Friday, October 31, 2008

Hubble scores a perfect ten

Hubble scores a perfect ten:
"The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope is back in business. Just a couple of days after the orbiting observatory was brought back online, Hubble aimed its prime working camera, the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2), at a particularly intriguing target, a pair of gravitationally interacting galaxies called Arp 147."
Good to see the Hubble Space Telescope back in business. Its contribution to not only our knowledge but our enjoyment has been immense.

Follow the link back to the article for a higher-resolution image of this astronomical feature.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Global Update - Polio Spreads to New Countries and Increases Where It’s Endemic -

Global Update - Polio Spreads to New Countries and Increases Where It’s Endemic -
"Polio infections are increasing and spreading to new countries, according to case counts recently released by the World Health Organization.

Since April, outbreaks have been found in 10 countries beyond the 4 in which polio is considered endemic — Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan. And in those four countries, the number of cases is more than double the number found by this time in 2007. ..."
This is a reminder that our complacency in the Western world regarding such diseases is a bit misplaced. I grew up having had both the Salk and the Sabin vaccines, and remember the relief I felt when all you needed to do was take a sugar cube with a drop of vaccine to gain immunity from polio. Unfortunately, in many parts of the world childhood diarrhea makes oral vaccines ineffective, thus making the injections necessary.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Youth Duck Hunt

My son and I got up at 4:00am on Saturday and drove down to Eagle Bluffs along the Missouri River in Boone County for the first day of the two day Youth Duck Hunt in our area of Missouri. My son turns 16 on October 30, so this was his last chance to do the youth hunt.

We had with us a friend of my son's and his father as well as another friend of mine who is a trout biologist for the Missouri Department of Conservation, not to mention a waterfowl hunter of long experience.

My son was one of the last to draw for the choice hunting sites, but I think we ended up with the pick of the day. It was a little tough to walk into, and the slough we crossed had a mucky bottom, but we got set up and waited for 6:59am to roll around. We took the sound of shotguns all around as our cue, and the two boys went to work while the adults coached.

The teal were still in abundance, and the boys both took their limit (6). My son had 5 before the sun came over the horizon, and was in danger of getting his limit in the first half hour. The other boy was a little slower, but he caught up after sunrise. Both filled out their limit before 8:30am and we were off to breakfast (and the job of cleaning the catch once they got home).

The two young men were pumped, and if truth be told, their fathers were just as proud. The MDC biologist's son did his youth hunt a few years earlier and he welcomed the chance to help initiate more youth into the sport.

I have really appreciated the way hunting and shooting have worked in my boy's life, and the way we have been able to move our relationship into a different phase. In both hunting and trap competitions our kids, for the moment, are out there on an equal basis with the adults and are held to adult standards, and that has to be good for their development into adulthood. It certainly helps foster a sense of responsibility. And now he is an "adult" as far as the Missouri Department of Conservation is concerned because come this weekend he will have to buy a hunting license along with various options and Federal Duck Stamp.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Schooled by the Psalms | Christianity Today

Schooled by the Psalms | Christianity Today:
"...I came to pour out my heart to God and discovered there wasn't much to pour out. It would be years before I understood why I saw prayer in the same way I saw the Psalms at that time—only as a tool to help me ask God for what I wanted. The problem was that I wanted so little! What I didn't understand was that learning to pray was learning to desire the things God wants to give, and then asking him for them. ...
"Here is a good (and somewhat lengthy) piece by Ben Patterson, a campus pastor.

It is certainly appropriate for this Reformation Sunday, celebrating the 491st anniversary of Martin Luther's issuance of his Ninety-Five Theses. A listing of these debate points challenging the prevailing teachings of the Church can be found on Wikisource.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

More Thoughts on "The Shack"

I have read a number of reviews of The Shack, and while most have been favorable (or at least tolerant), some have condemned this treatment of how God might reveal himself to a struggling person in this day. I want to address three of the criticisms I have read:

God is never described in the Bible using feminine imagery -- Not true. The Psalms in several places use the illustration of the Lord sheltering someone beneath his wings. This is a behavior usually associated with the female bird. See Psalms 17:8-9; 36:7; 57:1; 61:4; 63:7; 91:4. I'll admit that these are ambiguous, and the astute reader will note that I used the male possessive pronoun in relation to the Lord. That's just how I relate to God. But one only needs to go the the New Testament to see a clear and unambiguous reference to Jesus using feminine imagery to describe what he longed to do:
Mt 23:37 "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing."
God never appears to humans except in the form of the Son and no one can see the face of God and live -- Here Scripture can get pretty ambiguous. With whom did Abraham converse at his encampment near the trees of Mamre? (Genesis 18:1-33) The references go back and forth between three men and the Lord. The word translated as "Lord" is God's proper name, YHWH. In any event, the Lord spoke to Abraham, and Sarah overhead at least a part of the conversation (and found it amusing). In another part of Genesis, Jacob spends the night on the bank of the Jabbok river wrestling with "a man", who is identified in this story as being God. Jacob makes it clear what he saw:
Ge 32:30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, "It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared."
God no longer reveals himself except through Scripture -- This is a tough one. Of course God reveals himself though Scripture. This is a key and essential tenet of the reformed faith, and the most important source of my knowledge of who God is and what he requires of me. But I am personally convinced that the Lord works directly with individuals when it suits God to do so. But opening the door to ongoing revelation and epiphany also provides a lot of opportunity for mischief or even downright heresy. One one hand, a person who feels they have had a direct revelation from the Lord might decide that he or she has no need of Scripture or the instruction of spiritual leaders or the fellowship of other Christians. But on the other hand, to claim that God no longer interacts with people except through Scripture and the teachings of the Church denies the reality that many have experienced in their lives. Does God physically manifest himself to people today? I don't know for certain, but would not bother me if there were "road to Damascus" experiences today.

When I wrote my earlier comments about The Shack, I believed that it was a bit heterodox, but not heretical. I still hold that opinion. If I had a criticism of the book, it would be its harshness toward organized religion. I know first-hand how the "organized church" can be a support in trying times, and it is hard for me to imagine a world with no religion.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Only Hope for Monsters | Christianity Today

The Only Hope for Monsters | Christianity Today:
"... Imagine my horror five years ago when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I realized that a real live thing had taken residence in my body—an 'alien' that was trying to kill me. Thankfully, surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation brought a halt to the monster's plans. But as dreadful as that experience was, I've since come to believe that an even more malevolent creature grows unabated in my soul. ..."
Kay Warren writes a thoughtful account of her trip to Rwanda, where she expected to see and recognize those who were complicit in the genocide of 1994. She found instead people much like herself, facing the same day-to-day problems she faced in the US. They loved their families, worshipped the Lord -- and some, no doubt, were caught up in the wave of evil that took over Rwanda nearly 15 years ago.

She realized that she had to deal with the evil within before she could presume to judge the evil in another place. Only through seeking God's forgiveness and realizing that without Him we are without hope can we help provide hope to others who, like ourselves, are imprisoned by evil.

C.S. Lewis called it "the illusion of self-sufficiency" in The Problem of Pain. It is called "the sin of independence" in The Shack, which I recently read. These ideas both have to do with the danger of going it alone. When the pain within is unacknowledged and unaddressed, there is little that we can do about the pain around us, except perhaps to add to it.

But in allowing God to shepherd us though our pain, we can overcome its effects and become free to love each other as ourselves.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Shack -- Initial Impressions

I had heard of The Shack a few months ago, but did not feel impelled to go out and buy it. A week ago a friend recommended it and I put it on my mental "to do" list. Friday I was at Barnes and Noble doing my regular browse-the-shelves thing, and I found myself walking past the religion books and saw the book. I pulled it from the shelf and added it to Susan's choice and began reading it at around 7:30pm Saturday evening. About 1:30am Sunday morning I read the last few lines, closed the book, and went to sleep.

The Shack proved to be a moving story and one I could not easily put off, once I reached a certain point. If you are looking for traditional theology explaining how a just God can allow evil, then this book will disappoint. If you are willing to let yourself view God in some non-traditional ways then give it a try.

In many ways, this is the Book of Job written for the 21st century. I saw a smattering of C.S. Lewis scattered here and there, but mostly this was an account of what might happen if a grief-paralyzed man had an opportunity to question God. There are twists and turns even up to the last page, but it was, for me, a moving account of how God might interact with even me.

One piece of theology expressed in this book (paraphrased) is in the protagonist's asking if all roads led to God. The answer was no, most roads lead nowhere -- but there are no roads that God would not take to reach those whom he loves. And that casts far wider a net than most of us can imagine.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

PC(USA) - Presbyterian News Service - Cyberspace bloggers get 10 commandments

PC(USA) - Presbyterian News Service - Cyberspace bloggers get 10 commandments:
"LONDON — Christian Internet bloggers have received 10 commandments to help them avoid the danger of writing in haste what they might later regret at leisure.

Unlike the Ten Commandments of the Bible, the cyberspace injunctions have not been written on tablets of stone but on the Web site of Britain’s Evangelical Alliance.

Bloggers — writers of Internet diary and comment pages — are told not to murder someone else’s reputation, or steal their content. Nor should they give false testimony against another, commit adultery in their mind, or make an idol of their blog. ..."
Something to keep in mind, especially considering how easy it is to publish information these days. For better or for worse, we have an effect on the debates going on around us, and as Christians we have an even greater responsibility to, as we Presbyterians put it, "exhibit the Kingdom of Heaven to the world."

Ten Blogging Commandments is the name of the original article, and can be found by following the link. There is much more in the original article, and it worth considering.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

White Sox take the AL Central

Well, thanks to the two games the Royals won in their final series with the Twins, the AL Central had to be decided in a playoff game last night between the White Sox and the Twins. I watched the first few innings before I turned my attention to other things. By that point it was obvious that it was a pitchers and defense game.

The Royals ended up being a key factor in the AL West with their excellent performance during September -- almost good enough to forget the rather poor showing in May, June, July, and August.

And they weren't at the bottom of the heap....