Monday, September 25, 2006

Smokey Mountain Parrots

The first weekend in October usually finds us in Gatlinburg. We love going there. We call it our "happy place" because when we go there, we leave our cares and concerns at home. Tennessee time is for relaxing and unwinding.

We have a routine. Breakfast at the Donut Friar (a must) for the best donuts around! Let people line up around the block for pancakes, I'll take a Donut Friar eclair and coffee instead every time! The Donut Friar is located in The Village, a little enclave of shops off the main thoroughfare that has the feel of an Old World town. This was purposeful intent on the part of the designers who brought in architectural pieces to create this village with a feeling of oldness. There are plenty of flowers and sitting areas (for my favorite pastime - people watching).

We make a trip to Ober Gatlinburg to race each other down to Alpine Slide. We play putt-putt at Davy Crockett Mini-Golf (mainly so I can hear one of the animated bears say, "I'm in honeybee heaven!" Makes me giggle every time!) We drive through Cade's Cove at dusk to watch the deer and, on occasion, other critters as well.

We try to do new things every time we go. We even tried "Earthquake- The Ride" once - Ugh!

One of the newer attractions we've tried in Pigeon Forge is a place called Parrot Mountain and Gardens. On our first visit, we didn't know what to expect and were very pleasantly surprised! It is a white colonial home on the top of a mountain. A large variety of tropical birds are in outside cages (think more accurately mini-cabins, very spacious). There's a large cage you can enter and feed colorful Lories who land all over you and fight for your cup of nectar! There's the Baby House where you can see a variety of birds in various stages of development. At the end, they have Macaws, Cockatoos, Parrots and more sitting on perches all over the final garden area where you can have your picture taken with the birds and generally play with them. Staff are available to supervise and answer questions.

The best part is this is a Christian business. You visit the birds by winding through a beautifully landscaped garden replete with appropriate Bible verses. And, unlike many Christian ventures, there isn't a hint of a "cheesy" taint to the presentation. We love this place!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

V For Very Good Vile

We just finished watching "V for Vendetta". It's a thought-provoking, entertaining action flick from the creators of the Matrix. Filled with snappy and intelligent dialogue, it draws you in to the story set sometime in the future when the "former United States" is embroiled in a civil war and needing assistance from the rest of the world while England is ruled by a heavy-handed, autocrat called the Supreme Chancellor. In this celluloid Britain, dissent is not tolerated and the government motto is, "Strength Through Unity, Unity Through Faith."

Our hero, or antihero perhaps, is a masked man who is called by the moniker "V" and who expertly and deadly wields knives. The mask and the weapons immediately cause the viewer to harken to other film heroes who were on the outskirts of a corrupt mainstream, heroes such as Zorro, or more recently, Batman.

The female lead is played by Natalie Portman, whose performance proves she is beautiful even when bald. Her character, Evey, is the orphan child of dissidents. Evey meets V in a dramatic fashion and the relationship develops with ever-increasing drama.

Without spoiling the film, the story is an engaging one and, ultimately, a dangerous one as well for it plays on emotions and draws the viewer in to accepting a worldview that is unbiblical. The heroes, the martyrs, in this film are the perverted. The villians are the conservatives. This is subtle and it is masterfully done by tapping into the viewer's emotions and by blatantly presenting the outcasts of society as the Edward Dantes (Count of Monte Cristo) of their era.

For a more thorough look at the worldview in V for Vendetta, read Brian Godawa's take on it here. (Warning: Contains spoilers.)

Enjoy the movie, reject the worldview.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Protestant Praise For The Pope

Pope Benedict XVI is getting a lot of heat for quoting something written in the Middle Ages. Muslims around the world are responding violently, possibly including the murder of Sister Leonela, a nun in Mogadishu. The irony seems lost on them - their violence serves to prove the veracity of what the Pope quoted. The Bishop of Rome has apologized for how people have reacted, but not for what he said. Good for the Pope!

If I hear one more politician say Islam is a religion of peace, I think I'll scream. It is not. Westernized Muslims are not being true to their faith anymore than liberal denominations that sanction homosexuality and abortion are being true to the Christian faith. Jihad is a tenet of Islam. It is not merely a philosophical allegory as some apologists would have us believe. According to Islamic tradition, the complete military subjugation of the earth is mandated by Allah.

Pope Benedict's quote from medieval writings is very important because the writing was done at a time when religious conflicts were seen as just that - religious conflicts. Today the secular western politicians who try fiercely to compartmentalize religion to a private issue without bearing on public policy cannot conceive of people being willing to blow themselves up in the name of their faith. It has to be because of their economic or educational deficits. Their poverty makes them desperate and resentful of our affluence. How many more well-educated professionals have to strap on bombs (or hijack planes) before this paradigm is abandoned?

Our Catholic brothers and sisters have a leader who spoke the truth about the Muslim threat. Here's one Protestant that is very grateful to him.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Talking About The Trinity

At Christ Covenant, we have a Pastor's Book Club. About every six weeks or so, the majority of the church is reading a new book. We usually have a get-together at someone's home and discuss what we've read.

Little did the Pastor know when he chose Ralph Smith's Trinity & Reality: An Introduction to the Christian Worldview that it would prompt multiple discussions. In fact, for the last few weeks, it has been the subject of our adult Sunday School class.

This book is about 200 pages, but is is jam-packed with profound thoughts. Christianity is a trinitarian faith - but what does that mean? Does it go beyond the catechism answer of "There are three Persons in the Godhead: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory." How does (or should) our belief in a triune God impact our lives?

This has truly been a mind-expanding, faith increasing study. Here are just some snippets of thoughts gleaned from the book (it's a safe bet I'll add more later!):

*Because man is at enmity with God, he is also at odds with himself because of the reflection of God is stamped on his soul. As a result, man loves and hates himself, the human race and the rest of creation.

*Genesis 1:27 says He created him and He created them. It means every individual is the image of God, but the race as a whole also images God. What the Genesis story is pointing to is that man, like God, is both one and many.

*With the coming of Christ, we learn that human worship is an analogy of Trinitarian fellowship. In Trinitarian fellowship, we see each Person of the Trinity seeks to glorify the Others. Christian worship has implications for our relationships because rightly seeking the honor and blessing of other people is an aspect of biblical love and an imitation of the Trinity. The essence of work is mutual service and so work reflects the Trinity. Work is always an other-directed and social activity.

*Evil is an improper relationship with God. It is not an entity. To be created in God's image entails the possibility of evil, for man could not be the image of God if he didn't have moral freedom. When man sinned against God, he lost his freedom, because freedom only exists in living for God as the creatures He created us to be. The problem is that now this would-be god finds that not being omnipotent or omniscient is a severe handicap because he has to compete with other would-be gods who don't always acknowledge his divinity.

*In nonchristian religions and philosophies, we see the very essence of evil, the lust for self-deification masquerading as the quest for truth or salvation. Only in Christianity does evil have meaning and a solution. In the worlds of nonchristian faiths the problem of evil is unsolvable.

*In the Bible, for all practical purposes, the notion of Christian life apart from membership in a local church never occurs. To reject baptism, the Lord's supper, and weekly worship is to reject the body of Christ, the bride He loves. This is tantamount to rejecting salvation for Jesus came to save His church, not a conglomeration of unrelated individuals.

I highly recommend this book. You can read more about it here.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning?

I had just picked up my transcription work in Wilmore and was heading home. I stopped to fill up at a Shell station not far from my house. The usual country music wasn't playing over the loudspeakers and I soon realized a plane had struck one of the World Trade Center towers. I hurried home, trying to call my hubby on his cell, realizing almost immediately I wouldn't reach him as he was in class.

Reaching home, I turned on the TV and saw behind Charles Gibson and Diane Sawyer the burning tower. I called the next person I turn to in a crisis, my Mom. As we were talking, we watched as a plane plunged into the second tower. There could be no doubt now. This wasn't an accident. This was war. My country was being attacked.

Will any of us ever forget that sickening realization? I can still see the people running from the building and the soot covering them. I remember crying, "No!" as the first tower fell. I remember the shock and devastation on the faces of the New Yorkers flashing across my screen.

Then the personalization began. What would I be feeling if Bobby were in one of those buildings? DId I kiss him goodbye this morning? Did I tell him I love him? Does he know how much? I called Mom and Dad again.

The Pentagon was hit. Then Flight 93. I ran out of tears as the magnitude of the events settled in like a heavy blanket over me.

In the following days, emotions came over me in waves. I was proud as my president put his arm around a construction worker as he spoke at Ground Zero. I was angry as politicians tried to distance Islam from terrorism. I was incredulous as analysts siad they hadn't developed a scenario where an airliner flew into a building - Tom Clancy had years before in his book Debt of Honor!

I was mostly concerned for my country. If there is calamity in a city, will not the Lord have done it? (Amos 3:6). Our nation wanted God out of our public discourse, out of our public schools, out of our public policy and now, when He removed His hand of protection from us, we wondered why. Scripture says the Old Testament events were written as examples for us. Israel rebelled, God sent oppression until they repented.

We still murder babies by the thouands and call it a woman's choice. We still sanction perversity and call it an alternative lifestyle. Our leaders equate a god of violence and murder and a religion of death with the Almighty God of the Bible. I fear our oppression is far from over.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Rush Hours

I'm in a hurry to get things done
oh I rush and rush until life's no fun.
All I really gotta do is live and die,
but I'm in a hurry and don't know why.

~I'm In A Hurry by Alabama

This is the theme song for our home! We go nonstop from the minute the alarm clock goes off until our cuckoo clock strikes 12:30 a.m. and we head for bed. I have a lengthy To Do List; my hubby's list is longer. Even on days when I feel pretty productive, I look around and the satisfaction is dimmed by how much more I stil need to do. There's the ever-present housework, the work I get paid to do, the volunteer responsibilities, church secretarial work for my hubby, the list goes on and on.

Then there's the wants. There's so much I want to accomplish in this lifetime! I want to write a book. I want to read more books. I want to stand at the end of a rainbow. I want to learn how to decorate cakes. I want to clean my two-car garage out enough so at least one car can go in it! I want to successfully cook a roast (oh never mind!).

There is hope, however. One of the benefits of being in your 40s is you start to reassess. You begin purging the "young person's dreams" that are still hanging around in your psyche. You prioritize and eliminate. My Dad told me every ten years your priorities completely change and what was #1 falls to the bottom of the list. For the most part, I'm finding Dad had a lot of wisdom.

I used to have boxes of craft projects in the garage for "when I have time to do it." A good friend gently told me (in so many words) that I probably wouldn't live long enough to complete them all! Thanks to her, Goodwill received a large bag of men's neckties. (I had this pattern for a bowtie quilt and I thought it would be cool to use actual ties, so . . . ) I've spent this spring and summer throwing away a lot of boxes, real and metaphorical.

My goal for the rest of my 40s is to only be in a hurry when I know the reason why.