Thursday, October 30, 2014

Food Sources and Sustainability

Several of my family members are cattlemen and farmers in Iowa. Debates over feed, sustainability, and such are of personal, immediate interest to them.

Here is an article a cousin posted by a young cattleman on being careful as we consider food source issues. Lacking much knowledge, I have no real opinion about this kind of thing, but think its good to hear from all sides. I learned some things about cows/beef by reading this article.

4 Frustrating Agricultural Messages

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Lemuel at the Ballot Box

3 Reasons You should Care about Election Day

The Case for the Mundane


A letter to a gifted prep school friend

Dear Friend,

You are caught up in a hundred little deaths of your soul these days. You are forced to sit through classes which are beneath you.

You know more about these books, these histories; you understand them better than your peers. You are better read, even, than some of your teachers, at least in a certain academic sense.

In other classes you are made to study material you know you will never use as an adult. Odds are good you won't need that quadratic formula in graduate school or in catching the bus or in cooking your dinner.

And this is an indignity. You, O Suburban Minion, must abide the endless chores of polite conversation, lunchroom shufflings, leading questions, obvious observations, endless chores, polite conversation....

You have better taste.

Every day you are forced to eat food lacking in subtlety, speak to people lacking in insight and nuance, and grind through homework assignments lacking in imagination and spark, taught by adults who punch the card when you include "setting," "characters," and an ample amount of ham-handed adverbial verbiage.

Similes that sit like a knuckle sandwich in your mouth.

What's the use? Where are Sartre and Camus and Kerouc and Woolf in all of this mundane flotsam and jetsam? Where is the Green Knight?

Where is Keats in this tedious homework assignment to analyze Fanny Brawne -- 'til the Bright Star herself becomes thick-limbed, ugly, and graceless with dead eyes? Nothing like the sun.

Oh to be one of those noted intellectuals! Those brilliant sparks, caught up in thought and conversation, and not hampered by The Daily Bourgeois of suburban high school and carpool line and vacuuming the stairs.

Oh to feed that bright fire of the mind, all day, with people who understand and appreciate the heat!

Yet, you are well-read. What about those characters you know so well?

What about Saruman in his tall tower hanging in the thin air far above the plains and the little men and the beasts.

What about Uncle Andrew and Queen Jadis, and their "high and lonely destiny"?

What about Wells' Invisible Man, and his lone scientific pursuit of autonomy, fed by a withered heart lacking in human connection?

What if Dr. Frankenstein was a monster and the Monster had a soul?

What about Virginia's Lighthouse? Did it help her see the rocks?

And you have read the intellectual greats. What if:

What if many of those ivory tower intellectuals were tiresome bores in the pub or the parlor?

What if it would be insufferable to share just one drink with them? What if they were the ones everyone avoided at the cocktail party or on the street?

What if they were people that made other people look at the clock to mutter about appointments and traffic and "needing to go, so nice to touch base with you...."

What if -- in their rejection of humility, humanity, and the simplicity of duty -- they lost touch with glory, divinity, and the deeply complex?

What if, in their single-minded pursuit of truth and beauty in isolation -- in the rarefied company of themselves and their toadying salons -- they lost both. (Truth and beauty, that is.)

What if we all felt sorry for their wives and children and dogs and next door neighbors?

And more.

What if Mother Teresa was a genius and Sartre was a fool (himself telling tales full of sound and fury, signifying nothing)?

What if Einstein practiced piano scales daily as a kid?

What if the capitalist down the street is a philanthropist, the humanist down the street is a misanthropist, the scholar is a bigot, and the small town sheriff is a sage?

What if theology is the queen of the sciences?

It's complicated, isn't it?


What if we maintain our connection to the divine, in part, by maintaining our relationship with the human?

What if we love God in part by loving others and performing daily duties?

What if even the Word Himself became flesh. And dwelt among us.

And what if to love and know and learn, we have to go where the unwashed they are, and live where the un-nuanced they live, and eat their casseroles, vegetables, and drink their iced tea, and do their homework assignments?

And in meeting with daily life and daily people, what if we find not just truth and beauty, but also ourselves right there?

What if we find that we, in fact, are just another one of them: merely a co-regent of all creation. (Nothing big.)

My friend, what if we find our best selves in the mundane performance of daily duties that bring order and abundance, done with love, joy, and humility?

Here is your next homework assignment for "Life 101"

* Read the Gospel of John to yourself aloud and slowly
* Read "The Practice of the Presence of God" by Brother Andrew
* Read "Intellectuals" by Paul Johnson
* Discuss with your fellow co-regents. (Ie, your middle class parents, teachers, and friends. You might be surprised at how much they know.)

An old friend, who once hated homework, wore black turtlenecks, and choked on both gnats and Camels

Monday, October 27, 2014

"By Water, Wood, and Hill"

I stumbled upon this letter (on to Peter Hastings from J.R.R. Tolkien describing Tom Bombadil, my favorite character. (Emphases below are mine, as are paragraph breaks; it's a long chunk of text) 

“I don’t think Tom needs philosophizing about, and is not improved by it. But many have found him an odd or indeed discordant ingredient. In historical fact I put him in because I had already ‘invented’ him independently (he first appeared in the Oxford Magazine) and wanted an ‘adventure’ on the way. But I kept him in, and as he was, because he represents certain things otherwise left out. 

I do not mean him to be an allegory – or I should not have given him so particular, individual, and ridiculous a name – but ‘allegory’ is the only mode of exhibiting certain functions: he is then an ‘allegory’, or an exemplar, a particular embodying of pure (real) natural science: the spirit that desires knowledge of other things, their history and nature, because they are ‘other’ and wholly independent of the enquiring mind, a spirit coeval with the rational mind, and entirely unconcerned with ‘doing’ anything with the knowledge: Zoology and Botany not Cattle-breeding or Agriculture. Even the Elves hardly show this : they are primarily artists. 

Also T.B. exhibits another point in his attitude to the Ring, and its failure to affect him. You must concentrate on some pan, probably relatively small, of the World (Universe), whether to tell a tale, however long, or to learn anything however fundamental – and therefore much will from that ‘point of view’ be left out, distorted on the circumference, or seem a discordant oddity. The power of the Ring over all concerned, even the Wizards or Emissaries, is not a delusion – but it is not the whole picture, even of the then state and content of that pan of the Universe.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Dividing Joint and Marrow

from an earlier post....

Our God is personal. He is intimate. He is far too much concerned with loving us to let us idle along forever in indolent accusations, or in the opiates of endless logical disputes or smoky mysticism or worldly pragmatics.

Christianity has laws, but it is not a religion of laws and rules. Christianity has miracles and mysteries, but it is not a religion of magic and smoke. Christianity is reasoned and wise, but it is not a religion for the proud academic and all-knowing logician. 

The Greeks seeks wisdom, the Jews look for miracles. But we His people, both Jew and Gentile, seek something else. Him. Crucified. 

It's a stumbling block, for some. A relationship, for others.

Christianity is a most intimate love story of a Groom for His bride, a Father for his child, a King for his subject, a Doctor for his patient.

Communion with Christ is a most uncomfortable and invasive surgery, a nakedness, a subjection, and a knowing.

For we're sick and hurting sore, and He is our Doctor. We are weak and defenseless, and He is our protecting King. We are lost and crying out, and He is our shepherding Father.

We are ugly, unloved, wrinkled, bitter, barren, sour, and cast-off. We wear a hood to hide our ugliness. And He is our beloved Groom, making us radiant, smooth, strong, healthy, and whole. He removes our masks and shrouds, looks in our face, and clothes us in white. 

"Let the bones you have crushed rejoice." 

Jesus, lover of souls.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Friday, October 24, 2014

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Greener Epistomological Pastures?

Article by Scott Redd in The Christward Collective on biblical inerrancy and its critics and supporters.

One pertinent quote: "Self-loathing is the evil twin of repentence."

Biblical Inerrancy and the Greener Pastures Fallacy 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Fighting Malaria

A committed Christian, a humble man, and a family friend...a good example of a believer quietly advancing the kingdom for years, under two presidents, through hard work and dedication in unglamorous places.

The Malaria Fighter

Out of Death into Life

This is one prayer said just before Eucharist, or Holy Communion, in the Anglican church. It's a very brief summation of God's creative and redemptive work in human history.


We give thanks to you, O God, for the goodness and love which you have made known to us in creation;
in the calling of Israel to be your people;
in your Word spoken through the prophets;
and above all in the Word made flesh, Jesus, your Son.
For in these last days you sent him to be incarnate from the Virgin Mary, to be the Savior and Redeemer of the world.
In him you have delivered us from evil, and made us worthy to stand before you.
In him you have brought us out of error into truth, 
out of sin into righteousness, 
out of death into life. 

(Book of Common Prayer, page 368)

Friday, October 10, 2014


"Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity" (Simone Weil).

Fully, completely, unhurriedly, until it's all been said, not antsy to make my own point, without agenda, without multitasking, without iPhone on, without TV on, without computer on, without music blaring, without thought for the time, without worry for the traffic, or the future...paying attention.

Christian in the Arts

Here's a link to a kickstarter campaign for a young friend of ours, Allison Mattox. She is a believer and an actress in Los Angeles.

She is working hard, paying her own way -- "earning her chops" as they say -- in a tough industry in an expensive town. I'll be frank, as as mom -- aside from the fact that she comes from a creative family -- the things that recommend her to me are that she is earnest, hard working, and basically figuring this out without acting entitled. We all know that in the Mom World these things are a deal maker.

Mattox is producing a small film called Three in June based on a family account of a Southern girl on her wedding day. If you are interested in supporting Christians in the arts, please check it out and consider donating or sharing the word.

It's tempting to moan about Hollywood, millennials, the culture. But instead let's help hard-working Christian millennials get in the game, get experience, and make a difference.

Three in June


Monday, October 6, 2014

Tex Mex Recs

David loves Tex Mex so we have been getting to know a few in our town.

Cafe del Rio in Allen, off  95 at Main/McDermott street -- new in town since July. David and I waited only 10 minutes for seat on the patio at about 6 pm on a Saturday night, delicious food came out hot and speedily, yummy salsas, and a delicious "3-Gs Margarita."

Live music was a band playing Eagles and America-type covers -- guy had a good voice and sound, especially given the fact that he had been through the desert on a horse with no name. Family or date friendly, but music may be loud on patio if you are there to try and catch up with old friends or have an intimate conversation. Inside restaurant was clean and cute 50's-diner, Mexican kitsch look, sort of a less-cluttered Chuy's feel. There was even a little store to buy somberos and tchochkes. (Remember this if you find yourself in need of a neon red sombero. You can thank me later.) Free ice cream.

Downsides: you can hear 75 on the patio and the hostesses that night were helpful but lacked a bit of the old  joie de v. as Bertie Wooster might remark. That's it.

Jalapenos in Allen, on East McDermott on the northwest corner of Greenville and McDermott. A family run, non chain Tex Mex -- we thought everything we ordered was yummy.

The server was smiling and attentive with my Meg-Ryan-From-Harry-Met-Sally complicated orderers -- kids wanting to hold the tomatoes, beans on the side, extra sour cream, multiple soda refills. (I want to warn "First World Problem Alert" when we enter a restaurant!)

Food was good! Remodeling, so expected a bit of the topsy-turvy visually when were were there this summer. This place has a lot of loyal, longstanding customers, and has that comfy, local-yokel feel. We liked it.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

In Adam's Fall

Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell

I have been staying up late at night reading, and reading desperately in carpool line, and reading distractedly at gas station pumps -- the picture of the undisciplined, novel-engrossed housewife someone might have written a cautionary tale about in 1890. (Well, minus the carpool lines and gas station pumps.) Thanks a lot, David Mitchell.

Paul Simon was the only living boy in New York, and I suspect I am the only living English major to discover Mitchell just last week. By the time I hear about The Next Big Thing it is usually The Last Big Thing. That said:

Starting with the gradual decline (and final redemption) of the ship bound Adam Ewing, the novel is a tight, satisfying story compiled of tight, satisfying stories, a walk through time and the human condition via reincarnation (or perhaps it is generations): racism, courage, liberation, political economy, stewardship of the earth, and, ultimately, human nature.

Reformed friends, we may reject Buddhist and hyper-feminist notions, but if you want a moving picture of both original sin and human potential, this novel is that. Consciously or unconsciously, it is also profoundly pro-life, especially the story of Sonmi. (Mitchell's The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is even more starkly pro-life.)

Maybe you are just interested in reading a good story? Cloud Atlas is a novel and also a collection of several stories in different genres -- the journal travelogue, the letter, the spy thriller, the humorous narrative, the sci-fi novella. His characters are full but his language is efficient.

Zac Brown

Saw Zac Brown band at Gexa pavilion in Dallas last night. Sat on the grass. Great venue. Band draws families and old people and teens. But still, we didn't fit in. Because we don't have cowboy boots.

Here's their skilled rendition of a favorite. Not sure if you can catch it, but towards the end, Zac Brown does some great stuff with his guitar.

Devil Went Down to Georgia 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

David Mitchell Quoting Gibbon

"A cloud of critics, of compilers, of commentators, darkened the face of learning, and the decline of genius was soon conquered by the corruption of taste."

(quoted in Cloud Atlas p 147)

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Single Moms in North Texas

I want to draw your attention to two Christian ministries people in our church are heavily involved in here in North Texas.

This is really a "genius scenario" as it turns out -- the first ministry provides counseling and assistance to women with unplanned pregnancies, and the second ministry provides shelter and career counseling for single mothers who need it. In both ministries mothers will receive not only physical help but the gospel. Living water and material sustenance and guidance to help them get on their feet and provide for themselves and their children.

Please consider finding out more about these ministries, sharing information with people who made be in need, and giving if you are led. Both are in McKinney Texas.

Hope Resource Center

Shiloh Place