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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Church security for pacifists

This isn't a joke but a legitimate issue. Christians want to balance "turning the other cheek" with protecting the weak and vulnerable. After the recent Colorado shootings some of us supported the church security guard using bullets and some of us were appalled and thought volunteers should absorb all bullets. One force is active and one is passive. What if a combined response was possible? Is there something that could actively hinder a shooter while also capable of taking on some lead? There is something that police departments are already using. And they are expensive. Guns are cheap. Humans lives are priceless. What about trained guard dogs? They are trained to subdue identified threats non-lethally, some wear body armor, and if they die to save a life it would be a worthwhile trade. There are plenty of retired, cheaper police dogs for smaller churches.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Australia to apologize to its aboriginal people

I found the announcement in a state newspaper. A google news search turns up more.

The Rudd Labor government will formally say sorry to members of the indigenous stolen generation when federal parliament resumes in Canberra next month.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd will deliver the apology on February 13, more than 10 years since the Bringing Them Home human rights report recommended the government say sorry for the policy of removing indigenous children from their parents.

It will be the first item of business for the new parliament.

An Aboriginal welcome to country ceremony will take place as part of the opening proceedings for parliament the day before. -The Age

For background information I recommend watching Rabbit Proof Fence which I reviewed two years ago..

Love on Spring Break: Song of Songs 2:8-17

This is a continuation of the Song of Songs series. This is a look at 2:8-17, Lover takes Beloved with him on spring break for physical and emotional love making. Italics indicate the NET Bible assumption of who is talking. All Bible quotes from the NET.

The Beloved about Her Lover:
2:8 Listen! My lover is approaching!
Look! Here he comes,

leaping over the mountains,

bounding over the hills!
2:9 My lover is like a gazelle or a young stag.
Look! There he stands behind our wall,

gazing through the window,

peering through the lattice.


In the previous verse Beloved warns the maidens not to awaken love until it so desires. It seems that Lover has desired and is coming to visit. There is a sound he makes that excites her. It probably isn’t a gastro-intestinal sound either. Perhaps it is the sound of his royal chariot. He is undeterred by the obstacles that hinder his goal of her company. She has waited for him and he comes to find her at full throttle. As mentioned earlier, gazelles and young stags are symbols of virility and love, see an example found in Egyptian poetry here. Solomon is virile and nimble and unswayed in his focus, Beloved. He seems to have come to the common room of his maidens. She says it “our” wall with a window and a lattice. If it’s possible to draw a modern day application it might be that he came to her job to take her out for a surprise lunch and he is impressing all her girlfriends.

The Lover to His Beloved:
2:10 My lover spoke to me, saying:
“Arise, my darling;

My beautiful one, come away with me!
2:11 Look! The winter has passed,
the winter rains are over and gone.
2:12 The pomegranates have appeared in the land,
the time for pruning and singing has come;
the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.
2:13 The fig tree has budded,
the vines have blossomed and give off their fragrance.

Arise, come away my darling;

my beautiful one, come away with me!”


Lover did not say, “Whoever is up for a trip to the country and a good time, hop in.” He spoke specifically to his darling Beloved. He sneaks in another complimentary pet name, “Beautiful One.” Complimentary pet names get a great deal of mileage in this marriage. They are a symbol of unique intimacy and commitment and safety and should be used liberally. His inspiration for a trip is that spring has arrived, the time when the aphrodisiacs are in bloom and everybody is singing from the farmers to the love birds. Pomegranates appear a few times in the Old Testament in the context of intercourse. His intentions are clear though hidden in allusions. He promises beautiful sights and wonderful smells. Then he repeats his request for her company with complimentary pet names.
The Lover to His Beloved:
2:14 O my dove,
in the clefts of the rock,

in the hiding places of the mountain crags,

let me see your face,
let me hear your voice;
for your voice is sweet,
and your face is lovely.

“My dove” is another pet name given by Solomon to his Beloved. He knows that this woman who handled herself well in her brothers’ vineyard and in his own pasture, who had her skinned toasted under the hot sun, who can handle hundreds of competing wives, is still a tender person. He adores her. He doesn’t want her to hide from him. Maybe she is trying too hard at playing “hard-to-get.” He requests her face and voice then tells her why, because of her sweetness and loveliness. The poem is full of affirmation and unashamed admiration. There is no concern about swelling the other’s ego. It’s an adolescent crush between two married adults. This kind of marriage is still around and can make others uncomfortable as no one can believe someone could be that infatuated for someone so gray, fat, bald, wrinkly, etc. But that’s a lie. Love is blind and it blinds one to another’s imperfections. There is a love for the total person that no attack by old age can quench. Familiarity only stokes the fire instead of quenching it. Your spouse will never tire of hearing your admiration. Don’t stop.

The Beloved to Her Lover:
2:15 Catch the foxes for us,

the little foxes,
that ruin the vineyards –
for our vineyard is in bloom.

2:16 My lover is mine and I am his;
he grazes among the lilies.

2:17 Until the dawn arrives and the shadows flee,
turn, my beloved –
be like a gazelle or a young stag
on the mountain gorges.

It is doubtful that she is ordering Solomon out into the vineyards to trap literal foxes. This vineyard is their marriage. Those little foxes are the little things that put a marriage at risk. This tough country woman is like a dove in the hiding places. There is a hint of fear. She is concerned. We don’t know exactly what concerns her. Each marriage has its own little foxes, those neuroses and quirks and temptations and ghosts. When we “forsake all others” shall we not also forsake those foxes that follow us into this vineyard? The hardest problem is letting our spouse name the foxes. For some reason we are so insecure and need to defend the animals and call them red dogs, or funny raccoons, or ugly cats, but not foxes. “Please don’t ask me to toss this furry creature out of our marriage,” we plead. Old letters from old flames, drinking buddies, cigars, myspace or facebook pages, attractive co-workers; all are likely foxes. Foxes aren’t beautiful or lovely or sweet or worth holding onto in a marriage. They are part of your identity but your identity is now part of a new creature, united in marriage. That married creature doesn’t need that junk.
Solomon must have answered in the right way because she declares their mutual belonging. She considers him all hers and consequently she is all his. Since she gives herself completely to this “gazelle” she lets him graze among her “lilies” and implores him to graze all night in the mountain valleys! Security in marriage opens up panoramic vistas of physical love. Make your spouse secure.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Christian Apologetics Search

A cool Google mash up by my friend Anton, ApologeticsSearch.com . It currently searches 13 apologetic sites with more coming.

Government incentives to prevent abortion

What if we can't turn our society around to see the horror of legalized abortion? Perhaps we could incentivize pregnancy. Most abortions are a method of birth control. Babies are aborted because they were conceived at a bad time, with a bad person, in a bad economic situation. For Americans, though, money talks.

Part of Wilberforce's anti-slavery legislation was payment to slave holders for the value of their "property" as compensation for their horrid practice. Was it rewarding evil to pay slave owners? Yes, but it made life without slavery "normal" in a generation.

What if the US government paid women for the inconvenience of being knocked up for 9 months? This is no longer a partisan issue. It becomes bipartisan because more children is good for the country. Say all abortion clinics and hospitals are required to have a staff member offering a cash reward for staying pregnant through delivery. All who sign up get free Ob/Gyn care for 9 months and food stamps or a stipend to supplement their clothing and food needs. Upon delivery, the cash payout will depend on whether the child is given up for adoption or not. If given up, she'll get a check and a thank you for her patriotism If not given up, she will receive additional free health care for the child up to 5 years. Adoption laws need to be changed also. Adoptions are so expensive because the privilege was abused terribly by a few, much like foster care still.

How much of a cash layout? Perhaps the poverty line income level.

It won't stop all abortions. But what if it stopped 250,000? At some point a tipping point will be reached when abortion will be as frowned upon as walking through Boston with your slave in tow in 1859. At that point, it would not be hard to legislate protection for all ages and sizes.

Just an idea. How expensive is this? More young workers could save Social Security.

3000 year old guide on love and romance: Songs 2:4-7

This is a continuation of the Song of Songs series. This is a look at 2:4-7, Beloved's amazing time with Lover and her exhortation to the maidens of Jerusalem. Italics indicate the NET Bible assumption of who is talking. All Bible quotes from the NET.

The Beloved about Her Lover:

2:4 He brought me into the banquet hall,
and he looked at me lovingly.

Lover is at work in his romancing. "Banquet hall" is a translation option. As the NET Bible notes a literal translation is “house if wine.” Now “house of wine” can refer to a vineyard. Back in 1:14 she referred to the vineyards in the oasis of En Gedi and this location has provided a source of the recent foliage and flower poetry. Thus, perhaps, we are not at a new location but still in the vineyard. She could be saying, “He brought me to the vineyard…” which fits in with the metaphorical activity before these verses and the explicit activity forthcoming. Regardless of location her husband is gazing at her with love. The traditional refrain here is “his banner over me is love” (NIV), but the Hebrew word translated “banner” is a tough nut. The latest scholarship results in more explicit poetry. In fact, “looked” could be “desire” or “wish.” Hence the explicit translation can be “His wish regarding me is lovemaking.” But this states explicitly what was said poetically the past 7 verses. Together, a re-translation of verse 4 could be, “He brought me to the vineyard and he desired to make love to me.” Solomon, the brilliant romantic, takes his beloved wife on a romantic getaway and he hits paydirt. She is faint with love.

2:5 Sustain me with raisin cakes,
refresh me with apples,
for I am faint with love.

The NET notes that both raisins and apples were ancient Near East aphrodisiacs. What wasn’t? She is love-sick and the only cure for her sickness is his love. She has invited him to make love to her with some erotic metaphors, and he didn’t miss the opportunity. Some guys only understand initiative when it’s made in a nude tackle. But her approach plays along with his invitation by excursion. They are like well rehearsed Tango dancers. My wife and I took dance lessons last year and worked very hard at learning simple steps TOGETHER. It’s one thing to know the steps but it is an entirely different dimension stepping together. But when we got it right we walked together passionately. If you have no clue what I am talking about I suggest taking formal dance lessons together with your spouse. (more after picture)


2:6 His left hand caresses my head,

and his right hand stimulates me.

Gulp! Can you believe this is in the Bible? Yet it is so helpful to newly married men who are exploding with testosterone and can’t think past their own groin. Those sweet touches permitted while dating need to continue after the wedding. His left hand lets her know he still enjoys those public parts of her while his right hand proves his pleasure with the private and erotic areas of her body. He lets her know that he is pleased with all of her. Husbands, try stroking your wife’s hair once in a while. You just might make her love sick.


The Beloved to the Maidens:

2:7 I adjure you, O maidens of Jerusalem,
by the gazelles and by the young does of the open fields:
Do not awaken or arouse love until it pleases!

Is Beloved backhanding the girls in the harem? Are these “maidens” the same ones in chapter 1 or are these virgins in Jerusalem’s general population? Whichever audience she addresses she wants them to make a promise. Her witnesses are the wild animals in their open air bedroom. Unsurprisingly, gazelles and does are symbolic of fertility in ancient Near East literature. The oath is somewhat mysterious. Didn’t she start out in this poem hoping for the Lover’s kisses? Didn’t she seek him out in the fields? So if she is talking to the harem, maybe she is throwing them off the trail to a great night of passion by telling them to wait around. Alternatively, she is calling the young virgins to save themselves for the bands of marriage before partaking of physical love. In God’s creation, love is pleased when consummated after a public commitment ceremony. The most freedom, the most passion, the most satisfaction in a sexual relationship can only be found within a holy marriage. All other circumstance are only a hint of the best conditions for lovemaking.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Yurts and domes

I've been thinking how all the yurts top out at 30' diameters. That must be approaching their strength limit. But I know domes can be much larger. So I searched for portable dome homes and found Pacific Domes. The website isn't too helpful but their blog is better. They offer a 44' diameter dome with more headroom. It can be built in a day. Cool.

3000 year old guide on love and romance

This is a continuation of the Song of Songs series. This is a look at 2:1-3, a short interchange between Beloved and her Lover. The entire series can be found here. Italics indicate the NET Bible assumption of who is talking. All Bible quotes from the NET.

The previous verses left them laying together intimately under the cedars. As she adores the nature around them she notices the flowers…

The Beloved to Her Lover:
2:1 I am a meadow flower from Sharon,
a lily from the valleys.

Remember her self-confidence? She believes her Lover’s compliments and abides in them. Yet she doesn’t overshoot and step into vanity. She considers herself one flower among a meadow. Not that a flower is any less beautiful because it keeps company with a million others. Sharon is a well watered area and vegetation including flower meadows would be found there. The NET Bible notes a proposal for the sole member of the lily family that grows in Palestine, Israel’s chamomile.
There is a neat photography blog called the Flowers in Israel and here is a picture of this flower.The Latin name for geek research is Anthemis palaestina.

She knows that the palace is Solomon’s meadow and he can pluck whatever blossoms he wants. But she also feels her position is valid in his harem. She isn’t a fluke although she stands out for her dark skin and difficult, non-regal background. Yes she’s a hill-billy girl, a daisy from the valley, but one who can tend a vineyard or a flock of sheep. It’s partly this atypical background for a princess that intrigues Solomon and elevates her status in his eyes. In response to her humble assertion, he affirms her tremendously.

The Lover to His Beloved:
2:2 Like a lily among the thorns,
so is my darling among the maidens.

“Dear,” he says, “you aren’t ‘just’ a lily, you are the only lily, not growing in a meadow surrounded by similar lilies, but by ugly brambles.” He was calling her “one-in-a-million” in a fresh way and not a hackneyed, throw-away expression of little worth. Not is she “one in a million” but she is the one among the 1,000 chosen maidens (700 wives and 300 concubines) for his harem. Certainly, men have used assertions like this to get a woman into bed, but he is working his skills on his wife. The wedding band does not free a husband from romance. In fact, a virginal wedding provides new material to wax eloquent on. Later on in the poem they cover some of that more erotic material.

The Beloved about Her Lover:
2:3 Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest,
so is my beloved among the young men.
I delight to sit in his shade,
and his fruit is sweet to my taste.

Beloved returns the compliment. The NET Bible notes that apple trees are not native trees. Finding an apple tree in the forest there would be akin to finding a lily among the thorns. Because the maidens are mentioned in the poem, and they are plural, I think it is safe to presume Solomon is not such a youngster anymore. Surely she isn’t number 700, but even if she wasn’t but, say, only number 100, he isn’t a young buck anymore, but she caresses his ego by holding him above all the kingdom’s strapping young men. Men may not display insecurity, but usually because they don’t realize they are insecure. A little preventive affirmation will keep them running smoothly and away from mid-life crises and the accompanying insanity that may endanger a marriage. Husbands and wives need to be pro-active instead of reactive in affirming their attraction to the other. Not only does he stand out in the forest of young men but she loves being in his shade and partaking of his fruit. Umm, that’s a metaphor for their physical intimacy. Think about it. He’s between her and the sun…

Update: Perhaps, dear reader, you accuse me of over-sexualizing this epic poem. I can accept the accusation but I have a rebuttal.

Fertility worship abounded in that time as much as it does in this day. However, there is only one true God and he created sexuality with all its pleasures. Sex within the bounds prescribed by its inventor is the superior experience described in this massive poem. Sex is not encumbered by romance and foreplay and fidelity and longevity, it is enhanced by these things, which this Scripture emphasizes in every paragraph. Hence, I see it and note it in every paragraph.

Addendum: Great quote at Acton Institute on freedom that I find helpful in the context of sexual relations, noted at the EO.
The Word of God teaches that the Christian is a free man and should "stand in the freedom which Christ has made him free." What is meant by Christian freedom? What is freedom in general? We answer: it is not the right and the ability to do as one pleases, but the ability to move without constraint in the sphere for which God made us. Freedom therefore is not inconsistent with limitation and law. The bird is free only when it can move in the air unhindered. A worm is free when it is not prevented from moving in the ground--in a sphere which would mean bondage and death for many other creatures. A locomotive is not free unless its motion is confined to the two rails on which it was made to run. Man was made in the image of God to be like Him and to reflect his holiness. Consequently he is free only when he moves without constraint in the sphere of holiness and obedience to God's law.

From “Christian Liberty,” in “Report of the Committee on Worldly Amusements,” Agenda: Synod of the Christian Reformed Church, To convene June 13, 1928 at Holland, Mich., p. 22.

To this I add, true sexual freedom is found within the sphere of marriage.



Sunday, January 27, 2008

interesting Huckabee quotes

 A visit to Huckisms.com is probably worth your time.

Top 10 posts 4th week Jan 2008

These posts are my favorites from my travels around the blogs. They appear in the shared feeds section all week here at the Umblog, or you can bookmark this page, or add it to your feeds with the RSS link.

1- Original language Bible texts on line. Link to the free stuff by Hall Harris at Bible.org

2- Mormonism and abortion...pretty liberal.

3- Whole life evangelism.

4- A native american civil rights activist long before MLK.

5- An interesting video series on YouTube about marriage called When Sinners Say "I Do"

6- How much do you know about abortion law in the U.S.?

7- Obama in his own words on faith and abortion.

8- Rich Mouw likes church shopping. It gives him perspective.

9- Orthodox perspective on abortion.

10- Being pro-life doesn't make you a nutcase.

see other posts on greek, Bible, mormons, native americans, marriage, abortion, church.

Yurt and Cinema review: Cave of the Yellow Dog

This is a great Mongolian story filmed by a German. It is subtitled. It is about a family's life in their yurt on the Mongolian steppe as they tend their ponies and sheep and hybrid wolf/dog puppy discovered by the young daughter. My family and I watched it last spring but I didn't think of reviewing it until my dear wife noted the connection to my yurt post. Towards the end of the movie the family disassembles their yurt for the move to greener pastures. It is all very fascinating. The interview with the director on the DVD is great. This isn't filmed with actors. It's a Mongolian family who let her film their real lives but also pretend with some dramatic elements to make a story arc. The film's website in english is here. There is also a wiki entry

Not related to the movie, but I have friends who lived in a yurt with their 3 children for a year while they built their house. They own a small local farm and call the yurt their future farm stand. After they moved into the house, the dad told me he really misses yurt life. The inconvenience of the lack of privacy was overshadowed by the emotional intimacy the family developed.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Alternative housing research rundown

As this blog demonstrates, I have researched many many alternative construction methods and techniques. Since land around here is so expensive I've been looking at ways to bring the cost of construction down. Here's the list

Straw bales.
Good: bales are cheap and renewable and DIY
Bad: Humid summers might be a problem. Plastering 3 layers inside and out is a 2nd job. Eventually, the per square foot cost vs. benefits is about the same as a regular house. Mice sometimes move into the walls.

SIPs.
Good: great insulation
Bad: steep learning curve for builders. sometimes the skin, which is strustural, gets wet and delaminates. Quality control by mfrs has been hit-or-miss. per square foot cost vs. benefits is about the same as a regular house. Mice sometimes move into the walls.

ICFs.
Good: External disaster proof. Quiet. Very insulated.
Bad: Fires turn house into crematorium. Concrete and rebar are expensive. Concrete production makes too much greenhouse gas. Additions and adaptations are complicated due to penetration of concrete walls.

Fiberglass composite structures. (CBS Homes)
Good: Stronger than steel. Can bend under strain but will rebound.
Bad: Technology too new. Company responses very slow.

I've also explored the pre-fabricated methods. The great thing about these is the modern architecture that can be found. It's also usually the modern pre-fabs that contain more greener technologies.
Good: Quick. Modern designs.
Bad: Real expensive.

So I thought about alternative structures to achieve low cost living as well as reduced earth impact.

Dome homes
Good: Heat circulates very effectively.
Bad: So do smells and sounds. So many joints make leaks inevitable. Resale population limited.

Fiberglass shell homes
Good: Cheap and strong.
Bad: Trailer living interior. Unattractive. Limited resale population.

Earth sheltered homes
Good: Strong and warm
Bad: Expensive, dark, damp, lots of concrete. Limited resale population.

Round homes (Deltec, Yurtworks)
Good: Tight and strong.
Bad: Expensive.

I ended up buying another house but it is much smaller than my previous house. It turns out a family of 5 can live in less than 1100 square feet which is also cheaper to heat. In a full day below freezing I kept it at 72 degrees with a fireplace insert wood stove with a blower all day. The furnace never came on. I'm happy with this house but I'd still like to live on a big patch of land within a bicycle commute to work.

What I want is a simpler life. Less impact on land. Less taxes out of my wallet. Less money for heating. No mortgage. A stable structure. But a cool structure. I have a new idea.

What if permanency wasn't required? What if you didn't like your site location and wanted to move to a better part of your land? What if building and rebuilding was easy and cheap? What if close quarters were OK? What if additions were cheap and easy? What if your home cost less than your car? Imagine how drastically that changes your family budget.

What am I talking about?

See all these links and these links, too.

Yurts!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Iriquois communists in the 17th century America

This quote from The Ambiguous Iroquois Empire by Francis Jennings, 1984 shows the contrast in the economic cultures of the native americans and the invaders.
In European cultures, wealth could be transformed into capital and so breed more wealth. But Indian cultures resisted formation of capital because of their strong sharing ethic. Among Indians, wealth was accumulated only briefly by individuals, and quickly passed on. Indians of the early trading era did not become rich. (80)
As an aside, Jennings illustrates this contrast elsewhere with the picture of tribal chiefs sharing in his people's poverty and going without as much as his people are without unlike any "civilized" king across the Atlantic. Imagine, a servant-king.

The net effect of Indian appetites for European implements, weapons, cloth, and that luxury firewater was to make Indians dependent on trade and therefore on European trading partners. Of late there have been efforts to psychoanalyze those Indians to discover some sort of weird kink in Indian mentality that I can only interpret as a revival of savagery mythology; but Indian dependency was the outcome of rational decisions by rational persons caught up in an objective situation that limited choice. The Indians simply could not foresee the implications of their initiative for the trade in guns. By the time its effects in dependency became clear, the Indians had lost their power of choice. (81)
This is eerily prescient of Americans today dependent on Chinese manufacturing. As Europe became a tar baby to tribes so likewise today China has become to the US. Unfortunately, human nature is consistent across all ages, which is why we need a savior to save us from ourselves.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

cinema review: Cloverfield

I saw a fun movie last night, Cloverfield. It is rightly rated PG-13. The frights and carnage are a little tough at times. But it was like a great roller coaster ride. It was a 90 minute ride with a 15-20 minute climb to introduce the characters then it started to pick up speed then it plunged at 5g's and we were gripping our seats. It was also like a roller coaster ride because it is viewed through a character's personal video camera. I sat toward the back of the theater so that I wouldn't get seasick as some reviewers warned about. When you are in a panic because a giant monster is destroying your city you aren't very steady with your camera. The monster is similar to the insect in Men In Black, but 10 times bigger, and like the better fright movies, you mostly glimpse it. The best frights are unknown, where the audiences' imagination does most of the heavy lifting. One of my favorite monster movies is the first Alien because the viewer is as clueless as the characters and just as scared.

Some of the scenes are very poignant in light of recent recent disasters. As the monster destroys New York City great billows of smoke and dust rush down the avenues followed by sheets of paper drifting down just as in 9/11 footage. This was followed by looters in an electronics store as in New Orleans after Katrina hit. Hence, the unseen monster can represent man or nature in this movie. It is something new and unforeseen. We never find out if it is defeated either.

book report: The Shack by William Young

I read a pretty good book the other night in one sitting. The Shack is more novella than novel. It attempts to address the problem of evil in a dialog between a grieving father and God as Trinity at the site of his daughter's murder, a shack, hence the title. It's opening and ending are gripping but the middle gets bogged down a bit. There are some flashes of really great writing. My favorite is
As the word echoed in the chamber, panic rose inside Mack like a swelling tide and slowly he sank into his chair. Instantly he felt guilty, as memories spilled through his mind like rats fleeing the rising flood. (157)
I have one more. This is more of a theologically appealing passage.
Mack's chest and muscles instinctively tightened. He didn't like remembering Josh and the canoe, and the sense of panic that suddenly rushed back from the memory.
"It's extremely hard to rescue someone unless they are willing to trust you."
"Yes, it sure is."
"That's all I ask of you. When you start to sink, let me rescue you."
It seemed like a simple request, but Mack was used to being the lifeguard, not the one drowning. "Jesus, I'm not sure how to..." (180)
Jesus is used as a personal name and not as an epithet. ;-)

I enjoyed the character development, especially of each person of the Trinity. It was a good read. It moved me emotionally and challenged me theologically. It doesn't solve the problem of evil, but presents some helpful ideas in a narrative format.

The author hopes it will be made into a film, but he needs more people buying it. Therefore, I recommend you visit the website of The Shack and order yourself a copy, it's worth the investment. It's also available at Amazon and other stores.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Another year another million babies lost to abortion

In case you haven't noticed in my side bar, I belong to Pro-life blogs. It has an amazing collection of bloggers who believe in the value of every person's life no matter how small or how young or how old or how disabled. This aggregator has an abundance of blogs and resources for one to get educated on this 34 human rights atrocity approved by our Supreme Court. Please pray for the safety of this year's million babies and their parents.

French approach to mixed marriages in 1600s Americas

This quote from The Ambiguous Iroquois Empire by Francis Jennings, 1984 provides wonderful insight on how the French could pull tremendous resources from North America with a small population of French. The secret is dropping racist thinking.

With a very small resource of ethnically French population, the French colonies amplified their manpower by tolerating and assimilating the children of intersocial liaisons. These offspring of mixed unions became especially valuable in the basic French strategy of controlling large native populations by planting a network of forts and trading posts among them. By the end of the seventeenth century the French had created and mastered a politico-economic empire extending over the vast regions of the Mississippi Valley and the Great Lakes environs, precisely the territories where the bulk of commercial peltry originated. (79)

Monday, January 21, 2008

MLK day 2008

See my 2006 and 2007 posts.
Here's a round up of MLK posts from my favorite blogs.
St. Paul's has a few videos and another one and another one.
John Piper notes King's most powerful words in Letter from a Birmingham Jail
Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging dart of segregation to say, "Wait." But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six- year-old daughter why she can't go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son who is asking: "Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?"; when you take a cross-country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading "white" and "colored"; when your first name becomes "nigger," your middle name becomes "boy" (however old you are) and your last name becomes "John," and your wife and mother are never given the respected title "Mrs."; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of "nobodiness" then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.
Fred Sanders lauds him a round-about way.

I have many posts on history and African-Americans.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Top 10 posts 3rd week Jan 2008

These posts are my favorites from my travels around the blogs. They appear in the shared feeds section all week here at the Umblog, or you can bookmark this page, or add it to your feeds with the RSS link.

1-The Tall Skinny Kiwi broke down the 5 models of the emerging church back in the last century and now he's reposting his analysis, which is good fun. Enjoy.

2-A widow describes her painful transition with and without the church's help at Christianity Today.

3-The white wife of a bi-racial couple describes the racism her husband lives with constantly, in the context of Obama's pastor's Afro-centrist stand.

4-I blogged about induction stoves before. Here is one person's new and pleasant experience with his own.

5-A Canadian journalist defends his right before a government agent to publish the controversial Mohammed cartoons.

6-A conversation with the boys on their bikes by a Christian who wants to know what the good news is that they are restoring.

7-A yurt kit that can be set up in 45 minutes, the Yurta.

8-Randy Alcorn talks his sadness and remarks on the fact that we weren't made for this world.

9-For greek Bible geeks, how about a question mark at Romans 5:15-16?

10-John Mark Reynold's finds a biblical lesson for American Christians in Rehoboam's "give 'em scorpions" folly.

More posts can be found here on emerging church, church, african-american, conservation, human rights, mormons, houses, theology, Greek, bible, politics.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Book report: The Ambiguous Iroquois Empire by Francis Jennings 1984

This is the best opening paragraphs on the invasion of America I've ever read from The Ambiguous Iroquois Empire by Francis Jennings, 1984.

The first massive fact about the European invasion of America is that physical contact between the societies of the two continents took place almost wholly on American soil. Only a handful of visitors traveled from the Americas to Europe, and most of those went involuntarily. Europe had the initiative, and Europeans never had to worry about retaliatory invasion from America.
The North and South American frontiers differed significantly therefore from the engagement of peoples in the Old World, where Christian Europeans faced Muslim Asiatics and Africans who could and did send massive invasions into Europe. The Spaniards who sailed with Columbus had inherited the seven hundred-year tradition of the Reconquest of Spain from the Moors. The implications of the difference between Old World frontiers and those of the New World have never been systematically explored. Certainly they must have included a respect by Europeans for Muslim power and culture that was withheld from the cultures of the natives of America. St. Thomas Aquinas tried to assimilated into his theology all that seemed valuable in Muslim science. Bartolomé de Las Casa confined himself to demanding Christian justice for people who, though barbarous were teachable.
The crusaders who fought so long to create Spain might hate Moors but were not apt to underestimate them. These crusaders appreciated much of Moorish culture, as the survival of the Alhambra beautifully evidences. Their descendant conquistadores, however, vaunted a crucial military advantage, marched where they pleased, took what they wanted, and destroyed Tenochtitlan utterly, a city greater than any in Spain. The evidence of the Moors in Spain is in Spain. The evidence of the Aztecs before Spanish rule is largely under ground. Such differences inspired among Europeans generally a sense of absolute superiority over native Americans that expressed itself more usually as contempt than outright hatred. Its effect was a morally and intellectually corrupting on Europeans as it was destructive physically to native Americans.
In the Americas, Europeans had the initiative in conceptualizing and explicating the processes of invasion, and they used the advantage to create rationalizations favorable to themselves. The terminology so developed took its place in the arsenal of conquest. Sovereignty, for example which had been invented to justify kings’ conquests of their own peoples, lent itself readily to export. The legal implications of the one-way traffic to America did not escape Francisco de Vitoria, who once remarked that an Indian “discovery” of Spain would not have justified Indian sovereignty over Spain. But he lost the argument. (3-4)


I'll have more quotes through the week but much shorter. Unfortunately, I need to return this before the library starts fining me and I haven't finished it yet. In the past, I wouldn't report on books I hadn't finished, but now I want to remember what I attempted and take out of it what I could. I really enjoyed it, but it was very dense. I hope to read his first book, The Invasion of America. He was an innovative historian. This obituary is enlightening, with paragraphs like this.
Jennings's career took another unexpected turn in 1975 when, at the age of 57, he published his first book, The Invasion of America: Indians, Colonialism, and the Cant of Conquest. A collection of essays on specific topics in colonial history--Indian population, the Pequot war, popular images--the book was a frontal attack on the generations of scholars who, he argued, had internalized the racist language of the seventeenth century and overlooked the violence and brutality of European settlement. By insisting that America began not with "discovery" but invasion, Jennings set himself apart from those who viewed the fate of the continent's indigenous people as somehow inevitable or natural. Jennings's angry, forceful prose still touches readers a quarter century after its publication.
See my other posts on native americans, history, book reports and human rights.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Why does Huck support the confederate flag in SC?

Here's one article, and a quote

"Governor Huckabee understands that all the average guy with a Confederate flag on his pickup truck is saying is he's proud to be a Southerner," the ad states. "Mike Huckabee understands we value our heritage and why."

The flag, long seen as a symbol of racism by some and as an emblem of Southern pride by others, once flew atop the Capitol in South Carolina. A 2000 compromise removed it from the dome, though it remains on the Statehouse grounds and flies next to a Confederate soldier memorial.

Campaigning in South Carolina on Thursday, Huckabee said the government should stay out of disputes over the Confederate flag.

"You don't like people from outside the state coming in and telling you what to do with your flag," Huckabee told supporters in Myrtle Beach, S.C. "In fact, if somebody came to Arkansas and told us what to do with our flag, we'd tell 'em what to do with the pole, that's what we'd do."

Similar story at CNN. Does he support a Nazi flag flown by German Americans who are proud of their heritage? Whatever good each culture produced, it's impossible to ignore the atrocities committed under those flags too. I wish Huckabee would repent of such idiotic pandering.

Song of Songs 1:12-17 The idiot's guide to flirting with your spouse

I'm using the NET Bible. Their headings are in italics.
The Beloved about Her Lover:
1:12 While the king was at his banqueting table,
my nard gave forth its fragrance.

Perhaps Beloved is relating a past experience. She reveals her method of non-contact, long-acting foreplay. It helps to understand what “nard” is. The NET note indicates it is an aromatic drug from a Himalayan plant used as a perfume of seductive charms. So this was an imported perfume with erotic implications. She spent her money on the good stuff and then she left at his dinner table a suggestive fragrance to distract him the entire banquet. She is creative and determined in her goal of sleeping with him. Remember, competition exists to get in Solomon’s bedtime schedule, and she is playing to win.

1:13 My beloved is like a fragrant pouch of myrrh
spending the night between my breasts.

Again, the NET notes are big help here.
It was an expensive luxury item, which had to be imported into Israel. In liquid form it could be carried in small bottles like nard, but it was also used in solid form in which it was carried in a small cloth pouch or sachet worn next to the body. The myrrh was mixed with fat and shaped into cones and as the fat melted from the body heat, the aroma of myrrh and the anointing oil would perfume a woman’s body. Because it had a very strong aroma which would last for long periods of time, women often wore it to bed to perfume themselves for the next day. Because of its beautiful fragrance, it is associated with romance (e.g., Isa 3:24) (R. K. Harrison, Healing Herbs of the Bible, 45-46).
So it was something she would wear all night to smell good all day. But she is comparing him to this romantic fragrance. His fragrance of romance, figuratively and maybe not not literally, stays with her all day after a night on her chest. Whatever the details are, he is on her mind, romantically, all day.

1:14 My beloved is like a cluster of henna blossoms
in the vineyards of En-Gedi.

The next two notes in the NET Bible inform us that henna is not only used for temporary tattoos but also for perfume. The blossoms smell good and look nice. It strikes me that these flowers are growing in a vineyard. Vineyards are not flower gardens. They are places of serious agriculture. They are weeded and tended, but Solomon, in her eyes, is like a burst of fragrance and color amidst all the dark leaves and vines. He stands out visually and smellfully. Some guys stand out smellfully for all the wrong reasons, not Solomon, though.

The other helpful tidbit from the NET notes is the description of En Gedi. It’s an oasis in the desert south of the Dead Sea. Not only does he stand out among the vines, but in a place that stands out in a bleak wilderness. In other words, to her, he is the Bomb, and one that smells really nice to boot.
The Lover to His Beloved:
1:15 Oh, how beautiful you are, my beloved!
Oh, how beautiful you are!
Your eyes are like doves!

The poetry never stops, which makes sense since this is an epic poem. We don’t express ourselves with an “oh” very often these days in this sense. I think it’s equivalent to exclaiming “WOW!” I’m sure her gorgeousness is enhanced by the aroma of her nard that tantalized him at his banquet. He is so bowled over he repeats himself. His knees are practically knocking together, weak with love in her presence. Then he demonstrates his extraordinary love by focusing on her soul through her eyes.

Husbands take note
, if you stare into your wife’s eyes and compliment them she’ll swoon some more. Why? It affirms her entire being, not just the temporary physical things. Not that affirming those things aren’t bad either, he does it later on, but when you gaze into her eyes and tell her how beautiful they are and how beautiful she is, you pack an intense compliment in a few words and actions. What’s the deal with doves though? I’ve never owned doves or birds, but perhaps he kept them in his menagerie. They do soothe people. You should see this ESPN episode with Mike Tyson showing off his pigeons. This fierce fighter finds solace in his birds. Doves are like stress therapy. The king is busy, but her eyes bring him peace like his doves do.


The Beloved to Her Lover:

1:16 Oh, how handsome you are, my lover!
Oh, how delightful you are!
The lush foliage is our canopied bed;
1:17 the cedars are the beams of our bedroom chamber;
the pines are the rafters of our bedroom.

She returns the double "WOW"s to him. She affirms his handsomeness and her pleasure while in his company in words and in deed. Perhaps they are rolling in the grass in this oasis. They are rolling together in the woods and she calls it their bedroom. I think they are doing something more than napping. They have seized the opportunity. Young love is full of spontaneity. Every opportunity is maximized, which is why we have teen pregnancies. If there’s a chance for a kiss, she takes it. If there’s time and enough privacy for intercourse, they take it. Exceptionally, even at the end of this epic love poem she is still calling him to join her in other outdoor bedrooms. If you have been married long enough that your passion is well-contained to one room in your house, consider flirting with your spouse all day like this couple does.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Now this is what a bike should be...Green Machine

Flevobike is an outfit in the Netherlands. It has come up with a fully suspended, short wheelbase recumbent bicycle with disc brakes and an internal chain and an internal gear hub. Unfortunately, it costs 3400 euros and is not available on this side of the Atlantic ocean yet. What a beauty though.

I've been biking on my upright Trek while my recumbent is getting a tune-up and my rear end is so sore. It's hard to go back once you've experienced a recumbent. Nevertheless, my recumbent can not handle the ice on part of ride but what skinny tire road bike could. But there are recumbent trikes....

building houses in Alaska

Alaska has an extreme sub-Arctic rainforest climate. It's a tough place to build a house. What is learned in Alaska will be helpful to other cold climates. Turns out there is a Cold Climate Housing Research Center associated with the University of Alaska. They even developed a wall system, dubbed REMOTE (pdf), which is a stick-built system. There is more info than I can digest in one sitting. Enjoy.

See my other posts on conservation and houses.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Illegal immigration

Illegal aliens have always been a problem in the United States. Ask any Indian.
- Robert Orben

Song of Songs 1:5-11 - Erotic Poetry in the Bible

(New English Translation- Song of Songs chapter 1 - italics are NET suggestions)

The Beloved to the Maidens:

1:5 I am dark but lovely, O maidens of Jerusalem,

dark like the tents of Qedar,

lovely like the tent curtains of Salmah.

1:6 Do not stare at me because I am dark,

for the sun has burned my skin.

My brothers were angry with me;

they made me the keeper of the vineyards.

Alas, my own vineyard I could not keep!
**********
After deflecting the compliments of the maidens toward Solomon, Beloved, puts her attention on these city girls. Solomon’s first wife was an Egyptian princess (1 Kings 3:1). According to 1 Kings 11:1 his “love” extended to women of many nations, Moab, Ammon, Edom, Sidon, and perhaps Sheba. Perhaps he liked variety, and surely the selcted came from upper class if not royalty, but Beloved feels the need to assert her skin color and difficult family history and she comes out swinging. “Yes I am dark, but my darkness is lovely, so quit staring!” Presumably their staring was the derisive kind and she wouldn’t have it.

She had paid some dues to achieve that dark skin and would wear it with pride. Perhaps this woman is the inspiration for the woman found in Proverbs 31, especially v. 16, who buys land and plants her own vineyard for additional income. She didn’t find a silver spoon in her mouth but she is unashamed of who she is or what she went through.

A secure woman has a force in her that beautifies every feature that God and life have given her. It is something more powerful than hair coloring, clothing, body mass index, or age. Self-confidence can turn charcoal into diamonds. Not only does it enhance but it makes a woman a treasure to hold onto for a lifetime for her husband. There is something sticky about security.
**********
The Beloved to Her Lover:

1:7 Tell me, O you whom my heart loves,

where do you pasture your sheep?

Where do you rest your sheep during the midday heat?

Tell me lest I wander around

beside the flocks of your companions!
**********
Beloved addresses Solomon in dramatic terms, “you whom my heart loves.” She has worked in the vineyards and she demonstrates her comfort in the man’s world by heading out into his territory. She gains access to him that all the city girls won’t. She is ready to wander to find him, but would prefer him sooner than later. She has no interest in hanging out with the guys. She only wants his company.
**********

The Lover to His Beloved:

1:8 If you do not know, O most beautiful of women,

simply follow the tracks of my flock,

and pasture your little lambs

beside the tents of the shepherds.
**********
Finally, Solomon speaks, and he’s flirting. First he responds to her dramatically. A compliment like that can get a man tremendous good will in his marriage. The epic starts out with her pleading to be brought into his bedroom chamber (1:4), but he’s busy so she seeks him at work. He is happy to be interrupted and plays with her. Notice this example of nonsexual foreplay. He is playing hide and seek with his Beloved. He interrupts his work schedule to accommodate his wife.

He seems to invite her to leave her work with his guys so she can join him without any cares. He is a smart man. If a man works from sun to sun but a woman’s work is never done, the wise man will find a way to give her a break, and reward her diligence. He serves her in compliment and in siesta. Now he pours on the compliments.
**********

The Lover to His Beloved:

1:9 O my beloved, you are like a mare

among Pharaoh’s stallions.

1:10 Your cheeks are beautiful with ornaments;

your neck is lovely with strings of jewels.

1:11 We will make for you gold ornaments

studded with silver.
**********
??? Perhaps a modern horse lover can appreciate this metaphor, in fact don’t cowboys in westerns refer to beautiful young women as fillies? So there might be modern cultures that still compliment their women by comparing them to horses. Nevertheless, even this non-cowboy can perceive a couple things.

Stallions are full of testosterone. Pharaoh’s stallions are the strongest, bravest, fiercest stallions and were world-renowned. One of Solomon’s businesses was buying horses in Egypt and reselling them on the international market. He was an international arms broker (1 Kings 10:26-29). He knew something about quality horses. He owned 12,000 horses and knew something about horse breeding. I’m sure a lone mare in a field of Pharaoh’s stallions generated a great deal of interest from those stallions. Therefore, he’s telling her she’s the only thing worth looking at, which is a fine way to affirm your wife’s beauty.

He proceeds to notice the jewelry she wears. Attention husbands, jewelry for women is not like wearing a watch for guys. The jewelry has been selected to complement her outfit. It is a component in her self-presentation. He generates so much good will by noticing her choices and pointing out what a great job she did in the selections she made. If you told your wife that she is the only thing to look at in the room and complimented her selection of jewelry and specifically noted how her jewelry enhanced her beauty she would swoon. Additionally, you would enhance her security, which makes her even more attractive to you.

The icing on his compliments is the promise to give her even more jewelry. Jewelry is part of a woman’s beauty toolbox. Buying her more jewelry is equivalent to her buying you really nice tools. As you know, the better the tool, the easier and more distinct the project. Telling her wearing jewelry is overdoing it is like her telling you cutting wood with a saw is overdone because you are strong enough to break it with your head. That may be true, and a nice compliment, but it's nicer with a saw. Therefore, go forth and buy your wife some nice tools!
**********

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Awesome adult-scale treehouses

'From a sphere to a 6000 sf empire with a 120 seat restaurant here.

See my other posts on houses.

awesome house builders

This couple was committed to the extreme to be as ecologically considerate as they could and they explain most of their choices. I also like that they built a round house from Deltec Homes. Visit the Round House of Millerton now. Read a short article about their philosophy and round house here.

See my other posts on conservation and houses.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Song of songs: Erotic poetry in the Bible, introduction


1:1 Solomon’s Most Excellent Love Song.
The Desire for Love The Beloved to Her Lover:
1:2 Oh, how I wish you would kiss me passionately!
For your lovemaking is more delightful than wine.
1:3 The fragrance of your colognes is delightful;
your name is like the finest perfume.
No wonder the young women adore you!
1:4 Draw me after you; let us hurry!
May the king bring me into his bedroom chambers!

The Maidens to the Lover:
We will rejoice and delight in you;
we will praise your love more than wine.

The Beloved to Her Lover:
How rightly the young women adore you!

(NET) (italicized parts are editorial additions)

I don’t know if this is foreshadowing, aspiration, or flashback, but it is intense. The intensity of it suggests experience. Can someone assume the exceptional lovemaking of another? She doesn’t compare his abilities to another man, but to wine.*

This love story starts with Beloved’s longing. She violates so many conservative Christian dating guides. It’s almost as if she is initiating. That rocks too many Calvinist typologies so this can not be a dating scene. She must be speaking from experience.

She doesn’t want a peck on the cheek. She is on fire for him and wants do some serious necking.

Attention husbands reading this. “Serious neckin’” is also known as foreplay. A wedding band no longer exempts you from these details. Intimacy occurs when the TV is turned off. Intimacy needs time. If the spark is lost in your marriage and assuming you are at least treating her as you want to be treated and you are not sure where to go from there, try some “neckin.’” Perhaps pouring a couple glasses of wine (quality grape juice if you are a Baptist or in recovery) wouldn’t hurt either. Try to smell nice too. Skip the baked beans for a couple days. Take a shower AFTER work. Wear deodorant and clean clothes and the cologne she bought you one Christmas (that was a hint).

Beloved is thrilled to be married to someone respected in public, with a name that is delightful to the ears. Solomon was exceptional and he had 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:3). He “loved” and was “loved” by many maidens. But she is The One singled out for permanence in the record of God’s communication to us.

God made sure in His story we read about love in a marriage. One that is passionate, erotic, stormy, complicated, messy, strained but never broken. Marriage is such a powerful contract. God initiates the mystery of marriage in Genesis 2 in the garden of Eden when he shows us how we come out of each other and together become “one flesh” (2:24). God returns to this metaphor in the New Testament when Paul compares the Church to a bride of Christ (Ephesians) and our entrance into heaven a wedding reception (Revelation) and Jesus himself compares himself to a groom who comes in the middle of the night (Luke). In a similar vein, Beloved can’t wait till Lover can take her away to his bedroom chamber. We get snippets into her history throughout this epic poem suggesting that her life wasn’t an easy one. Then we come to appreciate her solace in time with him. When strife enters the bedroom, and it does in a later chapter, that precious solace escapes until the hard work is put into restoration. When the metaphor of Christ’s return for us is applied though, I agree with Beloved so much. Life here can be good at times and awful at times and I can’t wait to go be with my Savior, where there will always be peace and every tear will be wiped away. (Come quickly Lord Jesus. Let your kingdom come and your will be done).

The choir makes an awkward statement. If these are from Solomon’s harem then you get grossed out. Are they competing with Beloved? Are they trying to drown out her voice? Will Solomon pay attention to Beloved? But like an advanced Judo fighter, she turns their attacks into a force on her behalf. She continues to adore her husband and is not swayed by the confusers. She keeps her jealousy in check as well as the competitors.

[FWIW: I enjoyed this brief summary of the book by David Malick at bible.org]

*Ah wine, it brings a flush to the face, warms the body, liberates the inhibited, and brings a smile to the drinker. Wine occurs as a metaphor seven times in this eight chapter book, twice in these first four verses. This is a wine drinking culture. As an aside, these metaphors don’t make much sense if they are only drinking grape juice. Alcohol abuse was an issue in Bible times, see Solomon’s Proverbs, but it’s only a thing that gets twisted in our broken world. Just as it is the love of money that’s the root of all evil and not money alone, so the abuse of alcohol is the root of all sorts of misery but not alcohol alone.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Top 10 posts 2nd wk Jan '08

These posts are my favorites from my travels around the blogs. They appear in the shared feeds section all week here at the Umblog, or you can bookmark this page, or add it to your feeds with the RSS link.

1-That announcement that the Lakota nation is withdrawing from its treaties with the U.S. would be worth taking seriously if the 8 tribes that make up the nation decided it and not 3 people out for publicity.

2-The Old Testament is a story of a balance between ideals and reality, but that doesn't mean the ideals aren't there. I would add to Paul Copan's examples that Solomon writes a great love story even though he had 300 wives and 500 concubines.

3-Miracles amidst the atrocities in Kenya. More info.

4-A former embryo writes a book on behalf of other embryos.

5-An inspiring, familiar video of the autistic basketball star at Stories of Cultural Vertigo. Even though you've seen it before, it's still good.

6-Socket wrench vs. paintbrush.

7-Nutrition for 2008 at Sans Auto, more plants less meat less cars.

8-JM Reynolds explains the division that Huckabee brings to the Republicans. He's not channeling Reagan, he's channeling Roosevelt.

More posts can be found here on native American, theology, missionary, abortion, autism, food.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

New series for January: erotic poetry in the Bible

Only a month left until Valentine's Day so I'm going to look at the erotic poetry of the Bible found in The Song of Songs. Many people worship sex, but I worship the God who invented intimacy in all its dimensions emotional, spiritual, and physical. It gets pretty steamy in those eight chapters but some stuff can be hard to understand in the 21st century. Is it compliment to compare your husband to an apple tree (2:3)? Was he scoring points when he compared her hair to a flock of goats (4:1)? Hopefully, we will figure some of these things out.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Forgiveness and reconciliation at New Life Church, Colorado

Great news at CNN, Killer's parents hug, cry with parents of 2 slain teens

The pastor said he invited the Murrays to visit the New Life campus after praying over the holidays. The family immediately accepted his invitation and was given a guided "step-by-step" tour of where the rampage took place and shown where their son died.

"It was extremely emotional. They wanted to hear the details. I kept telling them I would stop with details, but they wanted to hear them," he told CNN in a phone interview this week.

At one point, the parents also met with security guard Jeanne Assam, who shot their son in the leg before he turned his gun on himself. The parents thanked Assam for her swift action and for helping save more lives, said Casey Nikoloric, a Murray family spokeswoman and long-time friend.

"They told Assam that they were so deeply sorry she had to do what she did," said Nikoloric. "There were tears, lots of embraces, prayers."

The visit, she said, was "very, very, very important" in the healing process for the Murrays as they deal with the loss of their son and the terror he inflicted.

Forgiveness is one of the foundations of Christianity. It's so awesome to see it being practiced in such difficult situations. I had several posts on this tragedy last month. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.



last quote from The Last Days of the Incas

This last quote from The Last Days of the Incas by Kim MacQuarrie makes a connection for me to Kiernan's Blood and Soil (see those book reports and quotes) whose thesis was that conquerors justified genocide on the need to return the conquered society to an agricultural idyll. MacQuarrie adds to this the thought that economics drove this idyll. Conquerors need a peasant class to provide abundant tribute without complaint. As Kiernan pointed out though, an agricultural society wasn't worth keeping if it was subsistence based and content with their lives (Irish or native American), which disqualify it from being "civilized." Peasants are subservient, and the conquered cultures who weren't subservient were crushed. This is what Pizarro did to the Incas.

The behavior of Pizarro and his entourage had thus far followed standard conquest procedure. First, evidence of a native empire had to be discovered. First, evidence of a native empire had to be discovered, one civilized enough to include a mass of native peasants who were used to paying taxes to an elite. It was of no use to find “wild” Indians who didn’t farm or had no experience with civilization. The Spaniards, after all, had come to create a feudal society over which to rule, and a feudal society, by definition, required a tax-paying peasantry. (92-93)


There is no question that Inca morals were not quite contemporary. However, the Christian conquerors never seem to have worn those WWJD bracelets. What would Jesus do if he arrived in a new country? No wonder the priests Pizarro brought had a tough time evangelizing. What was the good news of a culture that turned a blind eye to raping and pillaging and plundering?

See my other posts on atrocities, human rights, genocide, history and book reports.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

uprising because of depredations

One last quote from MacQuarrie's The Last Days of the Incas. I highly recommend this book. It has received positive reviews on Amazon for good reason.

The context for this quote is the plea of the Incan people to throw off the yoke of the Spaniards, Manco was their king. 


“We cannot spend out entire lives in such great misery and subjection [while being] treated even worse than the Spaniards’ black slaves,” they told Manco. “Let us rebel once and for all and die for our liberty, and for our children and wives, who every day they take from us and abuse.” (178)

The amazing thing about this quote is its timelessness. Hence the non-specific title for this post. This could be said by native americans or irish or palestinians.

See my other posts on atrocities, human rights, genocide, history and book reports.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Hesco wall house

Remember gabions? Hesco walls are gabions for the 21st century. They were developed for protection in Iraq or Afghanistan. Basically they are steel mesh boxes with heavy duty fabric. But the cool thing is that they can be used for housing. Perhaps not in the luxurious sense, but what is intended for disaster shelters could be made into something more permanent. They call it the R-house. It has a translucent tent for a roof, to let in light, since there are no windows in this design, which is great for warm climate life.

The walls are 18" thick and filled with local dirt and rocks. With a real roof, they claim it is a 30 year structure. If nothing else, it would make a great garage or workshop.

See other posts on houses and conservation.

cinema review: Super Size Me

I really don't mind being late to trendy things. Time lets those trends percolate and refine and determine if the hype was worth it. Four years after this documentary's release, Super Size Me, is still a great view. Turns out I could have watched it a long time ago because it is entirely on-line at Google Video. However, I decided against embedding it as there are some inappropriate segments and language for all ages. In case you forgot or never heard, a healthy guy with a vegan chef girlfriend is intrigued by a lawsuit filed against McDonalds by two overweight, adolescent girls. He was intrigued and wondered if McDonalds was actually damaging their customers' health for a profit. Since the restaurants offer breakfast, lunch and dinner he figured he'd eat all three meals there every day for thirty days. In short, it was physically disastrous for his body. He gained 16 pounds in 30 days that took 9 months to lose. His physician begged him to stop early because his liver was turning into pâté. As the wiki article points out, it is possible to eat from McD's for a month and lose weight, through portion control and healthy choices, but that takes abundant will-power when walking into that establishment which smells wonderfully of salt and fat and sugar which a larger portion can be had for only a few cents more.

This movie has me regretting buying the occasional milkshake, an indulgence of mine. I guess I need to stick with my  icthy-ovo-lacto-ento-vegetarian diet. Someone told me I'm a flexitarian.

See my other cinema reviews.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Book report: The Last Days of the Incas by MacQuarrie

This is a great anecdote about contrasting missionary approaches in Kim MacQuarrie's book, The Last Days of the Incas.

…when Friar Garcia learned that the emporer had more than one wife, “the servant of God castigated him [Titu Cusi] with apostolic zeal.” Apparently, the zeal of the apostles not only went unappreciated by the emperor, but greatly annoyed him as well.
Friar Diego Ortiz, by contrast, was much more relaxed in his missionary style and, as a consequence, Titu Cusi is said to have taken an immediate liking to him. Unlike his compatriot, Ortiz was affable and flexible and generally more congenial. Within a short while, two tiny Christian churches began to operate in the Incas’ hidden kingdom… (360)


Later on the two priests set ablaze an Inca shrine, which got the zealous friar kicked out of the Inca capitol, but the more congenial, Ortiz, was allowed to stay. However, Ortiz died a martyr’s death shortly thereafter in retribution for the offense. There must be a lesson in there somewhere but I'm not sure what it is...any suggestions?

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Top 10 posts first week of 2008

These posts are my favorites from my travels around the blogs. They appear in the shared feeds section all week here at the Umblog, or you can bookmark this page, or add it to your feeds with the RSS link.


More posts can be found here on missional, politics, cars, african-americans, India, persecution, human rights, abortion, and conservation.

Resolution report: Read your Bible

Last year, I resolved to read my Bible through 4 times. In the first quarter, I borrowed a copy of Reese's Chronological Bible, divided the number of pages by 90, and read 18 pages a day, in King James english no less. It went really well. In the second quarter I divided the number of pages in my NET bible by 90 and read 22 pages a day. That also went well. I spiced the 3rd quarter up a bit by reading the Old Testament through in the Jewish traditional order and the new Testament through in an author-clustered order. In the fourth quarter, I read the NET bible for the third time. I read 12 chapters a day, enough to get through the entire book in 90 days. But, instead of waiting 2 months to get through the OT before reaching the NT I interleaved the NT after the Pentateuch. Then some more OT, then some more NT, then the wheels came off the bus. I didn't finish it a fourth time. I got really, really busy.
  1. I recommend everyone read through the Bible. I'm following through the M'Cheyne plan again. The neat thing with his plan is private readings and family readings. For the family readings, we are listening to the Bible Experience together. It is so well-read, my kids give me grief for stopping it at the end of the chapters, 2 a day as a family, 2 in private.
  2. I recommend reading through (or listening to) the entire Bible as fast as you can at least once so that you can see the how the NT and OT play a harmony, Hebrews and Leviticus, Revelation and Ezekiel, Matthew and Isaiah.
  3. Include your family in your reading travels too.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Friday, January 04, 2008

Weight loss and the New Year

Can a picky eater slow down weight gain? Well not if the eatings picked are full of fat and sugar. However, this past year, since Lent, I tried a reduced animal protein diet. Specifically, for Lent, I gave up meat. This was something all new for me. I never practiced a Lenten fast before. Yet, I had never been old enough before to see higher cholesterol levels in my physical. I run barefoot and I didn't have my recumbent bike then, see my ice bike story.

I didn't give up fish or dairy products (or insects). So that makes me an icthy-ovo-lacto-ento-vegetarian. In the beginning, I ate rice and beans at dinner almost every night and a whole grain cereal for breakfast such as Ezekiel 4:9 brand with almond or rice milk. I learned how to use my pressure cooker and tried all sorts of spices to provide variety. I also practiced eating when I was hungry, but only small portions at a time. I lost weight. I kept the fast for the most part after Lent, except for the roasted lamb on Easter. Yummy. 

I got most of my diet ideas from Sans Auto, see his Sabotage Fatty series. Once I resumed running in the spring, weight was easy to keep off and numbers such as blood pressure and cholesterol were happy also.

I didn't stay completely land meat free, though. For example, Easter lamb was great. I tried a free-range-steer hot dog over the summer. That was disappointing. When visiting, I never declined a meat dish offered to me out of consideration towards my hosts. The only other intentional partaking was at Thanksgiving, when I ate with my family at a community meal. Turkey with gravy is nice.

As I look back over that past 11 months I think I've only missed variety, but only a little. I can still enjoy Mexican night with my family. My grocery bill has remained steady despite the rise in meat prices. My kids have to eat the same meat leftovers for much longer now. The only thing I really miss is a big pulled-pork sandwich. It's a treat I could rarely find here in New England anyway, so I'm not that deprived. I'm a picky eater of a sorts now. When I wasn't picky, I could, and I would, eat everything at the Christmas parties. But now I have increased my vegetable intake a great deal. I have fallen off the small portion wagon though, especially in December, when every plate of cookies I see makes me hungry. I still have a sweet tooth, but my weight gain is not as bad as I feared.

I will be back on my recumbent soon and I actually bought a pair of Nike Frees (3.0) for winter running.

In conclusion, I highly recommend the mantra of all successful diets, EAT LESS EXERCISE MORE. Additionally, I recommend the lower global impact diet (minimal land animal protein) with smaller portions and the lower global impact cycling life (recumbent especially). It's cheaper, it's healthier, and it gives you something to blog about.