San Miguel Island

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The San Miguel Island ’07 trip pictures are now in the gallery.

Elephant Seals

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In December Elephant seals, male and female, come down from Alaska to the beaches of SoCal islands to breed. The males leave pretty soon after their business is done (there isn’t a March of the Seals, to be sure) leaving the ladies to raise the babies. The females don’t eat during breeding or raising. When the pups are weaned, the females go swimming for a couple of months to eat. Then they come back to the islands and shed their skin. When this is done they swim back up to the Alaska, never getting out of the water until it’s time to breed again.

During the three weeks their skin is flaking off, the elephant seal females don’t eat. They just sit on the beach, lounging around.

good listening

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Every once in a while I happen across music I really like. There’s usually some kind of interesting story there because I’m not exactly out there in the clubs looking or listening.

Not too long ago I came across Tanya Gordon. She’s friendly, funny, and has a wonderful voice.

Not only does she sing, she also apparently makes a pretty mean lamington. She’s also a part of emerging Church stuff Down Under there.

She just released a new CD. Good music, and the proceeds go to a good cause.

You should buy it.

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Merry Christmas!

times change

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Pannenberg’s dispute with Bultmann centers on revelation and its relationship to history. To Bultmann, faith and reason are totally separate, as are God’s history and man’s; the divine will is known only through the kerygma (proclamation) —God’s word as contained in Scripture, which is understandable only through faith. Pannenberg argues that Bultmann preaches a kind of “Biblical authoritarianism” of God’s word and, in effect, pushes Christian faith outside the boundaries of history. On the contrary, Pannenberg insists, God is not only the ground of all existence, but all of history is a revelation of his existence. A notable example of this is the history of ancient Israel, as recorded in the Bible. “It was the Jews who first discovered divine reality within the changes of history,” contends Pannenberg. “For this reason they, unlike other peoples, did not try to stem themselves against the new, but continued to see divine manifestations within the changes of history itself.”

Guess the source.

No, it’s not a dusty theological text. Nor is it a journal article. Nor even notes from a lecture.

It is from a religion section.

Time magazine’s religion section, in 1967.

On the back of my Theology of Hope book, first published in 1964. there’s a blurb from Newsweek commending Moltmann’s work.

It is amazing to me how much the coverage of religion has regressed from assessing some of the top theologians in the world to neato articles on the Gospel of Judas (with glossy photos!) and constant re-examinations of managing editor’s personal faith quests, or loss thereof.

not interested

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I’m still looking at various pictures and trying to come to terms with what they say about the theme. This one by Botticelli stood out to me when I began to think about the wise men:

Adoration by Botticelli

Generally, these kinds of pictures tend to slip away from my interest pretty quick. It’s quite clear the artist is portraying a scene not too far from his own situation in life. Fawning nobleman crowd around a decrepit building, ruins in the distance. I feel like I am looking at a scene from the early Italian renaissance, and not so much feel any sort of connection, or even consideration of Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus.

There are a lot of paintings like this, and so it’s easy to move past and gaze at another painting with more insight. Yet, in my wanderings I kept coming back to this one. I would dismiss it, then feel it tugging at me once more. All because of one man.

That guy in the lower right corner.

What is that expression? He’s there, but he’s aloof, not joining in with the prattle of the other young men, offering nothing to the focus of the scene.

Something is going on with him. Like he’s been caught in the view of this scene and wished he wasn’t. There’s a lot of bother going on, so he’s playing his role. But he would rather be elsewhere.

Maybe it’s boredom. This baby king business isn’t all that interesting.

Or maybe that look is something more. The magi had been to Herod’s before this. Herod sent them on their way to Bethlehem, trusting them to return with a report. But if you know Herod, he was a man who trusted no one. So, he sends a spy to follow the fellows.

What would that servant do when the magi have found their baby? Watch, take notes, stay on the edge of the crowd.

That’s the look I see with this guy. It’s more sinister than boredom.

When I think about the slaughter of the innocents that comes later in the story, I begin to think about this guy. He led the force back to kill the baby, and when they couldn’t identify the right one, they killed them all.

Or maybe it’s not all that sinister. Maybe he’s like a lot of us. Distracted by life, but wondering what’s going on. Interested enough to show up, not so interested as to join in with the worship. He’ll wait and see what happens. Totally noncommittal before the now acknowledged King of the Jews.

I am intrigued by him because he has a story of some kind. Whether sinister or mundane, he stands out precisely because he seems so out of place with his lack of developed interest — so out of place that he draws the eye away from what should be the focus of the painting, on the Holy Family.

He is intriguing because he seems to mock the whole point of painting a scene like this to begin with.

Odd thing that. Odd characters make for interesting considerations I suppose.

christmas art

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I’ve been spending the day looking at Christmas related art. No, not the typical kitsch filled with children sledding, cottages with smoke pouring from the fireplace, or jolly old elves. I’m having a look at the religious art that accompanies the Christmas story.

One of the pieces that sticks out to me is this one, The Annunciation by Dante Gabriel Rossetti:

The Annunciation by Dante Gabriel Rosetti

Most religious art dealing with Mary has very much the Catholic sense about it, highlighting her stature and role as most blessed among women, and in doing that making her to be no real woman at all, but a figure of religious imagination — the goddess some folks wish Christianity had.

Here, however, we see a scene. I like this painting because I imagine this is right before the angel disappears. He’s made his announcement that Mary is going to have a baby. She’s gotten over her initial shock. She asked how this was going to happen, the angel replies, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you”. We see the dove coming through the window above the angel’s hand here.

“May it be to me as you have said,” Mary replied to the angel. But in this painting we still see the weight of her initial reaction we read about in Luke 1:20. Mary was greatly troubled.

“The Lord is with you,” the angel said.

Mary was greatly troubled at his words, Luke writes.

My guess is she knew her Scriptures. What was going through her mind? Isaiah? Joseph? David? Ruth? Esther?

The text doesn’t say she replied with serene peace or with exuberant joy. “What do you mean?” she asks the angel, fearing more than the angel’s presence.

Rossetti captures this scene with the right emotions. The angel is blessing Mary, the dove (symbol of the Spirit) is entering. But Mary looks away, looks down, completely unsure about what this really means for her life.

She will do her part, and what a part it is, but she’s not quite at the point of acceptance that makes her rejoice in song. That comes later when she greets Elizabeth. Now, the angel has spoken. Mary will do her part. The process of God becoming a man is beginning.

Both Mary and the Angel still have the typical plate behind their head, the halo that appears in most medieval art. But, she’s not beaming with joy. She’s a little out of sorts. Now that she is most blessed she has no idea what to think or what to do.

In this moment, with it all happening so quick and changing her life in an instant, Mary is indeed troubled. Here in Rossetti’s painting, Mary is human and real — precisely the servant God chose through whom to do a work.

stories from juvenile hall

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Got an email from my dad who teaches literature, and occasionally PE, at a juvenile hall:

This early AM during PE we were playing soccer . . . one of my special ed. students was taking the ball quite skillfully from center field towards the goal .. amazingly he got within fifteen feet of the goal and had an open shot . . . screaming at the top of his voice, “For hate’s sake I spit my last breath at you . . .” . . made the shot and goal yelling, . . “* I give up the spear!!” Won’t get him gainful employment . . . but, made the staff stare in amazement . . . that’s worth something in life!

*From Moby Dick


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Sure, it’s only the beginning of November… way too early to have done something like this. I know. Just had the urge I guess.

I bumped Will Farrell’s Elf to the top of my netflix queue and watched it last night.

What did I think of it? I liked it. I liked it a lot more than I expected to like it.

Indeed, I think it’s a keeper. I’m glad I watched it now, instead of when it came out or later on closer to Christmas. I’m glad because watching it now gave me a perfect analogy for what I said a few days ago.

I love movies that hit presently exploring themes.

7 new wonders

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There are seven wonders of the ancient world. 1. Pyramids of Egypt 2. Pharos of Alexandria | 3. Hanging Gardens of Babylon 4.The Temple of Artemis 5. Statue of Zeus 6. Mausoleum at Halicarnassus 7.The Colossus of Rhodes

The problem is only one of these is presently still gracing us with its wonder. The rest were demoted to the less than wonderful category of nonexistence.

Well, there are some folks who would like to make a new list of seven. Seven Still Existing Wonders of the World, or some such title. The nice thing is that instead of a secret cabal of elite wondermakers, they are inviting the people of the world to select which objects of human construction are the most wonder filled.

Apparently, however, there is still a bureaucracy of wonder as we have been given a narrowed list of 21 sites to wonder choose.

I just voted.

You have just become part of history in the making of the New7Wonders of the World

You have voted for these candidates

Christ Redeemer

Great Wall

Hagia Sophia

Kiyomizu Temple

Pyramids of Giza

Statue of Liberty


My criteria was simple. Which wonders did I find particularly interesting and filled me with a curious wonder. This might mean I was struck by the meaning, the history, or the architectural genius, or any mix of the three. Complexity or size wasn’t a factor. For instance I think the Taj Mahal is much more grand and complex than the Christ Redeemer statue above Rio. Only I think an absurdly rich guy building a fancy tomb for his wife much less wonder compelling than a Jesus with open arms above a rather morally complex city. The former was a lot of money being thrown out. The latter is a deliciously pyschological and cultural puzzle, which has many varied meanings and symbolism wrapped up in an otherwise simple statue.

I’ve wondered about that statue. So, it’s one of my wonders. I’ve wondered about the rest as well, and find them, in different ways, wonderful.

Have a go at voting for your own choice of world wonders.