Weekly Meanderings, February 16, 2013

Lisa Sharon Harper: “On Saturday, Feb. 9, the world received the news that our dear brother, Dr. Richard Leo Twiss, Lakota, co-founder and President of Wiconi International, had passed from life to life. The news was devastating, but, for the circle of family and friends that held vigil in his hospital room over three days, it felt like God had prepared us.  On the evening of Wednesday, Feb. 6, Richard collapsed from a massive heart attack while attending activities surrounding the National Prayer Breakfast. His family arrived and held vigil with friends throughout the day on Thursday. That night we learned that Richard had suffered a heart attack, heart failure, lung failure, and brain injury. According to the doctors, we would know within the next 72 hours whether Richard’s body would be able to heal or not. On Friday afternoon, I received an email and call from Sue Martel, the editor of Richard’s forthcoming book,Rescuing Theology from the Cowboys: An Emerging Indigenous Expression of the Jesus Way in North America. As we finished the conversation, she shared that she had a vision of someone anointing Richard’s feet with oil. I shared that earlier in the day I felt called to do the same, but I didn’t know the meaning of the vision. On the way to the hospital, I read the story of Lazarus and the grave (John 11: 1-44) and felt called to read it over Richard. So, when I arrived at the hospital, I learned that during the day, Richard’s kidneys failed. I shared the conversation with Katherine Twiss, Richard’s wife and co-founder of Wiconi, and she blessed me to read and to anoint Richard’s feet. As I read, we all wept. I never noticed this before, but the scripture begins with an explanation that Lazarus was the brother of Mary — the one who anointed Jesus’ feet for burial. I anointed Richard’s feet and prayed.”

Wrigleyville vs. the Cubs, and the fear (for this Cubs fan) is that one day the Cubs will relocate to a more amenable neighborhood. “The Chicago Cubs’ push for more night games in the upcoming season could be in jeopardy, as Ald. Tom Tunney said he would not introduce legislation at today’s City Council meeting. The team has asked Tunney, whose 44th ward encompasses Wrigley Field, to ease limits on night games, late Friday afternoon games, concerts and other non-game events that are part of a neighborhood protection ordinance. The Cubs want more flexibility in scheduling games and events to increase revenues as the owners of the team seek to embark on a $300 million renovation of Wrigley Field.”

Richard Beck: “So I went forward and when the ashes were imposed on my forehead the words I got where these: “Jesus loves you.” Good gravy. That’s a great sentiment, but I’m not coming forward on Ash Wednesday to hear “Jesus loves you.” I hear that message every Sunday. What I want to hear, what my Winter Christian heart was looking for, was the hard stuff. The undiluted full-of-death stuff. “Remember that you are dust, and to dust that you shall return.” But even on Ash Wednesday we struggle to get those words out. They are too scary, morbid, and depressing. But that’s exactly the point. And exactly why we need to stay on script. Otherwise our fears of death and brokenness cause us to rush past the ashes and into the happy place where all is cozy, sweet and comforting. We don’t need an over-realized eschatology on Ash Wednesday. Easter, sure. But it’s Ash Wednesday.”

What does this say about orangutans — or about us?

Marlena Graves, on looking down our noses: “Maybe this Lent we’ll have a conversion akin to Megan’s. Perhaps for the first time we’ll see and confess that there’s much more of Westboro in us than we care to admit, that we don’t have it all right and that we’ve done violence to our brothers and sisters while purporting to do good. Are there some we’ve driven away from home, some who have a hard time feeling at home with us and our congregations? Maybe we’ll realize that it’s not just Westboro, but us standing in the need of prayer.”

The penchant on the part of some to call themselves “progressive” but not “liberal” has not convinced all. Bo Sanders offers this shorthand summary difference: “Liberal simply mean that one’s experience is a valid location for doing theology. Progressives are folks that would be Liberal but who have learned from Feminist, Liberation and Post-Colonial critiques.”

I enjoyed this about Herod and archaeology.

Greg Boyd, Woodland Hills, Mennonite? “Christian writer and speaker Greg Boyd’s megachurch is weighing its affiliation options, part of a yearlong commitment to exploring Anabaptism. According to Mennonite World Review, Boyd said Woodland Hills Church has been “‘growing in this direction since the church started, without knowing what Anabaptism was.'” Now, its pastoral team is in talks with leaders of both the Mennonite Church USA and the Brethren in Christ denominations. Other Anabaptist denominations have also courted the church, even though Woodland Hills “‘brings a very kind of non-Mennonite culture,'” Boyd said. According to data from the Hartford Institute for Religion Research, there is only one other Mennonite megachurch in America: Northwoods Community in Peoria, Illinois. (However, Canada has a few of its own.) The Brethren in Christ also only have a few megachurches in the U.S.”

Joshua Dubois’ plans.

Meanderings in the News

Didn’t know the history of ice was so interesting.

Dem Svedish gals is sure tuff: “Daniela Holmqvist, a Swedish rookie on the Ladies European Tour and former Cal golfer, was on the fourth hole in a pre-qualifier for the Women’s Australian Open in Yarralumla, Australia, yesterday when she felt a sharp pain in her ankle. She looked down, she told Golf Digest later—after not dying by virtue of being a badass—and “saw a large, furry, black creature with a red spot on its back just above her sock line.”Holmqvist, 24, reportedly “swatted” the spider away and then nearly fell over in pain, as she’d just been bitten by a black widow spider. “I had just turned and felt it was very painful, not like being stung by a wasp,” shetold Svensk Golf, “rather like being stabbed by a knife.” So then she decided to stab herself in the leg with a tee…”

Are the dissertation’s days over? Stacey Patton says Yes: “The dissertation is broken, many scholars agree. So now what? Rethinking the academic centerpiece of a graduate education is an obvious place to start if, as many people believe, Ph.D. programs are in a state of crisis. Universities face urgent calls to reduce the time it takes to complete degrees, reduce attrition, and do more to prepare doctoral candidates for nonacademic careers, as students face rising debt and increased competition for a shrinking number of tenure-track jobs. As a result, many faculty and administrators wonder if now may finally be the time for graduate programs to begin to modernize on a large scale and move beyond the traditional, book-length dissertation. That scholarly opus, some say, lingers on as a stubborn relic that has limited value to many scholars’ careers and, ultimately, might just be a big waste of time.” The dissertation measures or records a scholar’s capacity to think, write and explore and contribute at the highest academic levels. I would agree that a series of journal-length articles could do the same, but is there much difference?

Sumathi Reddy: “New laboratory technology is enabling scientists to see more clearly what is going on inside a baby’s brain and monitor how it interacts with its environment. The findings are helping to shed light on the earliest stages of learning. “The baby brain is a mystery, waiting to be unpeeled. It’s full of secrets waiting to be uncovered,” says Patricia Kuhl, co-director of the Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences, at the University of Washington in Seattle. Scientists at the institute are conducting some of the first experiments using magnetoencephalography, or MEG, brain-imaging machines on children. The technology allows researchers to measure magnetic-field changes around the brain while a baby sits under what looks like a beauty-salon hair dryer. Dr. Kuhl says the technology is noninvasive and silent, making it ideal for working with babies.

Sue Shellenbarger: “Nobody wants to be that hothead who flies off the handle in the face of some everyday annoyance, causing others to roll their eyes and wonder, “What’s wrong with him?” But people who experience extreme reactions to stress—from a racing heart to full-blown rage—may be hard-wired to do so, researchers are finding. It isn’t known how many people are highly reactive to stress, but the tendency can endure for years or a lifetime.”

Faux pas at Missouri State University by Robert Kessler: “Mistakes. We all make them, it’s understandable, forgivable, a part of human nature even. But when there’s a particular irony to said mistake, it makes it nearly impossible not to mock that mistake, and there’s nothing more ironic than an institution of higher learning misspelling its own d–n name. Missouri State University (er, Univeristy) in Springfield, Mo. handed out thousands of canvas bags to students last month, proudly bearing a typo that switched the “s” and second “i” in “university.” According to theSpringfield News-Leader, a total of 17,800 bags were ordered; the typo appears on nearly half (about 8,500) of the bags. MSU spent $70,844 on the bags and since the error was the school’s fault, none of the cost can be recouped.”

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  • EricG

    The posts about Richard Leo Twiss and by Richard Beck are great, and they are related. The story of loving friends surrounding Twiss in his death is beautiful. Although also quite sad, there can be a sweet beauty in a faithful death.
    And then Beck’s post reminds us not to sweep the reality of death and brokenness under the table, either on Ash Wednesday or otherwise. To ashes we will return. Such statements help keep our liturgy more authentic

  • Jordan Litchfield

    Regarding the dissertation comment, it seems to me that for those who are called to life-long pastoral ministry but want to develop the rigorous thinking skills needed at the doctoral level, the structure and philosophy of the doctoral program is impractical (and maybe for an academic as well). I would like the rigor of a doctoral program, but as a pastor I can’t afford to specialize in one small area – I must develop a broad mind and knowledge/skills base.

  • Jim

    Re: the University misspelling it’s own name… A college close to where I lived in TN put up a billboard and did the same thing. They misspelled their name on the billboard. After the local newspaper published the photo and gently mocked them, the school had a billboard company go out and add a sheet. The sheet contained a big red ‘X” and a (-1) and an arrow pointing to the error.

  • Terri Moore

    As a current dissertation writer, I must say that I do not feel as if I’m displaying or gaining any more skill than I did in my classes/seminars and exams except for a stubborn refusal to quit. Smaller papers to publish in journals might be a better path, especially since at this point I have yet to publish anything despite lots of writing for PhD requirements.

  • RJS

    The full article on dissertations is apparently only available by subscription. I glanced at it in my office (where I have the paper copy) but will have to wait until Monday to really read it.

    The typical dissertation is not common to all disciplines and is often a smoothed compilation of articles with an added introduction and conclusion in “journal article” disciplines. In fact, it is often fine to basically reproduce the articles as dissertation chapters.

    In book disciplines the standard dissertation is an essential stepping stone if anyone hopes for an academic career.

    Terri, I don’t know what field you are in – but almost everyone gains and displays an increase in understanding and depth through the dissertation process, even in journal article disciplines. You don’t really notice the change in yourself until long afterwards. (And, of course, it isn’t complete with the dissertation.)

    You can put me down as hopelessly out of touch if you wish, but it is from the experience of many years.

    I will venture to say that my ability to write here on topics wide and varied, reading and analyzing works in fields very distant from my own, rises from the discipline of critical and creative work in one discipline to begin with. The Ph.D. and the dissertation were a critical part of the development even if I hadn’t gotten the final credential.

  • Terri Moore

    Thanks, RJS. Your perspective is helpful and encouraging! (My PhD is in Biblical Studies.) Admittedly, I probably did not go about the process in the best way in that I picked a topic on which I had done no previous work. I do hope some of my chapters will be journal worthy in the end. Thanks again!