Not far from our home, every Independence Day, there is a big fireworks show. It's close enough to our house that we can sit in our driveway and enjoy it.
The day after the show we took a walk down to the park where the fireworks are shot from. We walked down to a running track, at the local school, and found a section where it appeared the fireworks were set up. Littered about were spent shell casings, fuses, wires, and burned bits of cardboard. Some labels were still legible and we saw many with the word "peony" on them. As we stopped, to examine the material, many questions arose: "What is this piece?", "Is that gunpowder?", "Will it still explode?", etc. Left to themselves, they would have gladly collected armloads of spent fireworks to bring home and fiddle with.
As it was, I let them bring a select few pieces (see photo to the right) home to pore over and examine. Once we got home, I did a quick Google search on fireworks and was able to find a video explanation of how fireworks operate as well as some nifty diagrams of the components of various fireworks. We were able to ascertain that the half shell shown in the lower right of the photo is the outer shell casing of an aerial shell (see diagram below). We also noted that the label indicates a 3" shell that was to be launched from a mortar tube. And we noted that the fireworks were made in China, the birthplace of gunpowder.
It's experiences such as these that homeschoolers strive for - the wonderful, and unexpected, opportunities for our children to do some serendipitous learning. At the end of the day our children were left wondering just which of the brilliant explosions they saw, on Independence Day, was caused by the spent casings they now held in their hands.
Church. The building, not the people. What is it for? Why do we need it? Do we need it? What about home fellowships? What about meeting at alternative venues?
On the other hand, does our place of worship ultimately rest solely on the purely abstract reality of the spiritual?
I think , rather, there is some sort of union of the two - not necessarily a mid-point - but a fluid intersection, where overt and oblique forays into territories unknown yield consequences mandated, if not unintended.
In Weddings in a Secular Culture, Melinda notes how author Rebecca Mead thinks that expensive and extravagant weddings have come about in response to the departure of the sacred, from our culture. At Mere Comments, S.M. Hutchens states,
The insanely expensive wedding is nothing new, and in Christendom it is as old as ecclesiastical cooperation with worldliness and wealth. But the Church should not cooperate, and where it has its wits about it, it hasn’t. As it provides (or should provide) a pall to cover every casket that enters its doors so that in death the differences between the poor and wealthy are minimized in favor of the spiritual significance of the Christian funeral, so it should impose similar restrictions upon weddings.
Meanwhile, Brian, at A Small Faith, ponders,
I don’t want to hunt for a new church. And I really, really don’t like the idea of church-hopping. But the possibility of us moving on is definitely looming on the horizon. It’s not a done deal, by any means. There are conversations to be had and questions to work through which have the potential to keep us where we are at.
The new (false) gospel starts with a wounded "us". The truth is not that we are wounded but that we are dead!
Further, in The moral message of architecture, Ilona states,
I have my own question that I wonder about. It is sort of a chicken or the egg quandary, which is whether the pooled state of who we are collectively, our social moral sense and our values, give rise to the type and level of achievement in art. Especially in something of permanence such as our architecture. Or does our effort to raise the standard of the arts, and their effects in our surroundings in turn raise our general ethos? Likely it's a combination of the two, but do we ignore one cause effectively for the other?
It's difficult to conceive of a chimpanzee being especially moved by the shape and form of a particular tree he may happen to be sitting in. We humans, though, are certainly not chimpanzees (despite the passionately desperate notions of natural process evolutionary theory). We have been indelibly stamped with the Imago Dei. We are spirit creatures and, as such, have the need to worship (something). We are creatures of logic and, as such, desire practical applications (as in a functional structure). We are creatures of emotion and, as such, desire internal satisfaction (as in the glory inherent in a beautiful place of worship).
Attempts to quell any aspect of our being will only result in said aspect being expressed elsewhere, not unlike cause-and-effect. Yet, if a departure from the sacred halls of the church results in the self-worshiping practice of extravagant weddings, then one wonders just what a "wounded us" gospel might cause. Will the effect be positive?
- images © A. R. Lopez ImagoArticulus
While on our monthly pilgrimage to Costco, recently, I spied (and picked up) the CD The Warmth of the Sun. It's a compilation of Beach Boys' tunes spanning back to about 1962. I was especially interested in this set because it includes the seminal tune Surf's Up. Not anything like the surfin' safari tunes that established their careers, Surf's Up blends the band's wonderful harmonies with mysterious lyrics and enigmatic music. Written by Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks, the song itself was essentially recorded in three different sessions over the course of several years. The tracks were deftly connected to one another for the 1971 album of the same name.
I found a comment by Leonard Bernstein, after a demo of the song in 1966, to be quite interesting. Bernstein said,
There is a new song, too complex to get all of first time around. It could come only out of the ferment that characterizes today's pop music scene. Brian Wilson, leader of the famous Beach Boys, and one of today's most important musicians, sings his own 'Surf's Up.' Poetic, beautiful even in its obscurity, 'Surf's Up' is one aspect of new things happening in pop music today. As such, it is a symbol of the change many of these young musicians see in our future.
A diamond necklace played the pawn
Hand in hand some drummed along, oh
To a handsome man and baton
A blind class aristocracy
Back through the opera glass you see
The pit and the pendulum drawn
Columnated ruins domino
Canvass the town and brush the backdrop
Are you sleeping?
Hung velvet overtaken me
Dim chandelier awaken me
To a song dissolved in the dawn
The music hall a costly bow
The music all is lost for now
To a muted trumpeter swan
Columnated ruins domino
Canvass the town and brush the backdrop
Are you sleeping, Brother John?
Dove nested towers the hour was
Strike the street quicksilver moon
Carriage across the fog
Two-Step to lamp lights cellar tune
The laughs come hard in Auld Lang Syne
The glass was raised, the fired rose
The fullness of the wine, the dim last toasting
While at port adieu or die
A choke of grief heart hardened I
Beyond belief a broken man too tough to cry
Aboard a tidal wave
Come about hard and join
The young and often spring you gave
I heard the word
A children's song
A child is the father of the man
A child is the father of the man
A children's song
Have you listened as they played?
Their song is love
And the children know the way
That's why the child is the father to the man
That's why the child is the father to the man
Here is the song as a compilation of studio demos (including the solo demo that Bernstein commented on in 1966).
And here is the final mix, released in 1971, complete with a horn riff at the beginning of the song which paid tribute to Woody Woodpecker (really). The song culminates, in a rich cascade of harmony, demonstrating the beyond pop abilities the group was capable of.
Matt Anderson comments on the demise of the Comma and whether or not it is due to our hurried lifestyle. He's not so sure he buys into the notion. As for me, I'm open to the idea that our 24/7 internet-connected lifestyle breeds a sloppy and impatient mode of communication. Consider that teens think of e-mail as obsolete, opting for text messaging (which has, evidently, bumped instant messaging into the soon to be archived category as well).
Now, there's certainly a place for quick, informal communication: post-its left on a bulletin board (a real bulletin board), voice mail messages, and the like. Yet, I can't help but notice that the pervasive use of e-mail, text messaging, instant messaging and, yes, blogging, has led to a whole new subculture of communication methodologies.
Not to entirely blame the connected-generation, though, let's also consider the phenomenon of political correctness, and how it may affect our use of words. Did you notice the "24/7" I placed in the first paragraph? What, I ask, is wrong with simply saying "24 hours a day, 7 days a week"? Why do we need to now shorten it to "24/7"? Is our time really that expensive that we need to butcher the phrase? I recall a co-worker telling me about a make of automobile referring to the year it was made as "two-oh-four". "Two-oh-four?," I asked. "Yeah," he replied, "Two thousand four." Savings: one syllable. For that matter, I recall another co-worker typing "k" instead of "ok". Savings: one letter.
But, back to the slash (if Bonnie is reading this, she knows where I'm going). One of my (many) pet peeves is the combining of words that, in all reality, have no need to be combined. The blaring culprit, in this category is the use of "s/he" for "she and he" or "she or he" or, and it hurts to even type this, "she and/or he".
Ugh! Who speaks like this?
Well, Sonlight Curriculum, for one. The curriculum we utilize for our homeschooling is resplendent with the use of "s/he". Here's an example,
The notes in the History section are meant to provide the main ideas the material covers. When you finish reading the material, have your child repeat back to you what s/he thinks s/he learned. You may want your child to do this either orally or, when writing is no longer difficult (around 4th grade), in writing. Plan on a minimum of five factual statements each day. As your child narrates back what s/he has heard, we hope you will realize how much s/he has learned, and that the process of narrating back to you will actually help solidify the material in your child's memory.
So, just exactly how am I to pronounce "s/he"? "Sss 'hee"? "Ess 'hee"? "Sss-slash-hee"? "Ess-slash-hee"? "Shee-hee"? For crying out loud, can you imagine trying to carry on a conversation with any one of those variations? And don't even get me started on the issue of why the feminine is placed first! For all the political correctness in the world I think it should be "h/she" (despite the time-wasting inclusion of one extra letter). Favoritism indeed!
Tell you what... instead of the unpronounceable "s/he", how about we invent a word that replaces it? Let's see... how about "yo-hum" (which stands for young human)? So, with our new word in hand, let's revisit the sentences in question:
When you finish reading the material, have your child repeat back to you what yo-hum thinks yo-hum learned. As your child narrates back what yo-hum has heard, we hope you will realize how much yo-hum has learned, and that the process of narrating back to you will actually help solidify the material in your child's memory.
Yes. Much better.
Note: for those who need the clarification, much of what you see written above was done in jest.
When a questioner asked whether the candidates would meet with leaders of Iran, Syria, Cuba, North Korea and Venezuela during their first year in the White House, Obama eagerly responded that he would.
Isn't it his bedtime yet?
I was pleasantly surprised to see that Theology Mom is blogging again AND that her new blog, Old Earth Creation Homeschool, is dedicated to Old Earth Creationism. I especially like her blog description,
The "days" in Genesis 1 refer to long epochs of time. The universe is 13.7 billion years old. The findings of mainstream scientists can generally be trusted, including radiometric dating methods. There were no dinosaurs on Noah's ark. Darwinian evolution doesn't work - and science is proving it.
Theo Mom has loaded her site with many, many links to oodles and oodles of resources under such topic headers as: Today's New Reason To Believe, Curricula & Media Recommendations, Is "Billions of Years" Biblical?, Web Sites Related to the Age of the Earth, Creation vs. Evolution, Life on Other Planets?, Putting Other Religions to the Test, and Kids' Stuff.
Also, she's just launched the Old Earth Creation Homeschool Google Group, which states,
This is a support group for homeschool families (and other Christian educators) to discuss how to integrate science/faith issues in the classroom from an old-earth creation perspective. This is NOT a forum for debating the legitimacy of old-earth creationism. Contentious posts will be deleted. (emphasis added)
Please take the time to check it all out.
Check Brian's post Things Christians Say, at A Small Faith, for a humorous look at our Christian subculture.
Update: Brian stated,
It’s no secret that we Christians have our own inside lingo. Words like propitiation, redemption, grace, salvation, etc. are not used in the same way in the broader culture...
But at least these are “Bible” words and we have a common reference point that we all recognize as authoritative. Have you noticed how many phrases we use to describe some kind of spiritual experience that don’t have that reference point? But we’ve heard them so many times we just accept it and move on? I have to think that communication of any real meaning gets lost in these exchanges.
Brian's initial list was,
- connected to God
- ask Jesus into your heart
- it’s not about religion, it’s about relationship
- don’t open yourself up to…
- invite Jesus into our worship
- laid it on my heart
- usher in the presence of God
- intimacy with God
- have a burden
- decision for Christ
- personal relationship with Christ
- God told me
I submitted a comment, with eight additional phrases I thought appropriate. Here's the list I submitted, with updated comments [in brackets].
Rod Dreher posted on the Larry King interview of Tammy Faye Messner. From his post,
Saw the Larry King interview with cancer-stricken Tammy Faye Bakker Messner tonight. It was tough to watch. She is suffering terribly, is down to 65 pounds, and speaks in a gaspy whisper. I've always thought her to be one of the more ridiculous figures in American religious life, but you'd have to be Christopher Hitchens not to pity the poor woman under these circumstances. Yet before signing off, her husband Roe Messner told viewers that if they wanted to know Tammy's take on Falwell and others, they should buy her 1996 book "Telling It My Way."
...unless I've missed something in the ensuing years, Tammy Faye has never owned up to her role in the great PTL swindle. In fact, with Roe Messner's final words on CNN tonight being to recommend that self-pitying, self-justifying garbage memoir, it seems not unreasonable to conclude that Tammy will go to her grave believing she was nothing but a victim in that PTL scandal. Even Jim Bakker has confessed his sin in that scandal, writing a 1996 book called "I Was Wrong," and publicly repenting of having advocated the wicked prosperity gospel.
To watch the YouTube clip of the Larry King interview, click here.
In Concerned mom a closed book as all observe her rite of pages, Frank Cerabino, of the Palm Beach Post, tells us about Laura Lopez (no relation), and her campaign to remove objectionable books from area libraries. Lopez, supposedly, is upset at finding library books on abortion, homosexuality, atheism, and the Big Bang (she adheres to, evidently, young earth creationism).
While certainly within her rights to object about these books being available in public libraries, I think that the notion of removing said books is off-base. As a home educator, I believe that my children should have access to many points of view. Of course, as a home educator, I also control the what, when, and where my children gain access to these varied points of view.
And perhaps that is really what irks Cerabino, for it turns out that Laura Lopez is also a homeschooler. From Cerabino,
This is why there is home schooling. Home schooling is a wonderful form of school choice. It allows parents lots of elbow room to create parallel universes, worlds of their own making inside the comfort of their own homes, where there never shall cross a fragment from the outside world that hasn't been purified through the crucible of their own narrow beliefs.
It's a safety net for the intolerant.
From Dana, at Principled Discovery (HT), comes a take-down. In Homeschooling as a safety net for the intolerant?, Dana states,
I have no disrespect for atheists, Hindus, Muslims, etc. I have no desire to impose governmental regulations on any group for religious means. But I do think it ironic that, as a member of a group attempting to preserve a segment of that which has historically been distinctly American, I am accused of attempting to create a parallel universe. Because it doesn't fit with the vision certain social engineers have for America.
This echoes the approach my wife and I have taken in our own approach to homeschooling. Our children are learning about various cultures, religions, and philosophies and how these variations compare and relate to the Christian worldview. This past year, for example, our oldest child did a contrast paper comparing Confucianism and Christianity. We recently returned from a vacation to the Southwest in which our children engaged in learning about native American cultures, including their religious beliefs, community structure, and building methods. Our youngest child compared and contrasted Anasazi artifacts with items we use today. Our children learned about the impact of the Spanish culture into the native American cultures. They learned about the impact of the Anglo culture into the Spanish culture. And they learned about the various geological processes that created volcanoes, ice caves, and petrified forests.
At home, we have Charles Darwin's Origin of Species sitting on the shelf, ready and waiting for the time when our children will be old enough to understand Darwin's argument. We also have Of Pandas and People on the shelf, unlike virtually every (tolerant) public school in the country.
It is unfortunate that Cerabino's ignorance is fueled by an apparently narrow-minded homeschooler. It is especially unfortunate given that we find, in many public schools, an enormous lack of tolerance couched in unsafe halls.
From Frank Beckwith, at Right Reason, we have a glorious example of the kind of tolerance we find being taught in our public schools. United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) provides the caption, "LAUSD Gay-Straight Alliance advisors JJ Christine and Susan Turner were part of the UTLA contingent at the 35th Annual Christopher Street West Pride Parade in West Hollywood on June 12." As Beckwith notes,
"Teaching respect in L.A. public schools means wearing a "Buck Fush" T-shirt"
Tolerance, it would seem, means acceptance of contradictory viewpoints; plain and simple.
School bullying is hardly a new phenomenon. I spoke with a teenager at church this past Sunday and she related how prevalent drugs were at her high school. Is this another example of the openness of our (tolerant) public school system? What does it say about our society when a 15 year-old, as part of their daily routine, has to be concerned about getting beat-up? How many 40 year-olds have to be concerned about that as they head off to work? What does it say about our society when it's easier for a 15 year-old to buy drugs at school than it is for a 40 year-old to buy them at work? Rod Dreher recently wrote about being sexually terrorized, by school bullies, while a 14 year-old in public school. His deliverance only came when he was able to attend boarding school.
Cerabino is wrong when he states that homeschooling is a safety net for the intolerant. Rather, homeschooling is a safety net from the intolerant. Homeschooling, when practiced in its fullest sense, provides the means (i.e., a safety net) for parents to actively protect their children from the intolerant views people like Cerabino would have us indoctrinated with. Homeschooling also provides parents with the means to educate their children about the very intolerant views Cerabino promotes.
In Paradise Lost, Wretchard weaves the tale of Paul Robeson's unwavering and idolatrous passion for all things Soviet (most assuredly including Josef Stalin), and compares it to Sugar Ray Robinson's response to Robeson ("Sugar Ray Robinson responded to this by saying that although he did not know Robeson he would “punch him in the mouth” if he met him").
It is difficult to ascribe this idolatry for Stalin, a mass murderer who eclipsed Adolph Hitler in every category of villainy to either personal evil or stupidity on Robeson's part. Many of most sensitive, cultured and intelligent men of the 1940s would probably have agreed with Robeson at some point in their lives, including scientists who worked for the Manhattan Project. The clue to this curious blindness lies ironically in the very thoroughness of their education.
I recall, during the 1980s, people on the American Left attempting to humanize the Soviet people in a manner which equated them with the people of America. Such efforts to desensitize us ran counter to Ronald Reagan's claim that the Soviet Union was an evil empire. To be sure, the Soviets and the Americans were certainly human, but the attempt was being made to recast the Cold War struggle between our two countries as simply a matter of like for like. The struggle on both sides, we were told, ultimately boils down to the family, the individual - the human being - simply trying to survive. How dare we view the Soviet people as being part of an evil empire!
Yeah. Tell that to the millions of human beings purged by Josef Stalin.
We seem to be in a similar situation, these days, in which Islamic Terrorists are portrayed, ultimately, as human beings with issues that are, essentially, no different than the same issues we face. Property rights. Civil rights. Human rights.
Terrorists in Iraq are referred to as insurgents (or... freedom fighters). Terrorists in Palestine are considered capable of running a government. Terrorists, in general, are deemed worthy of talking to.
At Lifehacker, Pet Peeves: Pets at the office - how to make it work, which references the Partnership for Animal Welfare website. One of the tips I especially liked,
Keep the dog quiet, especially during conference calls.
Yeah, a few "bow-wows" from Fido, during a project progress meeting, can be a bit distracting.
Bonus sidenote: I just found out that a relative's dog, which is having some breathing problems, is scheduled for an MRI this week... an MRI for a dog? For crying out loud.
I have the special honor of making Joe Carter's (Evangelical Outpost) list of Top 100 Christian blogs.* Given the low amount of traffic I receive**, I feel doubly honored that Joe takes the time to see what I have to say. This bespeaks volumes regarding Joe's character. I had the pleasure of meeting him at GodBlogCon 2005 and, despite the short time we had to converse, I can truly say that he is a man that exudes charity, compassion, humility, and grace.
* I actually have the distinction of being listed TWICE on Joe's Top 100. He listed his top twenty, of which I appear at # 17, and then he listed the remaining blogs in alphabetical order, of which I appear again (at # 73). To tell you the truth, I'm a bit scared to let him know about it - since I might get bumped from the prestigious Top 20! ;^)
** Speaking of traffic, from my most recent 100 hits (as of around noon today), I had 43 hits from Joe's post and 42 hits from people searching for photos of Miss New Jersey! (somewhat indicative of the yin and yang of an evangelical blog)
From Desiring God, Babies are Liars,
Not that we need psychologists to show that the human heart is desperately sick, but apparently there is some scientific recognition now that babies are deceitful. What's amazing is not that infants lie as early as six months, but that "until now, psychologists had thought the developing brains were not capable of the difficult art of lying until four years old."
"Difficult art of lying"? I've never found it that hard, myself. And my two-year-old takes after me in that regard. Lying comes quite naturally; always telling the truth is what's difficult.
I was not aware of the completely human qualities of babies, with regards to their being intricately engulfed in sin, until I became a father. It became amusing, in a sense, to observe the complex manners in which a tiny child can engage in deceitful actions.
Blind, since birth, we long to see.
The McKinley County Courthouse, in Gallup, NM, (Google Maps) on a summer evening, this past June. Every night, during the summer, Indian dances are performed nightly at the courthouse square. We had arrived a few minutes early and, to pass the time, I wandered off with my new 50mm lens (and a polarizing filter).
This particular shot is of the recent addition to the courthouse (by clicking on the Google Maps link above, you can see the extent of the addition).
By using the polarizing filter, I was able to generate an image that, when converted to black & white, has a near black sky. I chose the off-angle composition at first due to the limitations of using a straight 50mm lens combined with a 1.4 conversion factor on my DSLR; but after playing around with different angles, I ended up liking the alternative perspectives I was getting.
I was honored to have this shot featured, recently, at WeeklyShot for the category, Light & Architecture.
You know that a culture is awash in affluence when the tab for a prom night can hit $1,000.
These days of wine and orchid corsages are tense times for parents, too, said Gabriella Todi, whose daughter, Alexandra, is also graduating from Villa Maria.
"It's the excitement and the stress of running around for the dress and the shoes and the accessories."
The tab for clothes and tickets for the June 23 prom totalled $1,000, Gabriella Todi said.
Or, even, almost $1,000.
In the end, Diamond Chenault didn't want her grandmother spending $700 for a prom dress Diamond might never wear again. She chose one that cost $350. But with $70 for shoes, $89 for prom pictures, $45 for makeup, $50 for nails, $150 for a hotel room shared with three others and what her date, a basketball player at Seattle University, spent on his white tux, dinner and her corsage, the evening came to almost $1,000.
"It's been hard," Diamond said of all the expenses. She works part time at the Nordstrom Rack, but by the time she had finished paying for prom, she said she had $50 left in the bank.
Did you catch that? Before the prom, she had: ~$1,000; After the prom: $50.
We can't even let these kids graduate from high school without having them walk away thinking that they're entitled to have an extravagantly good time - as if it's their right. As one prom-goer remarked, "We've worked hard for four years. It's our time." (emphasis added)
Exit question: Do Christians think, by mimicking such a culture's every move, that they are evangelizing to them?
HT: Why Homeschool