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Saturday, May 27, 2006

Diary of an Old Soul, May 28 - June 3

28. For, that great freedom how should such as I
Be able to imagine in such a self?
Less hopeless far the miser man might try
To image the delight of friend-shared pelf.
Freedom is to be like thee, face and heart;
To know it, Lord, I must be as thou art,
I cannot breed the imagination high.

29. Yet hints come to me from the realm unknown;
Airs drift across the twilight border land,
Odoured with life; and as from some far strand
Sea-murmured, whispers to my heart are blown
That fill me with a joy I cannot speak,
Yea, from whose shadow words drop faint and weak:
Thee, God, I shadow in that region grand.

30. O Christ, who didst appear in Judah land,
Thence by the cross go back to God's right hand,
Plain history, and things our sense beyond,
In thee together come and correspond:
How rulest thou from the undiscovered bourne
The world-wise world that laughs thee still to scorn?
Please, Lord, let thy disciple understand.

31. 'Tis heart on heart thou rulest. Thou art the same
At God's right hand as here exposed to shame,
And therefore workest now as thou didst then--
Feeding the faint divine in humble men.
Through all thy realms from thee goes out heart-power,
Working the holy, satisfying hour,
When all shall love, and all be loved again.

JUNE. 1. FROM thine, as then, the healing virtue goes
Into our hearts--that is the Father's plan.
From heart to heart it sinks, it steals, it flows,
From these that know thee still infecting those.
Here is my heart--from thine, Lord, fill it up,
That I may offer it as the holy cup
Of thy communion to my every man.

2. When thou dost send out whirlwinds on thy seas,
Alternatest thy lightning with its roar,
Thy night with morning, and thy clouds with stars
Or, mightier force unseen in midst of these,
Orderest the life in every airy pore;
Guidest men's efforts, rul'st mishaps and jars,--
'Tis only for their hearts, and nothing more.

3. This, this alone thy father careth for--
That men should live hearted throughout with thee--
Because the simple, only life thou art,
Of the very truth of living, the pure heart.
For this, deep waters whelm the fruitful lea,
Wars ravage, famine wastes, plague withers, nor
Shall cease till men have chosen the better part.

The above is excerpted from George MacDonald's A Book of Strife in the Form of The Diary of an Old Soul (Public Domain, 1880). For further information see this post. These are the entries for/from May 28 through June 3. I'm posting this on Saturday, as I don't expect to be able to post anything on Sunday, or read your blogs, either. Thanks for reading!

Friday, May 26, 2006

Questioning Ruth

A few thoughts on the Book of Ruth.

1) What happened to Ruth's parents? Why didn't they question her decision to travel back to Bethlehem? Were they already dead? Did Ruth ever go back to visit them? Were they, as worshipers of false gods, eternally lost? The Bible doesn't tell us any of these things. What happened to their daughter was the best thing that could have happened to her, even if they never saw her again. She found the true God, and, apparently, love and marriage.

2) What would have happened if Mahlon hadn't died? Presumably Ruth would have never left Moab, and we'd have never heard of her. God could have worked something else out for filling the role of Boaz' wife, but he used the death of Mahlon to bring about his plan.

3) Was Ruth good-looking? The Bible doesn't say. Probably gleaning in a hot field doesn't do much for makeup and hairstyle, but Boaz seems to have been attracted to her. The Bible does refer to Ruth's character, in Ruth 2:11-12, and Boaz is the speaker. Boaz was probably considerably older, as he was the owner of a large farm, and referred to Ruth as "my daughter" in 3:10. There is no mention of another wife, either before or after he married Ruth. Apparently there was something about her, probably both her looks and her character, that attracted both Mahlon and Boaz to her.

4) Why isn't Ruth mentioned in Hebrews 11? Rahab is. (And while I'm at it, why is Barak listed among the heroes of faith, when Deborah isn't?)

I don't know the answers to any of these questions, and don't expect to, at least not on this side of eternity. If I needed to, God would tell me.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Sunspots 57


Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:

Twelve humorous hints on how to find things. (In your house, or car, not on the web.)

Chandler, an open-source, hence free, information manager. (Calendar, among other things. The page says it integrates e-mail, but warns that it isn't suitable for use in e-mailing. ???)

House of Representatives 810, a bill requiring funding of stem cell research, under certain conditions, passed in May of 2005. There is pressure to hold a vote on it in the U. S. Senate this month.

Carl Zimmer on creating human - animal chimeras. He cites evidence that humans and chimpanzees interbred in the distant past.

In the Scientific American blog, a post, with links to photos, of a second Great Red Spot on Jupiter.

This week's Christian Carnival is here. It was posted earlier, but there was a problem. Then there was another problem. (For information on locating these Carnivals, see here)

When I don't tell where I found an item above, I either found it directly, or was probably pointed to it by the Librarian's Internet Index, SciTech Daily, or Arts and Letters Daily. All of them are great.

Image source (public domain)

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Kwame Brown revisited

Over a year ago, I posted on Kwame Brown, who was the first pick, straight out of high school, in the NBA draft in 2001. He was the first player ever selected first in the draft immediately after high school. (LeBron James was selected right out of high school in a later draft). At that time, Brown had not accomplished much as a professional.

I'm glad to report that he has now had some success, after being traded to the Los Angeles Lakers. He closed the season as starting center, taking a spot with a lot of history. Shaquille O'Neal, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain and George Mikan (with the then Minneapolis Lakers) previously played center for the Lakers. All four of these will probably be ranked among the greatest players of the NBA's first 100 years or so. Abdul-Jabbar, Chamberlain and Mikan are in the NBA Hall of Fame (O'Neal, still playing, is no eligible yet.)

Unfortunately, Brown has been accused of sexual assault. He maintains his innocence. I hope he is right.

Although making all that money must have its pluses, the expectations must be difficult. High school graduates, however much talent they have, can seldom be expected to be mature enough to cope with them. There is something wrong with a society that puts so much emphasis, and so many expectations, on its young. (Or that pays entertainers, be they athletes, musicians, or movie stars, so much. There are some other overpaid people, too.) Recent events with the Duke lacrosse team show that some male athletes think it's OK to hire a woman to entertain them by dancing, and they weren't expecting ballet. There's something wrong with a society like that, too, if nothing else happened in that situation. Such doings aren't restricted to athletes, either.

Thanks for reading. I don't expect to be able to spend much time blogging, or reading your posts, over the next couple of weeks.

Monday, May 22, 2006

And the Walls Came Tumbling Down: Blacks in Basketball

I have yet to see "Glory Road," a Disney movie based on the true story of the 1966 NCAA men's basketball championship game, in which then Texas Western (Now Texas at El Paso -- their basketball web page has a 40th anniversary headline), with five black starters, (the white coach said that he started his best players) beat Kentucky's fabled Wildcats. The movie presumably gives a lot of background.

I have read And the Walls Came Tumbling Down: The Basketball Game that Changed American Sports, about this game, by Frank Fitzpatrick, thanks to one of my daughters. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 1999) This book is, most likely, more accurate than the movie.

A previous post dealt with race in basketball. In it, I cited national columnist George F. Will, who pointed out that there had already been NCAA men's champions who started a majority of black players, and that Texas Western was ranked number 3, so its win shouldn't have been much of a surprise. Yet, as Fitzpatrick indicates, it was a surprise, and it did make a difference. He interviewed a number of black athletes, and many of them said that this game motivated them to strive for success in (then) white-dominated big-college athletics. He also documents how the result of the game changed big-time college basketball. (Kentucky's last championship came with a black coach, Tubby Smith.) There had been a perception that blacks were too dumb to play point guard successfully.

The book details racism in many places, and indicates that there wasn't much of it in El Paso at that time. It indicates what happened to the players from the Texas Western team. (All of them have gone on to successful careers. Most of them graduated from college.) It tells what happened to Adolph Rupp, the coach of Kentucky, and Don Haskins, the coach of then Texas Western. It also indicates that Texas Western's style wasn't freelance playground-type basketball, but disciplined, careful play, as was Kentucky's.

Prejudice dies hard. Although there is still some prejudice in men's athletics, much of that is gone, thank God. Much of this, and most of the next, generation of coaches, athletic directors, and general managers in big colleges and the NBA will be black. There should always be a place for good players, and good thinkers, in basketball, based on their ability, regardless of their race. The same should be true in other sports, and in the more important world outside of sport.

Pat Riley, currently the coach of the Miami Heat, who are about to start their series for the NBA Eastern championship, was one of the stars of the Kentucky Wildcats, in the 1966 season.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Diary of an Old Soul, May 21 - May 27

21. But he who would be born again indeed,
Must wake his soul unnumbered times a day,
And urge himself to life with holy greed;
Now ope his bosom to the Wind's free play;
And now, with patience forceful, hard, lie still,
Submiss* and ready to the making will,
Athirst and empty, for God's breath to fill.

22. All times are thine whose will is our remede**.
Man turns to thee, thou hast not turned away;
The look he casts, thy labour that did breed--
It is thy work, thy business all the day:
That look, not foregone fitness, thou dost heed.
For duty absolute how be fitter than now?
Or learn by shunning?--Lord, I come; help thou.

23. Ever above my coldness and my doubt
Rises up something, reaching forth a hand:
This thing I know, but cannot understand.
Is it the God in me that rises out
Beyond my self, trailing it up with him,
Towards the spirit-home, the freedom-land,
Beyond my conscious ken, my near horizon's brim?

24. O God of man, my heart would worship all
My fellow men, the flashes from thy fire;
Them in good sooth my lofty kindred call,
Born of the same one heart, the perfect sire;
Love of my kind alone can set me free;
Help me to welcome all that come to me,
Not close my doors and dream solitude liberty!

25. A loving word may set some door ajar
Where seemed no door, and that may enter in
Which lay at the heart of that same loving word.
In my still chamber dwell thou always, Lord;
Thy presence there will carriage true afford;
True words will flow, pure of design to win;
And to my men my door shall have no bar.

26. My prayers, my God, flow from what I am not;
I think thy answers make me what I am.
Like weary waves thought follows upon thought,
But the still depth beneath is all thine own,
And there thou mov'st in paths to us unknown.
Out of strange strife thy peace is strangely wrought;
If the lion in us pray--thou answerest the lamb.

27. So bound in selfishness am I, so chained,
I know it must be glorious to be free
But know not what, full-fraught, the word doth mean.
By loss on loss I have severely gained
Wisdom enough my slavery to see;
But liberty, pure, absolute, serene,
No freëst-visioned*** slave has ever seen.

This was written quite a while ago, and in poetry, hence I don't always understand fully. Here are my notes on three words above:

* I assume he means "submissive"

** Remedy. I guess he means that following God's will is the remedy for our problems.

*** I'm guessing that this simply means a slave who longs for freedom.

The above is excerpted from George MacDonald's A Book of Strife in the Form of The Diary of an Old Soul (Public Domain, 1880). For further information see this post. These are the entries for/from May 21 through May 27.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Isn't God a great artist? part 2

lichens on maple tree bark 2

The previous post showed a colorful landscape in Arizona. This one shows a small section of tree bark in South Carolina, with about four types of lichen, exhibiting what I take as interesting shapes, growing on it. In both cases, I submit that God is a great artist. He didn't have to create all the colors and shapes that He did, or make them possible, and we didn't have to be sensitive to all the colors. (Some humans don't see all the colors that the rest of us do.)

I'm not trying to make a serious argument from design for the existence of God. That has been done. I recognize that there is at least one flaw in the previous paragraph, namely that some insects can see colors that we can't. Presumably this means that we are deprived of some beauty that we could see if we could perceive ultraviolet. What I'm mainly saying is that I am grateful for the beauty that I can see, and to God.

Thanks for reading. To see a larger photo of the above photo, click on it. To see an even larger photo, click on the little "All Sizes" magnifying glass just above the photo in its Flickr page. To read more about lichens, go here.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Isn't God a great artist?

red rocks 3

Psalm 111:2 Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them. 3 Full of splendor and majesty is his work, and his righteousness endures forever. (ESV)

Taken in the redrock (or maybe red rock) country, near Sedona, Arizona, an area where the greatness of God's works is spectacular. For a larger size, or more photos, click on the photo above. The greatness of his works is also visible in small, common things.

Thanks for reading, and looking!

Part two, featuring a much smaller landscape, is here.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

On selecting a digital camera

April posted one of our Flickr photos, as part of a request for advice on purchasing a digital camera.

I have commented three times (so far) on her post, and decided to make my thoughts into a post of my own. Thanks, April!

First, why would anyone want to get a digital camera? They are expensive, compared to traditional cameras. I have been to weddings where the guests were given disposable traditional cameras to use, they can be so cheap. My answer? Ease in communication. You can easily e-mail digital photos, use them in a presentation, or place them on the web. There are other advantages, too:
Digital photos are easy to screen and cull. In many cases, you can do it in the camera. You don't have to get the film developed to see which photos aren't worth keeping.

Digital photos can be easily edited. Many cameras come with good editing software. You can purchase good software for a hundred dollars or less. Most photos, digital or on film, could stand to be cropped, that is, have the parts you don't need removed, so as to emphasize what you do need. Other common improvements you can make with editing software are to brighten a photo, or increase the contrast, or the reverse. Much more sophisticated manipulation can be done. (See the first item in the images section of this post, for a good example.) Manipulations like these are beyond almost everybody with traditional film, but most people can pick up the basic tasks of editing with digital photos.

Digital photos are easy to store. You can make backups the same way you do with your other important computer files. You are backing up your files, aren't you?

Having established that digital cameras can be useful items, how to select one? I have a few rather idiosyncratic guidelines:

1) Be sure you get enough memory. Most digital cameras come with enough memory to store about 8-12 photos, and that's just not enough. Buy a memory stick, or some such, so that you can store at least 50-100 photos before transferring them to your computer, or changing to another memory card/stick/whatever.

2) Some cameras do not have batteries that can be removed, and replaced (the entire camera has to be connected to house current to recharge it). Avoid them. You need to be able to change batteries if they run dry, right there at the wedding/sporting event/hike/picnic whatever. Have a spare set of batteries with you whenever you take the camera.

3) Zooming: I found, after over 3 years with our first camera, that I wished I could zoom to get better photos close up. There are digital and optical zooms. Digital zooms (where the software adds in pixels) help some, but not very much, compared to optical zoom. However, the problem with an optical zoom (where the glass lens does the work) is that it usually makes the camera larger, or you have to carry a special add-on lens for it. I decided it was worth it, for me. It won't be for everyone. Zooming also lets you take better photos of distant objects.

4) Digital cameras tend to be slow. The dog, or the baby, has changed position before you can capture it. Look for a rapid response.

5) Get a camera with a large viewing screen, the larger, the better. You can see what you are getting, you can check your photos to delete the bad ones, and you can even pass the camera around to share your pictures without waiting for a print-out or putting them on your computer.

6) Digital cameras change rapidly. The life of a particular model is generally less than a year. For most people, especially most people getting their first one, having a newly released model isn't of primary importance, and retailers reduce the prices of the models that are six months old or so, making them more attractive.

7) You shouldn't spend a few hundred dollars without doing some research. There are sites that review digital cameras. As far as I know, they aren't influenced by advertising. Here are some of them: dpreview, megapixel, CNet and imaging resource, which latter I have found to be especially helpful.

8) Try before buying. Borrow a friend's digital camera. Try it out, and work with downloading to your computer. Find out what you like, and don't like. The display cameras in retail stores usually can be used, even when they are tethered to the shelf. Take a few photos. See what they look like.

After you get a digital camera, join Flickr. They have a free membership, for up to 200 photos (for having more that you and others can see, it's $29.95 per year), and your friends can look at them (so can everybody else in the world) without having to join it themselves, so long as you send them the URL. (Here's mine) Some on-line sites require passwords even to look at photos of your cousins. Flickr doesn't. Besides, as I can testify, it's addictive. But that's another story.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Sunspots 56


Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:

A site about ethanol use for fuel (ethanol from corn).

Stephen L. Carter defends the ACLU.

Thanks to a correspondent, an article on a bear, hybrid between grizzly and polar bear.

Kevin on how to preach biblically, especially about tithing.

A report on the sequencing of DNA from Neanderthals.

Melinda has some thoughts on the ethics of Google. (See the comments, too.)


Some images:

mary2678 has posted a group of photos showing how to clone yourself photographically (combined with some demonstrations of acrobatics). To see the whole thing, with her excellent work at both ends of the camera, start here, and click on the thumbnail photos at the right.

NASA has produced what it says are the highest-definition photos of the earth from space so far.

New Scientist says that the biggest map of the universe ever has been produced.

This week's Christian Carnival is here. (For information on locating these Carnivals, see here)

When I don't tell where I found an item above, I either found it directly, or was probably pointed to it by the Librarian's Internet Index, SciTech Daily, or Arts and Letters Daily. All of them are great.

Image source (public domain)

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Word puzzle

Think of a two-letter word, such that when the letters are reversed, a new word, commonly used, is made. (Example: start with the opposite of "off.")

OK. Now think of a three-letter word that has letters that can be re-arranged so that you can make three or more distinct, relatively common, three-letter* English words out of them. (No proper names, such as Joe, allowed)

Can you think of a four-letter word that has letters that can be re-arranged so that you can make four or more words, using the same constraints? How about a five-letter word with letters that can make five or more words, six, etc.? Post your answers as a comment.

I found three-letter and four-letter in a few minutes. I didn't find five- and six-letter words that fit, at least not yet.

There are only two possible arrangements of the letters in a two-letter word. There are six arrangements of the letters in a three-letter word, provided they are unique. (The first one can be any one of the three, then the second either of the two left, then the third the remaining letter, so the number of possibilities is 3 x 2 x 1, or 6.) By similar reasoning, there are 4 x 3 x 2 x 1 = 24 possible arrangements of four unique letters, and 5 x 4 x 3 x 2 x 1 = 120 possible arrangements of five unique letters, and so on.

Try it! Thanks for reading.

*Katherine spotted a misprint here, which I have corrected. Thanks!

Monday, May 15, 2006

God of Concrete, God of Steel

A kind commenter to my post of two days ago mentioned the hymn, "God of Concrete, God of Steel," and a second commenter then commented on that. As my blog responses go, that's a landslide. Thanks, gentlemen! I should have thought of it myself, as this poem is very relevant to the topic of that post.

As the title suggests, the words to this poem/hymn are about how God is Lord even of human creations. In case you have never thought about it before, concrete and steel are not natural. That is, they don't occur in nature. They are man-made materials. God, of course, provided the raw materials, and allowed some human to invent, and I suppose, other humans to refine these components of modern life to their present usefulness and ubiquity. Therefore, God is Lord even of these, as much as He is Lord of iron ore or sand.

I don't believe that the poem is old enough to have reached public domain (the word "freeway" occurs in it!) so I won't quote more than the title/first line. I will say that the first three stanzas mention many of the creations or concerns of technology, but the final one is on the power and love of God. It's a good poem!

This may be inappropriate, given what I said about copyright and these words, but, since anyone interested will probably do a Google search for it anyway, I'll go ahead and provide a link to a blogger who has posted all the words. As he suggests, it may be sung to several tunes, including the most common one for "Rock of Ages." (References in his post and the comments to the Dover, Pennsylvania, school board have to do with a recent court case wherein the teaching of Intelligent Design was mandated by this body. The board lost that case.)

I'm not going to waken my wife by rummaging through a bookcase at this hour to check, but I'm pretty sure that this hymn is in what was once the official hymnal of The Wesleyan Church, and one or more kindred bodies, namely Hymns of Faith and Life (Light and Life Press & The Wesley Press (1976)).

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Diary of an Old Soul, May 14 - 20

14. This versing, even the reading of the tale
That brings my heart its joy unspeakable,
Sometimes will softly, unsuspectedly hale
That heart from thee, and all its pulses quell.
Discovery's pride, joy's bliss, take aback my sail,
And sweep me from thy presence and my grace,
Because my eyes dropped from the master's face.

15. Afresh I seek thee. Lead me--once more I pray--
Even should it be against my will, thy way.
Let me not feel thee foreign any hour,
Or shrink from thee as an estranged power.
Through doubt, through faith, through bliss, through stark dismay,
Through sunshine, wind, or snow, or fog, or shower,
Draw me to thee who art my only day.

16. I would go near thee--but I cannot press
Into thy presence--it helps not to presume.
Thy doors are deeds; the handles are their doing.
He whose day-life is obedient righteousness,
Who, after failure, or a poor success,
Rises up, stronger effort yet renewing--
He finds thee, Lord, at length, in his own common room.

17. Lord, thou hast carried me through this evening's duty;
I am released, weary, and well content.
O soul, put on the evening dress of beauty,
Thy sunset-flush, of gold and purple blent!--
Alas, the moment I turn to my heart,
Feeling runs out of doors, or stands apart!
But such as I am, Lord, take me as thou art.

18. The word he then did speak, fits now as then,
For the same kind of men doth mock at it.
God-fools, God-drunkards these do call the men
Who think the poverty of their all not fit,
Borne humbly by their art, their voice, their pen,
Save for its allness, at thy feet to fling,
For whom all is unfit that is not everything.

19. O Christ, my life, possess me utterly.
Take me and make a little Christ of me.
If I am anything but thy father's son,
'Tis something not yet from the darkness won.
Oh, give me light to live with open eyes.
Oh, give me life to hope above all skies.
Give me thy spirit to haunt the Father with my cries.

20. 'Tis hard for man to rouse his spirit up--
It is the human creative agony,
Though but to hold the heart an empty cup,
Or tighten on the team the rigid rein.
Many will rather lie among the slain
Than creep through narrow ways the light to gain--
Than wake the will, and be born bitterly.

The above is excerpted from George MacDonald's A Book of Strife in the Form of The Diary of an Old Soul (Public Domain, 1880). For further information see this post. These are the entries for/from May 14 through May 20.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Technological ability from God

Exodus 31:1 The Lord said to Moses, 2 “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, 3 and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, 4 to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, 5 in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft. 6 And behold, I have appointed with him Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. And I have given to all able men ability, that they may make all that I have commanded you: (ESV)

This is one of several examples in the Bible that indicate that technological ability is a gift from God, that can be used to His glory. I don't know of any examples from the New Testament, unless it be Paul's tentmaking, or the fishing ability of Peter and his companions, but I suspect that God has endowed certain people with such abilities, even to the present time. I'll mention a few who might have been so endowed, and who used the ability to God's glory: Johannes Kepler, Gregor Mendel, George Washington Carver. Can you think of any others?

Thanks for reading.

* * * * *

Addendum, May 15th 06.

The poem/hymn, "God of Concrete, God of Steel" was mentioned in the comments to this post. (I should have thought of it myself!) I have posted about this hymn here. Thanks for the comments!

Friday, May 12, 2006

Jane Langton on types of fantasy

I have recently acquired Fantasists on Fantasy. It's a good book, containing essays by several authors of fantastic literature, including C. S. Lewis, George MacDonald, and J. R. R. Tolkien. An author I wasn't familiar with is Jane Langton. She writes:
. . . I've been sorting and categorizing a lot of old and new favorites to see if I can make some sort of sense out of them. The result is a modest set of conclusions concerning the three primary questions which each fantasy asks and answers What if? Then what? So what?
. . . What if rugs could fly? What if pigs could talk? Every writer of fantasy poses a what-if question that is the theme of his book. He can ask it in many ways, and all of these ways are different approaches to the dividing line between truth (the real world) and fantasy (the unreal world). For E. Nesbit, the dividing line was a piece of cloth. - pp. 165-6, emphasis in original.

Her essay attempts to categorize fantastic literature. Here's my summary of her eight categories.
Her first category does not, as she puts it, go through the cloth from the real to the other side. In this category, which she calls tall tales, reality is exaggerated. I don't have a good example. Hers is from a story where someone invents a device that attracts mice, like the Pied Piper's.

Her second category is when the characters go through the cloth, from the real to the fantastic side, by use of some device, such as the wardrobe in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis. As Langton says, sometimes it's not a device, but a person, like Mary Poppins. She also says that, in this kind of book, everything comes back to the real side at the end.

In the third type, the two worlds, fantastic and real, exist side-by-side, as in Norton's books about the Borrowers.

In the fourth, we are totally in the fantastic realm, in once-upon-a-time. Langton describes it:
If we were to place it vaguely in space and time, we would attach it to northern Europe and sometime between the fall of Rome and the invention of the internal-combustion engine, and populate it exclusively with wizards, witches, jesters, goose-girls, youngest sons, aristocrats of royal blood, absolute monarchs, and a scattering of peasantry. p. 169.

The fifth kind answers the what-if question "What if animals could talk?" The Wind in the Willows is an example.

In her sixth kind, characters go to a different time and return.

In her seventh, there are ghosts.

Her eighth category is science fiction, in which, she says "the curtain hangs between a finite present and a kind of infinite future, a time in which the possibilities of knowledge will be infinitely extended or in which nature itself will be discovered to be infinitely varied." p. 173.

-Jane Langton, "The Weak Place in the Cloth: A Study of Fantasy for Children" Fantasists on Fantasy, edited by Robert H. Boyer and Kenneth J. Zahorski. New York: Avon Books, 1984. pp. 163-179. Originally published in The Horn Book Magazine, October and December 1973, pp. 433-441 and 570-578. The material above is from the first part only.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Michael Wittmer on the Image of God

In some earlier posts, I remarked on some thoughts of John Calvin, Matthew Henry and John Wesley, about the meaning of the image of God. I continue the series, using some current thinkers. Here's a recent post.

Michael Wittmer is the author of Heaven is a Place on Earth: Why Everything You Do Matters to God (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004). The definition of the image of God is not the main theme of his book, but he has thought about it, and writes about it at some length.

He says the following:
The image of God is what separates us from other creatures. (p. 76)

Some of the image of God remains, in spite of the Fall. He cites Genesis 9:6, which says "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image" and James 3:9, which says, about the tongue: "With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God." (ESV)

Some of the image of God was lost in the Fall. He cites Colossians 3:10 and Ephesians 4:22-24, which say that we are to have ourselves renewed by conversion, which, he says, means that some of God's image was lost to us.

The image of God may be thought of as in two parts. One, the ontological part, includes "higher intellect, free will, conscience and ability for logic and language. These capacities remain active even in fallen people . . ." (p. 81) The other, the ethical part, must be restored.

"God has given us our godlike capacities for language and reflection so that we might enter into three distinct relationships." (p. 82) These relationships are with God, with other people, and with the rest of creation. A scriptural reason why he thinks this is because Genesis 1:27 ties humans being in the image of God with humans being both male and female. Wittmer says that the Fall damaged our relationships in all three of these areas, and that redemption makes it possible for all of them to be at least partly restored.

Thanks for reading. I hope to post on this again.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Sunspots 55


Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:

Thanks to a correspondent who sent me these two links:

Visible Earth is a site with images of the earth from NASA.

The official Vatican astronomer says that young-earth creationism is a "form of superstitions paganism"

From blog.bioethics.net, a post linking to two research articles indicating that not only do next of kin have trouble in making end-of-life decisions as a terminal patient would want them to, but patients make different decisions for themselves as their condition changes.

President Bush delivered a commencement address at Oklahoma State U., mostly about the benefits and risks of technology in our lives.

Some photos of tiny animals from the Sargasso Sea.

Kevin Wright on relevant preaching (he thinks it's got its dangers).

This week's Christian Carnival is at this blog. I don't have a URL for the Carnival post, itself. (For information on locating these Carnivals, see here)

When I don't tell where I found an item above, I either found it directly, or was probably pointed to it by the Librarian's Internet Index, SciTech Daily, or Arts and Letters Daily. All of them are great.

Image source (public domain)

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Not understanding a miracle: How often have I done this?

In Mark 6:40-52, there is an amazing juxtaposition of two stories. First, Jesus feeds a multitude of people, at least five thousand, using two loaves to give everyone bread. Second, he walks on the sea and calms a storm. The really amazing part is in verse 52, which says "for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened." (ESV). The twelve disciples had seen, even helped out, with the first miracle, but were not expecting the second. How many times have I done this?

Monday, May 08, 2006

The Commander of God's armies meets Joshua

Joshua 5:13 When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” 14 And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the Lord. Now I have come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?” 15 And the commander of the Lord's army said to Joshua, “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so. (ESV)

Note that the commander didn't answer Joshua's question. It would have been inappropriate for him to do so. The question was not whose side he was on, but whose side Joshua was on. In other words, was Joshua on God's side, or not? There's a moral here for me. I don't want to know how many times I have wanted God to bless something I wanted to do, when I should have been asking God what He wanted me to do.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Diary of an Old Soul, May 7 - May 13

7. If thou hadst closed my life in seed and husk,
And cast me into soft, warm, damp, dark mould,
All unaware of light come through the dusk,
I yet should feel the split of each shelly fold,
Should feel the growing of my prisoned heart,
And dully dream of being slow unrolled,
And in some other vagueness taking part.

8. And little as the world I should foreknow
Up into which I was about to rise--
Its rains, its radiance, airs, and warmth, and skies,
How it would greet me, how its wind would blow--
As little, it may be, I do know the good
Which I for years half darkling have pursued--
The second birth for which my nature cries.

9. The life that knows not, patient waits, nor longs:--
I know, and would be patient, yet would long.
I can be patient for all coming songs,
But let me sing my one monotonous song.
To me the time is slow my mould among;
To quicker life I fain would spur and start
The aching growth at my dull-swelling heart.

10. Christ is the pledge that I shall one day see;
That one day, still with him, I shall awake,
And know my God, at one with him and free.
O lordly essence, come to life in me;
The will-throb let me feel that doth me make;
Now have I many a mighty hope in thee,
Then shall I rest although the universe should quake.

11. Haste to me, Lord, when this fool-heart of mine
Begins to gnaw itself with selfish craving;
Or, like a foul thing scarcely worth the saving,
Swoln up with wrath, desireth vengeance fine.
Haste, Lord, to help, when reason favours wrong;
Haste when thy soul, the high-born thing divine,
Is torn by passion's raving, maniac throng.

12. Fair freshness of the God-breathed spirit air,
Pass through my soul, and make it strong to love;
Wither with gracious cold what demons dare
Shoot from my hell into my world above;
Let them drop down, like leaves the sun doth sear,
And flutter far into the inane and bare,
Leaving my middle-earth calm, wise, and clear.

13. Even thou canst give me neither thought nor thing,
Were it the priceless pearl hid in the land,
Which, if I fix thereon a greedy gaze,
Becomes not poison that doth burn and cling;
Their own bad look my foolish eyes doth daze,
They see the gift, see not the giving hand--
From the living root the apple dead I wring.

The above is excerpted from George MacDonald's A Book of Strife in the Form of The Diary of an Old Soul (Public Domain, 1880). For further information see this post. These are the entries for/from May 7 through May 13.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Changing Planes, by Ursula K. Le Guin

If both you and your plane are on time, the airport is merely a diffuse, short, miserable prelude to the intense, long, miserable plane trip. But what if there's five hours between your arrival and your connecting flight, or your plane is late arriving and you've missed your connection, or the connecting flight is late, or the staff of another airline are striking for a wage-benefit package and the government has not yet ordered out the National Guard to control this threat to international capitalism so your airline staff is trying to handle twice as many people as usual, or there are tornadoes or thunderstorms or blizzards or little important bits of the plane missing or any of the thousand other reasons (never under any circumstances the fault of the airlines, and rarely explained at the time) why those who go places on airplanes sit and sit and sit and sit in airports, not going anywhere?
In this, probably its true aspect, the airport is not a prelude to travel, not a place of transition: it is a stop. A blockage. A constipation. The airport is where you can't go anywhere else. A nonplace in which time does not pass and there is no hope of any meaningful existence. A terminus: the end. The airport offers nothing to any human being except access to the interval between planes. Ursula K. Le Guin, "Sita Dulip's Method," pp. 1-6, in her Changing Planes, New York: Ace, 2005. Quote is from p. 2.

From this memorable paragraph, one of many in this collection of short stories by Le Guin, she sets up her strategy for the book. She supposes that Sita Dulip discovered how to change planes, or change planets, while waiting in an airport. That is, she was somehow, because of the discomfort in the airport, and her desire to be away from it, instantly transported to an alternate world. Others eventually discovered her method, and some could use it in places other than airports. Using this fictional device, Le Guin examines a number of fictional worlds, each with its own peculiarities, each teaching us something about our own world.

She writes about many things. About corporations, and their evils. About hierarchies, and having kings and queens, about ordinary and exceptional things. About whether being conscious of one's self is a good thing or not. About the terrible things that war does. She is always a good writer, and always leaves you with insights you haven't had before, or with old insights put in a new way, such as:
I am no judge of danger. Only the brave can be that. Thrills and chills which to some people are the spice of life take the flavor right out of mine. . . . Cowardice of this degree is, I know, uncommon. Many people would have to hang by their teeth from a frayed cord suspended by a paper clip from a leaking hot air balloon over the Grand Canyon in order to feel what I feel standing on the third step of a stepladder trying to put millet in the bird feeder. And they'd find the terror exhilarating and take up skydiving as soon as their broken pelvis mended. Whereas I descend slowly from the stepladder, clutching at the porch rail, and swear I'll never go above six inches again. Ursula K. Le Guin, "Confusions of Uñi," pp. 223-239. Quote is from p. 225.

For another blogger's brief, but perceptive, take on this book, see here.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Walking in the Bible

I did a search on the word "walk" in the English Standard Version of the Bible. How was the word used? What were the meanings? (Yesterday's post was on walking in 2006, for exercise.)

The word occurs a few hundred times, depending on how you count various forms of it.

One meaning was the ordinary one of going from place to place on foot. The first such reference is Genesis 3:8, which says that God walked in the Garden of Eden. There are many other examples of such use, including the beginning of the story of David and Bathsheba, which began with David walking on his roof, and looking around as he did so. (2 Samuel 11:2)

Another meaning is in the sense of accompanying God, as in Genesis 5, which says that Enoch walked with God, and was, apparently, so God-like that God took him to heaven. In Leviticus 26, God tells the Israelites that 3 “If you walk in my statutes and observe my commandments and do them . . ." certain good things will follow. The same chapter, which has 10 occurrences of walk, in one form or another, also promises that God will walk with the Israelites, and warns them of bad consequences if they don't walk with God. David is said to have walked with God, in this sense, in 1 Kings 3:14. There are many other examples of this sort of use.

Perhaps there is another meaning, which is to have certain kinds of experiences or emotions. This use occurs in the familiar Psalm 23, verse 4, which speaks of walking through the valley of the shadow of death. This is not a real walk, and it isn't accompanying anyone, it seems. It also occurs in Psalm 136:7, where the Psalmist speaks of walking through trouble.

The phrase, "walk in his integrity," occurs a few times in Proverbs, one being in Proverbs 20:7.

Isaiah 9:2 speaks of walking in darkness, then seeing light.

Jeremiah 23:14 speaks of walking in lies.

Most of the walk words in the gospels are in the literal sense, but there are exceptions, such as Mark 7:5, where the Pharisees ask why the disciples don't "walk in the tradition of the elders."

John uses walking in darkness and walking in light, as in John 8:12.

Here's Romans 8:4: "in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit."

Romans 14:15 speaks of walking in love. 2 Corinthians 5:7 speaks of walking by faith. Colossians 2:6 commands us to walk with him, him being Christ.

The word occurs in Revelation, too, more than once. In Revelation 3:4, Christ promises that His children will walk with Him in white.

I didn't find any great surprises, but I'm glad I did this study. Thanks for reading.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Mall Walking


walk distance marker
Originally uploaded by Martin LaBar.


My wife and I are mall walkers. As this article says, walking in a mall has several advantages, including safety, access to restrooms, and protection from the weather. (There are also disadvantages, such as access to food, hard surfaces, mind-numbing music, and having to drive several miles to get there.)

Most of us mall walkers are retired. Most of us don't move too fast. In spite of this, you can usually spot a fellow mall walker easily. Female mall walkers usually don't have purses/pocketbooks. Walkers head for an exit, but pivot and don't go out. Most walkers keep up a steady pace.

There are some vigorous and/or young mall walkers. Some walkers, some of them mall employees, walk on their lunch hour.

Mall walking has opened our eyes to some facets of human existence that we didn't know about. A substantial portion of mall walkers are handicapped in some way. We have seen people walking with walkers and Oxygen tanks. We have seen others that can't go very far before they have to sit down, and others that have to hold someone's hand while moving. We salute these brave souls, fighting against the ills of the flesh, usually losing, but fighting. Sometimes winning.

Merchants also seem to spot mall walkers easily. Those standing in the doorways and soliciting business usually ignore mall walkers. They tolerate us, even if we occasionally get in the way of real customers going between stores. They even make things convenient for us, as the photo above, taken in the Sunland Park Mall, El Paso, Texas, shows. Mall walkers are encouraged. Most malls open the outside doors early, to accomodate mall walkers before the stores open.

We also observe the merchants. Some of them we don't envy. Thank you, Lord, that I never had to sit or stand, hour after hour, waiting for the rare person who was interested in my merchandise! Thank you, also, that I'm able to walk.

Thanks for reading. My next post is on walking in the Bible.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Sunspots 54


Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:

John Pettigrew has summarized his debate with a person who believes in Intelligent Design. He concludes, among other things, that ID is ill-defined, and has some theological problems. (I found this through last week's Christian Carnival.)

An article in Christianity Today about how Answers in Genesis views Intelligent Design. (They aren't happy)

If you have never seen the terra cotta warriors from China, mscheng has posted a photo, with a little description. (See also my comment on her photo, for more description.) I recommend clicking on the All Sizes button just above the photo. She has also posted a couple more photos of these warriors, here and here, with more description. Her photos, as I have remarked before, give a feel for life in China now, and show scenes that amaze me. (No password is needed to access these photos.)

Rembrandt's 400th birthday is this year.

Worldmapper is an interesting resource. For example, you can find out what countries are experiencing net immigration.

Pastor Perry has some excellent suggestions about praying for one's pastor. (He assumes that a pastor is male, married, with children, but most of the suggestions would apply to pastors of any type.)

This week's Christian Carnival is here. (For information on locating these Carnivals, see here)

When I don't tell where I found an item above, I either found it directly, or was probably pointed to it by the Librarian's Internet Index, SciTech Daily, or Arts and Letters Daily. All of them are great.

Image source (public domain)

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Answers in Genesis on the image of God

I continue a series of posts on the meaning of the image of God. The last post is here. I did a web search for substantive articles on the subject. I found a few, not many.

Answers in Genesis has published an article on the meaning of the image of God by John Rendle-Short. As would be expected from this source, the article spends some time (not a lot) arguing for young-earth creationism. I'll not touch on that, as I don't consider that it matters much, in reference to the question of what God's image in humans is.

The author says that the image cannot be bodily, since God is a spirit, with no body, but he writes that:

Language and creativity,—two important parts of the image, are impossible without a body. And God the Almighty agreed to share with man dominion and authority over the animal kingdom (Genesis 1:28), an activity in which the whole man, body as well as mind, is involved. Furthermore the Son of God honored the human body by becoming flesh and dwelling among men (John 1:14) (Hebrews 2:14).

He also says that "God endues man with some of his divine attributes, . . . I shall mention six: language, creativity, love, holiness, immortality and freedom. . . . All can be summed up by saying that man, like God, has an intelligence, a mind." Rendle-Short believes that animals possess little or none of any of these. I started my study for this series believing that Rendle-Short is correct about these attributes. However, he merely asserts this. He has no direct scriptural evidence. That doesn't, of course, mean that he is wrong. The Bible is not very explicit about what the image of God is.

He closes by asserting that retarded humans possess the image of God. He doesn't really explain how severely retarded humans possess, for example, language, or, if they don't, how they may be said to still be in God's image.

Thanks for reading. I expect to continue this series.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Everything You Do Matters to God

I recently read Heaven is a Place on Earth: Why Everything You Do Matters to God by Michael W. Wittmer. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004) It's a solid read, but well written and easy to read, with less than 250 pages. The author is an original thinker, bringing new insights to many topics.

As the title suggests, Wittmer's main thesis is that God's plan for restoring things at the end of time will be to re-establish the earth as the eternal home of humans. He also hits quite a few other areas, and the book would have been well worth reading if he had said nothing about his thesis. I'll hit some high spots.

Wittmer has thought seriously about the meaning of the image of God in humans. I'll consider that in a later post, part of a series that I last considered on April 7th.

On John warning us not to love the world: . . . John is not encouraging us to avoid the beauty of the physical, material environment -- for we couldn't if we tried. As embodied human beings, we can't help but live on this planet, so we might as well enjoy it. John is warning us not to love the sin that is so prevalent in this world of fallen people. Surrounded by sinners who foolishly abuse God's created goodness and then boast about their exploits, we must determine to obey God and thus fully enjoy the creation as he intended. Our problem is sin, not matter; sin, not stuff. (p. 62)

On Christianity and art: I am not encouraging participation in sinful forms of artistic expression. The fall has extensively damaged creation, and in few places is that more evident than in the arts. Certainly we should avoid any music, movie, or visual art that stirs up sin, such as pride and lust. My point is only that we don't need to stamp Christianity on something before we can enjoy it. In fact, our feeble attempts at baptizing creation tend to cheapen both it and the gospel. (p. 67)

On God revealing Himself through humans performing normal human vocations: Although God could directly intervene in our affairs, giving us bread from heaven the way he bestowed manna on the Israelites, he typically chooses to reveal himself within our normal human vocations. Luther encourages us to recognize, through eyes of faith, that the many hands that serve us ultimately belong to God, just as surely as if he had made a [peanut butter and jelly] sandwich appear on my kitchen table. John Calvin agrees. After a lifetime of reflection on God's providence in our lives, Calvin inserted this single line into the final edition of his Institutes. He observed that "God's providence does not always appear naked, but by employing means, God is, as it were, dressed." (p. 130-131)

Wittmer considers the Fall, and what was going on in the minds of Adam and Eve. He points out that the first thing God sanctified, or set apart, was not a person or a thing, but a time, the Sabbath. He considers why God had laws in the Old Testament covenant. He considers the poor in the New Testament.* He says that 2 Peter 3:10 has been mistranslated and misinterpreted. It doesn't say that earthly things will be burned up, but that they will be exposed, or uncovered.

The title is not just about the relative importance of heaven versus the new earth. The "everything you do" part is not an accident. Wittmer emphasizes the importance of doing normal work: What might happen if we told . . . new believers that Christ wants to redeem every facet of their existence? Not content to merely rescue our souls from hell, he intends to transform every nook and cranny of our lives, from how we perform our jobs to how we spend our discretionary time and money. What if we challenged them to deny themselves and serve Christ in every aspect of their cultural lives? What if we diligently studied both the Scriptures and our culture to see how this might go? Wouldn't such discipleship produce the most attractive form of Christianity? Rather than being insulted by our offers of cheap fire insurance, intelligent unbelievers might actually be impressed by the power of the gospel. They might recognize that we are not so heavenly minded we are no earthly good, but that it is precisely our concern for things above that drives to excel at life here below. (p.218)

This
is the Amazon page for this book. It includes excerpts and customer reviews. This is the Christianity Today review of the book.

This book was a great read. It made me think about some fundamental issues. Let's put it this way. I'm turning the SWU library copy back in, and I've ordered a personal copy.

Thanks for reading!


*I made an editorial change at this point on May 7, 2006.