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Saturday, June 30, 2012

The purpose of Genesis 1

A scholar has written a four-part essay (each part perhaps a page in length) on Genesis 1. This was published by the BioLogos Forum. In what, for me, was the most important part of the essay, John P. Dickson argues that Genesis 1 was designed as an alternative to creation myths of the time, and, therefore, emphasizes that God's creation was a creation of order, not chaos, and that there was only one God involved. I'm no expert, but his argument seems to be interesting and important.

The link above leads to the third part, which includes links to the other parts.

Prayer, praise and song, 2, by E. M. Bounds

When God is in the heart, heaven is present and melody is there, and the lips overflow out of the abundance of the heart. This is as true in the private life of the believer as it is so in the congregations of the saints. The decay of singing, the dying down and out of the spirit of praise in song, means the decline of grace in the heart and the absence of God’s presence from the people.

The main design of all singing is for God’s ear and to attract His attention and to please Him. It is “to the Lord,” for His glory, and to His honour. Certainly it is not for the glorification of the paid choir, to exalt the wonderful musical powers of the singers, nor is it to draw the people to the church, but it is for the glory of God and the good of the souls of the congregation. Alas! How far has the singing of choirs of churches of modern times departed from this idea! It is no surprise that there is no life, no power, no unction, no spirit, in much of the Church singing heard in this day. It is sacrilege for any but sanctified hearts and holy lips to direct the singing part of the service of God’s house of prayer. Much of the singing in churches would do credit to the opera house, and might satisfy as mere entertainments, pleasing the ear, but as a part of real worship, having in it the spirit of praise and prayer, it is a fraud, an imposition on spiritually minded people, and entirely unacceptable to God. The cry should go out afresh, “Let all the people praise the Lord,” for “it is good to sing praises unto our God; for it is pleasant; and praise is comely.”
The music of praise, for there is real music of soul in praise, is too hopeful and happy to be denied. All these are in the “giving of thanks.” In Philippians, prayer is called “requests.” “Let your requests be made known unto God,” which describes prayer as an asking for a gift, giving prominence to the thing asked for, making it emphatic, something to be given by God and received by us, and not something to be done by us. And all this is closely connected with gratitude to God, “with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto
God.” - From The Essentials of Prayer, by E. M. Bounds.

Although E. M. Bounds died in 1913, this book was first published in 1925, by an admirer of the author's life. Bounds was known for praying from four until seven each morning.

This post is one of a series, taken from The Essentials of Prayer, by Bounds. Found through the Christian Classics Ethereal Library, here. The Essentials of Prayer is in the public domain. The previous post in the entire series on the book is here. Thanks for reading. Read this book, and, more importantly, practice, prayer.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Systems engineers on how to fix the US healthcare "system"

This is not a political post, or it's not meant to be.

Wired has published an article, giving eight proposals, from systems engineers, on how to fix the US healthcare "system." See here for the article. The proposals make sense.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Sunspots 372

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:
 
Science:  National Public Radio reports that some of the most ancient cave paintings might have been done by Neanderthals, rather than by early humans.

The Arts: (or something) McDonald's has released a video showing how they prepare a burger for use in advertising.

Computing: Wired reports on the best Android tablet computer for kids.

Wired also reports that Apple is no longer claiming that Mac computers are not susceptible to viruses, and for good reasons. (To be fair, there are more viruses that attack Windows computers, mostly because there are more Windows computers to attack.)

(or The Arts, or something) The New York Times reviews a book about the project to create an android version of the late Philip K. Dick, who wrote, among things, "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?"

Image source (public domain).

Monday, June 25, 2012

Belief in God among scientists vs. the general public: a graphic

The Biologos Forum has published a graphic, comparing belief in God, and related matters, between scientists and the general public. The post is here. You can click on the post to see a larger version.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Prayer and Trouble by E. M. Bounds, part 1

Trouble and prayer are closely related to each other. Prayer is of great value to trouble. Trouble often drives men to God in prayer, while prayer is but the voice of men in trouble. There is great value in prayer in the time of trouble. Prayer often delivers out of trouble, and still oftener gives strength to bear trouble, ministers comfort in trouble, and begets patience in the midst of trouble. Wise is he in the day of trouble who knows his true source of strength and who fails not to pray.

Trouble belongs to the present state of man on earth. “Man that is born of a woman is of few days and full of trouble.” Trouble is common to man. There is no exception in any age or clime or station. Rich and poor alike, the learned and the ignorant, one and all are partakers of this sad and painful inheritance of the fall of man. “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man.” The “day of trouble” dawns on every one at some time in his life. “The evil days come and the years draw nigh” when the heart feels its heavy pressure.

That is an entirely false view of life and shows supreme ignorance that expects nothing but sunshine and looks only for ease, pleasure and flowers. It is this class who are so sadly disappointed and surprised when trouble breaks into their lives. These are the ones who know not God, who know nothing of His disciplinary dealings with His people and who are prayerless. - From The Essentials of Prayer, by E. M. Bounds.

Although E. M. Bounds died in 1913, this book was first published in 1925, by an admirer of the author's life. Bounds was known for praying from four until seven each morning.

This post is one of a series, taken from The Essentials of Prayer, by Bounds. Found through the Christian Classics Ethereal Library, here. The Essentials of Prayer is in the public domain. The previous post in the entire series on the book is here. Thanks for reading. Read this book, and, more importantly, practice, prayer.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Black Prism by Brent Weeks

I recently read The Black Prism by Brent Weeks. The book has a Wikipedia article, which goes into considerable detail about the setting and the plot, so I'll make this post brief.

This is a fantasy novel, and the first part of a series. (I'm not sure how many books are to be in that series.)

First, a word on the type of magic. The magic in this book has not been proposed before, so far as I know. It is the power to "draft" physical substances from light. That, indeed, would be magical! The ability varies. Some people with such power can use all colors of light, including ultraviolet and infrared, but most others are restricted to one or two colors. The substances produced have different properties, depending on the color. A drafter can, almost instantaneously, produce a missile, or another useful object, provided he or she can see some of the color they need to use. A drafter can produce, over several hours or days, an entire city wall. A most interesting idea. I wonder, though, if the subcreation made by Weeks might not be littered with the work of drafters.

A bit on the characters. There are a few important characters, one female, one an adolescent boy, and two adult males. All are human. (There are no non-humans in the book, except that some people have used too much magic, and become taken over by their color, and their color substance, even bodily.) The characters are well drawn, and appear in situations that caught my imagination, as few other books have done, both in the physical situation they found themselves in, and in their interactions with other people. Characters, especially the adolescent boy, Kip, think for us -- we can read what they think, as much as, or more than, we can read what they says and do, in some parts of the book. There are several minor characters who make appearances.

A bit on the plot. There doesn't seem to be a precursor to this book. Weeks does a pretty good job of explaining what went before, without seeming too didactic, and without giving away too much. If anything, he gives too little away -- there were momentous events, involving all of the main characters, and shaping them in various ways, that took place within their previous lifetimes.

There is a religion in the book. One of the main characters, at least, has his doubts about the reality of the deity of that religion, and its integrity. This is an interchange between that character and his mother:
"Remember what I said," she said.
"Everything," he swore. Even if I don't believe it.
"It's all right," she said. "You'll believe it someday." (p. 539. Note that his mother knows him so well that she knows that he doesn't believe, even though he doesn't say so.)

Thanks for reading. I look forward to reading the next book. I have no idea what Weeks is going to do with it!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Christ's submission: to both Mary and Joseph

Luke 2:48 When they saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us this way? Behold, your father and I were anxiously looking for you.”
49 He said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?” 50 They didn’t understand the saying which he spoke to them. 51 And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth. He was subject to them, and his mother kept all these sayings in her heart. 

John 2:3 When the wine ran out, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no wine.”
4 Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does that have to do with you and me? My hour has not yet come.”
5 His mother said to the servants, “Whatever he says to you, do it.”
(World English Bible, public domain)

In these two cases, it seems that Christ, as a boy, and also as a young man, at the beginning of His ministry, was submissive to his parents, or at least to one of them. We don't know why Joseph isn't mentioned in John 2. Perhaps he had died by that time. I should say that I'm not clear about exactly what was going on in the John passage, but my guess is that Mary was gently pushing Jesus to do something about the lack of wine, and expected Him to perform some sort of miracle. (Why? Had she seen Him do other miracles already? Did she just remember the circumstances of His birth, and of His visit to the temple as a boy? We don't know.)

I find it interesting that all the English translations of Luke 2:51 that I could find said that Jesus was subject, or submissive, to them. Not to Joseph (or to Mary) but to them -- both of them. In this sense, then, both Mary and Joseph were the head of the household.

I have previously written about Biblical cases where wives exercised spiritual headship in a household with a believing husband. I have also posted about submission.

Thanks for reading.

*  *  *  *  *

June 25, 2012: As a commenter points out (see below), the Fifth of the Ten Commandments says that children are to honor their father and their mother.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Sunspots 371

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

Science:  USA Today tells us that recycling cigarette butts has become important.

The Arts: (sort of) Wired has an article, with photos, on trends in office/cubicle design. The article also tells what happened to one paperless office.

Computing: From Gizmo's Freeware, some tricks to recover files you have mistakenly deleted, in Windows 7.

Christianity: Ken Schenck finishes a series on how to read the Bible. The last post deals with the context.

Image source (public domain)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Some important equations

Equals sign, or one equals one: equations.
In the graphic above, there are ten important equations, some apparently simple, some not so simple.


Equal: Agreeing in quantity, size, quality, degree, value, etc.; having the same magnitude, the same value, the same degree, etc. - from Webster's Unabridged Dictionary, Project Gutenberg, public domain

The equals sign, which we now take for granted, was first used in 1557, by a Welsh mathematician named Robert Recorde. (See the Wikipedia article on the equals sign.)

Equations used are these: three equations from “simple” arithmetic; Ohm’s law; Einstein’s energy/mass equivalence equation; Euler’s equation; the law of Sines; An equation for compound interest; Slope-intercept formula for a straight line; Newton’s law of universal gravitation.

The largest equation in the graphic, from "simple arithmetic" illustrates one of the main ideas of arithmetic, namely that a thing is equal to itself. Another one uses a zero, which symbol and concept we now take for granted. Zero was invented in India in the 9th century AD. Euler's equation, also known as Euler’s identity, relates perhaps the most important constants of mathematics, e, pi and i, the square root of minus one. There are other ways of representing compound interest, depending on the situation, but the equation used will cover many of them. The law of Sines has been used in astronomy, to measure distances of bodies within the solar system from the earth.

Two of the most important statements in English that use the word equal are:

Philippians 2:6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: (King James version)

and

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - U. S. Declaration of Independence (I know. At the time, all men weren’t considered equal, and women weren’t included. But it was, and is, a great idea.)

Thanks for looking, and, perhaps, thinking. The graphic is a link to a Flickr page, where larger sizes of it should be available.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Submission: a few thoughts




Submit
A graphical representation of the idea of submission.

Submission is hard for me, and, I think, for all of us. I want to be in charge! John Milton implies that that's what caused the Fall of Satan: "It is better to reign in hell, then to serve in heaven" (Paradise Lost, First Book, line 263)

Mutual submission is a good way to live, in families and other groups. It's not easy.

In case you didn't catch it, note the relative sizes of the u and the i. Thanks for looking. The graphic serves as a link to a Flickr page, where you can see it in a larger size.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Prayer and requests by E. M. Bounds

In Philippians, prayer is called “requests.” “Let your requests be made known unto God,” which describes prayer as an asking for a gift, giving prominence to the thing asked for, making it emphatic, something to be given by God and received by us, and not something to be done by us. And all this is closely connected
with gratitude to God, “with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God.”
 
God does much for us in answer to prayer, but we need from Him many gifts, and for them we are to make special prayer. According to our special needs, so must our praying be. We are to be special and particular and bring to the knowledge of God by prayer, supplication and thanksgiving, our particular requests, the things we need, the things we greatly desire. And with it all, accompanying all these requests, there must be thanksgiving.
 
It is indeed a pleasing thought that what we are called upon to do on earth, to praise and give thanks, the angels in heaven and the redeemed disembodied spirits of the saints are doing also. It is still further pleasing to contemplate the glorious hope that what God wants us to do on earth, we will be engaged in doing throughout an unending eternity. Praise and thanksgiving will be our blessed employment while we remain in heaven. Nor will we ever grow weary of this pleasing task. - From The Essentials of Prayer, by E. M. Bounds.

Although E. M. Bounds died in 1913, this book was first published in 1925, by an admirer of the author's life. Bounds was known for praying from four until seven each morning.

This post is one of a series, taken from The Essentials of Prayer, by Bounds. Found through the Christian Classics Ethereal Library, here. The Essentials of Prayer is in the public domain. The previous post in the entire series on the book is here. Thanks for reading. Read this book, and, more importantly, practice, prayer.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

A definition of Christian speculative fiction

E. Stephen Burnett, of the excellent Speculative Faith blog (there are a few other authors of this blog) has written a post entitled "Define 'Christian Speculative Story.'"

It's an excellent read, if you are interested in this sort of thing, as I am. I have also written about this subject, a few times. The main post is here.

Read Burnett. Perhaps you will read my post, too.

Thanks.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Sunspots 370

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

Humor:  One of National Public Radio's best shows, Car Talk, will cease producing new broadcasts in a few weeks. Too bad!

Sports: Congratulations to the Oklahoma City Thunder, who are in the finals of the National Basketball Association championships, for the first time as the Thunder (the franchise used to be located in Seattle). This is the only major professional sports team in Oklahoma. There are several states with no such franchise, including South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, Virginia, New Mexico, Montana, Iowa, Kentucky, Nevada, Idaho, and others.

The Arts: (sort of) National Public Radio reports on grading student writing by computer.

(and manufacturing, and computing) A blog post about the artistic possibilities of 3-D printing.

Politics:  NPR also has explained the European financial crisis, with help from George Soros.

Image source (public domain)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

C. S. Lewis and the arts -- a good post

I have just seen a good post about how C. S. Lewis felt about the arts. The post is really good -- it's got footnotes to its sources!

The author says something that Lewis also believed, namely that Christians should try to be overtly Christian in their art, but should try to be Christian in their life and soul, and, from that, art that expresses Christianity will emerge. He was right.

Thanks for reading. Read the post.

Monday, June 11, 2012

BIG pearls: Revelation 21:21

Some time ago, I heard a devotional. The speaker said that Revelation 21:21 says that the holy city, after the end of things, will have twelve gates, each one made from a single pearl. I checked this, and found complete agreement among several versions of the Bible. They all say that each gate will be made from one pearl!

The idea is astonishing. So is the agreement among translators! I know that Revelation uses figurative language, and that we should be very careful in taking it literally. But, anyway, I want to muse about the idea of gates of pearl for a bit. (There is an expression, pearly gates, that refers to the gates of heaven.)

A pearl is an object produced by a clam, mussel, or similar mollusc. Layers of Calcium Carbonate are deposited around a foreign object in the mantle of the mollusc. Natural pearls, which develop spontaneously, are considered very valuable, at least if they are spherical in shape. A quick on-line search turned up a necklace, with 25 natural pearls, probably not very large, in gold, selling for more than $18,000. Cultured pearls are produced by inserting a foreign object into the mantle of a mollusc. Different types of material are used.  There are also imitation pearls, which are manufactured, with no help from a mollusc.

Why do oysters produce pearls? Scientists don't seem to be sure, but it is probably a type of immune response -- sequestering a foreign object.

How could there be a gate made from a single pearl? I don't know. The God who made the universe from nothing could certainly prepare a mollusc large enough to produce such a pearl, or He could make pearls with no molluscs at all. Why pearl? My guess is because of their value.

Jesus warned about throwing pearls to pigs. (Matthew 7:6) I suppose that He meant to be careful to value things as God sees them, and not to reject the life with Christ, the most valuable thing. Jesus also talked about a pearl of great price, so desirable that a man sold all that he had to obtain it. He was talking about life with Christ, again. (Matthew 13:45-6)

Thanks for reading. 




Sunday, June 10, 2012

Prayer, praise and song, by E. M. Bounds

Praise is so distinctly and definitely wedded to prayer, so inseparably joined, that they cannot be divorced. Praise is dependent on prayer for its full volume and its sweetest melody. . . .

Giving thanks is the very life of prayer. It is its fragrance and music, its poetry and its crown. Prayer bringing the desired answer breaks out into praise and thanksgiving. So that whatever interferes with and injures the spirit of prayer necessarily hurts and dissipates the spirit of praise.

The heart must have in it the grace of prayer to sing the praise of God. Spiritual singing is not to be done by musical taste or talent, but by the grace of God in the heart. Nothing helps praise so mightily as a gracious revival of true religion in the Church. The conscious presence of God inspires song. The angels and the glorified ones in heaven do not need artistic precentors to lead them, nor do they care for paid choirs to chime in with their heavenly doxologies of praise and worship. They are not dependent on singing schools to teach them the notes and scale of singing. Their singing involuntarily breaks forth from the heart.

God is immediately present in the heavenly assemblies of the angels and the spirits of just men made perfect. His glorious presence creates the song, teaches the singing, and impregnates their notes of praise. It is so on earth. God’s presence begets singing and thanksgiving, while the absence of God from our congregations is the death of song, or, which amounts to the same, makes the singing lifeless, cold and formal. His conscious presence in our churches would bring back the days of praise and would restore the full chorus of song.

Where grace abounds, song abounds. - From The Essentials of Prayer, by E. M. Bounds.

Although E. M. Bounds died in 1913, this book was first published in 1925, by an admirer of the author's life. Bounds was known for praying from four until seven each morning.

This post is one of a series, taken from The Essentials of Prayer, by Bounds. Found through the Christian Classics Ethereal Library, here. The Essentials of Prayer is in the public domain. The previous post in the entire series on the book is here. Thanks for reading. Read this book, and, more importantly, practice, prayer.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Deadheading flowers: musings

I'm going to muse about the topic of deadheading. Read on, if you wish.

My wife has a flower garden. She has a number of flowering plants in it. Generally, it's beautiful, especially when there are several flowers of various types showing themselves.

One practice that she has adopted (and I help with, or do) is deadheading. We cut off, or pull off, flowers that are past their peak, in hope that that plant will produce new flowers, more than it would have otherwise produced. My wife also thinks that removing flowers that have withered, or turned into fruits, makes the flower garden more beautiful. Many flower gardeners agree.

Scientists, and gardeners, have discovered that some kinds of plants will, indeed, produce more flowers if deadheaded, but that some won't.

Why does deadheading work? I have done a little searching, and not come up with a clear answer. My guess is that the flowering heads of some plants send chemical signals back to parts of the plant below them, which signals inhibit further flowering. When the flowering head is removed, the plant causes new flowers to develop. This would be similar to the way in which auxin, perhaps the best-understood plant hormone, inhibits the growth of parts of the plant below terminal buds, a phenomenon known as apical dominance. Most small trees have numerous buds along their stems, but only some of them grow into twigs and branches, and, generally, those buds that do have to be some distance from the terminal bud at the tip of the stem. This effect of auxin is a major influence on the way some plants are shaped as they grow. Apparently, such systems are not found in all types of plants, for flowering, but, probably, they are in some plants.

We don't know everything. One reason that we don't know as much as we would like to about flowering is that scientists still have not clearly identified the flowering hormone, or hormones. (Florigen is the name for such hypothesized hormones.) Not for lack of trying. A chemical called Flowering Locus T, or FT, is likely to be one of the flowering hormones, but almost certainly, there are several, with different roles in the flowering process.

Why is flowering important? Why should taxpayer dollars be spent on research on flowering? There are good answers. Flowers are beautiful. We should preserve and honor beauty for its own sake, and because it is part of the way God's goodness is expressed in the world. Also, flowers are a commercial product, so people make their living from them. A great deal of the food we eat would not exist without flowers. Think of the citrus fruits, of the Rose family (apples, strawberries, pears, peaches, almonds, and many more) of melons of all kinds, of squashes, of beans, peas, peanuts and their relatives, of tomatoes and peppers, to name a few.* Most of us can recognize some of these plants by their flowers, which are often quite prominent. We eat the fruit of these plants, which wouldn't exist without their flowers. (To botanist, a fruit is a ripened flower part, so that we eat bean fruit, even though it's commonly called a vegetable.) The more we can learn about flowering, the more likely we are to be able to continue to feed ourselves well.

Two lessons from deadheading
While deadheading recently, it occurred to me that I often forget the beauty of the flowers around me, in full bloom, while I look for the withered and less beautiful ones. That's a mistake! Similarly, I should concentrate on the good in my life, and put the bad, what little there is, in its proper place.

Jesus didn't speak of deadheading, but He did mention pruning, in a passage in John 15. I need to have the rotten, messy stuff taken out of me -- the parts that are unlike Christ. Why? So that, as my life resembles His more and more, I can bring help in the conversion and discipling of new Christ-followers, and so I can manifest the fruit of the Spirit.

Thanks for reading. Go and deadhead some plants, or seek pruning from God.


*The most important food plants are members of the grass family, corn or maize, rice and wheat. I'm not sure if the same flowering hormones that work on, say, roses, work on grasses, or not. I've never heard of deadheading such plants!

Friday, June 08, 2012

Is evolution true? Well, first, what is it?

Is evolution true? That depends. One thing it surely depends on is what evolution is.

Unfortunately, there are several meanings of the word, and several ways in which it is used, and two people who are having a conversation about the subject may be using different meanings without knowing it. That doesn't make it likely that the conversation will be helpful.

Here's one attempt, as part of an essay on the subject, to identify three different meanings of "evolution."

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

How to keep up with blogs, news, etc.

There is more than one way to do this. Some people check the blog site every so often. Some blogs send an e-mail when a new post is available. Some bloggers post on Facebook when they have a new post.

But there's another, and, for many, a better way. Use the blog's RSS feed, and subscribe to it by some RSS reader. (I use Google Reader, but there are many other ways.)

All this is explained well in a post from Gizmo's Freeware (which site I subscribe to, by the way.)

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Sunspots 369

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

Science:  National Public Radio reports on why raindrops don't kill mosquitoes when the mosquito gets hit.

NPR also reports on why horseshoe crabs have blue blood, and other things you almost certainly didn't know about these animals.


Politics:  (Sort of) The Brookings Institution has published an on-line interactive guide to the location of manufacturing jobs in the US.

Image source (public domain)

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Death threats over the Internet?

Death threats by Facebook? By Twitter? By e-mail? By comments on blogs and videos? Unfortunately, yes. Fortunately, they haven't come to me -- yet.

Leonard Pitts, a fine newspaper columnist, points out, in one of his many good pieces of writing, that there have been at least four cases of death threats, delivered by the Internet, to people who should have had no fear of such, within the last couple of weeks.

The newest technology, he eloquently reminds us, doesn't necessarily make communication any better. Instead, it brings out the worst in some of us. What we need to do is to use wisdom. And, as he says, "There is no app for that."

Thanks for reading. Read Pitts.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Songs of the Dying Earth - Stories in Honor of Jack Vance

Jack Vance is still alive. However, he is said to be blind, or nearly so, and has not had any of his fantastic fiction published since 2004. But his career was long. His first publication was in 1950. That story was set in what Vance called the dying earth -- an imaginary planet, many years into the future, inhabited by people. But what people? Wizards, charlatans, rascals, villains. And some almost human creatures, such as Twk-men, so small that they ride dragonflies. The sun is visibly fading, and those who know how can travel to other dimensions and other planets. One of Vance's inventions is the idea that wizards can't remember more than about three spells at a time. And the names of those spells? Here is quintessential Vance - The Spell of Forlorn Encystment, The Excellent Prismatic Spray - which, respectively, encase the person affected in a small sphere under the earth, far under the earth, and zap the person affected with deadly rods. These are just two of the spells. There are many more.

Vance wrote other fiction, in fact most of his work was not set in the dying earth.

Some of that other fiction uses imaginative spells, too -- such as the Spell of Total Enlightenment.

Vance's imagination has captivated many readers, and authors. His voice is unique. The book which has the same title as this blog post is a collection of stories in Vance's honor. Authors include Elizabeth Moon, Neil Gaiman, George R. R. Martin, Dan Simmons, and over a dozen other luminaries. All pay homage to Vance, and describe his influence on their own work. They also attempt, in some way, to use some aspect of the dying earth, such as Vance's characters, his geography, his non-human creatures, his spells, and, to some extent, even his language, or a combination of these. They mostly succeed, but they aren't Vance.

Here is a quotation from Tales of the Dying Earth, by Vance:

Deep in thought, Mazirian the Magician walked his garden. Trees fruited with many intoxications overhung his path, and flowers bowed obsequiously as he passed. An inch above the ground, dull as agates, the eyes of mandrakes followed the tread of his black-slippered feet. Such was Mazirian's garden -- three terraces growing with strange and wonderful vegetables. Certain plants swam with changing iridescences; others held up blooms pulsing like sea-anemones, purple, green, lilac, pink, yellow. Here grew trees like feather parasols, trees with transparent trunks threaded with red and yellow veins, trees with foliage like metal foil, each leaf a different metal -- copper, silver, blue tantalum, bronze, green iridium. Here blooms like bubbles tugged gently upward from glazed green leaves, there a shrub bore a thousand pipe-shaped blossoms, each whistling softly to make music of the ancient Earth, of the ruby-red sunlight, water seeping through black soil, the languid winds. (Page 17).

And these few sentences, interesting as they are, don't by any means exhaust, or even illustrate, all aspects of Vance's unique style. What sardonic conversations! What vocabulary! And, of course, what descriptions.

The book is worth reading, but Vance is more so. (There are dangers, I am sure, in reading Vance. Some have called him anti-Christian. He is probably not exactly that, just a neopagan who seems to hold all sorts of religion, including many such that he made up, in contempt.)

Thanks for reading.




Sunday, June 03, 2012

Prayer, Praise and Thanksgiving, by E. M. Bounds, part four

Wherever there is true prayer, there thanksgiving and gratitude stand hard by, ready to respond to the answer when it comes. For as prayer brings the answer, so the answer brings forth gratitude and praise. As prayer sets God to work, so answered prayer sets thanksgiving to work. Thanksgiving follows answered prayer just as day succeeds night.
True prayer and gratitude lead to full consecration, and consecration leads to more praying and better praying. A consecrated life is both a prayer-life and a thanksgiving life.
The spirit of praise was once the boast of the primitive Church. This spirit abode on the tabernacles of these early Christians, as a cloud of glory out of which God shined and spoke. It filled their temples with the perfume of costly, flaming incense. That this spirit of praise is sadly deficient in our present-day congregations must be evident to every careful observer. That it is a mighty force in projecting the Gospel, and its body of vital forces, must be equally evident. To restore the spirit of praise to our congregations should be one of the main points with every true pastor. The normal state of the Church is set forth in the declaration made to God in Psalm 65: “Praise waiteth for thee, O Lord, and unto thee shall the vow be performed.” - From The Essentials of Prayer, by E. M. Bounds.

Although E. M. Bounds died in 1913, this book was first published in 1925, by an admirer of the author's life. Bounds was known for praying from four until seven each morning.

This post is one of a series, taken from The Essentials of Prayer, by Bounds. Found through the Christian Classics Ethereal Library, here. The Essentials of Prayer is in the public domain. The previous post in the entire series on the book is here. Thanks for reading. Read this book, and, more importantly, practice, prayer.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Jack Twyman and Maurice Stokes - One of the great stories of the NBA

Jack Twyman, former NBA player, passed away recently. He was a great basketball player, and became a sportscaster, but what he did for his suddenly needy former teammate was far greater, as many news stories are saying. Here's ABC's report on this.

Thanks for reading. Read about Twyman and his friend, Stokes.