Friday, February 05, 2016

Bob Howsam's Connection to the Broncos

I never knew this about the architect of the Big Red Machine, arguably the best team in National League history.

I'm thinking Pharma doesn't want this guy as their public face


Contempt for sick people.

Contempt for less than wealthy people.

Obvious contempt for those he thinks beneath him.

Contempt for the Congress.

Contempt for justice.

Contempt for the human race.

It's disturbing. Praying for Martin Shkreli and praying that, until he can develop something like respect for his fellow human beings, he doesn't have access to power of any kind.

There's evidently more betting on Super Bowl teams...

...than there is praying for them.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

'23 People Who Became Successful After Age 40'

Fun.


'Confessions of a recovering lesbian'

I invite you to read this with an open mind.

'About that mom [or dad] who's not bragging about her [his] kid'

Nancy Wolf explains why some parents, while proud of their kids, remain silent while other parents tout their children's latest accomplishments. She gives great advice at the end of the piece.

What 1915 Armenian Genocide by Turkey Teaches Us Today

Here. Very interesting.

'Why I Gave in to Barbie, Even Before Her Size Change'

We knew a man who worked for a major toy manufacturer. He hated Barbie. No matter how much research or work they put into their own versions of the 57-year old staple of the world toy market, Barbie always won.

Barbie hasn't been winning lately. Her whiteness and impossible measurements are blamed for aiding and abetting a culture that objectifies and idealizes white women, while discouraging them from using their minds or athleticism.

Many parents have been avoiding buying Barbies for years, meaning that lately, she hasn't been the market queen who bedeviled our friend.

That's why Mattel has recently unveiled, modestly more physically realistic versions of Barbie.

But Laura Goetsch writes that after she and her husband refused to give Barbies to their daughters, their opinion about the doll changed. It started with a gift given to one of their girls at a birthday party.
We threw her a butterfly-themed party, and one guest brought a present to match: a Barbie with extendable orange, pink, and black wings, like a monarch butterfly. This thoughtful neighbor, having recently arrived in the US, was likely unaware of our American angst over Barbie, and she clearly did not share it. She simply chose a toy that a little girl who was into butterflies would love. There was no question that we would embrace this thoughtful gift with gratitude and gladness.
The Barbie was embraced. But within a context of other messages, conversations, and examples for the the daughters.
I could have tried to quash my kids’ love of this svelte fashionista, but I chose not to. To express disdain for Barbie risks communicating to my daughters that their interests are frivolous, their delights are wrong. I won’t do this. At heart, is love of fashion and design not love of beauty? I believe that God himself planted this love of beauty, color, and texture in us.  
Playing house with dolls is a way to explore our own world. This is no less true when the doll’s proportions are unrealistic and her clothes a bit tight. If there had been another line of toys that I could have easily found secondhand with as many interesting accessories, I would have bought those. Instead, we have allowed our girls to relish the endless creative opportunities Barbie offers despite her downfalls.  
Like most American moms, I worry about my girls’ body images. I want them to view women as strong, wise, and gifted by God. In a society flooded with airbrushed pictures, no woman is immune from self-doubt and confusion. I wish that for the next 20 years I could hide all the commercials, billboards, and celebrity photos. I would love to create a world in which my kids only saw real women with realistic bodies.  
I’m grateful that the newly shaped Barbies help us take a step toward that world, but it’s only a tiny step and will likely make little impact on girls who learn early our cultural preference for skinny bodies. When I was wrestling a few years ago with whether to let my kids play with Barbie, I realized that to eliminate her would simply be to remove one trickle from a fire hose….at the cost of my kids’ favorite way to play and create. I decided that it was more important to foster their gifts and interests than to assuage my uneasy conscience (a conscience that on this issue was perhaps more informed by society's expectations of me as an educated Christian woman than by the Holy Spirit).
This is not to say that I am off the hook. My husband and I must still ask, how will we build up our daughters in truth and strength? How will we give them God’s vision for women? We’ll start off by ensuring that Barbie is not the only female figure they know and admire.  
We surround them with godly, brave, gifted women. We read biographies of Corrie Ten Boom and Harriet Tubman. We play soccer, practice math, and make art. We call them to love God with their hearts, souls, minds, and strength. We push them to love their neighbors as themselves. And yes, we discuss their Barbies’ absurd proportions. 
We talk of building sharp minds and strong bodies, soft hearts and deep souls. We cheer their ingenuity. We root them in a rich faith community. We play with Legos and with light sabers. We laugh and delight in what delights them. We tell the stories of Scripture. We trust that God is using their creative play with Barbie to develop their unique gifts.
In my years as a pastor and a parent, I've found that it's possible for parents to discuss anything with their kids, so long as you love and support them. Girls will even accept your criticisms of Barbie's impossible body, her obsession with beauty, and her dependence on a man for validation, if they know that you love them and when you teach them that God has gifted them to use their minds and that adhering to a false image of womanhood is both destructive and unnecessary. Read the whole thing, please.


Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Is 'Moderate versus Progressive' a False Choice?

Senator Bernie Sanders has tweeted that a person can't be a progressive and a moderate. He said it as a criticism of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who, Sanders claims, tells some people she's progressive and others that she's a moderate.

I understand that Sanders is basically saying that Clinton has no strong philosophical core, but, out of blind ambition, says whatever she thinks will appeal to the demographic crowd she's addressing at any given time.

That's a political judgment about which people have their opinions. With rare exceptions, I don't express political preferences here.

But I do object to the notion that a person can't be a moderate progressive. Or a moderate conservative or a moderate liberal.

To me, being a moderate defines how one approaches political issues, not a specific set of political propositions. As I wrote in a piece for The Moderate Voice nine years ago:
...being a moderate is less a matter of ideology than it is of the prism through which one views life, including politics.
When teetotling Christians have criticized we Lutherans over our fondness for beer, we’ve typically said, “All things in moderation,” meaning of course that as long as one doesn’t get soused, harm someone else, or abuse one’s body, there’s nothing wrong with having a beer. I became a Lutheran as an adult after several years as an atheist. Moderation, like beer, is an acquired taste for me. But I find that moderation appeals to me. That’s not because I’m wishy washy as some, usually those who want you to agree with their ideological program, insist.
Instead, I believe that a moderate…
…may be conservative or liberal, but refuses to close his or her mind to what others say. 
…has core convictions, but not so many as to prevent her or him from agreeing with a conservative on one issue and a liberal on the next.
…asks three basic questions when considering national political issues: Is it right? Is it constitutional? Will it work?
…is an advocate of civility in the political process.
…has an equal loathing of all special interests getting special attention from those in power. A moderate believes in fairness.
Frankly, I'd like to see a lot more moderation in our politics, whatever the politicians' party or philosophy. I said back then:
For our politics to work in this deeply Red-and-Blue-divided nation, we need a strong dose of the moderation our Founders enshrined in our Constitution. Around the world today, we’re seeing that it isn’t enough to grant people the vote. Immoderate voters elect immoderate leaders, people who are duly-elected despots, tyrants, and hare-brains.
Moderate voters and moderate candidates, whatever their political philosophy, form better governments.


Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Sign Her Up!

This is fun! Good on Billy Hamilton.

"Discrimination against people should be unlawful, but not against ideas."

Here.

It's true to say, as the writer claims, that Jesus never specifically condemned the practice of homosexuality.

It's also true that Jesus claimed to have come to not to abrogate God's moral law, as revealed in the Ten Commandments, but to fulfill it.

It's also true to say that every statement Jesus made about marriage was predicated on the premise that marriage is a covenant under God between a man and a woman.

(HT: Ann Althouse)

"Thrilling is fine. Mattering is more important."

He mostly writes about business, but this short post by Seth Godin is about life.

Jordan River Baptism Creates International "Incident"

Love this.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Are first-borns smarter?

I always told my siblings I was smarter than them. The study mentioned here claims it's possibly true, that there's a 1.5-point decline in IQ with succeeding each child in a family. In honesty though, I told my daughter, who sent the link for this article to me earlier today, that I'm skeptical of the findings. (By the way, she sent the link to me because she found the article "funny." She's the second child.)


NY to London in 15 Minutes

Wish I could book my flight now! (HT to my son, who linked to this piece over on Facebook.)


The Authority to Change Eternity

[This was shared with the people and friends of Living Water Lutheran Church, Centerville, Ohio, yesterday, January 31.]

[You can listen to the message by clicking here.]


Luke 4:31-44
At first, today’s Gospel lesson, Luke 4:31-44, may seem like a hodgepodge narrative of two days in Jesus’ earthly ministry. But the incidents recounted here are really linked by two strong themes.They’re important for us to remember.


The first theme is authority.

The lesson takes place in the Galilean town of Capernaum. Jesus is preaching in the synagogue and Luke tells us that, as Jesus does so, the people “
were amazed at his teaching, because his words had authority.”


Many people try to speak with authority. In this presidential election year, we see that a lot. But when Jesus taught and preached, it was unlike anything the people had heard.

In Jesus, whether people knew it or not, they heard the voice of the One Who had once said, “‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” That’s authority! 


Later in the passage, a man disrupted Jesus’ teaching in the synagogue. The man was filled with a demon.

We need to stop here for a second because as post-moderns, we may be skeptical about the existence of demons. I don’t share this skepticism about the existence of demonic forces in our world, though.

A few years ago, our son Philip went with his now-wife on a mission trip to Haiti. One day, Philip’s young translator took Phil on a tour of the town close to the school where they were working and later, the translator took Phil to his own home. Near the end of their visit, the translator introduced Philip to his sister. Phil shook her hand and felt that the sister was there, but not quite. Her eyes had a strange look. After they left her, the translator turned to Phil and said, “She has a demon.” Philip knew it was true.


In a culture like ours that has come to doubt the existence of Satan (which suits Satan just fine; he doesn’t want you to think he exists), the forces of hell and the demonic operate more subtly. Satan, the serpent of the garden who was described by Genesis as the most subtle or crafty of creatures, is a master marketer. He understands exactly what is most likely to drive people away from God in any given culture.

In first-century Judea, as in twenty-first century Haiti, one marketing ploy that Satan commonly used to frighten them into thinking that the devil was more powerful than God and that God couldn’t help them was (and is) demonic possession.


But even in the face of demonic possession of a human being, Jesus is authoritative. Verse 35: “‘Be quiet!’ Jesus said sternly [to the demon]. ‘Come out of him!’ Then the demon threw the man down before them all and came out without injuring him. All the people were amazed and said to each other, ‘What words these are! With authority [there’s that word again] and power he gives orders to impure spirits and they come out!’”

Whatever evil afflicts you, whatever temptation dogs you today, whatever sin has overtaken you, Jesus can have conquering authority over it, if you will let Him.

Not long ago, I was talking with a man who told me that over the course of several years, there had been a steady, almost imperceptible decline in his faith life and his character. He was still in worship. But he didn’t pray very often. And he found himself toying with temptations and sins he never would have previously considered. In the process, he became more cynical, more critical of others, less patient, more selfish.

The horrifying thing is that he was enjoying it. His increasing slavery to sin
felt like freedom to him. This is how sin and the devil can mess up our thinking!

Fortunately, the man still
did occasionally feel prompted to pray. (Remember that our prayers are always responses to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. We wouldn't know or feel drawn to pray otherwise!)

One day he was praying. In the middle of giving God a laundry list of things he wanted in his life, he stopped cold.

“I was walking into my living room,” he told me, “when suddenly, there were tears in my eyes. I felt totally convicted by God for how I was living. I called out to God, ‘I don’t want to be far from You, Lord. Help me to be a man of God again!’”

That man gave me permission to tell his story so that you will know that there are more subtle ways of becoming demon-possessed than the way recounted in today’s Gospel lesson.

The God we know in Jesus Christ will never force Himself on you; God only goes where He’s invited.

And when almost imperceptibly, we walk away from God--neglecting worship, the study of God’s Word, prayer, receiving the sacraments, or caring for or serving our neighbor--we create vacancies in our souls that become footholds for sin, darkness, and the devil.

When that man came to God in Jesus’ name, even though he prayed selfishly, he was actually inviting Jesus back into his life. For the first time in a while, this man felt truly free of the sins that were destroying his character, his relationships, his self-esteem.
Jesus has the authority to do this in all of our lives.

Jesus speaks the Word of God with authority. Jesus also speaks with authority to defeat Satan. But that’s not the end of the authority theme in our lesson.

Starting at verse 38, Jesus enters the home of Simon, the apostle Jesus would rename Peter. There, he found that Simon’s mother-in-law was ill with a fever.

This was no demonic invasion. This was physical illness. Illness
is another manifestation of evil in our fallen world, but most physical illnesses don’t come to us because, like the man I just mentioned, we’ve sinned. People get the mumps or chickenpox or cancer usually simply because illness happens in a fallen world. Physical illness is a consequence of living in an imperfect world. One day, those who entrust their lives to Jesus Christ will live in an eternity beyond the reach of illness. But this isn’t heaven.

Yet in Jesus, heaven comes to this world, as it did that day in Simon’s house. Verse 38: “...Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Jesus to help her. So he bent over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. She got up at once and began to wait on them.”

In His own
authority, Jesus signified the power He ultimately will wield over our common human enemies--sin, death, darkness--by restoring the health of Simon’s mother-in-law.

Jesus still conquers illness today.

Great doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals know this.

In hospitals here in Dayton, I have experienced more than in any other place I’ve served, doctors, nurses, and anesthesiologists who join patients, families, and me in praying before surgical procedures.

When competent, trained medical professionals also pray in Christ’s name for their patients, those patients can great confidence that they are in God’s hands as He guides human hands.


After healing Simon’s mother-in-law, Luke says that Jesus brought healing and deliverance to many more in Capernaum.

Early the next day, He went off to a quiet place. Crowds found him and tried to convince Him to stay. But in verse 43, Jesus says: “
I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.”

And this is the second important theme of today’s Gospel lesson. The preaching of Jesus, the exorcisms He performed, the healing He brought, and everything Jesus did that day in Capernaum and everything He did while on earth, were really about one thing:
To bring the good news of new and everlasting life to all who dare to turn from sin and believe in Him. Every miraculous thing Jesus ever did was meant to be a sign pointing us to Him as the way, the truth, and the life, to Jesus as God the Son and Savior.Every person Jesus healed, brought back from the dead, or from whom he exorcised demons, had one thing in common. They all eventually died to life on this earth. Jesus exercised His authority in these ways not because life could ever be made perfect in this imperfect world, but to point to the good news that can change the person who believes for all eternity!

No doubt many in Capernaum wanted Jesus to stay because they saw Him as the cure for their earthly afflictions. We human beings are always more impressed by flashy, easy to observe, earthly things. You’ll remember that Jesus once sent His disciples out to replicate His ministry--to heal, to cast out demons, to preach and teach. They came back to Jesus excited about the authoritative signs that they’d performed in Jesus’ name. But Jesus told them, “...do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” [Luke 10:20] These are good words for us to remember!


In this life, nothing will ever be perfect.

Our prayers will often seem to go unanswered.

Evil will often seem to win.

We may be tempted in the face of these realities to wonder whether God is there or if He is there, whether He cares.


But every time, in the name of Jesus, sin is forgiven, relationships are mended, healing is granted, God uses us to feed hungry people or helps us tell a friend about Jesus, whenever God empowers us to fight for justice for our neighbors, and whenever lives are made eternally new through faith in Christ, we are given signs that, beyond this life, those made righteous by faith in Christ will live a resurrected life with God and in the company of the saints and that all that hurts us--that hurts God Who stands with us--will be gone for eternity
.

In the meantime, may we live under the authority of Christ Who saves us from sin and death and may we share the good news that all who turn from sin and surrender to Christ can have this same everlasting life with God! Amen


Friday, January 29, 2016

This is Not a Test by TobyMac

It's the title track from TobyMac's latest release, from last year. He returns to his rap roots on this and several other tunes on the album.



Thursday, January 28, 2016

Thank God for Grace!



If you'd like to learn more about Gideon, Joseph, or Daniel, you can read about them in the Old Testament of the Bible. Do Google searches individually for Daniel in the lion's den; Gideon, fleece, commander; and Joseph in slavery, Genesis.

God often plucks the best cards from the bottom of the deck and specializes in making the despised and forsaken objects of grace and instruments of His special purposes.

Canada, South Korea, Spam

My son put me onto an article titled 28 Things You Never Knew About Canada That May Surprise You. Being a nerd, I took the implicit challenge, thinking that I knew most of them. Wrong. I only knew three of them.

A sampling:
1. Canada consumes more macaroni and cheese than any other nation in the world. 
3. Police departments in Canada give out "positive tickets" when they see people doing something positive. 
6. Residents of Churchill, Manitoba leave their cars unlocked to offer escape for pedestrians who might encounter polar bears. 
20. Large parts of Canada have less gravity than the rest of Earth. The phenomenon was discovered in the 1960s.
After I reposted the article link on Facebook, a junior high classmate wrote:
But South Korea eats the most Spam.
He's right.



Which, of course, reminds me of another Monty Python bit.

Johann Gambolputty...and Long German Words

A pastoral colleague of mine posted this on Facebook today.



It made me laugh and reminded me of this old Monty Python bit.



Both send-ups are funny because they ring true. How would you like to be an elementary student in Germany studying for next week's spelling test?


Is Video the Right Vehicle to Battle Objectification of Women?

Relevant magazine reports on the video montage of sexual imagery in advertising that has recently gone viral. The video, originally released anonymously, is the brainchild of the Badger and Winters ad agency. In the past, the agency has apparently produced advertising based on the industry adage "sex sells." But now, says Madonna Badger, the firm is done with advertising that objectifies women.

That's a bold stand, as Relevant's article says. But "it's hard to know if it will catch on in the industry" because "women only make up 11% of advertising creatives." Good point.

But I wonder whether the video that sent #WomenNotObjects into the social media stratosphere has been so watched not because viewers object the objectification of women, but because they like what they see? I haven't seen the video and don't intend to, but have read descriptions of it.

Let's be honest, pornography and the objectification of women is a huge problem in our country. Porn has gone so mainstream--entering into mainstream TV, movies, books, and the Internet--that Playboy magazine has become passé. The publication has recently announced that it will now only present women clothed and its publisher Hugh Hefner is so strapped for money that he's put his famous Playboy Mansion on the market with the stipulation that he must live there until he dies. (The old pornographer is 89 years old.)

So, while I applaud Badger and Winters for their intentions and maybe they've gotten a healthy discussion started in this country. It's possible for me to be completely out to lunch on this, but I wonder whether their viral video hasn't unintentionally fed the objectification monster.

Just finished reading...

...Pastor Mike Foss' Real Faith for Real Life: Living the Six Marks of Discipleship. I highly recommend it.