New car fever

You don’t need a new car, said one of the Tappet brothers on Car Talk, until your monthly repair bills exceed what your monthly car payments would be.  I am approaching that point, so I’m researching new cars.  Since you readers express remarkable expertise on just about every topic I raise, I come to you for advice.   My impression is that automobile quality and technology have come a long ways since I last bought a car over a decade ago.  So help me out.  Though I would love one of those autobahn monsters they laud on Top Gear, I need something affordable, though preferably with a little pizzazz in the way of performance, styling, or technology.  Do any of you have a car that you’d recommend or recommend that I stay away from?  What would you consider the best American-made vehicles (whatever that means these days)?  What considerations should I factor in?  And how much should a person offer below the sticker price?

An actor’s death by heroin

On Monday, a complete stranger came up to me and said, “Hey, you know who you look like?”

“No,” I said.

“That actor who just died.  What was his name?”

“Philip Seymour Hoffman.”

It never occurred to me that we looked like each other, but maybe we did.  I have been lamenting his death–not because now he can’t play me in the movie of my life, but because I have long been so impressed with his work and it’s such a waste that he died because of his taste for heroin. [Read more...]

Lutheranism is not boring–vocation is

For me, growing up in perhaps the blandest version of mainline liberal Protestantism, Lutheranism, far from being boring, seemed wonderfully exotic.  All of that medieval-style chanting; people thinking they were eating Jesus’ body and drinking His blood; having beer at church dinners.  On that last point, both the liberal Christianity I grew up with and the conservative Christianity of some of my friends tended to see smokin’ and drinkin’ as the prime example of sins.  But Lutheranism cared little for these little life-style issues (indeed, seeming actually pro-alcohol).  That blew my mind, as we said back then.

But I think I know why people might think Lutheranism is boring.  It’s the Lutheran doctrine of vocation.

[Read more...]

The real Osage County

I grew up in northern Oklahoma, so I’ve been noting with bemusement how Osage County all of a sudden has a presence in popular culture.  First there was Ree Drummond, a.k.a. the Pioneer Woman, whose show on the Food Network has introduced foodies to the cuisine I grew up with and whose blog about her life on the vast Drummond Ranch has introduced a wide audience to Oklahoma culture.  Then native Oklahoman Tracy Letts won a Pulitzer Prize for his play August:  Osage County, which was then turned into a movie featuring a whole army of A-list actors, such as Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Juliette Lewis, Margo Martindale, Julianne Nicholson, Sam Shepard, and (of course, since he’s seemingly been in every other movie this year) Benedict Cumberbatch. The film was shot on location, so all of these Hollywood superstars lived for two months in a condo complex in Bartlesville and shot the movie in a house in Boulanger, with scenes in Pawhuska and Barnsdall.  So I had to see this movie. [Read more...]

My take on the Lutheran/Calvinist discussion

Some thoughts on the discussion about Lutherans and Calvinists that was provoked by thoughts from Peter Leithhart and D. G. Hart.  (To get up to date with the latest contributions, see also what Anthony Sacramone had to say about it, as well as Dr. Hart’s rejoinder.)

I am one Lutheran who is not a Calvinist basher.  Having grown up in mainline liberal Protestantism and then hanging out in grad school with collegiate evangelicals, I heard about God’s grace for the first time from a friend who was a Calvinist.  It had never occurred to me and I had never been taught that God accomplishes everything for my salvation.  I found that very liberating.  I read Calvin’s Institutes and was greatly instructed.  I credit Calvin for leading me to Luther, whose theology seemed to me to have everything I appreciated in Calvinism while avoiding some of its problems.   In Lutheranism, I would find  dimensions of grace that I never dreamed of before.  But, frankly, if there had been a Calvinist church in the small Oklahoma town where I got my first teaching job, I might have gone in that direction.  Instead, there was a congregation of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, which opened up to me dimensions of grace that I had never dreamed of before, including a deeply sacramental kind of spirituality.  Which brings up my first point:  [Read more...]

A member has been added to your Body

On the Sunday of All Saints yesterday, a new saint was added to the number of saints who constitute Christ’s church.  My new grandson, Thomas Gene Edward Hensley, was baptized.

“When[the church]  baptizes a child, that action concerns me; for that child is thereby connected to that head which is my head too, and ingraffed into that body, whereof I am a member.”  John Donne, Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, Meditation XVII

My father’s name was read among the dead, and now his name-sake enters the church, so it was all very meaningful to me.  In honor of All Saints, now that I am thinking about John Donne, after the jump I’ll quote the context of the above passage from his Devotions, a series of meditations as he was undergoing a serious illness, which as far as he knew may well be fatal.  The “for whom the bell tolls” refers to the custom of ringing the church bells to call people to prayer for someone who was dying, and he was wondering if the bells were ringing for him. 

[Read more...]


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