Thursday, January 28, 2010
Navel gazing as art is tough. Who wants to pay to look at your disgusting navel with you? That's why there are so many blogs, like mine, that don't make any money or get many visitors. It's not that Miller has a more interesting navel, he's forthright that it's average and stinky and linty, but he can describe it with humor and a clear eye. His writing flows smoothly and reads quickly. I received the book, free for review, on my 40th birthday from Thomas Nelson Publishers through their reviewer program called Book Sneeze. If I didn't have a family to celebrate the day with, I would have finished it the same evening.
The premise of the book is that a director, Steve Taylor, who I wrote about recently, seeks to turn Miller's break-out book, Blue Like Jazz, into a movie. However, Miller learns that navel gazing does not translate into good cinema. The book needs to conform to the structure of a story arc. In the process, Miller learns that his real life has no story arc either. He is having an early mid-life crisis. He's fat and lazy and lousy at his relationships with girls. Through a series of inspirational speakers, movie writing, casual conversations, and physical challenges he begins to add quality to the story arc of his real life. It's as if Steinbeck took his Travels with Charley, see my book report, 50 years earlier in his life. Except...Miller isn't Steinbeck. Halfway into the book, I looked up from the pages, as Miller was discussing life as a story whose author is God, and said to my wife, "I've read this all before." In fact, in another book I reviewed for Nelson, Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl, by N. D. Wilson, the same metaphor was used and expounded. I wonder if Nelson had the same editor working with both authors.
An important difference between Miller and Steinbeck and Wilson and myself is Miller is the unmarried one without children. I could enjoy, vicariously, his travels across the country on a bicycle to raise money for kids and a hike to Machu Picchu for fun and to impress a girl, but that lack of responsibility for another makes his life so different from Steinbeck's, who pines for his wife and has her meet him on the west coast mid-trip. Steainbeck feeds Charley and takes breaks on the road for Charley to sniff and pee. Likewise, Wilson has small children that he concerns himself with as well as a wife who he loves. I didn't even have the freedom to read a book for 4 hours straight through, because my wife and children all make claims on my time. These are the good things Miller can't share from his single guy navel. I look forward to the writing of Miller after he marries and has several young mouths to feed. He probably does as well.
FWIW, I've written earlier about Miller and his political involvement with Barack Obama.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Monday, January 25, 2010
I'll be helping prepare the property to be used as a refugee camp. The team I'm part of consists of doctors, surgical techs, EMTs, and pastors. I am representing my church, Calvary Chapel of Southeastern Ct., as a missions pastor. As my day job is a biologist, I will probably be slinging cinder blocks. Afterward, my job will be to help organize subsequent trips. As Mission E4's website shows, right now they need medical supplies. Here is their list. They need cash. We need prayer. Haiti needs prayer. I'll be leaving on February 6th.
There are many good places to send your money. I did through Samaritan's Purse.
Mark Driscoll released this hour and a half long video today about his trip in Haiti with James McDonald. They started an organization called Churches Helping Churches. They are planning on helping Haitian pastors and their churches. The last 45 minutes of the video wrecked me.
Friday, January 22, 2010
Working together we have accomplished small but remarkable things, but they represent the accomplishments of the poor themselves. More than 420,000 trees have been planted by farmers who are practicing a whole new type of agriculture, suited for steep hillsides and far more productive. Because it makes sense for them economically, these farmers will go on planting trees long after we are gone. Thousands of small business loans have been made. Fruit production has been improved. Hundreds of miles of soil erosion control measures – often living barriers of trees - have been installed and hundreds of rainwater harvesting systems have been built. Dozens of Bible studies have been held.
But Plant With Purpose, and our Haitian staff have merely been a catalyst for their success. The loans we have made (with a repayment rate of 98%) and the training we have provided have helped to uncover the talents of the people themselves.
Too often aid fails because it is applied without understanding the needs of the people who receive it and without involving them in the planning. Furthermore, nothing is required of them. Aid is done to them, by outsiders. In time it robs them of dignity, self confidence and initiative.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Back in Port-au-Prince, the Livesay family's rented house held up in the earthquake and has become a field hospital, where people are saved and lost. They tell of an amazing story that made me cry of walking by faith and God providing. They were able to get some people on the US hospital ship even before the medics got set up, even before anyone knew where they would set up. but they are realizing that big NGO's take care of each other and are not sharing with the little NGO's like them. The politics are discouraging. Please pray for them and for the Lord to provide for them. Like many, they are getting supplies from the Dominican Republic.
Pray. Pray. Pray.
Monday, January 18, 2010
I have the same problem with this movie that I had with Avatar. The medium contradicts the message. In Avatar, the message of "exploitation of others is bad" was contradicted by the exploitation of topless women actors. In Eli, the message of "the world needs the Bible to save us from ourselves" was contradicted by at least three gratuitous rape scenes. There are ways to convey evil artistically, without doing it explicitly. If the directors, sons of John Hughes, really believe that our worst instincts need to be resisted by the message of the Bible, why do they fill the minds of their audiences with men fulfilling their worst instincts? As I've said elsewhere, violence is bad, sexual violence is worse. At the end of the movie when the bad guy realizes his little kingdom is collapsing, and the camera zooms in on him, the only thing left to see in the background for 30 seconds, past his head, is a man attempting to rape a woman. I hated that.
I think part of my sensitivity to these things is due to the lack of television in our household. We have a TV, but we don't get any channels. Everything we watch, we choose, usually by DVD or online. Maybe, rape scenes are common on television these days, but I haven't been de-sensitized and I was violated each time I saw those scenes in the movie. I have two daughters. Those scenes are nightmares to me.
The big spoiler is that Eli, who, like the Blues Brothers, is on a mission from God to deliver the last Bible in the post-apocalyptic America somewhere west, is blind. But because he is on a mission from God, he can fight like a ninja and act just like a person with sight. That makes this movie a mash-up of Daredevil and Mad Max. The joke is he's been walking west for 20 years, eating stray cats and fighting off the cannibals. Since he "walks by faith and not by sight," as he quotes the Bible to his follower, he takes 20 times longer than most people to walk across the country.
His Bible quoting is deficient. He quotes to her again a mash-up of Psalm 23. It had many of the parts, but out of order. I've memorized Psalm 23 myself, and if Eli were in my AWANA club, I would have told him to go work on it for a few more weeks. He also made his own version of the Golden Rule. "Do more for others than you would do for yourself." In Matthew 7:12, Jesus says in his Sermon on the Mount, "So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets." As I tell my kids when they fight, "if you don't like it when they do it to you, don't do it to them, but treat them the way you want to be treated." Eli doesn't practice Jesus' standard, much less his own, an addition to the words of Jesus.
It turns our, Eli's Bible is in braille. That's fine, but I have a blind friend at church. She can only carry one book of the Bible at a time to church, because, the entire book fills up a bookshelf. Braille pages are necessarily thicker than print pages. Even though the bad guy takes his Bible, Eli is able to arrive at Alcatraz to deliver his King James Bible. Alcatraz is held by good guys trying to preserve human books and art and culture. They even have a printing press. Eli, starting from Genesis 1, begins reciting from memory the entire Bible to a scribe. Then he dies. His protege, who escaped with him from the bad guy's town, after hearing the entire Bible, heads out with his weapons to go back home. She was not transformed by the message of the Bible. She is not heading out as a messenger of peace, as we remember a great one today, Martin Luther King, Jr., but as another violent cowboy ninja. Finally, the movie closes with the newly printed Bible being placed on a bookshelf between the Koran and the Torah. It's merely another religious book, kept safely on a shelf. I'm also wondering, if they had a Torah, why didn't they ask Eli to start with the New Testament, Matthew 1 or something? I couldn't tell if there was another book labeled the Tanakh or not. But maybe, the movie only appreciated the literature of the King James Version, as literature, but not as the soul-transforming words of God.
As a Christian viewer of this movie, I feel used. The Bible is a powerless book in the alternate world of Eli. The evil nature of men is presented as entertainment. There is no repentance. There is no redemption. There is no good news. The makers of this movie, don't know that it's the good news of the Bible that sends most of the charities to Haiti right now. It's the good news of Jesus that gives Haitians hope, so that they sing in the night to Him, awaiting his miraculous interventions through their fellow believers from other countries. It was the Bible that empowered MLK, Jr. It was the Bible that transformed the racist laws of the southern U.S. It is not because the Bible is great literature, but because it is the Word of God himself. It's not Eli's book, it's the book of Jesus Christ.
Saturday, January 16, 2010
In Haiti, right now, things are getting rough. But I'm wondering if more lives could be saved if the planes bringing in aid and leaving empty would leave with Haitian families and bring them to the nations around Haiti, from the US to Venezuela as well as European and African nations, especially the French speaking ones. For example, Canada is working on legislation to fast-track Haitian immigration in response to the earthquake. Brilliant I say.
Thousands left New Orleans to safety and security in surrounding states. Not all returned. Isn't the short term social discord of rapid immigrant influx better than letting thousands unnecessarily die in Port-au-Prince?
Thursday, January 14, 2010
The Haitians "were under the heel of the French. You know, Napoleon III and
Native Haitians defeated French colonists in 1804 and declared independence.
"You know, the Haitians revolted and got themselves free. But ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after the other."
But the Bible, does not support this. In the midst of the fall of the nation of Israel two of God's prophets made similar statements from God.
v.29 In those days they shall no longer say: "'The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge.' 30 But everyone shall die for his own sin. Each man who eats sour grapes, his teeth shall be set on edge.
Ezekiel goes into more detail. Ezekiel 18
v.1 The word of the LORD came to me: 2 "What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, 'The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge'? 3 As I live, declares the Lord GOD, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. 4 Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins shall die...
Who is Pat Robertson to tell a Haitian child whose parents were crushed to death that it's the fault of political leaders 10 generations ago? I've been to Haiti. The church is present there. Believers in Jesus are there. Those who believe in Jesus are forgiven and made righteous by his sacrifice.
Image by kmardahl via Flickr
In Genesis 18, Abraham pleads for the fate of the wicked city of Sodom. There are more than ten righteous people in Haiti.
23 Then Abraham drew near and said, "Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?" 26 And the LORD said, "If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake." 27 Abraham answered and said, "Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. 28 Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking. Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?" And he said, "I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there." 29 Again he spoke to him and said, "Suppose forty are found there." He answered, "For the sake of forty I will not do it." 30 Then he said, "Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak. Suppose thirty are found there." He answered, "I will not do it, if I find thirty there." 31 He said, "Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there." He answered, "For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it." 32 Then he said, "Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten are found there." He answered, "For the sake of ten I will not destroy it." 33 And the LORD went his way, when he had finished speaking to Abraham, and Abraham returned to his place.
Here is video from my local paper of Haitians up the road from me interceding for Haitians in Haiti.
This poor theology was used within the church, in its history, to support anti-semitism. In Matthew 27, written by a Jew who was called to be a disciple of Jesus, when Pilate tries, feebly, to reason with the crowd, at Jesus' show trial, Matthew records this exchange.
24 So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, "I am innocent of this man's blood;see to it yourselves." 25 And all the people answered, "His blood be on us and on our children!" 26 Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.The early success of the church among the Jews proves that this self-imposed curse did nothing. God saved many priests. God saved Paul, a notorious persecutor of Christians. The curse is powerless. The church is wrong to use passages like this to deny human rights to Jews. The Haitian pact with the devil is powerless before the blood of Jesus. Robertson is wrong. He is wrongly representing God, which is blasphemy. Let us pray that God has mercy on his soul as we pray for God to have mercy on the Haitians.
Image by caritasinternationalis via Flickr
I've been praying and fasting for the Haitians the last 24 hours. My prayers are simple. I groan (Romans 8:26). I say "Jesus." I say "Let your kingdom come and your will be done in Haiti as it is in heaven." Please pray for Haiti.
Update: A reply to Pat Robertson from the Haitian ambassador to the United States. Video here. HT: Religious News Report.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
From Calvary Chapel in Port-au-Prince where I served last year, see my story here.
Pastor Seige called this morning and he is fine. The kids and the staff at the orphanage are fine, but the church and orphanage buildings are cracked, so they are staying out of the buildings. He was able to reach some of the people who attend the church and they were fine also. We'll keep you posted. Pray for Haiti!
From the Livesay family.
The few things we can confirm – yes the four story Caribbean Market building is completely demolished. Yes it was open. Yes the National Palace collapsed. Yes Gov’t buildings nearby the Palace collapsed. Yes St Josephs Boys home is completely collapsed. Yes countless countless - countless other houses, churches, hospitals, schools, and businesses have collapsed. There are buildings that suffered almost no damage. Right next door will be a pile of rubble.
Thousands of people are currently trapped. To guess at a number would be like guessing at raindrops in the ocean. Precious lives hang in the balance. When pulled from the rubble there is no place to take them for care Haiti has an almost non existent medical care system for her people.
I cannot imagine what the next few weeks and months will be like. I am afraid for everyone. Never in my life have I seen people stronger than Haitian people. But I am afraid for them. For us.
When the quake hit it took many seconds to even process what was happening. The house was rocking back and forth in a way that I cannot even begin to describe. It felt fake. It felt like a movie. Things were crashing all over the house. It felt like the world was ending. I do not know why my house stands and my children all lie sleeping in their beds right now. It defies logic and my babies were spared while thousands of others were not.
There are friends and co-workers that are missing. People whom no-one can account for. People we work with and love. There are more than I can name, but in particular we wait on one single friend who lived near the Hotel Montana – which has reportedly collapsed.The horror has only just begun and I beg you to get on your knees – I truly mean ON YOUR KNEES and pray for the people of this country. The news might forget in a few days - but people will still be trapped alive and suffering. Pray. Pray. Pray. After that - PLEASE PRAY.
From a Catholic orphanage, Hope in Haiti.
The news from Port-au-Prince is very bad. Few could get through as the cell phones are either not working or the lines are jammed with everyone attempting to call. Heard from Andy Topp who is down here with a group helping out another orphanage in the area and they are all well. The focus right now is to help our sisters and brothers in the capital. Getting in and out of Port-au-Prince may not be possible as I've heard that the road has become impassable. As all of us down south depend on food shipments (and all other commodities) from Port-au-Prince, this could become a major crisis for us. Please do what you can for the Haitians and keep us all in your prayers.
No updates yet from medical missionaries, the Bentrotts though who live in PaP. Update: They are safe as well.
Dear Friends and Family,
I will write more later, but just want to let you all know that Patrick, Solomon and I are safe. We had just gotten home when the earthquake hit, our apartment building went from 3 stories to 2 in once sickening crunch, but our space stayed miraculously in tact and the people on the first floor got out in the nick of time.
We had a group working with CONASPEH here with us from Tennessee. All members of the group were safe. Had they been on time for dinner, this note would have a different tone. Not all people in the guest house got out alive. We took the group to the embassy yesterday and they should be able to leave the country via the Dominican Republic in the next few days.
CONASPEH has been flattened. All my nursing students were inside. Yesterday we helped pull bodies out of the wreckage and heard some voices within the rubble. Efforts continued frantically all day to reach them.
Patrick and Francois Villier are safe. Their house seems to have held. They lost one of their foster care children in CONASPEH.
Wednesday, January 06, 2010
Update: I've come across some good quotes from the blogs this morning, so I want to add a few more.
Typical consequentialist arguments also fail. Abortion prevents unwanted children who are likely to be poor, abused or engage in crime. It is hailed as a solution to over-population and the existence of more handicapped people. It prevents adult and teenage women from falling into economic hardship and stress. It enables them to complete their education, pursue their careers. However, all this is equally true of infanticide. Infanticide prevents the existence of unwanted children and their associated social costs, lowers the population, prevents the handicapped existing and saves women and teenagers from the economic and emotional stresses of parenthood. Yet infanticide, as convenient as it is, is condemned because it is homicide. Again, all these arguments assume that the fetus is not human without actually arguing for it...From Contra Mundum: Confessions of an Anti-Choice Fanatic Hat tip: Pro-life blogs.
The fact that a fetus cannot survive independently of its mother does not mean it is not a human being. Fetal viability is contingent upon the medical technology of a given culture. A fetus that is not viable in Chad is viable in Los Angeles. If viability is necessary for something to be a human then a woman pregnant with a viable fetus in Los Angeles who flies from Los Angeles to Chad carries a human being when she leaves but this human being ceases to exist when she arrives in India and yet becomes human again when she returns (Peter Singer Writings on an Ethical Life (2000) 148).
Similarly, while the fetus lacks consciousness, lack of consciousness does not make a being non-human. If it did, then a human being ceases to exist when asleep or unconscious and then pops back into existence upon awakening. Shooting someone would cease to be homicide provided we render him or her unconscious first.
If we take the principles of liberal individualism as axiomatic, we find it possible to think of the fetus and the woman as the parties of the first and second part arguing over their respective rights. We are then able to blind ourselves to the natural fact that they are related as mother and child and that the child is in the only natural place for him to be, his mother's womb.from Mere Comments .
Tuesday, January 05, 2010
Cover of Hitlerhave a ways to go. I was re-interested in it after the last book on Patton, Montgomery, Rommel: Masters of War, by Brighton. The last time I quoted from Kershaw, I was reminded of the political enthusiasm for Palin and Obama. This quote did the same thing to me.
The hopes long cherished of the coming great leader eradicated the critical faculties of many intellectuals, blinding them to the magnitude of the assault on the freedom of thought as well as action that they often welcomed. Many of the neo-conservative intellectuals whose ideas had helped pave the way for the Third Reich were soon to be massively disillusioned. Hitler turned out for them in practice to be not the mystic leader they had longed for in their dreams. But they had helped prepare the ground for the Fuhrer cult that was taken up in its myriad form by so many others.I think it is hard wired into our souls to be worshipers in search of saviors. Politically, some observers of Obama received shivers up their legs when they heard him speak. I think some on the right feel the same way when Palin speaks. People know that things aren't as they should be, and put their hopes on those who promise Utopia.
Hardly a protest was raised at the purges of university professors under the new civil service law in April 1933 as many of Germany's most distinguished academics were dismissed and forced into exile. The Prussian Academy of Arts had by then already undertaken its own 'cleansing', demanding loyalty to the regime from all choosing to remain within its hallowed membership.
The symbolic moment of capitulation of German intellectuals to the 'new spirit' of 1933 came with the burning on 10 May of the books of authors unacceptable to the regime. University faculties and senates collaborated. Their members, with few exceptions, attended the bonfires. The poet Heinrich Heine (1797-1856), whose works were among those consumed by the flames, had written: 'Where books are burnt, in the end people are also burnt.' pp.291-2
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I think Darwin is that Messiah in our academies today. I recently watched Ben Stein's documentary, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. It was funny, but in a tragic sense. A member of the Smithsonian is forced out because he allowed an Intelligent Design article to be published. An astronomer is denied tenure because of his non-academic work on the anthropic principle as an evidence of design. The examples were abundant of discrimination against freedom of thought when those thoughts undermined Darwin's. Many more examples of Darwin blindness can be read about at the blog Uncommon Descent and at Evolution News and Views. Stein was not shy about drawing the line between Darwin, eugenics, Hitler, and his final solution. But those blinded by their prophet Darwin, refuse to acknowledge the ends of his ideas. Here is a recent post showing Nazi doctor Mengele, devotee of Darwin.
However, the only Savior that can save our world is Jesus Christ. Politicians and laws can't do that much. They can't change people's hearts. However, if they start deciding one human is less important or less worthy to live than another, then they are in the wrong. Darwin did it. Pro-choice politicians do it. As Peter told the religious leaders of Jerusalem, shortly after Jesus' resurrection and return to heaven, the ascension, ... there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. Acts 4:12 That name is Jesus. We have to start there, with him. And we have to continue with him. We have to end with him. All these links under the word him are links that answer the question over and over, who is Jesus Christ?
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Monday, January 04, 2010
If anything, Brighton admired the pride of Rommel, that he would stand up repeatedly to Hitler, even in support of the plot to remove him by putsch, deadly or not. Well, who wouldn't. Nevertheless, Rommel was an accomplice to genocide. Rommel discussed with fellow German generals on the western front of surrendering his armies to Eisenhower. He knew it better to negotiate with the West than with Russia. But those plans were interrupted by justice. The assassination attempt failed. Rommel was knocked out of command by an air attack from Allied pilots. The SS determined that Rommel was guilty and offered him an honorable legacy if he bit a suicide pill, which he did.
Patton was the most colorful character in this book. He is someone I'm most interested in learning more about. His personal moral failures were horrific to individuals, his wife, individual soldiers, but he was equally passionate in his grief over his sins, in visitations with wounded and dying soldiers, in his war mongering. He stands apart, in my view from Monty and Rommel because of his passion. He always had it, or, it always had him. But Brighton points out that Eisenhower needed a meticulous planner like Monty to plan a complicated landing in Normandy, D-Day, something Patton could have never done. But he needed Patton to go out and fight and be creative on the fly and take initiative. With only one type of general, Eisenhower would not have seen success as soon.
Overall, this book was a great read, and I commend it to any student of World War 2. Brighton focused on three theaters of the war, North Africa, Sicily/Italy, and France. He didn't follow the Italian campaign to its finish because the generals left before the campaign finished. I'm glad I knew more about that theater from a book I reviewed in March of 2008 called The Day of Battle by Atkinson. Atkinson also tells the story of the North African campaign in earlier book I enjoyed before the blog called An Army at Dawn. Hopefully, his take on the Western Europe campaign will come soon. He calls the project, The Liberation Trilogy.
It seems to me, that as Proverbs declares, The horses are prepared for battle, but the victory belongs to the LORD. (NLT) Prov. 21:31 No matter what, no matter the incompetence and confusion, God decided how the war would end. I love reading about the infighting and confusion and incompetence of the armies, because it gives God the glory. He righted the wrongs. He brought justice.
Sunday, January 03, 2010
I told them the weekend NT readings were optional but that they can use the weekends to catch up on the longer readings in the OT during the week. Six chapters of Ezekiel in a day may be too much for my 10 year old.
I plan on reading the NT sections. I might read them in English first then Greek or use my NET diglot. I did succeed in reading through the NT in Greek this year. But I'm no scholar. I needed much help from Kubo.
Saturday, January 02, 2010
As Paul writes to Titus, his protege in Crete.
3 Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled by others and became slaves to many wicked desires and evil pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy. We hated others, and they hated us. 4 But then God our Savior showed us his kindness and love. 5 He saved us, not because of the good things we did, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins and gave us a new life through the Holy Spirit. 6 He generously poured out the Spirit upon us because of what Jesus Christ our Savior did. 7 He declared us not guilty because of his great kindness. And now we know that we will inherit eternal life.
Titus 3 (NLT)
Hear it read aloud.
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