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Off the top

A blog dedicated to the Source of everything good.

Monday, February 28, 2005

Chromatic reflections

Martin LaBar has written a fun and informative series on the full spectrum:


and don't forget

(If I knew how, I’d put the links in color like he does in the posts!)

The professor tells me that the series is not complete, so keep checking in.

I love color myself. I like to capture certain colors and their relationships when taking photographs. Back in the days when I dabbled in painting, I went through whole tablets of disposable palettes just experimenting with pigments. I wanted to paint certain things just to use certain colors.

Speaking of color and painting, this VanGogh is one of my favorites. Housed at the National Gallery in D.C., it exhibits the most mesmerizing shade of lime-green I’ve ever seen. I wondered why it was so oddly florescent, but this link explains! (I must say, I like it better in its present hue!)

For some marvelous color-intensive photographs, visit Rusty Lopez’ photoblog Imago Articulus.

There is a relationship between color and music. The chromatic scale is so named because it contains all the pitch "colors"; as it progresses, no notes are left out. You can play a chromatic scale on a keyboard by playing each consecutive key (white and black) from your starting point.

Fellow Eastman School of Music graduate Michael Torke has gained wide recognition for his "post-minimalist" compositions, some of which are inspired synaesthetically.

Bits and pieces, 2/28/05

Go GodBlogCon! It’s confirmed! The GodBlogCon 2005 will be held at Biola University in California from Thursday, October 13th through Saturday the 15th. Start making your plans! And please keep praying.


What is “nature?” The Meta-jester at Real Physics explores this question in a couple of very intriguing posts:

Premises and Conjurations

The Nature of Nature


What is forgiveness? For a post that gets to the heart of the matter, see Jollyblogger. Pastor Wayne makes the point that if there is no condemnation, there is no need for forgiveness.


Last month, I wrote about "The Life Ethic," an article from Focus on the Family. The post was based on a letter I had written to FOTF expressing concern about the article, which glosses over its own implication that in-vitro fertilization may violate the life ethic.

I have received a gracious response to my letter. The response closes with a blessing and a request for prayer for the ministry of FOTF, which I extend to you as well.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Whose heart is broken?

subtitle: Is Life a Balancing Act?

(Warning: questions ahead)

From comes an article on World Vision founder Bob Pierce.

As a Youth For Christ evangelist, Pierce started out on faith alone: “God’s work overcomes all obstacles.” Motivated by personal grief at the sight of extreme need in China, he rallied support from American churches with self-made footage of hungry Chinese children. In 1950, World Vision was born.

Pierce was described by journalist Richard Gehman as someone who “cannot conceal his true emotions. He seems to me to be one of the few naturally, uncontrollably honest men I have ever met." (1959) Pastor Richard Halvorsen wrote that Pierce "prayed more earnestly and importunely than anyone else I have ever known. It was as though prayer burned within him. … Bob Pierce functioned from a broken heart."

Pierce wrote these words in the flyleaf of his Bible: "Let my heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God."

Clearly, Bob Pierce was a deeply sensitive man who loved God. But...what about broken hearts?

His passion for helping needy children worldwide also led to conflict with the World Vision board, especially over the issue of committing finances before they had been secured. (Remember “God’s work overcomes all obstacles.”) Did this conflict break God’s heart as well?

Pierce also neglected his family. His rationale: "I've made an agreement with God that I'll take care of his helpless little lambs overseas if he'll take care of mine at home." He traveled a great deal, apparently preferring travel to being home. How many sides were there to his agreement with God?

Was Bob Pierce addicted? Was he addicted to the great good he could and did accomplish for those “little lambs overseas?” Was his compassion selective? Did he turn his compassion for the suffering children of the world (in place of his own?) into an idol?

Did he run himself ragged chasing a faulty pursuit of worth? In 1963 Pierce had a nervous breakdown. In 1967 he resigned from World Vision, apparently “bitter at those whom he felt interfered with his organization.” In 1968, his daughter Sharon committed suicide. At that point he was hospitalized long-term. In 1970 he separated from his wife, his memory “badly crippled” and his mind “frequently unclear.” He died in 1978.

How utterly tragic. Is this the kind of sacrifice, both self- and other-, that God asks of us?

Why did Bob Pierce sacrifice his family, and himself, in this way?


What is God’s heart's desire for us to take care of first? I’m sure most of us would answer: our families, and, to a certain degree, ourselves. But which comes first? (Or can we say, similar to Pierce, "I will trust God to take care of me if I give of myself to others"?...this question probably deserves its own post.) But what other “good work for God” do we do to the detriment of our familial and other relationships -- detriment that we may rationalize away?

Parting questions (big ones):

1) How does the Christian spouse and parent balance work (not necessarily career) and family in service to God?

2) What constitutes self-care as opposed to self-sacrifice?

I ask these questions both to challenge the reader and to court response, as they are questions I mull myself.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

View from a parked car

I was waiting in the car at a mall, watching snowflakes melt and run as they hit the windshield. This had a sort of kaleidoscopic effect on the view of the parking lot lamps. Luckily I had my camera with me :-)

This shot was taken as a car went past.

Posted by Hello

Friday, February 25, 2005

Bits and pieces, 2/25/05

Check Media Culpa for up-to-the minute coverage and commentary on Terri Schiavo's situation. It seems it'll take a miracle for her life to be spared. But at least the stays issued this week have pushed the date of her feeding-tube removal back a few more weeks. Thank God.


From Smart Christian: "It was confirmed this morning that a California University will host GodBlogCon 2005." Stay tuned to Smart Christian for details to come.

Be sure and visit the GBC prayer blog for great Scripture references and wonderful guidance for prayer.


Some thirty-two years ago, Eduardo Strauch and fifteen others survived a plane crash in the Andes. That incredible story was publicized in Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors by Piers Paul Read. (I remember reading the book as a teenager; the images are still with me.) Today, Strauch is 57, an architect, a father of five children...and possessor once again of the wallet and jacket he lost high on a mountain 32 years ago.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

The abolition of man

I continue my review of C. S. Lewis’ The Abolition of Man (Part V). We are now in the middle of the final chapter, of the same title.

In the previous installment, we saw how Lewis established man’s power over nature as being double-edged – it is also man's power over himself. In wielding this power, the social Conditioners (as Lewis calls them) must determine the new “Tao” they will create, having abandoned the original one as passed down from time immemorial.

First, Lewis examines the Conditioners’ motivation. They are motivators themselves, yet how will they be motivated? Perhaps at first by vestiges of the “old ‘natural’ Tao” that remain within their minds: they may at first be driven by the idea of being “servants and guardians of humanity and conceive that they have a ‘duty’ to do it ‘good.’”

But it is only by confusion that they remain in this state. They recognize the concept of duty as the result of certain processes which they can now control. Their victory has consisted precisely in emerging from the state in which they were acted upon by those processes to the state in which they use them as tools. One of the things they now have to decide is whether they will, or will not, so condition the rest of us that we can go on having the old idea of duty and the old reactions to it. How can duty help them to decide that? Duty itself is up for trial: it cannot also be the judge. And “good” fares no better. They know quite well how to produce a dozen different conceptions of good in us. The question is which, if any they should produce. No conception of good can help them to decide. It is absurd to fix on one of the things they are comparing and make it the standard of comparison.

Lewis contends that some will think he is contriving a difficulty for the Conditioners, and that others may wonder why he supposes the Conditioners will be bad men. His point, though, is that they are escaping their old identity in order to redefine and reinvent humanity. They are redefining the terms “good” and “bad” themselves.

Any attempt to characterize what the Conditioners are doing by using concepts derived from the Tao cannot hold, for the Conditioners are eschewing the Tao and seeking to create a new one. If they are not truly doing this, then they are not truly conquering Nature. They cannot honestly and truly find any ground in the Tao for what they are doing.
It is not that they are bad men. They are not men at all. Stepping outside the Tao, they have stepped into the void. Nor are their subjects necessarily unhappy men. They are not men at all: they are artefacts. Man’s final conquest has proved to be the abolition of Man. (final italics added)

Though they be not men (ouch!), “yet the Conditioners will act.” But upon what motive? The only one remaining: emotion. Or rather, a “felt emotional weight at any given moment.” For, every other motive “has been explained away.”

But what never claimed objectivity cannot be destroyed by subjectivism. The impulse to scratch when I itch or to pull to pieces when I am inquisitive is immune from the solvent which is fatal to my justice, or honour, or care for posterity.** When all that says “it is good” has been debunked*, what says “I want” remains.
It cannot be exploded or “seen through” because it never had any pretensions. The Conditioners, therefore, must come to be motivated simply by their own pleasure...those who stand outside all judgments of value cannot have any ground for preferring one of their own impulses to another except the emotional strength of that impulse.

More to come :-)

*reference to chapter one, reviewed here.
**reference to chapter two (review Part II) found here
Part III
Part IV

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Bits and Pieces, 2/22/05

There's been a great response to the Bloggers' Best for Terri Schiavo invitational at Wittenberg Gate, and entries are still arriving. Check out the wonderful array of posts supportive of Terri's life. I hope to do so myself by week's end, as I am out-of-town and unable to get much computer time...

Many thanks to Dory for hosting this!


The GodBlogCon prayer blog has posted more great Scripture passages to inform our prayers.

I pray today for the planning involved with the GBC as well as facility determination.


Just prior to going out of town, I became aware of a large blogospheric reaction to this Newsweek article, titled "Mommy Madness." While I've got my own reaction to the article's content, I must say I've been disappointed by the general response. There's been much criticism and not much compassion.

I'm dying to write more but it'll have to wait!

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Ellen Goodman on enemies, agreement, ...and freedom

A few weeks ago, Ellen Goodman wrote a column entitled “Freedom, but in full.” The newspaper I saw titled it, "Agreeing with the enemy." Reading that, I thought, hmm, this could be interesting.

Goodman didn’t let me down. ;-)

She opens,

This is for everyone who has ever heard a rival doing their act. It’s for everyone who has heard an opponent saying exactly what they think.

But why have we taken sides? Why must we have rivals and opponents? Is life a competition? Does someone have to win, and someone else lose? What does the winner get – glory? Life everlasting?

The odd, and oddly infuriating, experience of agreeing with an enemy is often followed by an impulse to disagree, an urge to poke holes in the argument, or to dismiss the honesty of the arguer. Anything not to not in approval.

Yes, this is human nature (fallen). But what causes these feelings? And why would someone who supposedly believes in tolerance still want to find a way to disagree? Wouldn’t you think they'd be happy to discover common ground with the “other side”?

Bush’s inaugural address is what sparked Goodman’s comments. She quotes the part she found herself agreeing with:

America’s influence is considerable and we will use it confidently in freedom’s cause.

America will not not pretend that jailed dissidents prefer their chains or that women welcome humiliation and servitude or that any human being aspires to live at the mercy of bullies.

When you stand for your liberty we will stand with you.

So what’s the problem? Goodman mentions those on the left who “have declared themselves either skeptical or cynical,” questioning “the reality behind the rhetoric, the devil in the details, or the devil in the deliverer.” Well, of course – this is human nature, again. But she asks a very good question: “Do they actually disagree with the ‘ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world?’ Or do they just mind that the president took the words out of their mouths? Again.”

She elaborates by mentioning the March For Life and the fact that “‘Life’ now means fetal life; life begins with conception and ends with birth.” Cute, but of course no one's changed the definition of "life." (I tried once to research, online, evidence of pregnancy causing maternal death, other than death in childbirth...I couldn’t even find anything at the Planned Parenthood website! Apparently that’s a hypothetical perpetuated by abortion supporters. The threats to maternal health and life that can occur during or with pregnancy evidently threaten the unborn baby as well as the mother.)

Claims Goodman, not only has the term “life” been “hijacked and locked in the right-wing dictionary,” so has “God.” “To be considered 'godly', now you have to worry about the sexuality of Sponge Bob Square Pants [no, that’s not the issue...] and oppose teaching evolution in schools.”

Please, Ms. Goodman, get your facts straight, and put your nose straight. It’s about opposition to the teaching of evolution exclusively, without teaching the truth about reality, i.e., that there are very few pat answers but lots of evidence and opinions on many different aspects of the topic.

Life, God, and now Freedom. If the right wing ever gets a lock on Love, it’s a grand slam.

I gotta hand it to her; Goodman’s a clever writer. But you’d think she’d realize that freedom has the same dictionary definition for her as it does for everyone else. “Liberty is not the Bush Ideal, it’s the American ideal.” Well of course. Why does she think Bush is talking about it? She goes on to grouse about freedom being an excuse for militarism, and how there is “little freedom in the chaos of war,” but I wonder how she thinks America got the freedom it enjoys now.

She does acknowledge, “when any president offers America as the international standard-bearer of freedom, it’s time to say amen.”

Yet adds, “And more. The president has given us a standard.” (He has? Is it something new?) “Why oppose it when we can judge him by it?” OK, here we go... “When Saudi men vote and Saudi women do not, is that freedom?”

Any step in the right direction must not be good enough.

She mentions a “gag rule” on international family planning groups and questions whether that’s freedom of speech. We can’t stipulate how the money we give them is used?

She asks, “Can liberty co-exist with torture?” (What is she talking about??)

Then Goodman gets to domestic affairs: “liberty also means civil liberties. Freedom includes the freedom to marry whomever you choose and to make decisions about reproduction.” Hmm, what about freedom to beat up your kids, or steal your neighbor’s TV? And which decisions about reproduction is she referring to? The ones that can be made before natural bodily processes cause reproduction?

It sounds like Goodman doesn’t like living in a democracy much. I’m sure she’s aware that she’s free to move to another country, though. She’s also free to accept the way things are, while working politely to influence a shift in majority opinion.

But what it sounds like Goodman really and truly wants is freedom from limits. And “freedom from want.” Hmmm, that sounds like the liberal desire to bring about utopia here on earth. While maintaining an adversarial stance toward those they disagree with, of course...

The four freedoms were once the property of liberals. [they were? I thought they were for all Americans...for all world citizens] The current crop of conservatives has taken the words out of FDR’s mouth too. [why must she insist on keeping sides?] They are rewinding the tape of history in the guise of moving forward on such fundamentals as Social Security. [There’s that liberal myth of “progressiveness” = salvation]

But freedom is not just...a tax cut.
I guess it’s not freedom to be free to spend one’s money as one wishes.

When the free market collides with freedom from want [utopia], a battle for semantics becomes a battle for survival. [How bad does Goodman have it? Does she use her own resources to help out those who are barely surviving? How many are there in America, this most wealthy of countries, who are truly battling for survival? Certainly not so many that modest generosity on the part of those Americans capable of it couldn’t remedy, nor responsibility on the part of the needy.] When freedom means unraveling the social safety net, who has the moral high ground? [Who are the ones unraveling the social safety net, truly? It’s the ones who aren’t looking after their neighbors.]

Goodman concludes:
The president said the question for history will be: “Did our generation advance the cause of freedom?” Freedom is a word to applaud, to define [that’s for darn sure] – and to claim.

Claim? That’s really what Goodman’s piece is all about – claiming rights, claiming freedom, claiming this, claiming that. There is an assumption of claim in the statement about freedom from want: an assumption that we all have rights to peace, comfort, provision, etc., in a materialistic sense. It’s about more than semantics or freedom, though; it is about values, and, ultimately, belief systems. The freedom Goodman want to claim is freedom by the world’s standards, not spiritual freedom.

People claim it to their peril, and to the harm of the very ones they say they wish to help.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

GBC prayer: rest, confess, and communicate

The GodBlogCon prayer blog has brought out some of the essential characteristics of true prayer during the past few days.

John speaks of approaching "the breast of God" with an attitude of rest and quiet.

He also emphasizes the need for confession and repentance when approaching God in prayer, as well as the fact that prayer is two-way communication. Do we go through a laundry list when we pray, and leave it at that? Or do we take time to listen as well?

Let us all approach, rest, trust, find strength, confess, repent, speak, and listen when we pray.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Man's power over nature

The first three installments of my review of C. S. Lewis' The Abolition of Man can be found here, here, and here.

We now enter the third and final chapter of this book, of the same title. Lewis has established that there is no value to be found outside of the Tao; therefore, the only alternative to a viewpoint which disregards the Tao is one which discards value altogether.

Lewis begins with this statement: “'Man’s conquest of nature' is an expression often used to describe the process of applied science." Yet he does “not wish to disparage all that is really beneficial in the process described as ‘Man’s conquest,’ much less all the real devotion and self-sacrifice that has gone to make it possible.” But, he hastens to ask, “In what sense is Man the possessor of increasing power over Nature?”

He considers three examples, using them to show that “Man is as much the patient as the possessor” of power over Nature. “What we call Man’s power over nature turns out to be a power exercised by some men over other men with Nature as its instrument.”

Lewis says that though it is “commonplace to complain that men have hitherto used badly, and against their fellows, the power that science has given them,” he is not speaking of “particular corruptions and abuses which an increase of moral virtue would cure,” but rather “considering what the thing called ‘Man’s power over Nature’ must always and essentially be.”

He then describes the way Man’s power over Nature affects the future of mankind, something that he claims that those who write on social matters do not always do:

Each generation exercises power over its successors: and each, insofar as it modifies the environment bequeathed to it and rebels against tradition, resists and limits the power of its predecessors. (emphasis mine.) This modifies the picture which is sometimes painted of a progressive emancipation from tradition and a progressive control of natural processes resulting in a continual increase of human power. In reality, of course, if any one age really attains, by eugenics and scientific education, the power to make its descendants what it pleases, all men who live after it are patients of that power. They are weaker, not stronger: for though we have put wonderful machines in their hands we have preordained how they are to use them.

Puts a twist on "progressive" thinking, doesn’t it?

But I’ll admit that, although I can see what Lewis is saying, it seems to me that men dream up new things to do that prior generations could not conceive of. Each generation may discover new ways to use the machines they have inherited as well as ways to reinvent them. So, while each generation may be limited via bequest, I would think that, through invention, they could gain back some of the power thus lost.

Lewis says something like this himself, though he means something different: “And if, as is almost certain, the age which had thus attained maximum power over posterity were also the most emancipated from tradition, it would be engaged in reducing the power of its predecessors almost as drastically as that of its successors.”

He goes on to say that the nearer man gets to extinction, the less power those latter generations will have, as the numbers of their progeny will be so few. I don’t quite follow this, as population increase may factor in somewhat, and Lewis considers power gained or lost in terms of a break from tradition and influence on future generations rather than in terms of the power of invention.

Yet I think he is right in saying that the realization of the scientific dreams of a few hundred will result in power over billions and billions of others.

Lewis is not yet considering whether this is in fact a good or bad thing, he says, but rather painting a clear picture of the final stage of Man’s conquest over Nature:
The final stage is come when Man by eugenics, by pre-natal conditioning, and by an education and propaganda based on a perfect applied psychology, has obtained full control over himself. Human nature will be the the last part of nature to surrender to man. The battle will then be won. We shall...then be free to make our species whatever we wish it to be.

There is one requirement for such a result, however: total brainwashing. Otherwise, there will still always be those who resist. I’m also sure that any current idea of “perfect applied psychology” will never remain so for long; currents will shift, and thinking will shift with them.

But Lewis claims that the future which has abandoned the Tao will have two novel features, both involving increased power: the “irresistible scientific technique” of the social conditioners, enabling them to “cut out all posterity in the shape they please,” and, more importantly, the control that these social conditioners will now exercise, since they no longer obey what has been passed down. “Whatever Tao there is will be the product, not the motive, of education.” “They know how to produce conscience and decide what kind of conscience they will produce."

This would seem to me to go against what is written in Ecclesiastes: “there is nothing new under the sun.” I wonder, can we really escape the Tao? I would submit that we can’t. I guess I just wonder if the pendulum would ever really swing all the way in any one direction and stay there.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Next, we will look at how the Conditioners, as Lewis calls them, might go about choosing a new, artificial Tao.

Snowed under

Remember those daffodil shoots from a few days ago?

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Here they are today.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Bloggers' Best for Terri

Dory at Wittenberg Gate is hosting a bloggers' roundup to bring more attention to the plight of Terri Schiavo and drum up support for her. It is possible that Terri’s husband will be able to have Terri's feeding tube legally removed as early as February 22nd. Though a legal battle between Michael Schiavo and Terri’s parents has been going on for years, the gavel always seems to come down on Michael’s side.

I am hoping that somehow, some way, the remarkable story of Sarah Scantlin which has just come to light may also help save Terri. Sarah, the victim of a drunken driver, has begun to speak after 20 years of silence. Note what Sarah’s doctor, Bradley Scheel, had to say about it:
physicians are not sure why she suddenly began talking but believe critical pathways in the brain may have regenerated. It is extremely unusual to see something like this happen.

Contrast that to what Michael Schiavo and his attorney George Felos told Larry King about the state of Terri’s brain (in an interview on Larry King Live, October 27, 2003):
KING: And you've made available for us a brain scan of her [Terri], right?


KING: Let's show that. And I saw the piece in "The New York Times" yesterday, in which a neurologist says that this is a brain- dead person.

FELOS: What you see in the middle of Terri's skull there, that black area is spinal fluid. That's where her cerebrum used to be. And because of the lack of oxygen, it atrophied and decayed away. What the court-appointed expert said that you can't get any more abnormal than this. Literally, her cerebrum isn't there anymore.


If you have a blog and have posted on Terri in the past, or have something to say about her now, please see the link above and send a post to Dory to include in the roundup.

And pray, pray, pray.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Say it isn't snow

Remember those daffodil shoots I posted photos of yesterday?

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Here they are today.

Should contraception be taught in schools?

I’ve been saving this post for a rainy day. It isn't raining today, but this post by OMF Serge at Imago Dei made it rain for me. I encourage you to read Serge’s response to NARAL president Nancy Keenan’s open letter to pro-life groups. Keenan's letter calls for increased access to contraceptives.** And then consider this:

Neil Uchitel wrote a post back in summer 2004 regarding abstinence/contraception education, at “Digitus, Finger and Co.” He made a case for the retention of contraception education alongside of abstinence education. I understand his concerns and he makes a good point, but I still have reservations about the teaching of contraception in schools.

(One might wonder why I'm concerned about this, since we homeschool our children and plan to keep doing so unless circumstances force a change. Well, it’s because the society we live in is full of school-educated people, and is greatly influenced by what is taught in schools.)

One of my reservations is that teaching contraception in a public setting contributes to the removal of the privacy element from sex. How much so depends upon how it’s taught, I suppose. Teaching kids how to put on a condom is a bit much. I think it might be better for girls to learn about contraception from their gynecological caretakers at an appropriate age, and boys from their physician, if not from their parents. Actually, the doctor’s office might be a better place for sex ed to take place in general, besides the home (parents), that is. Yes of course I realize that many parents are sadly negligent in this area.

There’s also something about teaching contraception in a school that lends implicit approval to its use. If someone is given the sense that they have a choice in something, then any of the options are given a sense of legitimacy. If, however, someone is given the sense that a particular option is not a choice for them, then they are in rebellion if they choose that option.

Neil uses the fact that there is no statistical difference in terms of sexually-related activity and its consequences between those who make abstinence pledges and then break them and those who make no such pledges in the first place, to support his view that contraception should be taught (alongside abstinence). I see this as a non-sequitur, however. What does contraception education actually accomplish? How does it help those who, regardless of abstinence pledges, are sexually active? Does it help them avoid disease? Perhaps. Does it help them avoid consequence of immoral behavior? Not completely, no. Certain consequences are reaped whether a youth uses contraception or not, but isn’t consequence of the type that can be avoided, via use of contraception, a natural deterrent to sin?

And what of the fact that young people typically ignore deterrents to sin? Is it cruel to say they ought to be allowed to experience the consequences of their sin? If so, why? Isn’t it better for one’s body to suffer than to lose one’s soul? If a parent who has taught his/her child abstinence discovers that the child is sexually active, should they then teach the child about contraception? Isn’t that “enabling”? Isn’t that capitulation? I thought that rebellion meant you’re on your own until you come home. When Jesus spoke to the adulterous woman, He didn’t tell her to beware of disease; he told her to go, and sin no more.

Says Neil: “Teens need to be held accountable and made to understand that having sex has numerous consequences beyond the physical pleasure of it all, but in a society where the structures to reinforce this don’t really exist in any sort of pervasive way, except for people in active religious communities, are we expecting too much from only one educational track? “

A good question. But I don’t believe that teaching contraception to people who have no immediate plans to be married helps to hold them accountable for their sexual practices. Of course we don’t want any young person who fornicates to acquire an STD or become pregnant, but if they do, whose fault is it? Ours (society’s) for not teaching about contraception in the schools?* How much do the schools actually teach about contraception that kids don’t find out about in other ways anyway? If a young woman aborts an unwanted illegitimate child, whose fault is it? Doesn’t accountability rest upon the person who commits the sinful act? Isn’t consequence, no matter how awful, an unavoidable (or ought-to-be-unavoidable) part of accountability?

(I do believe that society, or certain individuals, are sometimes partially culpable for an individual's transgression. But, in this case, the culpability would lie in society's implicit or explicit support of contraceptive use among the unmarried, not in its failure to educate youth in the use of contraception.)

Teaching contraception in schools is not a structure that will reinforce the negative consequences of fornication. If there aren’t enough structures to reinforce these consequences, why weaken one of the structures already in place, or that could be in place, in the form of abstinence education? And if the issue is that abstinence education doesn’t delve deeply enough into the underlying causes of teenage sexual activity, why on earth would we not want to make abstinence education better, rather than just say, oh well, guess we better teach contraception?

I invite comment. (Be nice, please :-) )

(*Who is ultimately responsible for children? Parents? Society? The state? The children themselves?)

**edited for clarity 2/18/05

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Signs of spring

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No, this shot isn't from last summer...this was today! The temperature was in the 50s. As a result of warmer temps the past couple of days, most of the snow has melted. Pretty remarkable considering we were snow-sledding over the weekend!

The melt revealed a most welcome sight:

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Promise that winter will not last forever!

I’m not getting too happy just yet, though; it’s supposed to snow again tonight.

GBC prayer: “one giant boast...”

to the glory of God!

John of the GodBlogCon prayer blog has a message today, based on Psalm 20, that represents the ultimate prayer for the GodBlogCon:
Thank God today for all the hard work of all the people that are planning GodBlogCon. Thank Him for their energy and efforts. Thank God that He can use them as His tools. When you get to GBC, thank them for letting God use them.

But boast to God of His blessing and His lovingkindness. Pray that GodBlogCon will be one giant boast of the glory of God.
(emphasis added)

Amen, John.

I encourage you to make the GBC prayer blog a daily stop, and to pray daily for the GodBlogCon. And please be sure to thank John for his hard work and dedication to the GBC prayer blog!

Why women live longer than men

This is funny (or tragic, depending on your point of view)

It was forwarded by a friend. And now I pass it on to you :-)

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"Jackstands? Hah! Who needs 'em?"

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Necessity is the mother of invention... but sometimes Necessity should use birth control!

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“And to think.... those wimps at the power company use straps and cleats to get up this high!"

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I'm sure this guy still wonders why he got fired that day.

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"Gee, guys... that seems like an awful lot of protective gear for such a small chlorine gas leak..."

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Step 1: Remove shoes. Step 2: Place metal ladder in water. Step 3: Begin using power tools while standing barefoot on metal ladder in water.

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How drunk do you have to be before this starts looking like a good idea?)

Sunday, February 13, 2005

A kinder, gentler evangelism

Several weeks ago, there was much discussion in the blogosphere regarding Anthony Flew’s change of mind. The Breakpoint Commentary of January 11, 2005, titled, “Beggar to Beggar”, had this to say regarding Flew and the subject of evangelism:

To the extent that the media have reported Flew's change of mind, they have emphasized his cerebral cogitations, the "argument to design" logic. He reasons that DNA and other intricacies -- as distant as the galaxies and as close as our own bodily structures -- overwhelmingly suggest a wise creator-God. Several news dispatches mention that the Intelligent Design concept that several of my friends and I have championed has played a part in stimulating him to recognize God's "characteristics of power and also intelligence."

But another major factor in Prof. Flew's change of heart showed up in his interview with Liberty University philosopher and historian Dr. Gary Habermas, published in the journal PHILOSOPHIA CHRISTI. Flew admires John and Charles Wesley, whose influence continues to uplift society more than two centuries after their deaths. Flew told Habermas, "Methodism made it impossible to build a really substantial Communist Party in Britain and provided the country with a generous supply of men and women of sterling moral character. . . [Methodism's] decline is a substantial part of the [cause for the] explosions both of unwanted motherhood and of crime in recent decades." For Flew, God's reality demonstrates itself in the lives of people who follow biblical principles.

Flew also had long-term personal contact with C. S. Lewis. He recalls that while they were both on the Oxford faculty, they attended the weekly meetings of the Socratic Club, chaired by Lewis. Although Flew disagreed with Lewis on many issues, he remembers Lewis as "an eminently reasonable man." Instead of raising his voice or pounding the table, Lewis spoke softly and showed respect for Flew, earning Lewis the right to be heard.

What lessons can we learn from Prof. Flew's spiritual pilgrimage, about how to witness to atheists and skeptics? First, we need to avoid an arrogant triumphalism -- a put-down attitude that comes across as "I told you so! What took you so long to recognize what has been obvious to me for years?" Second, we need to demonstrate the Gospel every opportunity we have, showing our secular friends how Christian efforts create a better society.

Wise counsel for all of us.


(note: I'll try to get the Abolition of Man review done by, um, next weekend...)

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Bits and pieces, 2/12/05: integrity

My theme for today is integrity. I am always encouraged by examples I see in Scripture, and in the lives of others. For example:

John Shroeder posts some wonderful passages from the Psalms to base prayer on, for the GodBlogCon as well as life in general.

From Psalm 8: The Lord cares for man and has lifted him up. He has given man rule over the works of His hands. This is a mighty privilege and responsibility, and we respond with gratitude, praise, and humility.

From Psalm 101: Those who look to the Lord must “give heed to the blameless way.” They must not look upon any worthless thing so as to be influenced by it. They must not slander in secret, nor be haughty or arrogant. They must practice no deceit, nor speak falsehood.


A tall order, and we fall short. Repentance and humility will restore us, however, and may do more toward furthering the kingdom of God than anything else.

An example: Rusty Lopez apologizes to Ed Brayton. Thank you, Rusty, for demonstrating real love in action.


Martin LaBar posts a thought-provoking piece titled, "Hathach: Lessons from a Eunuch," on being a messenger.

Frost photos

are in the Gallery.

(For background, see this post and this post.)

Friday, February 11, 2005

The Proverbs 31 maidservant

There’s something in the passage from Proverbs 31, which describes the “excellent wife,” that I have not seen discussed. It’s found in verse 15:

She rises also while it is still night,
And gives food to her household,
And portions to her maidens. (emphasis mine)

(from the NAS version; the NIV uses the words “servant girls” in place of “maidens.”)

Has anyone else noticed this?

I would think that the fact that the noble wife in Proverbs 31 had servant girls would have implications for wives and mothers of today. But what are they? What are they for society?

What relation do they have to expectations? To practical realities?


There's no place like home...

My daughter made my day today.

She came running into the kitchen after she and her brother had been watching the video, “The Wizard of Oz.” I've been reading the book to her brother (and to her, when she joins us), which inspired them to view the video.

My daughter, just-turned three, entered the kitchen wearing her favorite pair of shoes (since way before the Wizard of Oz): shiny, deep metallic-red ones with low heels. Crying, “Mommy, look,” she stood there with her feet together, eyes closed, and slight furrow on her brow. She shook her head slowly and intoned, “There’s no place like home....there’s no place like home.” I giggled and said it with her, asing her if she was Dorothy. Laughing with delight, she asked me to pick her up.

She said, “Mommy, spin!” (one of our games). I spun her around. She closed her eyes, threw her head back, grinned widely, and cried, “There’s no place like home! There’s no place like home!” When we stopped, she cried, “Again!” We did this several times (until I got dizzy!)

Watching her beaming face, hair swirling behind her as we whirled together, saying, “There’s no place like home!” was just one of those fabulous moments.

Bits and pieces, 2/10/05

Today’s prayer for the GodBlogCon: pray for wisdom for those making the arrangements. And, as always, we wait upon the Lord.


Molly at my three pennies worth" (does she sing opera? ;-) ) considers my post on stay-at-home motherhood. She offers her own perspective and sparks some interesting discussion in the comment thread.


Dory at Wittenberg Gate has a very interesting hypothetical exchange between a man and a “pro-choice” woman, illustrating that the issue isn’t really about choice at all.


Dory’s post is also included in the Christian Carnival LVI at Dunmoose the Ageless (gotta love that name!) Dunmoose’s presentation is very nicely done – interestingly categorized and very smooth-reading.


OMF Serge at Imago Dei posted a really wonderful affirmation of stay-at-home motherhood (he’s married to a SAHM, after all). Thank you, Serge!


I haven’t forgotten to complete my review of The Abolition of Man, just gotten held up, tied up, and a bit sidetracked. The notes are still sitting right here beside my computer as they have been for the last 3 weeks or so. Maybe I can turn them into a post by week’s end.


I am now a Marauding Marsupial in the TTLB ecosystem, up from being an Adorable Little Rodent...does this mean I’m still cute?

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Bits and pieces, 2/09/05

In Memoriam: Karl Haas, 1913-2005. The man who escaped Nazi Germany, came to America and began one of the most popular classical radio programs ever, passed away on Sunday, February 6, 2005, at the age of 91.

Haas, who began each of his cleverly-titled programs with his trademark, “Hello everyone,” did much to help the cause of classical music appreciation. His “Adventures in Good Music” were charmingly presented and extremely accessible (even if they at times over-simplified certain aspects of the music).

Haas will be missed. His timeless programs, however, will surely continue to be heard on classical music stations for years to come.


You’ve got to be kidding: a 4-year-old drives his mother’s car to the video store 1/4 mile up the street, and back, at 1:30 am. OK...his mom shows him how to drive, he leaves his home by himself at 1:30 in the morning, he actually maneuvers the car for ½ mile total...ohhh, boy.


GBC prayer for today: I like what John Schroeder says today at the GodBlogCon prayer blog:

We do not need to intercede with the Lord for His help with our plans. Rather, we need to actively seek His plans and appropriate them for ourselves.

The way I interpret that is: if we are seeking Him, following the “signs,” and acting on the way it appears given that things should go (according to what we know of His truth), then we will be doing our part in His service...helping to bring about the Kingdom. (Someone please correct me if my theology is off :-) )


I promise I'll get to comments soon!

Monday, February 07, 2005

GBC prayer update 2/7/05

Wow, that was fast! Apparently, a location nail-down for the GodBlogCon is imminent (by the end of the week): one of two possible locations in California. Keep on prayin'!

There has also been suggestion of breaking the GodBlogCon down into regional gatherings. This has appeal from the standpoint of making a conference more manageable, and more practical for people who live way the heck across the country from California, like me. (But I also wouldn't mind an excuse to go to CA, I've never been there :-) )

Please pray for Dr. Andrew Jackson, who has devoted his life these past several weeks to GodBlogCon planning.

Also pray for Dr. Jackson's idea to launch a Christian Blogosphere portal. Since the Christian blogosphere is large already and growing by the second, he would like to provide a CB Central to kind of pull it all together. He invites feedback.

Stay-at-home motherhood: domestic bliss?

I read with interest a recent article at titled, “The Real Life of an At-Home Mother.” (Subtitled “desperate housewives.” Ha ha...yet it rings true, I’m afraid)

Says author Carla Barnhill,

Certainly being home with our children can be deeply satisfying, and I don't mean to suggest that it is hard and frustrating all day, every day. But the beautiful part of motherhood gets talked about all the time, particularly in Christian literature. What doesn't get addressed often enough is that along with the wonder and delight of raising children come intense challenges that can leave women emotionally raw.

Yes indeed.

On the surface, our Christian culture has begun to acknowledge the difficulties of being a stay-at-home mother. A whole new crop of books on the Christian market caters to the stressed-out mother and encourages her to lean on God through this often-trying season of life. But those books never address the idea that perhaps being a stay-at-home mom is difficult for some women because we have heaped an impossible load of expectations on Christian mothers, expectations that are bound to be dashed.

Certainly expectations are part of it. But what of habits in which we’ve been raised? You know – order your life a certain way, keep everything picked up & dusted & vacuumed & cleaned, maintain hygiene, make doctors’ appointments, wash the clothes, make sure the clothes are in decent shape & fit OK, keep the TP stocked, keep the fridge & pantry stocked, cook nutritious meals, etc. etc.... In other words, keep on top of everything, which, if you can’t afford a housekeeper, means run yourself ragged from sun-up to sun-down, especially if you’ve got a “difficult” baby and/or toddlers and no children old enough to help.

Not to mention the “personhood” one has developed – talent-training & schooling one grew up with, including 4+ years at college, probably, and the identity one has found in these things.

Then there are societal, and individual, expectations of an “enlightened” society in which we seek to develop our children’s talents. So commences the mad scurrying to this lesson and that class, to this store to purchase these supplies, uniforms, etc., not to mention the practice time required at home. How can anyone possibly keep up?

Put sleep deprivation on top of that, a breast-fed baby who refuses to fall into a routine and sleeps fitfully or sporadically, and you’ve got a mom who can barely manage bare necessities, let alone look presentable to the outside world & have a house fit to walk around in let alone qualify for the cover of Better Homes & Gardens.

Barnhill quotes a woman names Alana, who says,
"I got blindsided by the responsibility, the emotional ties, the worry, the exhaustion, the discipline issues, and the day-to-day care of children. The reality for me is that motherhood is very draining and tiring and humbling. On a regular basis I feel like a failure as a mom.”

Why does Alana feel like a failure as a mom? Why do moms feel like failures when they’re struggling? Why, when we are dead tired, frustrated, vexed, puzzled, physically miserable, and unable to manage everything on our plates, are we convinced that we’re failing?

Is it because of an unrealistic picture of June Cleaver motherhood? Is it because others reinforce this feeling in us because of their spiffy, suave, working-woman, house-looks-great lifestyles? Because we feel we must be the perfect servants, always attending to every imaginable need and solving every imaginable problem? Because no one likes to talk about the ugly realities of motherhood? Because it’s awfully hard to get help if one doesn’t have family in town, or can’t afford to hire it? Because of lack of support? Because American society values appearance and all its marvelous programs that require people (often volunteers) to run them, which, if everyone stayed home to take care of their families, there would be no to help with? Including all the millions of things that need to be done @ church?

It's undoubtedly hard for many mothers to ask even friends for help when their self and their house are a mess. Because there’s such a societal standard for appearances, it’s awfully embarrassing to be seen looking like a rag heap and needing a shower!

Continues Alana,
My walk with the Lord has suffered since I became a mom. Spending time with God feels like another obligation—just one more person wanting something from me....

I can relate to that over-obligated feeling, but surely this feeling comes from what some person or book has told us we need to do, not from what God actually requires of us. I certainly didn’t have much of an organized “quiet time” or personal Bible study or even regular church attendance when my kids were infants, because I was merely struggling to survive. Yet, internally I still sought God. He knew my heart. He knew my circumstances. He knew things wouldn’t be this way forever; that, after several months or even years, the time would come when life would settle down and get a rhythm back.

Says Alana,
“What most stimulated and satisfied me was often not possible to have in my life.”

This was very hard for me. Leave the “often” part out. There was virtually none of that when my children were babies. I mean, not even basic things like being able to take a shower, trim my nails, use the bathroom without a baby hanging on me in a sling, have the house even marginally kept, have a conversation without constant distraction or interruption, follow through on anything, have a thought to myself, keep up with mail, phone calls, bills, car repairs, laundry, shopping, have basic physical, mental, or emotional comforts, etc. etc. etc.

I mean, sure, I got a few of those, few and far between. But my tank was so low, it was barely enough to get any mileage off of.

Even the delight I wanted to share with my children when they were babies/toddlers was difficult to enjoy because of constant struggles. Never mind the extreme sleep deprivation; how many times did I finally get started off to the grocery store only to have to turn around and go home because the baby wouldn’t stop screaming? How many times did my son’s diaper fall off because I couldn’t hold him down & change it properly at the same time? How many times did I take him out in public in his PJ’s because getting him dressed was impossible?

How many days on end did I wear ancient sweatshirts/sweatpants, covered with stains, spit-up, diaper leaks, you name many times did I put in VeggieTales videos for my toddlers just so I could appreciate the jokes meant for parents? How many times did I near-to-die just to be able to savor a Starbucks latte? It sounds ridiculous to ask that, and pathetic, and even selfish, but if you’ve ever been there, you know exactly what I mean.

Despite all this, I did enjoy the enjoyable things about my babies, and there were plenty of those. But what was difficult was that I was completely wrapped in that motherhood bubble, and it seemed like the rest of the world was somewhere out there & I had no idea what was going on in it. I started to find it difficult to even have a normal social conversation; it was like I had moved to another land and spoke a different language.

But I did (and still do) savor every positive moment I could get with my children; I cherished their babyhood and treasured them beyond compare. And I gave my all to deal with the challenging moments appropriately and prayerfully. I tried to look to the future, persevering in the hopes that it would all pay off. And, I can say it has already paid off, though I claim little credit.

Continues Barhill:
These are the women sitting in our churches, the women who are doing their best with very little rest or support. These are the women we are telling to do more and to do it better. And we are killing them.

Sadly, so many of us hide our sense of disappointment and our discontent with our lives as stay-at-home mothers because we've been taught that this is the life God wants for us, that to want something more is selfish and worldly. We are afraid to admit that our lives aren't what we hoped for because to do so would be to reveal some deep moral flaw. That fear isn't irrational. Unfortunately, it gets reinforced on a regular basis.

Yep. Although I think there may be moral flaw involved. It can be terribly difficult to draw the line between having a reasonable hope for a relatively held-together life and a selfish, worldly wish. I sure had trouble discerning that line during those years when my kids were really little.

Rather than puttering and gardening and cooking being the keys to our happiness, they are, for many women, the bane of our existence. If anything, we put too much emphasis on creating a perfect home complete with handmade centerpieces and memory books filled with theme stickers and cropped pictures of the kids at the beach. There is tremendous pressure to prove to the world that we are capable of caring for our families if only to show the secular culture that this is the life that comes from living obediently. To fail at this is to fail at God's plan. (emphasis added)

Yes! It’s a version of the “prosperity doctrine:” all goes well for those who do all the right things. Wrong wrong wrong!

Stay-at-home motherhood truly is a mission, one into which not all of us are led—those, for instance, who need constant support and opportunities for respite.

Oh, no Carla – why is it a matter of “leading”? I wonder if, for the mothers who need constant support and opportunities for respite, God didn’t purpose for others to help them out!!

What we need from the church is not a set of unreasonable expectations but encouragement and prayer that God will keep giving us endless reserves of patience, compassion, wisdom, and love. [and sleep] We need other adults in our lives who are willing to listen when we need to vent, who will take the kids at the drop of a hat, and who will occasionally ask our opinion on something other than potty training.

Or, not ask us about something that we haven't even thought about in months and months... :-)

We need to know that we are free to listen to God's voice and follow God's leading—whether that is into our homes or into an office.

Well, maybe. But the fact is, women, including mothers, have physical, mental, and emotional limitations regardless of whether their own or society’s expectations are realistic or not. Society needs to get down and dirty with the realities of motherhood, and help these heroes of our civilization out! (Not that I consider myself a hero...but I recognize the importance and value of motherhood.)

Barhill concludes by telling of a stay-at-home friend of hers who she admires greatly. She says,
What's interesting about Jill's involvement in running (marathons) and in organizing the Bible study (in home) is that neither activity is directly connected to her children. But for Jill, devoting some of her time and energy to these pursuits teaches her children something valuable. She says, "I feel like both of these areas—the running (exercise) and the small groups (fellowship)—are good for my kids to witness and emulate themselves as they grow. I feel like I'm modeling a lifestyle, not just doing what I want."

I was interested to read this because I’ve felt this way about the activities I do that are not directly related to my children. I also feel that children need to learn not to expect Mommy to be directly attending to them constantly, nor instantly meeting their every need, i.e., that they are the center of the universe. Not that I believe this so much for when they are very little, but, once they are capable, I think it’s healthy for them to learn it. It’s what may have been referred to as teaching “independence” in the olden days, though I dislike that concept; I don’t think children should be taught “independence” as much as resourcefulness, patience, and fortitude.

Anyway, I would like to see dialogue continue on the subject of the realities of motherhood, and to see more effort made toward truly embracing all of its aspects by mothers, families, churches, and society alike.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Gallery update

I’ve finally updated my online Photo Gallery:

Image Hosted by

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Leafless Trees

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Light & Shadow

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Light & Shadow B&W

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NY & LE RR Excursion

Saturday, February 05, 2005

GBC prayer: praying Scripture

The GodBlogCon prayer blog reminds us today that Scripture is the best ground for our prayers. John suggests we pray Psalm 111:

Praise the LORD! I will give thanks to the LORD with all my heart, in the company of the upright and in the assembly.
Great are the works of the LORD; they are studied by all who delight in them.
Splendid and majestic is His work; and His righteousness endures forever.
He has made His wonders to be remembered; the LORD is gracious and compassionate.
He has given food to those who fear Him; He will remember His covenant forever.
He has made known to His people the power of His works, in giving them the heritage of the nations.
The works of His hands are truth and justice; all His precepts are sure.
They are upheld forever and ever; they are performed in truth and uprightness.
He has sent redemption to His people; He has ordained His covenant forever; Holy and awesome is His name.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments.
His praise endures forever.


Friday, February 04, 2005

Bits and pieces, 2/4/05

Ed Jordan at Media Culpa has a wonderful post about the real religion of “urban atheists.”


My cup runneth over: I’ve found yet another blog after my own heart. At Metal of Heaven, David M. Smith has a terrific post called Contrarians. It explains me better than I ever could. (Mom, are you reading? :-) )

He also has a couple of posts on churches and the need for feedback from congregants as well as the actual heeding of feedback. This is timely for me because of the nature of some of my involvement at church as of late. Thanks for your voice, David, and thanks for the encouragement!


A while back I mentioned the Sing the Word series of Scripture memory songs for children (and their parents). Allow me to plug them again: If you’re looking for a great way to teach Scripture to children ages 2-12, look no further. This creative series of three (soon to be four) CD’s and cassette tapes will edify your child’s heart and mind, both spiritually and musically.

You could say that I’m biased, as the entire project was done by family (yours truly has a bit part)...yet I am thrilled over these songs not because of the family thing but because they are great. Family just happens to be the ones who got to make them.

I welcome you to visit the Sing the Word website.


The GBC prayer blog posts some disappointing news: due to the potential size of the GodBlogCon, it cannot be held at the original site. The options right now: a) someplace in California (Biola?) in October, or b) somewhere else at a church able to hold it, on a date to be determined.

Let us remain hopeful, in faith, that a location and time can be found. As Dr. Jackson says, “unless He build the house, the builders labor in vain.”

Claire Barshied on sex, part 4

This is the final installment in this series. Parts I - III can be found here, here, and here.

A more troublesome matter than use of contraception for family planning, I think, is the attitude that marriage justifies sex. While this is true in a sense, what it implies is that marriage is a justification for pursuit of one’s own sexual gratification. Also troublesome is a view that the pleasure of sex is an end in itself, even in marriage.

We all yearn for that perfect “completer of our souls” – that ultimate life partner -- in a marriage partner. And truly that is what a spouse is, even if not quite in the way we imagined as we were walking down the aisle. The natural response is to want to give oneself fully and completely, including sexually, while simultaneously receiving same. In this way, one is completed, and this is what marriage should entail.

I know that a Catholic would say that the act of sexual giving must include a complete giving (of gametes) in order to be a selfless act of giving, and this is a compelling argument. However, the argument then runs up against the issue of family planning. Complete sexual giving is clearly not taking place if one is abstaining in order to avoid conception. Such abstinence is obviously not self-giving. Catholics say it is self-denial. But self-denial in and of itself is not a virtue; it is a requirement toward some other end. Self-denial in the wrong circumstances is actually selfishness.

I think that, in the contraception question, the real issues do not pertain to whether or not contraception is inherently bad, but to the motives of the heart for using it. If used for responsible family planning, the only way use of contraception can be selfish is if the procreative aspect of sex is more important than the other unitive aspects. This may be true, but I have not seen it proven.

Obviously there can be selfish sex in marriage, whether contraception is used or not. If one spouse is using the other for their own gratification, then this is as much of a problem as whether or not they are using contraception, for it violates the unitive purpose of sex. A child conceived as result of a selfish act of marital sex is begun at a distinct disadvantage. What kind of environment will that child grow up in, if it’s one not founded in a mutually-giving-and-receiving marital relationship? What kind of marriage is it that has produced this child?

It’s these questions that must be addressed first and foremost, I believe, in order to set the context for the rest of the debate.

Endnote: What bothers me about Barshied’s article and others I’ve seen that revisit contraception and the purposes of sex and marriage is that the contemplations are either initiatory ones (i.e., of someone embarking upon a change of heart) or, they mimic those of dogmatic Catholics. Or they are given by those who had a change heart some time ago yet the change was tied to attitudes not related specifically to contraception in and of itself -- their use of contraception was associated with or representative of the old attitude, to them. Where are the voices of the folks long-established in a marriage, with children, who have been more or less steady in their perspective? Is it possible for them to defend a proper use of contraception, in ways that do not capitulate to the “liberal” thought of our times?

Neither Onan, Natural Law, or the Humanae Vitae provide sustainable argument against contraception. (And yes, I realize what that sounds like... I’ve discussed my reasons for believing so in the latter part of my series on contraception, here and here.) Perhaps someone out there can show me a different way to argue from natural law, or else has an argument based on a different line of thinking. If so, I’d love to hear it.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Bits and pieces, 2/3/05

Looks like I’m finally on board the digest-post wagon train :-)


I guess we’re in for 6 more weeks of winter (at least...); Punxutawney Phil saw his shadow yesterday. So would’ve Western-NY Wayne, had he dug his way out of the snow.


Turns out that Martin LaBar not only shares my appreciation of C. S. Lewis, he shares my enthusiasm for trees! Whaddya know. He’s written an ode to them. He's reflected poetically and Biblically on the significance of leaves as well.


Neil Uchitel links to a lengthy article from Leadership magazine that gives a horrific yet revealing account of a pastor’s sexual addiction. Actually, the physical, mental, and emotional dynamics involved are similar to any addiction, or sin. I think I will write about that sometime.


Rusty Lopez has launched a new blog to display his photography, called Imago Articulus. Seeing his photos all together like that really impresses upon me their boldness, cleanness, clarity, and intensity. (I kinda like them, too ;-) )

He manages to get nice composition, nice effect, great contrast, and all the grey-tones in this shot.


Last but certainly not least, today’s prayer for GodBlogCon: location. Apparently, due to tremendous response, a new facility must be found for the conference.

Also please pray that the Guiding Core Values of the conference will be realized:


Wednesday, February 02, 2005

GBC prayer

Things to pray for regarding the GodBlogCon:

1) formation of a committee to handle the ever-increasing logistical/organizational needs.

2) provision of facilities

3) GBC leadership team, speakers, and presenters

4) participants and participant-hopefuls (like me)

5) proper understanding of Christian unity among us all. I like what a commenter asked at Jollyblogger (at or near the bottom of the thread):

Is the blogging world trying to create Christian unity and community the old-fashioned way, by reconciliation, dialogue, humility and discernment, or by simply excluding dissenting views?

A decent trombonist

A friend sent my husband and I this excellent piece by Garrison Keillor.

(“Trumpeter*” can be substituted for “violinist” in most places. “Oboist,” or “clarinetist,” should be substituted for “trombonist” at the end.)

A Foot Soldier in God's Floating Orchestra

(From his comfortable position as a well-known author, Garrison Keillor feels every sympathy for his underpaid, overworked violinist wife.)

Orchestra professionalism is a world apart from mine. Mine prizes attitude and a rakish hat, and star quality, and interesting underwear. And this concept of professionalism prizes ensemble playing, and precision, and a sort of selflessness - and this concept of professionalism can be expressed in certain principles. You won't find this list posted backstage, but, my wife tells me, that's because everybody knows this stuff right out of music school.

1. You are, of course, on time. Always! Don't come an hour early (amateurish), but never come late. Never! This is an Orchestra, and you are Violinist, you're not some paper-pusher at Amalgamated Bucket. (Orchestra musicians are experts at finessing public transportation, and if they do drive, at finding parking spaces no matter what, legal, or illegal. Everybody has a strategy for "Getting to the Gig," and a back-up strategy in case the area is cordoned off for a Presidential motorcade, and an emergency strategy, in case of earthquake or civil disorder, or an invasion of the body snatchers.)

2. Don't show off warming up backstage. Don't do the Brahms Concerto. Don't whip through the Paganini you did for your last audition. Warm up and be cool about it.

3. Backstage you hang out with other string players, not brass or percussion. You don't get into a big conversation with the tuba player, lest you be lulled into relaxation. He is not playing the Brandenburg No. 3 that opens the show - you are. Stick with your own kind, so you can start to get nervous when you should.

4. You never chum around with the conductor, too much. Likewise the contractor who hired you; you can be nice but not fawning, subservient. If one of them is perched in the musicians' common backstage, don't gravitate there. Don't orbit.

5. You never look askance at someone who has made a mistake. Never! If the clarinet player squeaks, if the oboe honks, if the second stand cello lumbers in two bars early, like lost livestock, you keep your eyes where your eyes should be. You are a musician, not a critic. String players never disparage their stand partners to others. Stand partnership is an intimate relationship, and there is a zone of safety here. Actually, you shouldn't disparage any musician in the orchestra to anybody, unless to your husband (or spouse), or very good friends. But you never say anything bad about your stand partner.

6. If the conductor is a jerk, don't react to him whatsoever. Ignore the shows of temper. If he makes a sarcastic joke at the expense of a musician, do not laugh, not even a slight wheeze or twitter.

7. Try to do the conductor's bidding, no matter how ridiculous. If he says, "Play this very dry, but with plenty of vibrato," go ahead and do it, though it's impossible. If he says, "This should be very quick but sustained," then go ahead and sustain the quick, or levitate, or walk across the ceiling, or whatever he wants. He's the boss.

8. Don't bend and sway as you play. Stay in your space. You're not a soloist, don't move like one. No big sweeps of the bow. And absolutely never, never, never tap your foot to the music.

9. Go through channels. If you, a fifth stand violin, are unsure if that note in bar 143 should be C natural as shown or B flat, don't raise your hand and ask the maestro, ask your section head, and let him/her ask Mr. Big.

10. You do not accept violations of work rules passively. When it's time to go, it's time to go. If it's Bruno Walter and the Mahler Fourth, and you're in Seventh Heaven, then of course, you ignore the clock. But, if it's some ordinary jerk flapping around on the podium, you put your instrument in the case when the rehearsal is supposed to end. It was his arrogant pedantry that chewed up the first hour of the rehearsal, and now time is up, and he's only half way through The Planets, and is in a panic.

If he wants to pay overtime, fine. Otherwise, let him hang, it's his rope. At the performance, you can show him what terrific sight-readers you all are. It's all about manners and maintaining a sense of integrity in a selfless situation, and surviving in a body of neurotic perfectionists. And it's about holding up your head, even as orchestras in America languish and die out, victims of their own rigidity and stuffiness and of a sea change in American culture.

Perhaps in a hundred years orchestra musicians will seem like some weird priestly order akin to the Rosicrucians or the worshipers of Athens. But in the rehearsal for the Last Performance, the players will arrive on time, and take their places, and play dryly but with vibrato, and not tap their feet. And one violinist will come home and have a glass of wine, and say to her husband, "Why can't they find a decent trombonist?"

*in the 2% of the time I work outside the home, I play trumpet (in an orchestra, usually). My husband is a very fine trumpeter as well.

It happened again!

The frost phenomenon, that is. It happened again this morning. I was amazed!

The frost didn’t fall off the trees today like on Monday, though; it melted instead.

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To magnify Christ

When news of the GodBlogCon came up, there were suggestions for various kinds workshops geared toward various types of “God-blogs.” I looked at the categories -- political, apologetics, culture, philosophy, home-schooling, etc. and thought, gee, I don’t really fit into any of those categories, per se. Though I touch on all of them, and perhaps fit the “culture” category best. I’ve thought about definition as it relates to my blog before, but not for long, honestly, because #1, I dislike categorization, and #2, I’d rather think about what I’m personally motivated and inspired to write about rather than what I should write about because of how I’ve defined my blog.

I realize that if I spent more time discussing certain topics, then my blog might have more appeal because it would offer something relatively consistent. be honest, I’m not up to that. Nor, I confess, do I really want to be. It’s my blog & I’ll cry if I want to. Seriously, I write about what interests me at the moment, and sometimes it’s a piece that fits into a distinct category, and other times, it’s just, well...what comes off the, uh, top of my head. (Which may or may not have anything to do with the name of this blog.) In other words, my blog is basically representative of me, for whatever that’s worth.

Anyway, I’ve never attempted to sit down and spell out my view of blogging (or life in general), but now I don’t have to because Martin LaBar has done it for me. (I mean, he’s done it for him, but he might as well have done it for me too because it pretty much sums up my view.)

Professor LaBar quotes C. S. Lewis: (that’s not why I like his post; I like it not because he mentions C. S. Lewis but because of what both he and C. S. Lewis say)
I believe that any Christian who is qualified to write a good popular book on any science may do much more by that than by any directly apologetic work. The difficulty we are up against is this. We can make people (often) attend to the Christian point of view for half an hour or so; but the moment they have gone away from our lecture or laid down our article, they are plunged back into a world where the opposite position is taken for granted. As long as that situation exists, widespread success is simply impossible. We must attack the enemy's line of communication. What we want is not more little books about Christianity, but more little books by Christians about other subjects--with their Christianity latent. You can see this most easily if you look at it the other way around. Our Faith is not very likely to be shaken by any book on Hinduism. But if whenever we read an elementary book on Geology, Botany, Politics, or Astronomy, we found that its implications were Hindu, that would shake us. It is not the books written in direct defence of Materialism that make the modern man a materialist; it is the materialistic assumptions in all the other books. In the same way, it is not books on Christianity that will really trouble him. But he would be troubled if, whenever he wanted a cheap popular introduction to some science, the best work on the market was always by a Christian. The first step to the re-conversion of this country is a series, produced by Christians. . . Its Christianity would have to be latent, not explicit: and of course its science perfectly honest. Science twisted in the interests of apologetics would be sin and folly. (emphasis added)

C. S. Lewis, "Christian Apologetics," in C. S. Lewis, God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics, edited by Walter Hooper. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1970, pp. 89-103. Quote is from p. 93.

The idea being that what we, as Christians, do and think in every single area of our lives – our roles, our giftings – is supposed to be transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ. As are our relationships – and I view blogging as a relational thing as well as a place to share my thoughts (and photos.) How do we, as bloggers, treat our readers, or those we write about?

Hopefully, readers will note a spirit of grace and mercy in our writing, and maybe also a little bit of “tough love.” The difficulty in this, of course, is that we are relating via tiny characters on a computer screen (or photos). Our particular personality quirks may come across differently on the computer screen than they do in real life. (Actually, sometimes they don’t come off so well in real life...which is why getting to know one another is a good thing.) Humor, wry and otherwise, can be a useful communicative tool, but can be misinterpreted as well.

There’s so much categorization in life, and I guess we need that, to an extent. We need it to keep things orderly and manageable. But God doesn’t work with me that way. He meets me in all sorts of ways; some familiar and comforting, like an old friend; others completely unexpected and horrifically painful; others unexpected yet exhilarating. Much of my day is predictable (thank God!) and requires planning to make things work, but a lot of it also requires flexibility and ability to go with the flow.

I’m definitely more of a responsive-type person than a leader or trend-setter. And I blog that way too :-)

La Bar’s post concludes with this:

The greatest real influence is made by excellence. May I achieve this, and not for my sake.

Amen, Martin.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

GBC prayer update

as always can be found here. One of the prayer requests is that the focus of participants of GBC would remain upon the Reason we all blog to begin with.

I want to echo this. It’s easy for me personally to get sidetracked onto rabbit trails of concerns that are more based in worry, pride, or some other reaction- or emotion-based concern than in His truth, rational though I like to think I am. I suspect this is true for most of the rest of the human race as well.

I just pray that “blog” never ends up above “God” on the spiritual food chain, for me or anyone else.

A beautiful sight

greeted me when I looked out the window this morning.

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Yesterday, the temps got above freezing (heat wave!) but this morning they were back down to around 7. Apparently there was some sort of fog or mist that froze onto the trees overnight but only on our side of the hill – when I drove up over the hill and into town, there was no frost.

Huge, feathery flakes coated the twigs like velvet on a deer antler. Then, as the sun rose higher in the sky, flakes began to fall like stardust.

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