Friday, February 23, 2007

Praise Children!

Psalm 127 says that children are a gift of the Lord. I have seven children and three grandchildren and every single one are worthy of praise. After all they’re exceptionally bright! Or are they? For that matter, do I even need to praise them for being so smart or talented or athletic or just generally so much better than the rest of the hoi polloi (rabble). Well guess what…

...a growing body of research - and a new study from the trenches of the New York public-school system - strongly suggests it might be the other way around. Giving kids the label of “smart” does not prevent them from underperforming. It might actually be causing it.
Well it turns out that praise is fine. Praise your children often and with sincerity. However, remember to praise them for their effort, not their intelligence. If you praise kids for their intelligence, they tend to avoid tasks they fear they will fail at. And get this recent insight from an article in New York magazine:

Scholars from Reed College and Stanford reviewed over 150 praise studies. Their meta-analysis determined that praised students become risk-averse and lack perceived autonomy. The scholars found consistent correlations between a liberal use of praise and students’ “shorter task persistence, more eye-checking with the teacher, and inflected speech such that answers have the intonation of questions.” ...image maintenance becomes their primary concern - they are more competitive and more interested in tearing others down. A raft of very alarming studies illustrate this.
What does the eternal wisdom of the Scriptures tell us about child-rearing? It uses vivid images. Psalm 127 goes on to portray children as arrows in the hand of a warrior. Ancient warriors made their own arrows. It took lots of time and attention to detail to shape the arrowhead so the shaft would fly true and straight. We are preparing our children to be "shot" into the next generation, and there aren't any shortcuts; it takes time.

That really means that each child must be treated as a unique individual who requires shaping and molding and attention and investment. There's no one-size-fits-all approach to child-rearing. And it takes a lot of time to pay attention to your kids.

"Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6)

enjoy, ron

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ash Wednesday!

Memento homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.

Remember, man, that you are dust And unto dust you shall return. Genesis 3.19

You may see a few Christians with real dirt on their foreheads today. Fat Tuesday was their "last hurrah" before Lent began now, Ash Wednesday. Yet regardless your own level of participation in such carnality, is it not far time you repent as well?

What is Ash Wednesday? Ash Wednesday is the day Lent begins in the Catholic faith leading up to Good Friday and ultimately Easter, Resurrection Sunday. It is forty days of penance commencing with the reception of the biblical symbol of mourning and penance, ashes. The words from the book of Genesis (3:19) help us to think of the shortness of life, of our last end, and of that moment when each shall come before God to be judged. "Remember," wrote Saint Teresa of Avila, "that you have only one life, which is short and has to be lived by you alone; that there is only one glory, which is eternal."

Of course Ash Wednesday is celebrated by more than Catholics. Interestingly even Catholic churches have changed the recitation while marking foreheads from the Genesis verse: “For dust you are and to dust you will return” to “Turn away from sin and believe the Gospel” or some variant thereof. After all as per the Bible, a mark on a person’s forehead indicates his/her ownership. So the mark of cross on the forehead is a symbol of the person’s belonging to Jesus Christ, who died on a cross.

As for me? I don’t celebrate Ash Wednesday formally.. I seem always to ere on the side of essential truth over ritual truth. I’m reading through St. Augustine Confession (a book all should read). He offers some words to Jesus that I feel best depicts my own Ash Wednesday observance:

Too late have I loved you, O Beauty so ancient, O Beauty so new. Too late have I loved you! You were within me but I was outside myself, and there I sought you! In my weakness I ran after the beauty of the things you have made. You were with me, and I was not with you. The things you have made kept me from you - the things which would have no being unless they existed in you! You have called, you have cried, and you have pierced my deafness. You have radiated forth, you have shined out brightly, and you have dispelled my blindness. You have sent forth your fragrance, and I have breathed it in, and I long for you. I have tasted you, and I hunger and thirst for you. You have touched me, and now I burn for your peace. – Augustine Of Hippo (Aurelius August) (354–430), North African philosopher, theologian. Confessions, bk. 10, ch. 27.

repent & enjoy, ron

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

For Life!

The following news item touched me this morning (click here). As an advocate for life I was pleased to hear the good report on Amilia Tayor who after four months in a neonatal intensive care unit was going home.

Her claim to fame? She is the world's most premature living baby, born at 21 weeks and six days. No baby born at less than 23 weeks was previously known to have survived.

When she was born, Amillia weighed 280g and measured 24cm, slightly longer than a ballpoint pen. Now 17 weeks old, Amillia drank from a bottle for the first time this week.

So the good doctors now surmise that she is thriving and well enough to be cared for by her parents at home. "Even though she's only four pounds now, she's plump to me," the baby's mother, Sonja Taylor said.

Enjoy, ron
Late breaking news: Now I read that Amillia may not go home today (click here). Regardless, I'm happy she's alive and I'm praying for her! Go girl!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Know Thyself!

I believe it was Socrates who once exclaimed: “An unexamined life isn’t worth living!” Perhaps you can understand the philosophy behind this guy’s approach to life. If the above media doesn’t work for you, click here (self smart). Now sit back and revel in the sophisticated way in which this life expert intertwines advanced brain theory, drug abuse, weight lose, marriage & family and book learning to come up with his philosophy for living.

enjoy, ron

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Love and/or Charity?

The observance of Valentine’s Day Wednesday moved me to pay a little closer attention to this concept of love, specifically, giving love. Since Valentine’s Day is a day of loving and giving, what do the two have to do with one another? This problem was wrestled with back in the 4th century by St. Jerome.

The story goes that Pope Damasus commissioned ascetic scholar St. Jerome to prepare a Latin translation of the Bible now known as the Vulgate. You see, the translation was into the common people's "vulgar" Latin. Jerome's sources were mainly in Greek, and in trying to get from Greek to Latin, one of the first problems he faced was what to do with agape.

Agape is a Greek word meaning "love." But it's love of a special species. The ancient Greeks had a number of words for love, each with different implications. For example, a celebration of Valentine’s Day is sopping with the Greek love word eros, and you don’t need a cupid’s bow to bull’s-eye what kind of (erotic) inferences it carried.

Agape, on the other hand, implied a holy or pure love, as in "Love (agape) the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" and "Love (agape) your neighbor as yourself." Jerome's problem was that he lacked a good Latin equivalent for agape. Latin's primary love word was amor, but its meaning was very broad. The love of a parent, brother, friend, lover - all sorts of love were amor in Latin. So Jerome turned to caritas instead.

Caritas is a Latin word that used to mean "dearness" or "high price." By extension, it sometimes meant "esteem," "affection," or - in an indisputably chaste sense - "love."

By choosing it as his Latin agape, Jerome lent great importance to caritas - and to words, like "charity," that ultimately rose from it. He also inadvertently set up a schism in English Bibles. Some versions, like the King James Bible, talk of charity ("And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity"). Others go right from agape to love ("And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love").

However you translate it, agape is one of the three primary Christian virtues, along with faith and hope. In his first letter to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul writes, "And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing" (1 Corinthians 13.2).

Give me a little love here, ron

Friday, February 16, 2007

Bruce Metzger

The Bible says give tribute to whom tribute is due. So I hereby give tribute to Bruce Manning Metzger who died on Tuesday, February 13, 2007 at the age of 93. He was the George L. Collord Professor Emeritus of New Testament Language and Literature at Princeton Theological Seminary. I had the huge privilege of studying with this preeminent American New Testament critic and biblical translator while working on my MDiv at Princeton.

Being a born-from-above Christian at Princeton who still believed that the Bible was the Word of God, I often felt like the proverbial fish out of water. Several times Dr. Metzger calmed my biblical nerves and excited my academic instincts while explaining his view of biblical inspiration (yet, I didn’t agree). On one occasion while perambulating about campus, I happened to find myself alongside him. We were enjoying light conversation when the Holy Spirit moved upon me and I experienced Christ’s presence leading this truly devout man. The Spirit bore witness and I was invited to decrease.

Indeed, Bruce Metzger was a spiritual man who cared passionately about the Bible in ways I knew not of. In fact, he was one of the world leaders in textual study of the New Testament, the Apocrypha and the Pseudepigrapha. Dr. Metzger served as Chair of the Committee of Translators for the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible 1977–90 and the story goes that he saw it through the press almost single-handedly. This was important to him because, as he saw it, with the NRSV Bible in the hands of the Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, and Protestant Christians they all would have recourse to a common biblical text as an instrument of unity.

BTW: A Bible autographed by Bruce Metzger is sealed in the time capsule embedded in the corner of Princeton Seminary’s Scheide Hall.

Glory, ron

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Parliament of Fowls!

The following is a brief tribute to Geoffrey Chaucer's ode to love: Parliament of Fowls

The Parliament of Fowls is perhaps the first St. Valentine's Day poem ever written. It has been suggested that it was begun in May of 1382 and finished for Valentine's day in 1383. In this famous poem, Chaucer sets forth his love-vision. What follows is a very brief summation of the story of this delightful occasion poem. Alceste says of Chaucer, that he wrote "many an ympne for [Love's] holydayes."

In the opening verses the poet declares himself to be without direct experience of the ways of the God of Love. "I knowe nat Love in dede." But, as he goes on to explain, he has learned of the subject from books.. Actually he goes to books for all kinds of knowledge. Of late he has been reading a very helpful book, the Somnium Scipionis, and he relates at some length how the elder Africanus appeared to Scipio the younger in a dream, and took him up into the heavens, where he showed him the mysteries of the future life.

The poet goes on to say that night comes and he puts his book to rest. After falling to asleep, he dreamed that this same Africanus came to him too and stood at his bedside. To reward him for the study of his "olde book totorn," the Roman took him to a beautiful park, where he saw the temple of Venus, and then to a hillside, where all the birds were assembled before the goddess of Nature on Saint Valentine's Day.

The birds had come, following Nature's order, to choose their mates, and then to fly away. The first choice belonged to the royal tercel eagle, who claimed the lovely formel eagle on the goddess's hand. At once and with little delay a second and a third tercel, both of lower rank, disputed the first one's claim, and the three noble suitors pleaded their causes before Nature. Then the issue was debated by the general parliament of the birds. Finally Nature ruled that the choice should rest with the formel eagle herself, and she asked for a year's delay before making her decision.

There you have it in a nutshell! Now if you want to listen to the poem in podcast, read the poem in old English and /or generally know more about the subject of St. Valentine’s Day click on the appropriate links at this address (click here).

The Parliament of Fowls (PDF)

Perhaps you want to read a more up-to-date translation of Chaucer's famous love poem (click here).

Happy Valentine’s Day, ron

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Valentine's Day @ WC?

Did you know that there's a White Castle (WC) kitty-corner to the Bus/Train Station down town Indianapolis. I discovered this truth while attending the AFC championship playoff last month.

The story in brief goes like this: Several of the football crazed men from our Wednesday night Bible Study made the pilgrimage to Indy. It was late when Brother Joe B. called me. His train had just arrived in Indy. Since I took the Big Bird, I was in early (the rest drove) and got situated in a cozy motel room north of the city. Having earlier rented a car at the airport, it would be about 20 minutes before I could pick Joe up. Adroitly (head on a swivel as usual) Joe spotted the WC and said take your time.

White Castle? How long had it been for me? Perhaps over 40 years now! All I can remember about WC was hitting it on a few very early mornings. Usually this occurred several hours after a football game and some party hopping. Sometime after midnight, a couple of other players and I would end up at the only eatery open. As I recall, each of us would order not one or two but a dozen burgers for starters. They came on little buns with chopped up onions on top a small piece of animal protein. The only thing left for us before bed was to determine who among us could eat the absolute most burgers!

So when I saw that White Castle was having a special Valentine's Day at many of their locations (including Minneapolis), I felt obligated to share the news with you. Especially you who are at wits end on where to take their sweetheart for valentine eats. After doing a little research I discovered that those who dined at the WC last year were treated like royalty.

Check it out, there were tablecloths, candles, romantic music and a host. As a bonus, I heard, that a few diners in one big town WC were greeted by a French speaking manager. Also, there was even a crystal-like swan with some "after-dinner" heart candy. All that on top of some tasty and cheap burgers. I’m tempted to break my 40 year WC abstinence policy tomorrow. What do you think?

Just hit this White Castle link and call the Minneapolis number for reservations. Come on, enjoy a memorable Valentine’s Day dinner with someone you love.

BTW: If you want to see some folks enjoying last year's meal click here: (Flickr).

Enjoy, ron

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Sparrow Falls!


Holy king cause my skin to crawl
Away from every evil thing
In a cotton mouth in a cotton mouth
Quick across the water bring

Your hand speak of a broken door handle
Of thoughts and deeds a little bird sings
A little bird sings
Star rise on the face of the water
Quiet comes on the wing of a lark
Call out in an old time holler
Call out if you're afraid of your dark

I will you no grief no to see you fall
Once had a mind to I'm done with that
I mean you no harm at all

What stands between us
Runs right through my head
It's water still under the bridge
We come together in a horsehead union
Hang my tobacco hands from a beam
Silver handled and chest of drawers
Out of the longhouse I took what's yours
I took what's yours

I will you no grief no to see you fall
Once had a mind to I'm done with that
I mean you no harm at all

I will you no grief no to see you fall
Once had a mind to I'm done with that
I'm done with that
I mean you no harm at all

Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.” (ESV, Luke 12.7)

Thinking of sparrows? (click here)

Listen, read. reflect & enjoy, ron

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Faith, Race & Coach!

Let’s hear it for Tony Dungy! He knows the true relationship between faith and race. In rather timely fashion, it seems Tony has an implicit word or two to say with reference to African American History Month. As you can read below, Dungy challenges the idea that his race matters more than his faith. As quoted in the NYT:

“I tell you what, I’m proud to be representing African-American coaches, to be the first African-American coach to win this,” Dungy said. “It means an awful lot to our country. But again, more than anything, I said it before, Lovie Smith and I, not only the first two African-Americans, but Christian coaches showing you can win doing it the Lord’s way. We’re more proud of that.”
Note #1:“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (ESV, Matthew 6.33)

Note #2: Of course Tony is not the first or only Christian coach to have won the Super Bowl.

Note #3: At the rate things are going, it won’t be long before our great Nation will be celebrating a Christian American History Month.

Enjoy, ron

Sunday, February 04, 2007

One Foundation!

Preaching through 1 Corinthians is pure joy. I’m in chapter 3 and Paul is driving home the point that Jesus Christ is the only foundation that the church can situate on (v. 11). The preaching that Paul began with in Corinth was indeed foundational. He refers to it back in 2:1-2 as his decision “to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”

The foundation of the church is not New Testament ethics or the moral teachings of Jesus. And as important as love & good works are, neither of those is the foundation that the church is built on. It's not built on the decision-making or teachings of leaders throughout the two thousand plus years of church history. It's built on Jesus Christ & him alone.

Jesus once told the Jewish religious leaders, "You search the Scriptures... & it is these that bear witness of Me...." (Jn 5:39). Paul says in Eph 2:20 that the church is built on the foundation of the apostles & the prophets, & Jesus is the cornerstone. So here in ! Corinthians he says again, "Don't try to lay another foundation."

During an especially heated period of theological controversy in England in 1866 when liberalism threatened to destroy the great cardinal doctrines of the Anglican church, a hymn was written by Pastor Samuel Stone (1839–1900). He was known as a people’s pastor who refused to compromise on doctrinal orthodoxy.

It was Stone’s desire to write a hymn that would reaffirm the Lordship of Christ as the foundation of the church. So he wrote twelve hymn texts based on the Apostles’ Creed. The musical text (click here) below refers to the ninth article: “The Holy Catholic (Universal) Church, the communion of saints: He is the Head of this body.”

The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord; She is His new creation by water and the Word: from heav’n He came and sought her to be His holy bride; with His own blood He bought her, and for her life He died.

Elect from ev’ry nation, yet one o’er all the earth, her charter of salvation One Lord, one faith, one birth; one holy name she blesses, partakes one holy food, and to one hope she presses, with ev’ry grace endued.

Yet she on earth hath union with God the Three in One, and mystic sweet communion with those whose rest is won: O happy ones and holy! Lord, give us grace that we, like them, the meek and lowly, on high may dwell with Thee.

enjoy, ron