Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Gender & Grace

I have been thinking lately about how a Bible-believing Christian deals with some of the claims of [social] science. I mean books like The Nurture Assumption by Judith Rich Harris. Fortunately we happened to have a copy of Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen's Gender & Grace, which talks about how a social scientist with a high view of Scripture can integrate the Bible into her understanding of science. This is great! I'm more of a computer scientist than a social scientist (though computer people are not all antisocial), and so I approach social science from the other angle -- how I (a Christian with a fairly high view of science) can integrate science with my understanding of what the Bible teaches.

Whoo... it's late so I'll write more about this at another time.

Monday, November 21, 2005

what's exciting

Some time last week, I came home and asked the lovely Carol about her day.

She told me about talking with ______, who wasn't sure about her spiritual growth. Carol asked her a couple of things, and encouraged her about some things she'd seen, and ______ was much encouraged when they parted. There is something about this that I find very, ah, arousing. I mean I feel like skipping dinner and heading straight to the bedroom with her! I wondered if I was the only person who reacts like that.

But not any more. One of the kids brought home a copy of EATS SHOOTS AND LEAVES (by Lynne Truss). The author talks about the fellow who invented the modern comma, and writes: "... I hadn't heard of him until about a year ago, but am now absolutely kicking myself that I never volunteered to have his babies." So there you have it -- at least one other person experiences admiration in a, ah (Stop! Are you over 21? If not, stop here! Now!)
in a sexualized way. Now, if you'll excuse me, the lovely Carol is going to take her shower. And I am going to supervise.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

1 Peter 5:10

And after you have suffered for a little, the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. (New American Standard)
Isn't that a great promise? Perfect, confirm, strengthen, establish. Sounds great. the only part I don't like is that it comes after suffering. Aye, there's the rub.

Perfect, the verb: what does it mean? People tell me that the noun translated "perfect" means "mature" or "complete," not literally "perfect." But if that's true, why didn't the translators use "mature" or "complete" then? The King James has "perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you."

For God to perfect me, that sounds real good. Even if all you know about me is from these postings, you know I'm off track when it comes to priorities -- in too much of a hurry to get to the next thing. Where does it end? I do want God to perfect me. Even if just that one thing is changed, I'll be better able to enjoy the present moment, to really be here with my wife and children and friends and colleagues.

Confirm: so I won't be wondering what's next. That's part of my rush, wanting to see and know what's happening next, what comes next in my story. What am I really about, anyway?

Strengthen: I think the strength I really need is the strength to remember to lean on God.

And now I'm off to the next thing....

Friday, November 18, 2005

Not a college student

Last night I dreamed I was a grad student, living in my parents' home. That is, my parents' home at the time I lived there, before they moved. I finished, or was about to finish, the first term and was thinking about what to take next. I also had email contact with a friend, JD, who was on a submarine. I remember thinking I could email him, but needed to get the email out before the next time the sub surfaced briefly (when it would be communicado again).

There was also something I wanted to tell my daughter about... what was it? and I picked up the phone in my room. She answered it. Odd, why didn't I just go find her?

Here is something I would like to know: how much money does the pharmaceutical industry spend on advertising to the general public? Magazines and newspapers, billboards, TV commercials?? And is this a Good Thing? However many millions are spent on ads for drugs, those are millions paid by consumers. Not so long ago, drug companies couldn't advertise to you and me - just to doctors. Now these ads seem to be everywhere. So drugs are more expensive - at least the name brand ones are.

But at Costco® last night, we were looking for Claritin® - I was happy about finding 80 pills for about $32, until I saw the store brand: $12 for 300 pills. That is less than I pay for the generic Chlor-trimeton® substitute. So what is happening -- the name brands want to take their profits now before the Costcos of the world suck the profits out? But 17 years (if Claritin's run has been that long?) is quite a while and a lot of money.

Speaking of "a lot of money," I think about how the next generation -- heck, the current generation of middle-class Americans -- can afford to send their kids to college. Perhaps I've been brainwashed by Fallows's comments about colleges over the years, but it seems like it's getting harder and harder for the middle and lower-middle class to bootstrap their kids into the ranks of the college-educated. The enrollment optimizers - now there's a morally ambiguous job title! - are making it both easier and harder.

But even outside the question of college, it sure feels like the United States is on a Countdown to a Meltdown, to steal a phrase (again Fallows in the Atlantic). This is a five-to-ten-years-out thing, not a 12-24-months-out thing, and is thus off most people's radar.

Meanwhile traffic on the 101 seems a lot worse lately, it's hard to hire people, and my friend Nancy is now quite overworked in her high-tech PR business. So things look rosy for the time being.

and speaking of the time being, time to wake up my girls and walk the dog.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

I can swim, but I can't give blood

I am not doing a very good job of keeping in shape, but this morning I dragged myself to the pool and swam a few hundred yards. Usually I try to keep track of how many lengths I swim by thinking about (I'm not spiritual enough to actually meditate) on a verse or passage, which has the number in it, e.g. for the 1st length, Genesis 1.1 or some similar verse; for 2, Proverbs 2; for 3, Romans 3.23 or John 3.16 or 1 John 3.something.

I drifted off and I think I became aware around 12 (and do not be conformed to the world, but be transformed) or 13 (a new command I give unto you) or maybe it was 14 (he who has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me). I ended up doing 600 or maybe 650 yards. I came home and loaded both girls' bicycles onto the back of the car, went back into the house, where the lovely Carol was working on her email tasks. Woke the girls up, startling Jenny in the process.

Sitting on the train, waiting for it to pull out of the station, I suddenly heard the voices of a great multitude of junior-high kids, lining up (after a fashion) outside the train car. I turned to the fellow behind me. "Looks like it's our lucky day!" There were more than enough kids to fill all the seats, even if nobody else was there. They certainly were loud. I shushed a boy sitting next to me, who was yelling to a friend about 3 feet away. I thought, "Shoulda told him to use his indoor voice, instead of just shushing him."

I had an appointment to give blood this afternoon. I filled in the form, dutifully telling them that yes I have had chest pains and so far they didn't find what it was, although they didn't like my stress-test results. Apparently my blood is now not good enough for them... at least not 'til I get a definitive diagnosis. Or a clean bill of health.


I am trying to review my old Bible verses more often. My problem is that once I'm convinced I have them word for word, I press on to the next verse. What's my hurry? Instead, why not think about the verse a little more?
For we also thank God because, when you received from us the word of God's message, you received it, not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.

I believe it's performing its work in my life as well, although I'm sometimes hard pressed to see what that work is.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Being thankful

I started writing our Christmas letter, which if we're lucky will be out by Thanksgiving, and in keeping with the timing, started out listing things we're thankful for. At church last weekend we heard that "Holy delight and joy is the great antidote to despair and is a wellspring of genuine gratitude." Or something like that. Dallas Willard was there in the flesh, and John O. read a quote of his, which I didn't get verbatim in my notebook.

As I think about it, gratitude is an antidote to despair, as is praise. If I think about all I have to be thankful for, despair fades and gratitude and joy follow. So maybe all these blend together; any of them can produce the others: praise, joy, gratitude. Maybe they are actually aspects of the same thing?

But that brought to mind the prayer in John 17, which was our reading assignment in last week's study guide. It was a great exercise for me to just review all the instances of gave/given/granted in that prayer. As I write this, which in itself is a good exercise, let me jot down a few more verses that occur to me...

2 Peter 1.3f: ...his divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness
Ephesians 1.3 given us every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places
Ephesians 1.6 destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ
2 Timothy 1.7 God has given us ... a spirit of power, love and self control
Romans 6.23 the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord
1 John 3.1 Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us, that we should be called the sons of God

OK, I cheated on the 2 Timothy; the lovely Carol just asked me what the reference was on that.

Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus -- 1 Thessalonians 5.17f

Sounds great. But sometimes, like Richard Gere's character in Shall We Dance, men sometimes -- OK, all right, I sometimes feel like looking for something to bring a little more, ah, what -- joy? Holy joy is what I need more of. Which, as I said (and should keep preaching to myself) is both a byproduct and a cause of gratitude.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Prayerlessness: what's the rush?

From Jack Deere's Surprised by the Voice of God (Zondervan, 1996), p.88:
Nobody really persecutes the church in America because it doesn't threaten anyone. And it won't until it becomes a praying church.... The number one confession... from pastors all over the world and all... denominational lines is they don't have significant prayer lives, nor do they have regular quality times of meditation in the Scriptures. Why should we expect God to speak to us when we spend so little time with him?

The question is not, "Why don't we see more miracles and have more supernatural revelation in the church today?" Rather, given the apathy and lack of godliness in the church today, the question is, "Why do we have any supernatural experiences at all in the American church?"

True confession: I'm not a pastor, but I still don't have a significant prayer life, nor do I have regular quality times of meditation. Not in the Scriptures, not on the writings of the saints. I have mostly perfunctory readings and mediocre meditations. Then I'm rushing off to the next thing.

When I think about this, and about how I avoid prayer along with the worst of them, I wonder, what am I really after in life? Not "What am I supposed to be after?" but what am I really about? Why am I in such a rush?

When I was in elementary school, I was in a rush to grow up. In high school, I was in a rush to get off to college, then in a rush to finish my degree, then to get to work. Now I'm thinking about retirement, but then what will I be rushing to? Heaven?

Saturday, November 12, 2005

carol's elbow

The other night, the lovely Carol came home with a sore elbow. She rolled up her sweater, and yow! Check out the picture! →

We called a couple of doctor friends, and found one home. He said that if it was infected, Carol should have it looked at right away. I got a little excited about it -- remembering stories of evil bacteria I'd heard over the past few years. We tried to call the Palo Alto Clinic. Once we found the right phone book (no, NOT the one that says "Redwood City,
Palo Alto, and Menlo Park"), I gave 'em a call. Yes, they were open and there was plenty of time to get there. We got signed in, and about 3 people asked her if she bumped it. She had not.

The doctor saw us and explained that this was bursitis. He withdrew some of the fluid, promising to call us if the culture showed an infection. But it didn't look like it to him. He put an ace bandage on it and sent us home before 9:30. This was much better than our 3-hour visit in July - more on that later, maybe.

power through prayer

Last night we were talking about an upcoming prayer vision trip, and I pulled Power Through Prayer (E.M.Bounds) off the shelf. Reading it again (I bought it in 1979), I remembered how Bounds focuses on preachers, to whom the book seems addressed. The principles, though, apply to any kind of ministry: encouragement, friendship, service. Here's a favorite quote. Page numbers refer to the Moody Press paperback edition, 1979:
Preaching that kills is prayerless preaching. Without prayer, the preacher creates death and not life.... Life-creating preaching brings the mightiest force to bear on heaven and earth and draws on God's exhaustless and open treasure for the need and beggary of man. (27-29)
For "preaching" above, read "encouragement", "hospitality", etc.
Talking to men for God is a great thing, but talking to God for men is greater still. He who has not learned well how to talk to God for men will never talk well and with real success to men for God. (37)
Finally, are you (or I) man enough to pray?
Praying is spiritual work; and human nature does not like taxing, spiritual work. Human nature wants to sail to heaven under a favoring breeze, a full, smooth sea. Prayer is humbling work. It abases intellect and pride, crucifies vainglory, and signs our spiritual bankruptcy, and all these are hard for flesh and blood to bear. It is easier not to pray than to bear them.