Saturday, January 31, 2009

Who Inspires You

Gar Reynolds at Presentation Zen has a great 2 minute clip of Sir Ken Robinson who asks: "Who inspires you?" It's a great question. Watch the clip and think about how you would answer.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Laurie B - Made It Home

We just got back home from the hospital. Laurie negotiated quite handily the 14 steps from our garage to the living area. It's time for her to take a nap after all the exertion of checking out of the hospital and getting home. I think I may take a short nap too.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Theology is not history

Rice Professor April DeConick has an interesting post that lays out her distinction between History and Theology. It comes after some harsh questioning from a Christian adult education group. I think April is generally correct in her distinction but would venture that liberal leaning church members do not accept that "theological doctrines must be perceived as facts in order for the faithful to remain faithful." Read all of April's post here.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Laurie B - One Small Step

One small step to a bedside chair, one giant step to recovery.

It looks so easy, until you have to do it after a hip replacement. But Laurie did it. She was up today and made it to her bedside chair three times during the day.

Thanks to everyone for your prayers and well wishes for Laurie. And Liz, thanks for your special dish. And thanks to Rodger for his loan of a very special Willie Nelson CD. Who knew Willie did Reggae.

I'll let everyone know when Laurie makes it home (probably Friday or Saturday).

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Laurie B - Doing Well After Surgery

My Sweetheart's hip replacement today went well according to her surgeon. Laurie left pre-op for her surgery at 12:30 pm and was in recovery by around 3:00 pm. All her nursing buddies were taking really good care of her. We got her to her room by 4:30 pm, and she was able to call her parents, Kristin, and Annie. She is resting comfortably this evening.

So Help Me God

Note that the Constitution does not contain the phrase "So help me God." So how did it become a part of the inauguration tradition? No one knows for sure, although some attribute it to George Washington.

More importantly, what does it mean? Is the one who speaks it simply citing words of a political tradition? Is it a prayer? We can not know the mind and heart of our new president. We can, however, respond to him as the author of 2 Timothy 2 suggests:

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

"King himself upheld nonviolence until he was nearly alone among colleagues weary of sacrifice. To the end, he resisted incitements to violence, cynicism, and tribal retreat. He grasped freedom seen and unseen, rooted in ecumenical faith, sustaining patriotism to brighten the heritage of his country for all people. These treasures abide with lasting promise from America in the King years."

Taylor Branch
At Canaan's Edge: America in the King Years 1965-68

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Chester or Festus - Part 2

Newly suggested a Measured Criteria technique (although he didn't call it that). All Newly did was to ask the group what they thought were the most important requirements for the job, regardless of who was in the position. After about 45 minutes, the Council was pretty much in agreement that there were 5 basic "must haves" for the position.

Newly then recommended they assign point values to each item. With that out of the way, Newly quickly made a chart on the blackboard so all could see. (See above.)

After measuring the two candidates against the criteria, it only took the Council about 15 minutes more to reach a decision they all agreed upon.

Groups can argue and debate a decision forever when they fail to set criteria for choosing between competing alternatives. This simple decision making matrix can help any group get past personal opinions and on to real consensus. Try it the next time your group or church committee is faced with a tough decision between competing alternatives.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Chester or Festus - Part 1

The economy was impacting Dodge City. Marshall Matt Dillon was advised that only one deputy position would be included in the city budget for the coming year. He would then be forced to let one of his men go, but which one? Chester or Festus? The City Council was clearly divided on the issue.

Miss Kitty was of the opinion that Chester had a wonderful smile and a cheerful disposition. And good impressions were important in Dodge. Doc Adams, on the other hand, leaned toward Festus. In a shoot-out, Festus' small stature would prove a more difficult target for a drunken cowboy than the gangling Chester. Quint Asper, the blacksmith, told the Marshall that he didn't think either man was "worth his salt" when it came to handling the Dodge saloon patrons. Newly O'Brien, the gunsmith, rarely even spoke.

After numerous meetings with much "yammering" but no consensus building, Matt and the Council were at wits end until Newly timidly made a suggestion that seemed to all a quite brilliant idea.

This just might be what was needed to guide the Council's thinking and help them make a very tough decision. (Watch for Part 2.)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Martin Luther King Jr.

Today marks the 80th birthday of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Rosa sat so Martin could walk;
Martin walked so Obama could run;
Obama is running (ran) so our children can fly!
Source Unknown

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

5 Ways to Improve Your Biblical/Theological Literacy

Here are 5 ways to improve your biblical/theological literacy in 2009.
1. Focus on just one biblical book for the entire year. Read it. Reread it. Study it. Read a commentary about it. Memorize key passages from it. Determine its genre and explore its literary structure.
2. Read one substantial scholarly work on a subject you're interested in: Historical Jesus, Old Testament, Archaeology, Dead Sea Scrolls, etc.
3. Each month explore the meaning of one biblical/theological word or concept: Lord's Supper, baptism, priest, inspiration, etc.
4. Read a piece of quality fiction and reflect on what it says about the human condition. Great novels are about life. So is great theology.
5. Continue to visit revJohn.

Rambling Boy - Get This CD

My mom remembers hearing the Haden Family singing old time country music back in the early 50s on radio station KWTO. One of the members, little Charlie Haden, grew up to be a jazz musician, winning Grammy nominations along the way. Now he's returned to his roots with a CD, Rambling Boy, that transports you back to the Ozarks and the sounds of bluegrass and country before country was really cool.

With his wife, son, triplet daughters, and a few friends like Ricky Skaggs, Vince Gill, Jerry Douglas, Elvis Costello, Bruce Hornsby, and Rosanne Cash, this is quite a musical celebration of traditional American music. As a bonus, can you imagine Jack Black singing "Old Joe Clark." Yes, that "Jack Black." He's married to one of Charlie's daughters. So go get this CD and find your old Carter Family albums and start listening again to real country.

To see a short video about the making of the CD and customer reviews, click here.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Joshua Tree Epiphany

Robin Williams, in The Non-Designer's Design Book, tells about a tree identification book she once received for Christmas from her parents. The first tree in the book was the Joshua tree because it only required two clues to identify. The budding dendrologist immediately said to herself: "Oh, we don't have that kind of tree in Northern California. That is a weird-looking tree. I would know if I saw that tree, and I've never seen one before."

Imagine her surprise, her epiphany, when she went outdoors with book-in-hand and discovered that 80% of the home in her neighborhood had Joshua trees in the front yard. Robin concludes: "Once I was conscious of the tree - once I could name it - I saw it everywhere." This leads her to the point: "If you can name something, you're conscious of it. You have power over it. You own it. You're in control."

Our concepts about God are often like Robin's Joshua tree experience. They are part of our mental landscape, but we don't recognize them because we don't have a label for them.

Nothing makes a sound in the night like the wind does.
But you ain't afraid if you're washed in the blood like I was.
Don Williams, Good Old Boys Like Me

Question 1: How much of our theology is "blood" based and assumes a God who requires sacrifice to appease our affronts to His holiness, even the sacrifice of His Son.

What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus

Are you washed in the blood, the soul cleansing blood of the lamb?

Jesus died on the cross for my sins.

And without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

How many Christian songs are you familiar with that are "blood" themed? How many prayers around the communion table mention Jesus' blood that was shed for the sins of the world. How many of us understand Jesus' importance primarily in terms of his death on the cross.

There is a name for this concept: Atonement. And if we've named it, we're conscious of it. Now Question 2: What do we really believe about it? Might other "trees" prove more helpful for our spiritual landscape?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Obama Chooses Disciple Minister

Disciples of Christ President and General Minister Sharon Watkins has been selected to deliver the sermon at President-Elect Barack Obama's National Prayer Service on Wednesday, January 21. Rev. Watkins is the first woman ever selected to lead the service, which will take place at the Washington National Cathedral the day following the inauguration,

The announcement that appeared in the New York Times described the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) as "a small, liberal-leaning Protestant denomination with 3,754 congregations and about 690,000 members in the United States and Canada."

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Old Testament Bloggers

When thinking of resources for the study of the Old Testament, here are three blog sites to visit. All three of these bloggers are religious studies instructors, and all three provides links to a variety of materials for studying the ancient biblical texts. The three blogs/bloggers are:

Higgaion - Chris Heard at Pepperdine University
PaleoJudaica - Jim Davila at St. Andrews University
Codex - Tyler Williams at Taylor University

These guys are not boring. They illustrate how some young biblical studies professionals are using the internet to communicate ideas and provide resources for the general public.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Jewish Study Bible

For those interested in biblical studies, let me offer up a challenge. As this new year begins, do an audit of the quality books and study resources in your library related to what Christians call the Old Testament. You may conclude that it's time to add some new volumes to this portion of your library.

Let me suggest a great starting point: The Jewish Study Bible featuring the Jewish Publication Society's TANAKH translation. The editors and contributors of this study bible are all outstanding biblical scholars and Judaic specialists. Christians long use to reading only Christian interpreters of Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings will be richly rewarded in spending time with these Jewish biblical experts.

Besides extensive study notes, this volume also includes a collection of essays that fall into three major categories: 1) Jewish Interpretation of the Bible; 2) The Bible in Jewish Life and Thought; 3) and perhaps most importantly, Backgrounds for Reading the Bible, including the helpful essay "The Modern Study of the Bible."

The editors offer up as their first goal for the publication of this Study Bible as "to convey the best of modern academic scholarship on the Bible, that is, scholarship that reflects the way the Bible is approached in the university." But let me be clear, this is not meant for only a scholarly audience. This Study Bible is for anyone wishing to learn more about this collection of ancient and sacred texts. (Check it out.)

Monday, January 5, 2009

Attend Class at Yale

At LectureFox, you can find a variety of free online courses from several prominent universities, including Yale. According to Yale, their Open Courses have as their aim "to expand access to educational materials for all who wish to learn."

One class that readers of this blog may find helpful is Introduction to the Old Testament with Professor Christine Hayes. The course in 24 sessions provides a critical study of the Hebrew Bible. The lectures are on video so you can watch as well as listen to your instructor. (Click here)

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Dating the Gospels

If you're interested in the dating of the gospels, you may want to look at Mark Goodacre' s blog for December 23. Mark is a professor at Duke and his series of posts on the dating of the gospels, especially, the Gospel of Mark, is helpful in seeing the argument for a post-70s dating of our four canonical gospels. (Click here)

Happy Birthday Sister Judith

Happy Birthday to my sister, Judy Hancock.