Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Light, and other illuminating things

Recently I attended an online lecture (hosted by Fritz Hinrichs at Escondido Tutorial Service. All of these lectures I have been able to attend have been well worth my time.) This particular lecture was given by Wes Callihan of Schola Tutorials on the topic of astronomy. One of the items Wes discussed was the proliferation of light pollution, as seen in the photos above. I was reminded of this when I saw the interesting photos here. Make sure you click on each photo (after the first one) to see the difference between the lighted structure, and the unlighted one. Now, while I am skeptical that earth hour will "save the earth", as the hyperbolic NYTimes.com suggests, it made me think about light pollution, and wonder if we couldn't do without all those lighted night scenes, generally speaking.

And speaking of light, my pastor used an illuminating word-picture in his sermon from 2 Corinthians 3: 1-11, last Sunday. In discussing the difference between the Old and New Covenants, he made the point that the old covenant was like going into the huge cave at Carlsbad Caverns, when the rangers turn off the light and it is utterly black, and then he turns on a small flash light. Suddenly many things are visible from just that little light. But when you ride the elevator back up to the surface, and step out into the brilliant New Mexico sun, that little flashlight can hardly be seen: that is like the new covenant. Both are the same kind of light, both illuminate the same things, but one is much fuller than the other. I keep thinking about the great gift of living under the new covenant, and wondering in what ways I am still groping with my little flashlight instead of basking in the glory I've been given. (You can listen to the whole sermon here, at the bottom of the list, it is entitled "A More Glorious Covenant".)

Monday, March 30, 2009

Monday Miscellany

Economic item of the week: Glen Beck on U.S. dollars being put into circulation.

On President Obama's brave new world: Here is a fascinating statement from the Bioethics Forum, along with Robert P. George's comment regarding it. And this article is a fascinating critique of this administration and their treatment of science. And Iowa City, IA, one time home of several of my siblings, has the distinction of having the highest per capita murder rate in the country. Take a look.

Literary items of the week: The Times Online gives an interesting list of literature's top-10 one-hit-wonders here. And here is a fascinating look at the atste of poetry in our culture, courtesy of Newsweek.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sabbath Sentiments

Thou Lovely Source of True Delight
©1998 Kevin Twit Music. Words: Anne Steele (alt. Kevin Twit). Music: Kevin Twit.

1. Thou lovely source of true delight
Whom I unseen adore
Unveil Thy beauties to my sight
That I might love Thee more,
Oh that I might love Thee more.

2. Thy glory o’er creation shines
But in Thy sacred Word
I read in fairer, brighter lines
My bleeding, dying Lord,
See my bleeding, dying Lord

3. ’Tis here, whene’er my comforts droop
And sin and sorrow rise
Thy love with cheering beams of hope
My fainting heart supplies,
My fainting heart’s supplied

4. But ah! Too soon the pleasing scene
Is clouded o’er with pain
My gloomy fears rise dark between
And I again complain,
Oh and I again complain

5. Jesus, my Lord, my life, my light
Oh come with blissful ray
Break radiant through the shades of night
And chase my fears away,
Won’t You chase my fears away

6. Then shall my soul with rapture trace
The wonders of Thy love
But the full glories of Thy face
Are only known above,
They are only known above

Saturday, March 28, 2009

A spelling rant

I just roared through this video. What does that say about me, I wonder?

(Thanks to GrammarGirl for the link.)

Friday, March 27, 2009

Reading reacting upon us

To this end we must be supremely careful in our choice of authors, lest an inartistic and debased style infect our own writing and degrade our taste; which danger is best avoided by bringing a keen, critical sense to bear upon select works, observing the sense of each passage, the structure of the sentence, the force of every word down to the least important particle. In this way our reading reacts directly upon our style.
~Leonardo Bruni D'Arezzo, as quoted by Tracy L. Simmons in Climbing Parnassus: A New Apologia for Greek and Latin

Thursday, March 26, 2009


Well, I haven't been keeping up on internet reading lately, since I've been visiting with family, but I do have a few items of interest to share.

I haven't posted anything on global warming (or not) lately, so how about this article about physicist Freeman Dyson, who is anything but a conservative, but has real doubts about the prevailing ideas.

And how about a few items having to do with offspring? I enjoyed this short audio interview by Paul Butler with author Paul Vaughn regarding imparting vision to our sons. And if you homeschool and want a your apple cart upset a bit, head over to my friend Cindy's blog, and prepare to be challenged. And laying aside yet another popular scientific mistake, Al Mohler has an excellent short article on the real population threat: not overpopulation, but declining birth rates. And finally in this category, have you seen the live webcam of the eagles' nest in Oklahoma? You can access it here, and watch as mama and daddy care for one fledgling and two remaining eggs, up close and personal.

And lastly, too busy to pray? Not Catholic, and therefor not able to seek indulgences? How about computerized prayer? For as little as $4.95 a month, you can have a computer generate a specific prayer for you at least three times a day. Oh brother...

Monday, March 23, 2009

A literary girl...

I have been reading a short story by Mark Helprin that Elsa recommended to me. The other night as I picked up the book to read, I happened to notice the signature on the title page. It says:
For Elsa A+ Johnson- Mark Helprin

The story here goes back to a class which Mark Helprin was teaching at Hillsdale when Elsa was an English/flute performance major there. Each student had to write a short story and turn it in before the class started, and part of the class included Mr. Helprin going through those stories and commenting for the class. He began his first day of class saying none of them should count on making a living at story writing-- or at least most of them shouldn't. He went on to say there was one exceptionally good story, and that author might think about writing for a living. It was, of course, our Elsa!
It was fun to be reminded of that story when I saw the inscription in the book. And it will be sad to leave Ben and Elsa in Indiana when we head home tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

At Ben and Elsa's

I am in the home of my eldest son and his dear wife. I am surrounded by books (Virgil's Eclogues, short stories of Mark Helprin, Wheelock's Latin, several Dorothy Sayers novels, Strunk and White, just to name a few of the ones here at the computer.)

Ben's CDs are in alphabetical order downstairs, and include lots and lots of bizarre groups: Danish troll music, hard-rock meets opera, folk and kletchmer music, and 80's style rock, just to name a few.

The front closet has a stash of strategy games, so we played Carcasonne this afternoon, and Quest for the Galaxy tonight. I lost all games badly...also part of the atmosphere playing with two brilliant strategists, and me with an old and slow mind!

Everywhere, the kids' personality shows through... from the comfortable furniture, to the eclectic art, to the ancient and anti-social gerbil.

This has been a fun and relaxing trip already, and one I will treasure for a long time to come! My only regret is that these kids are so far from us, and this visiting stuff happens so infrequently. All the better then to enjoy this visit!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Monday Miscellany

Depressing economic item of the week: watch the video here on the treasury's printing of paper.

Depressing culture of death item of the week: watch the video here to see former-President Clinton giving huge amounts of mis-information (redefining an embryo to be unfertilized) and NOT being challenged by the CNN medical doctor conducting the interview. Remind me NOT to see this doctor when I have a medical problem...

Depressing court case of the week: how about a divorce trial where the homeschooling mom must stop homeschooling because the dad wants his children to be exposed to "science". Never mind that the children are testing years ahead of grade level, and everyone agrees that homeschooling has been very good for them.

Enough depressing? How about a fun article by Hillsdale professor David Whalen, answering the time-honored question, "Is Pop Culture Bad"? Dr. Whalen is very funny here, but still gets his point across. (Thanks to Elcejo for the link)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sabbath sentiments

Grant, Almighty God, that since we are here exposed to so many evils, which suddenly arise like violent tempests, O, grant, that with hearts raised up to heaven, we may yet acquiesce in Thy hidden providence and be so tossed here and there, even though we are so tossed here and there according to the judgment of our flesh, yet to remain fixed in this truth, that Thou wouldst have us believe, that all things are governed by Thee and that nothing takes place except through Thy will, so that in the greatest confusions we may always clearly see Thy hand and that Thy counsel is altogether right and perfectly and singularly wise and just; and may we ever call upon Thee and flee to this port, that we are tossed here and there in order that Thou mayest nevertheless always sustain us by Thine hand until we shall at length be received into that blessed rest which has been procured for us by the blood of Thine only begotten Son. Amen.
~A prayer fo Calvin, as recorded by Dr. David Calhoun

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The seedbed of the soul

A word is the seed of an idea.

You plant it in the soil of the soul.
If the soil is ready to receive it, it will spring to life
giving understanding.

If the soul is not ready,
the seed must be protected and nourished
until the springtime of the soul.

~Andrew Kern, from the Quiddity blog

Friday, March 13, 2009

Book notes

I thought I'd make a few notes about some recently completed books, and maybe a movie or two as well. This gives me an opportunity for reflection, and you a review of my opinion, should you want one...
The No. 1 Ladies Detective Series by Alexander McCall Smith is simply a delightful series. It contains many endearing characters as well as many cultural history items about Botswana. If you are looking for a lovely, easy-to-read escape, these books are wonderful. I'll be heading to #5 as soon as I can lay my hands on it.

After reading (or more appropriately, listening to...) O Pioneers, the third Willa Cather novel I have read, I have to say that I believe Death Comes for the Archbishop to be her best so far. I enjoyed O Pioneers much more than My Antonia, but neither can approach Death for its interest of story and beauty of description. Still, Ms. Cather has a way of describing a landscape that makes you love it and feel part of it. I enjoyed this novel, and it could almost make one love Kansas, were that possible...

Nobody beats Jane Austen for painstaking, close-up detail regarding the foibles present in the human condition. This was my first time finishing Mansfield Park, and I enjoyed it because I am an Austen fan. One has to admire Fanny and Edmund, and disdain most of the others, but I didn't find this to be as strong or compelling as Pride and Prejudice (certainly), or Emma or Sense and Sensibility, or even Persuasion. Still, I am glad I read it.

I finished off the Ender quartet by Card with both Xenocide and Children of the Mind. Card is a good story teller, with some fascinating ideas, but becomes increasingly preachy about his ever-present Mormon convictions. The farther along in the series I read, the more irksome I found this. The strength of the story kept me going, and I'm glad I finished them, but I won't likely be rereading these.

Collin Hansen's book, Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist's Journey with the New Calvinists, was an easy and fascinating book about the Reformed faith popping up in unexpected places. We read and discussed this in Sunday School, with the goal of seeing outside of ourselves a bit, and it's been an enjoyable break from the heavy-duty theology we've been doing in there the last 5 years: The WCF Larger Catechism, the book of Job, and John Owen's Mortification of Sin. If you want to know what's happening with Calvinist influence in our culture, you'll enjoy this book.

On the movie front, we really enjoyed this quirky film, but maybe you need to have some background in Catholicism to really get it and enjoy it. I could SO relate to the little guy who wanted to be a Saint, and found his imaginary saints hysterical. While there are a few brief unfortunate moments that make this viewing for more mature viewers, it is a sweet little movie, and I recommend it.

Coraline is another quirky movie. I would call it both creepy and charming in the way a Roald Dahl story is, or the way Corpse Bride or Nightmare Before Christmas was. If you enjoyed those movies, you will enjoy this one.

One Netflix bomb for us was the old PBS series "The Flame Trees of Thicka". Poorly written, poorly acted. Don't bother.

Perhaps one of my favorite recent views was the documentary, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. This was well done, and rings true for us, particularly for Dave, who is constantly flabbergasted at the peer pressure and censorship being practiced today in the scientific community. This is an excellent look at what happens when political correctness overtakes a community.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Point of no return...

Last fall I read an article by Mark Steyn in which he said that should Obama be elected, it would mark a "point of no return" for America. I was hoping he had overstated the case. I remember telling my son Tim that the wheels of government turn so slowly that not much damage could be done. Silly me.

I was horrified to read about this bill on the website for Touchstone Magazine. Apparently someone in Connecticut thinks it is a good idea to have a government-sanctioned advisory board for churches, instead of allowing churches to run themselves. As Anthony Esolen says:
In any case, the battle is here. And it is not a battle for my Catholic Church alone. It is a battle for all the churches, and for the soul of this republic: we will either have the free exercise of our faith, without being pecked to death by courts and bureaucrats and addled lawmakers, or we will be wards of the state, like old ladies allowed to hug our stuffed animals in a nursing home. And here I have a vision. Bishop Martino of Scranton shows me the path of our counterattack. If the Freedom of Choice Act passes, he has recently said, and if it means that Catholic hospitals will have to provide abortions or contraception, then he will shut down the three Catholic hospitals in Lackawanna County immediately and board them up. The county -- no, the commonwealth itself could not sustain the loss of those hospitals. It would be an instant crisis; and it would have to be done, or freedom of religion would die. The fact is that without the services that the Christian churches provide -- without the hospitals, schools, nursing homes, soup kitchens, clinics, welfare cooperatives, and so forth -- this country could never sustain the millions of people suddenly needing its help. That is not to mention the assistance that many more millions of Christians give by working as doctors, nurses, teachers, you name it. We may yet come to the point when nothing will avail but a general shutdown or strike, or massive peaceful disobedience. So then, we say, you want to take from us our freedom of worship? You and whose army?

You can read all his reflections here.

George Grant summed it up nicely at his Elevetary blog:
Worst Case Scenario
1. Asking Hillary to steer foreign policy at State
2. Reversing Mexico City
3. Requiring tax funding for abortion-harvested stem cells
4. Boosting abortion businesses with a $457 million stimulus package
5. Picking Dawn Johnsen, NARAL shill, for Assistant Attorney General
6. Nominating Tim Kaine for DNC
7. Tapping Michael Schiavo attorney, Thomas Perrelli for Justice
8. Choosing James Steinberg for Deputy Secretary of State
9. Picking David Ogden as Deputy Attorney General
10. Going on a $410 billion porkalooza spending spree
11. Nominating Kathleen Sebelius for HHS

It is time, as it has always been I guess, for believers to live consistent lives. I'm just afraid that living Biblically is about to become more costly.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Monday micsellany

This week's interesting economics articles: first, get a great picture of the size of the monstrous stimulus package here: it really helps to "picture" a trillion dollars. Another interesting picture is this chart of American trends in savings. What with all the hubbub over Rush Limbaugh's ridiculous comments, I found this article by John Mark Reynolds to be remarkably wise and civilized. And if you need a good laugh over the economy, try this by Scott Ott.

Something more disturbing even the economic situation occurred today, however, though I suppose it is not unexpected. President Obama rescinded the ban on federal funding for stem cell research. My tax dollars and yours will now be spent to kill innocent souls, and the culture of death will continue to grow. You can read about the lack of necessity for using embryonic stem cells many places, but I appreciated this article this morning. If you want to think more about the consequences of the culture of death around us, particularly where the unborn are concerned, please read this article by Tim Bayly.

We are living in dark days, Gentle Readers. But I don't think we should despair. We should repent and believe. One excellent way to re-focus for me this weekend was this sermon by John Piper on suffering and God's glory. I recommend it!

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Sabbath Sentiments

God has set all things for our good and for our salvation. In our very selves, we feel His power and grace, His great unnumbered benefits freely conferred upon us. All praise and thanks be unto God. What else can we then do but stir ourselves to trust, to praise, and to love Him. For all God’s handiwork is made for man. Even in the six days He shows a father’s care for His child as yet unborn. All praise and thanks be unto God. Away, ingratitude and forgetfulness of Him. Away with craven fear He may fail us in our need. For He has seen to it that nothing will be lacking to our welfare. All praise and thanks be
unto God. Whenever we call on God, creator of heaven and earth, we must be mindful that all He gives us is in His hand to give. Our every trust and hope we hang on Him alone. All praise and thanks be unto God. Whatever we desire, we are to ask of Him and thankfully receive each benefit that falls to us. Let us then strive to love and serve Him with all our hearts. All praise and thanks be unto God.
~A prayer of Calvin as quoted by Dr. David Calhoun

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Mastery over oneself...

...[P]onder the difference between the man who was educated to believe himself to be a little lower than the angels and the man whose education permits him to ignore both angels and God, to avoid knowledge not of the five senses, and to presume mastery over nature but not over himself.
~David V. Hicks, Norms and Nobility

Thursday, March 05, 2009

A liberal education is a practical education...

...Woodward also said, it is "one of the ends of liberal studies to make a man truly worthy of his freedom, to secure him against the tyranny of ignoble pleasures or of varying circumstance." Still, however practical they deemed their ideas to be, we should note that men of the Renaissance could also hatch their share of theory. indeed they needed to theorize. They were trying to change the world, to tap roots, to start anew.
~T. L. Simmons, Climbing Parnassus: A New Apologia for Greek and Latin

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Is classical education for everyone? Part 2

...The best and brightest men of the Renaissance wished to promote the best in word and deed, trusting that models of thought and action would inspire a better world, one enamored with classical paideia. Devotees of studia humanitatis valued human achievement and the originality arising from the more talented minds-- like Petrarch's-- even though they did not believe all people to be equallt capable of contributing to civilization's greatness. Yet no one possessed of intelligence was lost. Students who could not so contribute might at least distinguish themselves by imitating the best and noblest from the past. Their schools were not nurseries for geniuses so much as workshops for the culturally competent.
~T. L. Simmons, Climbing Parnansus: A New Apologia for Greek and Latin

Monday, March 02, 2009

Monday micsellany

Economics item of the week: check out this article by Victor David Hanson. I think he has it about right, but hope he doesn't (thanks to MC). And while we're talking about things political, I thought Karl Rove's opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal was worth the read. And speaking of words and the White House, I found this White House trend, as reported by Al Mohler, to be a bit worrisome.

And for something a bit less worldly, might I recommend one more meditation on the nature of evil by Anthony Esolen? Or perhaps some interesting contemplations on the nature of the spiritual mind by Andrew Kern? Or perhaps this timely reminder to remember the consequences of becoming too much attached to the things of this world.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Sabbath Sentiments

Let us therefore bow before the majesty of our good God, recognizing the great number of faults and offenses with which we have provoked His wrath against us. Let us pray to Him that He may etch the fear of His majesty upon our minds and make us sharers in those things that we have learned in the Scripture, that by His strength He may support our weakness and infirmity, and may make us victors by the power of His Spirit, and provide sufficient strength for us to withstand any temptations to which we would otherwise be unequal, and run the whole course of our lives in obedience to Him, giving thanks to Him for His many and great benefits to us. Finally, that all our senses may be lifted up in worshiping Him to his everlasting praise and glory, and we may be led in the pathway of salvation, not for our own private advantage, but for the upbuilding of our neighbors. It’s in Christ’s name that we pray. Amen.
~ A prayer of Calvin, as recorded by Dr. David Calhoun