Weekly Meanderings

Weekly Meanderings November 17, 2012

Very good post by Roger on open theism and Arminianism.

What do the Amish read? [By the way, the image to the left is not of the Amish.] “We like to read about the Amish, but what do they like to read? In fact, do they even read very much? You might assume that because formal schooling ends at eighth grade for the Amish, an education stops, too. Not so! These people read and read and read. I have never been in an Amish home that didn’t have floor to ceiling bookshelves, filled with books. If painting with a broad brush, I’d say that most Amish prefer to read real-life inspirational stories or anecdotes, often with a Christian backdrop. Many of the authors and titles on those shelves are the same ones that might be on yours: Max Lucado, Charles Swindoll, Catherine Marshall, Daily Bread, Dietrich Bonhoeffer.” (HT: LEMB)

Love this post because it illustrates the demanding reality of loving others. “So I went forth, out into my week, to love. And first thing Monday morning, I encountered a rude, self-absorbed graduate student at the cafe. Later, I swore under my breath at the driver of a Suburban who was drifting over into my lane—yep, he had his phone out, and he looked exactly like I expected the driver of a Suburban to look. Then I became incredibly annoyed over a new comment here on my blog—one that began with the sentence “What about what the Bible says about fornication?” I immediately turned to Twitter for consolation, tweeting, “something shuts down in my brain when a comment at my blog starts with ‘What about what the Bible says about…’ if only it was that easy.” It seemed like there was a hard-to-love person at every turn. I don’t know if there were more aggravating people than usual (was this a test?), or if I was just noticing them more, because I had entered into the week so determined to love and they were so determined to make it difficult.”

Derwin Gray, pastor and author, sketches some themes about spiritual lack of health. And Jeremy Affeldt discusses fellowship across the spectrum: “If we want to unify the church, we don’t have to look further than Jesus. Jesus is our perfect model. He hung out with everybody. Obviously He hung out with sinners. And think about who the disciples were. They were the outcasts. They were the ones that were cast out by the rabbis. They were the ones that didn’t make the cut, so to speak. The B team. And they were Jesus’ companions. But in addition to sinners and outcasts, Jesus hung out with the people who had status. He must have had enough pull that He could stand up in the Temple and preach, and people would listen to Him. He even hung out with the Pharisees, and He clearly had powerful disagreements with them! He didn’t necessarily say nice things to them, but He had dinner with them. He was okay with hanging out, and with talking. “I’ll go to your house to have dinner,” He said. “I’ll challenge your reasoning and your beliefs.” [Two professional athletes with a blog!]

Joe’s got too much time on his hands. I may have seen exactly one of these movies.

First Ladies: “At an Iowa campaign stop in August, President Barack Obama, speaking of his beloved family, modestly placed himself at the bottom of the Obama household roster: “I don’t usually like to follow her as a speaker,” he said of his wife Michelle, “because, let’s face it, on the charisma ratings in my household, you have her, the girls, Bo, and then, and then my mother-in-law and then me.” Obama’s bowing to his wife’s popularity was more than just lip service. The First Lady’s every move is watched by both the political and celebrity press; her conversation skills are cited as key to the President’s hosting of foreign dignitaries, and countless blogs devoted to her sartorial choices parse the underlying meaning of cardigan versus jacket at public appearances. The First Lady—whose title is widely acknowledged as having been initially bestowed upon Lucy Webb Hayes, wife of Rutherford B. Hayes, though it is used retroactively to discuss prior holders of the job—is an indispensible part of any Presidential administration, and yet the President’s having of a wife was not always something to be counted upon.”

Some weird, even if interesting, information here.

David Fitch on evangelism: “I contend that we need this simple humble practice in our day to day lives as Christians living in the neighborhoods. But we have lost it? Somehow we lost its practice among us? We don’t know how to proclaim like this in humility? What say you? Does the way I talk about “proclamation” scare you? (Preaching should scare us eh?). Are you worried about authoritarianism – this is why it must be done in humility and submission to the King (the first signs of ego disqualify the preacher IMO). I suggest such proclamation is just as essential to the calling out of injustices in the world as it is to lifting individuals out of hopelessness. I suggest such proclamation is key to discipleship in the church as well as evangelism/the breaking of social injustice outside it. You?”

Wade Hodges on how to preach better sermons — I could say the same of writing — cut, cut, cut. “From March 2009 to September 2012, I didn’t write very many sermons from scratch. During this three year period, I did plenty of preaching, but it was almost exclusively sermons I had already written and preached before. Being a guest speaker in a church, even when doing four or five Sundays in a row, is NOTHING like the weekly rhythm of writing and preaching sermons you’re pastoring. Taking a sustained break from the constant grind of sermon preparation allowed me to think about preaching from a fresh perspective. Here is one conclusion I reached during my hiatus from writing sermons: Shorter is usually better.”

No wonder I don’t like that kind of music.

Top ten (literary) books for pastors.

Meanderings in the News

Graeme Paton: “Regular exercise can significantly improve pupils’ academic ability by increasing oxygen flow to the brain, according to Dr Aric Sigman, the psychologist and author. He suggested that access to high-quality PE lessons was just as likely to have a long-term impact on children’s education than time spent in conventional classrooms. Dr Sigman, a fellow of the Society of Biology, quoted a US study that showed physically fit primary school pupils more likely to register good test scores than less fit classmates. The disclosure comes amid concerns that children in Britain are leading increasingly sedentary lifestyles as they spend hours every day glued to televisions, the internet and games consoles. Previous research suggested almost nine-in-10 children failed to get the 60 minutes of daily exercise recommended for a good health and a third completed less than an hour each week.”

Save the devils: “Tasmania’s Environment Minister Brian Wightman said 14 of the marsupials, carefully selected from captive breeding programmes across Australia, would be released on Thursday on Maria Island, a nature sanctuary off the state’s east coast. He said it was a “major step forward” in the race against extinction of the devil due to an extremely contagious facial tumour that has decimated the once-rampant rat-like marsupial. Their plight is so dire authorities have started breeding a so-called “insurance population” in captivity to ensure they do not die out. “The Maria Island translocation is designed to establish a self-sustaining population of healthy wild devils in a safe haven where they are protected from interaction with the deadly facial tumour disease,” Wightman said. “It will strengthen the insurance population of disease-free Tasmanian devils, help preserve wild traits in the insurance population and provide genetic stock for future reintroductions.”

An interesting history of our meals: breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Education branching out: “The American system of higher education has long been the envy of foreign onlookers — that’s why the governments of many countries are inviting U.S. universities to open satellite campuses in their centers for higher learning, in hopes of adopting some of the U.S.’s best home-grown practices. But it’s not just the foreign countries who benefit from the deal. In what the New York Times called an “educational gold rush,” U.S. universities are rushing to claim their turf in cities across the Middle East, East Asia and India. Where these two aligning interests come together is at education hubs, such as Doha, Qatar’s Education City. When most people think of the Persian Gulf states, things like oil tycoons, casinos and over-the-top hotels come to mind. However, the government of Qatar has taken enormous strides to present the capital city as a regional center for education and research, as the home of the 14-acre hub of universities located on the city’s outskirts.”

Bobby Jindal is not alone: “Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal on Monday called on Republicans to “stop being the stupid party” and make a concerted effort to reach a broader swath of voters with an inclusive economic message that pre-empts efforts to caricature the GOP as the party of the rich. In his first interview since his party’s electoral thumping last week, Jindal urged Republicans to both reject anti-intellectualism and embrace a populist-tinged reform approach that he said would mitigate what exit polls show was one of President Barack Obama’s most effective lines of attack against Mitt Romney.  We’ve got to make sure that we are not the party of big business, big banks, big Wall Street bailouts, big corporate loopholes, big anything,” Jindal told POLITICO in a 45-minute telephone interview. “We cannot be, we must not be, the party that simply protects the rich so they get to keep their toys.” He was just as blunt on how the GOP should speak to voters, criticizing his party for offending and speaking down to much of the electorate. “It is no secret we had a number of Republicans damage our brand this year with offensive, bizarre comments — enough of that,” Jindal said. “It’s not going to be the last time anyone says something stupid within our party, but it can’t be tolerated within our party. We’ve also had enough of this dumbed-down conservatism. We need to stop being simplistic, we need to trust the intelligence of the American people and we need to stop insulting the intelligence of the voters.”

Neda’s story.

Henry Grabar: Is this the future? “How do you document the undocumented? In the absence of federal immigration reform, that is the question many cities have been striving to answer. Last week, after a 12-1 City Council vote, Los Angeles joined a growing number of U.S. cities that have decided to issue identification cards to undocumented immigrants who offer proof of residence. In theory, the cards will allow L.A.’s enormous undocumented population — estimated to be more than 700,000 people — to pay bills, open bank accounts, get bus passes, acquire store membership, apply for health insurance, pick up their kids from school, or access any other city services that require identification. Several American cities, such as New Haven, San Francisco, and Oakland are all at different stages of operating ID distribution programs. Yet in the five years since the first municipal IDs debuted in New Haven, there’s been little consensus — and little dialogue — between them. No two card systems are the same. And no system has yet provided a replicable model for reformers.”

A saint? Dorothy Day by Fr Thomas Rosica: “Today during their annual General Assembly in Baltimore, the Bishops of the United States engaged in a canonical consultation regarding the cause for canonization of Dorothy Day, a pacifist and convert to Catholicism from New York City. This unprecedented canonical consultation was a procedural step in the process toward canonization. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and head of the Archdiocese of New York, was seeking the consultation of the full body of bishops. Dorothy Day already carries the title “Servant of God,” a designation awarded by the Vatican when it gave her cause a Nihil Obstat, that is, a formal declaration that the Vatican has no objection to the cause moving forward. This afternoon, the American bishops gave unanimous voice through their vote to proceed with the sainthood cause for Dorothy Day. Alleluia. Deo gratias.”

Text messaging down: “Americans are text messaging less on their cellphones, according to a new report (although you may not find that to be the case with your family at the dinner table or in the car).  Chetan Sharma, a technology and strategy consulting firm, notes that for the first time, there was a drop in both the “total number of messages as well as the total messaging revenue” in the U.S. market, in the third quarter of this year. Asked for specifics, the firm told NBC News that text messaging dropped from an average of 696 messages per user per month in the second quarter to 678 in the third quarter.”

David Blair: “The European Union imposed an embargo on Iranian oil on July 1 as the Western powers sought to compel Tehran to negotiate over its nuclear ambitions. In addition, the US and its allies have targeted Iran for a range of financial sanctions, designed to make it harder for the country to insure its tankers or receive payment for oil sales. Mounting evidence suggests that these measures are helping to cripple the Iranian economy. The International Energy Agency released its monthly oil market report showing that Iranian exports averaged 1.3 million barrels per day in October, compared with the average of 2.3 million per day last year. That fall of represents a daily loss of revenue of $109 million at current market prices. In reality, the actual loss could be greater because Iran’s remaining exports are happening at a discount as Tehran struggles to keep its buyers.”

Even anabaptists are for paintballing baboons: “The animals are shot by monitors who shadow the city’s several primate troops, which are notorious for causing havoc in areas bordering their natural mountain habitat. “It does work, it’s actually fantastic,” said city veterinary scientist Elzette Jordan. “They hate it so much, so when they just see you with it and you shake it and they hear the paintballs rattling inside, then they move off already, and you don’t actually have to shoot.” The paintballs are being used alongside other aversion techniques while a baboon management road map is drawn up. Paintballing is the most common technique and its success is attributed to the apes not liking projectiles being hurled at them.”

Melissa Healy: “If retired Army Gen. David H. Petraeus had gotten an occasional dose of supplemental oxytocin, a brain chemical known to promote trust and bonding, he might still be director of the Central Intelligence Agency, new research suggests. A study published Tuesday in the Journal of Neuroscience has uncovered a surprising new property of oxytocin, finding that when men in monogamous relationships got a sniff of the stuff, they subsequently put a little extra space between themselves and an attractive woman they’d just met.”


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  • Diane

    Interesting thread on reading, in which I include Dorothy Day, a voracious reader who was sustained and inspired by novels ranging from Queechy to The Brothers Karamazov. I thought the list of the 10 pastor reads was excellent, and glad to see Simone Weil (as well as good number of women writers–kudos!) on the list. Weil is not much read anymore, but Day leaned into her as an important resource. And yes, Day should be sainted. The woman was a saint in every sense of the word. I fear it will be a struggle though, given how left-leaning she was.

    I would add The Brothers Karamazov to the list. Any book that was important to both Day and Bonhoeffer gets my vote.

    As for the Amish, I live in a community surrounded by conservative Amish, and yes, they are great readers. I haven’t seen Amish houses filled with books, but then I don’t know many Amish. I do see the local library responding to demand and buying a good deal of fiction of the prairie/inspirational sort. I know too there are women fiction writers in the wider Amish community.

  • Diane

    And while we’re plugging books, Dorothy Day’s journal is a must read, I would think, for a pastor, as she struggled with ministry every day of her life. I am not a pastor but her journal entries lift me every time I read them, not because Day was a saint (though she was) but because she was so human.

  • Adam

    The article on preaching was good and the advice to edit, edit, edit is always good. That doesn’t always mean that shorter is better. Someone in the comments pointed out that we are in a borderline biblically illiterate society, so making sure we are teaching the Bible is important. The main responsibility of the preacher is to be engaging and present the Bible in a way that makes people want to read it on their own.

    The article on text messaging being down – I wonder what the effect of Apple iMessage has on that? I know in my house, our texts have dropped big time because of that. Most of the people we text use iPhone’s too, so that doesn’t count as a “text” sent or received.