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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Sunspots 580

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

The Arts: Wired on how neon signs are made.

Christianity: Relevant tells us why men shouldn't refer to their spouses as "smokin' hot wives," and analyzes the Song of Songs (aka Song of Solomon) in the process.

Relevant muses about prayer being (sometimes) boring.

Ken Schenck closes a fine series on the Ten Commandments with some thoughts on "Thou shalt not covet."

Computing: Gizmo's Freeware has an annotated list of Android apps that serve as reminders and calendars.

Gizmo's also recommends running VirusTotal on any Android devices you have.

Health: Listverse on 10 feats of human endurance, such as staying awake, or going without food and water, for a very long time.

History: Listverse reports on the 10 richest men (no women listed) in history.

Politics: Politifact finds, after thorough research, that the US does not have the highest personal tax rate  in the world, although perhaps it has the highest corporate tax rate in the world.

Wired tells us that people are modifying existing guns to make their own semi-automatic weapons.

Relevant says that racism is alive and well in the US, even in Christians, and, probably, in you and me, and tells us what we can do about it.

Science: Listverse points out 10 things that one or more species of animals can do, that we can't.

Gizmodo reports that the Caribbean basin makes a very low-pitched sound.

Image source (public domain)  

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Excerpts from Impressions, by Martin Wells Knapp, 2


An impression is defined as "an influence on purposes, feelings or actions."

While we are free to choose the right or wrong, yet we are continually acted upon by influences which impress in different ways. Some of them come silently as the sunshine; others come like the lightning's stroke or thunder's peal; others like gentle zephyrs, and some like the devastating tornado. Every impression has a source. Back of all operating second causes there is with each impression a designing mind which is the source of it. God is the author of all good impressions, Satan of all that are evil.

Hence all impressions are naturally divided into two Classes:
1. Those from our Father, which we will call "Impressions from above." These, if followed ripen into convictions.
2. Those from the devil, which we will call "Impressions from below."

From Impressions, by Martin Wells Knapp. Original publication date, 1892. Public domain. My source is here. The previous post in this series is here.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Sunspots 579

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

The Arts: Listverse reports on 10 interesting dollhouses. Some of them have been used for children's play, some haven't.

Christianity: Heart, Mind, Soul and Strength doesn't think we are capable of understanding God fully (or even close to that.) This is in response to an atheist that thinks that, if there is a God, we should be capable of understanding Him.

Relevant on how to escape sexual temptation.

Christianity Today on how suffering produces sanctification.

Ken Schenck tells us that telling the truth is almost always the loving thing to do.

Health: The New York Times reports that, although there are some disturbing trends in health in the US, such as increased suicide rates, and increasing disparity in the life-spans of rich vs. poor, the health of children seems to be improving.

Philosophy: (Or something) Listverse gives us 10 possible explanations for the feeling of déjà vu. I'm not sure that I'm comfortable with any of them, but they're interesting.

Politics: The New York Times on how rare gun deaths are in other countries.

Wired explains the FBI's terrorist watch lists.

Science: Wired wonders if mockingbirds can be trained to sing "songs" that are less annoying.

Image source (public domain)  

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Excerpts from Impressions, by Martin Wells Knapp, 1

IMPRESSIONS By Martin Wells Knapp
PREFACE The author has written this book for the following reasons: 1. Because of the great need of light and the absence of books on this subject. 2. It is believed that Some have gone over the falls of fanaticism, and that others have been greatly perplexed and hindered in their life work on account of lack of such light. 3. Some who read the two sections, which were published, declared themselves to have been greatly helped thereby. 4. God brought the subject-matter to the author's mind, laid it upon his heart, and opened the way for its writing and publication. He feels that equally with his other books, God has directed and will bless in its circulation and perusal. He also believes that with His blessing upon it, it will prove a light-house by life's sea, which will help to warn of threatening danger, and aid its readers in standing "perfect and complete in all the will of God." To whom be glory forever.

From Impressions, by Martin Wells Knapp. Original publication date, 1892. Public domain. My source is here.

Friday, June 17, 2016

We can't see the Milky Way anymore

God revealed through the Milky Way

National Public Radio, and other news sources, have reported on a study which indicates that most North Americans (and others) cannot see the Milky Way, the galaxy that we are part of, because there is too much artificial light (light pollution) in the sky. That’s too bad, for two reasons, at least.

One reason that it’s too bad is aesthetic. The Milky Way is beautiful. Although it’s not extremely bright, it covers so much of the sky that, when visible, it’s the most obvious feature of the heavens above us. If we can’t see it, we are deprived of one of the most beautiful and majestic aspects of the creation. For comparison, consider your favorite wild flower, or wild bird, or mountain, and suppose that, for some reason, you were never going to see this flower or bird or mountain again. You would be deprived, of some of the beauty that inspires and comforts you, and that’s too bad.

The second reason is that the observation of nature is one of the ways that God is revealed to us. (It’s not the only one, or the most important, but it’s one way.) Because the Bible says so.

Psalm 8 tells us that we should praise God, and also indicates that considering the heavens informs us about our place in the creation:

1 Yahweh, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens!
3 When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have ordained;
4 what is man, that you think of him?
What is the son of man, that you care for him?
5 For you have made him a little lower than the angels,
and crowned him with glory and honor.
6 You make him ruler over the works of your hands.
You have put all things under his feet:

Psalm 97 repeats the first theme:
The heavens declare his righteousness.
All the peoples have seen his glory.

Psalm 19 explicitly says that nature reveals God to us:
1 The heavens declare the glory of God.
The expanse shows his handiwork.
2 Day after day they pour out speech,
and night after night they display knowledge.
3 There is no speech nor language,
where their voice is not heard.
4a Their voice has gone out through all the earth,
their words to the end of the world. 

Such statements are not confined to the Old Testament. Here’s a part of Romans 1:
20 For the invisible things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made, even his everlasting power and divinity, that they may be without excuse.

So, if we can’t see the Milky Way, we are a little less able to worship God, to understand His redemptive work, and to know our place in creation.

Am I advocating turning off all streetlights, or prohibiting driving after dark? No. That’s not my call, and I often use lights at night, sometimes in what I hope is God’s work. But I should realize that, by indiscriminate use of light, I am cutting myself, and others, off from part of my understanding of God. The Passenger Pigeon, once the most common bird in North America, became extinct a little over 100 years ago, due to human activity. We can no longer see huge, majestic flocks of these creatures, and so are also, by that lack, deprived of some once available knowledge of God’s power and majesty. The American Bison, and some rhino species, are not yet extinct, but we are never going to see them in the magnificent numbers that people once did, and the rhinos, at least, may really become extinct. Too bad.

We live in a fallen world, and, environmentally speaking, it seems to become less like God gave it to us by the day. As Paul said, in Romans 8:
19 For the creation waits with eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to vanity, not of its own will, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of decay into the liberty of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now.

Thanks for reading. Look for the Milky Way!

The photo is from Pixabay, which allows such use.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Sunspots 578

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

Christianity: An articulate former atheist describes her process of coming to belief, in Christianity Today.

Ken Schenck on what the Bible says about bearing false witness.

The Environment: National Public Radio reports on a study of light pollution. 80% of North Americans can't see the Milky Way, because of so much light at night. We can't see it from our home. Can you?

Finance: Relevant and other sources report that HBO's John Oliver purchased (he says it's easy to do it) $15,000,000 "worth" of medical debt for about $60,000, and forgave all the debtors.

Health: The New York Times reports that the US is about 25th in the world in infant care.

Politics: Sojourners reports that Russell Moore, an important Southern Baptist, believes that Donald Trump is a lost soul, who should repent.

A woman writes, in Christianity Today, about being refused the use of women's restrooms, and other facilities.

Science: National Public Radio reports on our relationship with dogs. We may have domesticated dogs twice, or perhaps they domesticated us twice.

Listverse describes 10 groups of organisms that have been extinct for a long time. Like Trilobites, and lesser known creatures.

Science News reports that it may be possible to produce fully pluripotent stem cells from adult cells, thus making the use of embryonic cells unnecessary.

Sports: USA Today says that the first 14 LPGA golf tournaments of 2016 were won by young women -- under 23, until a week or so ago. The most recent one, a major tournament, which finished on June 13, was won by the youngest player ever to win a that major, in a playoff with another player who would also have been the youngest. Both are still teenagers.

Image source (public domain)  

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Excerpts from Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton, 74

The mass of men have been forced to be gay about the little things, but sad about the big ones. Nevertheless (I offer my last dogma defiantly) it is not native to man to be so. Man is more himself, man is more manlike, when joy is the fundamental thing in him, and grief the superficial.

Melancholy should be an innocent interlude, a tender and fugitive frame of mind; praise should be the permanent pulsation of the soul. Pessimism is at best an emotional half-holiday; joy is the uproarious labour by which all things live. Yet, according to the apparent estate of man as seen by the pagan or the agnostic, this primary need of human nature can never be fulfilled. Joy ought to be expansive; but for the agnostic it must be contracted, it must cling to one corner of the world. Grief ought to be a concentration; but for the agnostic its desolation is spread through an unthinkable eternity. This is what I call being born upside down. The sceptic may truly be said to be topsy-turvy; for his feet are dancing upwards in idle ecstacies, while his brain is in the abyss. To the modern man the heavens are actually below the earth. The explanation is simple; he is standing on his head; which is a very weak pedestal to stand on. But when he has found his feet again he knows it. Christianity satisfies suddenly and perfectly man’s ancestral instinct for being the right way up; satisfies it supremely in this; that by its creed joy becomes something gigantic and sadness something special and small. The vault above us is not deaf because the universe is an idiot; the silence is not the heartless silence of an endless and aimless world. Rather the silence around us is a small and pitiful stillness like the prompt stillness in a sick-room. We are perhaps permitted tragedy as a sort of merciful comedy: because the frantic energy of divine things would knock us down like a drunken farce. We can take our own tears more lightly than we could take the tremendous levities of the angels. So we sit perhaps in a starry chamber of silence, while the laughter of the heavens is too loud for us to hear. Joy, which was the small publicity of the pagan, is the gigantic secret of the Christian. And as I close this chaotic volume I open again the strange small book from which all Christianity came; and I am again haunted by a kind of confirmation. The tremendous figure which fills the Gospels towers in this respect, as in every other, above all the thinkers who ever thought themselves tall. His pathos was natural, almost casual. The Stoics, ancient and modern, were proud of concealing their tears. He never concealed His tears; He showed them plainly on His open face at any daily sight, such as the far sight of His native city. Yet He concealed something. Solemn supermen and imperial diplomatists are proud of restraining their anger. He never restrained His anger. He flung furniture down the front steps of the Temple, and asked men how they expected to escape the damnation of Hell. Yet He restrained something. I say it with reverence; there was in that shattering personality a thread that must be called shyness. There was something that He hid from all men when He went up a mountain to pray. There was something that He covered constantly by abrupt silence or impetuous isolation. There was some one thing that was too great for God to show us when He walked upon our earth; and I have sometimes fancied that it was His mirth.

Orthodoxy, by G. K. Chesterton, is in the public domain, and available from Project Gutenberg. This is my last post in the series of excerpts, as I have run out of Orthodoxy.  It has been a pleasure to read, and publish, a little of that book for nearly a year and a half, and I thank God for the privilege. The previous post in this series is here. Thanks for reading! Read Chesterton.

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Sunspots 577

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

Christianity: A Christianity Today columnist who is not a Trump supporter cautions against looking down on evangelicals who do support him.

Benjamin L. Corey on the question of whether Jesus was a pacifist, or not.

Relevant has an essay on "How to Pray When You Don't Feel Like it."

E. Stephen Burnett argues that Christians need fantastic literature that appeals specially to them. Maybe so. I confess that I'm not a huge fan of most such literature. (I am a fan of good fantastic literature, whoever writes it.)

Weekend Fisher argues that rational thought is a natural process -- it isn't miraculous. (Which, of course, does not deny that God made it possible.)

Computing: Wired on Facebook's new privacy settings.

Education: Listverse tells us 10 facts about the English language that you may not have known.

History: (and economics, and Christianity) Ken Schenck on what the Bible says about economic structures in society.

Politics: (or economics) Wired reports on a book about the economics of Star Trek, which has what is apparently a fictional money-free society.

Science: Listverse has a post on 10 strange anatomical facts about animals. Among other things, the post discusses the tongues of frogs and the location of a tick's eyes.

Image source (public domain)  

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Excerpts from Orthodoxy, by G. K. Chesterton, 73

But this larger and more adventurous Christian universe has one final mark difficult to express; yet as a conclusion of the whole matter I will attempt to express it. All the real argument about religion turns on the question of whether a man who was born upside down can tell when he comes right way up. The primary paradox of Christianity is that the ordinary condition of man is not his sane or sensible condition; that the normal itself is an abnormality. That is the inmost philosophy of the Fall. And when rationalists say that the ancient world was more enlightened than the Christian, from their point of view they are right. For when they say “enlightened” they mean darkened with incurable despair. It is profoundly true that the ancient world was more modern than the Christian. The common bond is in the fact that ancients and moderns have both been miserable about existence, about everything, while medievals were happy about that at least. I freely grant that the pagans, like the moderns, were only miserable about everything—they were quite jolly about everything else. I concede that the Christians of the Middle Ages were only at peace about everything—they were at war about everything else. But if the question turn on the primary pivot of the cosmos, then there was more cosmic contentment in the narrow and bloody streets of Florence than in the theatre of Athens or the open garden of Epicurus. Giotto lived in a gloomier town than Euripides, but he lived in a gayer universe.

Orthodoxy, by G. K. Chesterton, is in the public domain, and available from Project Gutenberg. The previous post in this series is here. Thanks for reading! Read Chesterton.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Sunspots 576

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

Christianity: Heart, Mind, Soul and Strength asks what we really want to see.

Ken Schenck on four different ways God may interact with us when it seems we should fight something or somebody.

A contributor to BioLogos discusses what the Bible says about whether God intended death to be part of creation.

A commentator in Baptist News Global writes about some things he has learned about transgender people.

Computing: The US Government's information technology is, in at least some areas, woefully out of date. National Public Radio reports that our nuclear weapons personnel use systems with floppy disks. Some of you don't even know what those are, or were.

The Environment: (sort of) Listverse reports (with photos) on 10 places that look like they aren't real, but come from fantasy novels. But they are real.

History: Listverse reports, with interesting facts about the Romani, aka Gypsies.

The Asahi Shinbun (Japanese newspaper, in English) reports on the significance of origami cranes, including four that were apparently made by President Obama, probably with some help from others.

The New York Times has a pictorial report on walls built to keep people out (or in). They haven't stopped lots of people.

Science: NPR reports on the discovery of a really large sponge, which is, presumably, very old.

Wired reports on Tide's stain-erasing pens -- what chemicals are in them.

Image source (public domain)