Sunday, December 28, 2008

Chat Pack Question #2

What is the best $100 you have ever spent in your life?




Thursday, December 25, 2008

Questions From The Chat Pack

I have this new game from someone called "The Questions Guys"*. It is called The Chat Pack: Fun Questions to Spark Conversations.

Let's see. Here's one:

IF YOU COULD HAVE ANY OBJECT OR PLACE IN THE WORLD COMPLETELY TO YOURSELF FOR ONE DAY, WHAT WOULD YOU CHOOSE?


Look for more questions anon.



Copyright: BRET NICHOLAUS AND PAUL LOWRIE

Sunday, December 21, 2008

In The Hole

Friday night's Bible study at the local prison provided this tale:

Wyatt, who has spent a total of seven years incarcerated and has never had anything negative put on his record, was transferred from a room with a loud and abusive roommate to a new room, one with four beds. His first week there, one of the guards found a cell phone charger sitting in a public part of the room, and none of the four would claim it. So. Into the hole for seven days went the four of them.

Wyatt had just gotten a day job on the outside, a really good job that paid well and which was going to stake him to some funds for when he is released next year. Being thrown into solitary cost him his job. By his own admission, he spent two days increasingly upset at this injustice: the cell phone wasn't his and the owner wouldn't confess for another several days. As his distress grew in solitary he began to cast about for some explanation for this evil imposition. Why him; why now?? And everything had been going so well up till now! There had been for him a dim light at the end of the tunnel of stupidity and confinement that had been his life to the present time.

They let you have four items of printed matter when you go into solitary. He asked for his two Bibles, his dictionary, and another novel. As he sat stewing, trying to wrap his mind around this present disappointment, he found himself poking around in the book of Proverbs. (I've found that most of these guys, once they've familiarized themselves with the overall scope of scripture, spend an inordinate amount of time reading Proverbs. I think it is just the reassurance and clarity of reading that there is a way of wisdom and a way of being a fool). Somewhere, he ran across the work "meek" in his readings, and suddenly had an urge to better understand what the word meant. He turned to his dictionary and read something like the following definition: "To respond to misfortune with patience and without resentment."

Wyatt told us he then sat back startled and deeply impressed. It was as if God had spoken to him about his present misfortune! It made all of the difference in the rest of his time in solitary confinement. He told me there are heating ducts that connect the cells, and he was able to speak the gospel to the guy in the next cell over the next few days. Amazing tale.

So. Some advice: The next time you get thrown in the hole, be sure you have a Bible and a dictionary with you. You never know when you'll really, really need to know the meaning of a word.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

INCARNATION

Our theme for Advent this year has been the Incarnation, and incarnational theology has sprung fully to life from the pulpit of the church I attend. We neglect this integrated approach to our spiritual lives at our peril. Pastor Bill Mack has been writing waayyy above his pay scale, sermons to delight and give thought. Here is a taste from last night's sermon, a copy of which I snatched from the pulpit before leaving church.

Joyfully rejoice in the Lord; after all, he clothes you in himself. That's the faith. Righteousness and salvation are worn, not earned. That's Christianity. He has clothed me with salvation clothes. In Hebrew, it says "Jesus robes." I don't mean robes that belong to Jesus. I mean robes that are Jesus. Jesus robes. "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious...about your body, what you will put on. Is not...the body more than clothing?" (Mt. 6:25) Way more important! These bodies were made to wear salvation, to wear Jesus.
"The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light." (Rom. 13:12). What is "the armor of light"? Or shall I ask, who is the armor of light? [John] came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light." (Jn. 1). Jesus robes are the armor of light. "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ."
Receiving righteousness and salvation never looks like payday; it looks more like a wedding. "He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels." (Is. 61:10)...
...We know the garments of our own righteousness are filthy rags. We know we should "put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires." (Rom. 13:14)
So why don't we "joyfully rejoice in the Lord," why don't we let our being exult in our God at the prospect of being wrapped in the very righteousness who is God?...Because we possess that righteousness, by faith; not in a way that is appealing to our flesh. So we rejoice, but not joyfully. We may exult, sort of, but not with the full resolve of our being, our whole spirit, soul, and body that God the Lord created from the dirt. The call to rejoice in him for the garment of salvation that we can't feel and the robe of righteousness that we can't see is not enough to call up the faith to praise him and exult in him. That he said we are clothed in him and therefore blameless should be enough to make us rejoice. But it isn't enough for sinners who can't manufacture the faith to believe it. If you're a sinner like me, and you think it's up to you to somehow get that robe of righteousness on and make it fit, it isn't enough to make you rejoice.

But I know what is. "For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up. so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations." (Is. 61:11) How does righteousness spring forth like a garden plant? The same Isaiah told the wonder: "Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground." (Is 53:1-2).

Yes, righteousness turns out to be one blameless Man. But how does that righteousness get to me? How do I end up wearing it like a wedding garment? How do I end up blameless? Paul tells us, "Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it." (1Thess 5:23-24).
He will do it. God the Lord will clothe you in Himself, by clothing himself in you. That's the incarnation! This is not God possessing a man for a while. "And the angel answered her, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy--the Son of God," (Lk 1:35). The incarnation did not happen in Bethlehem, inside a stable. That was the nativity, the birth of Christ. The incarnation happened in Nazareth inside the Virgin Mary. That's why she said, "For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name" (Lk 1:48-49). There was never a human nature of Christ apart from the union with the divine nature of God who was always being fathered by God.
"For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily" (Col 2.9). This is God taking humanity up into himself; your humanity. "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth" (Jn 1:14). He wrapped himself in our humanity, he took our humanity into himself, into God!

But anyone who knows they are a sinner is waiting for the other shoe to drop. You may say, "God takes my humanity into himself. But there is more to me than just my humanity. I have my attachments. I have baggage. I have sins! Don't tell me he's wrapped himself in my sins too!" Yes, beloved. Your sins too. We call this His humiliation.
He says, "He will surely do it." One of the reasons God the Lord took our humanity into himself was to make himself killable, to make himself a ransom. When Isaiah wrote these words of Christ, "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me" (Is 61:1) that is a completely different thing than the incarnation of God the Son. Isaiah was talking about his office as Christ, anointed by the Spirit to bear the sins of the world. God the Holy Spirit was upon God the Son, who was already incarnate--very God--who had already taken our humanity into himself. And now he would wrap himself in our sins, too!

Today's Old Testament reading began, "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion--to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning" (Is 61:1-3).
To heal our brokenhearted humanity, our captive humanity, our humanity bound by sin, our humanity in mourning, our humanity in ashes. And so, "in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily," in him who came swaddled in strips of cloth, was bound and scourged and wrapped in our scarlet robe of shame, and wore a priestly headdress made of thorns, captive, mourning the Father's absence; our righteousness like a young plant sprouting up as he was crucified, and wrapped in our grave-clothes. Even risen from the dead, the only jewels Jesus was decked with were you.
And he exults in that! He will rejoice over you with loud singing!

And as the man who is God, Jesus dresses you in the comfort of salvation clothes that is he himself, the consolation of a robe of righteousness that is he himself, the beauty of wedding clothes you are going to need (may it be today!), and the joy that is he himself, bread and wine that is not only bread and wine, but his body and blood, and not just body and blood, but body and blood that has already been taken up into God. Now, here, for you: to take into yourself.
Amen.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Wisconsin In Winter


Porcuppine Mountains Ski Hill

Last night another three inches of cold dry snow fell, enough to have to clear the driveway in preparation for what promises to be the Mother of snowfalls coming tomorrow night. We're to expect six or even ten inches, maybe even thirteen inches of snow.

I love it. Let it come. Anke the German Shepherd snow dog is fully in her element, two ridiculous layers of fur keeping her snug. She can sleep all warm and tucked in in her inside kennel, or sneak out the two-way door into the back to roll in the snow.

For the humans living here at the ranch, the snow is most welcome: out in the country; the furnace works great; the pantries are stocked. My shop is filled with interesting jobs to distract me during the day, and no one has anywhere to go.

I take a daily walk with Furperson down the road to the pass (I call it the pass; it is just a small rise where the trees on each side of the road converge, exactly one mile south from our house)
and back. The walk to me is perfectly representative of the Wisconsin countryside: large hollow bowls of cleared fields and long ridges of thick woods. A few large farm houses. I never tire of what I see--surprising isn't it?

The dog in winter gets some time off the leash to hunt odors and the occasional road kill. This pup of eighteen months, and I are slowly coming to terms with each other. Furperson is much too intelligent for her own good, and it keeps getting her into trouble with her owner. She gets a look in her eyes: sly, conniving, energetic. This only happens when she's outsmarted me and is off without a leash: FREEDOM, MY OWN MASTER!

It almost always ends badly.



The Childe Robin, snowbound

Monday, December 15, 2008

The New Standard of Excess

When you are spending several thousand dollars a night to stay at one of the world's most prestigious hotels, the last thing you need is burnt feet.



We used to joke that cocaine was God's way of telling you you make too much money.

It is time, I guess, to update the joke. Dubai, ayyy.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

THE NEW ECONOMY...

...and how to fix it.

Fred Thompson, cigar and tongue in cheek, weighs in.






HT: Another Kerner

Sunday, December 7, 2008

SMEG

I'm introducing my daughter to the silly charm of RED DWARF, the SciFi farce produced by the BBC some years ago. In turn she's now been introduced to the now-ancient punk pejorative SMEG, as in "You're a smeggin' loser, Hallie!" The funniest stunt of the first few episodes, which briefly cover 3.5 million years, is that the cat evolves into a black, James Brown character, OWWW! Totally funny.


Friday, December 5, 2008

Advice for the times

Ha. Do you think that whatever current economic hardship--or impending hardship--you are undergoing is not of your own making? Does it seem that unseen men in Washington D. C. and on Wall St. and in banking conference rooms around the country have conspired to enrich themselves and their friends at the expense of you and your children and grandchildren?

Seems a little like that to me too: subprime mortgage lending, companies piling on to get their part of the bubble economy before it bursts. But the Psalter reading for this morning brought a bit of a grin to me as I read:

Why should I fear in times of trouble,
when the iniquity of those who
cheat me surrounds me,
those who trust in their wealth
and boast of the abundance of their riches?

A good reminder that the times we live in are not substantially different from the times in which men have always lived since The Original Odd Couple got tossed.
The Psalmist later goes on, putting into perspective our brief lively sojourn:
Their graves are their homes forever,
their dwelling places to all generations,
though they called lands by their own names.

Man in his pomp will not remain,
he is like the beasts that perish.

But God will ransom my soul
from the power of Sheol,
for he will receive me.



Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Tail Wagging The Dog

Shall the axe boast over him who hews with it,
or the saw magnify itself against him who wields it?

As if a rod should wield him who lifts it,
or as if a staff should lift him who is not wood!
Isaiah 10:15



Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Isaiah and Mariah in the time of Advent


So timely, after all these years:

The people did not turn to him who struck them,
nor inquire of the Lord of hosts...
For all this his anger has not turned away,
and his hand is stretched out still...


Dropping my wife Deb off at the airport for her flight to San Diego at her mother's death, I stopped for coffee at the only place open at 5:30 in the morning: Denny's.
There I was accosted by the very worst of the secular Christmas season: modern poppish jiggly soft-rock seasonal songs, all with the same themes:

a. Christmas is the time for peace and love.
b. We're going to party till dawn.
c. Can't we just all get along?

And

d. Not a whisper of Christ.

From my little Christian cocoon, it is quite a shock to stick my neck out, have a listen, and see what Christmas has actually become for the vast majority of people: a sticky-sweet emotional storming of heaven.

I know, I know. I should know better. I got caught--swilling coffee in a booth at Denny's--in a vulnerable moment. I hate when that happens! It was a further shock to arrive home to morning prayer, where I read Isaiah 9-10, summarized above. And to then read in Psalm 55 of a "friend", whose speech is smooth as butter, words softer than oil, yet these words are drawn swords. Whew. I think I have been guilty of that this year.

It must be the seaon of Advent.


Monday, December 1, 2008

Libertarian Alert

The Washington Post has an article detailing a plan to deploy military troops on American soil in the event of a terrorist attack. I wonder what my friend over at Bi-Coloured Python-Rock-Snake has to say about this? A snippet from the article:
The U.S. military expects to have 20,000 uniformed troops inside the United States by 2011 trained to help state and local officials respond to a nuclear terrorist attack or other domestic catastrophe, according to Pentagon officials.
Here's my thought: These things start out so simply and innocently. The intent is good, but it can go bad so easily. If not substantially, then symbolically it is the wrong move. It conjures images that have seldom--Kent State comes to mind-- been a part of the American memory. Apart from the singular evil that was the American War Between The States, the idea of military troops bearing arms in the homeland (apart, of course, from training, which has always been closely confined to military bases) is a relatively new one.

Questions abound: How do military troops interact with other security and police forces within the country? The federal law known as posse comitatus was passed during the period of Reconstruction at the end of the civil war to restrict military presence and activities in the southern states that had attempted to secede from the Union. How far the interpretation of that law has extended to its application today I don't know. At first blush it doesn't apply, but it may have morphed into more extensive interpretations which would restrict the sort of thing the military has planned now. An opinion on the state of the statute here.

A further snippet from the article:
Domestic emergency deployment may be "just the first example of a series of expansions in presidential and military authority," or even an increase in domestic surveillance, said Anna Christensen of the ACLU's National Security Project. And Cato Vice President Gene Healy warned of "a creeping militarization" of homeland security.
The "innocent" aspect to this is just that the military appears to be in a better position from a funding and training perspective to react to the extreme case of a terrorist nuclear attack. To not plan for such an event is foolhardy, and it appears Congress has been pushing the military to come up with substantial scenarios for some time, to which this plan is a response.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Tell Tale Signs


I'm shipping Bob Dylan's latest CD, TELL TALE SIGNS, to my son Colin in Korea for Christmas. Other than being unable to get the celophane back on, he'll never know that I tore into it as soon as it arrived to see what goodies Dylan had for us. This is his eighth volume of the so-called Bootleg Series.

I haven't been disappointed. If you are a Dylan fan at all, there are gems in here that you will find deeply satisfying. I am again in awe of this man's surpassing talent as a songwriter. The booklet that comes along with it, largely written by Dylan's old friend "Ratso" Sloman, provides a nice overview of his career, with little gems thrown in from the personal experience of Ratso. He had once been invited to sit in with Dylan, listening to the final cut of one of his albums. Sloman got upset because "Blind Willie McTell" hadn't been included, a tribute to the blues legend.
"But Bob just put his hand on my shoulder. 'Aw, Ratso, don't get so excited,' he said. 'It's just an album. I've made thirty of them.'"
Listening to Dylan in these latter days, it is clear he has immersed himself in old Americana and its music.
"Those old songs are my lexicon and my prayer book. You can find all my philosophy in those old songs. Hank Williams singing 'I Saw The Light' or all the Luke The Drifter songs. That would be pretty close to my religion. The rabbis, priests, and ministers all do very well. But my belief system is more rugged and comes more from out of the old spiritual songs than from any of the established religious attempts to overcome the devil."
Included on this double CD are a few personal gems. It has two renditions of the recent but ageless tune MISSISIPPI. Sloman comments, "The song is so great, I could listen to a whole album of various takes of it." I could, too.
It also includes a previously unreleased Robert Johnson tune, "32-20". You hear Dylan finger picking and soloing:
"Oh, baby, where you stay last night? You got your hair all tangled and you ain't talkin' right." "I got a .38 special but I think it's much too light..."
Classic.
Finally, included is the cut 'CROSS THE GREEN MOUNTAIN, from the soundtrack of the Ted Turner-underwritten Gods and Generals. Dylan had been asked to write the song for the movie, and spent weeks in the NY Public Library researching the war. He manages to capture a wonderful sense of necessity, regret, and sadness.

Friday, November 28, 2008

EASY DOES IT

Victor Davis Hanson, with his characteristic sense of history, puts today's economic downturn in perspective, and suggests that much of our problem is about puerile hysteria, not reasoned wisdom:
Get a grip. Much of our current panic is psychological, and hyped by instantaneous electronic communications and second-by-second 24-hour news blasts. There has not been a nationwide plague that felled our workers. No earthquake has destroyed American infrastructure. The material United States before the September 2008 financial panic is largely the same as the one after. Once we tighten our belts and pay off the debts run up by Wall Street speculators and millions of borrowers who walked away from what they owed others — and we can do this in a $13 trillion annual economy — sanity will return.
With a little less confidence, but in the same vein, Peggy Noonan attempts to objectify the blather:

In the Depression people sold apples on the street. They sold pencils. Angels with dirty faces wore coats too thin and short and shivered in line at the government surplus warehouse. There was the Dust Bowl, and the want of the cities. Captains of industry are said to have jumped from the skyscrapers of Wall Street. (Yes, those were the good old days. Just kidding!) People didn't have enough food.

They looked like a catastrophe was happening.

We do not. It's as if the news is full of floods but we haven't seen it rain.

Whatever You Bind On Earth

You will arise and have pity on Zion,
it is the time to favor her;
the appointed time has come.


For your servants hold her stones dear
and have pity on her dust...
Psalm 102:13, 14


I found this partial reading from today's Psalmody of possible interest in light of the office of the keys. When the servants of God care deeply about something, so does the Lord.
Later in the reading: "he regards the prayer of the destitute and does not despise their prayer..."
Is the binding-on-earth at all about this?







Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Spirit of the Year of Jubilee

You shall count off seven weeks of years, seven years seven times, so that the days of the seven weeks of years amount to forty-nine years. Then you shall sound the ram's horn of acclamation; in the seven th month on the tenth day, on the Day of Atonement, you shall have a ram's horn sounded throughout the land, the land for all its inhabitants. It shall be a Jubilee for you, so that each of you may return to his landholding and each of you may return to his kin group. The fiftieth year shall be a Jubilee for you; you shall not sow [the field], and you shall not reap its self-sown grain, and you shall not pick its unpruned vines. Because it is a Jubilee, it shall be holy for you; from the field you may eat its produce. In this Year of Jubilee each of you shall return to his landholding.
Leviticus 25
God gave this law to Moses on Sinai. Because it is part of a complex of laws governing how the people of Israel were to live in the land Yahweh was to give them, it ought not to be understood, strictly speaking, outside of those laws. But we can take from it pointers for our own life's governance. And, we can understand this gift of Jubilee as a foregiving of a greater gift.

I think you could understand Jubilee as the culmination of all of the laws of living in the land that the Lord gave. This way of living, with honor and the fear of the Lord, supports the possibility of Jubilee; if the way of living in the fear of the Lord erodes, Jubilee crumbles.

We today live our lives as though there is no tomorrow. Yet see how the Lord instituted a year of rest for the land as well as, every fifty years, a year of rest for those who work the land. Or, work IN the land.

A point emphasized over and again is the prohibition against cheating one's neighbor. John Kleinig, in his commentary on this book, writes: "This, however, was a matter of morality, something that could not be enforced by any human court, an obligation that was motivated by the fear of God."

The land belongs to the Lord, and the landholders are stewards. This is pointed out by the concept of Jubilee itself, as well as the economy laid out by the Lord for the buying and selling of land: the price was gauged by the time since the last Jubilee. What was purchased was the right to use the land for a period of time. One became, as Kleinig points out, a "usufructuary". In the spirit of Leviticus, I hereby give you permission to whip that word out in polite company, but only over the next seven years, and only in some sort of reasonable context. No anacalouthons, people!

Ahem. Where was I?

The idea that the land belongs to God--it is "his royal estate" (Kleinig)--means that we who dwell and work in the land are his royal servants. The concept of Christian vocation plays very easily into this understanding. It reinforces that difficult concept that whatever falls into our hands is a matter of stewardship, the very opposite of covetousness.

Kleinig calls this chapter of Leviticus a "theology of the land". He points out that this was not new in history, but that occasionally kings would proclaim a "misarum", a kind of amnesty, involving the cancelling of debts; the freeing of slaves, etc. The sort of thing Pilate did in small form by the releasing of a prisoner--Barabbas--at the culmination of Holy Week each year. So, the law is indeed written on man's heart.

FULFILLMENT BY CHRIST

One of the great values of John Kleinig's commentary on the ancient--some would say irrelevant--book of Leviticus is his including in each chapter an essay pointing out how we find Christ in the book. He refers to Is. 61, wherein "the Suffering Servant of the Lord declares that he was sent by God to proclaim an extraordinary Jubilee." As opposed to your garden variety Jubilee, when the debts between people were forgiven, "in this year of Jubilee, God himself would free his people from their debt to him and avenge their enemies." Note that in Luke's gospel, Jesus himself referred to his own ministry in light of the Isaiah passage (Luke 4:17-19).

Kleinig ends his essay with the words to the hymn:

Oh, for a thousand tongues to sing
My great Redeemer's praise,
The glories of my God and King,
The triumphs of his grace!

He breaks the pow'r of canceled sin;
He sets the pris'ner free.
His blood can make the foulest clean;
His blood avails for me.


Quotes taken from the Concordia Commentary on Leviticus, published by CPH

The Boys


Colin and Jeremy, last year in Korea.

they look approx. 2.35 sheets to the wind to me

Sunday, November 23, 2008

New From Google Images


Women machinists during War One
Search millions of photographs from the LIFE photo archive, stretching from the 1750s to today. Most were never published and are now available for the first time through the joint work of LIFE and Google.
Find it here




HT: Shrine of the Holy Whapping

“I suffered great psychic harm,” said Olfmann. “And now I’m completely out of bull entrails.”

If you haven't seen My Latest Favorite Blog yet--STRANGE HERRINGS, you must, you must. It combines good solid Lutheran confessional theology with a manic, Onionesque take on what is happening at what in OT times was called the "gate"--the public square. Anthony Sacramone, late of Luther At The Movies and currently holding down a steady job at First Things, is BACK!

Friday, November 21, 2008

CRIMINAL MIND

Yes, we've struck bottom. For several months we've resorted to amusing ourselves, collectively, with the television show CRIMINAL MINDS. It was going along so well for us, too. We'd gotten used to the visual or implicit violence, the theme of FBI profilers digging into the minds and motivations of the nation's most depraved serial killers. We were aware the show was painstakingly reality-based (without being reality-based). We'd gotten to like the cast, especially Gubler, and had come to realize that the real-life profilers working for the real-life FBI were heroes. All of that.

But we crossed a line last night, watching something tacked onto our Netflicks copy of one of the series' shows, called The Making of CRIMINAL MINDS. This self-congratulatory look behind the scenes has become de rigeur in the movie and television industry, as those of us with inquiring minds--"who want to know"--demand more and more of what ought to be a simple diversion: watching a make-believe television show featuring actors and actresses pretending to be someone else. We now need to see the boom operators and cameramen stalking the scene as well. Otherwise, its just fake, right?

We hit bottom however, when Mandy Patinkin, who had so covered himself with glory and laurels as the Spanish swordsman Montoya in THE PRINCESS BRIDE, had to get personal with us. He had (he's OTS* now) some sort of personal identification with the show and his role that just...wasn't quite right. And he had to couch this in terms that were just wrong. Just wrong.

In speaking of the heroic role of FBI profiler, dealing with all of this evil in the world, he had this, sort of (by memory) to say:
"You just have to breathe in all of that darkness, and breathe out light."


Somebody with only one nature can do this?





*Off The Show

Congressional Motors


IowaHawk puts a hilarious spin on Congress' notion that they can get involved in saving the American car industry. Read it, weep.

A snippet:
All new for 2012, the Pelosi GTxi SS/Rt Sport Edition is the mandatory American car so advanced it took $100 billion and an entire Congress to design it. We started with same reliable 7-way hybrid ethanol-biodeisel-electric-clean coal-wind-solar-pedal power plant behind the base model Pelosi, but packed it with extra oomph and the sassy styling pizazz that tells the world that 1974 Detroit is back again -- with a vengeance.
One thing is sure since the election: politics are funny again. Laughing is about all we've got left. Or... or all we've gotten right. Heheheh.

Important Fact Of The Day

Most toilets flush in the key of E flat.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Typealyzer and Me

The American Scene got me onto this:

Typealyzer.com

Here in part is what turned up for this blog:

The Mechanic:
The independent and problem-solving type. They are especially attuned to the demands of the moment are masters of responding to challenges that arise spontaneously. They generally prefer to think things out for themselves and often avoid inter-personal conflicts.
Yeah, that part about avoidance is spot-on. Otherwise, I mean, the Mechanic???
I once helped rebuild a VW 36 horse engine. Otherwise, I change the blades on my lawn mower. Otherwise...

My 14 year old daughter's blog, on the other hand, fits the profile of an entertainer. Imagine that.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Climate Change Science Explained


Ground surface temps have been measured all over the world for decades and then collected in order for us to know whether the earth's temperature is actually rising, falling, or staying more or less the same. But there appears to be a great deal of chaos in this scientific undertaking. A commenter named Phil over at Watts Up With That? helps explain the state of affairs at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies and elsewhere:

Think of it this way. You conduct an experiment. After you conduct the experiment, you find out that (a) some of your instruments were either miscalibrated, defective or improperly located, (b) external factors that you did not take into consideration or measure at the time the experiment was running have affected your measurements, (c) some of the measurements during the experiment were not recorded, (d) you used different instruments to record measurements over different time periods at different locations during the experiment. You find all of this out AFTER you have been running the experiment for many years. Then, instead of throwing out the data as hopelessly compromised and starting the experiment over with these factors corrected, you (a) do a study estimating how miscalibrated, how defective and how improperly located your instruments were and apply adjustments to all past data to “correct” the improper reading, (b) you do a study to estimate the effect of the external factors at the time you discover the problem and apply adjustments to all past data to “correct” the effects of the external factors even though you have no idea what the effect of the external factor actually was for a given instrument at the time the data was recorded, because you only measured the effect years later and then at only some locations, (c) you “fill in” any missing data using data from other instruments and/or from other measurements by the same instrument, (d) you do another study to determine how best to deal with measurements from different instruments over different time periods and at different locations and apply adjustments to all past data to “correct” for differences between readings from different instruments over different time periods at different locations. Then you continue running the experiment, while you continue applying all of your adjustments on an ongoing basis to all past data as new measurements are recorded. Finally, you believe that all of your data has been meticulously recorded with great accuracy and any uncertainties are minimal. Then you proceed to use the results of your experiment to justify changing policies for the entire world at a cost of many trillions of dollars, with the unerring belief that your experimental data is completely reliable.

It isn't helpful that one of the organizations being relied upon for basic data on temperature change is led by a proponent of man-made climate change. Fix the science by fixing the organization that does the science, fund it properly, and let's find out what we know before we decide what we do. Is fixing a problem that may not exist something that ought to be high on our list of priorities?
Anyway, you may want to keep an eye on the blog listed above as well as this one:
http://www.climateaudit.org/ There is some mild sniping going on betwixt and between the competing agonistes, which makes it all the more a spectacle to behold.
Counterarguments here.



Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

LIFEBOAT ETHICS

Seen in FIRST THINGS today:


Lifeboat Ethics

Since I'm a utilitarian
I'll eat the vegetarian.
--A.M. Juster

Thursday, November 6, 2008

So. Does this mean Bill Clinton won't be the next ambassador to the U.N.?

Political Donatism

There is a new term afoot: Obamicons. Conservatives who, in the Last Days, threw their weight behind Obama or else just silently slinked away and voted for the President-elect (not elect until December when the electoral college votes, of course).
Hold that thought.

You remember the Donatists? Of course you do. Back in the early fourth century, when the dust had begun to settle from the Decian persecution, followed by the Diocletian persecution, certain Christians began to recount that those traditores (Those who had "handed over" the sacred scriptures to Roman authorities to be burned) who had bent a knee to Caesar were now once again in the Church, baptizing babies and offering the sacrament. The Donatists rigorously dissented, insisting the church was the church of saints, not sinners, and these weak-kneed hypocrites had already shown their true colours, and ought to be shown the door. As you no doubt know, the Donatists themselves were shown the door. Off they went to north Africa, of course, to party piously by themselves.

One of the interesting challenges for the Republicans now is what to do with these Obamicons who in their support for the Democratic nominee showed their true colours. Victor Davis Hanson muses:
Obamacons. The timing and rationale for conservatives jumping for Obama became suspect not because of their decision per se, but because it came late, and was often without an explanation of why Obama’s tax or spending plan, or foreign policy, or proposed new entitlements were superior to John McCain’s.
They will be orphaned since there are too many more liberal in line ahead of them to enjoy Obama’s graces, and they burned their bridges with their former conservative supporters.
If this election did anything, it did indeed shake up the status quo. It will be interesting to see if political donatism is alive and well in the 21st century. Churches--and political parties--most often just shoot their wounded.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Margin of Error = Who the hell knows?

Iowa-Hawk weighs in on the imperfections in our national polling systems:

here.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Treasury of Daily Prayer

It has arrived.

What I like best:

My other volumes of daily devotions consist of scripture followed by a meditation written by the author of the devotion. This volume's meditations consist, apropos of the readings, of quotes from such sources as: Martin Luther, Martin Chemnitz, Tertullian, Walther, Hugh of St. Victor (yes!), Cyril of Jerusalem, Thomas a Kempis (!), and that old Cappadocian, Gregory of Nazianzus, among a host of other witnesses.

Did I mention Martin Luther?

The daily structure of the devotions:
Psalmody
OT Reading--extensive
NT Reading--extensive
Writing (commentary)
Hymnody
Prayer of the Day
Suggested Reading from the Book of Concord.

There is a section containing the various daily liturgies: Matins, Vespers, Compline, etc.
The Psalms are included in their entirety.
Prayers for the Baptismal Life--wonderful title!--include a range of prayers for life's many situations and complications.

The editors scattered quotes from hymns and the church fathers throughout the book. An example, p. 1320:

The sea of this world lies between where we are going, even though we have already seen where we are going. And what has God done? He has provided the wood by which we may cross the sea. For no one can cross the sea of the world unless carried by the cross of Christ.
-Augustine, tractatus in evangelium Ioannis 2.2
There is much more to please the eye and heart. Overall, very nicely done. If you can swing the price, get yours in leather. For a more detailed and comprehensive review, see here.

Is It Possible...

...to argue in an arc so miniscule that people don't realize...

...you're arguing in a circle?

I've been having this recurring thought it might be so.
Let the smart aleck comments commence.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Ideology of Cancellation

"The ideology of cancelation is the conviction that the happiness of peoples and the progress of nations require the cancelation of everything born of the traditional order: fatherland, family, morals, upbringing, identity. These are the legacy of a dark and retrograde world. This liquidation of the past will not be carried out in the old way--with red banners flying and heads mounted on stakes. Such methods will no longer do, because they frighten the masses. What we are faced with is a movement soft and gentle in appearance, heavily cloaked in ritual invocations of dialogue and peace. This "sub-revolution" does not focus on the structure that holds up state power--the economy, the military--but pays attention instead to the true foundations of collective life: belief systems, customs, education. The nation is a decaying concept; the family is an institution from the past; religion is a superstition; morality is but a question of perspective; the law should adjust to circumstances. This is the mind-set that is being imposed on Spain from the corridors of power."
Chronicles magazine has an article in its current edition written by Spanish journalist Jose Javier Esparza, entitled SPAIN EMBRACES CHANGE .

Until the last sentence, you may have thought we were talking about the second term of President Barack Obama. But Spain has had a twenty year head start on socialism, and is in the forefront of defining its latest incarnation.

Esparza describes the Three Lefts as seen throughout the 20Th century up until now. The First Left was "revolutionary and red": Russia in 1917, Spain in 1934, 36; "The First Left ended up drowning in a bloodbath of the Gulag and the Cheka."

The Second Left, per Esparza, was reformist and white: "...the British Labor movement, Swedish and German social decomcracies...Its paradise was Sweden. The Second Left collapsed and died, a casualty of the mere inability to keep up the level of public spending required by the welfare state..."

The Third Left has risen out of the ashes of its grandparents and parents. "Its great challenge is to construct a new theoretical paradigm...[it took] its inspiration...from the Sexual Revolution, the Latin American insurgency,...libertarian pipe dreams..."

The author argues that this socialist ideology made its first appearance in the West during the '60's. Stop me if you've heard this before somewhere. The therapeutic relaxation of traditional values is well advanced in our own society and throughout the west.
"The condemnation of history brings with it an implicit messianic hope: If things have been this way until today, it is now up to the left to effect change, to return us to the righteous path. And the disintegration of Spain will not be called such, but rather an improvement in harmony; and a pact with terrorists will not be called a capitulation, but a message of peace."
Esparza concludes (bold print mine):
"This mind set has every potential to take root in other societies--wherever the people do not know who they are and where they are going. It is the instinct to surrender to the barbarian, a phenomenon observed in all historical instances of decay; today, it is spreading throughout Europe. This instinct first arises in the privileged classes and may be described as an inclination to back down in the face of an external threat. Here, the fear of losing what one possesses enters into the equation, as does a certain kind of guilty conscience, a disquieting feeling of having benefited from some injustice. Thus, frequently, we hear cries that "They're not so bad," or "Aren't we the ones who pose the real threat?" At this point, the only thing left to do is to throw open the gates."


We aren't here yet, are we? And Obama himself probably does not have aspirations to take us there, at least directly. But the point is: these things are being painstakingly planned. There is an agenda that is leading us to be lulled asleep, to "forget who we are and where we are going". Those who wish these things upon us are in positions of great power. Esparza makes the case that Spain's political leadership is full steam ahead to establish a new kind of Socialism, a third great experiment which is NOT at all akin to the great American experiment.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

American Electioneering

Mark Steyn:

According to newspaper reports, polls show that most people believe newspaper reports claiming that most people believe polls showing that most people have read newspaper reports agreeing that polls show he’s going to win.
This isn't just nonsense. It is actually a strategy.
Steyn goes on:
I agree with Thomas Sowell that an Obama-Pelosi supermajority will mark what he calls “a point of no return”. It would not be, as some naysayers scoff, “Jimmy Carter’s second term”, but something far more transformative.
I've been one of those thinking it'll be Jimmy The Second. The more I read, not just about Obama, but about the kinds of tactics the people following in his wake undertake, I am tending to agree with Mark Steyn agreeing with Thomas Sowell. It is just a bit scary.
Peggy Noonan thinks a President Obama will be like the dog who chases the car and finally catches it: Now what?

Ah. They're just a bunch of reactionary conservatives.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

There Will Be Oil

The World's oil reserves total around 1, 240 billion barrels.
That's enough to keep us buzzing off to the quick stop in our guzzlers for another fifty years, at today's usage. Of course "today's usage" ought to go down as we find more efficient ways to burn oil, but it is a workable number anyway.

But wait. Within the last six months, both Venezuela and Iraq have increased their estimated oil reserves, to the tune of 30 billion barrels each.

And now Cuba has announced that they have "discovered" that their oil reserves are double what they previously thought, according to a BBC report. They now claim to have a 20 billion barrel reserve.

Lubos Motl, a Czech physicist and blogger, has some interesting perspectives on the idea that the world is running short of its most important economic commodity.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Pay Grades

"Obama has said that the abortion question is "above his pay grade." What is actually the case is that simple honesty on the issue is above his pay grade."

Doug Wilson, from his Blog and Mablog

THE VIRGIN OF IZAMAL



In September on a trip to the Yucutan, we visited the city of Izamal, which lies to the west on the way to Merida. It is an historic city, whose buildings tend to be painted yellow, as the monastery is in the above photo. This area has a more pronounced Hispanic influence than the largely Mayan area where we stayed, in Ek Balam.






We visited on a very hot Sunday, and arrived in time for the Catholic Mass in the monastery, a service which was well attended and included a choir in the balcony with guitar accompaniment.

A beautiful crucifix greeted us, inside the enormous wooden doors at the back of the sanctuary. So. Christ can be found in this place.








This is the front of the sanctuary. Note the little alcoves for a variety of saints and popes. Note the large empty alcove at top, center.
At the beginning of the divine service, bells rang, and two doors at the back of the empty alcove opened. Ceremoniously, regally, the queen of heaven--Theotokos, theVirgin Mary --slowly processed forward through the doors and to the front of the alcove. It left little doubt as to Who we were worshipping that morning.



Here is the crowned queen Herself, the crown having actually been put on her head by a recent Pope.

At the end of the service, bells again rang, and the Virgin then slowly recessed back out of the alcove, past the doors, which then mechanically shut. We learned later that, mechanically, the statue of the Virgin would rotate 180 degrees, and face a smaller chapel at the back and above the main sanctuary, where the devoted could go to get more serious Virgin facetime





Here is the smaller chapel, which has wonderful paintings of the life of Christ surrounding the large alcove where Mary spends Her downtime.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

THE WOLF IN WINTER


ANKE, snuffing snow



Robin came up with this picture from last Winter. That, ladies and gents, is a happy dog. Or lion. Or wolf.



ARE POLLS TRUSTWORTHY?

...And if not, who or what can you trust? (Gullible Christian Alert: this is what we would call a rhetorical question.)

Here is an interesting evaluation of polling and what it means. It is entitled The Left's Big Blunder.

A quip:
In 2008 there is no silent majority: there is the silenced majority. The unpolled majority. The media is so pro-Obama that the views and the concerns of McCain supporters are for the most part ignored or, at best, mocked. The goal is to foster disillusionment among them, a sense of isolation. To trick the Republicans into all staying home on election day because "there's no hope of winning." Maybe the Democrats can't avoid a showdown on November 4, but if they can convince enough McCain supporters to individually "fold" and not vote at all, then Obama can carry the day.
Of course, you can't trust polls. And yet politicians rule by them, true believers hang on those precious numbers, opinions are swayed by them, and elections are won by them. The USA Today newspaper got its start by putting a poll on its front page every day (I haven't read a USA Today for years, so don't know if this is still a practice). It got so Doonesbury ran a series entitled, "We're eating more prunes!" as a parody of the sorts of silly polls that paper would run. Of course, poll-following tends to be a self-fulfilling sort of activity, and we are now a nation of poll followers. It is soft-porn gambling: a low-grade thrill ride for a nation of people who just "like to watch", a la Chauncey Gardner.

End of rant.


HT to Bi-Coloured Python.



POST SCRIPT: A nice followup to the article linked here can be found here.

GOD AND BEER


Bavarian monks brewed strong bach beers to sustain them during Lent?
That sounds like cheating to me. But then, Cesar Chavez ate Kosher crackers and downed RC Cola during his protest fasts, so I guess a little cheating when it comes to long-term fasts is perhaps traditional.

The New York Times (HT to Get Religion) has an article about the 27th Great American Beer Festival here. It talks about how often beer and religion have been intertwined.

Any good German-American Lutheran (I am, I guess, an ingraft) knows this in his bones. We use beer to sustain us through good times and bad; through fasting, gluttony, liturgy, and long, winter bowling leagues.

I'm wondering if this brewer however, perhaps because he is not religious, has crossed a line:
Cilurzo's latest creation, Consecration, was a festival hit and an answered prayer -- a richly textured sour ale aged for nine months in Cabernet Sauvignon barrels with black currants.
That's...that's just wrong.

Univeral Health Care Fascism

The DarkMarket Side


You know, of course, that the internet is a sewage dump of porn, spam, and other unedifying garbage. It isn't so often that you get an inside look at the Underworld that operates throughout the world on the World Wide Web.

Maybe you don't want to know. Perhaps it is enough to know that you can
Sleep Tight Tonight;
Your FBI Is Awake.

Wired News has this article about a recent sting operation carried out by a cyberfunction unit of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The sting was worldwide, and hints at how the FBI has to work with the law enforcement agencies of various countries in order to close the deal.

Read it here.

A little taste:

The FBI almost certainly closed DarkMarket in preparation for a global wave of arrests that will unfold in the next month or so. The site was likely shuttered to avoid an Agatha Christie scenario in which a diminishing pool of cybercrooks are free to speculate about why they're disappearing one-by-one like the hapless dinner guests in Ten Little Indians.
I love it. Agatha Christie. The FBI reads crime novels?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Crimson Tide


You know, the submarine flick. The captain (Gene Hackman) and the XO (played by Denzel Washington) are on deck just before submerging.
Hackman offers Washington a cigar.


"I don't trust air I can't see."



Actually, the movie's protaganist is Washington, playing a highly educated and civilized black Naval officer who has philosophical differences with the purposes of the weapon--a nuclear submarine carrying thermonuclear warheads--he is serving on .

I found myself supporting Hackman'a character, a crusty old timer who was one of the few submarine captains left-- so goes the script-- that had actually served in a fighting war. The movie is actually very good because the tension between the two excellent main actors is so well portrayed. Unfortunately, it ends up siding with what I'd call an Obamaesque approach to war: so utterly philosophically marinated that no actual military decision can be made, except perhaps the surgical, scalpel-like approach of ramming a Tomahawk missile down a camel's throat.






Wednesday, October 15, 2008

“They want us to leave, and they want us to stay — and they can’t have both.”


Hat Tip to The-Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake.

Jay Nordlinger of NR has been in Iraq, blogging about what he sees there.
A few snippets:
As I listen to this briefing, some thoughts occur to me — thoughts of a general nature. We are doing so very much. Have foreigners ever done so much for a country? The Iraqis are lucky to be looked after in this way. Many other countries would kill for it. I think of the title of one of Fouad Ajami’s books: “The Foreigner’s Gift.” That’s putting it mildly. Of course, “we broke it, we have to fix it,” right? The country was broken — tyrannized and aggressive — before. We are changing it.
In talking to a major in Baghdad:
I ask what, for me, is a standard question: How do Iraqis feel about our presence — the presence of the coalition? She gives what is certainly the right answer: “They want us to leave, and they want us to stay — and they can’t have both.” They want us to leave, because it’s their country. But they want us to stay, because of what might ensue if we left.
And finally this:
May I make a general observation? I think it many times, during this trip: If the American taxpayer saw things in action over here, he’d be very pleased — pleased that his money was being well spent.

You should read the whole journal, and Evan at T-B-P-R-S has lined it up for you.

One out of every ten light bulbs in America is now being lit by a former Soviet weapon!

It says so right here.


Actually, this is an article about the safe and sane use of nuclear power. It is a very compelling argument, with more detail than is normally found, and lay-friendly to boot.

To cut to the chase, anticipating your "But...but...but...!", a snippet:

All of France’s nuclear waste from 25 years of producing 75 percent of its electricity is stored beneath the floor of one room at Le Hague. The lifetime output for each French citizen would fit in a soda can. That’s what the incredible energy density of nuclear power can do for the environment.
If you want to see what it'll take to provide America with sufficient electricity to continue to have the world's strongest economy, as well as a cool comparison between nuclear and every other known source of large-scale energy production, read the article.

Monday, October 13, 2008

THE RACE

Driving around Madison, WI, it is apparent from the LAWN SIGNS that there is a presidential race going on.

Judging from the signs, the race is between Obama/Biden, and someone called ForSaleByOwner.

Obama appears to be winning by a 4/1 margin.

No McCain/Palin signs in evidence anywhere.



Although I know my friend Tim Gies is sporting one on his lawn.
Actually, a friendly local liberal keeps running over it with his bicycle.





Friday, October 10, 2008

The JUNIAS Conspiracy


Also in Touchstone this month, a review by John Hunwicke of another book purporting to prove that the Junia of Romans 16:7 was The First Female Apostle.

"Greet Andronicus and Junias, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners, who are outstanding among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me."
Romans 16:7

This is a fun read even if, like me, you don't read koine Greek. A snippet:

"...Our culture is one in which any new theory, fantasy, or piece of potential evidence that appears to cast doubt on the authenticity of traditional Christianity is welcomed and is sold on to the secular media within hours; anything that might run the risk of bolstering it is buried. Now there's a real conspiracy."


This quote comes on the heels of several examples, as you might expect, of solid but contradictory evidence against the Academy's modern take on the canon.

Look, I don't know if Hunwicke is right. I'm just a guy in the pew, trying to find which page the Psalm-of-the-day is on. I couldn't fight my way out of a philological paper bag. It would probably take several back-and-forths between the author and the author he's arguing against before any real conclusions could be drawn.

But it's a fun read.

...civilized, republican, and Christian


Peter Leithart has a little blurb in the most recent Touchstone journal entitled Techno-Triumphalism, which reads in part:

"...Daniel Walker Howe quotes an 1850 Methodist women's magazine's ecstasies over the telegraph: 'This noble invention is to be the means of extending civilization, republicanism, and Christianity over the earth. It must and will be extended to nations half-civilized, and thence to those now savage and barbarous. Our government will be the grand center of this mighty influence...The beneficial and harmonious operation of our institutions will be seen, and similar ones adopted. Christianity must speedily follow them, and we shall behold the grand spectacle of a whole world, civilized, republican, and Christian...Wars will cease from the earth...Then shall come to pass the millennium.' "

The millenium indeed. Or, well. The Civil War.

What caught my eye was how "the beneficial and harmonious operation of our institutions will be seen, and similar ones adopted.." I am aware that Christianity of one stripe or another more or less speedily followed, but can't help but think that Our Global Economy is really the descendant of that magazine's prophetic vision.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

IS GOVERNMENT MY BROTHER'S KEEPER?

I heard Mr. Obama's plea for support of the government bailout that is enjoying so much support in Washington and on Wall Street and by golly all over the world all of a sudden.

It was on the radio; I'm driving; I don't have a Tivo rewind button so this is from memory:

"We are our brother's keeper! That is how we've always moved forward in this country!"

I'm just guessing, but he may be quoting from the Revised Standard Jeremiah Wright Version of the New Testament.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Treasury of Daily Prayer


Concordia Publishing House is about to put out a new volume of daily prayer and meditation that has the confessional Lutheran world very excited. You can take a close look at it here. I attach here a somewhat lengthy paean to the excellence of the new book from Internet Monk, via Paul McCain's website, Cyberbrethren:

I want to use every superlative possible to tell my readers that Concordia has produced the most comprehensive, well edited, plainly explained and thoroughly impressive resource for liturgical daily prayer I’ve ever encountered. If you want a resource for personal or small group liturgical prayer, with abundant options, complete explanation of the Christian year, scripture passages printed out, readings from Church fathers included and much more, your search is permanently over. The Treasury of Daily Prayer surpasses any resource I’ve seen. What impresses me the most here is not what other resources do, but what no other resource does. I am constantly looking for resources synced with the Christian year AND for the Christian year to be completely explained. Done. I’m looking for Lenten devotions with a catechetical focus. Done. I want liturgical prayer that includes readings from the church fathers and reference to doctrinal confessions. Done. I want the process of liturgical prayer explained step by step and in its component parts, so that those with no background in such prayer can begin with confidence. Done. This is a Lutheran resource, published by the LCMS publishing house. It is catholic in the sense that conservative Lutheran resources are expected to be. This isn’t a resource that does anything with contemporary generic evangelicalism in mind. The confessions referenced are Lutheran confessions, and Luther is generously represented in the readings. The lectionary is the LCMS lectionary. This in no way limits the value of this resource for any Protestant. Even with the sacramental disagreements that may be underlined in some portions of the material, the vast majority of what you’ll find in The Treasury of Daily Prayer is completely usable by any Christian. It’s a feast folks. Seriously. I’ve seen nothing this good or even close. This is the kind of large resource that can make a lifetime contribution to personal worship. It is a complete education in the Protestant liturgical prayer tradition, Lutheran version.”
—Michael Spencer
InternetMonk.com



My copy is on order!

Note: The image of the book is taken from the CPH website and used without permission. Heck. The Spencer quote is used without permission also. So sue me.


REAL LIFE


Mike, upper left, with some of the Bible study brothers


I have mentioned before that I lead a Friday night Bible study at the local prison near Oregon, WI. One characteristic of these studies is how quickly I come to be attached to these guys. Another characteristic is that they can be gone before I know it. I miss a Friday night for one reason or another, and when I go back, a couple of guys have been transferred or released. I normally never hear from them again.

A month or so ago on a Friday night, I learned that Mike McNichols, who had been a faithful attendee at the Bible study for six or eight months and had been expecting to go into a quick release program in a few weeks, had been transferred back to the higher security prison because he'd been diagnosed with cancer and needed their more sophisticated medical facilities. I got his address and sent him a short note, expressing both sorrow and encouragement to him at this "setback". Life in Christ doesn't ever really have setbacks, but stil the flesh suffers on that long road to victory. So it is with Mike.

He sent me a copy of a letter he was using to communicate to his many family and friends. Without his permission, but with confidence that he would approve, I'm including parts of it here.

I remember Mike for his sense of humor and his intense, almost ambitious love of ideas. When I was going to take a photo (above) of some of the Bible study guys, I said, "Ok, line up against the wall." You know. For the photo. Mike quickly laughed and said, "You shouldn't say that to us. We're criminals!" And some time later, while we were sitting waiting for the others to join us at the beginning of a Friday night, he said to me, "I stole 1.6 million dollars. I'm not getting out of here for five years at least."

In Mike McNichols own words, then: his story.

July 2008

"All things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28.

Dear Family, Friends, and Prayer Partners;

The month of June 2008 can be viewed as one of promising news or devastating news. It seems to depend on your perspective of life.
On June 5, I had just returned to Oregon Correctional Center (OCC) after spending large parts of the three previous days at University of Wisconsin Hospitals for tests to see why my red blood count was dangerously low and hopefully learn why I had been suffering from debilitating back pain during April and May.

I heard the knock on my door and found Rita, one of the nurses at OCC, standing there with a guard. "Mr. McNichols, they want you back at the hospital immediately. I can't say exactly what it is, but it is serious."
I had spent most of June 4 in the Hematology/Cancer ward at UW Hospitals. The main things happening that day were a bone marrow biopsy and two blood transfusions. Leaving the ward, reading the sign, I thought: "I just spent the day on a cancer ward. This can't be good."
When I was told I was returning to the hospital, I called my sisters, Julie and Connie, to let them know. I remember saying to Connie, "I don't want to die."

I was admitted to the secure unit at UW Hospitals and remember a doctor walking in. He said, "Mr. McNichols, you have Multiple Myeloma." He explained it was bone marrow cancer with no cure. "I have cancer," I thought. Then something happened that changed my life. All I could think of was Romans 8:28 (see top of letter). Well, I love God. I asked to be and am called "according to his purpose". God plans to use this to further His kingdom and he's chosen me to stand up and stand out for Him.
The doctor continued to tell me about MM. I listened, but just kept hearing Romans 8:28 and the words to the hymn How Great Thou Art. When he finished, he asked if I had questions. "Yes. What shall we do about this and when do we get started?" The next five days I underwent various forms of oral chemotherapy, had skeletal xrays, and 4 of 10 radiation treatments. Yes, I cried as I pondered my mortality (I had plans to live to 85), but I was continually reminded that God has chosen me, in this time and place, to work His good.

As most of you know, I was sentenced to 7 years in the Wisconsin prison system for stealing money to support my gambling and alcohol addictions. I had learned in May '08 that I was accepted into Earned Release, a 6 month program that grants release early to those completing the sessions. I wold get out of prison 3 years, 10 months ahead of schedule. I was looking forward to release, but my back hurt so severely, I didn't enjoy the prospect.

So how did I get to this point? I went to prison January 20, 2006. Three months later, in early April, I found myself on my bunk talking to God. "Okay Lord, I have no money. I owe so much I'll never be able to pay it back. I lost my business, my wife left me after 31 years of marriage, our house went to foreclosure, I have no career. My kids are struggling with my very existence. I have nothing to offer you, except me. Just me. If you want me, I'm yours."

It was a "reconversion". I've known God since my friend Ken showed Him to me in 1964, but He didn't mean that much. I did my own thing. I came to believe that the verse "your sin will find you out" didn't apply to me.
God let me go my own way for about 13 years. I faked my Christianity and did unhealthy and immoral things. Yet God never let me out of the palm of His hand. From April 8, 2005 to May 4, 2005 I lost everything. I got an OWI, my wife left, I was kicked out of my house, I was sued, lost my business and finally was arrested. For 9 months I was homeless. I slept on a sofa and got a job as a painter for minimum wage. September '05 I had to have a disc removed from my back and lived with my sister and mother for the final 4 months before sentencing.

Four months after coming to prison, my mother died. I couldn't attend the funeral. While here God allowed me to give something back. I tutored other inmates. Many got their HS equivalency in the process. Finally in September 2007, I left New Lisbon to go to the Oregon Correctional Center to await my entry into Earned Release and early exit.

Last November I found myself at 256 lbs. In January I found I had diabetes and now had a reason to lose weight. But my hemocrit/hemoglobin red blood counts kept dropping. They should have been 13-17 range; mine starts at 11.8 and by June it was under 8.0. Tests revealed that I don't make red blood cells. I make too many white ones--which became tumors. The CT scan showed a tumor "about the size of a baseball" in my sacrum (tailbone) intruding into the spinal canal. There was a second on in my spine at T12 that collapsed a vertebrae.

A common question asked with cancer is "how long?" Another: "Can we cure it?" I have been given no time frame to live. This cancer cannot be cured. In other words, I have terminal cancer...."All things work together..."

It is treatable. The ultimate treatment is stem cell transplant. I am a candidate; possibly by the end of the year. I see the oncology docs once a month. I've had 4 blood transfusions, 2 IV chemo treatments, and I take 16 pills a day to fight this thing. I walk long distances here, 2 blocks or more, with the aid of a wheelchair and continue to believe "All things work together for the good..." My cousin sends my "healthy thoughts", my sisters take good care of me; a church in Louisville prays for me.
After diagnosis, the Earned Release opportunity was taken from me because I cannot have "health needs" while in the program. It was though, given back, as one place offering it does have medical facilities on site. I am on a waiting list.

My sister Julie asked me if I was "scared" of dying. No I am not. People have inquired about how I feel--really feel. I know God worked this through. I was diagnosed with diabetes in January and as a result had follow up blood tests. My dropping red count was found because of the follow up blood tests. The nurses at OCC where I was at the time, Patty, Rita and Kathryn stayed on it and that led to my diagnosis. They probably saved my lie. To them I am eternally grateful..."
Mike McNichols


I

Friday, September 26, 2008

THE LION IN WINTER in October


The despotic leader of the No Inklings Book Club--me--has declared our next meeting Movie Night. If the little lambs aren't going to read what I assign, then a pox on them. Let them eat cake, and watch a flick.

Being despotic, I decided what movie we'd watch, but I watched closely to ensure it met with the lambs' satisfaction. I had Robin in my pocket, as she'd seen and approved of my choice in advance. Machiavellian, am I.

Peter O'Toole and Katherine Hepburn, unhinged and freed to chew the scenery to their hearts' content, star in this old classic, a movie with perhaps more great one-liners than any I know of. To say this is a movie about man's sin--his abject, total, unremitting sin--is an easy point to make. To say it is also about grace is harder, and the challenge the No Inklings will have.

I'm also conducting a contest: the person who most quickly identifies a buried line of dialogue will win Some Sort of Prize. Stay tuned.

But now, some zingers from THE LION IN WINTER.

Eleanor: I adored you. I still do.
Henry II: Of all the lies you've told, that is the most terrible.
Eleanor: I know. That's why I've saved it up until now.

*****
Eleanor: I even made poor Louis take me on Crusade. How's that for blasphemy. I dressed my maids as Amazons and rode bare-breasted halfway to Damascus. Louis had a seizure and I damn near died of windburn... but the troops were dazzled.

*****
Henry II: I marvel at you after all these years. Still like a democratic drawbridge: going down for everybody.
Eleanor: At my age there's not much traffic anymore.

*****

[Gazing into a mirror]
Eleanor: My, what a lovely girl. How could her king have left her?

*****

Eleanor: In a world where carpenters get resurrected, everything is possible.

*****
(Robin's favorite):

Eleanor: I suppose every family has its ups and downs...