miscellany

Another collection of randomness from around the interwebs:

~ How God gives hope. (Hint: it involves your Bible.)

~ Hey, reading a novel can help your noggin’ work better! Glad I’ve got lots of good fiction lined up for this year.

~ The 14 habits of highly miserable people.

~ It’s really, really hard to feel sorry for those folks who supported President Obama and are now being burned by Obamacare:

It is not lost on many of the professionals that they are exactly the sort of people — liberal, concerned with social justice — who supported the Obama health plan in the first place. Ms. Meinwald, the lawyer, said she was a lifelong Democrat who still supported better health care for all, but had she known what was in store for her, she would have voted for Mitt Romney.

Although, with a President Romney we probably would have eventually gotten a version of Obamacare, but with a working website.

~ I know Christmas has come and gone, but I liked Doug Wilson’s thoughts on gift-giving:

As I looked out over the pandemonium, I thought of the annual clucking of tongues over consumerism and so forth, wherein we are all exhorted — for the betterment of our souls — to limit ourselves to one or two gifts, max, and preferably they will be kind of gifts that did not attract the attention of too much mammon, the kind you can get at the dollar store. In short, the exhortation — for the betterment of our souls — exhorts us to be as unlike God as we can be. God is lavish, and He did not try to teach us selflessness by undergiving. Throughout my entire life, not to mention all the ages before I was born, God has always way overdone it. And the imitation of Christ means, among other things, imitating that.

~ A good explanation of Auburn’s AUsome read option. I sure hope it works tonight!

~ I love Tara Barthel’s encouragement — Don’t Be Afraid to Try Again.

~ We U.S. taxpayers spent $7.4 BILLION in three years helping other countries deal with “climate change.” I wonder how much Al Gore made on that deal?

Happy Monday & WAR EAGLE!

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monday miscellany

Yes, yes, yes, 1000 times YES! I so agree with this:

I have no sympathy with people who tell us today that these are the darkest days the world has ever seen. The days in which we live are appalling, but they do not compare with conditions in the world when Jesus came into it. Historians talk of the Pax Romana and make much of the fact that there was peace everywhere, the Roman peace. Do not forget that the Roman peace was the result of the fact that the world had been bludgeoned brutally into submission to one central power.…

Notwithstanding the prevailing conditions, the dominant note of these Letters, revealing the experience of the Church, is a note of triumph. The dire and dread facts and conditions are never lost sight of—indeed, they are there all the way through. The people are seen going out and facing these facts—and suffering because of these facts—but we never see them depressed and cast down, we never see them suffering from pessimistic fever. They are always triumphant. That is the glory of Christianity. If ever I am tempted to think that religion is almost dead today, it is when I listen to the wailing of some Christian people: “Everything is wrong,” or “Everything is going wrong.” Oh, be quiet! Think again, look again, judge not by the circumstances of the passing hour but by the infinite things of our Gospel and our God. And that is exactly what these people did.

~ Believing the Gospel for our friends

~ This had me missing Belgian frites.

~ Pathological altruism. Fascinating stuff.

~ A little coffeehouse history

~ Obama hits a wall in Berlin:

Obama’s vanity is a wonder of the world that never loses its power to astonish, but really: Iseveryone in his orbit too lost in raptures of admiration to warn him against delivering a speech soggy with banalities and bromides in a city that remembers John Kennedy’s “Ich bin ein Berliner” and Ronald Reagan’s “Tear down this wall”? With German Chancellor Angela Merkel sitting nearby, Obama began his Berlin speech: “As I’ve said, Angela and I don’t exactly look like previous German and American leaders.” He has indeed said that, too, before, at least about himself. It was mildly amusing in Berlin in 2008, but hardly a Noel Coward-like witticism worth recycling.

His look is just not that interesting. And after being pointless in Berlin, neither is he, other than for the surrealism of his second term.

~ Bragging about books

~ Grumble gifts:

…But notice the next verse. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” So just as God elected individuals from before all eternity, he also has chosen our good works from before all eternity. And he didn’t just choose a broad and nebulous category of good works for us to each inherit. Just as he has chosen individual believers, he has chosen specific, particular moments of obedience for us. He chose your attitude about your co-workers this past week. He chose your love for your spouse this past week. He chose your patience with your children. He chose your humility about your paycheck and your financial means. He chose your prayers offered up in faith about the hardships of being alone. He chose your willingness to hand your health over to him and to trust him in what seems like an impossible situation. Each of these moments of obedience was a gift from him to you, a moment where you walked alive in Christ and felt the goodness of Christ’s righteousness.

Because these moments are hard, because these moments take great faith for us to obey, and because these moments often only come after the confessing of much sin, we are prone to think of them as us at our worst…

Do read the whole thing.

~ Wendy Alsup on Ebenezers:

If you are in a hard season, it’s easy to forget or diminish what God has done for you in the past. “If God really worked for me in the past, why am I having such struggles now?! Shouldn’t it be getting better?” But that has never been the nature of this journey of faith. Never, ever in Scripture is it portrayed as a steady positive climb. It’s portrayed as mountains and valleys, raging rivers and dry deserts. He leads us by still waters where we can drink deeply. But it is in preparation for walking through the valley of the shadow of death. His instruction to REMEMBER is key for surviving the drought and enduring through the valleys.

If you are struggling right now in such a season, I offer the simple suggestion that you go find some ebenezer from your own life.

And now I’m off to work.
Happy Monday!
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monday miscellany

~ A prayer on God’s goodness in our suffering.

~ A warning on taking “judge not” out of context. And another article on that oft abused and misunderstood verse.

~ Mark Steyn on the corrupt IRS:

So we know the IRS is corrupt. What happens then when an ambitious government understands it can yoke that corruption to its political needs? What’s striking as the revelations multiply and metastasize is that at no point does any IRS official appear to have raised objections. If any of them understood that what they were doing was wrong, they kept it to themselves. When Nixon tried to sic the IRS on a few powerful political enemies, the IRS told him to take a hike. When Obama’s courtiers tried to sic the IRS on thousands of ordinary American citizens, the agency went along, and very enthusiastically. This is a scale of depravity hitherto unknown to the tax authorities of the United States, and for that reason alone they should be disarmed and disbanded — and rebuilt from scratch with far more circumscribed powers.

~ Speaking of the IRS, here’s a political timeline

~ Forgive us these faults:

Newton lays out a convicting and specific example of the kinds of Christian people who coast on their strengths but do nothing about their weaknesses and so rob themselves and others of joy and God of his glory. These blemishes are often seen by their bearers as mere “foibles.” Newton says they “may not seem to violate any express command of Scripture” and yet, they are “properly sinful” because they are the opposite of the fruit of the Spirit that believers are supposed to exhibit.

These “small faults” mean that large swaths of the Christian population have little influence on others for Christ. While our faults always seem small to us due to the natural self-justification of the heart, you can be sure they don’t look so small to others.

Be sure to read his list at the end.

~ I’ve previously linked to Paul Tripp’s God’s Will for Your Wait. Here is a peek at part 2:

Always remember that God is never separate from your wait. He is the Lord of waiting. He is the liberal giver of grace for the wait. Because your wait isn’t outside of his plan, but a vital and necessary part of it, he’s with you in your wait.

And remember…God isn’t so much after the success of your life or ministry – he’s after you. So as you wait, tell yourself again and again: waiting isn’t just about what I get at the end of the wait, but about who I become as I wait.

~ Truth, conviction, and Jesus are relevant:

Churches, often for good reasons, want to increase their membership. So to get people’s attention, they operate under the assumption that they must be relevant. They look around and say that self-improvement is relevant. Practical is relevant. Fun is relevant. Being just like the culture around us is relevant.

All this relevancy is making us irrelevant by removing every true and glorious thing from Christianity that makes us unique. Where is Jesus? Where is the Gospel? Where is the context for the actual Bible passage being cited? Where is our connection to history and the great Christian thinkers? Where is the theology? Where is the centrality of God in every message? Where are the answers that every human being cries out for? We would trade these weighty things for a boring sermon we could have heard on Oprah?

Read the whole thing and the Atlantic Monthly article to which he links.

~ There has been so much disturbing news this week that this was probably overlooked by many of us: laptops and phones can be searched based on hunches. If that sounds fine to you in an Obama administration, then just imagine that power in the hands of someone you do not agree with.

~ Your computer is bugging your house. I second his recommendation to watch The Lives of Others.

~ When everything is a crime, data-mining matters.

~ Eliminate these 8 things from your daily routine. There’s some wisdom here, and some things I need to eliminate.

Now, off to work I go. Happy Monday!

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memorial day miscellany

On this Memorial Day, I’m grateful for those who have made a day of rest, recreation, and BBQ possible. We take so many freedoms for granted in this country, and people died for those freedoms. So today as we get in our cars and go wherever we want without checkpoints or worry about IEDs, when we stop into the grocery store and purchase what we want, when we gather together freely, when we are safe in our own homes, let’s remember why that is so.

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I’ve lived abroad and visited many countries, and that has made me even more grateful for this one. We have something special here that is worth preserving, and so many have given their lives to do just that.

Now, on to a rather random collection of links around the internet:

~ A thoughtful post from CDR Salamander

~ I’m a big Dennis Prager fan, and I really liked his piece on The Bible vs. Heart. Here’s a peek, but read the whole thing:

For well over a generation, we have been living on “cut-flower ethics.” We have removed ethics from the Bible-based soil that gave them life and think they can survive removed from that soil. Fools and those possessing an arrogance bordering on self-deification think we will long survive as a decent society without teaching the Bible and without consulting it for moral guidance and wisdom.

If not from the Bible, from where should people get their values and morals? The university? The New York Times editorial page? They have been wrong on virtually every great issue of good and evil in our generation.

They mocked Ronald Reagan for calling the Soviet Union an “evil empire.” More than any other group in the world, Western intellectuals supported Stalin, Mao and other Communist monsters. They are utterly morally confused concerning one of the most morally clear conflicts of our time — the Israeli-Palestinian/Arab conflict. The universities and their media supporters have taught a generation of Americans the idiocy that men and women are basically the same. And they are the institutions that teach that America’s founders were essentially moral reprobates — sexist and racist rich white men.

When the current executive editor of the New York Times, Jill Abramson, was appointed to that position she announced that “In my house growing up, The Times substituted for religion.” The quote spoke volumes about the substitution of elite media for religion and the Bible in shaping contemporary America.

The other modern substitute for the Bible is the heart. We live in the Age of Feelings, and an entire generation of Americans has been raised to consult their heart to determine right and wrong.

~ How Tim Keller made peace with the wrath of God. I love this.

~ Victor Davis Hanson asks  Why Read Old Books?

~ Thankful people are happy people.This is so true. The converse is true, as well. The people I know who are bitter and angry are ungrateful people who think they deserve more than they’ve been given. Gratitude is attractive, and there are few things less attractive than ingratitude. Fortunately, we have a choice in the matter.

~ Here’s a good reminder on holding the things of this life loosely:

If there is one thing this life has taught me, it’s that I must hold loosely to everything. Everything. I can’t put down roots anywhere; I will never find stability. I will never grow old in one house. I may someday have to evacuate with the clothes on my back. Or, I may just get robbed blind.

But it’s okay. Because it reminds me that I shouldn’t love this life too tightly anyway. This life is not all there is, and it’s definitely not worth fretting over.

Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither. C. S. Lewis

~ God’s Mercy in Messed Up Families:

Why is the Bible loud on sinfully dysfunctional families and quiet on harmonious families?

Well, for one thing, most families aren’t harmonious. Humanity is not harmonious. We are alienated — alienated from God and each other. So put alienated, selfish sinners together in a home, sharing possessions and the most intimate aspects of life, having different personalities and interests, and a disparate distribution of power, abilities, and opportunities, and you have a recipe for a sin-mess.

But there’s a deeper purpose at work in this mess. The Bible’s main theme is God’s gracious plan to redeem needy sinners. It teaches us that what God wants most for us is that we 1) become aware of our sinfulness and 2) our powerlessness to save ourselves, as we 3) believe and love his Son and the gospel he preached, and 4) graciously love one another. And it turns out that the family is an ideal place for all of these to occur.

But what we often fail to remember is that the mess is usually required for these things to occur.

~ Doug Wilson on Gedunk Government:

Our tendency is to evaluate based on what the government does or doesn’t do, instead of evaluating on the basis of what the government — with the powers assigned to it — is capable of doing. We want our choices to reduce to a left wing party that can throw billions away on green energy and does, and a right wing party that can throw billions away on green energy and virtuously decides not to. How about a government is not allowed to even think about it?

In the Navy, we used to call vending machines gedunk machines. You put your money in, pulled on the knob, and gedunk, there was your candy bar. We are living in the age of gedunk government. Everybody stands in front of the vending machine, with the attention span of a hummingbird with ADHD, and waits impatiently for their product. There are right wing products and left wing products, but everybody wants their product now. Nobody thinks anymore about who is building the machines. Nobody thinks about what might happen if the supplier of the machine sells to another distributor. What might happen then?

I’m off now to enjoy a day off of work & a day with my family. My son and his fiancée surprised me this weekend with a visit, and that has been a very nice surprise indeed. We’re all getting together with my parents and sister’s family to feast this afternoon.

Happy Memorial Day to you and yours,
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miscellany

~ Gluttony: the socially acceptable sin:

At its simplest, gluttony is the soul’s addiction to excess. It occurs when taste overrules hunger, when want outweighs need. And in America, where upsizing has always been part of the American dream, it’s often difficult to distinguish what is hard-earned achievement and what is indulgent excess. In this sense, even the most athletic and toned among us can be gluttons. Any of us can be.

All desire for excess stems from a lack of satisfaction. I’m not satisfied with my portion—be it the portion on my plate, in the marriage bed, or in my bank account. Because I’m not satisfied with my portion, I then seek a greater portion. But because every portion is a finite part of a finite whole, I am constantly chasing an excess that can never satisfy.

~ A really good look at the ‘new legalism’

~ Interesting — antibiotics could cure 40% of chronic back pain sufferers.

~ A warning about visual religion

~ If I were teaching logic, we could spend a few days going through the logical fallacies in President Obama’s recent graduation speech. And if I were teaching American history, we could put his words up against what the founders believed.

~ They apologized? Apologized? Heads should be rolling and folks should be in jail! This is exactly right:

Do you think ObamaCare will be administered with any more fairness?

~ Dennis Prager is right yet again.

~ I love this on the tuning fork of the soul.

~ Brace yourself for suffering.

~ More books to add to the wish list.

Happy weekend!

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“I hate communists.”

margaretthatcherFrom Claire Berlinski’s “There Is No Alternative”: Why Margaret Thatcher Matters:

In the mid-1980s, the prime minister was urged by her foreign office, against her better judgment, to receive a notorious Congolese communist at 10 Downing Street. No sooner had the hapless Marxist seated himself in her drawing room than she fixed him with an acid glare. She introduced herself with these words: “I hate communists.”

Mortified, the translator stammered, then rendered Thatcher’s comments thus: “Prime Minister Thatcher says that she has never been wholly supportive of the ideas of Karl Marx.” One trusts that the visitor nonetheless guessed from her expression where he stood.

Hatred of communism, hatred of Marxism, hatred of socialism — and an unflinching willingness to express that hatred in the clearest imaginable terms — was the core of Thatcherism. It was absolutely sincere. It was absolutely personal.

miscellany

A collection of random links & thoughts on this Monday morning:

~ The always excellent Thomas Sowell on Shepherds and Sheep:

Implicit in the wide range of efforts on the left to get government to take over more of our decisions for us is the assumption that there is some superior class of people who are either wiser or nobler than the rest of us.

Yes, we all make mistakes. But do governments not make bigger and more catastrophic mistakes?

Think about the First World War, from which nations on both sides ended up worse off than before, after an unprecedented carnage that killed substantial fractions of whole younger generations and left millions starving amid the rubble of war.

Think about the Holocaust, and about other government slaughters of even more millions of innocent men, women and children under Communist governments in the Soviet Union and China.

Even in the United States, government policies in the 1930s led to crops being plowed under, thousands of little pigs being slaughtered and buried, and milk being poured down sewers, at a time when many Americans were suffering from hunger and diseases caused by malnutrition.

The Great Depression of the 1930s, in which millions of people were plunged into poverty in even the most prosperous nations, was needlessly prolonged by government policies now recognized in retrospect as foolish and irresponsible.

One of the key differences between mistakes that we make in our own lives and mistakes made by governments is that bad consequences force us to correct our own mistakes. But government officials cannot admit to making a mistake without jeopardizing their whole careers.

~ Cutest purses and Kindle covers ever! And I’d really love to have one of these iPhone charging stations.

~ A contrast in poems, in worldviews.

~ How Christians prepare for suffering — a peek: (Read the whole thing!)

In the 1992 sermon “Called to Suffer and Rejoice: That We Might Gain Christ,” John Piper unfolds the significance of Paul counting his gain as loss. Basically, the apostle took a long look at his life apart from Christ. All the things that he valued — his Jewish pedigree, his place in the upper echelon of religious society, his law-keeping — he took a long look at this list and wrote “LOSS” over it with a giant Sharpie.

And then he went a step further.

It wasn’t just the past values of his personal life. It wasn’t just “whatever gain he had.” Paul looks out into the future and declares everything as loss. Everything out there that could pass as positive. Everything good that he has yet to experience and everything which he will never experience. Compared to Jesus, everything is loss.

And lest we think this puts Paul on a pious pedestal, that he is at a spiritual level we’d never reach, Piper reminds us that this sort of reckoning is normal Christianity (Matthew 13:44; Luke 14:33). To consider Jesus better than everything else in the world is at the heart of what it means to be a Christian.

~ My photographer son recommends 500px instead of flickr, but I don’t know if I can muster up the energy to figure it all out. I’ve lost interest in flickr and haven’t posted there in ages. You can check out Will’s photos here.

~ ‘Tis the season to post this photo that never fails to crack me up:

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~ An excellent article on “culture creep”. Words matter.

~ Failure doesn’t have to be the last word.

~ I’m itching to do some spring cleaning, but now with a full time job and my master’s class, it’s going to look quite different than it usually does for me. I think I’m going to aim for do-able: one drawer or small area every day. That may well take me into summer before I’m finished, but that’s okay.

~ I love this quote Ali shared.

~ Lars Walker on diversity is worth a read. Here’s a bit:

If there’s any word that’s been abused in our time (and there are plenty) it’s “diversity.” Whenever a contemporary American hears the word diversity, he tenses up, figuring some bureaucrat is about to impose another form of uniformity on him. We’ve made diversity about race, and that’s just stupid.

Snatch up a dozen people from random spots around the world, and set them down together in a room. It’s my certain conviction that the least important thing about any person in that group will be his or her race (their views on race may have significance, though). Gender will matter. Politics and religion will matter, as will cultural tradition. I don’t know for a fact whether general racial traits actually exist in people (apart from physical appearance), but if there are such traits they will have little or no significance, except in terms of how people respond to them.

And yet we talk as if diversity were just about race. A university proudly points to its multi-racial faculty, calling it diverse, even though every single member of that faculty holds ideas and beliefs almost indistinguishable from any of the others.

~ I’ve told y’all how I’m drawn to old, weathered objects, so I really love these photos of verdigris.

~ Molly recently shared a great quote on teachability.

~ Kim writes on lessons from the dining room table.

May your week start — and finish — well!

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“…fated to end in villainy and abuse.”

whitehorsekingFrom The White Horse King: The Life of Alfred the Great by Benjamin Merkle:

Once more, the king’s approach was marked by both conservation and innovation. First, Alfred stressed throughout the preface to his domboc [legal code] the importance of shunning rash or novel alterations in the legal code. Alfred insisted that justice was an eternal virtue — a virtue defined by the character of God and passed on to mankind through divine revelation. Therefore, hasty and ad hoc decrees that addressed immediate national problems without taking the time to reflect on and consider the eternal principles of justice were fated to end in villainy and abuse. Only those laws that had been founded on the eternal principles of justice, had stood the test of time, had been passed on from generation to generation, and had received the approval of the wisest of counsellors should be enacted and enforced by a just king.

“…luxuriously pavilioned far from the place of slaughter…”

whitehorsekingFrom The White Horse King: The Life of Alfred the Great by Benjamin Merkle:

Though the king was not present for each and every military engagement fought by the Wessex troops, Alfred, until his death, regularly took his sword, shield, and spear into battle, standing shoulder to shoulder in the shieldwall with his countrymen. In the Anglo-Saxon world, combat was the duty of the ruling class; and the king, his thegns, the noblemen, and other rulers of the English people always filled the ranks of the Wessex shieldwall.

Thus, it was the landed class, not the peasants or slaves, who responded to the summons of the fyrd [the “National Guard”] and were expected to die on the battlefield. Though this system may have had its faults, when compared to modern societies where liberty has made great advances against this class system, there remains something about the Anglo-Saxon mentality that was nobler than the governing practices of modern nations. In Alfred’s day, no man could order another into combat to face a gory death in battle if he wasn’t prepared to stand next to him in that same perilous fight. The image of a king ordering his troops to battle while he sat luxuriously pavilioned far from the place of slaughter was the innovation of a much later age and inconceivable to the Anglo-Saxon mind.