Sunday, November 28, 2010

Christian Freedom

For any readers who might not know, I belong to a Confessional Lutheran Church. It's hard to put everything into a nutshell, but it means I accept the Lutheran Confessions as the correct interpretation of the Bible. I believe in the inerrancy of Scripture and its literal interpretation. In a practical sense, it means some would consider me a religious fundamentalist or extremist. I do believe in heterosexual marriage, I don't believe in divorce (except under very limited Biblical exemptions), I don't believe women are allowed by God to be pastors, and yes, shudder, I believe that wives are to be submissive to their husbands.  I also believe in creation and the flood and all the miracles of Jesus.  I believe these things truly happened.  I believe God has given us a set of rules (the Ten Commandments) by which we guide our lives.  I believe no one can ever do this perfectly.  But God is good and gracious and sent His Son Jesus to live a perfect life for us and to suffer a heinous death, He suffered the very pangs of hell, so that we may live eternally with God in heaven.

I also have other non-Biblical values that are strongly associated with the kind of "fundamentalist" Christianity I espouse. I these are not mandated by God, they are simply things that in my world view seem to make the best sense or to be good and wholesome life style choices. I prefer to see moms stay home to raise their kids, or at least one parent. I prefer to see people living simpler non-materialistic lives than our typical western society endorses. I like it when women wear dresses to church. It makes me happy to see couples let God choose their family size and spacing.

But I can't make a Biblical mandate out of this second category of things. God, in His Holy Word, is very clear how He feels about our adding to or subtracting from that Word. He warns us against setting up our own laws over and above His, and claiming that they are His will.

I was thinking about these things today after reading the article, "Why Would a Woman Convert to Islam?"   Herbert London, the article's author, asks and then attempts to answer this question in light of the recent conversion of Tony Blair's sister to Islam.  The author of the article makes certain assumptions that I'm not sure are accurate.  But I do think his broader point is valid.

Our Western culture has become so licentious that some people are seeking life style bounds.  It is sometimes much easier to follow precepts than exert self-control.

Mr. London seems to assert that Christianity is somewhat to blame, because the West, in our Christian culture, has not clung to any sort of religious strictures.

At its foundation, even in stricter or more old-fashioned denominations such as that to which I belong to, Christianity is a religion of freedom.  We are free from the bondage of sin.  God created us with free will.  He doesn't make people believe in Him.  He loves us all the same and His son Jesus dies for all to give us salvation and freedom from the bondage of sin.

Our good behavior, our ability to align our behavior with God's will, is not what makes us right with God.

In order to regulate their behavior, God gave His people in the Old Testament the Ten Commandments.  Jesus Christ, God incarnate, later summarized those commandments as "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind.  And Love your neighbor as yourself." (Matt. 22:35-40).  He also has given us the entirety of His written Word.  Within that written Word, we find more details about how to carry out those two directives.

So Christianity is two things, a set of strictures we can never hope to follow perfectly; and at the same time, perfect freedom, in that our very worst sins, when followed by a sorrowful heart, are fully covered when we give them to Jesus to do so.  We are truly bound by God's law; and yet we have perfect freedom from that law in Jesus, God's son.

The way I see it, if Mr. London is correct in His assessment that Christianity's current licentiousness has caused people to crave the strictures of Islam, individuals within our historically Christian culture, have three choices.  Firstly, leave things the way they are, some pursuing hedonism, consumerism, solipsistic behaviors; others clinging to what some call fundamentalist sects; and some falling other places on the continuum between the two.

Second, people could rush towards more strict religious experiences such as pietistic Protestant groups, traditional Catholic groups, or some other moralistic religious group, such as Islam.

I should take a moment to define the term pietistic as I'm using it.  Pietism is adding laws and rules to God's Word.  These laws and rules are often things that are good and wholesome.  Things such as not smoking and drinking; wearing a certain kind of clothing; or not dancing or listening to rock music; etc.  These laws and rules are presented in such a way as to allow performance of such laws and rules to bring a person closer to God.  Those who perform these lifestyle choices are granted a bit of righteousness on account of the choice for holier living.  But God's Word tells us that "All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags." (Is. 64:6).  And, "By grace are you saved by faith.  And that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, not of works.  Lest any man should boast."  (Eph. 2:8-9).  Any religion that adds rules to God's Word, strictures that are not Biblically mandated, however wise they might be as lifestyle choices, can be called pietistic.  The choice to live within a certain set of moral choices is not the point.  The distinction I'm making is when these moral choices are tied to a person's faith life in such a way as to grant a degree of righteousness before God.

This brings me finally to the third choice I see for people from Western and specifically Christian worldviews.  (And yes, my bias is showing here.)   We might return to Scripture in its original intent and interpretation, for both freedom and moral guidance.  Think about it, we are free to behave how we choose.  Jesus forgiveness will cleanse us from bad behavior if we are sorrowful over and repent of those sins.  In a spirit of love and thanksgiving, we will want to adhere as closely as possible to the will of God.  We will seek to love God with all our heart, soul and mind; and love our neighbors as ourselves.

And how hard that is.  Even in light of the least pietistic choices, there are far too many ways to properly love God with all our heart, soul, and mind; and to properly love our neighbors as ourselves.  We just can't do it.  As Dr. Martin Luther pointed our in his large catechism, there are already plenty of ways to serve God aright.  We don't need to add to them.  If we could ever reach a point of being able to follow the commandments perfectly, then we might worry about extra rules ( only if not tied to righteousness before God).  But until then, focusing on the rules already designated by God in His Word is enough.

There are plenty of strictures within the freedom of Christianity.  We as a culture do not need to flee to non-western religions to get that.  But we do need to study our own founding religious document (Holy Scripture, the Bible) to know what it says; we need to to be able to decipher its demands; we need to be able to balance its freedoms.  We need to hear again and again of God's love for us and the path to salvation He has designated.  We need to be reminded again and again that we can lay all the muck of our lives at His feet.  It's all covered.

And most importantly, we read and study God's Word to receive the faith God promises through His Holy Word.

Is. 55:11
So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void,
But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it. 

Saturday, November 27, 2010

For your listening pleasure

I love the this version of "500 Miles" by the Journeymen. The lead singer (is it Scott McKenzie?) has a voice that resonates with the haunting loneliness of the lyrics and the simple accompaniment. And the vocal harmonies add perfect richness.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Rotten Potatoes re-visited

Ok, so long time blog readers may remember a post from almost exactly two years ago.  (blogger's link button isn't working right now.  If anyone is interested, check   In this post I soliloquized on Samuel Adams Cranberry Lambic.  I bemoaned the fact that this particular beer tasted more like Rotten potatoes than spiced bananas as the promo claimed.

I was reminded of this post tonight as I reached into a 50 lb bag of potatoes.

No further comment.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Weather Comparison

Since I have many relatives in the Puget Sound are of Washington State, I like to keep my eyes on their weather.  They tease me about my cold, long winters.  I tease them about being less than stalwart when they get winter weather.

Today's is kind of fun, since both areas are experiencing Winter Weather situations.

From weatherunderground
Puget Sound, WA
... Winter Storm Warning continues until 10 PM PST this evening
for the Seattle... Tacoma... Everett Metro areas including the Hood
Canal area... the Kitsap peninsula and the eastern Puget Sound

The National Weather Service has continued the Winter Storm
Warning for the Seattle... Tacoma... Everett Metro areas including
the Hood Canal area... the Kitsap peninsula and the eastern Puget
Sound lowlands for heavy snow... which is in effect until 10 PM PST
this evening.

* Timing... bands of locally heavy snow will continue across the
area though the evening hours. The snow will end later this
evening from the north... but some drifting of the snow is likely
tonight as northerly winds increase to 20 to 30 mph and gusts to
40 mph.

* Accumulations... expect total accumulations ranging from 2 to 6
inches. Snowfall accumulations will be quite variable around the
area with heaviest amounts occurring closer to the Cascade
foothills and in localized bands around the central Puget Sound

* Wind... expect north winds to increase to 20 to 30 mph with gusts
to 40 mph this evening. The gusty north winds tonight will cause
some blowing and drifting of the snow. The combination of the
strong wind and temperatures falling into the lower 20s will
give wind chill values of 0 to 10 degrees above zero tonight.

* Impact... gusty winds near 40 mph could result in local power
outages... thus consider alternate... but safe... sources of
heat in case this occurs. Otherwise make sure you have
plenty of extra warm clothing or blankets.

Precautionary/preparedness actions...

A winter storm warnings means severe winter weather is occurring
or imminent. Those planning travel in the warned area should be
prepared for hazardous... winter driving conditions and plan
Oklee, MN
Statement as of 9:13 PM CST on November 22, 2010

... Winter Storm Watch remains in effect from Wednesday morning
through Thursday afternoon...
... Winter Weather Advisory has expired...

The Winter Weather Advisory is no longer in effect. A Winter
Storm Watch remains in effect from Wednesday morning through
Thursday afternoon.

* Light snow and flurries will continue through midnight... with no
significant additional accumulation expected.

* Another storm system moving in for Wednesday and Thursday will
bringing another round of snow and possibly strong winds.

Precautionary/preparedness actions...

A Winter Storm Watch means there is a potential for significant
snow... sleet... or ice accumulations that may impact travel.
Continue to monitor the latest forecasts.
 I didn't catch our  local Winter Weather Advisory before it expired.  So unfortunately, I can't share that exact wording.  But we have at least 5 inches now.  Some nearby areas already have 8-12 inches.  Blowing and drifting.  Many places drifting up to a foot or more above the regular accumulations.

We have only a 10-20 mph wind; fairly calm for us.  The Puget Sound area wind is surprisingly much worse.

They are supposed to get two to six inches.  That's a pretty impressive snowfall for that area. 

Schools let out in Seattle late in the day.  Tomorrow is canceled for them, I understand.  My kids got off the bus a bit later than usual.  Maybe 15 minutes late tonight.  Our bus driver is optimistic about tomorrow morning.  My kids are the first on the bus, so she will be coming a mere five minutes early.

My kids hardly ever get snow days.  When I was growing up in the Puget Sound area, I can remember snow days, sitting in the little three or four inches of snow, rapidly making whatever sculptures we could manage, as the snow quickly melted away by late afternoon

There was one time we had enough, and it stuck around for long enough, that we had a snow fort at school.  One time.

I am quite amazed thinking back on it.  We didn't own snow pants.  I don't think anyone did.  There was one boy in our school who wore facemasks. I don't think most of us even had stocking caps.  I remember one time I made a chair out of snow.  I sat there for quite awhile.  Imagine...body heat, wet snow, jeans...I really don't know why I would do that.  I must have been sopping wet.

Now I am raising my kids in a much more frigid clime.   Lots of snow; not much melting.  Lots of cold, cold days. 

I spent many of my young adult years in southern Minnesota and Wisconsin.  We had lots of snow, but most of it melted or sublimated now and then during the winter.  The drifts and snow plow hills would stay the same all winter, but the regular stuff would disappear and then get covered anew several times a winter.

Here, well, here I think we actually get less snow than southern Minnesota or Wisconsin.  I could check on the exact statistics, I suppose, but I am just giving it a guess.  But the snow we do get here builds up all winter.  None of this melting and re-snowing business.  When everything finally does melt in the spring it actually leaves a mold sitting on the ground.  They call it snow mold and many people suffer terribly from allergies on account of it.

So this evening the ground is covered.  It will likely remain so until about mid April.  My kids will get very few snow days.  But they will bundle up in snowpants and coats, and gloves (sometimes doubled) and facemasks, sometimes with a second stocking cap on top, and scarves, too.  They will be strong and hearty and they will make good Norwegian Minnesotans.

I will stay huddled inside and send them to feed the cats and take out the garbage and get the mail.  I will walk briskly across the yard to church once a week.  And I will occasionally get to town to go to the library or to get groceries.  I just don't have that proper Norwegian Minnesotan blood.

And I will hypocritically tease my siblings and their families about being wimps.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Reading the Classics

I remember reading once, I believe it was in These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder, that when Laura was expecting one of her babies, I think her second, a son, she was given a hand-me-down box of Waverly novels.  She describes how reading them was only thing that enabled her to survive the first yucky months of her pregnancy.

Ever since reading this, I've been curious as to what Waverly novels were/are.  I've always imagined some candy-type reading from that era.

Because of the ease the internet has brought to historical research, I recently uncovered the answer to this oh-so-pressing mystery.   In the purest sense, the Waverly novels are those historical novels by Sir Walter Scott which were published anonymously, labeled as being by "the author of Waverly", Waverly being the first of his fiction books. He wrote under six various pseudonyms during this time of his early novels.

Sir Walter Scott (August 15,1771 –September 21, 1832) eventually claimed authorship, and also published additional books under his own name.  In a more general sense, all of Scott's books of historical fiction are also referred to as Waverly novels.

Scott's literary accomplishments were not limited to historical fiction.  He was a poet of original works, he anthologized volumes of poetry, and he translated a large volume of poetry from German.  He was involved in various historical and literary publishing enterprises.

With this new knowledge under my hat, I understandably had to request something by Sir Walter Scott from the library.  Scott's Ivanhoe has been on my "to read" list since reading Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm several years back.  Rebecca tells of being named after the character from her mother's favorite book, Ivanhoe.  But somehow, as with so many of the books on that ever increasing list of mine, I've not yet managed to read Ivanhoe.  Now that I know more about Scott's life and works, I decided to start at the beginning, with Waverly.

I started it today.

Definitely not candy reading.

The first chapter is all of three pages.  I couldn't get through a paragraph without continual rereading.  Finally, after my allotted two cups of "reading time coffee" were gone, I said, in tone of utmost exasperation, "Joe, I think I am too dumb to read Sir Walter Scott!"  It is not unusual for mothers of small children feel this way.  It's very frustrating to feel as though I have lost my powers of intellectual synthesis.  Keep in mind, I've felt this way the better part of the last 18 years.  

Since my reading time is my personal little reward and refreshment time, and since after the emotional onslaught of attempting to read this book I was most definitely NOT refreshed, I gave myself an extra few minutes.  I went into my room and closed my door.  I read without interruption (do you hear, without interruption) and guess what.  I am smarter than I thought.  The first chapter is a very wordy and somewhat meandering explanation of how Scott chose his title and subtitle.  But after I managed to get through that, the book started rolling.  I still am not completely involved.  The story line is beginning to tug at me. It might be a bit of a challenge to continue amid the usual household interruptions of my daily life.  But I will give it a few days' effort.  I can be very tenacious when I want and I guess, well, I do want.  I want to be able to read an author I've never read.  I want to be able to learn from the historical settings Scott is famous for.  I want to experience great literature.

And yes, I must admit, I want to compete with Laura.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Information, Too Much, Not Enough, Left Leaning, Biased Right.....Frustration!

I've written before about some of my frustrations with the growing options in conservative media.  Yes, I consider myself politically conservative.  Yes, it ought to be obvious to anyone who cares to think about it objectively that the Mainstream Media is biased left.  Yes, the growing variety of neutral news sources or even those biased toward the right (when it is openly so) is a good thing.  Options are good.  Variety of voices and opinions are good. 

But that doesn't mean I don't get frustrated sometimes with the quality of news coming out of the right leaning sources.  And anyone who claims that we "Right Wing Extremists" are just sheep following blindly, if you ever took the time to ask, you'd find we "extremists" do have our own opinions.  We like to do our research and check up on what we read and hear.  Our thoughts and frustrations and opinions sometimes differ markedly with those of our news sources.  This post is one lowly example.

Wow, that's a bit of statement insurance, is it not?

The subject of my current frustration is the seeming obsession with the cost and opulence of President Obama's current Asia trip.  Every station I turned to when I was in the car for a little while yesterday afternoon was full of it.  Several links on my husband's news readers were filled with it.

OK, I understand that we're talking about a huge amount of money.  Yes, our nation is struggling economically here at home and some might find this money badly spent.

But in none of the news sources did I see or hear a comparison to what previous presidents have spent.  Nor did I see or hear specifics of what Mr. President or his security detail ought to have cut out or changed.

I'm going to pull some examples from this Daily Mail article.  Yes I do realize it's a British source.  Regardless of the source, these are the kinds of complaints I heard and saw everywhere yesterday and this morning, and they are handily in one location for me to cite.
Probably not since the days of the Pharaohs or the more ludicrous Roman Emperors has a head of state travelled in such pomp and expensive grandeur as the President of the United States of America.
This is the opening paragraph.  Kind of sets the tone for the article.  But it makes it sound as though the Obama's are living the high life.  Perhaps they are, but I don't see specifics of that in the article.

The paragraph immediately following the above reads,
While lesser mortals – the Pope, Queen Elizabeth and so on – are usually happy to let their hosts handle most of the security and transport arrangements when they venture beyond their home shores, the United States creates a mini-America on the move to ensure that nothing is left to chance.
Should we begrudge our president his security.  Or lessen it since we're in tough economic times?  Is it even the president's choice to have this style of security arrangements?  Is it out of the ordinary compared to the arrangements of previous presidents?  Should we choose the security measures we demand for our president based upon the arrangements made for dignitaries of other countries?

The article continues by describing the "near tank" quality of the limo the president will ride in, his use of Air Force One, its luxury accommodations and its expense to operate.  Again, we provide all our presidents with these same measures, don't we?  If we don't like it, we can go through democratic processes to gradually change the standards.

Or maybe we don't provide these same things for all our presidents, but if not, then tell us how it's different.

There is, apparently, a squadron of naval ships patrolling off shore.  A fleet of 45 armored limos (half decoys), and a collection of dogs trained to sniff for explosives.

The president has reserved the entire Taj Mahal Palace hotel.  Again, security measures were cited, since the hotel was the target of an attack in 2008 by Pakistani militants.

The author of the Daily Mail article goes into great detail describing how the US security forces decided to secure the President's visit to the Ghandi museum using an above ground bomb proof tunnel (nearly a kilometer in length) to get him inside safely.  The entrance to the museum is within shot of a sky scraper and within a highly populated area that make the area difficult to secure.

The article describes some of the cost figures being bandied about.  I heard one talk radio personality scoff that the White House will not release the exact cost details.  He couldn't accept the idea that a detailed listing of security measures might compromise the security being sought.

Please, if this is out of the ordinary for American presidential security in a post-9/11 world, please tell me how it's different.  Tell me what specifics might be unnecessary so I can come to an opinion of my own.  Don't just complain.  And please do not imply that the the expense of the trip is presidential luxury instead of his safety.   If there are unreasonable luxuries the Obamas have chosen, then tell me that.  Don't list security details as examples of opulence.

The article then continues with a lengthy description of President Obama's business goals for the trip.  Since I'm not really up on international business, you'll have to read this part yourselves.  I've heard President Obama repetitively criticized for not doing presidential things.  For not addressing the economy enough or doing enough to help American business.  The goals described in this article and the manner the president is trying to achieve them seem reasonable.

To sum this up, I don't agree with President Obama on many policy issues.  I do think he behaves in a manner, and has in the past written in a manner, consistent with Marxist philosophy.  I do think most of the things he has striven for so far in his presidency will hurt America in the long run.  I do agree that in international situations, he generally seems to have his "America tail" between his legs.  He does not speak up for the good America represents, and he even seems ashamed of us internationally and almost grovelling in his manner.

That said, he is our elected official.  Our President.  We do live in dangerous days.  I wouldn't want his security compromised.  Within my limited understanding of international business, I can imagine that the goals discussed in the cited article are worthy and might help our economy.

I don't know how President Obama's security measures and their costs compare with those of previous presidents.  And really, only the second President Bush ought to be used for comparison.  Things need to be different in the post-9/11 world.

There may very well be valid concerns about the cost of the trip, the extent of the security measures, the opulence of the accommodations, even the business goals. 

I'd like to be given some information on those fronts.  From my conservative news sources, within the limited amount of time I was able to listen and read, I only heard and saw complaints of the cost.  I didn't even hear details of things the commentators thought were wrong.  I didn't hear anything about the business goals the president hopes to achieve.

I only heard complaints.  And scoffing.  And criticism.  That doesn't help me to form an opinion.  It just makes me mad.

And it disappoints me.  And embarrasses me.

If we conservatives want our ideals to flourish and if we believe them worthy of being passed on, we better make sure we have the information we need.  If we want to avoid the accusations of the left regarding our bitterness and shallowness, we had better not fall into the habits of the left, of merely complaining and criticizing and using emotive language designed to rile up an audience.

We are smarter than that.  We need to demand better of our news sources.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Purple Literary Silliness

While I was preparing today's post for my Poems and Paintings blog, I found a plethora of interesting information about Gelett Burgess's well-known poem, Purple Cow.  You all know the one I mean,
I never saw a Purple Cow,
I never hope to see one;
But I can tell you, anyhow,
I'd rather see than be one.
According to Wikipedia, the poem was originally 8 lines; and Mr. Burgess added an additional four lines at a later date when he was sick of the poem.  I found several sources that included the preceding two lines that I have included in my other blog,
(Reflections on a Mythic Beast
Who's Quite Remarkable, at Least.)
 I found one source that included a third preceding line,
The Purple Cow's Projected Feast:
Reflections on a Mythic Beast,
Who's Quite Remarkable, at Least.
But I didn't find any source that included an eight line original.

Karen's Poetry Spot includes a parody of Purple Cow by Burgess's contemporary, O. Henry.
I never beat a rotten egg,
I never hope to beat one;
But this you'll understand, I beg,
I'd rather beat than eat one.
Purple Cow Parodies includes several parodies that people have done in imitation of famous poets, such as this one by Susan and David Hollander, in imitation of an Edgar Allen Poe original.
One lonely, gloomy, windswept eve
A mournful sound did I perceive.
I cast my eyes beyond the pane
And to my horror down the lane
Came a sight; I froze inside
A spectral cow with purple hide.
Project Gutenburg has a wonderful digital copy of the original periodical in which the poem was featured.  The illustrations are wonderful.  If I had money to spend collecting rare books, I think I'd want to possess some of this ilk.

And finally, the later four lines that express Burgess's frustration of the constant use of his original lines,
O yes, I wrote the Purple Cow,
I'm sorry now I wrote it.
But I can tell you anyhow,
I'll kill you if you quote it.

Bloggin on facebook

I have a post for this blog scheduled to go up in just a few minutes.  But since I've just recently joined the modern age (fb) and since I even, with the help of my dear husband, have figured out (I think) how to get my blog posts to show up on facebook, I am giving it a try.

I feel a bit strange about this.  I've blogged for several years now and try not to push my blog on people.  I did recently add a signature onto my e-mail advertising them, but otherwise I putz along with a small readership of those who want to read.

But this facebook thing.  Yes, I know I didn't force anyone to be my friend.  But still, there is a corner of my brain that feels like I might just be forcing myself on you all.

But I suppose you can just "unfriend me" if you feel assaulted.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

For Two Special Boys

I came across these nickname etymologies and thought they were interesting.  Who knows how accurate these things are.  My husband, who is a bit of a linguist, dislikes amateurish use of inaccurate etymologizing, especially when used in Biblical argumentation.  But since this only for fun, I hope he doesn't mind too badly my repeating of etymologies the accuracy of which is unknown.

Henry is one of my Godsons and John is my youngest son.  Have fun boys.

Why is Hank short for Henry?
The name Henry dates back to medieval England. (Curiously, at that time, Hank was a diminutive for John.) So how do we get Hank from Henry? Well, one theory says that Hendrick is the Dutch form of the English name Henry. Henk is the diminutive form of Hendrick, ergo, Hank from Henk. Hanks were hugely popular here in the States for many decades, though by the early 90s it no longer appeared in the top 1,000 names for baby boys.

Why is Jack short for John?
The name Jack dates back to about 1,200 and was originally used as a generic name for peasants. Over time, Jack worked his way into words such as lumberjack and steeplejack. Even jackass, the commonly used term for a donkey, retains its generic essence in the word Jack. Of course, John was once used as a generic name for English commoners and peasants, (John Doe) which could be why Jack came became his nickname. But the more likely explanation is that Normans added -kin when they wanted to make a diminutive. And Jen was their way of saying John. So little John became Jenkin and time turned that into Jakin, which ultimately became Jack