight, but I had to stop a few pages back and write out some thoughts. On page 139 Nadia is talking about Matthew 3:17 - 4:1, where God names Jesus "Son" and "Beloved" and then immediately Jesus is tempted by the devil in the wilderness, and she says,
"Maybe demons are defined as anything other than God that tries to tell us who we are. And maybe, just moments after Jesus' baptism, when the devil says to him, 'If you are the Son of God...' he does so because he knows that Jesus is vulnerable to temptation precisely to the degree that he is insecure about his identity and mistrusts his relationship with God.  
"So if God's first move is to give us our identity, then the devil's first move is to throw that identity into question. Identity is like the tip of a spool of thread, which when pulled, can unwind the whole thing." 
The way Nadia puts Scripture together through this book and applies them to life reminds me very much of someone I used to work for named Billie. (Billie happens to be a pastor now, too.) I absolutely love when I get to meet Billie for lunch, which is rare these days since I moved to another town, but used to happen every day. She is very much a "normal," very relatable person and talks about a lot of normal things, but she also usually shares with me what she is thinking about preaching, or what she recently preached. And she loves the Bible. We often joke about how God "changes the words" and "puts Scriptures in there" just for her at just the right moment, because she notices things that go together that I've never heard anyone notice before. And when I was reading Pastrix earlier today, I felt the same way about what Nadia was saying.

Not too long ago Billie was telling me some of her sermon ideas, and she had commented about how Christians often make "salvation" this mysterious thing that is scary and difficult to attain. But the way she reads it in the Bible, all it takes is belief.

In Genesis 3, when the snake tempted Eve, his method was to throw into question the truth of what God had told her. "Did God really say...?" He proceded to tell Eve that God had lied, and threw into question God's motives. Human brokenness (sin) came about because of a failure to believe God.

John 3:16, everyone's favorite verse, says, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

Hebrews 11:6 says, "For without faith it is impossible to please to God. Everyone that comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him."

In short, salvation comes through believing God. Sin comes through not believing God.

What Nadia says in the pages following the quote at the top of this post basically echoes what I am about to say, but I did not read it until after I had written these words. This is the truth as revealed in my own heart as I read. God says God loves me. I am God's. No matter how convincing any demon (read that in Nadia's definition) is at trying to persuade me otherwise, my salvation (from self-destruction and from being crushed by a cruel world...or contributing to its cruelty) will come from believing, no matter what, that I am God's and God loves me. I dare say, a person is bound to behave like what they believe themselves to be.

Around 2006 or 2007 I had been dealing for years with waking up in the night and feeling like there were spiritual demons in my room. I was raised Pentecostal, so though this sounds absurd to many people, I believed it anyway. Every. Single. Night. I would wake up and spend the night frozen, terrified to move, knowing that the next breath was probably going to be my last and the darkness was going to "get me." I got very little sleep. What sleep I did get happened with the light on, because it was easier for me to calm down and get back to sleep if the room wasn't pitch black when I awoke.

I shared my struggle with a older, Pentecostal friend, whom I still regard as one of the wisest people I've ever known, even though we believe things a little differently now. Her name is Becky. She told me, "When you wake up, you say out loud, 'I am a child of God, and you have to go in the name of Jesus!" She would always tell me to say things out loud because, "If you're going to believe anyone, you're going to believe yourself." So, I put what she told me into practice. At first, I could not find the strength to speak out of my terror. But slowly, I began to stutter out the words. "I am a child of God," I would whisper, tears drenching my face, body shaking. Before long I could say it with a little more confidence. "I am a child of God, and nothing can hurt me!" After a while, as soon as I would wake up, I would immediately proclaim my identity to whomever or whatever might be plaguing me, and turn over and go back to sleep. Then at last, I wouldn't even wake up afraid anymore.

Eventually I believed I was a child of God and nothing could hurt me. Knowing who I was in God gave me the confidence to overcome the very real fear I had struggled with since I was a little girl. And I think the principle applies to all the self-defeating demons people deal with. To know that I belong to God and God loves me...this is truly Good News. It means I am not subject to anything that can hurt or hate me. It is a Good News I think is worth sharing with others!

Every chapter of this book so far has hit me almost as powerfully. If you cannot abide bad language, don't read it. If you don't think everyone is welcome in the kingdom of God, you might be offended if you read it. But if you think it's possible God is a little bigger and untameable than you or other Christians you've known have ever imagined, you might give this book a shot. It is the best thing I've read in years.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

7QT - Happy Cows, Holidays, and How About That

A Facebook friend posted this video this week. It's pretty brief, do watch it!

Earlier that same day, I had been playing with my puppy, and while I was pondering his sweet and playful personality, I thought of cows and other animals that are raised primarily for food, and wondered how their personalities might "magically" develop if someone were paying attention.

A year or so ago I debated with a friend who argued that animals are just as sentient and "soulful" as humans (I argued that humans have souls/are capable of relationship with God and animals do/are not). Since then I have come to have a little different view of nonhuman life. I still believe humans were created in the image of God, and as such, their lives take precedence over the lives of animals. But I think I consider animal life more precious than I used to. We share a world with them; our bodies operate the same way theirs do; and really, they do a lot for us. I'm not to the point of joining PETA yet, but maybe we should show more respect to our fellow earth-dwellers. Maybe even the vegetarians are onto something....

In thinking about achievements...monuments, memorials, and so forth...I've always regarded them as fairly worthless/meaningless. Like...I remember for one of my jobs, I worked for a national office, and one of the things I did as an administrative assistant there was create certificates for people, either in recognition for service or passing various educational courses, etc. I remember designing the certificate on the computer, making up the fine words on it and checking it for spelling errors and all, and then printing it out right there at my desk, and thinking, "Someone is going to feel so honored to get this piece of paper I just printed off." And I didn't get it. Certificates and other awards lost pretty much all meaning to me at that point.

But you know, it's not the paper or trophy or statue itself that is special. It is the honor it represents. It is the fact that a person is being celebrated for some service or achievement...some contribution to life as someone else knows it here on this planet.

I saw several pictures or announcements for baby showers on Facebook this week. That, too, reminded me how people were getting together to celebrate a life - a life, moreover, that hasn't even arrived yet. The celebration represents the expectation of the joy that life will bring to his or her family and friends in the future, and the potential for, well, anything!

I'll go a little further with this thought.... There are times when I deal with feelings of inadequacy or unworthiness. (I do a lot better with that now; it used to be a huge issue for me.) Celebrations of me used to cause me great embarrassment. I hated being singled out for recognition, whether it be for academic awards ceremonies or birthday parties. I felt like I didn't deserve to be celebrated - it wasn't possible there was anything about me that would give anyone a reason to take a break out of their important, busy day and look my way.

Last week I talked a little bit about each life being equal in value to every other life. But I wonder how many people go through life without ever being recognized for anything good - no birthday celebrations, no awards, no cheap certificates of appreciation, no applause...nothing. Makes me wonder what I can do to bring a little celebration to the uncelebrated.

I'm going to give that some thought.

Thinking about the April A to Z blog challenge. It'll be here in a few short months! I still can't believe I successfully completed it last year. I really enjoyed it and gained a LOT of followers through it. Found a lot of blogs to follow, too! So now I'm beginning to think of what I will blog about if I participate this year (which I probably will). Should I have a theme? Last year I tried to blog every day about something related to the theological nature of this blog. I could do that again. I could pre-write some or all of the posts. I could even take the beginnings of the novel I penned out during NaNoWriMo last month (which I did not complete) and work on a new aspect of that each day during April. That might be fun - A to Z from a fictional angle.
Founder's Day.... So when I lived in Joplin, I'm pretty sure there was a Founder's Day parade and festivities. On Gilmore Girls, Stars Hollow had one. In it and another of my favorites, Hart of Dixie, the towns' Founder's Day celebrations commemorated a romantic heritage. It made me wonder about my own "Founder's Day" story. I've always known the gist of how my parents met...or at least that their relationship revolved around church and they were introduced by my great-uncle. But that's about it. So this week I asked my mom to tell me more about it. She told me a couple new details, but didn't respond when I asked her to be more specific (yeah, I was asking her through Facebook messaging). So, I still don't know details. But I know a little more. She said he was always coming up with crazy, off-the-wall things to say, kind-of like I do. They divorced when I was very young and I choose not to have a relationship with him, so I don't know him or his personality. But I wondered this week for the first time about their love story. If I had any details, I could have made this a more interesting take, I'm sure. I may keep trying to get more information out of her....
Oh yeah - there was a holiday this week, wasn't there?! ;) I didn't do too much. My brother who lives in Joplin (Sam) went to Ohio last week for our aunt's funeral, but he made it a point to come back in time to spend Christmas with me. Yeah, he can be pretty thoughtful. My mom sent us both gift certificates to Outback Steakhouse, so we went there for Christmas Eve dinner. He told me the day before that I was to dress up. Normally, he wears a suit when we go out, and I wear jeans and a sweatshirt or something. That's how it was on Thanksgiving. But I made a little bit of effort on Christmas Eve, and we brought my friend along and had a good evening.

My brother and me.
Christmas Day Sam went back to Joplin, and I, being a third-shifter, slept until late afternoon. Then I went to a friend's house. We watched some movies and then...well...I've been kissed. Merry Christmas to me!! :) (And now we'll see if anyone I know actually reads my blog lol.)
A couple friends from work and I are beginning to work out a few times a week after we get off work in the mornings. We had a lot of interruptions in December, with weather and Christmas and all that, but now we plan to get serious about it. The last time was pretty fun. I don't think either of them expected me to be as loud as I am....
Welp, y'all, have a good week. I probably won't post again until next year. ;)
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

7QT - Musicals, Books, and Life Lists!

Well did you see the live production of The Sound of Music starring Carrie Underwood? What did you think? I loved the opening number by the nuns, and really just thought the whole thing was a very well-performed effort. Carrie Underwood is quite the yodeler!! :D

Also I noticed that, except for the part about it being in Austria at the outbreak of World War II and in the midst of nazi infiltration and the characters having to run to another country to save their lives...and except for the part about Maria being a nun and then governess of seven children and falling in love with their millionaire dad...except for all that...the story is completely like my life!! If you're reading this and confused and thinking, "Well, if it's like her life except for all those things...then how, exactly, is it at all like her life?" well, then... pfpfpft...I guess you just don't get it, do you?

No, but really. It is. See...Maria starts out as a nun...novitiate? postulant? (you know, not yet a for-real nun, but more than a mere "wannabe," and wearing the habit and all)...and happy and all in love with Jesus and ready to live a chaste, secluded life in the abbey. But somewhere along the way she realizes that, although she could continue with these plans and be reasonably okay, perhaps she was really made for something else....


I reserve the right to not explain it any more clearly than that. ;) (Except...I wonder what it says about me, exactly, that I can identify so well with a plight fairly heavily dependent on 1930s/40s-era societal culture? Hmmm. Like the whole deal between Liesl and Rolf - "I need someone older and wiser / to te-ELL me wha-AT to do." O.o Yeah right. Whatever. Probably wouldn't listen anyway. Darn kids and their music.)

See?! Except for a FEW, MINOR details...Completely. Like. My. Life. (I knew you'd agree.)

"somethin'somethin'somethin' 'bout a lonely goatherd...."

Oh! [Clears throat] Sorry. Didn't realize you were still listening....

I've always had some inner instinct telling me I would accomplish something great in life. While thinking about it this week, I realized I now have doubts about that... not to say I think my life and its accomplishments will be meaningless,  just not as..." special"... as I had expected. Upon deeper reflection, I wonder if everyone senses that youthful potential that anything is possible and I will be the one who grasps the stars. I will be the hero of this story called "being".

But this realization makes me rethink what it means that no life is more or less important than another. I'm not sure why or how this is true, but I believe it is. How is the life of Mother Teresa no more valuable and precious than the life of Jack the Ripper? I don't know. If I had to choose between saving the five-year-old child of a philanthropist or the five-year-old child of a homeless person from would I do it? I don't know how. But I do believe life is sacred.

So...why the urge to achieve greatness or do something meaningful for my fellow humanity? I'm not sure, unless it is rooted in our inability to accept our own death, or else our own feeling that somehow my life is more meaningful than yours.

But really, I don't think memorable accomplishments do add meaning to life. So what if a person remembers my name, if the person doesn't remember me? I think a greater sense of significance comes from really knowing and being known than from anything we do or anything we leave behind.

That being said...perhaps the best thing we can do for our fellow humans is get to know them.

I have never had the ability to remember actors and actresses by name. My high school friends would all goo and gaa over the hottest new celeb, and I'd get horror-stricken looks in response to my innocent repetition of "Who's that?" So I visited a friend last night. She had picked up a couple movies from the Red Box - RIPD and All Is Bright. We watched the Christmas movie first, and kept trying to figure out who the actors were. I thought Paul Giamatti was Daniel Stern. I thought Paul Rudd was John Cusack. And I thought Amy Landecker was Amy Brenneman. I would say at least I got the "Amy" right, but no...I didn't call them by their names. It was more like "That's the guy who played in Martian Child, whose sister is an actress, too" and "that's the guy from Bushwacked and Home Alone" and "Oooh, it's Violet from Private Practice!" Yeah. I remember character names sometimes, and movie names...sure. But not actual people's actual names.

I read The Old Man and the Sea this week for the first time. It was nice to get out a classic - I used to read so many of them! And yeah, I could write a review here and discuss all the deep insights I had from this brief work of fiction - and I did indeed have some - but I figure there are probably many reviews already out there, written by greater thinkers than I. So if you've never read it, go look up somebody's review, and then go read it. It's great! I think whenever I make a transition in life it would be a good book to reread (if I could remember to do so).

Reading Hemingway...and having read through Harry Potter over the last couple months, and a few other books in between HP books...made me realize I've missed reading! I always have piles of books I really want to get to but never seem to do. So this coming year, that is one of my Life List items. Here's the Life List I have come up with so far for 2014:

1. Monster Truck Rally
2. Avett Brothers concert (they're coming to Springfield on February 14th!)
3. Summer in Budapest?
4. Move to MD and start at Hood (M.A. in Thanatology, pending my acceptance)
5. Visit Washington DC and Georgetown Library!
6. Read at least 1 book per 2 weeks (26 for the year)
7. Springfield Cardinals game
8. Hop a train!
9. See Handel's Messiah
10. Do a blog challenge
11. See a play
12. Arkansas diamond mines
13. Go geocaching
14. Refurbish a piece of furniture (desk or dresser)
15. Make something out of a wood pallet!
16. Volunteer at local homeless shelter
17. Get passport (if going to Budapest/overseas)
18. Go deep-sea fishing
19. Get another tattoo? (I have a couple of ideas for ones I want)
20. Willie Nelson concert (coming to the area on March 1!)

I made my first Life List this past year (2013), and with it I accomplished the following (which includes a few extra things that weren't on my list, but happened anyway):

1. Got a tattoo
2. Finished my MDiv
3. Saw the ocean
4. Went to a rodeo (PBR)
5. Participated in 7 Quick Takes!
6. Blog challenge: April A-Z
7. Tried smoking a pipe
8. Tried smoking a cigar
9. Tried champagne
10. Lost and kept off 10 pounds (not as much as I had hoped, but still, an accomplishment!)
11. Bob Dylan concert!
12. Explored several art galleries in Springfield
13. Got a puppy
14. Attempted a container garden (and got 2 vegetables out of it! Talk about self-sufficient!)
15. "Painted" with oil pastels
16. Got my first normal-sized Christmas tree (I think I had a miniature one or two before)
17. Read through the Harry Potter books
18. Had an academic article published
19. There was one other "big thing" on my list that I had hoped would happen this year...and the opportunity did in fact present itself, but when it did I decided it was something I would wait for until another time.

There were a few things on the list I did not accomplish, but look at what all I did do! It was a great year!!

What are some things you want to do in 2014?

My Christmas tree. :) Got many/most of my ornaments from various friends over the last several years, and decided I would go with a country-style theme. I love it.

For more Quick Takes visit Conversion Diary, and have a great weekend!!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

7QT - A Perfect Plethora of Ponderosities

Nelson Mandela passed away today. I am embarrassed to admit, I don't know much about him. I know he was a president of South Africa, and I think he had something to do with ending apartheid. I intend to remedy this lack of knowledge!! However, I did come across this awesome quote from him:

I'm on Book 7 of Harry Potter. Early into it, Hermione explains to Harry and Ron what she has discovered about horcruxes and how to destroy them:
"But even if we wreck the thing [horcrux] it [a division of Voldemort's soul] lives in," said Ron, "why can't the bit of soul in it just go and live in something else?" 
"Because a Horcrux is the complete opposite of a human being."  
Seeing that Harry and Ron looked thoroughly confused, Hermione hurried on, "Look, if I picked up a sword right now, Ron, and ran you through with it, I wouldn't damage your soul at all." 
"Which would be a real comfort to me, I'm sure," said Ron. Harry laughed. 
"It should be, actually! But my point is that whatever happens to your body, your soul will survive, untouched," said Hermione. But it's the other way round with a Horcrux. The fragment of soul inside it depends on its container, its enchanted body, for survival. It can't exist without it."  
This discussion naturally made me think of Christian universalism and the biblical text that possibly has given me the most trouble in seeing how it could be both a biblically- and logically-sound theory. Naturally. I'm sure that's what you thought of, too.

The text to which I refer is, of course, Matthew 10:28: "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell" (NIV).

What gets me is that both are being "destroyed" (because of this terminology, in fact, I have long thought this verse was probably key to any doctrine arguing for conditional immortality). Perhaps Jesus isn't emphasing eternal punishment here at all, but rather the difference between physical and spiritual destruction. You've heard the saying, "There are worse things than death." Psychological anguish is certainly one of them...ask anyone who has ever contemplated suicide. You also are probably aware that evil exists; some people do more than just sin - they do evil things that destroy others. The go-to example for this is Hitler. Cliche, I know, but if there's anyone I can't wrap my mind around going to some sort of Heaven, or being redeemed by God, it's him. I think he provides evidence that some people can reject God's efforts at redemption. Even if hell exists and is purgatorial/temporary in nature...I think someone like Hitler would end up being there for a very long time!

But what would cause someone to do such evil acts? The same sort of woundedness of spirit that causes "everyday" sin in "less-evil" people...? Does spiritual destruction - breaking, if you will, past the point of being fixable - happen in this life? If so, that brings up two further questions: 1) is a spiritually broken person (with or without regard to the extent of brokenness) held responsible for his/her own brokenness? and 2) if the destruction of both body and soul happens as part of this life, then maybe Jesus isn't talking about an eternal pit-of-fire hell...but if not, then what is He talking about? What are the implications of this for practical theology?

This article by Maria Popova provides excerpts of a conversation between Albert Einstein and Rabindranath Tagore regarding the relationship between science and spirituality (basically, whether or not reason supports the idea of God). I found both sides of the argument interesting, and of course sided more closely with Einstein's. The next-to-last quote from Tagore (the really long one) caused me to relate one's search for truth to Maslow's heirarchy of needs:

You might think I mean a person's need for "truth" is in the heirarchy; but, though that might be true to an extent, I rather think it relates to each level of the heirarchy. Followers of specific religions and those who do not follow a particular system of belief differ in what they perceive as "truth" at each level of Maslow's theory. For instance, which is more important - physiological well-being or spiritual? Ask an atheist medical doctor and ask a Hindu, and you will get two different answers. (Ironically, in this context the order of Maslow's heirarchy is itself relative.)

Tagore speaks here of truth being relevant only insofar as it concerns humanity; thus alleged "truth" outside of human experience simply cannot exist in any meaningful way to a human (or at least that is how I very roughly interpret this part of what he says). My thought in relation to his proposition is that a person's understanding of "truth" does indeed begin with subjective experience. For instance - your physical safety needs probably rate second place in my priorities to my own physical safety needs. Perhaps truth could have its own heirarchy...or, putting it another way, perhaps I have moved "up" a level on the pyramid when your safety (or another's - perhaps, for example, my child's) at some point becomes paramount to my own.

I've been watching Once Upon a Time on Netflix. Is it weird that I see all kinds of theological applications in it? For instance, the whole first season revolved around the premise that true love is the only power strong enough to break any curse. There have been several different episodes that have made me think deep thoughts :), and now I am at the end of season two. Snow White is in the woods trying to convince Pinocchio to come back to town. She tells him it is time to stop feeling sorry for himself and just come back and face what he fears; no matter what he has done, he deserves a second chance. He tells her that is easy for her to say - she has never had to worry about forgiveness, redemption...she's never needed it. What he doesn't know is that she only days before had tricked Regina into killing her own mother.

What strikes me about it is that Snow White feels compassion for Pinocchio. He sees himself as a shameful failure, but she simply cannot see him like that. She sees the good in him. But while she is having the conversation with him in the woods, she is struggling to see herself with as much grace. As the episode progresses, she becomes sort of an advocate to get Pinocchio the help he needs to return from his wooden state. The inference is that she clings tenaciously to the hope that there is a remedy for him, because she desperately needs to believe there is a remedy for herself. So then, do like need and experience provoke the deep empathy and compassion required to help others with some measure of selflessness? We believe, after all, that Jesus experiences empathy for us because of the human life He lived.

But He never sinned. So...does He really understand/empathize with the plight of sinful humanity in need of a Savior? He got to see it first hand and witness its devastation in the broken lives He encountered, many of which He healed. But He never needed forgiveness Himself. (Some theologians, though, would argue here that though He never needed redemption, He did indeed feel the weight of the need when He took upon Himself the world's sin while He was on the cross.)

But back to Once Upon a is not fair for me to single out this instance of Snow White advocating for someone else and say she only did it because she needed restoration into grace herself. Before she ever "darkened her heart" through her role in Cora's death, she continually bestowed forgiveness and second Regina especially. So perhaps her advocacy for Pinocchio wasn't intrinsically selfish. Perhaps it wasn't inspired for a desire that someone would look upon her with the same favor. Perhaps God, likewise, can empathize with our need even though He has never Himself stood in need of redemption.

Perhaps I read way too much into fictional storylines....

(Sidenote: as this series unfolds, I am so impressed - the stories are brilliantly woven together!)

I am observing Advent for the first time this year. I don't know much about it. I do know it is a season of hope and expectation, looking forward to the Advent of Christ as represented by Christmas. I downloaded a nifty little liturgical calendar app on my Android phone, and I am reading a brief little blurb on there about a saint each day. I enjoy reading your blogs as I come across them, suggesting easy ways to observe the season, or mentioning new depths of truth you discover along the way. I don't yet have an Advent wreath, but I came up with this for the first week or two:

I think this season as a reminder of hope for me is very timely, and I am making it a point to light my little purple candle and remind myself of that hope whenever I get to feeling a little down or overwhelmed or like a failure, etc. I think it is going well so far. I missed attending church for the
First Sunday of Advent because I was sick, but I am looking forward to a liturgical experience this coming weekend (if they don't cancel because of the weather) at a local Episcopal church.

We've got snow!! As of today. So this evening I sat in my living room beside my pretty little Christmas tree (my first one!),
and my little snowman display,

( no attention to the heaping trash can in the background....)
with my Advent candle lit; made some Southwestern Black Bean Soup (tastes way better than it looks!);
and watched a couple episodes of the 1st season of Gilmore Girls which I got a couple weeks ago at a thrift store for $2.98! It was a nice, cozy evening. Then I went outside and scraped my car,
(See? Snow!!)
rented Monster's University, and came to work. (Thursday nights are my Mondays.)

I thought about putting a video of "Christmas Shoes" here for your viewing pleasure...but instead, how about I hook you up with a link to an article called "5 Best Ways to Survive 'Christmas Shoes'"? You're welcome. 
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

7QT - The Greats: Lincoln, God, and Dr. Who

I finally watched Lincoln, in the wee hours of this morning. Loved it. I hate politics and how they are corrupt and so often practically useless. I love justice and the effectively administered law that protects it. Abraham Lincoln is one of my heroes. Equal rights to ALL under the law is one of my ideals. Just as there were likely "good" people and "bad" people on both sides of the Civil War, the end result of the conflict rendered freedom for each person to live accorrding to his or her values, so long as in doing so, no one else's right to do the same was violated. I hope to see a day when all people truly share all the same freedoms under the same law that, when functioning as it should, prevents free people from oppressing others. I am not a fan of politics, but I am a fan of just and unbiased law. It is how human civilization works and prospers.
One of the things I loved about the movie's portrayal of Mr. Lincoln was his tendency to tell a story. It illustrated his ability to remain calm and diffuse tension through humor.
A while back I started reading Lincoln's Melancholy by Joshua Wolf Shenk. Like I do often, I read about half of it and didn't finish. So now I'm all inspired to pick it up again. Today I read a little, and since it contained bits about Abe, theology, history, suffering, and psychology (all favorite subjects on this blog), I thought I'd share a particularly interesting excerpt (I hope that's legal).
"In 1840, a group of reformed drunkards in Baltimore began to meet and offer each other support and fellowship. They decided to take their message to other drunkards, and chapters sprang up around the country. They called themselves the Washington Temperance Union. Soon a chapter formed in Springfield [IL]. On the occasion of George Washington's birthday in 1842, the members invited Lincoln to speak to them. He took the opportunity to explain why 'old-school' temperance efforts had failed and why the Washingtonians had so much success. To denounce drunkards 'in the thundering tones of anathema and denunciation,' Lincoln argued, was not only unjust but impolitic. It simply worked better to reason with, coax, and convince people, he said. Quitting drinking was a good thing, he continued, because people could work and support their families better sober than drunk. The Washingtonians got reformed drunkards to speak about these advantages and to encourage others by the force of their example. In contrast, Lincoln said, harsh condemnation could no more pierce a man's heart than a rye straw could penetrate the hard shell of a tortoise.
"His references to 'Old School' Calvinism and 'Hard Shell' Baptism were subtle, but Lincoln was not subtle about his critique of the old theology. Calvinism saw human beings subjected to a harsh and wrathful God [and predestination]; Lincoln proposed that people could shape their own lives by the exercise of will. Of the Washingtonians, he said admiringly, 'They teach hope to all - despair to none. Denying the doctrine of unpardonable sin, they teach, "While the lamp holds out to burn / The vilest sinner may return."' Drunkards, Lincoln said, should be 'pitied and compassionated, just as are the heirs of consumption and other hereditary diseases.' Their failings ought to be treated as a 'misfortune, and not as a crime, or even as a disgrace.' 
"He made the same point about melancholy. ...Suffering was not a punishment from beyond or a malevolent infestation of the soul. Like the earth turning on its axis or energy passing through a conductor, it was a part of the natural world, to be studied, understood, and, when possible, managed."
See why I love this guy?!

And now, to completely change the subject...let's take a little trip inside my head, shall we?
Have you heard of Christian Agnosticism? Here's a brief little argument for it from the Huffington Post.
I have always believed in personal relationship with God. But if we're being real (and we are), there are also times when I debate with myself whether it's all in my head (prayer works because of the placebo effect, etc.). I can, in fact, almost completely rationalize away any belief in God or anything supernatural. But there are a few things that I think give the idea of a divine Creator some credence that is more difficult to rationalize, I think humans are comprised of more than biology - they also have a immaterial aspect known as the soul and/or spirit. Synergy or no, I don't think that comes from chemical reactions. Also, humanity's affinity for beauty, as has been argued by such great thinkers as C. S. Lewis and N. T. Wright, and their longing for justice and a sense that things in the world are just not quite right, or are broken...I agree that these things point to something higher than evolutionary human moral ideals. So: I believe in God.
Next - the more I learn, the more I believe that a lot of harmful theology has evolved from cultural, flawed (or limited) perspectives on what is "good" or "right"...and who benefits from these assessments (patriarchy, caste systems, etc.). Basically, there are a lot of interpretation of "truth" out there - even the same truths come out looking different to different people (i.e., people's interpretations of the Bible). Does this mean there is no accessible knowledge about God? I don't think so.... I think less is known about Him than most Christians profess. But I think there are some things we can know about Him because of what we can see - evidential pointers to His nature. For instance, He must be just and loving and good (because of the things I mentioned in the previous paragraph, and because these things exist within and are the highest ideals for human character; humanity's Creator must be greater than humanity, that is simply a deductible fact). So: I believe some things can be known about God.
Then - if so there is so much that isn't definable about God, and if there is hope for humanity despite the things we don't know, then is there really any need to share the Gospel? I have always believed so, but lately I have wondered. I am slowly coming to a position on it, though. I read a blog today or yesterday by a retired missionary to Rhodesia. At one point she says, "The villagers were so mesmerized by Glyn’s explanation about Jesus who loved them enough to die for them, that they did not stir when the scorpion rushed to its sudden death. These villagers were accustomed to bondage and fear of their heathen Gods and to be told that they could worship a God who forgives and loves them unconditionally was hard to comprehend." This is one of the arguments for sharing the Gospel, even if you believe eventually all people will be redeemed and spiritually "saved". The love of God is restorative to humanity. So: I believe in sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Why did I include that here? Well...because it is some things I have been thinking about long and hard, and I felt like I had a little bit of clarity on them this week. So I'm sharing what I came up with in case there's any other person out there in the blogosphere who thinks a little bit like me. :)
I realized this week that I have not yet taken a walk to enjoy the beautiful sights and colors of Fall. So I did that today. Most of the leaves have already fallen, but a few are still clinging half-heartedly to their branches, and I got a few pretty pictures :). As I was walking in the woods I began to think about the concept of "nature," (as in trees and leaves and wildlife, etc.) in relation to what we consider to be "human nature" and "God's nature". Nature is just a nutshell term for the default state of the environment, I think, if we want a simple definition. And that default state changes from season to season and with passing time. The nature of the human individual, too, changes some (though, perhaps less, in ordinary cases...?) with age and experience. But what about God's nature? Does it change through time, or as He interacts emotively with His creation? James 1:17 says (in the version in which I learned it, KJV): "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." The NIV says, "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." It comes down, again, to how God relates to time, and, in fact, how God relates to nature. He is the "Father of lights" - the Creator of the Sun and moon and stars, the author of time and the changing seasons (see Genesis 1:14, 15).
I asked a question on Facebook a few days ago: "When people say 'God is faithful', what exactly do they mean?" I think it means He is dependable, and His nature doesn't change. When all else is out of our control; when we don't know which way is up; when we don't know what we believe anymore; we can take comfort in the knowledge that God is the same. He is there. He knows all the things we don't know and therefore cause us to fear. He created it all and nothing is getting away from Him. He is faithful. He is our peace.
On a lighter note...unless you take Dr. Who very seriously (and there's nothing wrong with that)...I came across this today: an illustrative timeline of the last millennium of Dr. Who history.

I am starting another job on Monday. I will have two full-time jobs for a little while. Not sure how that's going to go; I'm sure it will be difficult. But, hopefully by next Fall I will be enrolled in a new degree program, somewhere, and this will give me a chance to save up for a move.
Have a good weekend, everyone! Thanks for stopping by. :)
For more Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

7QT - NaNoWriMo, Jesus: CEO, and St. Therese of Lisieux


I'm doing NaNoWriMo!! I had never heard of it until the April A to Z blogging challenge, and came across several mentions of it then. But I heard about it again last week, so I checked it out and thought it sounded like fun! I've always wanted to write a work of fiction, and this is as good a time as ever! Better, actually, since I'm actually not in school this semester. So...I'm going for it. I don't know if I will hold myself to 50,000 words of actual text or not, but I have already begun my research and writing out character descriptions and plot ideas, etc. I plan to use this month to plan the book and get it started. So...I'll let you all know how that goes! I have actually started writing text, and as of this posting my word count is at 2265 (yeah, I'm behind already). I'm pretty excited about it! My title is The Order of the Oak, and I am thinking of it more as part of a series (fantasy genre). Want an excerpt? Here are my first few paragraphs:
He stumbled across the plain of grass in the direction of the trees about half a mile ahead. Occasionally the new moon shone for an instant between dark clouds rolling swiftly, angrily overhead. It would have been very dark if not for the incessant streaks of lightning staking the land as if to mark the boundaries for a coming battle. The thunder roared, a little more loudly this time than last. The rain held back, but clearly the river god, Thyrodo, was going to air some terrible grievances through a pugilistic storm this night.
A great bolt of lightning struck a tree ahead and to the left, the crash of it issuing a threat as real as any of the others Red Runner had heard lately, and that was saying something. He lifted the clay flagon to his lips for another gulp of Rowan berry mead; more ran down his chin and neck than down the inside of his throat, but what he swallowed burned to please. He tripped but didn’t realize it until he hit the ground hard. The cool grass felt soothing against his sweaty face. He could have lain there and slept contentedly for the night, but knowing this storm would likely yield flooding, he knew he should get home if he wanted to wake in the morning, undrowned. Sober he might have decided to stay there and pass silently in his sleep, but drunk as he was, deep thoughts and regrets did not register. He regained his feet and stumbled on, slightly uphill, as the first raindrops began to tease the windblown land.
The Oak leaves gave shelter from the sprinkles when he reached them. He continued to plunge through the light undergrowth until the woods grew thicker. It would be a little while yet before the rain found its way through the thick canopy above, but he could already hear that its cadence had grown steady. Another burst of thunder reassured any listeners that the night’s portents had only just begun. It was nearly pitch black in the cover of the trees, but Red Runner knew the way through them without needing his eyes to guide him. He had traveled this same path nearly every day of his twenty-seven years of life. This was the path from the main village to his own dwelling. There had been a council of warriors tonight. All the men of hunting and fighting age had been present to decide as a group what to do about the recent signs of disease in the trees down by the river…all the men except Red Runner, that is. He had filled his flagon at the community drinkhouse next to the meeting place, thrown the ladies in the far corner a playful wink on the way out, and strutted past a handful of men about to duck into the meeting, probably the last of those coming, on his way to the river below the small plain west of the village. Those men had glared at him disgustedly as he shoved past them, and one had even called after him, “It shouldn’t surprise me anymore that you don’t care enough to do your part to protect the land that keeps us all alive! You know this affects you, too, don’t you?”
Red Runner hadn’t answered. He hadn’t even looked back, but kept the same stride toward his destination. His angry neighbor had shaken his head of long, dark hair angrily and proceeded inside to the meeting.
I have been doing a sort of a daily devotional reading out of Jesus: CEO by Laurie Beth Jones. (Okay...I don't do it every day so much as every day I remember. But that's okay. I'm learning to live with my quirks, and this is something I'm doing for me, not someone else who demands I do it a certain way.) Today's lesson talked about how Jesus expressed Himself, and the author pointed out how our society pays exorbitant amounts to entertainers because, she thinks, we express ourselves vicariously through them. One of the suggested reflection questions asked how much it costs me (financially and emotionally) to allow others to express themselves in my place, including entertainers, writers, etc. That made me think...what exactly is it that I wish to express through writing this work of fiction? ...In answering I'm still trying to decide whether to keep it simple with, "My creativity," or get all deep and use it to decide a few of my plot motifs. If I did that, it would certainly have to include a character's search for understanding.... Personally, I kind-of think that's what the fantasy genre is about anyway.

I read a post by Leah Libresco this week on how she's using Jennifer Fulwiler's Saint Name Generator to study a new saint each month. I went over there for fun and got St. Therese of Lisieux. I have not read much about saints ever..seriously, though:.I have read a little bit about St. Francis of Assisi, and maybe snippets about one or two others. So I clicked over to the provided link and read about St. Therese and found myself quite surprised how much I identified with her!

The source said, "Her pain [from tuberculosis] was so great that she said that if she had not had faith she would have taken her own life without hesitation. But she tried to remain smiling and cheerful - and succeeded so well that some thought she was only pretending to be ill." I have felt that intensity of emotional pain, and struggled, and at times attempted to hide it because I thought it made me weak or less spiritual.... The more I have studied it, however, the more I have come to realize that thoughts of suicide are not terribly enigmatic...they are a consequence of human pain. I have also felt the added strength of faith during times of suicidal contemplation.

She was passionate; experienced early significant grief and personal loss; enjoyed a deeply personal relationship with God; and was an encourager, particularly to missionaries through prayers and letters. And one of the well-known things about her that has sometimes brought her unflattering scrutiny is that she struggled greatly with her emotions. At the occasion when she considered herself to have entered true conversion, she was able to override her automatic desire to vent her own extreme emotions and behave more sensitively to her father's feelings than her own. I have run the gamut with emotions in my lifetime. I experienced early trauma and became an overemotional young child because of it. Then, as I got older, I learned to supress my emotions and never let them show because it was the only thing in my life over which I was permitted to exercise much control. Now I think I fluctuate between healthy expression of emotion and depression, which is in my mind an extreme negative emotionalness...but I am learning to cope with it better. So...I get Therese's struggle there.

One other thing that stuck out to me was this: "By the time she was eleven years old she had developed the habit of mental prayer. She would find a place between her bed and the wall and in that solitude think about God, life, eternity." I was maybe three or four years older than that when I, too, became serious and individual about my faith. I remember a time when I was about 15, and I made a commitment that God would be the first thing I thought about when I awoke in the morning and the last thing I thought of before I went to sleep. In making that conscious decision, Christ moved to the place of priority in my mind; that is when my life became Christ-centered, and I began to relate all the nuances of everyday life to Him. And it wasn't long after that when my prayer life became more personal and relational, too. I remember the moment that happened, too. I had been reading a new devotional called Mature Christians Are Boring People (and Other Myths) by Ron Luce. I had been applying my mental energies to learn more about God. And I think it was that book (along with other sources, I am sure) that mentioned how praying is simply sharing your life with God - talking to Him like you would to a friend. And one evening after my brother had died and my family was moving into another house, my parents left me at the new place with the younger kids while they went to get more cleaning supplies. In one of the rooms was a foldaway cot, and I crawled into it, a peaceful, protective cave of comfort, and it was there that I had my first "conversation" with God, and told Him about my day, and about how I had been feeling about all the things in my life that were out of control.

St. Therese demonstrated the great significance of consecration in the SMALL, everyday things. How beautiful.

Got the email this week that I was not accepted into the physics program at MSU. They said they do not do provisional acceptance, but I am welcome to reapply if/when I catch up on the prerequisite courses. I was a little discouraged at the news...not so much because I believe physics is the calling of my life, but because I feel like I have undergone/am undergoing a bit of a crisis of faith...or at least a huge transition of faith...and it has caused me to question the educational path I have taken thus far. I don't regret my theological education. I do, however, wish it had been a little less expensive. I'm thinking now about taking some time off to decide what exactly I want to do next. No need to rush things, right? Life, after all, is what happens right now, not something I'm working toward and will achieve with some degree in the future. So, as I was wallowing a little in my disappointment today or yesterday, I came across the following tweet:

Guess I'm still learning that "graceful letting go" part.

BUT, speaking of Twitter, there were also a few posts in my feed that made me chuckle this week:
"The Lord shall preserve thy Pinterest..."

" that we may be wholly Pinterest..."

"Amen, Pinterest!"

"...God's beau, Pinterest..."

"I will find rest nowhere but Pinterest."

I often give thanks through Jesus to Pinterest, how about you? ;)
Yep. Gotta love getting cut off by the Twitter.

Made one of my all-too-frequent visits to the DMV this week. Heard a truck driver and apparently a truck driving company owner or administrator having a conversation. Apparently the owner/administrator guy spends one week out of every month on the road with a driver, in his words, " making their life meaningful." He explained how the drivers sacrifice a lot being away from their families so much, and he gives them an occasional companion for conversation, " to be heard and receive affirmation," as he put it. I thought that was pretty cool. (And he really seemed like a nice guy...I don't think he meant truck drivers' lives are meaningless; he just choose his words poorly.) Wouldn't that be a cool job (for an extrovert, of course, as he apparently was)?!

One of the bloggers I follow posted this link to artist Roland Deschane's combinations of Star Wars with Thomas Kinkade artwork. Here's an example:

My Albie-boo is going to be a year old on Sunday!! I love my little sweetie so much. :)

(A picture from 3 or 4 weeks ago after I gave him a haircut.)
Have a great weekend, everyone, and for more Quick Takes, check out Conversion Diary!

Friday, November 1, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday - Monsters, Cryonics, Bitcoin... (and Cabbages and Kings)

Aloha Friday Blog Hop

First, in honor of Halloween, here is the best article I ran across in relation to monsters this week. it still had me thinking the day after I read it. "How Monsters Point Us to God" by Paul Pastor in Christianity Today. It talks about how the creation of monsters reveals our fears, including our fears about God.

I took the GRE today!! I got "unofficial" scores on the Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning sections (I got a 162 and 147 in them, respectively). I was disappointed with my score on the Quantitative (math) portion, because the degree I am applying for is in physics. BUT, in my defense, I haven't had math since I was a sophomore in high school (15 years ago), so I think the fact that I did as well as I did should indicate at least a potentiality that I can do well in the subject. I also finished the rest of the application process, including my letter of interest.

Here is part of that letter of interest, in which I briefly mention one of my research goals:
As an example of my cross-discipline research interests, I am interested in studying the theoretical ethics of humans in extra-Earth temporal dimensions. With the expansion of space exploration and the hope of humanity inhabiting other planets, this will pose a very real concern at some point in the not-so-distant future, and a framework now might provide a useful reference for legal considerations to come. These might touch on all sorts of subjects from cryonics, cloning, and death ethics to the age of adulthood and the sexual ethics inherent therein.

It sounds good in my head, but I'm a little worried it sounds more like I want to write Sci-Fi than academic research. Oh well. I think the best nonfiction does read like an interesting story.

I'm hoping I am not the last person on the planet to have heard of Bitcoin (a type of digital currency). Just learned about it this week when, by chance, I glimpsed an article about a Bitcoin ATM machine being installed in Canada. I find it interesting that, as a medium of currency, it can fluctuate in value just like the stock market. Makes me curious to learn more about how it is supposed to work in an efficient way. Honestly, at first glance, it seems kind-of like a overly complicated form of PayPal to me. But then, what do I know?

So I'm reading through the Harry Potter books for the first time. I am now a little ways into the sixth book. Phenomenal writing. The movies are great, but it's true that the books are even better. And have you ever done an Internet search for Harry Potter fan fiction?! There are so many sites!! Plus there is Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality (sort of a cross between Harry Potter, Sherlock Holmes, and actual, nonfictional principles of reason...?). And recently a friend introduced me to this "Hogwarts Seminary" Tumblr page with GIFs that illustrate various moments in the life of a seminarian (there are others of these out there, too). Here's one I could identify with:

"The feeling of trying to write a concise book review a month after reading the text."
(...which is why I now make notes in books...something I eschewed as evil in my younger days.)

...Even now I find it hard to keep on track and read books in a brief time span so as to be able to write a coherent review. I was going to try to write a few reviews here on the blog, and the one I'm reading now (Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey) is going to be available for purchase in like 4ish if I don't get to it, ...[sigh]....

But I digress.


J. K. Rowling, consider me a fan; your works are definitely classics. I'm only sorry I'm just now discovering this!!

Did you notice I skipped #6? Yeah...that's all I got this week, folks. Enjoy your weekend! Thanks for stopping by. Feel free to visit Conversion Diary for more great Quick Takes!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

7 Quick Takes - Time and Space and God

Aloha Friday Blog Hop

First, I read a couple of REALLY great blog posts this week elsewhere, and I wanted to share them. Both participate in 7QT, so some of you may have already read them. The first, in fact, is the post in which the host of 7QT, Jennifer, shared the video of the forum she participated in this week on Exploring God. If you didn't watch the video, I highly encourage you to watch it. It's just really good.

The second was a post on sin by Leah Libresco over at Unequally Yoked. I wrote on sin, too, the day before she posted it, so it caught my attention. She sets up an analogy wherein she compares general "sin" to "punching someone in the face." She goes further, in reference to the line in Amazing Grace, "'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear," and says:
Punching people in the face is pretty bad, but what’s worse is punching them and not noticing and losing the opportunity to repent or make amends.  Then the relationship between betrayer and betrayed still exists, but with a compounded betrayal, as I go on oblivious, leaving my friend to deal with a wound alone.
And what’s even worse than that is noticing the punching but being callously indifferent to their pain and to my error.  After all, in this case, I need more help than just drawing my attention to the way I clipped you with my fist as I pushed through a crowd.  I have more that needs to be healed for my natural concern for you to flower again.  And, like a person recovering from frostbite, getting the blood moving again hurts and it’s easy for me to try to avoid the very thing I need to recover.
So, being able to notice and regret sin ends up being a very precious gift.  When I stillhaven’t made any progress at not-punching, I can still be thankful for the sense of guilt, the sense that punching people is the wrong choice, which forces me to keep trying and to not abandon the not-punching-people project.
Do yourself a favor and read the entire post!

I've been having technical difficulty in that, on the computer I normally have access to on Thursday nights (otherwise known as "7QT link-up night") does not register the linky list on Jennifer's blog. I have access to the Internet on my phone, but the web address of my weekly post is usually too long to enter on the list via my phone (it won't accept it), so I haven't been able to link up. I miss linking up!! But, until I replace my own laptop and am able to link it again, I will continue to post Quick Takes all by my lonesome, even if they do get fewer views that way. [Sigh.]

This coming Thursday I will be taking the GRE. For some reason, I did not have to take it before entering my last graduate program, but have found that it is required for both of the degrees I am currently looking at. I have applied at Missouri State University for an MNAS in physics. I've pretty much persuaded myself since then that I am absolutely bonkers for doing this, since I have almost no science background in my transcripts and that is a pretty big prerequisite.... But I am interested. In fact, I am still interested in a theologically-oriented doctorate, but I find the subject of God in light of the cosmos fascinating. I want to interweave the two disciplines as I prepare for my ultimate goals of teaching and writing. And if they accept me despite my lack of science credits, I'm pretty sure I can catch them up during the spring and summer and be ready to start the graduate work by next fall. So please pray for me Thursday that I do well on especially the Math portion of the GRE!! Thanks. 

Here's one of the types of things I'm interested in studying:
Along the same lines, if you watched the video above with Jennifer and two pastors in Austin, at one point in addressing the question of how to respond to accusations that Christianity is a crutch, Jennifer referenced the idea of gravity. Like we are dependent on gravity to hold us in place, so we are dependent on God to get us through life. Call God a crutch if you will, but you would also have to call gravity a crutch, whereas in reality, it is quite simply a natural law. 
Has anyone else noticed the story of Peter Pan has a lot to do with time and space? You know, Neverland..."Second star to the right and straight on 'til morning." In the BBC series Neverland (2011), it is described as being situated at the very center of the universe, and the implications of its position relate to why no one ages in this mysterious land.
It did bring up some moral questions in my mind. On Leah Libresco's blog there have been discussions about sexual morality between various genders and numbers of partners...and this Peter Pan thing made me wonder...if such a place did exist, where people arrived and did not age, would it be acceptable then to mate sexually with people considered "under age" under current Earth reckoning? Would a person who was, say, 14 for 200 years mature psychologically over that time, or would psychological advancement be subject to biological limitations...?
Just in casin' you still haven't clicked on that video, here it is. It's an hour long, but definitely worth the hour! ;)

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

What Lay's Potato Chips Teach Me About Sin

Here's the thing about my never-ending search for truth. The center I usually start from is Jesus. Things tend to work out better when I do so, anyway. The last year or so I've been exploring the ways in which conservative Christianity - meaning fundamentalism - has been wrong. It seems my understanding of God and His mission in the world has changed so much...there have been moments when I have thought everything I grew up believing was wrong.

For one thing, I grew up in a tradition in which (like most others, I think) there was a long list of things not to do - sins. Yeah, I know the theology of "sin" vs. "sins," and I know the views of Old Testament vs. New Testament and even the ultimate Law of Love (and liberalism). Honestly, for the last year or so, I have leaned heavily toward the latter option, pretty much to the exclusion of all else.

But the last few days I've been thinking something different.

In the Genesis account of the fall of humanity, Adam and Eve had been warned that the day they ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they would surely die. ...But they didn't die that day. So...did God lie? Even if you believe Genesis is pretty much a collection of Hebrew myths, why would they portray God as having lied?

Sin is kind-of like Lay's potato chips:

The kids in the commercial speak the truth: "No one can eat just one." Yet they parade around and demonstrate the golden fried crisp goodness of the chips as if daring you to prove them wrong.

Just like the serpent in the garden. "You shall not surely die...."

But no one can eat just one apple.

It's not about the apple. It's about the cumulative effect of doing things my way instead of God's way.

Maybe the old folks weren't entirely wrong with their (many) lists of "don't"s. A can of beer never killed anyone [now everyone will be typing that into a search engine to see if I'm wrong lol! Don't worry, I probably will myself when I finish typing this!]. But the cumulative effects of alcoholism are inarguably destructive.

I've heard that most believable lies (including those of liberalism and legalism) usually stem from a nugget of truth.

But what about this for theodicy...
There is evil in the world.
Where does it come from?
The Bible says it comes from sin.
The cumulative effect.
The tricky part is figuring out how to walk the fine line between liberty and self-control, avoiding both recklessness and asceticism.
Lord, continue to teach me.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

7QT - on Sunday!

Aloha Friday Blog Hop

Last Saturday (September 7) I went with a friend to the Greater Ozarks Bluesfest. It was a hot day, but not too hot, and for most of it we happily sat in our lawnchairs in the shade. Late in the afternoon, though, we were in the sun, but it cooled off quickly. So, all in all - great weather, great day.

Right from the start (about 2 p.m.) there were a few tipsy spectators who decided to dance. Do I think they were tipsy because they were dancing? No. Just see for yourself:


But then I recorded a little bit of a harmonica feature and got a nice surprise with dancers who were not tipsy! It was quite fun!

At one point one of the artists said, "I know this is a Bluesfest, but can I get away with playing a little soul?" I leaned over to my friend and said, "We all white here - we don't know the difference!"
Here's a shot from when the saxophonist from the Selwyn Birchwood Band (my favorite band of the day) came down into the audience and was just a few feet in front of me:

One of my Facebook friends posted a cake recipe last week with only two ingredients: a box of yellow cake mix and a 15-oz can of pumpkin puree. Blend together, bake on 350 for 28-30 minutes. Then, for a glaze the recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, 3 tablespoons apple cider, and 3/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice. I couldn't find any apple cider at the store, though, so I went with a cream cheese frosting. The cake was awesome!

I added some blueberries for prettiness. :)
Also on Facebook last week I saw this:

Naturally, my first thought was, "The flan, it was glistening." ;) (Those of you who are fellow Jen Fulwiler fans will get that.)

I got my first substitute teaching gig last Wednesday (September 11)! I was actually hired to be a substitute paraprofessional since I don't have classroom experience, but somehow the jobs got mixed up that day and the one I was called for was an actual substitute teaching position. I found this out after I got to the school, but I told them I was willing and credentialed anyway, so they let me. (I was really excited about the mix-up, really!) It was an eighth-grade home-ec class. We watched a Dateline weight-loss competition. I got to watch it five times that day :). I almost felt like exercising afterward. Great first day.
My kitty is two years old this month!

This is how she sleeps. :)
This past Sunday (the 15th) I went with another friend (and her husband and brother) to the PBR invitational held here in Springfield!
They opened with prayer and the national anthem. My favorite part was watching the guys get bucked off and then run for their lives. One guy got thrown over the fence into the audience! And guess what the rodeo clown made fun of? Miley Cyrus of course.
Here's one of the riders:

I wanted to show you a painting a bought from a coworker (Eric Vaughn) last year. He works with me at Great Circle, but he is a truly gifted artist. His work has been featured at several local art galleries, and he often contributes to fundraisers for work and stuff. I asked him last week about this painting - what was he thinking when he painted it? He said it was a childhood memory from a trip to his grandma's house, and in the car on the long ride they would have to amuse themselves with their imaginations. It evokes a memory for me from Joplin, parked outside of my undergraduate college in the rain under a streetlight. I was just in awe of how everything in the car (dashboard, myself, etc.) looked under the illuminated rain drops. It was a magical moment. That's why I bought the painting.
(Here it's hanging on my wall; I haven't framed it yet.)

For more Quick Takes, visit Jennifer at Conversion Diary!