Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Bits and Tidbits, August 2010

Monday, August 30, 2010

Video Tidbits, August 2010

How to be alone:

(HT: Jenny)


(HT: Anthony)

Elderly Couple Plays Piano:

Walken reads "Goodnight Moon":

(HT: Travis)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Pastoral retreat

Today, I'll begin a three-day break from my "routine" to take a pastoral retreat.

From now until Wednesday, I'll spend a lot of time in quiet, alone. I'll read a lot, pray a lot, write a lot, and think a lot. I'll study the Bible, I'll study some books, and I'll study my own heart.

This is the second such retreat for me; I found some similar time last fall, when Abbey's surgery was cancelled the first time. I found it to be refreshing in ways that, until then, I didn't know I needed to be refreshed. I came away renewed in my vigor and excitement for my pastoral ministry at Hickory Withe Presbyterian Church, and with a heart given-over to the people of my congregation.

This time, I'm praying for the same. I'm also hopeful that I will be productive in my retreat in more concrete ways (last year's was, too). Here are a few goals for me:
  • Pray through the entire congregational roll
  • Develop outlines of sermons for the next 4-6 weeks
  • Write notes of encouragement to at least 6-8 families in our congregation
  • Plan our six-part Advent sermon series
  • Lift up the officers and their families in extended prayer
  • Write the liturgies for the next 2-3 weeks of Sunday worship
  • Journal about how God is renewing my heart
  • Finish 2-3 chapters of a book (writing)
  • Read through Acts, Genesis, and Romans
We are blessed to live near a conference center (its about 45 minutes from our house) where they have space set aside for this sort of retreat. Thus, I'll drop Jack and Molly off for school, go to the retreat center all day, then come home around 5:30-6pm each day.

If you think of it, I'd be grateful for your prayers during this retreat. God can use it powerfully, and I pray that He would.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Economic bubbles

I recently read this fascinating comment from Paul Graham:

By 1998, Yahoo was the beneficiary of a de facto pyramid scheme. Investors were excited about the Internet. One reason they were excited was Yahoo's revenue growth. So they invested in new Internet startups. The startups then used the money to buy ads on Yahoo to get traffic. Which caused yet more revenue growth for Yahoo, and further convinced investors the Internet was worth investing in.

[Paul Graham, "What Happened to Yahoo?" August 2010]

This is a key piece of the puzzle, it seems to me, for the precipitation of the "
dot-com bubble" that burst in 2000.

What is interesting is that, with the more recent housing/real estate bubble that burst, a not-dissimilar (though slightly more complex) cyclical pattern emerges, involving negative equity, credit-default swaps, and subprime mortgages.

Is there a cyclical pattern that precedes such "bubbles" and their subsequent bursting? If so, shouldn't we look for some economic theory that would allow us to identify the pattern before it reaches epidemic scale?

What do you think? (I'm talking to you, Scott Cunningham!)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Inception's end (spoilers warning)

I've been thinking about the end of Inception for a couple of weeks (since we saw it), and I have a theory about the ending that I think makes sense.

Two meta-comments: first, this post contains something (many somethings, actually) that may spoil the ending, so don't read it if you don't want to do that.

Second, I welcome anyone's comments-- but I want to give a special call-out to Jason Kennedy on this one.

So, here's my theory for the ending (spoilers coming now-- avert your eyes!):

I think the key to it is that Cobb's totem switched. Somewhere in the middle of the movie the switch began: I think it was when Cobb and Ariadne were watching his children play outside. The switch solidified toward the end, before he woke up-- actually, it was about half-way through his last time in limbo, when he finally let go of Mal.

Cobb's new totem was his children's faces-- NOT the tipping top. When he saw their faces, he knew it was real.

I know what the best objection to this theory is: others aren't supposed to know the totem, and he told Ariadne all about that moment with the children during the dream. But there are several things that overrule that objection:
  • First, a lot of the totems were known, to a certain degree. Cobb actually told Ariadne what the key to his spinning top totem was, and Arthur revealed the key to his totem too. There's no inconsistency with the storyline for Ariadne to know that the key to knowing reality would be for him to see the children's faces. It was the faces themselves-- and what they looked like-- that was the totem.
  • Cobb's totem was very personal-- the top was actually Mal's totem before it was his, wasn't it? So, for him to let go of her means that he would need a new totem; it makes sense for the kids to be it, since he chooses highly-personal totems.
  • No one else would know what the children's faces looked like, except Cobb's father, who (we get the picture) long-ago left behind the work of dealing in dreams. So the faces would be a perfect totem.
  • The kids in the movie were different in the end (reality) from the ones in the dream. It was subtle, but they had different actors playing two-year-older children. Had Cobb been in a dream, they would have remained the same, wouldn't they?


Monday, August 9, 2010

Sermon Texts for August 2010 (updated)

The first posting was completely wrong! Here's an updated version:

August 1 Psalm 118 -- We speak to God in worship: We Pronounce Our Thanksgiving to God
August 8 Psalm 4 -- We speak to God in worship: We Declare Our Petitions to God
August 15 Acts 1:1-11 -- Marching Orders
August 22 Acts 1:12-26 -- The Apostolic Appointment
August 29 Acts 2:1-13-- Spirit Anointing

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Change is a-comin'...

I think that Carl Trueman's assessment of the coming change regarding homosexuality and a biblical, orthodox position on the matter is pretty much spot-on.

Commenting on the commentary regarding the recent U.S. District Court overturn of California's Proposition 8, Trueman makes some excellent points about what the implications will eventually be for Christians. (If you haven't been following, Proposition 8 was an ban on legalized homosexual marriage, and the U.S. District Court overturned it on August 4.)

Maybe these implications won't come into effect immediately; I wouldn't be surprised if an appeals court overturns the District Court's decision if for no other reason than it was a bit extreme in a few statements. But I think Trueman is right with regard to the general trajectory of our culture, and Christians will need to do some business with their beliefs.

Trueman's points are:
  • We can no longer assume our children will agree with us on this issue.
  • No one will be allowed to offer any criticism-- however reasonable-- of gay culture without being labeled a "homophobe".
  • Churches will find inconsistencies to be very inconvenient.
  • Evangelical leaders who take a stand against homosexuality as sinful activity will be likened to white supremacists.
[Click here to read the full version of each point.]

I think Trueman's point about our children and the presumption that has been exercised is especially poignant. Jay Adams made a similar point about the relative decline of marriage in general in his book
Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the Bible: cultural support and overlap of public opinion with what happens to also be a biblical teaching allowed generations to ignore the need for solid Bible instruction on a difficult subject. When public opinion and cultural support shifted (as it did for marriage and divorce, and now is doing for homosexuality), the church was left without much general, lay-level knowledge about the Bible's teaching on the subject. That leaves us with sound-bite style (mis)quoting of a couple of familiar passages, which a thoughtful opponent can too-easily dispense with.

My fear of the coming changes Trueman outlines isn't so much that it will make ministry and life more difficult for Christians and the church; rather, it is that American Christians (and churches) that are too comfortable with the ease and lack of difficulty we've enjoyed for centuries will compromise rather than face the reality of deciding between culture and Scripture.

Prove me wrong, Lord-- please, prove me wrong.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010