Tuesday, July 31, 2012

One read, one received ~ books, of course!

(Click to enlarge any photos)
On Monday, I traveled to Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville with my friend Donna, who must see a specialist in pulmonary hypertension there every few months.  Sorry it was so overcast as we headed home, with Donna driving and me using my cellphone as a camera.  Can you read "Chattanooga" and "Memphis" on the two highway signs?

You might say we used the time profitably by taking along books — but, of course!  While she drove, I read aloud and we discussed what Marcus Borg had to say about Speaking Christian: Why Christian Words Have Lost Their Meaning and Power — and How They Can Be Restored (2011).  Although I didn't distract her by reading when the traffic was heaviest, we still managed to get through the Introduction and four chapters.  Here's what I underlined in the introduction (page 2):

"To redeem means to set free from slavery, bondage, captivity; it is not about being saved from our sins.  In this sense, Christian language needs to be redeemed — to be set free from its captivity to contemporary literalism and the heaven-and-hell Christian framework."
When we got home last night (we're roommates), we found that UPS had delivered another book.  Ten days ago, Wendy @ Caribousmom emailed to tell me:
"You were one of the lucky winners over at the Chunkster Challenge blog giveaway this month. You won a copy of The Emperor of Lies by Steve Sem-Sanburg."
This novel (2009, English translation from Swedish 2011) is a "chunkster" itself, at 664 pages.  (Click to read Wendy's review.)  From the back cover of the paperback:
"In February 1940, the Nazis established what would become the second-largest Jewish ghetto in the Polish city of Lódz.  Its chosen leader:  Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski, a sixty-three-year-old Jewish businessman and orphanage director.  From one of Scandinavia's most critically acclaimed and bestselling authors, The Emperor of Lies chronicles the tale of Rumkowski's monarchical rule over a quarter million Jews.  Driven by a titanic ambition, he sought to transform the ghetto into a productive industrial complex and strove to make it — and himself — indispensable to the Nazi regime.  Drawing on the chronicles of life in the Lódz Ghetto, Steve Sem-Sandberg captures the full panorama of human resilience and asks the most difficult questions:  Was Rumkowski a ruthless opportunist, an accessory to the Nazi regime driven by a lust for power?  Or was he a pragmatic strategist who managed to save Jewish lives through his collaboration policies?"
This blurb says "February 1940," but the heading of the first chapter says "April 1940."  That's the month I was born, 72 years ago, so when this story takes place, I was alive on the other side of the world from Lódz.  Somehow, that makes it seem even more current and real to me.  I imagine, like Wendy, I'll find the novel emotional to read.

Revised Helen Reddy song
for the older woman:
"I am woman, hear me snore."

This was part of a "humorous" email that came while I was on the road yesterday.  Like this cartoon woman, my mom dozed in her recliner when she was elderly.  Wait!  That was when my mother was in her sixties, years younger than I am now.  Does this mean I'm elderly?  (Interesting how our perceptions change, isn't it?)

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sunday Salon ~ about those books


"Which of the beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount says, 'Blessed are the theologically sound, for they shall be smug'?"
— Robin Meyers, The Underground Church, p. 8

"If the church were Christian, gracious behavior would be more important than right belief."
— Philip Gulley, If the Church Were Christian, p. 67

"I am not in the least accusing of dishonesty those who find the traditional framework of metaphysics and morals entirely acceptable. ... What dismays me is the vehemence — and at bottom the insecurity — of those who feel that the Faith can only be defended by branding as enemies within the camp those who do not."
— John A. T. Robinson, Honest to God, p. 9

"When we project qualities of the post-Easter Jesus back onto the pre-Easter Jesus, we make the pre-Easter Jesus not one of us."
— Marcus J. Borg, Embracing an Adult Faith, p. 26

"Contemplating a loving God strengthens portions of our brain — particularly the frontal lobes and the anterior cingulate — where empathy and reason reside. Contemplating a wrathful God empowers the limbic system, which is 'filled with aggression and fear.' It is a sobering concept: The God we choose to love changes us into his image, whether he exists or not."
— Andrew Newberg and Mark Robert Waldman,
How God Changes Your Brain,
quoted in Naked Spirituality by Brian D. McLaren, p. 71

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Saturday, July 28, 2012

Caturday ~ cats do blog, you know

Kiki couldn't get her own blog because, having used her real birth date (born in 2000), Blogger considered her WAY too young to be blogging.  That's a true story.  Therefore, Kiki had to use my account to review books and comment on the world as she knew it.

Kiki Cat was much older in cat years than Blogger knew.

Thanks to Jan for finding this cartoon.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Bowling, anyone?

Twelve-year-old LaBraia
The bowling lanes across the road invited residents of my apartment complex for an evening of free bowling, shoe rental, prizes, and food.  I went, although I haven't bowled in 30-35 years.  I used a 10-pound ball for my first game, though I had used my husband's heavier bowling ball years ago.  I didn't do very well at all, with lots of gutter balls.

Bob and Vickie
Vickie's husband Bob was trying to move his ball over, using body language.  I met Vickie at the luau last summer, shortly after moving into my apartment complex.  We met again at the Christmas party and have now bowled together.  Three times a year ain't bad, except Vickie said they are moving to another state.  Just when I was getting to know her.  Oh, well, bye, Vickie, it's been fun!

Bonnie's fine form
We four — LaBraia, Bob, Vickie, and I — had small children bowling in the lanes on each side of us, sometimes rushing up beside us, forgetting to take turns.  This girl was waiting for me to finish.  Nine of the ten pins fell, leaving one (see the next photo).  Notice the lane on my left has the rails up for the child about to take his turn after me.  It was funny to watch his ball go wildly to the side, bounce off the left rail, bounce off the right rail, and — surprisingly — sometimes score better than we adults did.

Bonnie, hoping to nail that last pin
Vickie clicked the camera before I'd even swung the ball behind me, but I did hit that last pin standing down there at the other end of the lane.  For my second game, I chose a 12-pound ball and more than doubled my score.  But I'll need lots more practice before I get back in the swing of the game.  I did, however, make three strikes during my three games — none in the first game (which we'll call "warming up"), twice in game two, and once in my third game.

And here's Vickie, mostly hidden behind the equipment.  As you can see, the little boy in the next lane was moving in for his turn.  I don't think any of us will be "Bowling with the Stars" any time soon, even if someone comes up with such a thing.  But it was a family fun night, with lots of laughs and high-fives.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Monday Madness ~ you can't fix stupid

A friend emailed these, which are said to be actual call center conversations.

Customer:  "I've been calling 700-1000 for two days and can't get through; can you help?"
Operator:  "Where did you get that number, sir?"
Customer:  "It's on the door of your business."
Operator:  "Sir, those are the hours that we are open."

Samsung Electronics
Caller:  "Can you give me the telephone number for Jack?"
Operator:  "I'm sorry, sir, I don't understand who you are talking about."
Caller:  "On page 1, section 5, of the user guide, it clearly states that I need to unplug the fax machine from the AC wall socket and telephone Jack before cleaning.  Now, can you give me the number for Jack?"
Operator:  "I think it means the telephone plug on the wall."

RAC Motoring Services
Caller:  "Does your European Breakdown Policy cover me when I am traveling in Australia?"
Operator:  "Does the policy name give you a clue?"

Caller (enquiring about legal requirements while traveling in Europe):
"If I register my car in France, and then take it to England, do I have to change the steering wheel to the other side of the car?"

Directory Enquiries
Caller:  "I'd like the number of the Argo Fish Bar, please."
Operator:  "I'm sorry, there's no listing.  Are you sure that the spelling is correct?"
Caller:  "Well, it used to be called the Bargo Fish Bar, but the 'B' fell off."

Then there was the caller who asked for a knitwear company in Woven.
Operator:  "Woven?  Are you sure?"
Caller:  "Yes, that's what it says on the label — Woven in Scotland."



A man making heavy breathing sounds from a phone box told a worried operator:

"I haven't got a pen, so I'm steaming up the window to write the number on."

Tech Support:  "I need you to right-click on the Open Desktop."
Customer:  "Okay."
Tech Support:  "Did you get a pop-up menu?"
Customer:  "No."
Tech Support:  "Okay, right-click again.  Do you see a pop-up menu?"
Customer:  "No."
Tech Support:  "Okay, sir.  Can you tell me what you have done up until this point?"
Customer:  "Sure.  You told me to write 'click,' and I wrote 'click'."

Tech Support:  "Okay, at the bottom left-hand side of your screen, can you see the 'OK' button displayed?"
Customer:  "Wow!  How can you see my screen from there?"

Caller:  "I deleted a file from my PC last week, and I just realized that I need it.  So, if I turn my system clock back two weeks, will I get my file back again?"

Actual dialogue of a former (in other words, "fired") WordPerfect Customer Support employee.  (Now I know why they record these conversations!)  I think this guy should have been promoted, not fired.  He or she is currently suing the WordPerfect organization for Termination without Cause.

Operator:  "Ridge Hall, computer assistance; may I help you?"
Caller:  "Yes, well, I'm having trouble with WordPerfect."
Operator:  "What sort of trouble?"
Caller:  "Well, I was just typing along, and all of a sudden the words went away."
Operator:  "Went away?"
Caller:  "They disappeared."
Operator:  "Hmm.  So what does your screen look like now?"
Caller:  "Nothing."
Operator:  "Nothing?"
Caller:  "It's blank; it won't accept anything when I type."
Operator:  "Are you still in WordPerfect, or did you get out?"
Caller:  "How do I tell?"
Operator:  "Can you see the 'C: prompt' on the screen?"
Caller:  "What's a sea-prompt?"
Operator:  "Never mind, can you move your cursor around the screen?"
Caller:  "There isn't any cursor.  I told you, it won't accept anything I type."
Operator:  "Does your monitor have a power indicator?"
Caller:  "What's a monitor?"
Operator:  "It's the thing with the screen on it that looks like a TV.  Does it have a little light that tells you when it's on?"
Caller:  "I don't know."
Operator:  "Well, then look on the back of the monitor and find where the power cord goes into it.  Can you see that?"
Caller:  "Yes, I think so."
Operator:  "Great.  Follow the cord to the plug, and tell me if it's plugged into the wall."
Caller:  "Yes, it is."
Operator:  "When you were behind the monitor, did you notice that there were two cables plugged into the back of it, not just one?"
Caller:  "No."
Operator:  "Well, there are.  I need you to look back there again and find the other cable."
Caller:  "Okay, here it is."
Operator:  "Follow it for me, and tell me if it's plugged securely into the back of your computer."
Caller:  "I can't reach."
Operator:  "Okay.  Well, can you see if it is?"
Caller:  "No."
Operator:  "Even if you maybe put your knee on something and lean way over?"
Caller:  "Well, it's not because I don't have the right angle — it's because it's dark."
Operator:  "Dark?"
Caller:  "Yes — the office light is off, and the only light I have is coming in from the window."
Operator:  "Well, turn on the office light then."
Caller:  "I can't."
Operator:  "No?  Why not?"
Caller:  "Because there's a power failure."
Operator:  "A power ... A power failure?  Aha.  Okay, we've got it licked now.  Do you still have the boxes and manuals and packing stuff that your computer came in?"
Caller:  "Well, yes, I keep them in the closet."
Operator:  "Good.  Go get them, and unplug your system and pack it up just like it was when you got it.  Then take it back to the store you bought it from."
Caller:  "Really?  Is it that bad?"
Operator:  "Yes, I'm afraid it is."
Caller:  "Well, all right then, I suppose.  What do I tell them?"
Operator:  "Tell them you're too damned stupid to own a computer!"

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sunday Salon ~ adding more books

I keep adding to my collection as I study the way Christianity is changing.  UPS delivered more books this week.

The Underground Church: Reclaiming the Subversive Way of Jesus ~ by Robin R. Meyers, 2012
Meyers proposes that the faithful recapture the spirit of the early church with its emphasis on what Christians do rather than what they believe.  The best way to recapture the spirit of the early Christian church, he says, is to recognize that Jesus-following was and must be again subversive in the best sense of the word because the gospel taken seriously turns the world upside down.  No matter how the church may organize itself or worship, the defining characteristic of the church of the future will be its Jesus-inspired countercultural witness.
  • Debunks commonly held beliefs about the early church and offers a vision for the future rooted in the past.
  • Proposes that the church of the future must leave doctrinal tribalism behind and seek a unity of mission instead
A Christianity Worth Believing: Hope-Filled, Open-Armed, Alive-and-Well Faith for the Left Out, Left Behind, and Let Down in Us All ~ by Doug Pagitt, 2008
This book weaves together theological reflections, Christian history, and Pagitt's own story of faith transformation.  He tells the story of his un-churched childhood, his life-altering conversion at age sixteen, his intense involvement in the church, and his growing sense of unease with the version of Christianity he was living.  Pagitt lays out his journey toward an authentic, passionate expression of a faith that feels alive, sustainable, and meaningful.
A People's History of Christianity: The Other Side of the Story ~ by Diana Butler Bass, 2009, religion
For too long, the history of Christianity has been told as the triumph of orthodox doctrine imposed through power and hierarchy. In A People's History of Christianity, historian and religion expert Diana Butler Bass reveals an alternate history that includes a deep social ethic and far-reaching inclusivity: "the other side of the story" is not a modern phenomenon, but has always been practiced within the church. Butler Bass persuasively argues that corrective—even subversive—beliefs and practices have always been hallmarks of Christianity and are necessary to nourish communities of faith.
The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why ~ by Phyllis Tickle, 2008, religion
Rooted in the observation that massive transitions in the church happen about every 500 years, Phyllis Tickle shows readers that we live in such a time right now. She compares the Great Emergence to other "Greats" in the history of Christianity, including the Great Transformation (when God walked among us), the time of Gregory the Great, the Great Schism, and the Great Reformation. Combining history, a look at the causes of social upheaval, and current events, The Great Emergence shows readers what the Great Emergence in church and culture is, how it came to be, and where it is going.
The book I've been studying this week is borrowed, and I'm trying to finish it so I can return it to my friend Larry.
Amen: What Prayer Can Mean in a World Beyond Belief ~ by Gretta Vosper, 2012

I probably wouldn't have picked this book to read, a book about prayer.  The description has this sentence, though:  "Despite what it may have meant to previous generations, prayer now holds only a symbolic place in our busy lives and the deeper kinship with community is lost in the vestments of antiquated traditions."  In Amen, Gretta Vosper, United Church of Canada minister and author of the controversial bestseller With or Without God, offers us "a new tradition built on love and respect rather than on the rituals of ancient beliefs."  Parts of it have been interesting to read.
"Yet here we are, in our religious institutions, stuck trying to say new things with all the same old words" (p. 15).
That's why I bought  Speaking Christian: Why Christian Words Have Lost Their Meaning and Power — and How They Can Be Restored as I told you last Sunday.  It's by Marcus J. Borg, and I look forward to reading it.  I found some interesting things in it that have nothing to do with prayer, like this about a bumper sticker:

"Christian historian Diana Butler Bass ... drives a car with a 'Coexist' bumper sticker, each of the letters formed from the symbol of a different religion" (p. 27).  I have the same bumper sticker on my car.  This is what it looks like.
Can you name what these symbols represent?  The "+" at the end is a cross and represents Christianity.

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Saturday, July 21, 2012

Caturday ~ friends

It's been six weeks since Kiki died, and I think it's time to continue her Caturday posts.  Although we weren't this identical, Kiki and I both gained weight during our years together.  I dedicate this friendship post to her.

Friday, July 20, 2012

How "they" begin

They reach for strings of beads.  They spin colourful wheels.  They light candles.  They raise their arms.  They hold one another's hands.  They wave smoke toward their faces and over their bodies.  They bow their heads.  They hang flags on string and leave them to fade into the wind.  They stand before a community and open their hearts.  They dance.  They set lights afloat on murky waters.

People of faith the world over assume such positions, enter into such actions, begin such rituals, and without a word of explanation, any who see them know that they are moving into what is for them a sacred moment.
Imagined one after another on the first page of chapter one, these rituals seem totally unrelated.  Yet they all relate to ways people pray. I'm reading this book — Amen by Gretta Vosper — because a friend thought I'd like it.  I'm torn between wanting to finish this one so I can return it to him and reading the other new books that came into my house last week and this week.  It wouldn't quite work, though, to try to race through six or eight books at the same time.  I'd have them all confused.

Here's a synopsis of the book:
Amen: What Prayer Can Mean in a World Beyond Belief by Gretta Vosper, 2012

For many people, prayer is an essential part of their daily lives, connecting them with God, a force, or the universe, bringing them, among other things, assistance and protection. Prayer makes their lives more meaningful, and in that meaning their worlds make sense. They cannot imagine living without such an important facet of their lives, and as a result of their introspection, they live fuller, deeper lives and offer wider service to others.  Increasingly, however, prayer has become a tradition that has some meaning, but as ritual, not as a vehicle that delivers true significance for those who worship. Despite what it may have meant to previous generations, prayer now holds only a symbolic place in our busy lives and the deeper kinship with community is lost in the vestments of antiquated traditions.  In Amen, Gretta Vosper, United Church minister and author of the controversial bestseller With or Without God, offers us her deeply felt examination of worship beyond conventional prayer, a new tradition built on love and respect rather than on the rituals of ancient beliefs.

Gilion at Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Fridays.
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Sunday, July 15, 2012

Sunday Salon ~ raging rain and new books


This is what downtown Chattanooga looked like after only a few minutes of heavy rain on Tuesday.  The photo comes from the Chattanooga Times Free Press.  Best of all, the rain cooled the high temperatures.

UPS delivered three books this week.

Speaking Christian: Why Christian Words Have Lost Their Meaning and Power — and How They Can Be Restored ~ by Marcus J. Borg, 2011

Modern Christians are steeped in a language so distorted that it has become a stumbling block to the religion.  Christianity’s important words, and the sacred texts and stories in which those words are embedded, have been narrowed by a modern framework for the faith that emphasizes sin, forgiveness, Jesus dying for our sins, and the afterlife.  Here, Borg employs the “historical-metaphorical” method for understanding Christian language that can restore for us these words of power and transformation.  For example,
* Redemption ~ now narrowly understood as Jesus saving us from sins so we can go to heaven, but in the Bible it refers to being set free from slavery.

* Savior ~ now refers to Jesus as the one who saves us from our sins, but in the Bible it has a rich and wonderful variety of meanings having nothing to do with the afterlife.

* Sacrifice ~ now refers to Jesus’s death on the cross as payment for our sins, but in the Bible it is never about substitutionary payment for sin.
Borg delivers a language for twenty-first-century Christians that grounds the faith in its deep and rich original roots and allows it once again to transform our lives.

Embracing an Adult Faith: Marcus Borg on What it Means to Be Christian ~ by Marcus J. Borg, 2010

Author and Bible scholar Marcus Borg invites us to join him in revisiting Christianity's most fundamental questions:  Who is God?  What does salvation mean?   What place does Jesus hold in contemporary Christian faith?  The study addresses fundamental questions that adults struggle with as faith matures.  It can be used as a resource for personal reflection as well as small group experience.  The five sessions include:
* God
* Jesus
* Salvation
* Community
* Practice

If this video quits working, view it here.
If the Church Were Christian: Rediscovering the Values of Jesus ~ by Philip Gulley, 2010
The largest group in American religious life may be the disillusioned — people who have been involved in the church, respect Jesus, but question what Christianity has become. In If the Church Were Christian Philip Gulley provides a profound picture of what the church could look like if it refocused on the priorities of Jesus.
UPDATE (20 minutes later)

My sister Ann had a stroke on Friday, the 13th.  (Yes, I wrote it that way on purpose.)  She had a blood clot on the right side of her brain, which her doctor said could be treated easily with medicine.  She went home the next day, and we talked for quite a while on Saturday night.  Ann claims to be "99.8 % recovered" with only a little weakness in her upper left arm.  She has gone to stay with her youngest (her daughter Amy) and plans to go to church with Amy's family this morning.  The doctor attributes the mildness of the full-blown stroke to the fact that Ann was on aspirins and took a couple more when she realized something strange was happening.

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Friday, July 13, 2012

Beginning ~ in the archives

So Far Away ~ by Meg Mitchell Moore, 2012, fiction (Massachusetts), 10/10
It was a Friday when the girl came into the Archives for the first time, the first Friday after they'd changed the clocks.  Spring ahead, fall back:  Kathleen had once learned some rhyme about that when she was a schoolchild, but she no longer remembered it.  It had been some time since she's been a schoolchild.

Gilion at Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Fridays.
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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

But, O, it don't matter

“Much was said, and much was ate, and all went well.”  Thus begins an article by John McWhorter on the opinion pages of the New York Times yesterday entitled A Matter of Fashion.  The sentence is straight out of Jane Austen's Mansfield Park.

“But, O, it don’t matter!” is from Bleak House by Charles Dickens.  It was spoken by Richard Carstone, a character who was studying law and medicine and, as McWhorter says, generally used "perfectly blackboard-style English."

“I wish you was here” was quite acceptable when John Adams wrote to Abigail from France in 1778.  My English teachers taught me to say "were" because that's the current fashion, or perhaps I should say it was the current fashion half a century ago.

Go read McWhorter's article.  I think you'll enjoy it.

But don't tell me grammar don't matter!

(I cross-posted this on my Joyful Noiseletter blog.)

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Sunday Salon ~ books, blogging, and family

Three books arrived this week, one by UPS and two from the library.

The Future of Faith: The Rise and Fall of Belief and the Coming Age of the Spirit ~ by Harvey Cox, 2009
Cox explains why Christian beliefs and dogma are giving way to new grassroots movements rooted in social justice and spiritual experience.
So Far Away ~ by Meg Mitchell Moore, 2012, fiction
Thirteen-year-old Natalie Gallagher is trying to escape: from her parents' ugly divorce, and from the vicious cyber-bullying of her former best friend. Adrift, confused, she is a girl trying to find her way in a world that seems to either neglect or despise her. Her salvation arrives in an unlikely form: Bridget O'Connell, an Irish maid working for a wealthy Boston family. The catch? Bridget lives only in the pages of a dusty old 1920s diary Natalie unearthed in her mother's basement.
Ten Things Your Minister Wants to Tell You (But Can't, Because He Needs the Job) ~ by Oliver "Buzz" Thomas, 2007, religion, 9/10
Thomas cuts through all the agendas the Bible is used for today and finally says what many ministers are afraid to say.  How did it all begin?  Why are we here?  What is the Bible?  Is there really such a thing as a miracle?  How do I please God?  What about women?  What about homosexuality?  What about other faiths?  What happens after we die?  How will it all end?

This blog has been different this week, as you may have noticed.  Rather than random books, I have focused my own personal study on a single book and have posted questions as I read:

Christianity After Religion: The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening ~ by Diana Butler Bass, 2012
Believing:  What do I think?
Behaving:  How should I act?
Behaving:  What do I do?
Belonging:  Who am I?
I've also been reading a couple of other books:

Re-Claiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World by John Shelby Spong, 2011 ~ for the Seekers Sunday school class at St. Luke United Methodist Church.

Naked Spirituality: A Life with God in Twelve Simple Words ~ by Brian D. McLaren, 2011 ~ for the book study led by my friend Donna at Ashland Terrace Christian Church.

We celebrated my granddaughter Cali's 25th birthday at Chili's.  One of her best friends, who knows her well, gave her James Dean twice ~ on a birthday card and as a large portrait to hang on her wall.  Uh, can you tell she likes James Dean?

Meanwhile, at the other end of the long table, my great-granddaughter Raegan had the attention of her grandpa Pat (my son-in-law), showing him her princess dolls.

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