Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Puzzler

Here's an interesting passage from Deuteronomy about recognizing false prophets:

You may wonder, 'How will we know whether the prophecy is from the Lord or not?' If the prophet predicts something in the Lord's name and it does not happen, the Lord did not give the message. That prophet has spoken on his own and need not be feared (NLT 18.21-2).

I would like to know what was an acceptible time frame for the prediction to come true? How long did they have to wait before knowing whether the prophet was really speaking for God?

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Hmmm.

In his weekly radio address, the President just said that "in the war on terror, we can't be without [the Patriot Act] for a moment." He also said that before September 11, "terrorists at home communicated with terrorists abroad," but we didn't know that the terrorists were here [at home].

I'm not very intelligent about this type of thing, but can't the people who monitor these communications tell from the context of the conversations whether someone is inside or outside the country? Also, if a person in our country is reasonably suspected as a criminal, don't the authorities then have probable cause get a court-ordered wire tap? And can't this be done pretty quickly?

It seems to me that the President just wants to be able to spy on anyone and everyone for no particular reason without having to go through the judicial system for authorization. Sounds like that violates the Constitution.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Good Gifts Don't Come Wrapped in Pretty Paper

During the past few days I have been doing my Christmas shopping, and I am becoming increasingly more and more uncomfortable with the giving and receiving of stuff that we don't really need. We draw names on both my and my husband's side of the family, so we each have had to choose gifts for two persons (not including shopping for the kids in the family). When I think about it, though, we aren't buying things for these people that they couldn't buy for themselves. In my family, we have pretty much just asked each other what the other wants for Christmas, and for many of us, that's what we'll get. It all seems so contrived. None of this will keep me from having fun on Christmas, but, well, I don't really know what I'm trying to say here.

On another note, this week, my mom and I went to the mall to do some shopping, and we saw a big booth set up by one of the local churches where volunteers from the church are wrapping gifts for mall shoppers for free. Hmmm.

I used to attend a church where this idea was considered. The whole idea was to "show God's love in a practical way." OK. I agree that Christians definitely need to go out and show God's love, and most certainly they need to go about showing this love in practical ways. But wrapping gifts? C'mon. What's next, showing God's love by volunteering to hang lights and wreaths on the tops of people's houses?

Aren't there some other more pressing practical needs than giftwrapping presents for people who obviously can afford to buy their own wrapping paper and bows? What about the practical need of heat for someone who can no longer afford the outrageous price of propane or who is physically unable to split his own firewood. What about the practical need of food or rent money for people who have lost their jobs? Or the practical need of companionship for someone who is lonely? Sure makes the practical need for giftwrapping services seem trivial.

This is going to sound harsh, but those who think they are doing a service by wrapping presents for mall shoppers need to get real. Giftwrapping is not a worthwhile cause for the follower of Christ. The type of gifts Jesus gave required self-sacrifice and didn't come wrapped and tied with a bow. I'll be so bold as to say that those who think that wrapping gifts is a practical need are either very self-consumed or extremely ignorant. What kind of sacrifice does it take to wrap presents? Oh, yeah, those paper cuts can be brutal!

Jesus met people's practical needs by giving the gift of food to hungry masses, giving the gift of sight to people who couldn't see, giving the gift of health to people who were sick. Surely we, Christ's followers, can at least give a meal to a hungry person, or a coat to a cold person, or maybe even pay for a prescription for a sick person, or pay someone's heating bill for a month. Those types of gifts would be much more practical, and certainly they would be more appreciated. And the sacrifice involved would be much better than a paper cut.

Monday, December 12, 2005

A Good Read

I just finished reading an extremely interesting article in Rolling Stone about our government's use of public relations firms to help shape public opinion. This article deals mostly with one particular firm and how it has helped not only to shape public opinion, but also to orchestrate events that make war efforts seem more legitimate.

Here are the first few paragraphs of the article:

The road to war in Iraq led through many unlikely places. One of them was a chic hotel nestled among the strip bars and brothels that cater to foreigners in the town of Pattaya, on the Gulf of Thailand.

On December 17th, 2001, in a small room within the sound of the crashing tide, a CIA officer attached metal electrodes to the ring and index fingers of a man sitting pensively in a padded chair. The officer then stretched a black rubber tube, pleated like an accordion, around the man's chest and another across his abdomen. Finally, he slipped a thick cuff over the man's brachial artery, on the inside of his upper arm.

Strapped to the polygraph machine was Adnan Ihsan Saeed al-Haideri, a forty-three-year-old Iraqi who had fled his homeland in Kurdistan and was now determined to bring down Saddam Hussein. For hours, as thin mechanical styluses traced black lines on rolling graph paper, al-Haideri laid out an explosive tale. Answering yes and no to a series of questions, he insisted repeatedly that he was a civil engineer who had helped Saddam's men to secretly bury tons of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. The illegal arms, according to al-Haideri, were buried in subterranean wells, hidden in private villas, even stashed beneath the Saddam Hussein Hospital, the largest medical facility in Baghdad.

It was damning stuff -- just the kind of evidence the Bush administration was looking for. If the charges were true, they would offer the White House a compelling reason to invade Iraq and depose Saddam. That's why the Pentagon had flown a CIA polygraph expert to Pattaya: to question al-Haideri and confirm, once and for all, that Saddam was secretly stockpiling weapons of mass destruction.

There was only one problem: It was all a lie. After a review of the sharp peaks and deep valleys on the polygraph chart, the intelligence officer concluded that al-Haideri had made up the entire story, apparently in the hopes of securing a visa.

The fabrication might have ended there, the tale of another political refugee trying to scheme his way to a better life. But just because the story wasn't true didn't mean it couldn't be put to good use. Al-Haideri, in fact, was the product of a clandestine operation -- part espionage, part PR campaign -- that had been set up and funded by the CIA and the Pentagon for the express purpose of selling the world a war. And the man who had long been in charge of the marketing was a secretive and mysterious creature of the Washington establishment named John Rendon.

From:
Bamford, James. "The Man Who Sold the War." Rolling Stone 17 Nov. 2005.

This is a long article, but it makes for a very interesting read if you have the time.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Disciple's Response to "Happy Holidays"

Over the past few years, I have noticed that I hear traditional Christmas songs less and less often in the stores and on the radio. I used to hear songs such as “Silent Night” and “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” as often as I’d hear “Jingle Bells” and “Deck the Halls.” Now, however, the traditional song “Joy to the World, the Lord is Come” has been replaced by “Joy to the World, all the boys and girls” (as in Jeremiah was a bullfrog). Only very infrequently is the song played that makes a reference to the birth of Jesus. TV advertisements entreat us to shop in their stores for our “holiday” gifts rather than our “Christmas” gifts. Nativity scenes are replaced by Santa and his reindeer on city hall lawns. School children don’t exchange gifts anymore. What is the “correct” way to celebrate the big holiday that comes at the end of December has become a pressing issue for many communities.

This year marks a sharp escalation in the controversy over Christmas. Now Christians are fighting to take back their sacred holiday by boycotting stores that sell “holiday trees” rather than Christmas trees and that offer greetings of “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas.” The other day I heard of a lady who, when the checkout clerk at Lowes bade her goodbye with “Happy Holidays,” launched into a lecture on the true meaning of the season. When the manager told her that the standard greeting in their store was “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas,” the indignant shopper promptly returned her purchase.

The local news last week interviewed the proprietress of a tree lot who remarked that at least one customer wanted to know what kind of trees she was selling—Christmas or Holiday—before committing to make a selection. It seems that all across the country, Christians and non-Christian traditionalists want to make sure that the establishments they frequent this season will celebrate the correct holiday, and they are kicking up a lot of dust and ill feelings in their fight.

All over Christian talk radio, the word is that more and more, Christians in our country are facing persecution. At no time that I can recall has this idea been more evident than this Christmas season. Christians know from Jesus’ teaching that they will be persecuted for their beliefs, but is what is being experienced now real or only perceived persecution? Is there a vast conspiracy that is out to sabotage Christmas? What is the correct response whether the persecution is real or only perceived?

Jesus himself showed his disciples that the way to overcome evil intentions and actions is to respond with love and kindness. He said that his followers are to be glad and rejoice when they are persecuted. Jesus went so far as to say that his followers should not resist people who act with evil intentions against us. If someone hits us, he says, we are to not hit back, but we should allow that person to hit us again. If we are not to strike back when someone is trying to do us bodily harm, why do we strike back when the war is only with words? It seems that the person who engages in an argument in a store about the true meaning of Christmas is doing more harm to the cause of Christ than he or she is bringing benefit. The angels’ words “Peace on Earth, good will to men” are reduced to nothing more than a meaningless slogan.

What harm, really, is being done to us by the clerk who bids us “Season’s Greetings” or the store that sells holiday trees and holiday gifts? The next time someone wishes me a “Happy Holiday,” I'm just going to smile and say, “Yes, it is a very happy one!”

Friday, December 02, 2005

"True" Religion?

People who adhere to the three major religions--Christianity, Islam, and Judaism--all believe that their religion is the "correct" one, that their religion is the most direct path to God or that it has the most correct revelation from God, or whatever.

How can everyone be "right"? When God looks down on the world and sees all these people who sincerely believe that their religion is the one that God favors, he must laugh and shake his head. How arrogant we are to think that one particular religious adherence brings us closer to God than another!

Pure and lasting
religion in the sight of God our Father means that we must care for orphans and widows in their troubles, and refuse to let the world corrupt us (James 1.27).

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Sissy Boys


Why would any self-respecting father let his wife dress his little boy in an outfit like this?

Friday, November 25, 2005

Good eats!

The best part of Thanksgiving is the turkey sandwich the next day. I like mine with plenty of mayo and a thick slice of tomato.

Tonight, though, I think I'll be in the mood for pizza.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Dumb Question

In an effort to cut costs, GM is closing several plants, which will leave many people without jobs in the future. Do you think that the top brass at GM will cut their salaries and benefits as part of the cost cutting effort?

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Swimming (Rather Drowning) in a Sea of Poor Prose

I haven't had much time to blog in the past several days. Actually, I haven't had time to blog all semester, but I did it anyway. Now I have no time to squander; I should be grading papers instead of typing here. The problem is that I like this much better than grading essays. Perhaps next semester I should just have a class blog and make my students post all their essays to the blog and let blog comments serve as their grade. Hmmm. The more I think about it, the more I think I should experiment with that idea.

My freshmen are working on their last essay right now, a review of a movie, book, TV show, CD, etc. To prepare for the essay, we are watching movies in class so that we can write a practice review. Two of my classes are watching The Shawshank Redemption, one of my all time favorite movies, and the other two are watching Hotel Rwanda, which I have never seen before and am watching for the first time along with them. I think I may have to watch the second half of the film over the weekend in the privacy of my living room, just in case it turns out to be really sad and I have to cry. I would hate to cry in class.

I remember Lee Camp referring to the Rwandan genocide in his book Mere Discipleship, and now I'm really starting to understand what he was talking about, even though so far the references to Christianity in the movie are very veiled and are almost non-existent unless you are looking for it. Seeing the movie has made me recall stories I had heard on the news, so now the whole concept of what happened over there is starting to come together for me and is making me want to read more about it to find out all the facts.

What else is going on? Nothing really. If I can make it through the next two weeks and get a lot of school work done, I'll be home free until the middle of January when it all starts back up again. Next semester I'll be teaching five sections of research and argumentative writing which will mean that I'll be reading the word count equivalent of one poorly written 300 word novel each week. And I'll have to teach research on top of that--ugh! But the good part is teaching the argumentative part of the course, and that means great in-class discussions. College students have such a unique perspective on things--in a way, they are very opinionated (usually those opinions are those of their parents), but also they are very naive, and it's fun to challenge their beliefs and make them explain why they have those beliefs.

So anyway, if you don't see any new posts here for a few days, you'll know I'm neck-deep in essays. But I'm sure I'll come up for a breath of fresh air to read all of your blogs.

Friday, November 11, 2005

A Sick Way of Making Money

Discussions of hell will continue as I do more research. Feel free to keep commenting on previous posts. For now, I just have to talk about this:

I learned of this interesting information over at No More Mr. Nice Guy whose site I surfed into not too long ago.

When all the talk about the bird flu started, I couldn't help but notice how much the mainstream media were talking about it--it wasn't just an Internet story. When the Bush administration began to mention it every other day, I became a bit perplexed. Why in the world would they constantly talk up this bird flu as if it had already mutated and become extremely contagious from human to human? I know this isn't a very charitable thought to have, but I started getting the feeling that they really want a pandemic. I even mentioned this to my mom several days ago. And then I saw the above referenced info. It is absolutely amazing to me how often we hear of Bush cabinet members and friends owning lots of stock in companies that stand to make money from disasters.

I am NOT saying here that I think the Bush administration is going to start a pandemic. Perhaps, however, they have started a scare so as to drive up the stock prices of companies that produce flu medication so that some people will become even more wealthy.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Sin Will Put You Down in the Dumps

(Sorry this is so long, but I didn't see a good place to break it into two parts.)

Two words that Jesus used, Hades and Gehenna, are commonly translated into "Hell." Let's examine the word Gehenna.

Gehenna was the site outside of Jerusalem used for the incineration of refuse. According to Easton’s Bible Dictionary, Gehenna was the Valley of Hinnom, “(originally Ge bene Hinnom; i.e., “the valley of the sons of Hinnom”), a deep, narrow glen to the south of Jerusalem, where the idolatrous Jews offered their children in sacrifice to Molech (2 Chr. 28:3; 33:6; Jer. 7:31; 19:2–6). This valley afterwards became the common receptacle for all the refuse of the city. Here the dead bodies of animals and of criminals, and all kinds of filth, were cast and consumed by fire kept always burning.”

Now let's take a look at the contexts in which Jesus used this word. In Matthew 5 Jesus is speaking about the law of Moses, making the point that his followers should adhere to the spirit of the law and not just the letter. His aim is to bring about repentance—a renewed way of thinking about the Kingdom of God.

In the first use of "Gehenna, "he says, “You have heard that the law of Moses says, ‘Do not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ 22 But I say, if you are angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the high council. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell (Matt. 5.21-22).

So what was Jesus saying here? Jesus compares feelings of anger toward someone with murder and actually equates the two. Being angry and holding resentment toward someone is just as wrong as killing that person, according to Jesus. In the very next passage, Jesus says that if we do hold ill feelings toward someone, we need to go and reconcile with that person before we try to offer worship to God. Why is this so important? James tells us that our evil thoughts lead to evil actions, and our evil actions lead to death (1.15). If we come before God not having reconciled with those with whom we are angry, we have sin in our hearts and cannot worship God with purity, or “in spirit.” When we hold anger toward others, we are no better than murderers—we are criminals—according to Jesus.

Jesus’ listeners would have understood his reference to Gehenna as the place where the bodies of executed criminals were disposed of, and they knew that the law of Moses called for the execution of murderers. Jesus was telling his listeners that harboring resentment and anger toward another person is just the same as murder in God’s economy, and that just as persons would expect to be condemned for committing murder, so God’s people should not allow themselves to even harbor a murderous, or even an angry, thought against anyone else. Both offenses, according to Jesus, are sinful enough to render a person worthy of being executed and thrown into the dump for disposal in the fire.

Jesus’ next reference to hell is in the next passage when he is speaking about adultery. He says, “You have heard that the law of Moses says, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust in his eye has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 So if your eye—even if it is your good eye—causes you to lust, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your hand—even if it is your stronger hand—causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell” (Matt. 5.27-30 also Mark 9.42-48).

The law of Moses expressly forbade adultery and prescribed the death penalty for those guilty of the crime (Deut. 22.22). In the same way that he equated anger with murder, Jesus equates lustful thoughts with adultery. Jesus is not necessarily advocating physically gouging out one’s eyes or cutting off one’s hands, but he is using hyperbole to illustrate the extreme importance of avoiding lust. Those who get caught up in lust are likely in far more danger of progressing on to adultery than those who are angry are likely to go on to commit murder, so Jesus is expressing the need to avoid lustful thoughts at all costs. Like murderers, those who had been convicted of adultery were executed, and Jesus again uses the reference to Gehenna to illustrate that God’s people should avoid thoughts that lead to sin.

In Matthew 10, Jesus is sending his disciples out on a mission to proclaim that the Kingdom of Heaven is near, to heal the sick, raise the dead, and to cast out demons. Throughout chapter 10, Jesus has been giving them instructions on how to live by faith in God for their provisions and their protection. He warns them of persecutions to come, telling them that they will be cursed and called names, but they should not be afraid of those who threaten them with bodily harm. He says, “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10.28 & Luke 12.5). In this case again, Gehenna—the fiery refuse dump—is the translation for hell. The implication, again, is that of the disposal of executed criminals, since what is being talked about here is the destruction of a person.

So how is a soul and body set for destruction, and who is able to destroy them? Since Jesus came to save the world and not to condemn it—and Jesus is doing the will of his father, and since Satan is the one bent on destroying humans, it’s safe to say that Satan is the one who is being talked about here. Satan is certainly able to corrupt—or destroy—one’s mind and entice a person to act out in sin, causing him or her to break the law of Moses, and consequently causing that person to be sentenced to execution and disposal in Gehenna, destroying the body.

(Another clue that Jesus is talking about Satan here is his use of the word “fear,” the Greek phobeo (# 5399) which in 90 uses is rendered in the sense of being afraid or terrified and is used only once in the sense of reverential fear.)

So in this passage, Jesus is telling his disciples to have faith in God and not to be afraid of people. He seems to be telling them not to let Satan use their fear of bodily harm to tempt them into acting out against the officials who would harm them, and by the disciples’ defiance, make them into criminals, both in the real sense of attacking and harming their attackers, and in the spiritual sense of succumbing to anger and fear. Peter fell prey to this very temptation on the night that Jesus was arrested.

In Matthew 18 (and Mark 9), the disciples ask Jesus which of them will be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven; obviously some jealousy and arrogance is manifesting itself in the group. Jesus tells them that whoever wants to be great in the kingdom must become humble now, and he brings a small child into the group to illustrate the concept of humility and innocence. He then uses the child to begin a discussion of the problem of tempting innocent people into sin, telling them that it will be terrible for anyone who leads others into sin. Jesus here is referring again to the law of Moses, in this case the law which condemns to death any false prophet who tempts people to worship false gods (Deut. 13). Jesus is again stressing that not only the letter of the law should be followed, but the spirit of the law should be followed as well. In this case, Jesus wants his disciples to first put aside arrogance (worship of self) and put on humility, and second to realize that any turning aside from God in order to pursue sin is the same as worshiping false gods, or idolatry. Jesus repeats what he said earlier about cutting off parts of the body that cause one to sin (it’s better to be maimed than to be thrown into hell)—again using hyperbole—to reinforce the idea that the sin of arrogance is just as despicable as the sin of causing idol worship (which was punished by execution, followed by the throwing of the criminal’s body into Gehenna for disposal).

In Matthew 23, Jesus is speaking to the Pharisees, condemning their hypocrisy. He speaks about their arrogance in their religious practices and says that they are “like whitewashed tombs” (v. 27), meaning that while they put on a good front, they are actually corrupt in their hearts. (One source I read said that the outside of tombs were whitewashed so that people would know to avoid them--if that's the case, then there's another jab at the Pharisees!) He further condemns them for placing excessive burdens on those they convert, saying that they make their converts “twice the sons of hell [Gehenna]” that they themselves are. Jesus in this case is using a metaphor that would have really gotten underneath the Pharisees’ skin, equating them with Gehenna, a garbage dump so full of filth and corruption that the Pharisees would never go near it for fear of becoming ceremonially unclean. Jesus goes even further to imply that they are the worst of sinners who, if they had lived during the time of the prophets, would have participated in the murders of those innocent men of God, essentially blaspheming God, another capital offense (Lev. 24.15-16). Jesus wonders how these Pharisees will escape the “judgment of hell” (v. 33)—saying essentially that they need to be brought to justice for their crimes and executed, as the law of Moses called for, and their bodies disposed of in Gehenna.

In all of these cases, Jesus is making the point to his listeners that whenever their hearts and minds aren’t pure, they aren’t right with God and are guilty of capital crimes even if they did not physically commit one of the crimes listed in the law of Moses. According to Jesus, violating the spirit of the law of Moses is just as bad as violating the letter of the law. By continually mentioning Gehenna, Jesus is pointing out that those who violate even the spirit of the law are dishonoring God and deserve to be executed.


Monday, November 07, 2005

Hell-o!

If you haven't read my previous post, please read it before you read this one. It offers a definition and background of the term Hades, and you'll need that in order to understand this discussion.

Jesus used a couple of other references to Hades, one of which is recorded both in Matthew 11.23 and in Luke 10.15. In this reference, Jesus says that the people of Capernaum will be brought down to Hades because they did not repent of their sins and turn to God. He contrasts Capernaum with cities such as Sodom, Gomorrah, Tyre, and Sidon, which were all known for their wickedness, and he says that if he had performed his miracles in those cities, their citizens would have turned to God (In the book of Jonah, we see the evil city of Ninevah repent as a result of a few days of Jonah's preaching). As it was, Jesus had made Capernaum his base of operations and frequently taught in the synagogue and performed miracles there, so the people of Capernaum were probably very familiar with Jesus' message. As I mentioned in my previous post, one of Jesus' teachings was "from those to whom much is given, much is required" (Luke 12.48). The citizens of Capernaum were witness to some of the first manifestations of God’s kingdom, yet many had apparently rejected the lifestyle he advocated in favor of a sinful life. They had seen and heard much from Jesus, so they were to be held more accountable than those who had not heard much of Jesus’ message. It is quite possible that Jesus used the term Hades—with its levels of reward and punishment—as a metaphor for Capernaum’s situation, very similar to his illustration of the same concept that he would later teach in his parable of the rich man and the beggar. (That makes me wonder if Jesus was in Capernaum when he told that story.) He may also simply be using Hades as the synonym of Sheol, saying that the city of Capernaum will die because of its sinful condition.

In another reference to Hades, in Matthew 16.18, Jesus tells Peter, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” In this use of Hades, Jesus is likely speaking of the grave (Sheol). Death will not have any power against those who are a part of his church, and we see in the Revelation that death will ultimately die itself. To use the Greek concept of Hades in this context would have made little sense, as Jesus was speaking to those who had already made a choice to follow him.

Our popular concept of Hell needs to be separated from Jesus' use of the terms that are translated as Hell, Hades and Gehenna. We have been conditioned through popular use to think of a flaming torture pit when we hear the word "hell"; however, in the uses above, and in the story of the rich man and the beggar, even when he uses the Greek concept of Hades, Jesus has not necessarily said that sinners will one day be thrown into a fiery torture pit to writhe and suffer for ages upon end. His use here may simply be a metaphor for the concept that those who begin living the kingdom life now will receive a great reward in the kingdom, while those who reject that life will wish that they hadn't. (Notice that I have not said what I think will or will not happen to the "sinners." God, as we know, extends a tremendous amount of grace, but we also know from reading the Old Testament that his judgment can be swift and severe. The point of this discussion is not to speculate on the nature of the future judgment of sinners; rather, this is a focus on the meaning of certain words as Jesus used them in his day. You can draw your own conclusions as to the end judgment.)

My next discussion of hell will focus on Jesus' use of the term Gehenna. If you think I'm nuts now, just wait till you read what's to come!


Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Pull Up a Chair for This One

The story of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16.19-31) is one of the most debated passages in the bible. Some people believe that the story is a literal representation of what happens to people when they die—that the morally just and innocent go to Abraham’s bosom, which is interpreted as Heaven, and that the evil people go to Hades, or Hell, and suffer in agony forever. Other people believe that the story is another of Jesus’ parables meant to illustrate the need to repent and turn to God. If you have wondered what to believe about this story, wonder no longer because I am about to give you the definitive answer. Well, not really; I’m just going to tell you what I think.

In this story, a rich man dies and goes to Hades, and a poor beggar Lazarus, who lay at the rich man’s door begging for scraps, also dies and goes to “Abraham’s bosom.” According to several Bible dictionaries, Abraham’s bosom was a euphemism for peace and happiness, and the term takes its origins from the way that people reclined at the table when eating together. The person sitting to the right of Abraham, for instance, would be able to practically lay his head against Abraham’s chest. The fact that Lazarus in the story was at Abraham’s bosom signified that he sat in a place of honor. Certainly, all good Jews of Jesus’ day claimed to be children of Abraham, and all would have relished the chance to be at Abraham’s bosom.

If Lazarus was at Abraham’s bosom, where was Abraham? Many people today would say that Abraham was (and is) in Heaven, but the ancient Hebrews had no concept of an after-life existence in Heaven with God. Genesis 25.8 tells us that when Abraham died, he was “gathered to his people.” In fact, many of Abraham’s descendents were gathered to their people when they died. To be gathered to one’s people meant to join one’s ancestors in death, in Sheol (the Hebrew word which corresponds to the Greek Hades). Both words denote the location of the dead, commonly known as the grave. To the Hebrews, people in the grave were thought of as sleeping (in the OT, kings who had died were referred to as sleeping with their fathers) and as of having no experiences or thoughts (Ps 6.5, 88.12, Ecc 9.10). Abraham, then was “sleeping” in Hades (Sheol), in his grave. It is interesting to note that if Abraham were really in Heaven, having been gathered to his people—who presumably were also in Heaven if he was gathered to them—then Heaven contains idolaters, because Abraham’s “people” were idol worshippers (Joshua 24.2).

In the Hellenized culture of Jesus’ day, the term Hades would also have taken on the connotations associated with the Greek notion of the afterlife. The ancient Greeks believed that all people, when they died and were given a proper burial, entered into Hades, the underworld, where they continued an existence in a level of Hades appropriate to their actions on Earth. Tartarus, the lowest part of Hades reserved for the most vile offenders, is referenced in 2 Peter 2.4 where Peter says that God threw the angels who sinned. Most readers (or hearers) of this epistle would have understood the reference, having grown up in a Hellenized culture. In his use of the term, Peter warns against listening to false teachers, who bring such destruction into the church that they themselves are destined to destruction in a way similar to the angels who sinned.

Jesus uses the Greek concept of life after death in an underworld (which is a concept with which his listeners would have been familiar, having been brought up in a Hellenized society) in order to illustrate the urgent need for his listeners to repent and turn to God before the day of judgment. In the Greek Hades, those who had lived good, moral lives enjoyed an afterlife in the Elysian Fields—this is presumably where Lazarus would have been—while those who had lived morally corrupt lives went to Tartarus, a place of terrible punishment, torment, and anguish. This, apparently is where the rich man was. According to Jesus’ story, the rich man wants Lazarus to come and bring him some water to quench his anguish in the flames, but Abraham tells the rich man that a great gulf, or chasm, which no one can cross, separates them from each other. In the Greek Hades, Tartarus is located in a deep, deep, chasm, so deep it was said that an anvil would take nine days to fall there from the main level of Hades. Lazarus and the rich man are very far apart in proximity in Hades, representing the idea that those who live according to the standards of God’s kingdom are very far apart spiritually from those who do not.

In the second part of the story, the rich man wants Abraham to send Lazarus back to warn the rich man’s brothers about the torment so that they won’t have to suffer as well. However, Abraham replies that they have already had ample warning about their need to repent from reading the law and the prophets. If they haven’t repented by now, not even hearing it from a man risen from the dead will convince them. Jesus’ point here is that the time for his listeners to repent is now. He is illustrating the idea that to those whom much is given, much is required, a concept which he had already taught (Luke 12.48). His listeners have been given the law and all the writings of the prophets, and now they have God’s son himself urging them to repent; therefore, if they refuse to repent, they are left without any excuse on the day of judgment. Jesus had been urging his listeners to begin living a kingdom life by doing good to others; he promised that those who do will receive a great reward in heaven. He had also taught them that those who were poor and hungry and suffering now (like Lazarus) would also be rewarded in heaven. Jesus had pronounced woe to those who lived morally impure lives by seeking the praise of men, not turning away from their sins, and not helping the poor. In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Jesus’ use of the Greek Hades with its reward and punishment system furthers his point that those who would turn to God and live a kingdom life are spiritually far removed and much better off than those who would not.

Jesus’ parable of the rich man and the beggar Lazarus is just that, a parable. Jesus used what was familiar to his listeners to illustrate a new concept. In his day, the rich and prestigious were favored in society; they were the ones who held the reigns of power or could bend the ears of those in power, while the poor were overlooked and left to fend for themselves. Jesus was turning the system upside down, telling them during his ministry that the last would be first and the humble would be exalted. This story was a further illustration of that concept. The self-righteous exalted will be the ones clamoring to get inside the kingdom, while the humble poor will be enjoying peace and prosperity.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

If teaching doesn't pan out . . .

I can now claim that I have experience operating a skid loader. Yesterday and today I moved dirt from a pile and spread it in the yard--my first attempt at landscaping. Running this machine was FUN!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Massachusetts: Land of Antiquities

Today I learned from a student's essay that Boston is an ancient and historical city.

I wonder why we haven't found any of the ruins?

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Disappointment

Our pilgrimage for barbecue has been called off because Husband has to go to work. They wouldn't let him have two Saturdays off in a row. What really bugs me is that they won't tell him until Friday afternoon, and then I don't get to find out until Friday night.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Mouth Waterin'

Saturday Husband and I will be in hog heaven--well, I'll be in cow and chicken heaven since I don't eat anything piggy. We're going down to Lynchburg for the Jack Daniels Barbeque Championship, and I'm hoping to find some great brisket. I've been hearing about this contest for years, but this is the first time we'll go. I'm sure that I'll satisfy my taste for barbeque and that I'll be miserable by the time we leave.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Tennessee Lampoon's Hillbilly Vacation

Husband and I spent this past weekend in Gatlinburg. It was our first vacation in quite a while, and we had a nice time despite the fact that we had to attend a timeshare presentation in exchange for our free motel room. We had no trouble standing up to the psychological sales tactics that the people used against us because we presented a united front against their wiles. I had been tipped off that if you say you can’t afford it, they’ll keep bringing the price down until you finally give in because the price is so ridiculously low, so we told them that we never take vacations and that their product would be useless to us. And that’s no lie.

The guy who did most of the talking told us (he had a whole group of us captive in a room together, each couple with their own personal salesman) that we deserve to take nice vacations after all the hard work we do and that we owe it to our children to make sure that they have good memories of great vacations. Pu-leeze! The sales people also said to just think how we would feel if something happened to our spouse. We'd feel so bad that we didn't spend more time together. Just how much time do we think we have left, they asked us. Will that time be spent creating great memories? How morbid! I'll tell you what would really make me feel bad--if something happened to my husband after we bought a timeshare and then I'd be stuck with all those monthly payments.

The guy kept suggesting that unless we have a certain vacation lifestyle, we aren’t really enjoying ourselves. He said that the average family spends $3000 per year on vacations. Wow! Husband and I haven’t spent $3000 in ten years for vacations. The guy said that most people spend their vacations in little motel rooms, and once they have spent that money, there’s nothing to show for it. The pitch was that we should take the money that we would spend in ten years on vacations (he approximated $20,000--coincidentally, just about the price of their most popular package) and use it to buy into their timeshare plan. Then we would “own” our vacations. We would be able to vacation in all the best locations, all the while staying in fabulous accommodations. I have to admit that the accommodations were very nice. They looked like homes you’d see in a magazine. But really, even if you “own” your vacation, what more do you have to show for it than someone who doesn’t? Does the family that stays in the luxury resort come home with better memories than the family that stays in the Motel 6? (Don’t even talk about the people who like to camp out in the woods—they are just plain weird!)

I guess because Husband and I stayed in a motel, we won’t have any good memories of our first trip to Gatlinburg together. We won’t remember riding on the chair lift for the first time to get up the mountain to ride back down on the alpine slide for the first time. We won’t remember looking down from the chair lift and seeing a groundhog pop out from his hole at the edge of the slide track and then pop back in when the next rider came down. We won’t remember the scrumptious chocolate brownie dessert and great steak we had at that gorgeous restaurant we ate at on Sunday night. We won’t remember laughing at the inordinate number of pancake restaurants in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. Neither will we remember shaking our heads at all the places called Hillbilly Golf, Hillbilly Souvenirs, Hillbilly Landscaping Company, and Hillbilly Laundromat. Nope, all we’ll remember is that cramped little room.

No, not the motel room. The room with all the other desperate looking people wishing that the guy would shut up.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Opinions are like. . .

Here’s a sample of what’s been going on on my freshman class discussion board. I posted the first message in this series to give them something to talk about, and they took it from there. These comments are straight from the students, grammar mistakes and all. (I have deleted names to retain anonymity.)

Message no. 109

Sunday, October 9, 2005 11:54am

Subject: Worldwide disasters

I hate to leave such a gloomy message today, but this is what I've been

thinking about. This weekend there was an earthquake in Asia, killing

thousands of people. In Guatemala, people have lost homes and lives

because of mudslides. The bird flu is spreading from the Far East and

into eastern Europe, and officials fear the virus will mutate and cause

a worldwide flu pandemic. Here in the U.S. we have suffered through

several hurricanes and now flooding rains in the Northeast. A magma dome

is building under the Two Sisters in Oregon, and Mt. St. Helens in

Washington is still threatening to blow. Other hurricanes and typhoons

have hit countries in the Pacific Ocean region.

Lots of stuff has been happening over the last couple of months. Have

you been concerned about these events?

Here’s a response from a female student:

Message no. 111[Branch from no. 109]

on Sunday, October 9, 2005 5:43pm

Subject: Re: Worldwide disasters

The part that concerns me the most is that all this stuff is happening around the world

and the US is so quick to send help and send money and send aid but yet when it

happens in our own backyard, it takes us so long to get organized and get what is

needed for the people in Lousiana and Mississippi.

A response from another female student:

Message no. 115[Branch from no. 109]

Monday, October 10, 2005 11:03am

Subject: Re: Worldwide disasters

Being concerned about these events is probably on everyone's mind. I am a firm

believer that everything happens for a reason. In this world there are certain things

that "MAN" just can't control. They will never be able stop the volcanoes from errupting

or hurricanes from forming. That's something that most people just don't understand. If

these disaterous events happen who is to blame? Everyone wants to blame the

president who has no control over anything in the atomosphere. All he can do if aid

those in need. No one knows the amount of stress he goes through everyday. I get so

mad when the people of this country diss their own leader. If you don't want to follow

him and his authority to rule then leave the country and try to tell somebody else what

you like and don't like. Those people who don't like the president are literally idots in my

opinion.

At this point, I thought I should interject a comment to remind students that the readership of this list is diverse in its political opinions (and, I admit, to express my own consternation at the “idot” comment), so here’s what I said:

Message no. 117[Branch from no. 115]

Monday, October 10, 2005 12:34pm

Subject: Re: Worldwide disasters

Call me an idiot then.

This response is from the same student that wrote message #111:

Message no. 121[Branch from no. 115]

Monday, October 10, 2005 6:08pm

Subject: Re: Worldwide disasters

alright i guess i'm an idiot then. but i have reasons to back up my opinion, its not just

because i liked kerry and i dont like bush. i would say this about any president that was

in office. they make the concious decision to send millions of dollars of aid to forgein

countries but when it comes to helping his own people, the same people that put him in

office, he can't do it, he drags his feet. look how long it took him to go tour Lousiana and

Mississippi, look how long it took him to listen to the people, to see the disaster with his

own eyes. just like in the countries that we're rushing to help now, the people that

couldn't leave the south are the ones that need the most help. the ones on welfare, the

ones without the means to leave, no cars, no money to put gas in their cars. you can't

help a person by giving them food stamps and giving them homes but then when their is

a disaster, we expect them to help themselves. it's not going to happen that way.

Another female response:

Message no. 131[Branch from no. 115]

Wednesday, October 12, 2005 11:42pm

Subject: Re: Worldwide disasters

Apparently, there are many of us IDIOTS....i would be careful as to what i say to whom on these message boards. im an "idiot" as well, am proud of it, but i dont take lightly to being called as such. but, everyone has their opinion. just so its known though, many people DO NOT share that opinion. i would never vote for Bush. it's not that i dont like him, its that i dont like the way things have been handles, and think they could have been handled better if another person was in office. there, i said it.

And finally a guy jumps in:

Message no. 132[Branch from no. 115]

Thursday, October 13, 2005 1:13am

Subject: Re: Worldwide disasters

Add me to the idiot list while your at it.

This next message is from the same student as above. Notice that this comment was posted thirty minutes after the previous one. Apparently he stewed about it for a few minutes.

Message no. 133[Branch from no. 115]

Thursday, October 13, 2005 1:46am

Subject: Re: Worldwide disasters

While I'm at it..what's with the whole "If you don't want to follow him and his authority to rule" thing about? The term "Ruler" is reserved for titles such as king or emperor and

such. The president is supposed to represent the people who put him in office, not rule

them. Bush is mainly worried about helping out his friends...weather it's getting them

appointed to an office or lining their pockets any way he can. Take the example of Bush

hiring one of his buds to head the FEMA department. The guy had no idea what he was

doing after Katrina hit and had to resign. I was kinda glad to see his approval rating last

week fall to 37%....at least that means some diehard Bush supporters are comming to

their senses. I can't see how anyone would stand up for him after the crazy decisions

he's pulled out of his butt. I've always heard that the more you stir shit the worse it

smells. I wish more than anything that Bush could learn how to quit stiring and admit he

was wrong about many descisions he's made while he's been in office.

This little conversation got my morning started with a good laugh.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Hands Off!

OK, this is sorta gross, but I was in the restroom washing my hands (singing "Happy Birthday" twice during the process, just like you're supposed to), and I noticed at least three girls exit the stalls and not wash their hands before leaving the restroom. Didn't their mothers teach them that hand washing is essential?

This really bothers me, especially at this time of year when people are starting to get sick. I am leery of every doorknob, every handle. I feel the need to carry a bottle of alcohol to sterilize my hands after touching anything outside of my office. Am I paranoid?

I have noticed that some women in the restroom are much more cautious than I usually am. They will finish washing their hands and then not turn off the water until after drying their hands, turning off the faucet with a paper towel and then carrying the paper towel to the door, using it to touch the door handle as well. I used to think that this was a bit of overkill, but I find that I am now doing the same thing.

With all the talk of a possible flu epidemic, I would think that people would be more cautious. I know I certainly am more picky about what I touch and whose hand I shake.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Revenge is Sweet

Yesterday in my literature class, we discussed a story in which a father exacts revenge on the young man who murdered his son. Here are the particulars: The son, Frank, is dating the estranged wife of the killer, Richard. One day Richard beats Frank up, and sometime later Richard barges into his estranged wife's house (they are in the process of divorce) and shoots Frank in the face in front of the wife and their two young sons. Richard gets out on bail, and late one night Matt (Frank's father) and one of his friends kidnap Richard outside of the bar where he works, take him to a remote area, and kill him. This killing is very well planned, down to the last detail, so that they will not be caught. During the process, Matt seems to waver in whether he thinks he is capable of killing Richard, but in the end, when Richard tries to escape, Matt shoots him without hesitation and then shoots him again in the back of the head to finish the job. (The movie In the Bedroom is an adaptation of this story.)

My students were very sympathetic toward Matt. Many of them felt that if they were put into a situation in which someone murdered one of their loved ones, they wouldn't have any problem hunting down the killer and ridding the world of him. I asked them if they would have any problem being friends with Matt, and they said that no, Matt was a very good man (and the story does depict him as a very good husband, father, and friend), and they would like to have him as a friend, but they would not be friends with Richard.

My students also expressed a lack of confidence in the justice system. Many of them felt that convicted murderers have too many rights and too many appeals and that executions need to happen more swiftly. Others felt that capital punishment is too easy, that murderers need to live but suffer harshly for what they have done (the word "torture" was even mentioned). My students also have problems with murderers getting out of prison. A couple of them had actually lost loved ones to violent crime and said that whenever the killer comes up for release, the family has to relive the painful incident over again. Another interesting thing many of my students said was that they do not trust when criminals in prison claim to have "found God" or "gotten religion."

If any students in class felt less harshly toward murderers, they didn't speak up. The biblical concept of forgiveness was brought up, but it was generally acknowledged that extending forgiveness to a person who has committed a crime of that magnitude is extremely difficult if not impossible.

So what do you think? Do you agree with my students? Or are you "soft on crime"?

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Do I Know This Person?


I wonder if this is one of my students.
(Image from PostSecret.)

Friday, September 30, 2005

In the Beginning

In BSF we are studying Genesis and for the past three weeks have been specifically focused on the creation. I ran across something today that was not addressed in our lesson. Genesis 1.24-27 gives the account of the sixth day of creation in which God created animals and then people, both male and female. These verses say that people would have authority over all the animal life on earth. But later in chapter 2, we have a different story. In verse 7 God creates a man, and then in 18-19 he creates animals in an effort to find a suitable companion for the man. When a suitable companion wasn't found among the animals, God then made a woman (v. 21-22).

So we have here two different accounts with a very noticeable difference. If all of the bible is meant to be taken literally, as some say, how do we explain these differing stories? How literally should we take the creation stor(ies)--is it "gospel truth"? Or are these two stories simply two different oral traditions handed down over time that were meant to explain a difficult concept? Perhaps parts of the bible are meant to show us that humans have always had an imperfect understanding of God.

For the record, these differing stories in no way shake my faith in God. This is simply further confirmation for me that human attempts to fully understand God fall very short and that many doctrines that have been adhered to as "truth" are imperfect in their truthfulness.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Jesus Changes Lives?

Yesterday as I was sitting at a red light, I noticed a van parked at a convenience store. This van was completely unremarkable—it was one of those white work vans, but on the doors, in neatly stenciled letters an aqua blue color were the words “JESUS CHANGES LIVES.” My first thought in response to this statement was “amen.” As the light changed to green and I eased off down the road with the rest of the traffic, I began to think that, no, that statement wasn’t quite right. Yes, the presence of Jesus in one’s life creates definite changes, and his father can definitely change a person’s character, but really, much of the change that a person experiences when deciding to follow Jesus comes from within.

Being a follower of Jesus is a daily decision to take my focus off of myself and tune my attention to matters of his kingdom. This is not an easy task. Naturally, my thoughts gravitate toward obtaining those things that will give me immediate comfort and pleasure. But Jesus was constantly thinking about the comfort and well-being of others. For me to do the same requires a conscious shifting of my way of thinking, a real sacrifice of my thoughts and time. Jesus told his would-be disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross daily, and follow me.” This means that I have to make a choice to set aside all my concerns about daily life—what to have for dinner, when the truck payment is due, how high the price of gas is, how to schedule all of my activities and appointments—and pick up a new burden to carry around. But the cool thing is that Jesus tells me that the burden he wants me to carry is much lighter than all the junk that I carry around now. If I quit thinking about myself and how I’m going to get ahead, and instead focus on the needs of others, I’ll find that I’ll be content with just simple day-to-day living.

The words on the van door are true, but also a little deceptive. When I decide to follow Jesus, he doesn’t just swoop in and, presto-change-o, my life is different. The change comes over time as I adjust my lifestyle and way of thinking to match his.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Lessons Learned

I began grading freshman essays this weekend, and although I have no funnies to report yet, a couple of essays stood out to me. My students wrote about an event they experienced or witnessed that had some kind of impact on them. They could have learned a profound (or a not profound) lesson or gained some kind of insight or wisdom about their own selves or about life in general. The two essays that I noticed were written about trips to other countries.

One student went on a trip to Mexico where, when visiting some Aztec ruins, she noticed a young girl about six years old posing for photographs with tourists. Whenever a tourist would take a picture with her, she would then hold out her hand wanting some money. My student realized that the child's parents must have placed her there in order to earn money for the family. This experienced, coupled with the sights of Mexican families' houses made of scraps, made her realize the poverty that exists in the world and how very blessed she is to live the lifestyle she does. She came to realize that the people who are trying to cross the border to the U.S. are simply wanting better lives for their families.

The other student took a trip to Europe and, while he was there, took a side trip to an outdoor shopping mall aimed at attracting tourists. He noticed that the people running the shops were Asian, and he also noticed that their houses, located near the shops, were no bigger than his bedroom. He learned that the families who run the shops pay a lease in order for the priviledge of working there, and if they don't meet their sales quota, they are kicked out by the shop's owner. My student noticed how the tourists would haggle with the shop workers for a lower price and realized that the greed of the tourists was contributing to the poverty of the shop workers. He left the mall crying over the condition of the people there.

I was extremely touched by these two essays, but I was also glad that these students had experienced these events. I hope that these two students carry these images with them always, and I hope that the next time we have the opportunity to experience a different culture, whether it be a different country or just the part of our hometown that we usually drive quickly through, we take notice of the differences and maybe even cry over the differences.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Rainy Day Rita

I have family spread throughout Louisiana. Just got a report from my Mom who talked to two of her sisters who live there. They are experiencing heavy rain and wind. The power is out as well. Grandpa--who is 95 years old--is with one of my uncles enjoying a game of dominoes today. Everyone seems to be doing fine.

Haven't heard from anyone on Daddy's side of the family--also in Louisiana and in East Texas--but we really aren't worried.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Body Surfing With Jesus

This morning on the news, I saw the Galveston police forcibly remove a man from the ocean, handcuff him, and, presumeably, arrest him. This man apparently wanted to body surf on the waves this morning.

My first thought was if that guy wants to put himself in danger, let him. He knows the risks, and if he's stupid enough to swim during a hurricane, let his consequences be what they may. Then I felt a little guilty, knowing that I also have stupid moments.

Here's my question: If Jesus were in Texas today helping people evacuate, how would he handle the man who didn't want to leave the beach?

Saturday, September 17, 2005

I Will Survive--if Presidental speeches are on some other night.

I have to admit that I really like Survivor. Yes, I know, I know, I've heard all the arguments, but I still like it. Husband and I have watched every episode every season except for Africa in season three. When we watched that first episode, for some reason we just weren't all that impressed and decided not to watch. But we haven't missed since then, and now that a new season has started we are back to our Thursday night routine of avoiding all phone calls between 7 and 8 p.m. (That reminds me of when we used to watch the X-Files back when it was still on. We were really into that show, and we even went to see the movie. I remember watching one night when Husband's brother called. Husband told him that he couldn't talk at the moment and that he'd call him back when X-Files was over.)

Thursday night, Husband had to leave the house for a little while and said his goal was to be back by 6:45, leaving plenty of time to get ready to watch Survivor. Unfortunately, he was detained and didn't get home until after 8:00, so I had to record the first episode, and we watched last night. Actually, I went ahead and watched when it was on and watched it again with him last night.

When we heard that the President was going to speak on Thursday night, we kind of panicked until we realized that he wouldn't be on until after Survivor. I would be willing to bet that when the President asked for TV time for Thursday night, CBS panicked as well. And I'm sure that those who were expecting Survivor at the regular time were pretty upset when the President's face appeared on their TV screens instead of Jeff Probst's much prettier face. I don't know what happened in the different time zones, but I'm sure everyone who wanted to watch either or both were eventually satisfied.

I must say, right or wrong, if I had to choose whether to watch our President speak or watch Survivor, I'll take Survivor. At least on Survivor, you know who all the players are, and the deception is all out in the open.

Friday, September 16, 2005

A Prayer Offered in the Aftermath of Katrina

Oh Lord, while I struggle to understand why events such as this occur, I know that out of tragedy and suffering, you can bring peace and deliverance. However, I also know that the major instrument of this peace and deliverance is your people. Therefore, I pray that the people who acknowledge you as Lord, those who believe in your son Jesus, will put the teachings of your son into practice.

I pray that your people who have seen the poverty of their neighbors will share their possessions with those in need just as the apostles did, investing in heavenly treasure rather than hoarding material wealth for themselves.

I pray that like Jesus, who looked upon the distressed people, whom he compared to sheep without a shepherd, and felt tremendous compassion for them, your people will look upon their neighbors in distress and feel that same compassion. But I pray that your people not be satisfied with simply feeling compassion but also act as shepherds, providing for the needs of those lost sheep.

I pray that your people remember that whenever they show kindness by feeding the hungry, giving the thirsty a drink, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, showing hospitality to the stranger, or visiting the prisoner, they are actually extending this kindness to your son Jesus. In doing so, they forget their own worries and make your kingdom their primary concern.

I pray that just like Jesus, who wept over the death of his friend before restoring his life, your people weep over the tragedy but then dry their eyes and go about restoring the lives of those who have suffered.

In this way, we will all be blessed and, through our generosity, share in the riches of your kingdom.

Amen.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

School's In

Well, school is in full swing now, and I made it through the first two weeks. I got caught up on all the news from my colleagues and am now getting ready to handle the first set of rough drafts coming in from my freshmen next week. They are writing about an event that had an impact on them and made them who they are today, so this will be interesting. I always get at least a couple of essays in which I learn much more than I wanted to.

I have a great schedule this semester: I teach on two freshman composition (I always want to spell that "compostion"--some of their writing would make really good compost!) Monday and Wednesday (MW) afternoons, and two more on Tuesday and Thursday (TR) mornings. Then I have a literature class on TR afternoons. I don't have to come in at all on Fridays!!!!

So far, my favorite classes are the TR's. Early morning students, for all their complaining about getting up early, are very animated and talkative. We have had some great discussions so far. Also, both of these classes meet in small classrooms, which I have found forces them to interact with each other. It makes for a nice, intimate, comfortable setting. I was worried about the afternoon lit class because that time period is usually conducive to napping and lack of good discussion. This semester I began giving random pop quizzes, so this group has come to class prepared every day, which has made for a really fun discussion of the literature.

My MW afternoon classes are a different story. While those students seem prepared, for the most part they just want me to do my thing and let them take their notes and get out with as little interaction as possible. They are all very nice though. It doesn't help that one of my classes meets in the agriculture building, which on Wednesday last week had a terrible barnyard odor. We found out later that there were chickens in the building. Also, on Wednesday, I sent my students out on a 15-minute field trip, and while they were gone, I could hear the instructor next door giving his lesson about the different qualities of saliva that different animals have. It was pretty gross. (Remind me one day to tell you about the mechanical cow that is in one of the classrooms!)

I received an email yesterday from one of the English department secretaries informing me that a new student has been added to one of my classes. I can only assume that anyone being added this late must be a hurricane refugee. All of the public universities in Tennessee are admitting students displaced by the hurricane. All a student has to do is show up and say that he or she is from one of the universities that is now closed, and we will admit him or her. Apparently--I got this info from the campus newspaper--the admissions people ask whether the student has already paid his tuition, and if he says he has, he isn't asked to pay anything here. No documentation is required; they are on the honor system. I hope no one is abusing this situation.

So that's my first couple of weeks back at work. This coming week will be fairly easy, but then the essays will start coming in, and the heavy grading will start. I'm sure I won't be able to refrain from telling you about the interesting grammar goofs that some people will commit. Here's a preview from past essays: One student getting dressed for an event put on his favorite quarter roy pants, and another student went through a bad breakup that left him with a hard ache.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Washington Not Linked to Reality

I really liked Bob Schieffer's commentary yesterday morning on Face the Nation:

Finally, a personal thought. We have come through what may have been one of the worst weeks in America’s history, a week in which government at every level failed the people it was created to serve. There is no purpose for government except to improve the lives of its citizens. Yet as scenes of horror that seemed to be coming from some Third World country flashed before us, official Washington was like a dog watching television. It saw the lights and images, but did not seem to comprehend their meaning or see any link to reality.

As the floodwaters rose, local officials in New Orleans ordered the city evacuated. They might as well have told their citizens to fly to the moon. How do you evacuate when you don’t have a car? No hint of intelligent design in any of this. This was just survival of the richest.

By midweek a parade of Washington officials rushed before the cameras to urge patience. What good is patience to a mother who can’t find food and water for a dehydrated child? Washington was coming out of an August vacation stupor and seemed unable to refocus on business or even think straight. Why else would Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert question aloud whether New Orleans should even be rebuilt? And when he was unable to get to Washington in time to vote on emergency aid funds, Hastert had an excuse only Washington could understand: He had to attend a fund-raiser back home.

Since 9/11, Washington has spent years and untold billions reorganizing the government to deal with crises brought on by possible terrorist attacks. If this is the result, we had better start over.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Dumb Questions

Why is it that the President seemed much more saddened and wore a much more somber expression on his face when he spoke this morning of the death of William Rehnquist than he has in the past week when speaking about the death and suffering of thousands of people on the Gulf Coast?

Why is it that the U.S. military responded to the tsunami victims thousands of miles away with supplies the next day but took several days to bring supplies only a few hundred miles?

Friday, September 02, 2005

All I'm Going to Say

My lack of a post about the disaster on the Gulf Coast should not be taken as a lack of concern about the situation. I've been reading other's posts, and they are saying some of the same things that I feel, probably better than I could say it.

I will say that Preston mentioned something in his very thoughtful post that I had been thinking about. The pictures of the people in New Orleans look remarkably like pictures of people from places in Africa where food and water are scarce and people are suffering in miserable conditions. How many times over the years have I seen those pictures on the news and quickly forgot them, lost in my own petty concerns? But now that the pictures are coming from only a few hundred miles away rather than a few thousand, now that the pictures are of people from my own country, I have sat up and am taking notice. I’m now feeling rather ashamed that my concern for my fellow humans has been aroused to this degree only by a great disaster that affects “my own” people.

Ten Years Ago Today


Oh, how the time flies! I can't believe we were really that skinny. I'd love to be able to fit into that dress again--bet you would love it too!

Ten years sure did go by fast--let's go for ten more. Happy anniversary, Baby! I love you!

Monday, August 29, 2005

Things I Forgot Over the Summer

My office is cold.
Campus Pipeline (Internet access) experiences technical difficulties at the worst possible times.
To obtain extra printer paper means a walk to the next building.
Girls like to talk on their cell phones while they're in the bathroom.
Some students are completely clueless.

I'm having a good day despite the drizzly weather, which is causing me to have a bad hair day. But I have not been to my first class yet, so things could change.

Tomorrow will be a yucky day because of the tropical storm which will be here by then. Our campus has terrible drainage problems, so there will be standing water everywhere. Oh, joy!

UPDATE:
Things changed. As I was in the office next door helping with a computer problem, my officemate left for class and shut the door behind her, locking it, with my keys on my desk instead of in my pocket. I had to go to class without any materials, but because I'm so charming and brilliant, my students hardly knew the difference.
;-)

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Me on Myself

If you were to meet me out in public somewhere, you would never know that I am the persona behind Tangled Weblog. I tend to have a big (but polite, I hope) mouth on my blog (and on the blogs where I leave comments), but in the “real world” I am nothing of the sort. (Well, I’m polite, but not a big mouth.)(I do use a lot of parenthetical comments in verbal conversation as well, but probably not as many as I use here.) I do not go about proclaiming my opinions unless I’m with very close friends and family.

I am not good around large groups of people or even small groups of people I don’t know. If I were to be invited to a function where I wouldn’t know anyone, and Husband couldn’t go, I wouldn’t go. A friend of Husband’s invited us over for a July 4th cookout. There must have been a hundred people there, and I knew no one save a couple of ladies that I had briefly met several years ago. I felt weird and was glad when we left.

I’ll bet that people who meet me for the first time think that I’m stuck up, but really, I just have a hard time knowing what to say to people that I don’t know. It’s really difficult to establish common ground. I don’t want to talk about myself—that would be rude. But if I ask questions about the person, he or she might think I’m being nosy. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way, but it seems like it sometimes. I will say that as I have gotten older, I have become a little more outgoing and will talk to strangers, but that’s usually in the line at Wal-Mart when I know I’ll never see that person again.

That’s why this blogging experience has been very interesting. When I began this blog, I had no idea what I’d talk about. I had been reading a few blogs and had left a couple of anonymous comments, and one day without giving it a lot of thought, I just started a blog. And I offered some opinions. To my great surprise, people began reading it and leaving nice comments, and they kept coming back, and I consider them to be my friends. What’s been really cool is that I met up with some Nashville bloggers by pure chance, and we share some similar views on things. I’ve met some cool people from other places as well, and I’ve learned a lot, too. (Have y’all created mental images of your blogging friends that haven’t posted their photo in their profile?)

If we were to meet standing in line at the Wal-Mart, we might speak (complaining about the fact that there are 40 checkouts, but only 6 of them are open), but that would probably be it. We might never become friends if we had met out in the real world.

I’m just going to sort of trail off here now without really summing up my thoughts, because, mainly, I’m still thinking about it all (and because I have to go finish painting the kitchen).

Monday, August 22, 2005

Land of Contradiction

As I have grown up and become more aware of “how things work” here in the U.S., I have noticed some interesting contradictions. Across the world, people look to us as the model of how a country and a people should be. They see a country with a government that allows its citizens to enjoy abundant freedoms while also enjoying the pursuit of happiness. The U.S. is the “land of opportunity,” the place where if people combine a little ambition with some elbow grease, they can enjoy a life of economic freedom, good health, and a full stomach. Besides that, if a person is really on his toes, he can get an education followed by a great job, and he can begin amassing wealth to pass on to his children. He can enjoy the “good life” with a fine house, nice cars, and multitudes of comforts and conveniences.

Those of us who have lived here all our lives are in an especially good situation. We have the natural right to obtain all these benefits. It’s our birthright just for having the good fortune to have ancestors who came here before us. In fact, it is more than a birthright; it is a duty. We have a responsibility to get a good education and earn a good living to provide for our children and keep them and ourselves from becoming burdens to the rest of society.

But there are some among us who, in fact, do become burdens. These are the lazy, shiftless people who refuse to earn their own living. It is their own fault that they are poor and can’t pay their bills. When they do work, they don’t spend their earnings wisely. Because of their lack of ambition, their children don’t have enough to eat and have no hope of ever going to college and bettering themselves. These people force the rest of us to have to sacrifice our hard-earned money to fund welfare programs that only enable them to sit back and collect a paycheck for doing nothing.

This is the scenario that a lot of people believe. In fact, it makes us feel better to believe that when people are suffering in poverty it is their own fault for not doing as much as they could to better themselves. If we believe that they are responsible for their own plight, it justifies our not caring. The fact of the matter is that many people who are needy became so through no fault of their own. According to one study, approximately 2 million Americans are affected by bankruptcy every year because they are overwhelmed with medical bills, and most of those filing for bankruptcy are middle class college graduates who own their own homes*. One catastrophic illness has the potential to take a family from a comfortable middle class existence to a state of having to depend on others for food and housing.

Some will argue that many people who file bankruptcy have gotten themselves into such a situation because of overspending. That may very well be true. Many Americans own several credit cards and have charged all of them to their limits. Various sources report that the average family owes somewhere between six and twelve thousand dollars in credit card charges. Obviously, individuals need to be more prudent about their spending and begin saving more money. However, we live in a society that tells us that we need to spend in order to remain happy. Advertisers play on our emotions and convince us that we need the latest, newest improved model of everything. Credit card companies send new offers in the mail every week, making it easy to transfer balances and raise credit limits. This is still no excuse for consumers’ overspending.

However, it is a fact that our economy is based on consumer spending. When Americans decide to save money and overall spending decreases, the economy begins to falter. It is our duty to keep the economy thriving so as not to threaten our way of life. We were told as much by the President right after 9/11.

The United States is a country of contradictions. We project the image that we are a prosperous nation (and we are) that offers abundant opportunity (and we do). However, there are those who work at backbreaking labor every day and still live paycheck to paycheck hoping that the car doesn’t break down or the refrigerator keeps running, knowing that one small emergency will keep them from paying their bills or buying food. And there are college graduates working in white collar jobs who live in the same manner.

Our country has made it shameful to be in a state of need. I suspect this is so that those who “have” can feel better about having plenty when his neighbors are doing without. Those of us who are the “haves” need to pay careful attention and show a lot more concern for those “lazy” people because one day, it might be us in that situation.

*“Medical Bills Leading Cause of Bankruptcy, Harvard Study Finds.” Consumer Affairs.Com. 5 Feb. 2005. http://www.consumeraffairs.com/news04/2005/bankruptcy_study.html.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

My Newest Cousin


I know how much y'all love to see pictures of babies, so here's a pic of my newest cousin, Annabelle Blue Cook, born yesterday.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Waffles, Anyone?

Kevin presents some very interesting quotes from Republicans concerning the previous President's war effort in Bosnia. Definitely worth a read.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Israel's Troubles

I have been watching the happenings in Gaza with the Jewish people being forced out of their homes because of the government's decision to pull out of the area, and I have no idea what to make of it.

I know of God's promise to Abraham back in the ancient times to give this land to him and his descendents if they remained faithful to God. In fact, the borders of the "promised land" are much wider than what Israel has claimed for the last 50 years. Looking at the story of the history of Israel in the OT, it seems that they never received all of the promised land because of their unfaithfulness to God.

I've always heard that God doesn't retract his promises, so I'm guessing that the covenant God made with Abraham still holds true.

What do y'all think about this, or have you given it any thought? Does it matter to those of us who don't live there?

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Wisdom from M.A.S.H.

Colonel Potter: "If they can invent better ways to kill each other, why can't they come up with a way to end this stupid war?"

Something's Fishy!


Last night when I went to bed, three fish were living in my aquarium. This morning when I woke up, there were at least a dozen new fish in there. One of my Mollies had babies last night!

Monday, August 15, 2005

I drove one of these this weekend:


Husband is installing a walking track at the local Lions Club; I smoothed it out with the roller. (It actually wasn't this particular roller; I forgot to take a picture of the one I drove before he took it back to the rental place.)

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Web of Protection

My mom emailed me this little story. I thought it was pretty neat.

GOD AND THE SPIDER

During World War II, a US marine was separated from his unit on a Pacific
island. The fighting had been intense, and in the smoke and the crossfire
he had lost touch with his comrades.

Alone in the jungle, he could he hear enemy soldiers coming in his
direction. Scrambling for cover, he found his way up a high ridge to
several small caves in the rock. Quickly he crawled inside one of the
caves. Although safe for the moment, he realized that once the enemy
soldiers looking for him swept up the ridge, they would quickly search
all the caves and he would be killed.

As he waited, he prayed, "Lord, if it be your will, please protect me.
Whatever your will though, I love you and trust you. Amen."

After praying, he lay quietly listening to the enemy begin to draw close.
He thought, "Well, I guess the Lord isn't going to help me out of this
one." Then he saw a spider begin to build a web over the front of his
cave.

As he watched, listening to the enemy searching for him all the while,
the spider layered strand after strand of web across the opening of the
cave.

"Hah, he thought. "What I need is a brick wall and what the Lord has sent
me is a spider web. God does have a sense of humor."

As the enemy drew closer he watched from the darkness of his hideout and
could see them searching one cave after another. As they came to his, he
g ot ready to make his last stand. To his amazement, however, after
glancing in the direction of his cave, they moved on. Suddenly, he
realized that with the spider web over the entrance, his cave looked as
if no one had entered for quite a while. "Lord, forgive me," prayed the
young man. "I had forgotten that in you a spider's web is stronger than a
brick wall."

We all face times of great trouble. When we do, it is so easy to forget
the victories that God would work in our lives, sometimes in the most
surprising ways. As the great leader, Nehemiah, reminded the people of
Israel when they faced the task of rebuilding Jerusalem, "In God we will
have success!" [Nehemiah 2:20]

And remember: Whatever is happening in your life, in God, a mere spider's
web becomes a brick wall of protection.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Gone to the Dogs




As I was sitting on the bed this morning reading the blogs, Pete, one of my Jack Russells, was lying next to me snoozing peacefully. When I reached over and rubbed his head, he responded by rolling over onto his back and showing me his belly, wanting me to rub it instead. After a minute or so, I stopped, but he wasn’t ready to quit. When he wants a petting, he nudges his head up underneath my hand, or he paws at my arm (which really hurts, by the way, when his toenails rake across my skin) until I give in and pet him. He won’t let me stop until he’s ready—he could go on forever (kind of like the way I would let Husband scratch my back until it bled if he would). If I want to stop petting him, I have to actually get up and move, or I have to be firm with him and hurt his feelings. It doesn’t take much to hurt his feelings, either. One firm word will do it.

A funny thing about him is that if he does something he shouldn’t have done, he’ll punish himself. For instance, if he has an accident in the house and knows that I have found it, he’ll hunker down and slink off to the bedroom. He tries to hide under the bed, but he can only get himself halfway there. It’s funny to see him with his little backside sticking out.

As I am writing this, Emily, my Cocker Spaniel, is sitting next to the bed looking at me intently and whining periodically. She’s letting me know that it’s time to eat (she would eat all day long if I let her—she used to be overweight—we changed her diet so that she’d lose five pound, which is a lot for a little dog). When I acknowledged her presence, Pete became jealous and started pawing at my hand again, making it nearly impossible to type.

Trixie, Pete’s sister (although they look nothing alike as far as physical shape) is off doing her own thing. She’s probably under the bed or in the living room under the couch. She likes to be by herself when we’re in the house, but she comes out when there’s some action, and she loves to watch Animal Planet on TV. I actually have to change the channel to get her to calm down (she even barks at the horses when Husband watches Gunsmoke). It’s sort of funny though, when Pete catches Trixie barking at the TV, he goes and makes her stop. It’s as if he doesn’t want her to have any fun.

Trixie has a really terrible habit. Sometimes when she comes back after exploring around our five acres, she will stink to high heaven after having rolled around in the most foul, putrid, disgusting smelling mess that she can find. When she does this, I have to stop what I am doing and immediately give her a bath because there’s no way she can be in the house like that. It’s all I can do sometimes not to throw up when this happens.

Trixie and Pete need a lot of supervision when they are outside. They will run off after anything that moves, ignoring any danger that may be lurking. Emily is more sensible. I can trust her to look after herself and can let her out without supervision.

As much trouble as they can get into, Husband and I love those little dogs. It’s funny how humans can be so ga-ga over a completely different species. They don’t act, think, or talk like us, but they bring us such enjoyment. We’d do anything for them.

I am convinced that our dogs love Husband and me. They may not understand love as humans define it, but in their own way, they love us, and I think they like to try to please us. We’re like gods to them. They trust us to take care of them, rub their bellies when they want it, give them food when they need it—although sometimes they act as if they are half starved, like we’re going to forget to feed them; they can be very demanding at times.

Dogs and humans are a lot alike. We humans have personalities that are quite different from each other; we have our idiosyncrasies—we even have some disgusting habits. And God looks down on us and takes great pleasure in us. He sees the things we do and loves us anyway—even when we’ve been rolling around in filth. We love him the best that we can; we don’t know that our definition of love is so very different from his, but we try. And we don’t even have to get it right—he’ll rub our bellies anyway if we’ll just roll over and let him.