Thursday, July 27, 2017

Well Said: Terrorist Attacks, Media, and Humanity

"[The terrorist attack is] all over the TV. If you try to watch anything else, you feel ... like you've lost your humanity."

"Damn if we'll watch it," Jess said. "It's not tragedy, the way they report it, not horror, certainly now war reporting. It's all spectacle, and once you let yourself see it that way, your soul begins to turn to dust."
Dean Koontz, The Silent Corner

Worth a Thousand Words: Bearded Tit

Bearded Tit, taken by the incomparable Remo Savisaar

Genesis Notes: The Importance of Isaac and Jacob

As observed earlier, Isaac is so passive seeming compared to Abraham before him and Jacob who follows. Pulling away from the observations of their personal lives, we can compare Isaac and Jacob on a much larger scale. As so often happens in Scripture, in looking at the big picture we get yet another lesson for our own lives.

Isaac blessing his son [Jacob], Giotto di Bondone
Isaac is the most passive of the Patriarchs. In Genesis 22 he is silently bound by Abraham (though much subsequent Jewish tradition ascribes to him a more active participation). Isaac plays no active role while Abraham's servant acquires a wife for him. A blind and bedridden Isaac is deceived by his wife and younger son. Only in Genesis 26 does Isaac act in his own right -- and here, all the stories are reminiscent of earlier episodes in Abraham's story. Perhaps one implication of Isaac's story is that God's purposes do not necessarily need strong, active, and distinctive people for their continuation and fulfillment.

Jacob is different. His name becomes that of the nation Israel, and his 12 sons become the ancestors of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. In telling of its eponymous ancestor, one might expect the Israelites to tell of a courageous, faithful, God-fearing hero. But Jacob's faults are shown along with his virtues. In his youth, he connives in deception and is a liar as well. When, later in life, he is transformed by a mysterious encounter with God and his name is correspondingly changed, he is still no model. He is a poor parent, showing favoritism among his children and provoking deadly sibling rivalry. The Bible's portrayal of this man as Israel's ancestor is remarkable. It is a reminder that God can use even the weak to do good things. It is a story acting as a reminder that there are many baffling paradoxes in the encounter between God and humanity.

In these narratives, it is made clear from the outset that Jacob and Esau represent the two peoples of Israel and Edom (Gen. 25:23, 30; 27:29a). However much the stories embody the historic rivalries of these two peoples, the chief figures are important in their own right. Their difference is most obvious when Esau forgives Jacob, for in Israel's history -- and especially in Obadiah -- Edom is particularly remembered for its ruthless exploitation of Jerusalem when the latter was overthrown by the Babylonians.
All material quoted is from The Complete Bible HandbookThis series first ran in 2004 and 2005. I'm refreshing it as I go. For links to the whole study, go to the Genesis Index. For more about the resources used, go here.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Road Trip - Duluth (updated)

The Str. American Victory (then, the Middletown) passing beneath Duluth's aerial lift bridge
We went to a wedding in Duluth, Minnesota, of a good friend of Hannah's, who is also very dear to us. It was moving to witness this moment of promise and joy in her life and, as is often the case, to reflect upon how we have seen her grow during the eight or so years we've known her. It was really wonderful.

It was also the occasion for us to plan a road trip. The idea of spending two days of solid driving to get somewhere can be daunting but ever since we took our youngest daughter to California for her first job (U-Haul and Boxer in tow), I've felt differently. 

There is something about seeing the land change as you drive by. About meeting the different people on the way, hearing new accents, seeing food specialties change. You understand the country a little differently.

That slow evolution also is reflected on the people traveling, as Tom and I have found. Listening to music or audiobooks, letting silence fill the car, watching miles slip away - these are all conducive to reflections that we just don't have time for in regular life. We may never have the time to develop the thoughts, much less carry them through into conversation. Long hours in the car lend themselves to such things. 

So we embrace any chance for a road trip. I get my knitting, we pick out audiobooks and podcasts, pack up the cocktail kit, and hit the road. Plus, you have the chance for side trips which indulge at least one person's special interests. 

Mike Breitbach and me!
He's hardworking - see the glove? When we met him,
he was refilling croutons at the salad bar.
Cindy Breitbach and me!
She took time away from the kitchen just for a second —
pies wait for no man (or pictures!)
That meant we took to the back roads so we could sample fried chicken and pie at Breitbach's Country Dining, which was one of the three restaurants featured in the Spinning Plates documentary (a great favorite of mine).

It was truly worth the trip. We met both Mike and Cindy Breitbach, who were gracious and charming. Community is key for them, as we could see, and the food was definitely worth the trip. (We should've taken pictures of the place, but check here.)

And you really do have to want to take the trip. We saw lots of little roads and communities as we made our way from Balltown to Duluth. Thank goodness for Google Maps!

William A. Irvin tour
On Saturday we had all day to be tourists and it was Tom's chance for special interests. We walked around Canal Park looking at the lighthouses and, most of all, the aerial lift bridge which excited no little interest when a ferry came through so we could see it working. Afterward, we met up with our son-in-law who was also at loose ends. Naturally that meant we needed to take a tour of an ore hauler which the guys found fascinating. I especially was interested in the living quarters and galley. Thinking about living and working on that ship, often in extreme winter conditions, was fascinating to me.

Gin can be more flavors than juniper - who knew?
But this Juniper Gin has underlying flavors that never
made it into my favorite brand
We were intrigued to find the Vikre distillery not too far from where we were staying which had cedar and spruce gins in addition to the usual juniper flavoring. I liked the cedar but the spruce was too much like chewing a Christmas tree for me. Most interesting was that when I added the tonic water, the flavors really bloomed in my mouth, as opposed to the straight sip I'd taken initially. I've heard about the effect water can have on a liquor but it was the most vivid example I could've asked for.

Overlaying the entire trip was our repeating our Beyond Cana marriage retreat along the way. Once you've done the marriage retreat, you refresh the basics on your own once a year. We first did the retreat in 2005 so we've had plenty of practice and could talk over the various steps at different points on the trip. We'd put it off for longer than we should have so it was a really wonderful renewal of our marriage.

A great trip, all in all!

Guest Interview on Among Women Podcast


I have the pleasure of being a guest on the Among Women podcast where Pat Gohn and I discuss my book Seeking Jesus in Everyday Life. It leads us to the every day life of a believer… grounded both in the interior life — the life of prayer — and the call to do good works. Join us!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Gone Fishing

John Singer Sargent, Two Girls Fishing, detail, 1912
via Arts Everyday Living
To be honest, I won't be dressed like this. And I won't be fishing.

But I will be gone until the middle of next week. We're taking a road trip to the wedding of a friend of our daughter's ... who is also dear to us.

I'm really looking forward to the trip because there is nothing for having great conversations and time alone with your spouse like 10 hour travel days together! I know it sounds like a nightmare for some but we both enjoy it. And with audiobooks, podcasts, music, and knitting we will be living it up!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Well Said: Christianity thoroughly approves of the body

Christianity is almost the only one of the great religions which thoroughly approves of the body — which believes that matter is good, that God Himself once took on a human body, that some kind of body is going to be given to us even in Heaven and is going to be an essential part of our happiness, our beauty, and our energy.
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Worth a Thousand Words: Geraniums

Geraniums, Childe Hassam
via Arts Everyday Living

Genesis Notes: Laban's Resume

I never really thought about Laban much except as an obstacle to Jacob's plans. But he's more than a stereotypically difficult father-in-law. I have really enjoyed the insights about how gave Jacob have a taste of his own medicine by tricking him so thoroughly. And he was the instrument God used to help humble Jacob and make him stretch himself in different ways.

Jacob reproaching Laban for giving him Leah in place of Rachel, Hendrick ter Brugghen

Strengths and accomplishments:
  • Controlled two generations of marriages in the Abrahamic family (Rebekah, Rachel, Leah)
  • Quick witted
Weaknesses and mistakes:
  • Manipulated others for his own benefit
  • Unwilling to admit wrongdoing
  • Benefited financially by using Jacob, but never fully benefited spiritually by knowing and worshipping Jacob's God
Lessons from his life:
  • Those who set out to use people will eventually find themselves used
  • God's plan cannot be blocked
Vital statistics:
  • Where: Haran
  • Occupation: Wealthy sheep breeder
  • Relatives: Father - Bethuel. Sister - Rebekah. Brother-in-law - Isaac. Daughters - Rachel and Leah. Son-in-law - Jacob.
Key verses:
"If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been with me, you would surely have sent me away empty-handed. But God has seen my hardship and the toil of my hands, and last night he rebuked you" (Genesis 31:42).

Laban's story is told in Genesis 24:1 - 31:55.

All material quoted is from the Life Application Study Bible. This series first ran in 2004 and 2005. I'm refreshing it as I go. For links to the whole study, go to the Genesis Index. For more about the resources used, go here.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

When it comes to the life of a child, should parental devotion be disqualifying?

Let us stipulate a distinction between removing someone from life support, as the hospital proposes, and taking active measures to induce death. Put another way, if Connie Yates and Chris Gard —Charlie’s parents—decided to remove their son from his ventilator and allow nature to take its course, it would be a difficult but eminently defensible position.

But the claim asserted by the representatives of Britain’s state-run health care system is more sweeping and insidious: This is our call, they say. Such is the Great Ormond Street Hospital’s sense of dominion, says Ms. Yates, that it refused to allow Charlie to come home to die, wrapped in the loving arms of his mom and dad.
Bill McGurn wrote a really excellent editorial, For the Love of Charlie Gard, for the Wall Street Journal. It is hidden behind the WSJ's paywall but if you click through from his Facebook post then the whole article may be read.

Well Said: God Likes Matter. He Invented It.

There is no good trying to be more spiritual than God. God never meant man to be a purely spiritual creature. That is why He uses material things like bread and wine to put the new life into us. We may think this rather crude and unspiritual. God does not: He invented eating. He likes matter. He invented it.
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Worth a Thousand Words: Evening on the Meadow

Evening on the Meadow, taken by Remo Savisaar

Monday, July 17, 2017

Worth a Thousand Words: Drawing for Alfred Gilbert's project for the tomb of the Duke of Clarence

Arthur Robertson,
Drawing for Alfred Gilbert's project for the tomb of the Duke of Clarence
via Lines and Colors

Lagniappe: Dating girls in Thrall to Creatures from the Void

"Something's been calling her," he said. "In dreams. Someone that wants to be let out. I'm afraid she's going to get hurt."

"She's not worth it," said Gaspode. "Messin' around with girls who're in thrall to Creatures from the Void never works out, take my word for it. You'd never know what you were going to wake up to.
Terry Pratchett, Moving Pictures