Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas

"He became man, that we might become gods." Something very like that is one of the cornerstone statements of St. Athanasius' On the Incarnation of the Word of God. Athanasius, a 4th century bishop of Alexandria and one of the chief defenders of the Trinity for many years, wrote this work as a very young man, possibly a teenager. In it he defends the doctrine of the Incarnation, showing how humanity had fallen from God's design and how the Word of God Himself had taken on human flesh to redeem us and restore us to the glory of God's plans for us. He became one of us that we might become one with Him in grace if not in essence. Through His grace the door is opened whereby we can become so much greater than we are now and enjoy His presence for eternity. Athanasius' views on the incarnation are included in the words of the Nicene Creed:
"I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only begotten son of God, begotten of His Father from before all worlds. God of God. Light of Light. True God of True God. Begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, and by whom all things are made. Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit by the Virgin Mary and was made man."

"What Child is this, who laid to rest
On Mary's lap is sleeping
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing.
Haste! Haste to bring him laud
The babe the son of Mary.

Why lies he in such mean estate
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christian, fear. For sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.
Nail, spear shall pierce him through,
The cross be born for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
The babe the son of Mary.

So bring Him incense, gold, and myrrh.
Come peasant, king to own him.
The King of kings salvation brings.
Let loving hearts enthrone him.
Raise! Raise the song on high!
The Virgin sings her lullaby.
Joy! Joy! For Christ is born,
The babe the son of Mary."

Friday, December 14, 2007


53% Geek

Looking for payday loans?

It was a close thing though. For a while I didn't think I was going to make it over 30%, still it's a bit of a faux score.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Golden Compass

Monday night I went to see this movie with several friends. It looked for a while like we'd have the theatre to ourselves but eventually we were joined by folks we didn't know. Before the movie started we saw the preview for Prince Caspian. It looks very interesting and even less like the book than The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. We also saw a preview for Inkheart, which looks interesting. Anyway, back to The Golden Compass. It's hard to know how to evaluate it. It's got Iorek Byrnison (a panserbjorn and a great literary creation fairly well realized). I think most of the cast worked out pretty well. I was impressed with Dakota Blue Richards' Lyra. I don't remember being too impressed with the music, except for some of the stuff after the dreadful (yet "lyracal") credits song. There was definitely a "Gee whiz! Look at that!" feel to a lot of the film in that it felt eager for you to impressed with difference between Lyra's world and ours. The experience of discovery felt less real to me than in LWW, but not offensively so. As an adaptation I was neither particularly pleased or disappointed. Some stuff they got right, some stuff they didn't. They altered the sequence of events significantly and a little disorientingly in the last third of the story. One thing I missed was that the complexity of some characters, especially the Master of Jordan College, was lost by the typical simplification that adaptations go through. Thematically the conflict in the movie is between The Magisterium that is willing to go to great lengths of evil to ensure that people will be docile, pliant, and obedient to its commands and between "freethinkers" who wish to blaze their own paths according to their own best lights. More specifically it is the quest of the girl Lyra to rescue her friend, kidnapped and taken to the north by the Magisterium for apparently nefarious purposes. Religiously there's not a whole lot going on in the movie. There are few to no direct references to God or the church--unless you happen to know that the teaching authority of the Roman Catholic Church is the Magisterium. On the whole it's as implicitly materialist as any other contemporary film exhorting you to do what seems right ("In those days there was no king in the land....) regardless of what societal authorities may be telling you. As a book it's a good story well told with interesting characters and dramatic action. As a movie it is those things as well though less so.

For an interesting interview with the author of the book, look here. I came across the interview as a link in a post by one of my favorite bloggers, the internet monk.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Sledding and Other Weekend Activities

Plans for a viewing of The Golden Compass were scuttled on Friday by an invitation to go sledding. So around 8 p.m., Steve and I bundled up and headed out to Vernon Hills' Century Park Sledding Hill. There we met up with Crap Chip, Sarah, Anthony, and Leslie, and were later joined by Dianne, Catherine, and a bunch of Crap Chip's college friends. The hill, homemade like Carmichael's in the Central Ohio Creation Story, overlooks Bear Lake. In fact, brave souls who are not burdened by scruples about safety or obeying park district signs can increase the excitement of their sledding by going down the very steep backside of the hill toward the lake. The view from the top isn't too bad at night. It was approximately 7-8 years since the last time I went sledding, but it's pretty easy. C squared had brought several sleds of various shapes. We had a good time and even attempted a couple of 8 man chains that could have been more successful but were fun nevertheless. A good time appeared to have been had by all. I confirmed my memory from Olaf that the face can be an effective brake for a sled but not a pleasant one. Still no one was damaged in any lasting way. There was talk of gaming or going out after the adventure but Steve and I headed home where we watched A Midsummer's Night's Dream. Very fun movie.

Saturday was a day for staying in. I puttered happily and did some laundery. I also entered the last of my books onto Librarything.com. If anyone wants to know what books I've got they can look here. My library's still got some work that needs to be done, but all the books are there now. Much later Steve and I joined Sarah, Aaron, and Andrew for a game of Killer Bunnies. That was fun, especially as I had a good chance to win at the end. Unfortunately Steve pulled it. He must be stopped.

Sunday was full of its usual churchy goodness. Eric is giving us a two week series on Haggai to lead into Christmas. Not your usual advent choice but a good thing for our church in the place we're in. Eric focused mainly on chapter one. He discussed the dangers of trying to sit to the side during a time of adversity: anger, disillusionment, discouragement, and apathy. He also looked at the hidden dangers of making excuses: a loss of passion for God and pouring ourselves into worldly things instead of working for the Kingdom. He also talked about how God can use adversity to strengthen his people by helping them to right their attitudes and behavior, reset their priorities and refresh their worship as the seek more of God. Finally he looked at God's promise of restoration. Despite their doubts and fears the people of Haggai's day were the right people at the right time in the right place for the right reason; to continue God's work. What are we? It was a good sermon. This evening we had a church family Christmas party/potluck. There was much good food and fellowship. One of the church families led us in Christmas carols and the kids sang a fun happy birthday to Jesus. There was also cake and there advent wreath kits for each household. We worked together with the other folks at our table to make a wreath for our LIFEgroup. It was a good time and was capped be being able to come home and watch the Colts wallop the Ravens which in turn almost made up for Kentucky's bad day yesterday.

Verse of the day:

"Thus says the Lord of Hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord." Then the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, "Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?" Haggai 1:2-4 (ESV)

Random quotes:

"Watch out for E. He's quiet but mean." SB early in the game of Killer Bunnies and long before I killed her bunnies with the Ebola Virus.

"His oath, His covenant, His blood support me in the whelming flood." "On Christ the Solid Rock"

Thursday, December 06, 2007

My CD Player

As I put on Sibelius' Kullervo Suite to listen to while I did some random computer puttering and talked on the phone with Jenn I was reminded how much I appreciate my CD player. I purchased it used from my friend Matt in the summer of 1996. I had a Best Buy gift certificate I had gotten while temping at Toyota for the summer and had decided it was finally time to leave the world of audio cassettes behind for the world of CDs. Technologically I am clearly a late adopter, signified by my abhorrence of cell phones. Matt and I went over to Lexington and I bought my first CDs, the soundtrack to the movie First Knight and a disc of Russian choral music. I needed something to play them on so I bought the player. I don't know how old it is, and I don't know the typical life expectancy of a CD player. All I know is that when the guards pitched in and bought CD players for all the security stations at Hewitt, those players were fried by radio waves within a year but my player took those waves and soldiered on. I bought a player four years ago or so for my office because I don't like using the player in my computer. That player is dying on me, but my old player soldiers on. I like my CD player.

Genesis in the Snow

We had our first real snowfall on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, a few inches, certainly enough to make driving a pain. My 9:45 a.m. drive into work took almost as long as it would have taken at 9 on a normal day. So by my Wednesday morning it wasn't too bad though the night before was definitely unpleasant. I think the governor must have snuck a bill through the legislature requiring at least one heavy snowfall during the first week of December for the Chicago area. Anyway because of snow we had a very light turnout for our LIFEgroup Tuesday night. It ended up being an impromptu guys night. There was talk of Risk and Settlers but we were good and actually studied the Bible, worshipped, and prayed before Jason and Steve shot off a quick game of chess while Troy, Aaron, and I looked on.

We studied Genesis chapter 22, the story of God testing Abraham by requiring that he sacrifice his son Isaac. It's a passage that raised a lot of interesting issues but the one that really stuck out to me this time around has to do with Abraham's crisis and God's provision. I prepared by reading the passage and then reading John Walton's comments on it in his commentary on Genesis in the NIV Application Commentary Series. I really like the NIVAC series. Walton pointed out that at the end of chapter 21 Abraham's story seems to have come to a clean resolution. He has followed God away from his father and home and gone into a strange land with the promise of land, being a blessing, and a line of ancestors. Abraham has wandered around Canaan and Egypt seeking a place and has now settled down in Beersheba. He seems to have resolved any difficulties with his neighbours, and after much anxiety he and Sarah at last have a son of their own through whom God's promises about his line can be fulfilled. Abraham joins with his neighbours and worships God as the Everlasting, or Enduring God. God has been faithful to his covenants with Abraham and will continue that faithfulness.

At the start of chapter 22 that is all thrown into doubt as God demands that Abraham sacrifice his son, the son through whom his descendants would be reckoned by God's own words. Abraham accepts God's demand and heads away to the mountain of Moriah (possibly the site of Jerusalem) to do the deed. On the way, Isaac asks his father where is the lamb for the sacrifice. Abraham responds, "God himself will provide the lamb." This is what happens just as Abraham is about to plunge the knife into his beloved son. The Angel of the Lord commands him to stop and Abraham sees a lamb caught in a nearby thicket which becomes the sacrifice. "So Abraham called the name of that place, "The LORD will provide"; as it is said to this day, "On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided."

God took Abraham from a place of comfort and rest and led him to a place of crisis and then provided a way through the crisis. In the same way God led the people of Israel to the Red Sea, Jesus led the disciples onto a boat in a storm, God led Jesus to the cross and death. My church is going through a hard time right now. Three of our elders and four of our pastors (including the only senior pastor our church as ever had) have resigned since the start of September. A lot of plans and dreams have to be changed but the Faithful, Enduring God is the God who has led us to a time of crisis and He is the God who provides.

Verse of the day:

"By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, "Through Isaac shall your offspring be named." He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back." Hebrews 11:17-19 (ESV)

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Lord of the Rings Quote and Life Type Stuff

Sometime last July or so I came across this quote while listening to The Return of the King in the car. I thought, "I should blog about that." So there I was listening to The Return of the King in the car earlier this week when I heard it and thought it again. This time it gets out. The setting is the Houses of Healing in Gondor after the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. The Hobbit Merry Brandybuck was injured in the battle and overcome with "the black breath," an evil despair. He was found and brought in where he has been healed by the returning King, Aragorn. Now he is speaking with his friend, Pippin, about the King and others.

"Pippin remained behind. 'Was there ever anyone like him?' he said. 'Except Gandalf, of course. I think they must be related. ... And then let's be easy for a bit. Dear me! We Tooks and Brandybucks, we can't live long on the heights.'
'No,' said Merry. 'I can't. Not yet, at any rate. But at least, Pippin, we can now see them, and honour them. It is best to love first what you are fitted to love, I suppose: you must start somewhere and have some roots, and the soil of the Shire is deep. Still there are things deeper and higher; and not a gaffer could tend his garden in what he calls peace but for them, whether he knows about them or not. I am glad I know about them, a little. But I don't know why I am talking like this. Where is that leaf? And get my pipe out of my pack if it isn't broken.'"

I'm moved by Merry's gladness that he's come to recognize things deeper and higher than the life he had known before the adventure of the ring, but even more by his words. "It is best to love first what you are fitted to love, I suppose: you must start somewhere and have some roots." They resonate so strongly with the idea that God first reveals himself to us in small things like family, friendship, and home, before calling us on to the deeper and higher loves. A recurring theme in the novels of Charles Williams is how the ways that we have lived our lives prepare us for the meeting with God leading either to acceptance or rejection. Those who have become used to love and service through their prior relationships and opportunities are able to respond and accept what is being offered. Those who have rejected love and service in their families and friendships reject it as well from God. "He who is faithful in little will be entrusted with much." If we don't love and serve our neighbors whom we can see, how can we think we will love God whom we cannot?

In other news, I had a fun trip home for Thanksgiving. I really enjoyed my time with Mom and Dad, Ann and Daniel, Jenn and Jamie, Aunt Margaret and the family down south, and others. It was a good time and a good trip, even if I didn't get to see the Chattanoogies or if it did take 10 hrs to get home. Work, youth group and LIFEgroup are all going well and are enjoyable.

Here is a link to an interesting article on the Christianity Today website on the absence of God.

Verse of the day:

"Blessed is the one you choose and bring near,
to dwell in your courts!
We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house,
the holiness of your temple." Psalm 65:4 (ESV)
Psalm 65 was my psalm for today. I've read it before, many times, even once, at least, this year. Somehow I never noticed it before. It sings of God's atonement, His greatness, His grace, how He is the hope of the nations, and is the creator and the joy of creation. It's a beautiful Psalm.

Gratuitous quote

"A lot of people cut their theology around a God who gives but not a God who takes away." Robert Yarbrough