Saturday, July 30, 2005
According to Andrew Schutz, associate professor at St. Thomas University, "that's the one thing modern theory has done, for better or worse...It describes everything as worthy of study. The breaking down of barriers between popular culture and high culture is the first step on that route."
For the whole article click here.
With great forsight, the conference planners scheduled a mock trial of Severus Snape long in advance, presumably on charges of being a Death Eater. But after the events of the recent book the trial was bumped up to a murder case. Last night the jury handed down it's verdict of...click here to find out!
The part about Willow includes the phrase "if my memory of a visit ten years ago is correct." Jeesh. Here's an idea; call the church and ask somebody! Do newspapers have no standards?
Anyway, the article ends like this:
However, the bottom line is this. If there are now tens of thousands of seeker-friendly churches, who are attracting the unchurched, why has the number of unchurched Americans nearly doubled, according to pollster George Barna, from 39 million in 1991 to 75 million in 2004?First of all, if it were true that the rate of unchurched people was growing at a significant rate, than the obvious answer would be that the segment of churches that is not growing is hemoraging people faster than the segment of churches that is growing can assimilate them.
However, just thirty seconds at www.barna.org and I found that Mr. McManus was not accurately representing the information.
According to the Barna Group "one-third of all adults (34%) remain 'unchurched.' That proportion has changed little during the past five years. However, because of the nation’s population continuing growth, the number of unchurched adults continues to grow by nearly a million people annually."
But still, the question remains, if megachurches are flourishing, why isn't church attendance on the rise, instead of just holding steady? There are probably many conributing factors to this, but one is the decline in attendance among hispanic Catholics.
The Barna group reports that "Catholics, whose doctrine defines absence from weekly church services to be a sin, are more likely than Protestants to stray from church events. Some of that gap is attributable to the above average percentage of Hispanics who have dropped out of the local church (41% of them are unchurched)."
This suggests that American churches (mainline and otherwise) need to do more to serve the hispanics in their areas. Are local congregations making available spanish language church services and events? Are they conducting themselves in a manner sensitive to the unique challenges faced by hispanic Americans?
Rather than take pot shots at easy targets like Saddleback and Willow we need to turn a critical eye inward and ask, what can my church do to reach the unchurched in my neighborhood?
Friday, July 29, 2005
Okay, I've waited long enough, it's time to talk about Severus Snape.
Poor Snape (or wicked, evil Snape, depending on your interpretation) has always been shrouded in mystery. In the last five books he's conducted himself with the most frustrating ambiguity. There were only a few things that seemed clear about Severus Snape: he is a champion at holding a grudge, he is trusted by Dumbledore, he wants the Dark Arts job and he's a Death Eater, in body if not in spirit.
In Book 6 the long standing question of Snape's allegiance seems to be answered when the man turns his wand on Dumbledore, killing him before Harry's own eyes. Okay, Dumbledore was wrong, Snape is bad. Or is he?
Entertainment Weekly put two of it's writers to the task of debating this question. Since the evidence against him is fairly obvious, I won't bother going into it. Here is Paul Katz's defense of Snape:
- Snape must fulfill his do-or-die Unbreakable Vow to protect Dumbledore's would be assasin, Draco Malfoy - preserving his cover as a double agent. So reluctantly he kills the Hogwards headmaster...
- Dumbledore was ordering Snape to kill him, not begging for his life. He'd never beg!
- Even while battling Harry, Snape reminds him to "keep your mouth shut and your mind closed" - sound advise for his former occlumenscy pupil. Plus, Snape has rescued Harry several times - however begrudgingly - and even tells the Death Eaters in Book 6 to hold off on killing him.
- Dumbledore trusts him "completely." That's good enough for us.
- Not only does Dumbledore trust him completely, but the presense of Pettigrew at Snape's house in chapter two makes one suspect that Voldemort does NOT trust him completely.
- Harry continually defended the Half-Blood Prince, insisting that the person who had left the notes in his potions text book was not the kind of person he'd encountered in Tom Riddle's diary. He even continued to defend the Half-Blood Prince after discovering the mysterious figures tendency toward the dark arts. We learn toward the end of the book that the Half Blood Prince is Severus Snape.
Another study was conducted on men and women whose spouses had died, either by accident or suicide. The hypothesis was that the people whose spouse had committed suicide would experience worse health in the year following the suicide. The results shot down the hypothesis. Instead the main indicator of health was the widow/widowers willingness to discuss the loss, and the spouse of the suicide victim was actaully more likely to discuss what had happened and consequently experience better health. The study found discussing the loss was beneficial and ruminating on it was detrimental.
Dr. Anderson also cites studies that show a connection between "emotional disclosure" and immune system function, mood, GPA, frequency of doctors visits and re-employment after losing a job. Fascinating stuff!
(ps If you think this stuff is as interesting as I do I've linked to Amazon in the title, so you can go snatch up a copy.)
Thursday, July 28, 2005
It was obvious that approaching FMS like other rhuematoid disorders wasn't working and now science is making a much needed shift it the way it approaches FMS.
new findings suggest that the pain associated with fibromyalgia may be caused by abnormal signal processing in the brain and central nervous system. Therefore, targeting how the nervous system sends pain signals to the brain and then how the brain interprets those messages may offer a new avenue for fibromyalgia treatment.
Mirapex is part of a class of drugs known as dopamine receptor agonists that targets this pathway. The drug stimulates the production of the brain transmitter dopamine and is believed to inhibit sensory responses like pain.
The results of this study don't sound nearly as statistically overwhelming as I'd like, but it's a step in the right direction!
About 50% of the patients had severe fibromyalgia; they required narcotic painkillers and/or were disabled from their condition.
Researchers allowed the participants to continue to take whatever treatments they were already using for their condition at the start of the study, but they were not allowed to start new treatments during the study.
Most of the 11 participants who did not complete the study were eliminated for starting a new treatment. None withdrew due to side effects caused by the medication.
Of the 49 who completed the study, those treated with Mirapex reported a significant decrease in pain compared with the placebo group. For example:
42% of the Mirapex group had a 50% or more decrease in pain vs. 14% of the placebo group.
82% of people taking Mirapex noted some improvement in pain vs. 57% of the placebo group.
The Mirapex group also saw more improvement in function and fatigue.
Researchers say the drug was well-tolerated, and the most common side effects of the drug were weight loss and nausea. The fibromyalgia patients did not suffer from hallucinations and sleep attacks commonly reported by people taking Mirapex for Parkinson's disease.
Willow Creek Community Church in the News: A Nice Article About the Theology of Architecture and Design Becomes a Pot Shot at Megachurches
This stained glass window at First English Lutheran Church was designed by parishioner Muriel Challinor.
This mosaic, which hangs in the lobby of Willow Creek Community Church, was designed and created by parishioners.
This is the second South Bend Tribune article in less than six months that mentioned Willow Creek in an erroneous manner. The first one reported that Willow Creek was a Methodist congregation and went even further, implying that Willow is an example of the decline of that denomination. This one links Willow Creek by name to questionable beliefs and practices without offering any substantiation.
Irresponsible journalism is something we're all used to, but what I still haven't gotten used to is Christian leaders who publically insult the congregations of other Christians. It reminds me of competing fried chicken joints trying to run each other out of town by spreading rumors of health-code violations and horse-meat in the fifty piece bucket.
This is not a competition, it is a family, and as long as we continue to bicker like spoiled children we heap ridicule on the name of our shared faith.
A member of First English Lutheran Church reflects on Christ's sacrifice.
Three members of Willow Creek Community Church reflect on Christ's sacrifice .
The message was out of Exodus 16, where God sends manna from heaven to feed the Isrealites in the desert. The theme was "provisions from God are good, but if you don't follow His instructions it will stink."
The instructions God gives us with regard to our material blessings are meant to safeguard our dependency on Him and to safeguard justice among men.
The instructions he gave the Isrealites with regard to manna were
- gather it
- don't gather any more or less than you need
- don't horde any for tomorrow
- don't gather any on the sabbath (thus showing that God is a higher priority than material blessings)
The idea of applying these instructions to our own provisions today is startling and extremely counter cultural. It's tempting to just dismiss them and say "God only meant those instructions for that group of people at that point in history" but Guerrero says no.
He points out that when the Isrealites moved into the promised land God gave them new instructions along the same lines, this time regarding production and debt.
Then in the New Testament Jesus refers back to these principles, and in case any one wants to say that he was doing so in a metaphorical way, Guerrero points out that the first church (Acts 2 and 4) lived out these same principles; "All the believers continued together in close fellowship and shared their belongings with one another. They would sell their property and possessions, and distribute the money among all, according to what each one needed."
A really thought provoking New Community.
For Steph's take visit her excellent blog at this link.
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
I got this book out of the clearance stack at Border's when I was in New York. I'm so glad I bought it - it's fascinating!
One sub-chapter is titled "The Writing Cure: Smyth's Groundbreaking Study." It describes a study of 112 carefully screened participants, each suffering from asthma or arthritis and assigned radomly into two groups. "One group was asked to write about 'the most stressful experience they had ever undergone,' and the other group [the control group] was asked to write about their daily activities in a kind of time-management exercise'....all participants were told that the study was simply about their experiences with stress."
The participants did the writing exercises 20 min a day, 3 times a week. "The results were striking. Among the ashtma patients, those who wrote about stressful experiences showed significant improvements in lung function at the four month follow up, whereas those in the control group showed no improvement. Similarly, although the arthritis patients in the control group showed no improvement of symptoms, those in the experimental group had a 28 percent improvement."
This sounds like a horrible exercise that would, if anything, make a person feel worse...but the evidence shows otherwise. It really challenges the way I think about disease and mental health.
Saturday, July 23, 2005
This sketch is based on a painting called Silent Move by Zhuo S. Liang.
I did it on white paper but tried to put a sepia tint on it because it seemed appropriate, what with the old fashioned nature of the subject and all.
Here's a close-up so you can better see my fine skills of an artist.
This is a sketch of a painting by Chauncey Homer called Morgan's Horse.
Chauncy Homer is featured in this month's edition of Art of the West. I was thrilled to learn that he uses photo editing soft ware to prepare his subjects, because I was beginning to wonder if that was taboo or something. I also loved his description of his approach; "I try to represent how people actually see something. We have a focal point, and anything in the peripheral areas is somewhat abstrat or painterly....We don't look a face and a hand at the same time, or the face and a vase of flowers behind it at the same time. Usually, with figure painting, the face is the natural focal point and the rest of the painting is treated somewhat mysteriouly. I think that in itself creates drama."
Amen! On eBay there are all these fabulous cat artists that have covered their cat in a million hairs. Yes, cats really do have lots of hair, but when I look at a cat I see an intrigueing face on a fluffy/silky/puffy body not a million tiny hairs.
I don't like the giant house plant devouring Oscar, so I plan on trimming that down a little. Any other suggestions on composition are welcome!
ps Unless you're going to recommend I take out the cow, because I love the cow!
Friday, July 22, 2005
Thursday, July 21, 2005
"Oh Mark, I am sorry to tell you that I haven't stopped thinking about the end of the book."
But since you slow-pokes out there haven't finished it I'm not allowed to talk about the end of the book.
So instead I've been focusing on an extraneous matter - the debate among my peers over whether the books are appropriate for Christian children.
Before reading the books I witnessed a very vocal and passionate debate at the jewelry store I worked at. Two of the mothers in the store were fans but one father (a fellow creeker) said the books were inappropriate for children because they glorified witchcraft. I stayed out of the argument but my curiosity was piqued. Finally, after seeing the first movie, and hearing a christian teacher talk about her interpretation of the book, I decided to check it out for myself.
What I found was a book far more steeped in tradition and morals than any of the books I had been reading when I was Harry Potter's age. I fell in love with the rich and complex universe Rowling had created, as well as her halting, brave little heroes.
I also decided that when I had kids they weren't going to read Harry Potter too early. I knew a mail man who was reading the books to his 6 year old daughter and I winced to think of this little girl hearing about the more gruesome acts of Lord Voldemort. The content of each book matures with Harry, so while the first book might be okay for a 7 year old, I wouldn't give the sixth book to anybody under 11 or 12.
As more and more Christian adults are checking out the Potter books for themselves the tide of objections seem to be shrinking, according to this article from the South Bend Tribune.
Harry dropped off the top-10 list of the ALA's most protested books last year.What's caused this shift in perception?
He...credits the Harry Potter films for the apparent change of heart. "I think the movies illustrated how much Christian theology has in common with the message of Harry Potter. Without the movies, we would still have a huge uproar."
And an increasing number of Christian writers are going further. Connie Neal, John Granger, Gina Burkart and John Killinger -- a former youth pastor, classics teacher, creative writing professor and Congregationalist minister, respectively -- are making a case to their faith community that Harry Potter is a parable.
Their theory? That instead of leading children down the path of the occult, J.K. Rowling is using magic in the way that Christian authors C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien did, as a way of enchanting children into hearing the story of the Gospel.
Aaron Niequest (who is featured in this weeks Spiritual Fitness Corner along with my BIL, Mark) brought his worship team from Mars Hill to lead worship for the evening. We've all seen a worship service start out with a rhythm section using household items, but this is the first time I've seen an entire worship set performed using mostly household items! There were about eight or nine guys, maybe two guitars, and the rest were playing things like card board boxes, sheet metal, garbage cans, buckets, wiffle ball bats...And if that wasn't risky enought, he added a new tricky part to Bend My Knee and taught us this big four part round thing that was super complicated.
Aaron understands how easy it is for people to simply check out durring worship and what he orchestrated last night is a worship experience that requires the full attention of the participants. It ended up being a great success and a much needed reminder that sometimes it's more important to push people out of their comfort zones in worship than it is to make it feel and sound as smooth as silk.
The message was titled "If Jesus Lived in My Neighborhood, Pt 2" and was given by Dave Stone, of Southeast Christian. After Randy Frazee's tantalizing vision of neighborhood community I was hoping (given the title) that this series would be on that topic, but it was a more general "what would Jesus do?" talk. The sermon was given out of Mark 10:45 and outlined four reasons to serve:
- Serving promotes unity.
- Serving fosters relationships.
- Serving imitates Jesus.
- Serving changes you.
One funny moment was when he told us we were going to be washing each others feet and then, after an agonizing pause, told us he was just kidding. He joked that we were so uneasy we probably thought he was Rob Bell incognito. This isn't the first time Rob Bell's name has been the punchline of a joke (always good natured) - that's proof that the man is now officially in the big leagues.
Dave was funny and nice and seemed to feel so at home that he made a couple of slip ups...said something like "Aaron doesn't know us" (I would assert that Aaron knows us too well!) and "I'll see you this weekend," which would be news to Mike, who is supposed to talk this weekend. Well, I'm glad the hospitality of Willow made such an impact! If people who visit feel like this is home than we're doing something right!
Next week New Community is going to be led by Robert Guerrero and a woship team from the Dominican Republic! That's going to rock!
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
Author John Granger sees religion amid the witchcraft.
Friday, July 15, 2005
By JOHN A. ZUKOWSKI
...But is Granger stretching too far to make the Christian connection?
Granger's heard that criticism.
So he makes his case with both his credentials and Rowling's history.
First the credentials.
Granger admits to being a "Great Books" devotee who has studied classical languages and shuns popular culture. He doesn't have a TV and was so out of touch with pop culture that when someone mentioned Ned Flanders from TV's longest-running show "The Simpsons," he didn't know what it was.
"I though it was a reference to an obscure 17th century novel or maybe it was someone in the novel 'Moll Flanders,' " he says. "But I did an Internet search and found out what it was."
He's also researched the woman who wrote the Harry Potter books.
Rowling has a mythologized past of being an unemployed single mother writing the first Harry Potter book in a café. However, she was well educated, Granger says.
Rowling studied Latin -- almost a second language to her, Granger says -- and knew the literary classics that Granger affectionately calls "The Great Books."
She's also is reportedly so fond of C.S. Lewis' Christian-fantasy Narnia books, which include "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," that she once said she can't be in the same room with one of the books without picking one up.
Rowling is a member of the Church of Scotland -- known in the United States as the Presbyterian Church -- and has occasionally talked about her faith, Granger says.
"She said in an interview that if she talked about her faith every fan would know what would happen in the books," he says. "She's baptized her children and she's said multiple times that she believes in God."
There's evidence Rowling studied the books that contain the Christian symbolism Granger has discovered, he says. And Granger says Rowling is following what Christian author C.S. Lewis started in the 1930s.
Lewis and his friend and fellow Christian J.R.R. Tolkien started injecting Christian themes into their books. It was their way of expressing their Christian beliefs without being preachy. The result was Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" and Lewis' Narnia series.
Rowling is following in the tradition of smuggling Christian themes and symbols into a fantasy story, Granger says.
"However, she's much more from what I guess could be called the liberal wing of the church, she's not an apologetic like C.S. Lewis or Tolkien," he says. "Lewis was a big critic of science and Tolkien had a problem with modernity. But Rowling is much more critical of social institutions. She's interested in pointing out the problems in prisons and courts and schools."
These days there is no escaping Harry Potter. He's everywhere. Second only to the Bible in book sales. If you're wondering "is this good, bad or indifferent for our society?" read this fascinating article by John Granger.
Granger kicks it off with these two quotes:
"Do you think I am trying to weave a spell? Perhaps I am; but remember your fairy tales. Spells are used for breaking enchantments as well as for inducing them. And you and I have need of the strongest spells that can be found to wake us from the evil enchantment of worldliness which has been laid upon us for nearly a hundred years. "
C. S. Lewis, "The Weight of Glory"
"A very famous writer once said, 'A book is like a mirror. If a fool looks in, you can't expect a genius to look out.'"
J. K. Rowling on NBC's 'Today Show', 10/20/00
Not just an eloquent and persuasive defense of Rowling, this article is a fascinating look at what we should look for in our children's literature.
Her similarity to Lewis is not limited to writing charming fantasies for children (that have magic in them) as not a few of her defenders against Christian criticism imply. The Harry Potter books are the whole Inkling show, to include training in the "stock responses", right alignment of the soul's faculties, and most important, the 'baptism of the imagination' in Christian symbols and doctrines. Rowling's books are 'instructions while delighting' in the real world struggle to choose love and life in Christ over hatred, prejudice and spiritual death.
Not that these books don't have a biting satirical and sardonic edge! 'Harry Potter' is a traditionalist broadside attack on the modern world and its absurdities. Rowling's traditionalism shows itself in her profound use of alchemical symbolism in every book and the medieval and magical setting of Hogwarts. She creates a technology free, virtue laden world in order to critique modernity's obsession with toys and neglect of everything meaningful. She fills this world with magic as a counter spell to break the materialist enchantment of our effeminate, one-dimensional culture. Harry is a Christian hero, and a masculine icon of the traditionalist, symbolic outlook to boot.
Is there a place for magic in the imagination of a Christian child?
'Magic' is activity not obedient to naturalist law and material quantities. Rowling is writing a broadside, Christian attack on 'the reign of quantity', error, evil, and ugliness in the modern world; what better place to cast the counter spell to the enchantment of modernity than in a technology free world of magic alongside our own? And, yet, because of the poetry of magic she uses in her defense of the greater view, she has drawn fire from the very community she defends.
The irony of Christian objections to Harry Potter is that they are uniformly made against their magic and 'occult elements.' There is a real danger in the occult, and I protect my children from any exposure to it, even in 'popular culture'. Objections to the magic in Harry Potter, however, mistake the edifying use of magic in literature for actual invocational sorcery condemned by Scripture which it clearly is not.
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
Sunday, July 17, 2005
I'm a gal who has read a few mystery novels in my time...I pride myself on being able to pick out a red herring when I see one...but I was blind-sighted by JK Rowling! Seriously, practically fell out of bed! (Some of you will undoubtedly figure it out - the clues are there - but I missed it.)
The killer ending isn't the only thing great about this book! Great character develpment, great pacing, and mystery upon mystery.
Luckily, a few questions are answered. The book does answer:
- "who is the half-blood prince?"
- "what is Voldemort's secret weapon?"
- "what was Voldemort up to before Harry entered the scene?"
- "who is gettin' some?"
The answers to these questions are rarely what you expect!
Book III is still my favorite (and I don't see how any ending can compare with that insane ending!) but this book, though the least funny, is definately better written and more satisfying than IV and V. Thumbs up!
Saturday, July 16, 2005
From very early on we could tell that Pippy would be the perfect cat for Emily and Frank. She loves to play, to be held, and has her mom's easy going spirit. She's also the smallest of Piper's kids, which is great because that makes her much easier to carry around that some of Piper's big boys!
Speaking of big boys, here is Morris. Looks just like his brothers, doesn't he? A cat as beautiful and smart as Morris is quite a temptation to cat lovers in his neighborhood, and it looks like he may have been cat-napped. He is much missed, especially by Gretchen, and we're all hoping he'll find his way home.
Friday, July 15, 2005
This is Shadow who lives with Teresa and Stephen. He is a very big boy but very fit compared to his brother Tutters.
This is Tutters who lives in St. Louis with Meg. Tutters is a giant teddy bear weighing in at a shocking 17 lbs (and he's still growing!)
This is Jojo, she lives with me. She has the same coloration as the boys, but has her late father's sullen eyes.
Tonight we're heading over to the book store for the midnight release of Harry Potter. In anticipation I'm trying to skim through Book 5 and refresh my memory, and I've read a couple of interesting articles y'all might like.
And the Word was Potter -No idea what the biblical reference is doing there...maybe a reference to the near religious devotion of the fans? Maybe. Kind of a meandering article, but raises some great questions that every self respecting adult asks themselves once the Potter bug bites.
Will the Next Potter Book Answer These Questions?-What can we do while we twiddle our fingers and wait for midnight but speculate? (Some book 5 spoilers.)
Harry Beasts: The Animal Symbols in Potterdom are Powerful Pointers to Christian Reality-This article appears in Christianity Today online. Includes the rather astounding statment "The gospel has rarely, if ever, been smuggled into the hearts and minds of readers so successfully and profoundly." I'm not in the Harry-Potter-is-leading-our-children-down-the-path-to-Hell camp but I think this article is an instance of a christian going a little overboard in seeking to justify a guilty pleasure. Like when people write those books about the gospel in the Simpsons. Give me a break! What was that Shakespeare line about protesting too much?
Thursday, July 14, 2005
Hawthorne: A Life by Brenda Wineapple
This is a very readable bio. I'm enjoying it, but I think I'll have to read another bio of Hawthorne to balance it out - some of her accusations, especially against Sophia Peabody, seem unfair.
Emotional Longevity by Norman P. Anderson PhD
Not the self help book that the title suggests. This is a scientifically sound look at comprehensive health. So far what I've read, especially about the biological effects of pessimism, is fascinating.
The Kalahari Typing School For Men by Alexander McCall Smith
I love these sweet little books. Unlike most mystery novels, theyl leave you feeling a little closer to the rest of the human race.
Being Sick Well by Jeffrey H. Boyd MD, MPH
Looks at chronic illness from a Christian perspective. Reminds me a lot of Where is God when it Hurts by Yancey, but not as well written. In all fairness, the author may be trying to keep the frills to a minimum knowing that a large portion of his audience is probably medicated. The most interesting stuff is about the "epidemic" of chronic illness being caused by obesity and, ironically, medical progress.
The Civil War: Strange & Fascinating Facts by Burke Davis
A birthday gift from Noah and Luaren. I'm a sucker for the Civil War and can't wait to jump into this fun book!
What Really Works?-This article is from the Washington Post and tries to briefly answer this question; "...of the many treatments in the rapidly growing, frequently bewildering field, what really works?" Biofeedback (which my Physical Therapist talked about doing but never got around to) appears helpful for Fibromyalgia.
Botox Injections-Published by the Mayo Clinic, this article shoots down the popular myth that Botox injections can be used as treatment for FMS.
Acupuncture No Help with Fibromyalgia-This has been a pretty big story. It's estimated that one out of five FMS sufferers has tried treating it with acupuncture. A new study shows no difference between acupuncture and a placebo (three fake forms of acupuncture) in the relief of FMS. The story I've linked to is provided by Fox News.
Massage Therapy-aye, There's the Rub -Not a very informative or enlightening (massage therapy helps) article from Penn State Live.
As for me, I'm still in love with my O24. I was able to buy the spray bottle in MA, where they carry O24 at CVS. Being able to spray my back allowed me to play Risk for hours and hours, and the drive and train ride would have been unbearable without the stuff. I even put some on Mark's head one day when he had a head ache and within a half hour his headache was gone. Mom also used some on her tummy when her diverticulitis acted up and she said it helped. I'm so glad I found the stuff and can't wait for the special Fibromyalgia formula to come out.
Malachy and his cousin, Max.
FINALLY on the Metra home! It was a long and dirty trip!