Friday, July 25, 2014

Book Larnin'

Intriguing article in the New Republic for parents of high schoolers by William Deresiewicz. (And even if you are not considering a top-tier school, helpful in considering why you are sending them to college.) 

While I'm not sure I agree with the weighted SAT, I like many of his other suggestions. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

"Baby, tell me what you think about this..."

Some modern country for your listening pleasure

Love the way these two harmonize together, gorgeous harmony. Beautiful song and video.

Back at Mama's

And another good song by Miranda Lambert.


Old stuff:
Nickel Creek 
The Hand Song

Out of the Woods

And of course some Alison Krauss. You didn't think I do even a wee post like this without her?

The Lucky One

Ghost in This House


Monday, July 21, 2014

Remembering an Old Friend

A friend of mine from college died recently. He was known for encouraging others in the faith, and loved by many friends. But he took his own life this April, overwhelmed with a heavy burden.

These two short pieces were both written by friends of Mark for a recent memorial service. They were both written independently of each other. The Lord knows us fully -- but our friends know us more than a little, too.

Remembering Mark
Scott Redd

I consider it a great honor that I was able to call Mark Finch a friend for so many years.

I suspect that many of the remembrances of Mark highlight his intellect and sense of humor. Mark’s depth of knowledge became more apparent to me over the years as we would talk about topics ranging from theology to politics and social life. Usually there was some topic that I had recently discovered only to find that he was not only familiar with it but had thought about it from several different perspectives. Mark was a consummate self-learner, broadening his own intellectual horizons far beyond the material covered in his formal education.

Much of his intellectual energy was, of course, directed toward memorizing lines from Saturday Night Live skits and Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey and then reciting them back at just the appropriate moment, when the situation was particularly fitting. The man could deadpan. I remember standing by the drink fountain at the William & Mary “Caf” when Mark sidled up, resting his arm on the ice dispenser, and saying in accented character, “You lika the juice, eh? Juice is very good, eh?” (from an SNL skit).

Mark was also a loyal friend. He helped me through several difficult times in my life, reminding me of the comfort that we have because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He was immensely interested in the personal struggles Christians experience throughout their lives, and he would listen to me as I gave expression to my experiences. I knew he was listening, because he would often ask me about something I had said a week or a month before and inquire about how I was doing now.

I knew that Mark wrestled with deep things, personal things. The life of the Christian is often marked by conflict, spiritual and otherwise, and I know these matters concerned him deeply. I am profoundly saddened that the conflict isolated him and that his burden seemed too great for him to bear in this life.

I am so sorry for you, Mark’s family, grieving the loss of a dear brother and son. I have been lifting you up in prayer, for comfort in the Lord and the grace to grieve as ones who have hope (1 Thess 4:13-14).

I miss Mark. We had fallen out of touch in recent years, but he is one of those people whom the Lord used to influence me in my early Christian life. I miss him sharing this world with us, but I do know that our Good Shepherd lives, and he gathers his sheep to himself. He knows them and they know his voice.

Thank you, Lord, for letting me know Mark Finch.

Here is a link to my brother's blog about Mark's death.


Mark and I knew each other in college at William and Mary, we were part of the same social circle of InterVarsity friends. 

I best remember Mark's sense of humor. He enjoyed both nuanced and frank humor. He could tell a good joke -- and also he could spot a good joke from another source, and recount it with flawless timing and inflection. Mark would start to laugh while he was telling a joke and be overcome mid-sentence -- shaking with laughter and holding his side while he tried to get out the words.

In school Mark worked as a night guard in the foyer of the English building. This meant he sat at a big wooden table and checked people's ID cards. I would meet him there to study (we were both in the same classes), but more often than not, we ended up either in muffled laughter over something ('Deep Thoughts, by Jack Handey') or in sharing good lines of Shakespeare. (Well, I guess that last part helped me in my classes a little bit!) 

Other people would come by to sit and talk. I remember that Mark was always game for a good discussion about Scripture (he was reading a tome called Hard Sayings of the Bible at one point) or Literature. In his studies, he could catch -- brilliantly -- the whole meaning of a passage, including the pathos and humor of any story. 

Mark loved photography and taught me some basic things about taking good photographs. Once we spent a day on Cumberland Island in Georgia, with its beautiful modern ruins and white sands and dripping trees covered with Spanish moss. He taught how to catch just the right angle to make a shot interesting -- and to make one picture tell a story. His pictures could make you want to climb right into the shot.

Mark loved literature and read it with insight and understanding. In writing and in conversation and in humor and in photography, Mark was a master of nuance and understood something not just in the obvious way, but for what was implied, however subtly. 

It is a sadness to me that Mark is not here to listen to his friends remember him, and that such a gifted and insightful person is not here any more. I trust and hope that he is now with the One who fully knows him and loves him and enjoys him as he was made -- the Giver of all of his personality and significant talents and gifts.

-- Anne Chamberlin 

Christian Understanding

Paraphrase from pages 141-142 of People of the Book by David Lyle Jeffrey.

The Bible teaches us the Christian understanding of the invisible is limited, has not yet reached fullness (I Corinthians 13:9-12)

And yet Christian understanding of the invisible is also "referential" -- can be inferred from what we do see (Romans 1:20)

We are limited in our understanding of an infinite God, yet not fully limited -- we do enjoy revelation.

Marilynne Robinson on the Human Mind and Truth

* On the condescension of the modern thinker:

"Much of the power of an argument like Kugel's [that the Biblical flood narrative is diminished by modern confrontations with the Babylonion Gilgamesh flood story] comes from the notion that the information on which it is based is new, another one of those world-transforming thresholds, one of those bold strokes of intellect that burn the fleets of the past. This motif of a shocking newness that must startle us into a painful recognition is very much a signature of 'the modern,' and potent rhetorically, more so because we are conditioned to accept such claims as plausible. But it often achieves its effects by misrepresenting an earlier state of knowledge or simply failing to enquire into it."

And here she cites Hugo Grotius discourse confronting the Biblical and Babylonion flood narratives -- a discourse dating from 1622. In other words, the "modern" confrontation of the Biblical Flood narrative with the Gilgamesh epic is quite old news, and the implications of the Babylonian flood narrative on Biblical history have already been grappled with -- straightforwardly -- by long-dead thinkers. According to Robinson, Kugel condescends to critique older thinkers, yet seemingly hasn't actually read them.

Furthermore, "[Kugel's] low estimate of Babylonia becomes the basis for a lowered estimate of the Hebrew Bible--the modernist declension. Assuming one narrative is without meaning, we must or may assume the other is, too. [But] This conclusion in all its parts is perfectly arbitrary."

Makes me want to read Kugel (and more Robinson).

* Another quote, discussing the modern naturalist's view of the mind:

"The great breach that separates the modern Western world from its dominant traditions of religion and metaphysics is the prestige of opinion that throws into question the scale of reality in which the mind participates. Does it open on ultimate truth, at least potentially or in momentary glimpses, or is it an extravagance of nature, brilliantly complex yet created and radically constrained by its biology and by cultural influence?"

Absence of Mind, Marilynne Robinson

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Training for the Kingdom of Peace

"In these days we are in training for the kingdom of peace that will come on earth. The bible is full of of promises regarding the things that are going to happen when Jesus returns. The wolf will lie with lamb, swords will be changed into plowshares, nuclear energy will be used to build up, to heal, and no longer to destroy."

Corrie ten Boom

2 Corinthians: "18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord,[a] are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit."

From Genesis 2: "15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it."
From Revelations 21:

"Then I saw ya new heaven and a new earth, for zthe first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.And I saw athe holy city, bnew Jerusalem, ccoming down out of heaven from God, dprepared eas a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, fthe dwelling place1 of God is with man. He will gdwell with them, and they will be his people,2 and God himself will be with them as their God.3 hHe will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and ideath shall be no more, jneither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
And khe who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I lam making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for mthese words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, n“It is done! oI am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. pTo the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. qThe one who conquers will have this heritage, and rI will be his God and she will be my son. tBut as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, utheir portion will be in vthe lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is wthe second death.”

Then came xone of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full ofythe seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show youzthe Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10 And ahe carried me away in the Spirit to ba great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, 11 chaving the glory of God, dits radiance elike a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal."

"Down to the Frozen Center:" CS Lewis on Grief and Death (physical and spiritual) and Rebirth

You think that we who do not shout and shake
Our fist at God when youth or bravery die
Have colder blood or hearts less apt to ache
Than yours who rail. I know you do. Yet why?
You have what sorrow always longs to find,
Someone to blame, some enemy in chief;
Anger's the anesthetic of the mind,
It does men good, it fumes away their grief.
We feel the stroke like you; so far our fate
Is equal. After that, for us begin
Half-hopeless labours, learning not to hate,
And then to want, and then (perhaps) to win
A high, unearthly comfort, angel's food,
That seems at first mockery to flesh and blood.

There's a repose, a safety (even a taste
Of something like revenge?) in fixed despair
Which we're forbidden. We have to rise with haste
And start to climb what seems a crazy stair.
Our Consolation (for we are consoled,
So much of us, I mean, as may be left
After the dreadful process has unrolled)
For one bereavement makes us more bereft.
It asks for all we have, to the last shred;
Read Dante, who had known its best and worst –
He was bereaved and he was comforted
--- No one denies it, comforted – but first
Down to the frozen center, up the vast
Mountain of pain, from world to world, he passed.

Of this we're certain; no one who dared knock
At heaven's door for earthly comfort found
Even a door – only smooth, endless rock,
And save the echo of his cry no sound.
It's dangerous to listen; you'll begin
To fancy that those echoes (hope can play
Pitiful tricks) are answers from within;
Far better to turn, grimly sane, away.
Heaven cannot thus, Earth cannot ever, give
The thing we want. We ask what isn't there
And by our asking water and make live
That very part of love which must despair
And die and go down cold into the earth
Before there's talk of springtime and rebirth.

Pitch your demand heaven-high and they'll be met.
Ask for the Morning Star and take (thrown in)
Your earthly love. Why, yes; but how to set
One's foot on the first rung, how to begin?
The silence of one voice upon our ears
Beats like the waves; the coloured morning seems
A lying brag; the face we loved appears
Fainter each night, or ghastlier, in our dreams.
"that long way round which Dante trod was meant
For mighty saints and mystics not for me,"
So Nature cried. Yet if we once assent
To Nature's voice, we shall be like the bee
That booms against the window-pane for hours
Thinking that the way to reach the laden flowers.

'If we could speak to her,' my doctor said,
'And told her, "Not that way! All, all in vain
You weary out wings and bruise your head,"
Might she not answer, buzzing at the pane,
"Let queens and mystics and religious bees
Talk of such inconceivables as glass;
the blunt lay worker flies at what she sees,
Look there – ahead, ahead – the flowers, the grass!"
We catch her in a handkerchief (who knows
What rage she feels, what terror, what despair?)
And shake her out – and gaily out she goes
Where quivering flowers and thick in summer air,
To drink their hearts. But left to her own will
She would have died upon the window-sill.