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Off the top

A blog dedicated to the Source of everything good.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Bits and pieces, 2/28/06

more like chunks and pieces this time...


(just kidding :-) )

Jeremy Pierce asks those who call themselves Arminian to specify which beliefs distinguish them, or qualify them, as Arminian. In the comments he says,

I understand what the different views are, and there are several. I also have a good sense of the arguments and motivations for various positions.

What I'm not sure of is which of those several views count as Arminian, and which of them are views that are neither Calvinist nor Arminian but something in between.

He also expresses what he calls a Calvinist belief that sounds to me more like an Arminian one (one which I, at present, am leaning toward), although I am a neophyte when it comes to background for either position (or sub-positions, or related positions):

I would say that God makes an offer to everyone, and people respond to that offer with their own choice, either to accept it or to reject it. I don't think that's inconsistent with God's choice of particular people serving as an ultimate explanation of why some do rather than others.

Anyway, the comments themselves are interesting reading, especially those by Pam, who says (in response to the first quote above):

OK. *grin* As a "practical theologian"[1], to some extent, I think that Arminianism is as Arminians do. Although that statement still poses an interesting question about methodology.

For me, these ideas tend to change as time goes on and I would not subscribe to the idea that there is an 'offical' version of Arminianism. I'd not subscribe to the idea that there is an 'official' version of Calvinism either, although you might disagree. As I understand it, Arminius' original idea that gave birth to the name 'Arminian' (that Christ died even for the non-elect) was actually accepted by the Reformed Church at the Council of Dort.

To me, what is happening here is that, when one examines the finer points of both schools of thought, one sees that coming to the other tradition with accusations of gross heresy and blatant rebellion is incorrect. (I'm not suggesting that either of us is doing this, but I do think that many people do.) A lot of times, I think we take the theology of our dialogue partners and declare falsely that the nuances are vast chasms. These nuances also often to centre around the areas of God which we can know least. My two cents/pence, anyway.

[1] I mean I'm getting my MA in practical/pastoral theology.


Salt of the hill or city on the earth?

Catez at Allthings2all looks at ways Christians Share the Love: City on a Hill or Salt of the Earth?

There is a tension that can develop between two different aspects of the Christian life. Should we be the city on the hill or the salt of the earth? Should we be a very separate group of people removed from others and wait for people to come to us - or should we be sprinkled out in the world like seasoning making a difference in our particular circles? Of course the obvious answer is both, but we don't always find the balance of both so easily.

She refers to a conflict that has arisen in the blogosphere concerning interaction between Christian and Mormon bloggers. I am aware of the conflict but unfamiliar with its substance. I find that her comments, however, have implications for the controversy over the film, End of the Spear, as well. There are implications for matters of purity, unequal yoking, and conscience as referred to by Romans 14.

I will write a separate post on this sometime; I think about the essence of this conflict often. It applies to my life (and yours) every day, in every detail.


speaking of things on hills (or mountains, as the case may be...)

SpunkyHomeschool has carried down The Ten Commandments for Homeschooling Moms. They deserve to be posted far and wide. Here are a few:

I am the Lord your God, thou shall have no other curriculum before Me.

Thou shall not make a graven image of the perfect homeschool family.

Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy.

Thou shall not destroy thy children's spirits.

Thou shall not compare yourself one to another.

Thou shall encourage other families to good deeds, not judge one another harshly.

See Spunky's post for the complete list plus further description. Thank you, Spunky!


quote for the day

Academics often say biblical belief has no place in the social sciences because it keeps people from open-minded analysis of data. Actually, the opposite is true: A biblical worldview often reveals the limitations of conventional approaches and pushes us to ask the right questions so that the data we obtain will not leave us still ignorant.

Biblical social scientists have an advantage because they know truths about human nature. Those who dismiss the Bible and create surveys that don't measure crucial factors are the ones who have closed minds. Sometimes the Bible gives us clear answers and sometimes it doesn't, but it always helps us to ask the right questions
-- Marvin Olasky in WORLD magazine, February 25, 2006 issue

I wouldn't say that those who lack a biblical perspective necessarily have closed minds, but they certainly lack a crucial perspective.

I’ve used Olasky's quote as a springboard to write On worldview and witness over at Intellectuelle.

Monday, February 27, 2006

On America's Olympic athletes

My husband and I were talking about the Olympics the other day and he had a few things to say. I told him he ought to jot them down for me to post. After looking at me rather askance, he said, “I’ll see what I can do.”

Here’s what he wrote:

How is it that the Olympics have become such a self-centered display of each individual American athlete’s quest to realize a lifelong dream? Aren’t we supposed to be representing our country here? The “United States of America,” not the “Individual State of One’s Own Self-esteem.” I could be wrong of course. Maybe that fateful snowboard trick and Bode’s continual failure to achieve personal fulfillment do represent what our country has come to.

I am as guilty as the next guy when it comes to rooting for our athletes to “take it” to the rest of the world, to show them how the big boys play. But I do derive a twisted sense of gratification from, for example, when the Italian speed skater knocks off the two heavy American favorites.

The media, of course, feed the hype. Admittedly I don’t know all of the details surrounding each situation in Torino as do our media “experts,” but I am a serious sports fan who also happens to take great pride in our country’s representation in the Olympic games. Last time I checked, the competitors were supposed to be ambassadors of our nation’s athletic prowess. When one of them wins a medal, so do we as a nation, in a sense. We celebrate their successes as a nation and lament their defeats as well.

When Lindsay Jacobellis did her “trick” she did so with the full weight of responsibility to her country on her shoulders, whether she wanted it or not. She fell trying to bring attention to herself as an individual, not as one who seriously pondered the red, white, and blue colors which she represented. Maybe this enthusiastic 20-year-old, who I am sure worked as hard as possible for her Olympic opportunity, does accurately represent what our country stands for these days. A bit of a departure from John F. Kennedy’s encouraging words – “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” I hope not, though.

Sign of inheritance

Last week I mentioned that Geva theater in Rochester, NY is presenting Lawrence and Lee's 1955 play, "Inherit the Wind." Here is the sign outside the theater:

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Anyone want to comment?

Friday, February 24, 2006

When he comes

We're a silent, snowy sight
Frozen dark and blinding light
Joining in some deep and magic slumber
Snowy prisoners of stone
We would leave this sorry home
If only we could break the spell we're under

But when he comes
We will see the last of winter
When he comes
Watch as sorrow turns to light
Every wrong will be made right
When he comes
We will see a new beginning
When he comes
We will sing a joyful note
For he will bring a song of hope
When he comes

All these gray and endless days
Shivering cold and icy rays
Seem to say they'd be with us forever
But I believe the ancient lore
And so I watch the eastern shore
Looking for a hopeful change of weather


I can almost hear him saying
"Now it won't be long
Before the warmth of spring will come again!"
When the coldness melts away
I'll know his move is on
And I know who's going to win in the end

Are you ready for the day
When every spell will break away
Lifted by the only true redeemer?


-- David Edwards, "Dreams, Tales, and Lullabies," 1985. Lyrics derived from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis, 1950.

Metaphysical rhumba

you can rhumba in the latest fashion
you can samba, or tango, if you please
you can even add an extra dash of expertise
but if you can't get the groove of metaphysical style
then you won't get more than one dance with me.

you can figure to the smallest fraction
by a slip of financial wizardry
every step with which a man of action might proceed.
but if you can't calculate in metaphysical style
then you're counting on a life that's minus me.

metaphysically speaking -- that's beyond what you see --
if you can't get a hold of the thing I call soul,
then you won't get a hold of me.

(you can rhumba in the latest fashion...)

I'm metaphysically-fashioned; what I ask for is rare.
but if you don't agree with what plato decreed
then it's just a platonic affair.

(you can figure to the smallest fraction...)

--Deanne Lundin

(lyrics to "Metaphysical Rhumba" by Bevan Manson, from the album of the same name, 1983.)

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Sticky business

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This is the back of a box of Honey Nut Cheerios.

Is anyone else thinking what I'm thinking about this cartoon? (Hope you can read it!)

dieffenbachia 8

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(Click here for larger view.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Inherit the What?

The “trial of the century” is “loosely recreated” in a play that will open tomorrow at the Geva Theater Center in Rochester, NY, reports Stuart Low in today’s Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. Playwrights Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee “took many lines directly from the Scopes Trial transcripts” for their play, Inherit the Wind, but also added dialogue and a few townspeople characters for some “country spice.” The play’s got “jailhouse romance, plenty of singing and a set that recreates downtown Dayton, Tenn., circa 1925. A courtroom dominates the front of the stage…”

"...the play’s battles rage on today," says director Skip Greer, referring to the current debate over intelligent design. "It's about the right of individuals to speak out."

There aren’t many forums available for true dialogue. We want to stimulate a conversation in the community.

Well, that sounds good…

But, says Seneca Park Zoo education director Ruth Rosenberg, as quoted in the article, “Many people resist viewing both sides of this story. Some folks still ask us not to use the word evolution. So when our Zoomobile goes to schools, we use the term ’change over time.'"


According to the article, Greer “isn’t encouraging his actors to give carbon-copy impersonations of the Scopes Trial celebrities. Nor does he want a rerun of the popular 1960 movie of Inherit the Wind,” because the personal characteristics (speech patterns and physicality) of the original characters portrayed are “irrelevant.”

I suppose he is saying that the content of the debate is what’s most important, and that’s admirable. But I’m not sure why it’s important, then, that the set recreate downtown Dayton, Tenn. circa 1925, or that the play be entitled Inherit the Wind and feature a courtroom battle involving a teacher. But maybe I’m missing something.

(side note of interest: apparently, William Jennings Bryan spoke at the 1908 New York Democratic Convention held in the Geva building.)

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Bits and Pieces, 2/19/06

A few posts I’ve especially appreciated recently:

Julana of Life in the Slow Lane speaks of numbered days in "Gifts of a handicap 13:..."

In December, I attended the Partners in Policymaking graduation dinner. The group was a mix of people with disabilities, parents, and professional advocates. You could not always tell where a person fit. I met a woman with no visible handicap, chatted, and inquired whether she had a family member with a disability. She had a brother who had died of AIDS, and had a son who "isn't diagnosed yet." (She was part of a church disability ministry.) [emphasis added]

It is easy to take health and able-bodied-ness – even what we would refer to as “normal life ” – for granted. I thought about this a lot when I was struggling with my babies. I also think about it when I visit the local retirement homes and visit my grandmothers. I think about it whenever I see or hear about someone who is somehow less than able-bodied (or able-minded.)

As Julana said in an earlier post, there should be no “us” vs. “them.” There should be no “fence” with “us” on the “healthy, normally-functioning” side and “them” on the “flawed” side. We should all be in it together in this life...because we are!


At Dignan’s 75 Year Plan, Future Man* has a gem of a post on Romans, Reformers, and Relativists.

…let’s return to Dacey’s affirmation of secular, liberal relativism. The Calvinist critique of this form of relativism is not so much a matter of what the relativist doubts; it’s what he takes to be certain. Knowledge is ethical. Our knowing is either subordinate to God’s revealed will or it is not. There is no neutral territory where we can evaluate the claims of Christianity according to independent standards. Knowledge either begins with the fear of the Lord, or it doesn’t. God will never be discovered at the conclusion of an argument.

Read the whole post.

(*I wonder if he knows about this Future Man??)


The wonderful Jan, her of the view from her, writes about Pure Sex:

[referring to presention of the Christian view on sex outside of marriage to non-Christians] The "because the Bible says," and "it's just not good for you" arguments can come across as empty and irrelevant. We all do things that aren't good for us. The casual wording of "my lame sex life" [from a website for a church’s ministry she links to] pulls the shiny wrapping paper off the "sex is fun, meaningless and required to live" marketing. It acknowledges that many people are unhappy with their sex life but they can't figure out why. It puts us on the same side - people who want loving relationships that work and meaningful sex.

I appreciate that she puts both non-Christians and Christians on the same side here (i.e., all humans have similar basic desires stemming from their God-given sexuality). I love it that she puts herself on the same side as Christians who want their sexuality to honor the One who gave it, rather than putting herself, as a single person, on the “other side” from those who are married. God bless her that she is aware that not every married person has a “perfect” sex life! (Or that, speaking from the standpoint of a [anonymous] married person, “everyone else” must have a better one than I do, or, mine would be so much better with “X“ person.) The myth of magic, wonderful, grass-is-always-greener sex has got to have its bogus cover blown way off!

Of course it’s obvious that the myth is a myth; why else would so many be looking for “perfect” sex outside of marriage, in the fantasy-land of p0rn or in their own imaginations? --Do they actually find it there?

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Windstorm casualty

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Thursday, February 16, 2006


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Maybe Punxutawney Phil was wrong?! (Don’t I wish...) Anyway, it was about 50 degrees F yesterday so some of the snow melted, revealing a most welcome sight in the garden :-)

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

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Monday, February 13, 2006

A Narnia valentine

(but first, a word from our sponsor:)

As if Narnia Chapstick wasn’t bad enough, I now see that I can make “Wintry White Clusters” with the Wheat Chex I bought on special at the grocery store. The recipe on the side of the box says to mix vanilla baking chips, Chex cereal, dry-roasted peanuts, small pretzel twists, mini-marshmallows, and vanilla candy coating together for - voila! - a “magical” snack/treat!

Well, my daughter is sending Narnia “flashy foil” valentines this year. (*sigh* I told her she could choose whichever ones she wanted, and had to keep my word!)

Maybe they’re not so bad. They do promote Lewis’ books and the movie, not to mention some “noble” concepts:

Wishing you a truly magical valentine” (with Peter in full armor upon his unicorn)

Happy Valentine’s Day to a noble friend,” featuring a portrait of Aslan

May the woods sing with Spring this Valentine’s Day,” picturing the four children around the lamppost (I like this one!)

May your aim be true this Valentine’s Day” with –- you guessed it –- Susan drawing her bow. (I like this one too)

So, I say to you all: May your woods sing with a gospel Spring this Valentine’s Day and always, and may all of your aims be True.

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Sunday, February 12, 2006

His compassions fail not

And I said, my strength and my hope is perished from the Lord: remembering mine affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall. My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me.

This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:18-23, KJV

They are new every morning...great is Thy faithfulness!

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Tongues of fire

...and suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent, rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where [the apostles] were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit
Acts 2:2-4

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Thursday, February 09, 2006

Hoar frost

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Last year I posted photos of frost such as I’d never seen before. It coated everything -- trees and brush especially -- with thick, feather-like crystals. I’ve since discovered that this is called “hoar frost” (by way of Rebecca Writes).

We had some hoar frost this morning. It wasn’t quite as spectacular as last year's (not as thick), but beautiful nonetheless. I attempted a few photos (which was all my frozen fingers could stand!)

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On the End of the Spear controversy, part II

(part I is below)

There have been many significant posts written on this controversy, including one by Catez Stevens that links to Barbara Curtis’ posting of an exhaustive article by Randy Alcorn. Alcorn describes his discussions with Mart Green and Steve Saint, whom he contacted as a result of Jason Janz’ post and mass emails that discussed the circumstances of Chad Allen’s hiring. Alcorn was disturbed by Janz’ dissemination of false information. Janz, however, has fully apologized for not verifying his information before publishing it. Unfortunately, his posts seemed to act as a springboard for slander, undue speculation, and insinuation, without repentance.

These things, as well as other judgmental and unkind speech against Every Tribe Entertainment and Steve Saint, are clearly sin. Whether criticisms are fair or not, Scripture is clear that correction and exhortation be done in love (I Corinthians 13). Even if Allen, Saint, and Green erred in their decisions (and I believe that Allen certainly has with his sexual practice and view that Christianity encompasses it), they stand before God, the ultimate Judge of their actions, as do we all. It is unkind and unfair to assume that the makers of EOTS were rationalizing, or capitulating, or any such thing, without clear evidence. Only God knows their hearts. It’s not necessarily unkind nor unfair to suspect a problem, but suspicion ought to stay silent unless evidence proves it.

Nine years ago when Mart Green first learned about the story (after hearing Steve Saint and Mincaye speak), he was deeply inspired to make a film of it. The reason Mincaye and the Waodani agreed to be involved was so they could be missionaries of a sort to Americans! They hoped that Americans might learn that there is a better way than retribution and revenge. I cannot imagine that ETE would’ve knowingly and purposely betrayed Mincaye and the Waodani, who had put their trust in them. It would’ve been unthinkable to take advantage of them in this way, and I really can’t imagine that Chad Allen, or the building of false bridges, or anything else would’ve been more important. Unless there’s something really scandalous that we don’t know about the producers of the film, and they had a gay agenda going along with their agenda to publicize the story of the Waodanis. In which case they are outright lying.

The thing is, life is messy. It doesn’t unfold neatly and cleanly with all the pieces seemingly falling into place as we might like it to. If we try to keep it neat and clean, we end up serving a false god, and yes, I’m guilty of this too. If we get mad at others or judge them to be dirtying up our nice, clean Christianity or our nice, clean Christian “stuff,” then the problem lies as much with us as with them. The controversy comes down to this: do we really know enough to be able to judge the motives and actions of the makers of EOTS? And if we have suspicions, are we justified in voicing them without sufficient evidence?

When all is said and done, what is the most important criterion for the movie? That only supposedly good Christians are hired? Or that the story be told in as true a way as possible? If a gay man can portray Nate Saint better than anyone else they found (and maybe others know more about whether they could or not; I admittedly don’t), why should he not do so just because he’s gay, or a gay activist, even?

Does using Allen compromise the telling of the story? Does it dilute the message of the film? If so, how? He played the part well; his homosexuality was not apparent from the way he played the role. If his being in the movie dilutes the Christian message at all, it only does so in the minds of those who make that judgment. The so-called public-relations nightmare is not necessarily the fault of the producers. Even if they did not disclose the truth about Allen in the manner they should have (and who is to determine that?), why must this influence the reception of the movie?

Does the fact that Allen was allowed to be in the movie condone his sexuality in any way? If so, how? The movie’s producers haven’t condoned it; they’ve stated that they allowed him to stay on in spite of his homosexuality. I think that’s a pretty powerful statement. They gave him a chance. Does the film act as a springboard for Allen or allow him a platform? In other words, might he use his notoriety from the film to advance his agenda? Again, I’m not sure how this would happen. Those who are sympathetic to his agenda probably aren’t terribly receptive to the “Christian” message of the story. Some may see the film because Allen is in it, and be affected toward the gospel.

Is the message of the film really as unclear as many say? Was the purpose of the film to preach the gospel, and should it have been to preach the gospel? Jason Janz thinks so. I don’t agree with him, though. The film is not seeker-sensitive in the sense of compromising or watering-down its message or becoming like the world in order to reach the world; the producers have stated that they wanted to tell the story as well as they could, and, since the gospel is the heart of the story, the gospel is the ultimate message. No, there is no specific statement in the movie that Jesus died for our sins, but does there need to be? Would the film have been a better evangelical tool had those words been in it? I don’t think the answer is necessarily “yes.”

I do think the movie would’ve been better served by having more explanation of certain elements, including some of the Waodoni activity and the missionaries’ behavior. Would this have made a difference in the way the overall message came across? It’s possible, but I think the main points were still pretty clear. The Waodani learned that there was a better way. The movie shows that there is a better way than retribution and revenge. Who demonstrated this? The missionaries. Why did they do so? Because they loved the Waodani. They loved the Waodani because of the love of God through Jesus, Who "was speared (on the cross) but didn’t spear back". This was a revolutionary concept to the Waodani, yet it was something relevant to their lifestyle, something they could understand and relate to. Mincaye himself fought it for quite some time but eventually came around, praise God.

The thing is, we can’t expect people who have no means for grasping it to hear “Jesus died for your sins; repent and believe” and just say, “Oh, OK.” Paul says in I Corinthians 9:18-23 “What then is my reward? That, when I preach the gospel, I may offer the gospel without without charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.” He is speaking of money, but I think that “right in the gospel” has broader application. He speaks of preaching the gospel in such a way as to have nothing to boast of, except for the gospel itself. He goes on, “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more.” This is so important!!! “And to the Jews I because as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law, though not being myself under the Law, that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though
not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, that I might win those who are without law.
To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all me, that I may by all means save some. And I do all things for the sake of the gospel, that I may become a fellow partaker of it.”

I don’t pretend to be a preacher, but my understanding of what Paul is saying is that he ”speaks the language” of whomever he is speaking to in order to be understood, while not compromising his own behavior and speech in any way. I see the purpose of End of the Spear as being similar. The “hook” is the common language of story. The invitation is to receive the message of forgiveness as Mincaye and the Waodani did.

It’s been said that those who defend the movie and the producers’ decision do so because of their emotional attachment to the story, which may be true to an extent. But this doesn’t mean it’s not possible for someone to support those decisions for reasons of attachment to truth and Scripture. I also think it’s equally possible that those who feel the producers erred may themselves do so because of an emotional attachment to the story, or to a shining ideal of truth rather than real truth.

To wrap this up – I highly recommend the documentary, Beyond the Gates of Splendor, which was also produced by ETE and precedes End of the Spear. The documentary sheds much light on the movie and contains extensive footage and moving testimony of the Waodani, the five missionaries, and their families. There are bits of it in EOTS.

I want to close by listing what I believe are things that make End of the Spear succeed:

1) It seeks to tell the story of Nate Saint and his co-missionaries as well as possible, and this intent is clear, as are the main points. All of the elements were very carefully planned toward this end.

2) If one pays attention to the subtitles, one can see unmistakable reference to God, Christ, and the Word of God. Through these, non-believing viewers are gently invited to explore further on their own. I can say that it was this kind of “evangelism” that drew me to real Christianity; I can’t imagine I’m the only one like this.

3) The forgiveness at the end is clear: Steve Saint (the character) says, “My father didn’t lose his life; he gave it.” He refuses to spear Mincayani in revenge. Why would a man do this for another? For a cause outside of himself. In war, men (and women) do this for their country. In the film, the missionaries did it for God. I’m sorry, but I think that in itself is pretty powerful, something capable of moving someone to look into the matter further.

Most people don’t come to Christ just like that (*snap of fingers*). Not many have a Damascus road experience, but if they do, that’s just the beginning. How many Christians, or those who have been Christians for as long as they can remember, have achieved Christian maturity just like that (*snap of fingers*)? It’s a process! Is it impossible that End of the Spear would be one of the early steps in someone’s process, or even be an edifying “step” in a Christian’s process? I know that in seeing this film I was powerfully reminded of the reality and power of God’s love.

4) The adoring relationship Steve Saint had with his father is portrayed well. This is a very important element; had he not loved his father so, it would not have been such a powerful thing for him to forgive his father’s killer.

5) It’s clear that the missionaries were serious about what they were doing; why else would young American couples with babies and very young children go to the jungle wilds where murderous savages lived?

6) It is clear that Rachel Saint and Elisabeth Elliot went to live with the Waodani (after the spearings of the missionaries) in forgiveness; there’s no other way they would have done so.

7) The action and pacing were great. Even my young children (yes!) were engaged by it.

8) Strong feelings were well-played; there was no lack of them and they worked to make the story believable as well as moving.

9) The humanity portrayed in both the Waodani and the missionaries was very poignant and there were many examples, such as the dashed optimism of the missionaries and a young Steve running after his father’s plane as it left, never to return. The beauty of the yellow plane soaring over the lush jungle with blue sky overhead, juxtaposed with the brutal lifestyle of the Waodani and the spearings of the missionaries, was very effective. Waodani women and children ran in panic, hiding from those who would spear them. Scenes of Waodani children laughing and playing and of tribesmen joking showed how human the Waodani were despite the violence of their lifestyle.

10) The clip at the end of movie from Beyond the Gates of Splendor is wonderful; it shows how Steve Saint’s and Mincaye’s relationship has continued (and is pretty humorous as well). It piques one’s interest to seek out the documentary and watch it (at least, it did me!)

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Black Jack

A few pictures of our cat

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Tuesday, February 07, 2006

To love

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.

-- C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves

The music of the cells

Hundreds of years ago, Pythagoras was listening to the music of the spheres. Today, Dr. Jim Gimzewski is listening to the sounds of a cell.

The device we use to detect the sound of the cells and the motion of the cells is called an atomic force microscope, but it's not a microscope. It's actually a sharp tip that we put on top of the cell and we pick up the motion a bit like you would pick up the motion in a gramophone, in the stylus of a gramophone would transduce motion into some signal that we can then amplify. We have an acoustically deadened room, like a sound studio. And then we just follow, follow the motion electronically. Record that. And then amplify it.

(I dunno...I wonder if the sound is coming from somewhere within the amplification system, but I don’t know much about how that works.) Anyone hear the perfect fourth?


I’d hoped to post part II to my End of the Spear commentary this evening, but realized I needed to do some more research first. Well, now my head is spinning (again) with all the information I’m trying to digest. It doesn’t help to be doing this at night when I’m already tired. Considering the amount of time I’ve already spent examining and writing about the controversy, I’m attempted to just ditch my efforts at this point. But I hate to not finish what I’ve started. So, part II may or may not follow....

Sunday, February 05, 2006

On the End of the Spear controversy, part I

(If you’ve had enough of it, read no further!)

I’m know I'm getting my comments in late but there’s been a lot to think about. The writings of others have helped the process along, and for that I’m grateful.

I’ve appreciated Alex Jordan's assessment of both the controversy and the movie itself; he’s discussed various factors involved in making a work of Christian art that are relevant to the controversy. His well-articulated reaction to the movie is similar to mine. However, our conclusions as to its merits differ; for example, where he wanted to see more character development, I am content with the characterizations as they are (except for the silliness and lack of prayer on the part of the missionaries)* because I saw the movie as a narrative. The interactions of people and their beliefs and the outcome that resulted were the story being told. Some may feel that this approach (a kind of dramatized documentary) was too literal, but to my mind it’s the narrative that carries the film and I think enough of the true story was told to make it effective.

I wish that the actor who played Mincayani (a composite character based on the real Mincaye) had looked less “Hollywood jungle-hero,” as my husband put it, and self-conscious, but then what can you expect from a soaps actor? ;-) He was convincing, otherwise – even Mincaye thought so! The “jungle music” in the soundtrack was effective too; far from being stereotypical, it served to depict and represent.

As I watched Chad Allen in the movie, I examined his actions to see whether or not they belied his sexual orientation (not that I’m any great judge of that!) or faltered in any other way in his portrayal of Nate Saint/Steve Saint. He did a nice job acting the sweet, loving husband and father (he kisses his wife convincingly on the mouth before departing on that fateful day), though perhaps was not as convincing as a missionary. That’s the complaint of many, I realize. I’m not sure that the script doesn’t share equal blame for that, though, even if it can be said that Allen’s acting lacked depth. Still, the strength of the story itself overcomes this weakness, as it overcomes the film’s other weaknesses.

A small but important role in the movie was that of Frank Drown, member of the search party who had to report back to the wives that their husbands were dead. It was made more powerful by the fact that it was played by Steve Saint. Interestingly, Saint portrayed Drown as matter-of-fact, while in a taped interview (shown in Beyond the Gates of Splendor), Drown barely keeps his composure when describing the difficulty of the recovery mission. I wonder what it was like for Saint to play that role. It had to be moving, though in a different way than flying the “big wood bee,” an exact replica of the plane his father had flown.

Regarding the hiring of Chad Allen, he was purportedly chosen by virtue of being the best applicant for the part. He may have kept silent about his homosexuality initially in order to get the part, but whether that counts as deceit is tough to call since Every Tribe Entertainment’s stated policy in hiring was to be “inclusive.” Apparently Allen hoped to “build a bridge” with Christians through acting in the movie, and perhaps he thought that if he didn’t reveal his homosexuality at the start he could get past prejudices and show that gays can be good people, good actors, and even good Christians. The fact that he hoped for this doesn’t mean that his hope was realized, however, at least in the manner he hoped for.

ETE certainly could’ve done a background check on Allen had they thought they needed to; they will no doubt be more discerning about their hiring in the future. Nevertheless, I admire the fact that ETE aimed to find the best actors for the parts and I think that this, rather than a political motivation, is the underlying purpose for their inclusivism (though I am open to evidence to the contrary). Should ETE have let Allen go once they found out about his sexual orientation and his actions to promote tolerance? Considering the fact that they did not inquire before offering the part, it seems to me that Mart Green (founder and CEO of ETE) was rightly bound by his initial agreement with Allen.

Though it wasn’t their original motive in hiring Allen, the movie’s makers hoped and prayed that he might be influenced toward the gospel through his portrayal of Nate Saint. Whether he was or will be or not, though, isn’t the issue...he was given the chance, which he would not have been had he been let go. (Allen apparently did offer to step down, but ETE kept him on.) Despite claims to the contrary, I have not yet seen that Allen is using his participation in the movie as a platform – really, he can’t! No one who made the movie has publicly said that they endorse his lifestyle, quite the opposite. Of course he’s going to advertise his participation in the movie and why should he not? How do we know it's only because he thinks he got "in" with some evangelical Christians? He got to play a great role and he did so well; there’s nothing wrong with being proud of that. He also had edifying interactions with others involved in the project, which counts for something.

Some are of the opinion that the investment and arrangements that had already been made toward the filming of the movie, such as the schedule for filming in Panama, should have been of no consideration when trying to decide whether to keep Allen on board or not once his sexual preference was known. I don’t know how anyone who’s not in the shoes of ETE could know this, though. It’s easy to be an armchair judge, to make a judgment based only on the necessarily limited information found in articles or blog posts. Should the whole timetable for making the movie have been thrown out just because of an unfortunate and inadvertent occurrence? ETE was beholden, ethically, to a lot more than just the Chad Allen problem.

Others say that ETE capitulated to social pressure of one type or another, but I don’t see evidence of this either. They knew how their decision might be regarded by the Christian public as well as family members of the missionaries, and took this into account. Perhaps Saint and Green should have inquired further into the opinions of family members than they did, I don’t know. Steve is the son of one the missionaries, though; it was, to a large extent, “his” story being told. He had as much “right” as any other family member involved in the original situation to be offended and to influence decisions about the movie.

As to the Christian public, they do not have a “right” to influence the decision of the producers, nor are the producers morally obligated to consider their opinion. Even were such opinion to be consulted, in the final analysis the decision is up to the producers; otherwise, political correctness is being served over integrity! Whether or not any of us feel a sense of ownership of the story, or even of the gospel message, the truth is we don't have such ownership! The story is very important to many yet none own it, not even those who played a part in it (though of course their part in it commands deference and respect). In regards to the gospel message, we are all owned by God and have no more claim to Him or to the gospel than anyone else.

Some spurn the idea that Steve Saint was guided by God via a dream. I realize that this opens another can of worms, but, until I am corrected I must ask, why wouldn’t God speak to him in a dream? If God created everything about us, including the fact that we dream, and if He works with us on a moment-by-moment basis, guiding us via the words of others and all sorts of other circumstances, why can’t He reveal something in a dream? If the dream-revelation were to directly contradict Scripture, that would be another story. But I don’t think it’s clear that Steve’s dream did that. It seems most likely, from what I’ve read, that both Green’s and Saint’s hearts were/are in the right place, and therefore it’s easier for me to believe that they were less than brilliant in their explanations of what they thought God was telling them than that they erred theologically.

(Side note: Marj Saint reveals, in Beyond the Gates of Splendor, that she had a dream in which she foresaw the deaths of her husband and friends. And as to signs, Elisabeth Elliot (in BTGOS) breaks up while recounting a moment when she and Jim were sitting in a cemetery and the shadow of a cross fell between their shadows, confirming their calling to do God’s work.)

I don’t think there is Scriptural defense for the view that it’s morally wrong for a gay man to portray a Christian straight man in a drama. Allen wasn’t being considered for a position in a church; he was being hired to act. Might a Christian have given a more convincing portrayal? Perhaps, but not necessarily. Had there been more explicitly Christian activity by the missionaries in the script, including Allen’s character, Allen very well may have been able to portray this convincingly. We don’t know, though, having not seen him attempt it.

Is it wrong for a non-Christian musician to play Bach’s liturgical music? Or does the inherent power and strength of the music itself carry the music’s intent when well-played according to the “rules” of the craft? Who would better convey the message of the music – a Christian musician who wasn’t very accomplished, or a non-Christian one who was?

If the film attempted to portray the characters or story inaccurately; for example, if one of the missionaries was shown lying, or having an affair, or something like that, then there would be cause for outrage. Condemnation of such inaccuracies would be entirely appropriate (spoken in love, of course!) But this was not the case!

Image Hosted by
Steve Saint is in the middle; Mincaye is at his right and Kimo at his left.

*After seeing Beyond the Gates of Splendor, I understand this better. Family members (including the widows) described at length the missionaries’ fun-loving antics, also mentioning the oddness of their jungle location and mission as juxtaposed with gathering together to dance, etc.

(edited for clarity 2/6/06)

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Darling clementines Posted by Picasa

Friday, February 03, 2006

What’s more important than the Super Bowl?

Kathy Holmgren, wife of Seattle Seahawks Coach Mike Holmgren, will be in the Congo on a short-term medical missions trip over Super Bowl Sunday.

This has caught some attention: Kathy will be featured as “Person of the Week” on ABC’s World News Tonight this evening. A film crew from ABC will be following her to a remote area in northwest Congo for an interview on Sunday.

An earlier article from Evangelical Covenant Church News paints a portrait of Mike Holmgren as both commanding presence on the football field and sensitive, caring family man. Kathy's bout with breast cancer is mentioned also.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Six more weeks of winter?!

Well, you wouldn’t think so, judging by today. The temps were so warm and the sky so clear (at least earlier in the day) that one could almost imagine spring being right around the corner. The kids got their bikes out and had a wonderful time.

Who says there will be six more weeks of winter? Why, Punxutawny Phil, of course. He saw his shadow in the clear morning sunshine. And what qualifies P. Phil to make such a prediction? Glad you asked. From his official website:

Groundhog Day, February 2nd, is a popular tradition in the United States. It is also a legend that traverses centuries, its origins clouded in the mists of time with ethnic cultures and animals awakening on specific dates. Myths such as this tie our present to the distant past when nature did, indeed, influence our lives. It is the day that the Groundhog comes out of his hole after a long winter sleep to look for his shadow.

Answers to more of your FAQs about Groundhog Day:

1. Yes! Punxsutawney Phil is the only true weather forecasting groundhog. The others are just impostors.

2. How often is Phil's prediction correct? 100% of the time, of course!

3. How many "Phils" have there been over the years? There has only been one Punxsutawney Phil. He has been making predictions for over 120 years!

4. Punxsutawney Phil gets his longevity from drinking "groundhog punch," a secret recipe. Phil takes one sip every summer at the Groundhog Picnic and it magically gives him seven more years of life.

5. On February 2, Phil comes out of his burrow on Gobbler's Knob - in front of thousands of followers from all over the world - to predict the weather for the rest of winter.

6. According to legend, if Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter weather. If he does not see his shadow, there will be an early spring.

7. No! Phil's forecasts are not made in advance by the Inner Circle. After Phil emerges from his burrow on February 2, he speaks to the Groundhog Club president in "Groundhogese"(a language only understood by the current president of the Inner Circle). His proclamation is then translated for the world.

8. The celebration of Groundhog Day began with Pennsylvania's earliest settlers. They brought with them the legend of Candlemas Day, which states, "For as the sun shines on Candlemas Day, so far will the snow swirl in May..."

9. Punxsutawney held its first Groundhog Day in the 1800s. The first official trek to Gobbler's Knob was made on February 2, 1887.

10. So the story goes, Punxsutawney Phil was named after King Phillip. Prior to being called Phil, he was called Br'er Groundhog.

town in the mirror Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Scandia trees Posted by Picasa

Great musical thoughts

This amusing collection was forwarded to my husband and I (who are professional musicians) by a musical relative (also a musician). Enjoy:

"Never look at the trombones, it only encourages them." - Richard Strauss

"[Musicians] talk of nothing but money and jobs. Give me businessmen every time. They really are interested in music and art." - Jean Sibelius, explaining why he rarely invited musicians to his home.

"The amount of money one needs is terrifying..." - Ludwig van Beethoven

"Flint must be an extremely wealthy town: I see that each of you bought two or three seats." - Victor Borge, playing to a half-filled house in Flint, Michigan.

"Critics can't even make music by rubbing their back legs together." - Mel Brooks

"Life can't be all bad when for ten dollars you can buy all the Beethoven sonatas and listen to them for ten years." - William F. Buckley, Jr.

"Wagner's music is better than it sounds." - Mark Twain

"I love Beethoven, especially the poems." - Ringo Starr

"If a young man at the age of twenty-three can write a symphony like that, in five years he will be ready to commit murder." - Walter Damrosch on Aaron Copland

"There are still so many beautiful things to be said in C major." - Sergei Prokofiev

"I never use a score when conducting my orchestra... Does a lion tamer enter a cage with a book on how to tame a lion?" - Dimitri Mitropolous

"Already too loud!" - Bruno Walter at his first rehearsal with an American orchestra, on seeing the players reaching for their instruments.

"When she started to play, Steinway himself came down personally and rubbed his name off the piano." - Bob Hope, on comedienne Phyllis Diller, but applicable in many other situations.

"In opera, there is always too much singing." - Claude Debussy

"Oh how wonderful, really wonderful opera would be if there were no singers!" - Gioacchino Rossini

"I think popular music in this country is one of the few things in the twentieth century that have made giant strides in reverse." - Bing Crosby