Words of the day

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Poemen said that someone asked Paesius this question, “What am I to do about my soul? I have become incapable of feeling and I do not fear God?”

He said to him, “Go, and live with someone who does fear God: and by being there, you too will learn to fear God.”

Christmas is Religious?

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Charles Krauthammer today:

It is the more deracinated members of religious minorities, brought up largely ignorant of their own traditions, whose religious identity is so tenuous that they feel the need to be constantly on guard against displays of other religions — and who think the solution to their predicament is to prevent the other guy from displaying his religion, rather than learning a bit about their own.

This is certainly the case, though not limited to religious minorities. Those in the religious majority also reveal this at times. Which of course is what gives Fundamentalism such a bad name. Back in the 20s when The Fundamentals was put together it was intended to detail what those within the community should believe, so as to guard against heresy. Somewhere along the line being a Fundamentalist, now applied to any religion or lack thereof, is all about making sure the other person holds to some assumed orthodoxy.

Ignorance breeds fear. Fundamentalists are so desperate to make others shut up because they fear the great gaps within their own heart. I am confident in Scripure and confident in my faith, so am not bothered if someone disagrees with me (though, as my previous Newsweek post suggests, I am bothered when someone tells me what I am supposed to believe about my own faith and represents to others a false picture of my faith). That’s part of the problem of the doctrine of inerrancy for me. It seems like it is a bulwark for those who really don’t in fact trust it, and so insist on a doctrine to solidify what they feel is too easily overcome.

Fundamentalists of the nonreligious persuasion are just as fearful and just as ignorant. They take their secularism and want to shove it down the throats of everyone else.

Funny how Christians seem to be a lot more tolerant about other religions these days than anyone else. Most of us at least.

Studies and the Media

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The study drew immediate response from Jeff Jarvis, an internet executive and blogger. Of the study, Jarvis said, “Who are they to say what the public wants? They don’t speak for America. Second, what if a lot of entertainment is negative about hispanics? So what? We have free speech here. “

Well, to be honest, he said “religion” not “hispanics”. He would be fired if he had said this about hispanics. That which we do not know we hate. I wonder how many evangelicals Mr. Jarvis knows?

Oh, this is from a LA Times article on bias against religion in the media. I don’t necessarily agree with everything the PTC has to say, but one does have to wonder about the imposed cultural landscape of television when there are no Christians to be found but everyone has a gay friend.

Honestly, this doesn’t bother me too much. Christians are doing well in this country. It’s more a matter to me of intellectual honesty. I am bothered when folks say they are open and honest about exploring the realities of human life, yet don’t bother to delve deeply into the deepest parts of human existence. Is it artistic cowardice? Maybe a bit. It’s also bias of a sort. We all have it you know, some of us are simply better about admitting it. And it seems those in this industry are much better in pointing it out in others than acknowledging it in themselves. I think I heard someone say something in regard to this once, something about splinters and logs, but that’s a religious reference so really has nothing to say.

Gold

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California is a state built on the human desire for gold. We leaped past the usual flow of western expansion as thousands and tens of thousands came here seeking a measure of bounty from what had been left by millenia of geological processes.

The first nugget of gold to be found, or found and understood as quite valuable, was sitting in a stream bed. A worker noticed it, mentioned it, and not a couple of years later the bucolic state was flooded with seekers. The Gold Rush had begun.

There are a few ways of getting gold. The first and most direct is by panning for it. For the cost of simple tools such as a pan and a shovel, as well as time, one could become a miner. Most of those who came to California found gold by picking it up off the ground. This tended to be a subsistence lifestyle, except for the very lucky, which paid enough for continued supplies, the hope being to strike it rich by finding a nugget of great worth. Some did, and their claims brought them vast amounts of wealth.

When rain comes it forms streams in its persistent attempt to join with more of its watery compatriots. This rain, and these streams, naturally wash away hillsides, dig furrows in the ground, and pick up bits and pieces of whatever is encountered along the journey. Sometimes big pieces, sometimes tiny amounts of dust. The miners through panning or sluicing these streams find this dust, occasionally the nugget, and dance excitedly around yelling ancient Greek terms.

This was the most common way to find gold, but rarely did it pan out for a person. It was the easiest way, the cheapest, and required the least expertise. Stake a claim and go at it, forming a town with those who were at the same tasks, both admiring and jealous of the folks who found that prized nugget.

Another way to get gold was to strip mine. This was sort of the wal-mart method of gold hunting. A well-financed crew could come in, set up exceedingly powerful water hoses and spray a hillside to nonexistence. Ever spray a hose on a small pile of dirt? It was like that. Channels would be dug so as to force the water down a path, where sluice would collect the gold from the one time hill. It was forcing and accelerating the natural process of rain and streams and the cycle of water reclamation. Vast amounts of gold (or silver in many cases) could be quickly collected. The problem was this method tended to make the entire area an environmental disaster, no longer good for anything else. The land became a wasteland, pollution from a falling hillside affected the ecosystems from that spot to the ocean, all for the satisfaction of a small few. It was effective and destructive. Rarely did this pay off in the end.

Then there are mines. A single person or a whole company would take some more expensive equipment, such as heartier picks and drills and shovels and lumber, and dig a hole into the mountain. Often no one would know there was a hole in said mountain unless happening to pass by the entrance. But the gold that was found in the streams by those with pans started their life deep underground. Miners would dig to find the vein. A nugget in a stream pointed to something. The less patient would take their nugget and go home. The more astute would analyze the lay of the land, learning geology and hydrology, seeking the heart of the gold.

These folks would determine through expertise or by experimenting (usually a mixture of both, always with different ratios depending on the person) where to dig a hole. There’s a lot of ground on this earth, and so digging a hole anywhere isn’t likely to turn up gold. Sometimes digging where things seem certain may not even turn up gold. So, one has to know where to start and be persistent in keeping at it. Panning brings a small amount of gold, generally exhausted after a short while. Mining can tap into a vein of gold lasting years and years. It takes constant work, but each strike of the pick brings bounty.

Mining has its problems. You see, a person is underground when they mine, and humans are not moles. We have hands and legs and eyes meant for sun kissed lands, and the common existence of a fear of tight spots implies there’s a natural resistence to dark enclosed spaces. Digging a hole for a little way is not a big problem. But gold likes to hide, which means delving into the depths of a mountain. Digging a hole into a mountain becomes a problem because mountains are, in fact, heavy. Gravity is strong and pulls mountains downwards.

So, mines tend to collapse. A person still hears of this. Abandoned mines are scattered all over the west, and those close to population centers are quite boarded up. Those not boarded up tend to take the lives of teenagers or other adventure seekers every year. It takes a bit of understanding to build wooden supports to keep the mountain up, and it takes good strong wood to keep the mountain up. Wood rots, and poorly placed supports do not in fact support very well or very long.

The other problem is gold is often found in vast swaths of rock rather than loose soil. Rock is, as most know, hard. Generally, a metal pick or drill does not get a person far. It is backbreaking labor to advance only a few inches at some points. The gold is there but the rock is in the way.

Underground, inside of a mountain, it is also generally very dark. Those with pans dance around in the sunshine, revelling in a good day’s work under the gracious light of a life-giving sun, yelling their greek words and sipping their steaming hot coffee as they watch the day turn to night, knowing that if they wait it will come back. Yes, it will vary over the seasons but it will always be around.

Mines are dark, and those delving into the depths have to bring their own light. The problem with bringing one’s own light is that such light is notorious for being less dependable than the sun. The sun is outside of human influence and so keeps shining as it should for billions of years before and after our own enjoyment and use. Artificial light tends to shine significantly less bright, for obscenely shorter amounts of time. This is good in some ways, as handling a sun would be hazardous to our immediate health andwell being, and bad in others, as we can’t see very well and if the light we bring goes out we are quite in the dark.

Of course, even the light miners bring into their mines is not really theirs. Humans don’t have any ability whatsoever for bioluminescence, a pity both for mining and for good parties, so we have to harness chemicals to help us. Fire was the first method. Wrap a stick with something flammable, dunk it in oil to keep it more flammable, and put a match to it for hours of dancing imprecise illumination. Or stick a candle on your hat and give yourself a more focused personal light.

This brings us back to the problem with rocks. To get past the rock people found they needed something with more gumption than a pick. For the longest time no one could think of anything so anyone seeking their precious metal would have to spend endless amounts of time trying to break through it all. Then some folks in Asia found that charcoal and saltpeter and sulphur make for an explosive combination if also introduced to a spark or flame.

Put a barrel of this stuff underground, in the burgeoning mine, and all sorts of rock can be broken apart for better examination and exploration. This exacerbates the various issues with the wooden supports and also tends to emphasize the human lack of natural gifts for underground existence. The risks seemed worth it for most people because such methods could get the gold.

Then, comparitively not too long ago, a Swedish fellow, unencumbered by the three syllable limit ancient societies had enforced, discovered that the mixing of certain chemicals not only created words of historical length and complexity, the mixture could also do vast amounts of damage. Like most good marketers, he took the complex mixture and wrestled it down to three letters, or really two letters, one of which is used twice. Then he went on to give prizes for peace, often to people no less explosive than his original mixture. His mixture was made into sticks, sticks which could be shoved into small holes and so create much larger holes.

This would explode the mine, digging deeper, letting the miners sort through the rocks with the picks and shovels and carts which became required as people realized rocks, while not as heavy as mountains, are still heavy especially when they are needing to be carried long distances up hill in the dark. Careless use of the Swedish chemists mixture, however, could mess up the whole mine, kill the careless miner and often a good number of his fellow laborers. Discretion and constat alertness are key attributes for those wishing to dig a mine with any success.

The best way to get gold is a mine. It is the most consistent with the better payoff and the longest lasting. But, mines are underground, away from the light, with a mountain above the person. Being able to see meant having fire, and getting deeper into the mine meant using methods which reacted rather enthusiastically to fire.

So, mines collapse if not supported well. Mines are dark for those who lose their light. The power to get deeper in a mine is quite dangerous, life threatening in fact especially in the hands of a novice, and really until one starts to dig one does not know if there will be a mother lode or a load of dirt.

Training and study can generally teach one how to be more accurate in beginning a dig, but the whole geology of the matter is complicated and our eyes are really only good for looking at things, not through them.

This all makes mining a mess, though not nearly the mess of strip mining or as transitory as panning. It’s a work, a lifetime maybe, and hard work at that. But, there’s gold in the hills and gold is pretty. It’s also worth a lot. Not enough for some people, I suppose, though certainly enough for those willing to seek out a life beyond what the present offers, even with the inherent dangers.

And all this just for a soft, metallic rock. People are funny.

Silliness

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Take a break, watch some holiday silliness.

Be more diligent than you are

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Sometime in the early years of the second century after Jesus was born, a little less than a hundred years after he died (about the same amount of time we have from WWI), one Christian leader wrote to another. They were old school chums who grew up together under the tutelage of John. It is an encouraging letter, and the words are exactly what I need to hear this morning. Maybe others do as well.

I urge you, by the grace with which you are clothed , to press on in your race and to exhort all people, that they may be saved. Do justice to your office with constant care for both physical and spiritual concerns. Focus on unity, for there is nothing better. Bear with all people, even as the Lord bears with you; endure all in love, just as you now do. Devote yourself to unceasing prayers; ask for greater understanding than you have. Keep on the alert with an unresting spirit. Speak to the people individually, in accordance with God’s example. Bear the disease of all, as a perfect athlete. Where there is more work, there is much gain.

If you love good disciples, it is no credit to you; rather with gentleness bring the more troublesome ones into submission. “Not every wound is healed by the same treatment”; “relieve inflammations with cold compresses.” “Be as shrewd as snakes” in all circumstances, yet always “innocent as doves.” You are both physical and spiritual in nature for this reason, that you might treat gently whatever appears before you; but ask, in order that the unseen things may be revealed to you, that you may be lacking in nothing and abound in every spiritual gift.

The time needs you as pilots need winds and as a storm-tossed sailor needs a harbor, in order to reach God. Be sober, as God’s athlete; the prize in incorruptibility and eternal life, about which you are already convinced.

Do not let those who appear to be trustworthy yet who teach strange doctrines baffle you. Stand firm, like an anvil being struck with a hammer. It is the mark of a great athlete to be bruised, yet still conquer. But especially we must, for God’s sake, patiently put up with all things, that he may also put up with us. Be more diligent than you are. Understand the times. Wait expectantly for him who is above time: the Eternal, the Invisible, who for our sake became visible; the Intangible, the Unsuffering, who for our sake suffered, who for our sake endured in every way.

This still amuses me

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Something I did a couple of months ago:

Influence

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Well, now see, it pays to blog. One never knows who is reading. A person can have quite the influence without ever leaving one’s pajamas.

Meltdown at Madame Tussauds

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Well it’s the middle of the night at the London shrine, could’ve been the janitor, could’ve been divine, someone said the thermostat never did work, now we got the temperature going berserk we got a meltdown at Madame Tussauds, a national disgrace.

Celebrity status only got in the way -“Had my hands in my pockets on the Judgement Day”

(three points if you get the reference here, which can be used in the big dualravens end of the year raffle.

Death Penalty

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So I just found out. You’ll be pleased to know I didn’t watch the sentencing after all. I went for a run in the hills instead. That is a significantly better use of my time.

But, I switched on the computer again and there it was. Instead of getting life in prison, he gets twenty years of prison and then death. This reminds me of the way William Wallace was killed.

Am I the only one who would prefer the death penalty quickly if’n I was to be sentenced to it? I would like to spend the least amount of time in prison as I possibly could. Then again I’ve made peace with my maker, something those who are sentenced to the death penalty don’t quite get to for at least a little while.

Speaking of the verdict I should say that I am quite neutral when it comes to this kind of sentence. I am fine with there being a death penalty, I’m fine if there wasn’t one. This is one of the issues I choose not to takes sides on unless I absolutely have to. One of the arguments against it is we are not supposed to take a life and thus hasten judgment. Well, that also seems to argue for a weak God dependent on our actions for his work of salvation.

Also, it is quite a gift to know the very date of one’s death and have nothing else to do but prepare for it. We should all be so lucky in that respect. Now that he has upwards of twenty years of appeals, locked up away from what appears to be his greatest downfall, he might actually have a chance for real Life.

The Bible is quite filled with death penalties, most of which come after the giving of the ten commandments. So, there’s nothing Biblically wrong with it, indeed one could argue that some of the best events in history have been sparked by the death penalty.

So, that’s that. I guess the news will have to find another salacious crime to keep all the lawyer journalists employed. Heaven knows that keeping lawyers off the streets and in the studio may be one of the great benefits to tabloid coverage.