Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Christmas Greeting for Decent People

I received this greeting via e-mail. Perhaps you will enjoy watching it:

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

On the "Intolerant" Exclusivity of Christianity--Is it "arrogance" or is it "revelation"?

I am a graduate of Columbia International University (Columbia, SC). One of my favorite professors there was Dr. William Larkin. He has written a number of books on the Biblical message as it interfaces with divergent cultures.

I recently received the December 2009 letter from CIU's president, Dr. Bill Jones. In it, he shares a portion of an op ed piece in the State newspaper, as Dr. Larkin responded to another writer's thesis, that "a variety of paths lead to the same Divine Truth."

Christians who believe that the Bible is the very Word of God sometimes appear to be intolerant. John 14:6 and Acts 4:12 are rather narrow. If a Christian accepts Scripture as revelation, such texts do not allow for much wiggle room.

I liked the portion from Dr. Larkin's piece so much, that I wanted to share it here. In his introductory letter, Dr. Jones said, "What better time to discuss the exclusivity of Christianity than at Christmas."

Here are the two main points from Dr. Larkin's article:

1.) Exclusivity is revealed in the Old and New Testament.
God has a salvation plan with a universal scope. God’s call to Abraham clearly
communicates that universal scope: “in you all the families of the earth shall be
blessed” (Genesis 12:3). Joel’s invitation, repeated by Peter and Paul (Joel 2:32, Acts 2:21, Romans 10:13), echoes that opportunity: “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

In the Old Testament, at the very heart of covenant obligations, is exclusivity. In the first two Commandments God commands “You shall have no other gods before me” and “You shall make no carved idols” (Exodus 20:3-4).

In the New Testament, Jesus and His followers taught exclusivity in terms of salvation accomplished and applied, though they asserted it should be offered to all. While Jesus said to make disciples of and teach all nations and ethnic groups, He also said, “I am the way the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).

At CIU, we do not debate Christian exclusivity. Our doctrinal standard centers
on the person of Jesus Christ. In fact, we only admit students for degree
candidacy who affirm this Scriptural truth. Christian exclusivity means that much to us.

2.) The source of Christian exclusivity is revelation, not arrogance.
Left to ourselves, we are those blind individuals feeling various parts of the elephant and coming to our conclusions about God’s truth. But if God’s message is that He has provided one way of salvation, then the exclusivity of
its truth claim is not a matter of the “fundamentalist” Christian’s desire to be right, but of humble obedience to the Good News he has received.
It has been said that sharing God’s exclusive message is simply “one beggar telling another where to find bread.” Admittedly, we can hold to this exclusivity in arrogance, self-righteousness and smugness. But this is not the stance Jesus commended—or commanded. Throughout His ministry, Jesus challenged such attitudes among the religious leaders of His day. A quick scan of the Gospels
reveals this.
Jesus IS the reason for the season. We live to know Him and to make Him known.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Passing of a Friend and Former Colleague

This week a friend went home to glory. Charlie Williams, long-time coach at Ozark Christian College passed away this week after a sudden illness. We went to his visitation last night, and attended the funeral this morning. It was very well attended (an understatement indeed!), which is a testimony to how many lives he touched.

Bud Clapp and Randy Gariss officiated. Bud's message was taken from John 4, perhaps a strange text for a funeral message. In his message, he compared Charlie's simplicity as a coach, always sticking to the fundamentals (the ABCs) of the game, to Jesus' approach to the Samaritan Woman in the text.

He emphasized that in the text, Jesus (as did Charlie, in his life), stuck to the ABCs, by
  1. Making himself AVAILABLE to those that really had a need.
  2. BATTLING over things that were really important.
  3. Remaining COMMITTED to the will of God in all things.
College Heights played last night versus Diamond High School, and lost. The guys on the team wanted to play for Coach Williams. You can read the newspaper article about their defeat, which also pay tribute to Coach Williams, by clicking here. An earlier tribute, "Williams Left a Gentlemanly Mark", written by The Joplin Globe's Jim Fryar, is available here.

The video below was recorded from KODE TV (ABC affiliate) channel 12 local news on December 16.

The Obituary:

Charles R. "Charlie" Williams, age 67, of Carl Junction, MO passed away at 8:55 p.m. Tuesday, December 15, 2009 at Freeman Hospital West in Joplin following a sudden illness.

Charlie was born September 27, 1942 in Tulsa, Oklahoma and moved to Carl Junction in 1985 from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He was a graduate of Midwest Christian College in Oklahoma City, and received his Master's Degree from the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond. Charlie servied in the U.S. Army, and then served 20 years in the Army National Guard. Charlie was employed as the Athletic Director, Men's Basketball, and Baseball Coach for College Heights Christian School in Joplin. He previously served as the Athletic Director, Men and Women's Basketball Coach, Women's Volleyball, and Baseball Coach at Ozark Christian College in Joplin. He also assisted with the Women's Basketball program at Missouri Southern State University and Crowder College. Charlie was a member of the Joplin Sport's Authority Hall of Fame, and the Missouri Basketball Coach's Hall of Fame. He led several of his teams to National Championships in various sports.

Charlie married Kim Wright August 17, 1979 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and she survives. Additional survivors include a daughter, Trisha Gage, and husband Harrison, Carl Junction, two sons, Charles R. Williams Jr., Webb City, MO, and Cody Williams, Carl Junction, one sister, Patricia Self, Claremore, OK, and one grandson, Gaven Williams, Carl Junction. He was preceded in death by a sister, Betty Burks.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Spanish is "¿Cómo Estás?". That's nothing you eat! We're doin' business here.

3 things made me write this post:
  • Over the last couple years we've incurred LOTS of medical expenses at Freeman Hospital in Joplin.
  • Since July, I have eaten only healthy foods, in order to lose weight and improve my overall health.
  • I also have an innate interest in language.
The confluence of all of those factors make this spot for Freeman Hospital very interesting. Good job, Freeman!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Roger Powell Update

Roger Powell is playing in the Spanish Pro league. He recently came back from injury, and played in just his 2nd game today. He led his team with 14 points, as they were defeated on the road. Final score: Real Madrid 73 CB Murcia 66. Here are some video highlights, including one of Powell's dunks.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sports from a Christian Perspective

On the way to my activities this morning, I caught part of Focus on the Family's weekend program, and heard Del Tackett, founder of the Truth Project, talking about an incredible high school football game played almost a year ago in Grapevine, TX.

The game made some national news. Rick Reilly of ESPN The Magazine wrote about it here. I made a note to myself to look for information on the story, and located Del Tackett's story, "Cheering for the Underdog."

I also found this youtube video. Read the stories and watch the video. I think you will be blessed.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009


The AT&T Customer Service (sic) Representative asks, "How can I make you a satisfied AT&T customer today?"

After about 4+ hours on the phone, unfortunately, I have to answer, "Sorry. You should be able to, but obviously you cannot!"

We have been AT&T phone customers (land-line) for over 15 years, and DSL customers for about 5 years. The plan was to drop the land-line and use their new product, DSL with no phone. We were to lose the phone service yesterday (10/6), with the DSL service continuing seamlessly. It did not happen. We lost both phone and DSL service. Their explanation was that the "order fell out of the system". Their solution was to make an entirely new order and wait another 6 days for activation. Yesterday I was told that a manager had authorized expedited service. Today they could not find the "new" order made yesterday, and made a 3rd order, for activation on 10/13.

Tomorrow morning, our local Cable company will be installing a cable modem for internet service only. It is nice to walk into a company, see a real person, and see how they do their best to provide customer service that is worth providing.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Eric Juan Phillips

Eric Juan Phillips Tomlin, an MK from Santiago, CHILE is in the running to be Chile's entry in the prestigious music festival in Viña del Mar.

His entry would be a song written in 1975 by Buddy Richard, a Chilean composer whose real name is Ricardo Roberto Toro Lavín. The Chilean public is allowed to vote via text message. It's a pretty good song. Here it is:

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

My Little Lady Ambassador

Here is a photo of a little OCC Lady Ambassador--Ruthie A. Ayelén Fish, Class of 20??

She's beautiful, isn't she?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Woohoo! E-mail from Zondervan!

Last month the rumors were alive at Logos Bible Software about an important contract that Bob Pritchett had signed. Logos users were speculating (and hoping), that Zondervan would cease and decease in their crazy idea that they could sell their books in electronic format better than Logos.

Every time I have attended a Logos event for Bible College and Seminary profs, I have asked the same question, "Are you making any progress with Zondervan?" The Logos people would smile and say, "You know, we used to say that we publish electronically some of the best books in the world, from A to Y!"

This e-mail notice came to me this morning from Zondervan:

Zondervan is discontinuing its Pradis® line of software. Technical support will continue until June 1, 2010 . Zondervan content can be found on multiple platforms and across many devices from e-book readers such as the Kindle and Sony Reader, to mobile devices such as the iPhone and BlackBerry. In 2010, new software titles will become available for use with Logos Bible Software.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

I Have a Granddaughter

Ruthie Ann Ayelén Fish (Benson), born September 13, 2009 at 7:09 PM (Central Time).

Proud parents: Gregory and Emily Fish

Proud grandparents: David and Rose Fish; Van and Tammy Benson

7 lbs. 20 inches long.

Ayelén is a Native South-American (Mapuche) name that means "to smile" or "joy".

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Emily's Grandma Went Home

WEBB CITY, Mo. — Shirley A. Sweeten. In loving memory of the matriarch of our family, Shirley A. Sweeten. To a woman that no one ever believed was 72 years old, due to your year-round tan, fashionable purses, ring covered fingers and the most stylish high heels in town. To many you are well known for the Elvis Presley collection in your office, to others for the combined 46 years of hard work as company manager for The Don Roderique Insurance Agency and Jasper County Mutual Insurance Company of Carthage, and to many as a proud member of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma.

To us, you are the foundation of our family. From June 4, 1937, to September 8, 2009, you brought to those around you strength, logic, determination, love and security. So many times, your opinion has become fact. We take comfort in the unshakeable faith in God that you taught us, and know that He must have had some projects in heaven that required your tenacity to get them done. We send our love through you to those that have gone before you, your parents, Joe and Ruth Leonard (Gramps and Granny), and your brother, Floyd. We know your sister, Reva Jean, and your lifelong friend, Sono, are comforted to know you are together. You have always been the heart of our family and we will take with us the lessons you taught us throughout your generous and productive life. So, for now, we express our love and respect, and look forward to the day we see you eternally so you can remind us once again what you never let us forget. “Love you More.”

Your loving husband, Keith, your children, Tammy, Russ, Darren, Van, Jill and Christina. The pride of your life, nine little Indian girls, who called you “Grandma”, Emily, Valery, Holly, Julia, Jessica, Stefany, Jenna, Hannah, and Madison. And to those that called you “GG”, your great-grandchildren, Nathan, Arianna, Elijah, Addelyn, Samuel and Ruthie. We all love you so much, but know you love us more! We as a family invite you to attend visitation from 6 to 7 p.m. Thursday at the Hedge-Lewis Chapel and graveside services at 2 p.m. Friday at the Carterville Cemetery with Rev. Jim Carter officiating.

Memorial contributions are requested to the College Heights Christian School Scholarship Fund in care of the funeral home.

Arrangements have been entrusted to the Hedge-Lewis Funeral Home, Webb City.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Does History Repeat Itself?

What George Santayana said is often misquoted: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." [Santayana, George. (1906). The Life of Reason or the Phases of Human Progress: Introduction and Reason in Common Sense. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 284]

You may read the entire book on Google books if you like.

Shortly after the presidential election, Time Magazine published an issue with Barack Obama on the cover, depicted as the new FDR of the "New New Deal." Some of the similarities are eery.

Last year I read The Forgotten Man by Amity Schlaes, and blogged about it here. Now, nearly eight months into President Obama's administration, it is easier to see the parallel
s. I was not alive during FDR's New Deal, but the people who lived through that period, have told me a story that coincides with Schlaes' viewpoint, that it was not the spending that revived the US economy, but rather our entrance into World War II.

Though the graphic of the 193
4 cartoon from the Chicago Tribune is now clean, it is easy to spot the similarities between then and now. My thanks to Chuck Johnston for pointing out this cartoon.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Free Bible Charts from Rose Publishing

If you look at the very bottom of this blog, you can see a graphic about free Bible Charts from the Rose Publishing Company. Sign up, and every week you will get an e-mail from them, allowing you to download a high quality PDF Bible Chart. Thanks to my colleague Terry Chaney for first pointing this out to me.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Un Poco de Cordura, Por Favor--Una Reflexión Acerca de Honduras

De partida, quisiera pedir disculpas de mis lectores que no sepan leer el castellano, los cuales seguramente forman la mayoría de los lectores de mi blog. Creo que este es el primer blog que he escrito en castellano. Lo escribo como un ejercicio para ordenar mis pensamientos. Me parece que muchos han reaccionado ante los sucesos en Honduras sin enganchar la materia gris entre los oídos. No quiero ser culpable de tal cosa. A la misma vez, sospecho que las noticias que se divulgan llamándose noticias objetivas, estén empapadas de tendenciosidad. Sí, me he vuelto cínico a esta etapa de mi vida. Los cosas no son siempre lo que parecen ser.

Cuando yo era joven, me fui a Latinoamérica. Llegamos a Costa Rica el año 1976. Fue allí que escuché de la Teología de la Liberación por primera vez. Fue allí que leí el libro del uruguayo Galeano, Las Venas Abiertas De Latinoamérica. (Este fue el tomo que Hugo Chávez le regaló a Barack Obama, en español, en una cumbre hace unos meses atrás.) Fue en Costa Rica que me di cuenta que no todos aman al norteamericano de Estados Juntitos. Estando allí, empecé a buscar la objetividad en vez de la tendenciosidad, leyendo todo lo que encontraba de la izquierda hasta la derecha, para ir formando una idea de una visión equilibrada de los acontecimientos.

Saliendo de Costa Rica, nos fuimos a Chile. El régimen de Pinochet estaba recién comenzando. Para conseguir visa en el Chile de Pinochet, tuvimos que firmar una declaración que no íbamos a activar en la política, orden que acatamos hasta el día de salir de Chile. Claro era, en aquellos años, que no existía la libertad de expresión. Algunos hermanos nos habían comentado cómo eran las cosas en 1973. Después de entrar en la confianza de la gente, empecé a escuchar de los abusos del régimen militar. En 1978, Thomas Hauser escribió un libro titulado The Execution of Charles Horman: An American Sacrifice. El libro fue publicado bajo el título de Missing en el año 1982, para coincidir con la película homónima del cineasta griego Costa Gavras. Creo que fue Susan Casey que consiguió una copia del libro Missing, lo cual estuvo vetado en Chile. Llevaba el título Missing, así que el régimen de Pinochet estaba por lo menos en su noveno año. Me acuerdo que yo leía ese libro vetado en mi casa en Maipú, casi escondiéndome bajo las frazadas, por miedo de lo que pudiera pasarme si fuera sorprendido leyendo el libro subversivo. Un tiempo después, Rosa y yo estuvimos en Mendoza, Argentina, y fuimos a ver la película Missing, prohibida en Chile, pero dada en los cines argentinos. La vimos en uno de los cines grandes de Mendoza, con aproximadamente 2.000 personas. En el aire se sentía que la mayoría de los espectadores eran chilenos.

Con el paso de los años, los que antes tenían miedo, lo iban perdiendo. Recuerdo las primeras protestas, cuando a cierta hora, todo el pueblo tenía instrucciones de hacer sonar sus cacerolas. Vivíamos en la calle Luis Gandarillas de Maipú en ese tiempo. Me acuerdo que a la hora señalada, todo Santiago brotó en una sinfonía cacofónica (¡qué oxímoron!) de cacerolas. Mi hijo, Grégory, era pequeño aun. Me preguntó qué pasaba. Le expliqué que la gente no estaba conforme con el presidente Pinochet, y que expresaba su inquietud por la situación haciendo sonar sus cacerolas. Me preguntó que por qué yo no lo hacía. Le expliqué que yo no era chileno (aunque de verdad me sentía, y hasta me siento un poco chileno), así que no iba a participar activamente en la actividad. Él me dijo, "Tú no eres chileno, pero ¡yo sí!", y partió a buscar una cacerola para participar en el evento chileno.

En los años que siguieron, mis hijos les dirían que cuando atravesábamos Santiago en el auto, era lo más común que sintonizara la Radio Cooperativa, pues era la emisora que más noticias daba de la oposición. Cuando mis hijos alegaban que querían escuchar música, yo replicaba, "Yo compré el auto. Yo compré el radio de auto. Yo voy a decidir qué sintonizar." Y escuchábamos Cooperativa.

Escribo todo esto para dejar constancia que no soy derechista empecinado. Trato de mirar los polos extremos de una situación para formar una opinión más equilibrada de la realidad. En cuanto a la epistemología, me satisface lo que algunos han llamado el realismo crítico, con un buen toque de ortodoxia cristiana (especialmente como se expresa en los últimos escritos de Paul Hiebert).

Muy bien, pero ¿qué tiene esto que ver con la situación en Honduras? La semana pasada, algunos hermanos que estudiaron en Ozark y que hacen ministerio en Honduras empezaron a solicitar oración por el país. Esta crisis que se conocía en Honduras pasó casi desapercibida en mi país. Por seguro que toda la atención de los canales de noticias en Estados Unidos enfocaba casi nada más que la defunción de Michael Jackson. El domingo pasado, en mi clase de Escuela Dominical (clase compuesta de guatemaltecos, mexicanos, colombianos y gringos que quieren hablar el idioma del cielo), oramos por la situación que atravesaba el país, sin saber que ya (a la hora de nuestro estudio) el presidente Manuel (Mel) Zelaya Rosales había sido exiliado (¡en pijama!) a Costa Rica.

Me da mucha pena cuando hay golpe de estado en cualquier parte del mundo. Durante gran parte del resto de día domingo yo trataba de conseguir alguna noticia a través de la televisión norteamericana. Era casi imposible. Desde entonces, he tratado de ver a los noticieros en Univisión o Galavisión, donde dan importancia a los sucesos en Latinoamérica. Quisiera buscar el punto de equilibrio. Sospecho que la noticia que se da comunmente a través de los canales oficiales demuestra parcialidad, aunque tenga un barniz de objetividad periodística.

La condena internacional a la acción del nuevo gobierno de Honduras se dio a conocer rápidamente. Vimos una cumbre de presidentes en Managua que condenó severamente el gobierno golpista. Entre los mandatarios presentes en Managua estaban el venezolano Hugo Chávez, el cubano Raúl Castro, el nicaragüense Daniel Ortega, y el mismo hondureño Mel Zelaya (que ya no vestía pijama). La condena tenía una voz unánime, ¡pues un militar no tiene derecho de intervenir en un gobierno que haya sido electo en forma democrática! Y yo me pregunto acaso no queda ninguna persona pensante que no vea la ironía. Chávez intentó un golpe de estado en contra de un gobierno democrático en 1991. Ortega era uno de los jefes que emergió de la Frente de Liberación Sandinista, una acción para-militar en contra del dictador derechista Anastasio Somoza en 1979. ¿Y acaso es necesario hablar de los Castro? Me parece casi risible que aquel trío defienda el proceso democrático.

Ahora, el mandatario estadounidense Barack Obama condenó enérgicamente lo sucedido en Tegucigalpa (igual que la Hillary Clinton). En contraste, Obama tardó varios días en hacer una declaración acerca del proceso electoral en Irán. Ya van cinco días desde el arresto de Zelaya, pero no han hablado de muchos muertos. En los primeros cinco días de protestas por la elección iraní, hubo decenas de muertos. Obama observa de lejos, casi sin comentar lo de Irán, pero se apresura para secundar la enérgica condena de Chávez, Ortega, y Castro. ¿Por qué será?

La acción contra Zelaya originó en la Corte Suprema y en el Parlamento de Honduras. Fue el Congreso, no una junta militar, que nombró a Roberto Micheletti presidente. Los del nuevo gobierno insisten que no hubo golpe de estado. Los militares dicen que actuaban para imponer una orden judicial. ¿Era golpe de estado, o no? ¿Era como el golpe chileno del 1973, o no? He visto declaraciones escritas por jóvenes chilenos, comparando lo sucedido en Honduras con el golpe chileno del 1973:

k vola en Honduras? Otro Pinochet!

Algunas pancartas de los manifestantes hondureños que se han visto por la televisión están de acuerdo:

¡No a Pinocheletti Dictador!

La pancarta es interesante, pero la situación en Honduras dista mucho de lo que pasó en Chile. Una noticia que salió hoy (jueves) informa que Micheletti está dispuesto de adelantar las elecciones para elegir un nuevo presidente. La dictablanda (según Pinochet) chilena duró 16 años, y si no fuera por la declaración de Fernando Matthei, captada por cámaras de televisión del mundo entero después del plebiscito del 5 octubre del 1988, Pinochet podría haberse quedado muchos años más. Un amigo mío, pastor bautista en Cerrillos, me dijo que un hermano de su congregación era guardaespaldas de Pinochet, y le había dicho que si no fuera por la declaración de Matthei, habrían hecho un auto-golpe esa misma noche, para permanecer en el poder, aun con la victoria del No. Claro es que la nación de Honduras enfrenta una situación no contemplada en su Constitución. Pero a mis ojos, me parece que a ellos les importa mucho más un proceso constitucional que lo que les interesaba a los de la junta militar chilena en el 1973. Será interesante ver qué salida hacia la democracia encuentren.

En mi estimación, vamos a tener que esperar para ver lo que pretenden los que asumieron el control del gobierno de Honduras. Es una lástima cuando las fuerzas armadas de cualquier nación asuman el poder. Los que se oponen a los golpistas van a decir que la represión ha sido brutal. Los que los apoyan van a decir que están resguardando la orden pública, nada más. La verdad está por verse.

Una de mis ex-alumnas está en Honduras ahora mismo, y su estatus en Facebook lo dice todo:

Confundida. Oren por Honduras.

Quiero unir mi petición a la de ella: oren por Honduras. No crean todo lo que se diga en los medios de difusión. Jesús les dijo a sus discípulos: "No juzguen por la apariencia, sino juzguen con juicio justo." (Juan 7:24, Nueva Biblia de los Hispanos).

El Señor Jesús sigue siendo Señor. Ten piedad de nosotros, oh Señor, conforme a tu misericordia.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Chronicle of the Birth of Gregory Robert Fish (Father of Ruthie Fish)

Explanation about what follows: I wrote the following journal in a Microsoft Word document before coming to my Blog site. This evening, there will be a baby shower for my daughter-in-law, Emily (actually it is for her daughter Ruthie, who will be born in September). As part of a Native-American tradition, those who attend the shower are to take a bead for each of their children. The beads will be strung as a necklace (?) that will be presented to Ruthie at a later time in her life. The participants are also to write a story about the birth of their own children, to be gathered together in a notebook. I enjoy writing much more than Rose does, so she asked me to write something about the birth of Greg. Charissa is mentioned here as well, just as a comparative ease or difficulty of the two childbirths. Kim is not mentioned in the story. I am just too verbose. I did not have time to write about her birth. That will have to come at a later date. She is one of the three readers of this blog, so I wanted to put the disclaimer up front. Kim, I may not have written an account of your birth, but your older siblings will not have the privilege of making a cross-country road trip to Las Vegas next month. You also are very much loved.

A long time ago (December 2, 1980) in a land far, far away from southwest Missouri (Chile, South America), Gregory Robert Fish (McGill) was born. His parents were eager for his arrival. Unlike the birth of his older sister, Charissa,
this time his mother’s mother (Mary Ruth McGill) would be present to help the inept father with the household chores, and to help take care of her daughter.

By the way, though, it is not relevant to the story of his birth to include a short mention of the birth of his older sister, Charissa, but as I contemplate the pangs of childbirth that women experience, Charissa’s birth was a proverbial piece of cake, compared to the birth of Ruthie’s father. You see, when Charissa was born, neither of the parents had a clue what giving birth to a child in a far-off land was like. They were both over-cautious, nervous, and called the doctor at the drop of a hat. When Charissa was about to be born, Rose spotted a little earlier in the day, and off they ran to the clinic. Dr. Stacchetti, an Italian doctor who migrated to Chile after years of practice in Italy (and who always reminded us of Robert Young’s character, Dr. Marcus Welby), assured us that the birth was imminent, but not to worry. “Enjoy your day; go to a park; take a nap; go to a movie! I imagine that I’ll see you here tonight.” I don’t remember if we went to a park, or took a nap, but I do remember going to a movie. We saw a World War II movie, Cross of Iron (Sam Peckinpah, 1977). I don’t remember much about the movie—only that it chronicled the atrocities of war in a tremendously intense way. It was a benefit that the movie was so intense, because Rose was in labor during the entire movie, but because of the intense images of war, did not realize it. The movie ended (we were seated in the balcony), and as we stood up, her water broke, and we flooded the theater (that was an example of uncalled-for hyperbole). I must assure you that now we were really spooked. We drove from the theater directly to the clinic. Rose was checked in (she was already dilated about 5 cm), and I had to run home to get the suitcase that we had packed earlier for the clinic, but which was not in the car. I made it back to the clinic, and about an hour and a half later, Charissa was born. We barely had time to practice our Lamaze-inspired Yankee Doodle breathing. Piece of cake!

Not so her younger brother! The first childbirth was easy. We really had no problems. The second pregnancy was afflicted by many problems. Several months before Greg was born, Rose started leaking amniotic fluid. Dr. Stacchetti recommended bed rest for several weeks. Her mother left her home (at that time in Ft. Myers, FL) to come to Chile to help out. She also suffered edema in the ankles, and high blood pressure. It was described as pre-eclampsia. Because of her condition, a date was set at which labor would be induced, should Greg not have decided to come naturally. The edema and the hypertension were pregnancy-related problems, and would be resolved as soon as he was born. He was at full term (I should hope so—He weighed 9 lbs. 12 oz. at birth!), but was not showing signs of coming on his own. We checked into the clinic, and the IV drip to induce labor was started. Rose was in induced labor for about 15 hours. I don’t think that VCRs had been invented yet (maybe Betamax was in existence, but not for poor people like we were)—we could have used an intense war movie to take her attention off of her hard labor.

The labor went on and on and on. Progress was very slow. The pains were intense. Now, it should probably be stated that though Rose’s mother was in Chile, she was not present for any of this. She was on the other side of the big city, taking care of Charissa. So we had been doing the hard work (actually I had been doing the hard waiting; Rose had been doing the hard work), and her mother was with Charissa on the other side of town. We had paid nearly $1000 (a year in advance!) to get a telephone in our house, but at the time it had not been installed. During all that time, we had no way to let Rose’s mother know what was going on. Her labor went so long and hard that they almost decided to shut it down in order to wait for the next day. But, late in the evening, she started making some progress, and they decided to continue it. She was doing great!1 Now, I must make a comment about the Lamaze method. We read the books. We practiced our breathing. It was our intention to use the methodology, and for this child (just as Charissa) to be born without the use of anesthesia. Greg’s birth process needed some kind of kick-starting, but once she got going, she was going so well, that they sent the anesthesiologist (there in case he was needed) home. After all, it was after midnight! Life has taught me that Murphy is right more times than not—“If anything can go wrong, it will.” All I can say is that they never should have sent the anesthesiologist home. We left her room upstairs, to go to the delivery room downstairs. The contractions became more and more intense. They were so strong she was begging for an epidural. That’s when we found out that Dr. Stacchetti (also working off of his memory of the piece of cake delivery of older sister, Charissa) had sent the anesthesiologist back home. He was called back in. She was really in need of the epidural at that time. The good doctor arrived, got prepped quickly, prepared the epidural, and administered it. Rose’s reaction? The pain was gone. Almost immediately, she went to sleep.

That’s when things really got crazy. I was there, and these are my recollections. I am the father who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true (for those who are not Bible scholars, that last statement borders on plagiarism, adapted from John 21:24). She was fully dilated. Greg was ready to be born. I was exhausted. She was sleeping. The doctors were screaming. “Wake up! Wake up! You’ve got to push!” We threw water on her face. One of the doctors even slapped her in the face. She woke up enough to push, and out came our baby boy. He had been in birth position longer than was optimum. The neonatologist was on hand, and they rushed Greg off to the other room. I’m not sure what they did to him, but it saved his life. Rose was exhausted. I was pretty tired too. I was usually the one to talk to the doctors, since I was more conversant in technical language Spanish. The neonatologist came in and told me what had happened. His problems were because he had been in the birth canal, ready to be born, for a longer period of time than what was good for him. His APGAR rating at birth was only 2. They said about the only thing he really had going for him was a strong heartbeat. He recovered very quickly, as his 5-minute APGAR rating was up to 9. When the doctor came in to talk to me, I heard the words, but was too tired to understand. Basically all I understood that night was that there were some problems, but that he was going to be all right.

Now, there is one more pertinent detail. We were well within the first decade of the right-wing military dictatorship, and the country was still under a toque de queda (curfew). It was too late for me to go home to tell Rose’s mom what had happened. My best option was to sleep for a couple hours, then get up at the crack of dawn when the curfew was lifted (5 AM?), and drive across town with the news. I slept a few hours, got up, and crossed Santiago. There was very little traffic out as I drove across the city. The next day, I would have a cogent conversation with the neonatologist and comprehend how serious the situation had been. At 5 AM I remember reflecting on what had happened as I drove. Nearly thirty years later, I can produce the same emotion. I was overwhelmed by an incredible sense of God’s blessing. Through tears of thanksgiving I sang praises to God. My son could have died, but he would be all right. God indeed was good to us.

During the past year, she has been battling with breast cancer, and I (the husband of Rose and the father of Greg) have been amazed at her strength. She has bounced back from her surgeries with incredible speed. She is a strong lady. I love her!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Fun Day at Silver Dollar City

It just turned out that way--this year I celebrated my birthday on Mothers' Day, and it turned out that Fathers' Day was the same day as our anniversary--34 years! We've had quite an interesting year, as now we are a Cancer Surviving Family. We celebrated by going to Silver Dollar City in Branson, with our daughter and her husband, and the two older grandsons, Nathan and Eli. It was a pleasant surprise to find out that fathers were granted free entrance to the park with the purchase of another adult ticket, so the trip was cheaper than I thought it would be. I posted more photos on my Facebook profile.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Trivial Pursuit for a not-so-Trivial Matter

Last night we went to the Carl Junction Christian Church to participate in a fund-raiser for MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers). We were invited to play (and also to pay for playing) a Trivial Pursuit-like game. Since we have lived outside of the U.S. for much of my adult life (still more than half of it), there is a lot of U.S. trivia that we don't know.

However, my son-in-law, Steve Robinett, is one of the best Trivial Pursuit players that I know, so when we were asked to participate in this event, we recommended him (Sorry, Steve). People from the church put together teams of 7-8 people. There were 8 such teams. Ours was composed of:
  • Ralph and Cindy Shead (our former Chilean missionary colleagues, and members of the Carl Junction Christian Church)
  • Steve and Charissa Robinett (our son-in-law and daughter)
  • Doug and Carol Reed (colleagues of Shead's at LATM and former missionaries to the Dominican Republic)
  • Us (David and Rose Fish)
Each person put in $10 (for MOPS) to play. Then they also "sold" strips of 5 stickers (for an additional $10 for MOPS), as mulligans to put on the answer sheets for questions we did not know. At first they said you could only use 1 sheet of 5 stickers for the whole game, but at half-time, they allowed each team to purchase 1 more strip. After the eighth round, they again allowed teams to buy an additional strip of 5 stickers. Our team bought 3 strips of 5 stickers ($30 more for MOPS), and we used all the stickers but one (14 in all). Did I tell you that we dominated the game? We got down to the last round, and we had 4 stickers left, and only 10 questions. There is no way that the 2nd place team could have caught us.

All in all, we played 10 rounds of 10 questions from 10 different categories. The questions were read, and each team wrote the answers to the questions. Since we won the entire tournament, our team was awarded $120 (more than what we paid to play, even with our mulligan strips). We gave that prize money back to the local MOPS group.

I can't remember all of the categories, but some of my favorite categories were:
  • "Word" up (for which all questions were Bible-related--we did pretty well on that one)
  • The Pros of Prose (authors of famous books--Carol Reed was very helpful in this area, since she is a school teacher)
  • Sports-related category (Steve and I pretty much carried our team in this area)
  • The Small Screen (a category taken from TV shows--I was thankful for some questions from the Andy Griffith Show)
We had fun, and since we gave back our "prize" money, the local MOPS program probably raised about $600. Now, may God bless the mothers and the workers of that program! I observed some of the MOPS program at our own church, and I think that I am best suited for helping MOPS as a Trivial Pursuit player, not as a babysitter!

A fun time was had by all. Thanks, Cindy, for inviting us.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Surprise! Surprise! 3G Service in Joplin, MO

I have had a 3G phone for over a year. When I have gone to larger cities (Tulsa, Kansas City, St. Louis) I have taken advantage of the chance to check my e-mail from my phone. The rumor on the street was that our market (Joplin, MO) was to get 3G service sometime this year. Frankly, I did not believe it.

Imagine my pleasant surprise when I looked at my phone today, and saw the 3G symbol in the visor. Woohoo! See the screen capture. The 3G is just to the left of the time.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

For the Love of a "Cuh-Fuh-Luh" Truck

We went to Indiana last weekend, to participate in a Memorial Service for my father-in-law, Robert F. McGill. My son Greg and his family arrived Wednesday night, so he and his two older boys, Nathan and Eli, made the trip with us.

Nathan will turn 7 years old this week, and Eli is 5
. They had a great time in Indiana. We stayed at the home of some dear old friends, Jack & Barb Norton. A railroad track runs behind their home, and the trains were visible. Both boys have been Thomas the Train fans for a long time, so seeing real trains from the back yard was special. On Saturday morning, I overheard Eli talking to his mother (who stayed back in Joplin). He said, "Things here are just great! I wish you could be here with us!"

We had the most fun, however, on the return trip. We (th
e adults) were tired, and perhaps a little punchy, which made our trip back across the Mississippi River that much more fun. We (the adults) were concerned that the boys could see the Gateway Arch, or perhaps the Mississippi. Their (especially Nathan's) attention was on something else.

Now, I must try to set the scenario. Both Nathan and Eli are reading. Eli (5 years old) reads some from a Dick and Jane Reader. Nathan reads quite a bit, and usually can sound out words that he does not know. That's where the "Cuh-Fuh-Luh" truck comes in.

The Cuh-Fuh-Luh truck is actually a CFI truck (Contract Freighters, Inc.), based out of Joplin, MO. CFI was purchased recently by Con-Way Truckload. Con-Way Truckload moved their base operation to Joplin. In fact, Emily's parents live directly behind their massive office. There are literally hundreds of Cuh-Fuh-Luh trucks visible at all times.

When Nathan sees "CFI", he sees it not as a "CFI" but as "CFl" (capital C, followed by a capital F, followed by a lower case l). He would be a good Hebrew scholar, as he has no trouble reading things that have no vowels, such as C-F-L. He just read it phonetically, adding in the most common vowel
sound in American English, the schwa sound (שְׁוָא). Thus, CFI becomes CFL, which becomes Cuh-Fuh-Luh!

So, back to the story. We wer
e coming back across the Mississippi River, and wanted to point out the Gateway Arch, the river itself, Busch Stadium, etc. But, those things held no interest. Nathan was thrilled because a Cuh-Fuh-Luh truck was behind us. When I started to pull away from it, he told me, "Grandpa, slow down. I want to see the Cuh-Fuh-Luh truck!", followed by "Grandpa, you're driving too fast! Slow down so the Cuh-fuh-Luh truck catches up with us again!"

Greg got out his digital camera, bu
t the battery was weak. Nathan wanted to take a picture of the truck. As Greg passed the camera back, Aunt Charissa took a photo of both boys (Eli and Nathan) with the truck in the background. Then Nathan got his hands on the camera. We weren't sure that he knew what he was doing. At one point, he told us that he was shooting a video of the Cuh-Fuh-Luh truck. Nathan took the bottom photo. The truck looks far away (I was driving too fast!), but if you click on the photo, you will be able to see that it really was a Cuh-Fuh-Luh truck.

I will never look at a CFI truck the same way.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Hugo Chávez Jokes that Obama is More of a Leftist than are Fidel Castro and He

About the nationalization of General Motors: Hugo Chávez calls Obama Comrade, and jokes with Fidel Castro that they better be careful, or they will end up on Obama's right side.

Link from Yahoo News in Español:

"Oye, Obama acaba de nacionalizar nada más y ni nada menos que la General Motors. ¡Camarada Obama! Fidel, cuidado y nos quedamos a la derecha", bromeó el líder izquierdista mientras supervisaba la construcción de unas viviendas en una ciudad dormitorio cercana a Caracas.

For one opinion of what to expect when the government runs a car industry, check out Ion Mihai Pacepa's article in the Wall Street Journal, "What I Learned as a Car Czar."

Sunday, May 31, 2009

The World Will Only Snicker

An OCC student posted a link to this article, posted as an editorial piece in the English language version of Pravda. It was written by Stanislav Mishin, and published earlier on his blog (be certain to read to the very end if you want to understand the title of this entry):

It must be said, that like the breaking of a great dam, the American decent into Marxism is happening with breath taking speed, against the back drop of a passive, hapless sheeple, excuse me dear reader, I meant people.

True, the situation has been well prepared on and off for the past century, especially the past twenty years. The initial testing grounds was conducted upon our Holy Russia and a bloody test it was. But we Russians would not just roll over and give up our freedoms and our souls, no matter how much money Wall Street poured into the fists of the Marxists.

Those lessons were taken and used to properly prepare the American populace for the surrender of their freedoms and souls, to the whims of their elites and betters.

First, the population was dumbed down through a politicized and substandard education system based on pop culture, rather then the classics. Americans know more about their favorite tv dramas then the drama in DC that directly affects their lives. They care more for their "right" to choke down a McDonalds burger or a BurgerKing burger than for their constitutional rights. Then they turn around and lecture us about our rights and about our "democracy". Pride blindth the foolish.

Then their faith in God was destroyed, until their churches, all tens of thousands of different "branches and denominations" were for the most part little more then Sunday circuses and their televangelists and top protestant mega preachers were more then happy to sell out their souls and flocks to be on the "winning" side of one pseudo Marxist politician or another. Their flocks may complain, but when explained that they would be on the "winning" side, their flocks were ever so quick to reject Christ in hopes for earthly power. Even our Holy Orthodox churches are scandalously liberalized in America.

The final collapse has come with the election of Barrack Obama/ His speed in the past three months has been truly impressive. His spending and money printing has been a record setting, not just in America's short history but in the world. If this keeps up for more then another year, and there is no sign that it will not, America at best will resemble the Wiemar Republic and at worst Zimbabwe.

These past two weeks have been the most breath taking of all. First came the announcement of a planned redesign of the American Byzantine tax system, by the very thieves who used it to bankroll their thefts, loses and swindles of hundreds of billions of dollars. These make our Russian oligarchs look little more then ordinary street thugs, in comparison. Yes, the Americans have beat our own thieves in the shear volumes. Should we congratulate them?

These men, of course, are not an elected panel but made up of appointees picked from the very financial oligarchs and their henchmen who are now gorging themselves on trillions of American dollars, in one bailout after another. They are also usurping the rights, duties and powers of the American congress (parliament). Again, congress has put up little more then a whimper to their masters.

Then came Barrack Obama's command that GM's (General Motor) president step down from leadership of his company. That is correct, dear reader, in the land of "pure" free markets, the American president now has the power, the self given power, to fire CEOs and we can assume other employees of private companies, at will. Come hither, go dither, the centurion commands his minions.

So it should be no surprise, that the American president has followed this up with a "bold" move of declaring that he and another group of unelected, chosen stooges will now redesign the entire automotive industry and will even be the guarantee of automobile policies. I am sure that if given the chance, they would happily try and redesign it for the whole of the world, too. Prime Minister Putin, less then two months ago, warned Obama and UK's Blair, not to follow the path to Marxism, it only leads to disaster. Apparently, even though we suffered 70 years of this Western sponsored horror show, we know nothing, as foolish, drunken Russians, so let our "wise" Anglo-Saxon fools find out the folly of their own pride.

Again, the American public has taken this with barely a whimper...but a "freeman" whimper.

So, should it be any surprise to discover that the Democratically controlled Congress of America is working on passing a new regulation that would give the American Treasury department the power to set "fair" maximum salaries, evaluate performance and control how private companies give out pay raises and bonuses? Senator Barney Franks, a social pervert basking in his homosexuality (of course, amongst the modern, enlightened American societal norm, as well as that of the general West, homosexuality is not only not a looked down upon life choice, but is often praised as a virtue) and his Marxist enlightenment, has led this effort. He stresses that this only affects companies that receive government monies, but it is retroactive and taken to a logical extreme, this would include any company or industry that has ever received a tax break or incentive.

The Russian owners of American companies and industries should look thoughtfully at this and the option of closing their facilities down and fleeing the land of the Red as fast as possible. In other words, divest while there is still value left.

The proud American will go down into his slavery with out a fight, beating his chest and proclaiming to the world, how free he really is. The world will only snicker.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

My Cute Grandson

Actually I've got three (3) adorable grandsons. They recently went on a camping trip, camping out on Boca Chica beach, near Brownsville, Texas where they live. Emily (my daughter-in-law) posted some photos on Facebook. This one is my favorite, of Eli(jah) and his sand castle. He was very proud of it, and rightly so! Good job, Eli!

Saturday, May 09, 2009

B-Team Commissioning Service Reprise

On March 7, I wrote a piece titled "Grammar As an Emotional Trigger", which included the lyrics to a song inspired by a conversation the College Heights High School Minister had with one of the B-teamers after their survey trip. I'll reprise the lyrics here, and provide the mp3 file of the song, as sung by its composer, Beau Hamlin.

I'm not sure, what to be saying
So, I'll just start talking, maybe you'll see
The anticipation, oh it just keeps building
I don't want to leave but, I don't want to stay

It's like a mourning process, leaving on this mission
Do you know my feelings? Can you feel my tension?
'Cause, I love my family, but I know my calling
And I love my Savior, and my heart is willing

Uneasy? Yes. We're scared to jump.
But, we took the trip and we saw enough.

He's our strength. So we're going to jump.
We took that trip. And we saw enough.

People we met, faces we saw; broken buildings, torn down walls
History of war, crying for life; broken people, needing light.
We didn't see it all . . . but we saw enough.

It's intimidating, 'cause the ones before us
Never found a system, not a one they could trust

We better be longwinded, if we choose to run this
We better keep our focus, we gotta' know we're His

Uneasy? Yes. We're scared to jump.
But, we took the trip and we saw enough.

He's our strength. So we're going to jump.
We took that trip. And we saw enough.

People we met, faces we saw; broken buildings, torn down walls
History of war, crying for life; broken people, needing light.
We didn't see it all . . . but we saw enough.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Fornication is not required

Though I'm a little embarrassed by the title of this blog, I will continue with this humorous post. Students (especially foreign language students) provide teachers with some laughs. I had one yesterday in my 2nd Year Greek class. The class translated the entire Gospel of John this year, finishing it last week.For this week, I had my students read and translate portions of the The Didache, particularly from chapters 1, 7-10.

Our section for class yesterday covered chapters 7-8 (English translation available here). The verse in question is Didache 7:4, which in the Greek says:

πρὸ δὲ τοῦ βαπτίσματος προνηστευσάτω ὁ βαπτίζων καὶ ὁ βαπτιζόμενος καὶ εἴ τινες ἄλλοι δύνανται.

The important word there is the imperative προνηστευσάτω, which indicates that fasting is required. The text says, "Before the baptism, the baptizer and the baptizee must fast (beforehand), as well as others who are able." The text continues with a commandment that the baptizee must fast one or two days in advance of his or her baptism.

In class, I use a data projector, and project the Greek text onto a screen, and use a laser pointer, asking students to translate the Greek into English. When I got to verse four, the student I called on said something like, "No, it doesn't really say that, does it? Is it talking about fornication?"

I don't think he is dyslexic, but his question stems from a dyslexic moment. You see, the Greek word for fornication is πορνεία
(the first four letters of which are porn, from which we get the English word pornography.) The Greek word in question here was not from that root, but was προνηστεύω, which means to fast beforehand. It is made up of the common word for fasting, and a prepositional prefix (πρό), that means before. So the first four letters of the Greek word (transliterated into English) are pron, not porn. Perhaps because of extreme fatigue, my student saw them as porn, and came up with the idea that the Didache teaches this:
Before the baptism, the baptizer and the baptizee must fornicate, and any others who are able.

No, that's not what the text says. Fornication is not required.

Monday, April 27, 2009

It's Called "Influenza Porcina"

If you have seen the news today, you are no doubt aware of the problem with swine flu (influenza porcina) in Mexico, that has jumped across the boder and into the United States. Kim, our daughter, teaches school in the State of Chihuahua, Mexico. I just got an e-mail from her, that said they were cancelling classes there. In reading the Mexican press, I have found that there are no confirmed cases of swine flu in the state of Chihuahua, although there are 33 suspected cases. I just read here that classes in all schools in the state are canceled until May 6. I'm not sure if that means that their school year will be extended, which could possibly affect her return date.

I sent her a note saying that we trust God, and for her to be smart, to wash her hands multiple times a day. Would you pray for her safety? I'm not meaning to be drobbedonian. I just love my daughter.
For what it's worth, the word drobbedonian (as far as I know) was coined by Carl Emmons, one of Greg's classmates at Santiago Christian Academy, over 20 years ago. We're not sure what it means, but it is a useful word when you want to change someone's attitude. It is always easy to say, "Don't be so drobbedonian!"

Sunday, April 26, 2009

At Least They Won Today (10-3) To Avoid a Sweep!

Yesterday I was stoked to see the Cubbies beat the Cardinals. I picked up my Cardinal friend preacher, Gene McCoy at Rolla, and we continued on to St. Louis. The home team (that would be the bad guys) beat the Cubbies 8-2. I was super-disappointed. You have to admit class when you see it, though, and Albert Pujols just might be the best player in baseball today (sorry, Arod fans!). He manufactured the winning run on Friday, by stealing a base to get himself into scoring position, and later scoring the go ahead run on the next play.

Yesterday, he started the day needing 2 RBI to join a small crowd of ballplayers to reach 1000 before the age of 30. I was hoping he would be denied, but alas, he reached 1002 with one swing of the bat. Mike Shannon, the Cardinal radio announcer, who has a trademark home run call of "Get up! Get up, baby! Get up!" never even had a chance to form a letter "g" sound. Cubs Rule-5 draft pitcher David Patton sent Pujols a huge gift on his first pitch to him, a heater right down the middle of the plate. I have never seen a home run leave a ballpark that fast! The Cubs outfielders barely even moved a muscle. They knew that it was gone! I was there. I saw it! The crowd rose to its feet, as did I. But I was not cheering. It was painful.

I bought a Pujols Pack that had three Cubs games (April 25, May 19, and September 20). The next one is on a Tuesday night, right after school is out. I'm looking forward to seeing the Cubs beat the Cardinals there on May 19. I will have the privilege to take a Cub fan with me, Jonathan Parrot, from Prairie Grove, AR. Jonathan's mother used to teach at Ozark Christian College. Currently she is the Children's Minister at the Prairie Grove (AR) Christian Church. (Video available on, taken from FOX Network TV feed).

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Reflections on Brain Hemispheres and the Shema

The following is a semi-edited version of the devotional I presented to the OCC Faculty/Staff Luncheon on April 17:

Shema yisra'el adonay eloheynu adonay ehad.

I'll finish in English:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Deut. 6:4-5, verse 4 in Hebrew, verse 5 in ESV).

I've often been thankful for the fact that Jesus added something that was not specifically mentioned in the Hebrew text. The Hebrew text lists heart, soul, might (or strength)—as Jesus quotes this text (Matt. 22:37; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27, he adds "and with your mind."

I have frequently joked that I was a forceps baby, and that the right side of my brain was damaged at birth. On the creativity scale from 1-10, I would give myself about a minus 3! I have been amazed at the creativity of my son, Greg. Anything I ever did musically came with incredible effort, by following the notes written on a page. If the notes are not written—anything can happen. Greg may not be able to read music, but he certainly does hear it. What about graphic arts? In a face-to-face competition in Bible Lands Map Drawing, I think I can beat Randy Gariss—barely! But I think all of you could "clean my clock!"

Yes, I have been happy that Jesus added the word "mind" to the Shema. I appreciated John Stott's 1973 book, Your Mind Matters (IVP Press). In it, he quotes a Canadian commentator who said, "What scares me about this generation is the extent to which ignorance is their armour. If know-nothingness goes on much longer, somebody will yet emerge from a commune having discovered the wheel." That great line was written in 1970, when I was still in high school. Methinks that in the intervening years, cognitive excellence has suffered even more. Oddly enough, technological advances have contributed to the "dumbing down of our society." Last year Mark Bauerlein published a cultural critique titled The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (or, Don't Trust Anyone Under 30). Let's see, my generation must be the most misanthropic generation in the history of the world. When I was younger, we didn't trust anyone over 30, and now, we don't trust anyone under 30. What's wrong with us?

Also, last summer, Nicholas Carr wrote an article for The Atlantic magazine. The title of his article asked the question, "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" Basically, Carr, while embracing and using technology, admits that it is making us stupid. I resonate with what he says:

I think I know what's going on. For more than a decade now, I've been spending a lot of time online, searching and surfing and sometimes adding to the great databases of the Internet. The Web has been a godsend to me as a writer. Research that once required days in the stacks or periodical rooms of libraries can now be done in minutes. A few Google searches, some quick clicks on hyperlinks, and I've got the telltale fact or pithy quote I was after. Even when I'm not working, I'm as likely as not to be foraging in the Web's info-thickets'reading and writing e-mails, scanning headlines and blog posts, watching videos and listening to podcasts, or just tripping from link to link to link. (Unlike footnotes, to which they're sometimes likened, hyperlinks don't merely point to related works; they propel you toward them.)

In recent months, I have done a lot of thinking about things that matter. I have immensely enjoyed teaching Anthropology again (the last time I taught it, there was a guy named Proctor in the class—he has risen quite high in the institution, while I—well I enjoy saying that I am on a need to know basis, and obviously I do not need to know!".)

But in teaching Anthropology, I have been amazed all over again by the incredible cultural diversity in our shrinking, flattened (to use Thomas Friedman's term) world. Our western culture (historically, anyway) is much more individualistic than other cultures around the world. Our western culture is certainly more literate than some cultures that are either oral or aural. But let's consider the individual or group orientation: early this semester, I asked my Life Group about what they preferred individually: 1) to be alone; or 2) to be in a group. I enjoy hanging out with people and I am somewhere close to balanced on the I/E Myers Briggs test. I don't have any problem with alone time, however. My wife, however, is wired much differently than I. She loves to be with people. The isolation of chemotherapy was a huge problem for her. But in my Life Group, I was the only person who preferred to be alone! Maybe I am pathologically anti-social.

It must be a left-brained thing. I also like technology. Well, duh! I am the pusher of Bible software. Remember back in the day, when we had pay phones in the dorms? It was a big deal when we put phones in the dorm rooms. Phones in the dorm rooms today are almost irrelevant. Better not take out the Ethernet or Wi-Fi, though. I used to say that technology is neutral, and sometimes even complained that it is not right for the Devil to use all the good stuff for his purposes. Technology, however, is not neutral. Its use does change us, or to use Carr's thought, "it propels us", perhaps to places we really did not intend to go.

Last month, John Dyer, the web specialist at Dallas Seminary, gave a workshop at the Logos Bible Software-sponsored Bibletech 2009 titled "Technology is not neutral". Because of him, I wasted an hour and a half last night watching a classic film from 20 years ago, that somehow I had missed, "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure." Waste of time. The only redeeming value was that the 7 day rental only cost me 99 cents.

Dyer's presentation had an image from the movie of a Greek philosopher we know as Socrates, except that these brilliant kids called him So-crates! I thought about maybe using a clip from the movie in this devotional. I was incapable of finding a redeeming clip. Instead, I went to the Loeb Classical Library, to read some Plato, specifically Phaedrus, where Socrates tells a story about the Egyptian god named Theuth, who invented letters (that is, writing). The Egyptian king, Thamus, was not impressed. Thamus said that writing, rather than making us wise, would make us "worse for the wear". In the words of Thamus, given to us by Plato, and to Plato allegedly by Socrates, he says:

This invention will produce forgetfulness in the minds of those who learn to use it, because they will not practice their memory. Their trust in writing, produced by external characters which are no part of themselves, will discourage the use of the own memory within them. You have invented an elixir not of memory, but of reminding; and you offer your pupils the appearance of wisdom, not true wisdom, for they will read many things without instruction and will therefore seem to know many things, when they are for the most part ignorant and hard to get along with, since they are not wise, but only appear wise.

I cannot discount the power of the written word—after all, God gave us His word, in written form. I'm committed to the study and propagation of that Word. That's why I'm at Ozark. I've always liked the title to Francis Schaeffer's abridged work to The God Who is There. It is titled, He is There, and He is Not Silent. Yes, God communicates with us through the technology of His written word. But I am beginning to understand that the technology of written texts, and that many technologies we enjoy using also carry the power to effect a change in us, in ways that might not be beneficial.

Yes, to get back to the Shema, I'm glad that Jesus added the word mind. But if I love God, only with my mind, I may be guilty of "neglecting the weightier matters of the Shema". The older I get, the more I realize how important the other side (the right-brained stuff) is.

Dyer's workshop at Bibletech 2009 also pointed me to another resource: Shane Hipps' Flickering Pixels: How Technology Shapes our Faith, published earlier this year by Zondervan. I recommend the book. I started with the dichotomy between left and right brainedness. Hipps calls the right brain (especially those of us who are left-brained propagaters of the propositional truth of Scripture), the Prodigal Brain.

I would like to read you a portion on Brain Balance (pp. 147-148):

One morning in December of 1996, a blood vessel burst in Jill Bolte Taylor's brain. She was a Harvard-trained neuroscientist who had spent her career mapping the micro circuitry of the brain in people with mental illness. That morning, over the course of four hours, she lost her ability to walk, talk, read, write, or recall any of her life.

The stroke happened in the left hemisphere of her brain, which is responsible for all the functions she lost. With her left-brain muted, over the next few hours she began to experience life through her right-brain only. She describes it as a vastly expanded state of consciousness; she was fully immersed in the present moment. There was no past or future, only the now. She lost her ability to perceive the boundaries of her body and became aware of her total oneness with the energy of the entire universe. Molecules of her body mingled with the molecules of the air and objects around her. Her subjective experience was one of extraordinary peace and euphoric bliss. Not a religious person, she called that place "nirvana" or, more affectionately "La La Land."

It took a major surgery to save her life and two weeks to regain some measure of left-brain functioning. It took a full eight years to recover completely. But when she awoke, this left-brain scientist realized the incalculable value of the right hemisphere of the brain. Once her left-brain functioning returned, she learned how to establish a remarkable ecology or equilibrium between the hemispheres of her brain, which unleashed a torrent or creative and spiritual energy that had been dormant under the blanket of left-brain thinking alone. This changed her life completely. She later observed that this experience taught her more about the brain and human potential that all of her years of research.

Shema yisra'el adonay eloheynu adonay ehad.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Deut. 6:4-5, verse 4 in Hebrew, verse 5 in ESV).