Weekly Meanderings, April 13, 2013

It’s that time of the year: the cherry blossoms in Washington DC, and Kris and I are across the river in Alexandria VA.

Shauna Niequist, the drug and the defense of busy-ness: “Busy is both my drug and my defense. By that I mean that I use busy-ness to make me feel numb and safe, the way you use a drug, and I use busy-ness as a way of explaining all the things I dropped, didn’t do well, couldn’t pull together, as a defense. And I’m telling you this because I want to stop. I want to drop the drug and the defense, one from each hand, letting them fall with heavy thunks, and I want to live a new way.”

Kris and I extend our condolences and prayers to the Rick Warren family. And a very good reflection by Tim Dalrymple about chemical imbalance, and a beautiful one by Paul Raushenbush. And TSK reflects on the impact of Rick Warren.

Very nice sketch of including the “in-laws” of the church — Kathleen Mulhern. “I fret sometimes about the insularity of Christian communities; we become comfortable with our dialect, our way of doing things, our shibboleths, our postures. Inside this community—safety, surety, commonality. Outside this community—suspicion, uncertainty, insecurity. And we place our faith not in the Jesus sent by God to call us as his own, but in the personal Jesus of our own making…who looks a lot like us. Our God is indeed too small.”

Excellent post by Phillip Jenkins on the so-called “lost” Gospels: “We see a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. Because these scholars do not pay attention to the post-400 era, therefore not much current literature is available, and that absence leads other writers to assume that the Other Gospels must either have disappeared, or faded into insignificance. If I don’t see it, it doesn’t exist… Effectively then, these books say next to nothing about the role of alternative scriptures between 400 and the new Biblical scholarship of the Enlightenment, some 1300 years later. If not entirely a blank slate, the issue of alternative scriptures between (say) the fifth and the sixteenth centuries AD has been covered very lightly, and that is a very large portion of the Christian story!”

Jordan Monge’s wonderful story of conversion.

Michelle Van Loon on Christians adopting and adapting Jewish customs.

Michael Wear on the Easter Prayer Breakfast and his reflections on President Obama’s faith.

Tony Jones on the viability of postmodern (practical) theology.

Are you a juicer? “A delicious juice bar just set up shop in my neighborhood, and–given my penchant for green juices lately, this is both the best thing ever and also not good for my bank account. I mean, six-dollar cups of juice add up! Fast!Luckily, healthy (yummy!) veggie juices are easy to make–and, for some of these, you don’t even need a juicer!”

Wrong-Way Riegels.

24 things you need to stop putting off. Which one is on your list?

Joe Klein on the sad death of David Kuo. My dear, dear friend David Kuo slipped away from us at 10:25 last night—April 5, 2013—after a courageous 10-year struggle against a cancer that was insidious and capricious, coming and going and finally staying. He was 44. How do I tell you about David? He was the sweetest of God’s creatures, and among the wisest, too. He was a man of faith, rather than of religion. He called himself a Follower of Jesus. Many of his friends had ministries, but David’s church truly had no walls.

Sad, our local Caribou is closing down … I’ve had many good coffees and many great conversations at Caribou, not to mention the number of coffees it gave me for the train ride into the City.

Meanderings in the News

Doug Carlson reports on the origins of life: “Blaber’s discoveries could explain how first organisms emerged on planet Earth billions of years ago A structural biologist at the Florida State University College of Medicine has made discoveries that could lead scientists a step closer to understanding how life first emerged on Earth billions of years ago. Professor Michael Blaber and his team produced data supporting the idea that 10 amino acids believed to exist on Earth around 4 billion years ago were capable of forming foldable proteins in a high-salt (halophile) environment. Such proteins would have been capable of providing metabolic activity for the first living organisms to emerge on the planet between 3.5 and 3.9 billion years ago. The results of Blaber’s three-year study, which was built around investigative techniques that took more than 17 years to develop, are published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The first living organisms would have been microscopic, cell-like organizations capable of replicating and adapting to environmental conditions — a humble beginning to life on Earth. “The current paradigm on the emergence of life is that RNA came first and in a high-temperature environment,” Blaber said. “The data we are generating are much more in favor of a protein-first view in a halophile environment.”

Got tat regret?

Three cool homes that are pieces of art. Speaking of homes, from smart phones to smart homes. Here are nine mansions no longer inhabited.

Kate Wong: “A seven-million-year-old skull found in the Djurab Desert in Chad may indeed represent the earliest known member of the human family. Researchers unveiled the specimen back in 2002 and made quite a splash with their claim that the ancient fossil was our ancestor. They assigned it to a new species,Sahelanthropus tchadensis (nickname: Toumaï) and said it was very close to the point at which the human lineage diverged from that of our closest living relative, the chimpanzee. Critics, however, countered that the skull was probably an ape’s instead of that of a hominin (a creature on the line leading to us), given its primitive features. But a new analysis of the skull—specifically, its braincase—supports the discoverers’ claim that Toumaï is a hominin.”

Weird laws in effect as of 1 Jan:

Other unusual laws that appeared on the books this New Year’s:

Of course, these hardly compare to some of the strange laws that took effect last New Year’s: Utah controversially outlawed happy hours, and Illinois made it legal for bikers and motorcyclists to roll through red lights.

Speaking of laws, the gun control agenda is losing.

Yes, Virginia Hughes: “The super-long DNA ‘code’ is a physical molecule. It wraps around itself in a certain way so that it can fit into each of our cells. That wrapping affects which genes are turned on and made into proteins and which stay silent. DNA is littered with methyl groups, and these, too, turn genes on and off. And yes, Lauren, methylation itself is genetically encoded, leading to distinct ‘methylation landscapes’ in different tissues. But methylation is also influenced by environmental exposures, diet, and age. Even if you put those epigenetic influences aside, the underlying genome isn’t fixed. DNA mutations frequently crop up during cell division, making the daughter cell and all of its progeny genetically distinct.”

Heart disease and a new factor — TAMO: “The researchers had come to believe that what damaged hearts was not just the thick edge of fat on steaks, or the delectable marbling of their tender interiors. In fact, these scientists suspected that saturated fat and cholesterol made only a minor contribution to the increased amount of heart disease seen in red-meat eaters. The real culprit, they proposed, was a little-studied chemical that is burped out by bacteria in the intestines after people eat red meat. It is quickly converted by the liver into yet another little-studied chemical called TMAO that gets into the blood and increases the risk of heart disease. That, at least, was the theory. So the question that morning was: Would a burst of TMAO show up in people’s blood after they ate steak? And would the same thing happen to a vegan who had not eaten meat for at least a year and who consumed the same meal? The answers were: yes, there was a TMAO burst in the five meat eaters; and no, the vegan did not have it. And TMAO levels turned out to predict heart attack risk in humans, the researchers found. The researchers also found that TMAO actually caused heart disease in mice. Additional studies with 23 vegetarians and vegans and 51 meat eaters showed that meat eaters normally had more TMAO in their blood and that they, unlike those who spurned meat, readily made TMAO after swallowing pills with carnitine.”

On Sports… congrats to Louisville and the UConn women’s team. Both were great teams.

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  • Mike M

    Brennan Manning has gone home to Jesus. Rest peacefully, job well done.

  • T.S.Gay

    On Tony Jones’ post on postmodern theology viability. We need consensus on the term because, even if it does wax or wane as a term, there are many, many who live by its ethos, within and without church life. Just for this post, I’ll say postmoderns believe you are who you live around. Probably true given great literature and mimetic insights. This type of thought leads to many doubts about metanarratives and historical interpretations. We need to get this to be ambassadors for Christ in the postmodern world.
    So to the details. Read Tony’s 13 points please. He gets down to brass tacks toward the end. Like few progressives he admits you can get so far ahead of those of your stripe that you look like the enemy instead of one of your crowd. Now that’s part of a Jesus story if I ever heard one.

  • RJS

    Tim Dalrymple’s post on chemical imbalance is a very important one. Important I think for two reasons. First because we need to realize that mental illness is an imbalance of a material body – not a failure of a soul. Second, because we are very complex creatures and even realizing the chemical nature can help to overcome some of the effects (but not all, of course). Tim makes this point as well.

  • TJJ

    So sorry to hear of Brennan Mannings death. Going to reread Ragamuffin Gospel this weekend.

  • DanO

    RJS, yes, Tim has an excellentaxe post. As a young Christian in the early 80s I read Beyond Depression by Don Baker (?) and had a real paradigm shift. If I remember correctly Baker’s struggle was with hypoglycemia (or was it hyper-? ).

    Thumping depressed folks with the Bible rarely lifts them up, instead it seems to drive them deeper.

  • Barb

    those California laws don’t seem a bit weird to me 🙂

  • Sorry about your coffee spot going out of business.

    When I worked in on the north side of Houston, I would discover these little eateries, bakeries coffee houses and then come the first week of month you’d see the sheriff impound notice on the door.