Monday, December 22, 2008

Scrooge is alive and well and living in New York

The New York Times ran an article reviewing It's a Wonderful Life (one of my top three Christmas movies). The reviewer cast his jaundiced eye at this American classic and painted everything black. You can read his pitiable perspective here. I read it and rolled my eyes. I'll take Bedford Falls over Pottersville any day of the week and twice on Sundays!

It happens every year - embittered people miss the meaning of Christmas. Is consumerism run amok? Absolutely. Does the hustle and bustle become hassle and bustle? Always. Does that have anything to do with Christmas? Nope.

Christmas is about recapturing the wonder of childhood when you look at the colorful evergreen with presents at its base. It's the way baking cookies takes you back to Christmases long ago.

Christmas is about spending time with family and friends. Remember Christmases past and the loved ones who now celebrate with the once newborn and now reigning King of Kings.

I give gifts to express my love to people and feel confident that the gifts I receive express the same sentiment to me. In this we image God who loved us and gave gifts to men, the ultimate being the gift of His Son. I bake goodies and hand them out to friends and family because I remember Christ was born in Bethlehem - the House of Bread. I put lights on my tree and outside on shrubs because I celebrate the arrival of the true Light of the World. I sing carols because the angels also sang at His birth. And above all, I know that the meaning of Christmas is best expressed, as Linus tells Charlie Brown in the Peanuts' Christmas classic, by:

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Luke 2: 1-14

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Penny's Plaque

Several things made an impression on me the first Christmas I shared with Bobby and his parents. One was that Bobby’s Mom (Penny) had an abundance of Christmas decorations. I found this comforting knowing she had prepared him for my Christmas exuberance! Another was that Penny had extra presents available because she never wanted a guest to feel left out.

Penny always had a birthday cake as dessert after Christmas supper. Christmas was, after all, a birthday celebration. Along those lines, she also had a plaque that hung on her front door that said, “Happy Birthday, Jesus”. The first time I saw it, Bobby gave me that sideways look children give to friends when encountering what they deem as parental folly.

When we were cleaning out the house after her passing, there were few things I wanted more than that plaque. It now hangs on our front door.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Caroling, Caroling. . .

One of my favorite Christmas carols is It Came Upon A Midnight Clear. When the hustle and bustle of the season is making you more Ebenezer Scrooge than Tiny Tim, sing the third verse. And if you want to know why I have hope for the future, sing the fourth!


It came upon a midnight clear, that glorious song of old
From angels bending near the earth, to touch their harps of gold.
"Peace on the earth, good will to men, from heav'n's all-gracious King':
The world in solemn stillness lay to hear the angels sing.

Still through the cloven skies they come, with peaceful wings unfold
And still their heav'nly music floats o'er all the weary world.
Above its sad and lowly plains, they bend on hov'ring wing
and ever o'er its Babel sounds the blessed angels sing.

And ye, beneath life's crushing load, whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way with painful steps and slow,
Look now! for gladness and golden hours come swiftly on the wing
O rest beside the weary road and hear the angels sing.

For lo, the days are hast'ning on, by prophets, bards foretold.
When with the ever-circling years, comes round the age of gold.
When peace shall over all the earth its ancient splendors fling
And the whole world give back the song which now the angels sing.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Consequences of Expulsion

Our church family recently got together to watch the movie, Expelled. This very well done documentary by Ben Stein explores the censorship and virulent hatred of academia towards the concept of Intelligent Design. Even on campuses which tout their policy of vigorous academic debate, there is an Orwellian view that some debate topics are more equal than others and Intelligent Design inquiries need not apply.

What is particularly alarming about the stifling of genuine academic pursuit in the realm of origins are the parallels between the mindset of evolutionists and the mindset of the Third Reich. If you haven’t seen the movie, that parallel may seem to be an exercise in hyperbole, but, unfortunately, it is not.

In his sermon last Sunday, my husband cited the work of anthropologic philosopher René Girard and his scapegoat hypothesis. To summarize (in a far too brief manner), tension in society creates unrest to the point that a person (or group) is singled out as the cause of the trouble and is expelled or killed by the society. This person (group) is the scapegoat. An obvious application is that of the Jews in Nazi Germany, but we see it in business settings, in social settings and even in church settings. People who otherwise may have little in common bind themselves together against a perceived enemy/problem.

There is a concern among some Christian thinkers, that Christianity could become a scapegoat. Already in Canada, tenets of the Christian doctrine (opposing homosexuality, etc) are deemed as “hate speech.” The hate speech legislation proposed in our own Congress has had these troubling elements. New hate speech legislation is already being proposed for the 2009 Congress.

Beliefs have consequences. Evolutionists have told generations of students man is simply a more evolved animal. Yet, society is still aghast when people act like animals as happened in a New York Wal-Mart on Black Friday.

If you have not seen Expelled, do so. Immediately. The words of English philosopher Edmund Burke are a call to action, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Educated Populace

One of our Founding Fathers said democracy depended upon an educated populace. This Zogby poll explains a lot.

Now listen as Howard Stern interviews Harlem voters. He attributes John McCain's positions to Obama in the questions.

More and more we are seeing this election was symbolism over substance. People wanted to "feel good" about demonstrating racial prejudice was no more than they wanted to vote on the issues.

Good grief.

Monday, November 17, 2008

List of Fives

A friend tagged me for this, so here are my lists of fives:

5 joys:
1. Helping my husband and going through life with him.
2. Being with my mom.
3. Being with the kids the Lord has put in our lives.
4. Traveling.
5. Being exposed to new insights and ideas.

5 fears:
1. Losing a loved one.
2. Tornadoes.
3. All multi-legged bugs.
4. Forgetting something really important.
5. Liberals in power.

5 obsessions:
1. Battling the bulge(s).
2. Internet.
3. Christmas!
4. Finding the right shade of red lipstick.
5. Finding a Denver-minted Kansas state quarter!

5 Surprising facts:
1. I’ve bungee jumped.
2. I can’t make an edible beef roast to save my life!
3. My gut instinct has never let me down (except when I’ve ignored it).
4. I saw Elvis Presley in concert twice.
5. Once told a friend hell would freeze over before I became a pastor’s wife. ; )

5 things for which you are thankful (from 2008):
1. My mom is cancer free.
2. The Lord’s tender mercies at my mom-in-law’s passing.
3. My church family.
4. My new cookware.
5. Olivia and Nick.

5 goals that you have for 2009:
1. Lose weight.
2. Read more.
3. Redo bedroom.
4. Clean garage so a car can actually go in it.
5. Have friends and family in our home more.

Now, I am officially tagging others: Guinever, Rosie, Coral - you're it!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Sayonara Stick Shift?

I learned to drive on a manual transmission (and somehow my relationship with my Dad survived this!). I remember being 16 and out with my Dad when he made me stop on a hill with a big truck behind me and take off again.

These days stopping on hills and all the other stick-shift terrors don't phase me. I love the feeling of being Jimmy Johnson when I shift to pass. I love everything about a manual transmission. I love being able to get the jump on a much more powerful car at a red light and then grinning as the muscle car whizzes pass me in a huff. An automatic just doesn't feel like real driving to me.

Alas, my love affair may be ended by force. It seems we manual transmission lovers are few and far between. Here's the sad story.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The King of America?

Good grief. The next four years will provide lots of items about which to blog!

Words have meaning and what words people use often mean a lot more than they realize. The new president's spokesperson chose a word that is, in my view, particularly telling. Here's the link. has already admited a bias in covering the election, now the Washington Post has come clean as well. [Notice both were after the election.]

Friday, November 07, 2008

Say Goodbye to Cheaper Gas

On the President-Elect's web site is the Obama-Biden plan which includes a windfall tax on "excessive" oil company profits. Since corporations don't actually pay taxes but rather pass them on to the consumer - get ready for higher gas prices. If memory serves Jimmy Carter tried the same thing. I see a Carter Administration Redux on the horizon.

While the DNC blathers on about the Bush Tax Cuts only helping the rich, Obama-Biden must be doing "new math" because the numbers don't add up as detailed in this report. The Bush Tax Cuts expire in 2010 and the Democrats have enthusiastically reported they will absolutely let them expire - no extension, no way, no how. So in two years, we will, in effect, get our first tax hike from the new administration.

I need to find my polyester clothes and 8-track tapes because it looks like we're going back to the 7os.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Remembering Michael Crichton

Dinosaurs are in mourning. Michael Crichton has died from cancer at age 66.

Crichton’s books often explored the consequences of scientific advancements without ethical constraints. As a summa cum laude graduate of Harvard with an M.D. from that school, having done post-doctoral fellowship study at the Jonas Salk Institute for Biological Studies and as Visiting Writer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Crichton had the educational background to explore these issues.

My favorite book and subsequent movie of his is Jurassic Park. In what I consider the pivotal quote in the movie, on hearing of the great scientific advancements Jurassic Park technicians have made, Dr. Malcolm warns, “Yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should.”

This theme of ability outpacing morality echoes the sentiments of sociologist and futurist Alvin Toffler in his famous book, “Future Shock”. It continues in our world today as we debate cloning, embryonic stem cell research and more.

Crichton never dodged controversy. In 2004, his book State of Fear was published which questioned the growing concern over global warming. He gave a speech at the Commonwealth Club on the hype which caused quite a stir. He compared environmentalism to a religion. Skeptics of the hysteria over global warming continue to sound the alarm that some “scientific beliefs” were much more faith-based than fact-based. In his 2006 novel Next, Crichton explored the legal and ethical issues of genetic research.

The literary world has lost one of its thinkers. I think I might have to rewatch Jurassic Park soon.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Why I Don't Like To Watch The Evening News

If I ever have a heart attack, the chances are it will occur between 6:30 and 7 p.m. on a weeknight. It is during that 30-minute time period that my blood pressure is consistently elevated to dangerous levels. We no longer have evening news - we only get evening commentaries from the liberal left. No longer is there even an attempt made at objectivity. The blatant campaigning that the majority of news outlets have done for Obama has, I fear, forever damaged the Fourth Estate.

Newspapers across the country are seeing subscription rates continue to decline. To be fair, this is in part due to the increased availability of "know-it-now" news via the Internet. However, newspapers have always had as their strength local coverage, but even that is not holding sway over readers any longer. My local paper is incredibly one-sided on their editorial page and in their coverage of issues. I canceled my subscription because I refused to help their advertising rates by increasing their subscription base. I would rather pay more for a single copy of the paper when I buy it than support their editorial board in any way. I am not alone in this.

Thankfully, there may be a few honest reporters left. Here's one at ABC News who recognizes the blatant bias .

Monday, October 13, 2008

Just One of the Reasons I'm Not Voting For Obama

In Sleeping Beauty, the Prince climbs the jagged mountain, slays the dragon and rescues the Princess. That's a wonderful picture of the Gospel - Jesus the Prince slays the Serpent (Satan) in order to save His Princess/Bride - The Church. Chivalry is a product of a Christian worldview. Men protect women. That's why most conservative Christians were adamantly against women being included in the Selective Service process. The actual argumentation is, obviously, much more developed than I'm presenting here.

Obama doesn't share this perspective. He believes the restriction on women serving in combat should be revisited and he believes women should be included in the Selective Service Process. Read it here.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Pets as Family

Bobby and I often say we wouldn't take a million dollars for our bird Lulu. We couldn't - it would be like selling a member of the family. Pet lovers, you know exactly what we mean and probable agree with the sentiment. An understanding of the bond between pets and owners is why a story out of the Miami Herald resonated so much with me - A dog owner jumped in and punched a shark to save his rat terrier dog. The story has a happy ending. You can read it here.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Ray Barone & The Shorter Catechism

A saw a clip from Everybody Loves Raymond the other night that got me thinking about catechisms.

The faith tradition I grew up in didn’t do catechism instruction, so when my soon-to-become Presbyterian and then fiancé Bobby started studying the Westminster Shorter Catechism, I wasn’t sure what to think about it. It sounded “too catholic” to my Baptist ears!

Now I teach Children’s Sunday School and every week part of our lesson is reviewing questions in the shorter catechism with the goal of memorization. I now have a great appreciation for the catechism and the importance of learning it. This is where Everybody Loves Raymond comes in. . .

In the brief clip, Ray’s daughter Ally has asked, “How did we get here?” Ray and Debra assume the question needs the “birds and the bees” answer and so with great trepidation, Ray gulps and begins his talk with his daughter, saying “When two people love each other...”

Ally stops him and clarifies her question by saying, “No, I mean why did God put us here?” The camera switches to Ray with his classic deer-in-the-headlights look.

I immediately thought of the 1st question and answer in the Shorter Catechism:
What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.

How easily that child’s question would have been to answer. We are put here to have fellowship with God and to glorify Him. A brief discussion would follow fleshing out exactly what it means to “glorify God”, but the basic question would have been answered.

I thought of other questions of life – What are we supposed to do?
Question 39: What is the duty which God requires of man? The duty which God requires of man is obedience to His revealed will.

The catechism discusses not only what is forbidden by the Ten Commandments, but also what is required:
Q. 79. Which is the tenth commandment?
A. The tenth commandment is, Thou shall not covet your neighbor’s house, you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.
Q. 80. What is required in the tenth commandment?
A. The tenth commandment requires full contentment with our own condition, with a right and charitable frame of spirit toward our neighbor, and all that is his.
Q. 81. What is forbidden in the tenth commandment?
A. The tenth commandment forbids all discontentment with our own estate, envying or grieving at the good of our neighbor, and all inordinate motions and affections to anything that is his.

Great reminders in our age of class envy!

The catechism has Scripture references for all the answers, so a Bible Study is just waiting for you with each subject. I am currently trying to memorize this because I can see the benefits of being able to recall these succinct explanations when questions arise.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Modern Day Deborah

I’ve been thinking a lot about chapter 4 of the Book of Judges in the last week or so:

Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time. She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites came to her to have their disputes decided. She sent for Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, "The LORD, the God of Israel, commands you: 'Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead the way to Mount Tabor. I will lure Sisera, the commander of Jabin's army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands.' "

Barak said to her, "If you go with me, I will go; but if you don't go with me, I won't go." "Very well," Deborah said, "I will go with you. But because of the way you are going about this, the honor will not be yours, for the LORD will hand Sisera over to a woman." So Deborah went with Barak to Kedesh, where he summoned Zebulun and Naphtali. Ten thousand men followed him, and Deborah also went with him.

Now Heber the Kenite had left the other Kenites, the descendants of Hobab, Moses' brother-in-law, and pitched his tent by the great tree in Zaanannim near Kedesh. When they told Sisera that Barak son of Abinoam had gone up to Mount Tabor, Sisera gathered together his nine hundred iron chariots and all the men with him, from Harosheth Haggoyim to the Kishon River.

Then Deborah said to Barak, "Go! This is the day the LORD has given Sisera into your hands. Has not the LORD gone ahead of you?" So Barak went down Mount Tabor, followed by ten thousand men. At Barak's advance, the LORD routed Sisera and all his chariots and army by the sword, and Sisera abandoned his chariot and fled on foot. But Barak pursued the chariots and army as far as Harosheth Haggoyim. All the troops of Sisera fell by the sword; not a man was left.

Sisera, however, fled on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, because there were friendly relations between Jabin king of Hazor and the clan of Heber the Kenite.
Jael went out to meet Sisera and said to him, "Come, my Lord , come right in. Don't be afraid." So he entered her tent, and she put a covering over him.

"I'm thirsty," he said. "Please give me some water." She opened a skin of milk, gave him a drink, and covered him up.

"Stand in the doorway of the tent," he told her. "If someone comes by and asks you, 'Is anyone here?' say 'No.' "

But Jael, Heber's wife, picked up a tent peg and a hammer and went quietly to him while he lay fast asleep, exhausted. She drove the peg through his temple into the ground, and he died.

Barak came by in pursuit of Sisera, and Jael went out to meet him. "Come," she said, "I will show you the man you're looking for." So he went in with her, and there lay Sisera with the tent peg through his temple-dead.

I have told friends that I believe Sarah Palin is our Deborah. I’m old school – I prefer my leaders to be men. However, when men won’t lead (or lead appropriately) women fill in the gap. I think this is the case in this year’s election.

The parallel with Judges goes beyond a woman as leader. Just as Barak was floundering before Deborah, so McCain’s support was tepid at best among the base and now, as the talking heads on the evening news put it, “[McCain] is riding her [Palin] coattails!”

In Scripture, the victory that was to be Barak’s went to a woman instead - twice actually. Deborah had to accompany Barak for victory and Jael (one of my favorite biblical ladies) took care of Sisera with a hammer and nail!

Also interesting in this election is the prominence of the abortion debate. From David Letterman’s snarky remarks (and subsequent smackdown by Dr. Phil), to the obscene treatment of Bristol Palin by the press, to the not-so-subtle insinuations that Sarah Palin maybe shouldn’t have had her Downs baby, the unborn are at the forefront. My hubby recently relayed a comment by one of his favorite authors that men are to protect women and women are to protect babies. By living out her pro-life views, Sarah Palin is doing just that.

With Gov. Palin, I have a conservative for whom I can vote. While early in the campaign, the GOP pundits were saying the Reagan era was over and that the base needed to move past the Gipper into the future, Palin’s acceptance speech was replete with explicit and implicit references to the speeches of Ronald Reagan.

More than that, she represents the idea of a citizen politician. There is a down-home quality about her that exudes warmth and winsomeness. In video clips of campaign stops, you can hear the supporters saying, “Thanks, Sarah” and not “thanks, Governor.” That’s very telling. People feel they know Sarah Palin and, more importantly, they see her as one of them.

I’m actually excited about this election. This November, for the first time since the 80s, I will be voting for a candidate rather than just voting against one.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Girl Power!

I had planned to blog about McCain's VP choice, but a friend of mine has already done a fine job on the matter.

Go Sarah!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Young Love & Romantic Comedies

I have a lot of young friends and often find myself hearing about the good, the bad and the ugly of young love. I give it my best shot to listen and not be preachy, but try to mention a few ground rules and prerequisites (which is a blog entry all in itself!) and then we talk about other basic principles such as:

* Shopping won't mend a broken heart; it will leave you still heartbroken and now broke.
* Once a cheater, always a cheater.
* What you see is what you get - marriage isn't a magic wand!

Having a love for romantic comedies, I find myself using them as examples when I have these talks. Surprisingly, there are some good principles to be found in the boy-meets-girl flicks we're all so fond of:

* Only illusions have no faults. (Sabrina)
* "What if?" is hard to live with. (Sleepless in Seattle) This one has a biblical basis, "Open rebuke is better than secret love. Proverbs 27:5
* Sex is not the same as intimacy. (When Harry Met Sally)
* Getting your heart's desire may not look like you thought it would. (Under the Tuscan Sun; 13 Going on 30).
* The old ways still work. (Blast from the Past).

There are the films which affirm predestination, though they may refer to it as fate or simple destiny, etc. Some of my favorites are:

* Return to Me - When you watch this one, check out which characters are introduced as if the camera is descending from the sky. Hmmm
* Only You - This great little movie has the added bonus of a young Robert Downey, Jr.
* Honorable mentions: Just Like Heaven, The Lake House, Mr. Destiny.

Sometimes I have to point a girl in the direction of Runaway Bride or Sweet Home Alabama if they start talking about needing to change who they are to get or to keep a guy and if necessary, I quote lines from movies that deal with authenticity such as Hitch, Music & Lyrics and Spanglish.

While the bad boy may be intriguing, it's the nice guy you want - as shown in Notting Hill, The Princess Bride and The Wedding Singer just to name a few.

Don't settle for "Mr. Right Now" just because you want to be married or in a relationship. "Mr. Right" may pop up unexpectedly (You've Got Mail, French Kiss.)

Now, dear readers, what are some of the gems of wisdom you've gleaned from your favorite chick flicks?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Clippers Anonymous

I’m going to start a new self-help group, Clippers Anonymous. Signs of the addiction include a desk which is a cluttered mess. Inability to throw away a magazine until it has been scoured for coupons, recipes, helpful hints, etc. Piles of clippings that the addict swears will be filed “one of these days.”

My name is Alisa and I’m a clipper. Yes, sometimes this addiction nets a wonderful new appetizer or quick clean up tip, but most of the time it just clutters up my desk. Finally I’m seeking the help I need and have started the process of actually throwing clippings away, but not until I share a few of my worthwhile finds with you:

Keep onions fresh and recycle old pantyhose by putting the pungent bulbs into a leg of the hose and tying a knot between each. Simply snip when you need an onion. Keeps your pantry neater.

When boiling eggs, add salt to the water to make the shells come off easily.

To easily separate bacon slices, put the top of a slice between the tines of a fork and roll up around the fork.

Poke a hole in a coffee filter and slip a paintbrush through to keep drips off your hand while you touch up a wall. (Also great to put in bottom of a flower pot to keep dirt from seeping out when you water your plants.)

Poison ivy? Wash off with a good dish detergent in cold water (never hot which opens the pores letting more toxins in). If rash appears, apply thin layer of detergent and let dry.

Heartburn at night? Sleep on your left side. It puts your esophagus higher than your stomach reducing reflux.

Store wool clothing in plastic bags with a few perfume samples from magazines layered in. The samples mask the smell of the wool which draws the moths.

Need to zap a zit? Dab a bit of Milk of Magnesia on it at bedtime and it will be dried up by morning.

Finally, for the bakers out there:

Wrap cinnamon sticks in foil and bake at 350º for a little while to remove a burnt smell from the oven.

Warm brownies are easily and neatly cut using a plastic knife (thanks for this one, Olivia).

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Hermie & Friends - Great Children's DVDs

I teach Children’s Sunday School and enjoy it a great deal. The problem is when things come up during the week that prevent my preparing a lesson, what do I do on Sunday with the kids? I don’t want to waste the opportunity. What about when I have to go out of town and a teaching sub isn’t available?

Max Lucado to the rescue!

I have never read a single book by Max Lucado, but I have great affection for him because of his Hermie & Friends DVD series. This delightful series features charming bugs in a wonderful garden setting who love God and teach others (and the viewers) practical lessons about living in community and loving God.

The series reminds me of the original Warner Brothers Looney Tunes cartoons which kids and adults loved for different reasons. The humor is layered – one for the kids and another level that will tickle the adults’ funny bone. This is especially true with the Buzby character – an Elvis lookalike spelling bee who sings, dances, learns and teaches us about rules and behaving.

There are other cute children’s DVD that have biblical messages, Veggie Tales, for instance, but their message is often too watered down for my satisfaction. Hermie & Friends have an overt biblical lesson which is taught with humor, music and fun.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Even at the movies, Light dispels Darkness

According to an article in the London Telegraph, Philip Pullman’s Dark Materials trilogy, of which The Golden Compass was the first, looks iffy at this point. He blames Christians protesting his work as the reason. Ha! Good for us!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Gospel in Gryffindor Robes

When I read the last chapter of book seven of the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows it was with a great deal of melancholy. I will sorely miss Harry, Hermione, Ron, Neville, Luna and the rest.

Critics have attempted to minimize J. K. Rowling’s series as being much ado about nothing or, at least, very little. They point out she merely used the trappings of British boarding schools and symbols common to British culture to create her fantasy world. They decry the lack of Tolkien’s or Lewis’ beautiful prose.

They miss the point.

The Gospel of John is rich in symbolisms and layers. Its depths are endless and its writing, wondrous. As beautiful and rich as the Gospel of John may be, the Gospel of Mark is not diminished by it.

I submit the analogy applies when comparing Tolkien, Lewis and Rowlings. Compared to the Narnia series or the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Harry Potter series seems to be just children’s stories, but they are so much more. Tolkien and Lewis wrote in the context of British academia. They lived in a world of intellectuals, in a genteel environment. Rowlings began her series living as a single mom in London on the cusp of and into the 21st century. As Tolkien and Lewis wrote what they knew, so did Rowlings. Her series speaks to her age.

Rowlings was reluctant to speak of her religious beliefs before the series concluded because she feared the plotline would be easily deduced thereby. A professing Christian, she has incorporated biblical symbolism and references throughout her series, most prominently in her hero, the messianic Harry Potter.

Were J. K. Rowlings and I to sit down and discuss theology, we would differ on many things great and small, but this doesn’t negate my appreciation for the biblical thread she has woven into the Potter series. I have theological differences with Lewis and Tolkien as well.

The lessons learned, principles taught and courage exemplified by her characters are marvelous. Books could be written (and several have been) on the biblical symbolisms and stories incorporated into the series: Luna prompting Harry to see with the eyes of faith; Neville abandoning fear and finding courage; Hermione, the empiricist, who comes to embrace things beyond science; Ron, the Peter character, who falters and fails, but always returns to his friend; and Harry, who shows no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends.

I am already looking forward to revisiting the story of the Boy Who Lived.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Infectious Ideas

Niccolò Machiavelli has been dead for over 480 years, but he still scares me to death. He has affected my world although he has never seen it. He is dead, but his ideas are alive and well and wreaking havoc on our world.

His ideas are among the 15 philosophers/thinkers whose works are studied in Dr. Benjamin Wiker’s 10 Books That Screwed Up The World (and 5 Others That Didn’t Help). You needn’t have read these books to have been exposed to them:

“Unfortunately, philosopher’s absurdities aren’t limited to classroom sophistry
and eccentric speculations. They make their way into print and are thereby
released upon the public. They can be, and have been, as dangerous and
harmful as deadly diseases. And as with deadly diseases, people can pick
up deadly ideas without even noticing. These ideas float, largely
undetected, in the intellectual air we breathe.”

Machiavelli’s The Prince is one of the books Wiker dissects. Machiavellian is synonymous with deceit, trickery and other unsavory adjectives. Niccolò would be proud. In The Prince, Machiavelli counsels rulers to shed all moral and religious scruples and understand that true evil is often more effective than good. Machiavelli promoted the idea of “the ends justifies the means.” Want to know where the pretense of religiosity in politicians as a strategy began? Machiavelli. His ideas were studied first and rightfully so. The other books borrow from his concepts.

One of the unifying characteristics of these authors, with the exception of Descartes, is atheism. Others are the desire to replace the Genesis account with a counter-myth, to replace Heaven with an earthly utopia, to extol ‘natural man’ without any concept of original sin, to stress the one (the State) over the many (families, personal property, etc) and, most profoundly, to shake their fist at God.

Hobbes’ believed we have a right to whatever we want. That’s a particularly virulent infectious idea that has gripped many of our countrymen. Rousseau, espousing a natural man who was carefree, a make-love-not-war, peaceful chap who eschewed the confines of societal structures, help lay the foundation for communism and the sexual revolution of the 60s. Marx took Rousseau and stood him on his ear by imagining a utopia only after the great worker’s revolt.

John Stuart Mills’ Utilitarianism of 1863 was another attempt by an atheist to have “All the moral benefits of Christianity except without the Christianity part.” Bringing Epicurus to the 20th century, Mills maintained: Good = Pleasure; Evil = Pain. Ah, but some pleasures were better than others and so, foreshadowing today’s liberal elites, Mills and his ilk would determine for the rest what was the best for all.

Next, Wiker takes up Darwin, but not Origins of Species, rather Descent of Man. This lesser known book delves into the real evil of the notion of survival of the fittest when applied – eugenics or natural selection given a helping hand:

(After decrying the asylums and medical skill used to save the weak)

“Thus weak members of civilized societies propagate their kind. No one who
has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be
highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of
care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race;
but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly anyone is so ignorant as to
allow his worst animals to breed.”
Eugenics had been applied to the breeding of animals, thus as man himself is but a higher evolved animal, soon this applied science was applied to man. The Nazi’s murdering of Jews is just one example; sterilization of the mental ill in America is another. Abortions, designer babies and euthanasia all are continuations of the evil born from seeing man just as a collection of molecules rather than made in the image of God.

There is much more to Friedrich Nietzsche than the glib summation of a t-shirt:

“God is dead.” – Nietzsche
“Nietzsche is dead.” – God

Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil created tentacles of beliefs that have wrapped themselves around our culture. He maintained we all have a “will to power” and that a ruling class of aristocracy was part of the evolutionary process. No pain, no gain; the requisite “suffering for one’s art;” and “acceptable collateral damage” are all derivatives of Nietzsche’s ideas.

Few would embrace going beyond good and evil with the fervor of Vladimir Lenin. He enacted Marxism. Seeing history as driven by the conflict of classes, violence was required. He denied God, so he wasn’t bound by morality. He denied Heaven, so he could create a utopian ideal on earth and in his will to power, he freely used brutality to clear the path for his worker’s paradise. The Black Book of Communism estimates before he and his successor Stalin were finished upwards of 100 million Russians had been sacrificed on the communist altar.

What is clear as you read Wiker’s book is how these books influenced future generations. Margaret Sanger’s The Pivot of Civilization took Darwin’s eugenics and made it palatable, to a degree. She wasn’t as direct as Hitler would be a few decades later, but she had her own way of ridding the world of undesirables - not just genetics, but the vague “unfit” of society . Sanger’s mechanism was birth control, abortion and forced sterilization. She is the founder of Planned Parenthood and she thought the intelligentsia should be the ones doing the planning. For her a low IQ was original sin.

Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf (My Struggle) builds on Machiavelli and Nietzsche. He embraces Machiavelli’s ends justifies the means. “Great humanitarian goals; ruthless means to achieve them; going against humanity to help humanity.” Per Machiavelli’s instructions, Hitler appears religious. He espouses a Weltanschauung or “political faith” that harnesses spiritual energy for political ends. When today’s political pundits speak of the “religious fervor” of some activist, they perhaps unknowingly tip their hat to Hitler.

Sigmund Freud, a self-described “godless Jew,” hung out his shingle on Easter Sunday. He openly sought to replace Christianity. He took the next step of previous atheists. He assumed atheism. Per Hobbes, there was no good and evil. Freud said his book, Future of an Illusion, expressed “my absolutely negative attitude toward religion, in every form and dilution.”

Though roundly discredited to a large extent today, Margaret Mead’s Coming of Age in Samoa wrote what may have been more an autobiography than scientific observation. Her lauding of the supposed free love, sexually uninhibited Samoans found its way into parenting books. Children should be “taught to think, not how to think.” Children should decide their path, not be restricted by parents. There were no core beliefs. Whatever path they chose was fine – I’m okay, you’re okay.

In one of the best summations of his book, Wiker writes:

“What is ideology? We live in such an ideological age that it’s hard for us to
distinguish good thinking from bad. The crucial distinction is that
ideology is not philosophy. Philosophy is the love of wisdom, the love of
what is real, whether we happen to like it or not. It is the desire for
truth, and the continual humility to remold our desires to fit reality.
Ideology comes at truth from the opposite direction, molding truth to what we
happen to desire. Because it has no compunction about refashioning truth
to fit our desires, it has no hesitations, in the hands of someone like Mead, in
refashioning reality according to our cravings. Pseudo-science is thus the
handmaid to ideology. Politics is its hammer.”

The 14th book is Alfred Kinsey’s Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. Today much is known of Kinsey’s own sexual predilections and the book can be dismissed by most honest critics as autobiographically and scientifically flawed. Nevertheless, Kinsey pushed the normalization of homosexuality into the mainstream of today’s collective conscience.

Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique is the final book reviewed. As a woman and a child of the 60s, I was struck by how much of Friedan’s writing had crept into my thinking as I was growing up. When presented in her book, I reject these ideas outright. But ideas don’t always come to us in books; they are presented in movies, in culture, in songs and in communities. Most telling to me was Friedan’s assertion:

“The emancipation of woman will only be possible when woman can take part in
production on a large, social scale and domestic work no longer claims anything
but an insignificant amount of her time.”

There we have Friedan’s Marxism she tried so hard to conceal in full view. Only what’s done for the State is valued. The production of a happy home and hearth, the rearing of children, etc., are discounted. They are, after all, private enrichment and what matters is the State. Her question, “Is this all?” has led to the needless discontentment of generations of women.

Wiker concludes with an “Outline of Sanity” which shows how different the world becomes with God:

"Perhaps, as Nietzsche howled, God did indeed die, but rose again, an übermensch of a very different kind, one that can save us from the madness of our own making.”

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Guys Who Are Still Guys

In the late 1990s, a trend was spotted and books were written. At local bookstores or at, you would find titles such as The Feminization of American Culture or The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity and many more treaties on our evolving culture. The trend? The feminization of men and institutions.

Before I'm misinterpreted, let me put the disclaimer out: I appreciate men who are in touch with their feminine side. I just don't want that side to be the most prominent. When I was single, I joked with my friends that I wouldn't date a guy who was more feminine than me. In some circles, girls today would sit home a lot if that was their standard.

For a good book on biblical masculinity, I recommend Future Men by Douglas Wilson. Here's a paragraph from the back cover description:

When Theodore Roosevelt taught Sunday School for a time, a boy showed up one Sunday with a black eye. He admitted he had been fighting and on a Sunday too. He told the future president that a bigger boy had been pinching his sister and so he fought him. TR told him that he had done perfectly right and gave him a dollar. The stodgy vestrymen thought this was a bit much, and so they let their exuberant Sunday School teacher go. What a loss. . .

Country music star Brad Paisley has addressed this issue with insight and humor in his song, I'm Still A Guy. I LOVE this song. Here's a video of Brad performing the song and here are the lyrics:

When you see a deer, you see Bambi
And I see antlers up on the wall.
When you see a lake, you think picnics
And I see a large mouth up under that log.
You're probably thinking that you're going to change me
In some ways, well maybe you might
Scrub me down, dress me up, oh but no matter what
Remember, I'm still a guy.

When you see a priceless French painting
I see a drunk, naked girl.
You think that riding a wild bull sounds crazy
And I'd like to give it a whirl.
Well love makes a man do some things he ain't proud of
And in a weak moment I might
Walk your sissy dog, hold your purse at the mall
But remember, I'm still a guy.

I'll pour out my heart
Hold your hand in the car
Write a love song that makes you cry
Then turn right around, knock some jerk to the ground
'Cause he copped a feel as you walked by.

I can hear you now talking to your friends
Saying, "Yeah, girls, he's come a long way."
From dragging his knuckles and carrying a club
And building a fire in a cave.
But when you say a backrub means only a backrub,
Then you swat my hand when I try.
Well, now, what can I say at the the end of the day
Honey, I'm still a guy.

And I'll pour out my heart
Hold your hand in the car.
Write a love song that makes you cry.
Then turn right around knock some jerk to the ground
'Cause he copped a feel as you walked by.

These days there's dudes getting facials,
Manicured, waxed and botoxed.
With deep spray-on tans and creamy lotiony hands,
You can't grip a tacklebox.

Yeah with all of these men lining up to be neutered,
It's hip now to be feminized.
I don't highlight my hair,
I've still got a pair,
Yeah honey, I'm still a guy.

Oh my eyebrows ain't plucked,
There's a gun in my truck.
Oh thank God, I'm still a guy.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Redemptive Ironman

With a worldwide gross of over $480 million, Ironman is a mega-blockbuster. The irony of that is not lost on its star, Robert Downey, Jr.

In 1992, he turned in an Oscar-nominated performance in Chaplain and it seemed Downey had no where to go but up. He went no where but down. No one doubted his acting ability, in fact, directors and actors alike laud him as one of the best in the business. However, personally he had become, as he puts it, “the poster boy for ­pharmaceutical mismanagement”. He lost roles because the insurance on him was prohibitive, he was fired from Ally McBeal, his comeback vehicle at the time. He was more recognized for appearances on Court TV than in movies.

In 2002, he had to put up his entire salary from the film to be in Gothika. The gamble paid off. He met his current wife, Susan Levin, who refused to marry him unless he gave up drugs. He did.

And then along came Ironman. In an interview in the London Telegraph, Downey said, “My victory has been hard won.” That was especially true for getting the role of Tony Stark. On the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Downey recounts telling the studio making the film that he thought he should be Ironman. “They told me I should go on thinking that,” he says with a grin. He had to screen test for the role - something he hadn’t done since Chaplain. “I’m really good at screen tests,” he smirked to Leno.

Life has come full circle. Downey is back where he was after Chaplain, only this time he’s clean, sober and a self-avowed family man. With this megahit, Downey says, “Finally, I’ve got something bigger than my past.” He recognizes the parallels between his life and that of Tony Stark. “People respond to the story. . . .people know my story,” he says. In a recent interview, he said he can feel the public wanting him to succeed.

Comebacks resonate with us because they are part of the ultimate story – Fall and Redemption. We see this time and again in Scripture and, as a Christian, I see it repeatedly in my life. I screw up and the Lord graciously helps me come back – time and again.

In Ironman, opportunistic weapons manufacturer and party animal Tony Stark transforms into a man with a mission. Robert Downey, Jr. transforms from playboy druggie to family man. And we the public cheer both.

[If you’ve seen the movie but didn’t stay through the credits for the extra scene, go here.]

Thursday, May 01, 2008

White Hats, Black Hats & Grey Hats

I’m an old movie buff. I grew up watching John Wayne and Audie Murphy westerns where the good guys wore white hats and the bad guys wore black hats and the only grey was in the clothing. Only in Hollywood. In the real world, we live in shades of grey. Heroes have flaws and villains sometimes have virtues. My hubby’s sermon last week reinforced that principle and reminded me that shades of grey exists within the Church as well.

Taken from II Kings 10, we heard the story of Jehu who was zealous for the Lord. That alone would make you think he wears a white hat, but Jehu’s hat is grey.

Jehu was zealous for the Lord and destroyed the Baal worshipers, pouring vengeance out on the house of Ahab and Jezebel. However, Jehu continued the “sins of Jeroboam” - golden calf worship. [Jeroboam had reinstituted golden calf worship (I Kings 12) as the true way to worship God. He apparently maintained that Moses and Aaron had gotten it wrong - Golden calf worship wasn’t idolatry or worshipping another god, it was the proper way to worship.] Jehu was zealous for the Lord and yet very wrong on worship.

That’s a good lesson for the rest of us. In conservative theological circles, we sometimes demand our theologians wear snow white hats. They must be “right” on all matters before we can benefit from their teaching, so we think. I think an argument can be made, based on II Kings 10, that this is an extra biblical standard.

Bobby has helped to broaden my perspective on theological matters. I have become much more ecumenical over the course of our marriage. I am a Presbyterian because I believe the Presbyterian form of church government and reformed theology is the closest to the teaching of Scripture. Nevertheless, I still learn from Baptist teachers. I have an appreciation for some Methodist writers. I have learned from Catholic scholars and even Eastern Orthodox scholars. Anglican Bishop N. T. Wright has opened Scripture to me in marvelous ways!

N. T. Wright is a good example of a white hat with gray stripes. There are many issues on which Bishop Wright and I would part ways (economic matters as a prime example), but Wright is a conservative scholar who goes toe to toe with the liberal theologians of the ‘in search of the historical Jesus’ movement. He stands for the truth and has the academic and intellectual wherewithal to do so.

If I had dismissed Wright as a liberal because of his affiliation with the Anglican church or his views on third-world debt, etc., I would have missed out on some of the most wonderful teaching of our age.

Scripture recognizes heroes sometimes have feet of clay. We should recognize that as well.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Tag Time

A friend tagged me for a blog theme. The idea is to answer the seven categories below and then tag five friends. Sounded fun to me, so here goes:

Ten Years Ago

We were moving from Louisville to Central Kentucky. My hubby was still working himself to death as a fulltime student and fulltime pastor. I was working at a small nonprofit agency. We were making contingency plans just in case the Y2K bug turned out to be TEOTWAWKI (the end of the world as we know it).

Today's To Do List

Medical tapes; start working on Sunday School lesson; continue Spring cleaning; secretarial stuff for hubby; usual daily work.

If I Were Suddenly A Billionaire

1. Rosie's right: Tithe first and remove temptation.

2. Buy a home in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

3. Buy my church a building.

4. Travel.

5. Take care of some financial issues for friends.

3 Bad Habits
Just three? Worry; always underestimate how long a project will take; pack rat.

5 Most Recent Jobs

1. Medical transcriptionist

2. Program Manager, nonprofit agency

3. Office Manager, nonprofit agency

4. Mortgage Manager, Trans Union

5. Office Manager, 9th & O Baptist Church

5 Random Things You May Not Know About Me

1. Have read 2 biographies of Gen. George Patton and the autobiography of Gen. Omar Bradley.

2. Can imitate Marilyn Monroe and Mae West.

3. Afraid of heights (but working on this).

4. Drove over 100 mph on the German Autobahn (and LOVED it).

5. I am great at finding my way through a casino (much to my husband's chagrin).

5 Places I Want to See/See Again
(I'm cheating on this and answering it as a two-parter. )

Want to see: Alaska, Italy, New York City, Glacier National Park, Redwoods

Want to see again: Yellowstone, Zion National Park, northern Colorado, Bavaria, London.

And finally - Guinever, Ellen, Coral - you're tagged!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Forever Young

According to a whole lot of cosmetic commercials, the greatest fear women have is not breast cancer, not cervical cancer, it is getting older. There are billions of dollars invested in products that promise to help you not show your age. It seems that aging has become a social sin.

As part of this ridiculous mindset, Neutrogenia has an anti-aging product out now being promoted by Jennifer Garner. She is all of 36 and obviously over the hill. Just look at her:

Scripture speaks of wisdom coming with age. All our culture speaks of is to fear it. Good grief.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Facebook Fatigue?

In an effort to keep in touch with my younger friends, I have a Facebook page. I also have Facebook applications. Lots of Facebook applications. Lots and lots of Facebook applications! While most are fun, I hate the automatic "invite 20 of your friends to join" spam attachment that comes with these apps.

I joined a Facebook petition seeking to ban the inviting friends stuff. Seems I'm not the only one who's tired of it. Time Magazine has a whole article on it. Read it here.

Monday, April 07, 2008

In Memory of Charlton Heston

1984 was a magical year for me. My interest in politics and major in communications at the University of Louisville combined to present wonderful opportunities. The best opportunity was seeing President Ronald Reagan speak after the Louisville Debate from a front and center second floor position in the Atrium of the Hyatt Regency!

A close second favorite opportunity was the privilege of meeting Moses - Charlton Heston. Mr. Heston was campaigning for President Reagan and I attended one of the publicity stops. I eagerly stood in line for a chance to shake this iconic actor's hand, fully expecting to be rushed through and barely get a chance to glimpse his face. I couldn't have been more wrong.

Mr. Heston treated all those in line with equal respect. He stopped, shook your hand and looked you right in the eye while making a point to speak to you and exchange brief pleasantries. He did this for each and every person in line. He was warm and gracious.

While I admired his work as a thespian and agreed with and respected his work in the political arena, I was thrilled to find meeting the man didn't disappoint me in the least.

For biographical sketch, go here.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Bear-ly Dancing

Wonder what bears do when no one's around? Dance with trees of course! Here's a cute video of a grizzly and a black bear scratching themselves on a tree and looking for all the world like a dancers!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Addicted To Texting? You're Sick!

Is the first thing you think about doing when you get home from work to log on and check your email? If at home during the day, are you in front of your computer screen several times a day? Do your thumbs need physical therapy from all the texting you do? Is a vacation without a computer just not worth taking? If so, some Australian researchers have expressed their concern for your mental well being in a recent issue of American Journal of Psychiatry.

In the article, Dr Jerald Block said there were four symptoms: suffering from feelings of withdrawal when a computer cannot be accessed; an increased need for better equipment; need for more time to use it; and experiencing the negative repercussions of their addiction. Dr Block said that although text messaging was not directly linked to the Internet, it was a form of instant messaging and needed to be included among the criteria.

You can read the news report here. I really should text my friends about this. . .

Monday, March 10, 2008

A Singer's Fairytale

Do you ever wonder what talent goes undiscovered within people working on assembly lines, in office cubicles or selling mobile phones? One of the most inspirational videos on You Tube is that of an unassuming phone salesman in Britain who looks like anything but an opera singer, but who opens his mouth and pours out his heart in song. Paul Potts eventually won Britain’s Got Talent, but here is his audition. Even if you don’t like opera, you’ll like this.

And if you want to hear a trained voice sing Puccini's beautiful Nessun Dorma, take your pick of Andrea Bocelli, Placido Domingo or Luciano Pavarotti.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


March 4 is the anniversary of my Dad’s death. I'm still missing him, wanting to talk to him and hear him laugh. Thankfully, it’s my Dad’s laughter, his sense of humor and fun, that is beginning to make things easier. I’m remembering him with a smile more often than with tears. Rodney Atkins’ new song, Cleaning This Gun is making me smile a lot these days. My Dad actually greeted one of my dates with a gun in hand which he just happened to be cleaning at the time he knew I was being picked up!

Like in the lyrics, I think my Dad’s worst fear was that I would fall for a guy who reminded him of himself as a young man! [Which, of course, is exactly what I did!]

There’s another song out that always makes me think about him, Alan Jackson’s Small Town Southern Man, but no song really captures Daddy like Holly Dunn’s Daddy’s Hands.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

A Feel Good Story

I love watching Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. It just makes me feel good to see families in need get the help they need and in some cases, see dreams come true. I love the sappy, feel-good stories news anchors love to save to end their shows with. I love fairytale endings.

So, it was especially gratifying to read a friend's recent blog post and read about her experience being the "fairygodmother" as it were. It just filled me with warm fuzzies! You can read it here.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

A Tale of Two Servants

My hubby is currently preaching through the books of Kings. Last week, he preached on II Kings 5 and a passage just leapt out at me.

Now Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great and honorable man in the eyes of his master, because by him the LORD had given victory to Syria. He was also a mighty man of valor, but a leper. And the Syrians had gone out on raids, and had brought back captive a young girl from the land of Israel. She waited on Naaman’s wife. Then she said to her mistress, “If only my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! For he would heal him of his leprosy.” [II Kings 5:1-3]

There are several noteworthy elements to this section, but the one that struck me the most is the attitude of the servant girl. Picture this: She has been taken from her home and thrust into servitude in Syria, Israel’s worst enemy. Yet, she doesn’t have a bitter or hate-filled heart, but rather a servant’s heart. She has compassion for her master and wishes that he could be with one of God’s prophets. As the passage continues, we read of Naaman’s humbling and healing. He becomes a believer in Yahweh. All because his wife’s servant girl served her captor and had mercy on him.

What’s interesting is that the II Kings 5 is bookended with scenes of servants. The first shows us an Israelite slave serving her master, a Syrian. The concluding scene shows a servant of the prophet Elisha and his treatment of the same Syrian.

Instead of seeing him as a brother, Gehazi holds this Gentile God-fearer in contempt. He is like the Pharisees of the New Testament who hold the Romans in contempt and criticize Jesus for celebrating with them, the wrong type of people.

Overcome with gratitude, Naaman had offered Elisha gifts for healing him, but Elisha had refused:

And he returned to the man of God, he and all his aides, and came and stood before him; and he said, “Indeed, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel; now therefore, please take a gift from your servant.” But he said, “As the LORD lives, before whom I stand, I will receive nothing.” And he urged him to take it, but he refused. [II Kings 5:15, 16]

Gehazi doesn’t care about Naaman. When I read the passage, I can imagine his snarl as he says, “this Syrian”. Gehazi decides to take advantage of the hated Syrian. However when he does this, Elisha curses him with the leprosy that had previously been Naaman’s:

But Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said, “Look, my master has spared Naaman this Syrian, while not receiving from his hands what he brought; but as the LORD lives, I will run after him and take something from him.” So Gehazi pursued Naaman. When Naaman saw him running after him, he got down from the chariot to meet him, and said, “Is all well?” And he said, “All is well. My master has sent me, saying, ‘Indeed, just now two young men of the sons of the prophets have come to me from the mountains of Ephraim. Please give them a talent of silver and two changes of garments.’” So Naaman said, “Please, take two talents.” And he urged him, and bound two talents of silver in two bags, with two changes of garments, and handed them to two of his servants; and they carried them on ahead of him. When he came to the citadel, he took them from their hand, and stored them away in the house; then he let the men go, and they departed. Now he went in and stood before his master. Elisha said to him, “Where did you go, Gehazi?” And he said, “Your servant did not go anywhere.” Then he said to him, “Did not my heart go with you when the man turned back from his chariot to meet you? Is it time to receive money and to receive clothing, olive groves and vineyards, sheep and oxen, male and female servants? Therefore the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and your descendants forever.” And he went out from his presence leprous, as white as snow. [II Kings 5:20-27]

The servant girl had a personal reason for hating Naaman. She was taken from her home and forced to be a servant. Gehazi had no personal reason other than a personal bigotry - two servants with two vastly different dispositions. The servant girl’s actions are recorded and thus honored, while Gehazi’s actions are recorded to his shame.

He has shown you, O man, what is good;
and what does the LORD require of you
but to do justly,
to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with your God?
Micah 6:8

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Singin' In The Rain

I love the old Hollywood musicals and Singin' In The Rain is one of my all-time favorites from that era. I've watched the movie so often, I can quote entire scenes! In fact, one of the best anniversary gifts I've ever received from my hubby was a surprise evening at a dinner theatre for a performance of Singin' In The Rain (complete with the title song and rain!)

The dancing in the movie is incredible. Donald O'Connor's Make 'Em Laugh is such a physically demanding dance number and yet he makes it look effortless.

And then there's Gene Kelly. His dancing is athletic. Masculine. None of Astaire's graceful lines, but plenty of strength, agility and athleticism. Danny Kaye is a close second, but Gene Kelly is my favorite dancer.

Alas, I thought those days were long gone, but to quote Robert Plant, "dancing days are here again." In December, R & B star Usher filmed a tribute to Gene Kelly and reenacted his signature dance, the title sequence from Singin' In The Rain at the Rock the Movies Awards. When my friend Paul Pugh raved about this to me, I was skeptical, but Paul was right. Usher did a marvelous job! You can see it here. And you can watch a side-by-side comparison of his version with Kelly's here.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

At the Movies: Music & Lyrics

If cinemas go the way of drive-ins, Bobby and I will share in the culpability. We rarely go out to see a movie. A film has to have really good buzz or cinematography that demands a big scope before you’ll find us sitting before the silver screen.

If the actors are tried and true favorites, we’ll just buy the movie when it comes out on DVD. If it has potential but there’s still some doubt about its multiple-viewing worthiness, we’ll just rent it.

We have a pretty large DVD library. For us, the decision to buy or not to buy is multifaceted. There are the rare DVDs for which we are willing to pay the full $20. However, most of the new releases we purchase are the $14 ones we pick up on Tuesdays (the weekday movies are always released) at Wal-Mart.

A good portion of the movies we own, we didn’t buy when they were first released. They have to hit the $9.99, $7.50 or even $5 displays before we plunk down our hard-earned greenbacks for them. Thanks to a sale at Best Buy, Music & Lyrics recently fit in the $7.50 category.

We usually like Hugh Grant and his costar in this film, Drew Barrymore, has made some cute movies, but neither of them were enough to completely sell us on a film. We had originally rented this just because it sounded sweet. And sweet it was.

A friend of mine wrote about it while it was still being shown in theaters. [Here’s her take on it.] The two main characters are winsome, the dialogue is witty and the music is good. It’s a trip down memory lane for people in their 30s and 40s who remember when there was “U2 and Blondie and music still on MTV”. I dare you to watch it and not hum “Pop, goes my heart” or “Way back into love” for days afterwards.

[Do you recognize the "other guy" in Pop? He's currently one of the stars of a hit TV show.]

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Secret of Sequel Success

There’s a 1996 movie called Multiplicity where a man whose life is out-of-control busy decides to clone himself to get everything done. The problem is each clone is of continuing lesser quality than the preceding one.

That’s usually the case with sequels: Start with a good idea and then water it down into a bad movie. I loved the first Matrix, but the second and third installments were disappointments. I loved the original Pirates of the Caribbean and even liked the second installment, but the third wasn’t so hot.

However, there are success stories. The Lord of the Rings trilogy is wonderful. The Bourne trilogy left me hoping they make a fourth! And then there’s the Oceans’s 11 sequels. The first was great, the second blah, but thankfully the third came full circle with another fun movie.

So how does one sequel succeed while others fail? It’s all in the formula. When movies stick to the original formula, you’ll have success. Deviate from the formula, flop city. The Ocean’s movies are a good example. The first and third movies were breezy, fun flicks with lots of inside jokes and old movie references. The second installment tried to inject a serious subplot. Kiss of death – they tried to add an ingredient to a recipe that was fine as it was!

We recently saw National Treasure 2. It is just about as much fun as the original. The writers kept the basic plot and just changed locales and it worked.

[Warning: Minor spoilers ahead] When the movie opens and Ben and Abigail are broken up, red flags went up. “Oh no!” I thought. “They’re changing things!” But my fears were groundless. Ben and Abigail’s breakup just helped to recreate the playful tension present between the two characters in the original. And Riley was still comic relief.

This is where Pirates messed up. Will and Elizabeth are the central lovers, Capt. Jack is the comic relief (even if he is a hero in his own right). The sequels muddied the water in the second and didn’t clear it up properly in the third. Mess with the formula and you get uneven results.

The lesson: If it ain't broke, don’t fix it!

Which brings us to another upcoming sequel which has me a little nervous. I loved the Mummy movies. The first and second did a marvelous job of sticking to the formula and both were fun films. The upcoming third is changing things. Rachel Weisz, Oscar firmly in hand, declined the third installment. Then the writers changed locales and in doing so they have omitted two of the main characters from the old movies – heroic friend Ardeth Bay and archnemesis Imhotep. This gives me pause. Replacing an ingredient (Rachel Weisz) was challenge enough, but omitting two others as well could ruin the meal!

Maybe as the Writer’s Strike continues, these insights will occur to the idled scriptwriters and we’ll get more successful sequels in the future!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Sears: Epilogue

Seems my voodoo pins are working! An AP story today says:

CHICAGO (AP) — Sears Holdings Corp. told investors Monday that it would likely post fourth-quarter earnings well below Wall Street forecasts as eroding sales push its profit down as much as 57 percent. The retailer said it expects to earn between $350 million and $470 million, or $2.59 to $3.48 per share, for the quarter ending Feb. 2 — far less than the $4.43 per share sought by analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial. Sears earned $820 million in the fourth quarter a year earlier. [Entire story here.]

Don't mind me, I'm just sitting here gloating.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Sears Saga: Conclusion

Thanks for all the concern about my culinary impairment!

A new oven is in place. My opinion of Sears is still extremely poor. I told the local store General Manager even an "I'm sorry" would have gone a long way in easing tensions and she said, 'Well, realistically you're not going to get that.' 'Nuff said.

I put a protest on my account and had what little finance charges that had been applied credited back. I will be closing my account this week.

Sears dodged a bullet. As those of you who know me can attest, normally I would have fought the former Wishbook company tooth and nail until they begged for mercy!! With everything else going on right now, I just don't have the energy to mount the fight. They will simply lose a 25+ year account and get a whole lot of bad word-of-mouth publicity from this disgruntled customer.

I do take comfort with the rather dismal stock market reports regarding Sears. In November, the company said its third-quarter profit shrank 99 % because of declining sales and weak margins at its Sears and Kmart stores. This past Friday (01/04/08), Sears closed down 5 points to $104 which was within a few points of a two-year low and down considerably from the 2007 high of $191. Slumping sales at Sears and K-Mart aren’t helping their bottom line or 2008 forecasts. According to Yahoo! Finance, Sears Holdings has a current Overall Rating of F (Lowest Rating).

So, I'll let the free market handle Sears.

Well, actually I may stick voodoo pins into their sales circulars (until my pastor husband catches me, that is!!)

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Not Just Another New Year's Eve

New Year's Eve usually finds Bobby and me surrounded by friends. We enjoy each other's company, laugh, enjoy some adult beverages and usually, at some point in the evening, sing. This continues until 11:45 when the television is turned on and we keep tradition alive by watching Dick Clark's countdown while a crystal ball descends in New York City.

This year we again watched Mr. Clark do his 10-9-8. . . bit, but we only shared it with my Mom and only after a visit to the hospital. Bobby's Mom is in ICU. Thankfully, we have the hope of bringing her home in a few days. Other familes in that part of the hospital don't have that hope. They didn't celebrate on 12/31/07.

On New Year's Eve 2007, there was another group of people not out at parties. My Mom-in-law was being attended by some wonderful, caring nurses. There were doctors on duty, night guards at their desk and myriad other people that I have never thought about or needed before who were working and serving as a New Year approached.

This year I resolved to never again take for granted a New Year's Eve of frivolity. I also resolve to remember and be grateful for those who work and serve as one year passes and another begins.