More Than Meets the Ear

“Music exists when rhythmic, melodic or harmonic order is deliberately created, and consciously listened to, and it is only language-using, self-conscious creatures … who are capable of organizing sounds in this way, either when uttering them or when perceiving them. We can hear music in the song of the nightingale, but it is music that no nightingale has heard.” Philosopher Roger Scruton

~~~

Did you know that…

The Kingdom of God is about re-creation?

God can turn our mistakes into passing notes?

Improvisation is the exploration of an occasion?

Jazz is the interplay of order and non-order, of tradition and innovation?

Music reshapes our lives?

Music teaches us delayed gratification?

Hope lives in the midst of delay?

Music has a lot to teach us?

Music can increase empathy?

You can’t demonize those you just made music with?

As a musician for most of my life, I learned about and embraced many of these aspects and applications of music. From the videos below I learned that the Kingdom of God employs music to instruct our souls. Here are three short videos, the first two by Jeremy Begbie. The last video demonstrates the reality of the last question above.

These videos are from a musical point of view. But high culture (good literature, good drama, good art, etc.) can also provide us with many of the same benefits.

Jeremy Begbie is a theologian and professionally trained pianist. Here he demonstrates how music can help unlock the truths of the Christian gospel. Begbie is the Thomas A. Langford Research Professor of Theology at Duke Divinity School.

First, the intersection of theology and music:

Next, Unexpected Intersections:

Last, well, you had better watch…

 

The Dream Weaver

 

Jack opened the door and rolled his suitcase into his apartment. He put the bird cage down on its shelf by the window. He threw his keys onto the Feng Shui bowl of rocks.  There was no cat to greet him. He didn’t like cats. There was no dog to greet him because he traveled 90 percent of the time. There was no wife to greet him. His wife divorced him because she needed someone 200 percent of the time. There was Henry, the parrolet, and the recliner and the comforter his mother made.

Jack switched on the answering machine.  The last message: “Rid your lawn of weeds and brown spots. Have a thicker greener lawn today! This offer is for a limited time only. Act now!”

After apologizing to the cactus, Jack watered it. And then he remembered he hadn’t eaten since Atlanta.

The freezer held empty ice cube trays and a cheese pizza. Tomorrow he would buy some groceries for the weekend. He’d be on a plane again Monday morning. Pizza would do.

After setting the oven temp, Jack sat down and poked the remote. The same old nothing was on the TV: political back and forth that was going nowhere; commercials for drugs to put a smile on your face if you could stomach the side-effects; dramas of cops and robbers and adventure flicks about mayhem and superheroes to undo the mayhem. Jack settled on a baseball game, his version of Feng Shui.

“Order now.”

“What?” Jack looked over at Henry. “Does my sister must leave the TV on all day long, Buddy Bird?”

“Order now.”

“We’ve been apart too long.”

“Order now.”

“Ugh.”

 

Jack wasn’t about to watch Andy of Mayberry again. He watched Andy and Barney almost every night that he was on the road.

Jack found Andy of Mayberry on a channel in his Ramada Inn room in Jubail, Saudi Arabia. He found Andy and Barney on his room’s TV in Rio, Brazil. He found Andy on his TV in Bialystok, Poland, and in Seoul, South Korea and in Hermosillo, Mexico and in the rooms of the fifty states he traveled to for his job. The program was Jack’s version of a friend, as was Henry.

Now Henry stayed with Jack’s sister Linda when Jack traveled. Linda loved Henry’s tiny robot-sounding voice. Until tonight, “Like it?” was Henry’s standard answer to any verbal cue. He would bob his head up and down as he said it over and over. Linda would keep the conversation going for several minutes, bobbing her head up and down, parroting Henry. Jack figured they were both entertained while he was on the road. He had Andy of Mayberry and the endless commercials telling you to order now before it’s too late.

The oven was ready. Jack unwrapped the pizza and placed it on the oven rack. He set the timer and then sat back down.

“Order now.”

“I ordered my pizza, Buddy Bird.”

“Order now.’

“Yeah, yeah.”

“Order now.”

“I wish this catcher would order a fastball right now.”

When the oven timer went off Jack shut off the oven. He removed the pizza and sliced it into quarters. He plopped down two slices on a paper plate and sat back down.

“Oh, that was a beauty.”

The pizza filled him and made him tired. Jack’s eyes watered. His eyelids, heavy, closed. Then, a weird commercial played.

“If you order today, you will have a friend for life. But hurry, this is a limited time offer. Our inventory is going fast, but if you order now, you will have a much-needed friend.”

Jack roused when the game announcer yelled, “He got back to first, just in time”.

But his eye lids and now his stomach felt heavier. Jack laid his head back down on the recliner. He pulled the comforter up to his shoulders. He dozed off in the dimly lit room.

The room where he found himself was dark except for a vignette of kitchen table. Sitting across from him at the table was a familiar face. Ken spoke. “If I win this hand of poker I want you to put on this Speedo and be my houseboy, my amusement. I want you to clean up my house. This offer is for a limited time only. Act now!” Then Jack saw himself face down on a bed and Ken trying to rope him to a bed frame. Jack broke free. He began riding his bike as fast as he could, his heart pounding faster than his feet could pedal.

Jack lurched upright in the recliner. Then his legs kicked straight out. As they did they almost knocked over the TV tray. Jack shook his head as if to shake the dream out of his thoughts. “Man!”

A commercial for window cleaner was airing: “Your windows will be spotless, your view spectacular. This product has been specially formulated. Buy one bottle now and get the second one free. That’s right! Buy one bottle now and get the second one free. Shipping and handling will apply.”

The game was over. Jack got up and covered Henry’s cage. He sat back down and covered himself in the comforter. He watched the news.

“The Peruvian mudslide has left thousands homeless. Intense rains over the last several days have dislodged acres of soil swamping homes in mud. An eyewitness had this to say:”

“There’s a person there!”

The on-the-scene reporter walked over to the man and spoke to the camera: “She is referring to this man now completely covered in mud. We learned that he had just dropped his two daughters at school and was feeding his pigs with his wife when they were pulled into a landslide. The man’s wife told us that they had climbed a tree but the trunk broke.”

The news program broke to a commercial. Jack blinked his eyes several times hoping to stay awake. He just got home from a long road trip. He wanted to savor being home. He wanted to submerge himself in home.

As he let himself sink deep into that pleasure an image came up. He saw himself in his old dorm room lying on his bed. He turned over and saw his college roommate staring at him. Tim was sitting next to his bed watching him sleep. Tim climbed into his bed and threw his arm over Jack. Tim whispered, “I am in the business of love. This night has been specially formulated. Shipping and handling may apply.” Then Jack saw himself scurrying out of his 35th floor dorm window and climbing a tree. Then the tree broke and mud washed over him. “Help! There’s a person here!”

Jack awoke with a chill. The comforter was on the floor. “Man! What’s going on in the ether tonight?” He shook his head to discharge the dream. He shut everything off and went to bed.

 

On Saturday Jack finalized his travel plans. He’d get up early Monday morning and try to beat the snow storm out east. The weatherman was forecasting a winter storm. It would affect the northeast. Jack took note, as he would travel to Albany, New York on Monday. “Oh, great. More airport lounges,” he thought out loud.

 

Sunday evening Jack drove to his sister’s house. He was dropping off Henry.

“Hey. Here’s your favorite bird.” Jack lifted the cage and showed Melanie. “Go easy on her Henry. She can only handle a few words,” Jack teased his sister.

“Mel, no more commercials for this guy. Garbage in, garbage out, as they say.”

“Shakespeare it is for you Mr. Henry.” Mel smiled. “To be or not to be.”

“Like it.” Henry chimed in.

“Are you asking or telling?” Jack queried the bird.

“Order now.”

“Ugh. See you next Friday kiddo.”

“Have a good trip.” Mel hugged Jack.

 

Once back home Jack packed his bag and set the alarm for 3:30 AM. He cooked himself a steak and settled down in front of the TV.

He laid back and began thinking of his travel plans. At one point he thought he should get up and check his flight online again. But gravity was holding him recliner bound. He fell asleep.

And that is when he saw himself standing in the hallway of his dorm. The RA asked him to come to the lounge to talk. The RA told him that Steven his new roommate had been killed in a car crash on the way to his wedding rehearsal. The RA said a snow storm caused the crash. Then Jack could see the snow. He could see the crash. And then he saw himself at the bottom of a deep well. Aunt Bee was there. She was showing Jack the comforter she had brought for him. On the comforter was a tag which said “I knit all things together for good.”

Jack then realized that he was holding a large bucket in his left hand. The overflowing bucket was sobbing. It occurred to Jack that the bucket contained loneliness, pain and suffering. Jack looked over at his right hand. A hand in his was pulling him up. Another hand placed the comforter on his head like a shawl. The weight of the bucket in his left hand was causing a terrible strain across his arms and shoulders. He cried out, “Help me dad!” Jack was in so much pain he couldn’t speak. But there were words without words. His speech had turned to loud groaning.

Then, out of his insides came a rush of anguish and sadness so great that he thought that he would be turned inside out. His legs were now being lifted off the ground. He stretched them down to touch the earth. As he did he felt a painful contraction in his left leg. Jack let go of everything and when he did he heard a warning sound. His eyes flashed open.

The alarm clock was beeping. Jack tapped the “Off” button. He noticed as he reached for the alarm clock that there was a severe cramp in his left leg. The stabbing pain made him cringe. He messaged his leg for a minute and then pulled himself out of bed. Other than the pain in his leg, he felt strangely warmed.

 

 

© Jennifer A. Johnson, 2017, All Rights Reserved

What Faraday Knows Won’t Hurt You

 

 The sun shall not smite thee by day… *

“I am busy just now again on Electro-Magnetism and think I have got hold of a good thing but can’t say; it may be a weed instead of a fish that after all my labor I may at last pull up.”  — Michael Faraday, Letter to Richard Phillips, 23 Sep 1831.

~~~

What’s an EMP?  Briefly, it is a burst of electromagnetic radiation that results from an explosion, either natural or manmade. It may result from a severe solar storm, a nuclear bomb or an E-bomb.

What are EMP’s effects:  The effects are similar to lighting strikes and switching surges. The bursts look like an Aurora and generate lots of static electricity, putting electronic digital systems at risk. To wit (a short list):

Table 11.32

DEGREES OF SUSCEPTIBILITY TO THE EMP

Most Susceptible

Low-power, high-speed digital computer, either transistorized or vacuum tube (operational upset)

Systems employing transistors or semiconductor rectifiers (either silicon or selenium):

–Computers and power supplies

–Semiconductor components terminating long cable runs, especially between sites

–Alarm systems

–Intercom systems

–Life-support system controls

–Some telephone equipment which is partially transistorized

 

–Transistorized receivers and transmitters

–Transistorized 60 to 400 cps converters

–Transistorized process control systems

–Power system controls and communication links

 

How do you protect a device from an electromagnetic pulse?

“For a Faraday cage to be effective against an electromagnetic pulse, it must block out the entire wavelength of the EMP, explains The Survival Mom.” (You don’t have to be a whiz kid to make a Faraday cage. This post’s links and others spell out the EMP’s effects and what protection is required. Simply understand the principle and create your own cage for your electronic devices.)

Homemade Faraday shield in the works

What is a Faraday cage or Faraday shield? It is an enclosure formed by conductive material or by a mesh of such material, used to block electric fields. Faraday cages are named after the English scientist Michael Faraday, who invented them in 1836.

How do you make a Faraday cage?

Making Faraday Cages

 

 

In case you missed this class…

But soft, what EMP through yonder window breaks?

Get Prepared for an Electromagnetic Pulse Attack or Severe Solar Storm

 

~~~~

About Michael Faraday (22 Sep 1791 – 25 Aug 1867), lest you think the Kingdom of God is only a work of spiritual magnitude:

Faraday was the first scientist to realize the enormous importance of the electromagnetic field. He saw in it a reality of a new category differing from matter. It was capable of transmitting effects from place to place,…

Faraday found no conflict between his religious beliefs and his activities as a scientist and philosopher. He viewed his discoveries of nature’s laws as part of the continual process of “reading the book of nature”, no different in principle from the process of reading the Bible to discover God’s laws. A strong sense of the unity of God and nature pervaded Faraday’s life and work.

 

 

 

*Psalm 121:6, (Yes, I am quoting this verse out of context.)

Write the Other Way

 

 

“Dover Beach”, Matthew Arnold’s lyric poem, describes the shore at the narrowest part of the English Channel. Dover, on the southeast coast of England in the county of Kent, is famous for its white cliffs and its popular ferry port. The ferry crosses the Strait of Dover to Calais, France. Dover Beach is where Arnold honeymooned. His poem reveals that he also thought about life in the mid 1800’s. dover beach 2

“Dover Beach”, with imagery of the restless sea and allusions to Ancient Greek Figures, is a metaphor for the ebbing of Christian faith and the surge of the industrial age sensed by Arnold. Mankind is moving away from the community and the collective experience which fosters faith and finds itself left behind “as on a darkling plain” without solace.  The poem was written around 1850.

Further Context:  T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, also filled with allusions to the collective past, was published in 1922. Eliot is considered the first true modernist in English literature. Eliot’s spiritual quest ended when he embraced the Anglican Church.

(On the right-hand side bar is the sound file where you can listen to Thomas Hampson, world-renowned baritone, sing Dover Beach.)

 

Dover Beach

The sea is calm to-night.

The tide is full, the moon lies fair

Upon the straits; – on the French coast the light

Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,

Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.

Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!

Only, from the long line of spray

Where the sea meets the moon-blanch’d land,

Listen! you hear the grating roar

Of pebbles which the waves draw back,and fling,

At their return, up the high strand,

Begin, and cease, and then again begin,

With tremulous cadence slow, and bring

The eternal note of sadness in.

 

Sophocles long ago

Heard it on the Aegean, and it brought

Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow

Of human misery; we

Find also in the sound a thought,

Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

 

The Sea of Faith

Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore

Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furl’d

But now I only hear

Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,

Retreating, to the breath

Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear

And naked shingles of the world.

 

Ah, love, let us be true

To one another! for the world, which seems

To lie before us like a land of dreams,

So various, so beautiful, so new,

Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,

Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;

And we are here as on a darkling plain

Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,

Where ignorant armies clash by night.

 

~~~

A world of “neither joy, nor love, nor light” …
The character Montag, in the novel Fahrenheit 451, reads the last two stanzas of Arnold’s poem to Mildred, his wife, and her female friends. He attempts to expose their shallow nature. Mildred cautions him not to do so:

Mildred: “Montag, hold on, don’t …”

Montag: “Did you hear them, did you hear these monsters talking about monsters? Oh God, the way they jabber about people and their own children and themselves and the way they talk about their husbands and the way they talk about war, dammit, I stand here and I can’t believe it!”

After much resistance, Montag goes on to read the last two stanzas, finishing with

And we are here as on a darkling plain

Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,

Where ignorant armies clash by night.

Mrs. Phelps was crying.

~~~

To those who have ears to hear…

Fahrenheit 451 (1966), at 58 minutes, Montag quotes another book’s passage out loud to the unwilling (and yes, the acting is atrocious):

Onward Christian Fortresses?

 

Viewed from the six lane highway, the structure appears to be a brick fortress surrounded by acres of treeless grass and a vast moonscape of parking lot. The function without form building inspires no awe, no upward glance and no transcendent thought. The surrounding barren landscape contains no greenhouse, no food or flower gardens, no observatory and no animal shelter. There is nothing of nature’s bounty in my view, only the requisite shrubs to offset the stark landscape. Behold, another mega-church built to feed the souls of six thousand; another unadorned mega-church in a far western suburb of architecturally savvy Chicago.

Every other Saturday I visit someone several towns away. As I do I pass this mega-church going and coming, typically between 10 and 11:30 am. This Saturday, like all the other times before, I saw, again to my astonishment, that there were no cars in the parking lot. There was no activity whatsoever. I wondered at a stewardship that builds a Scripture fort surrounded by acres of asphalt parking that is to be filled only periodically by the six thousand. The transmutation of creation into an austere block complex hurt my soul to see. And, what about the transmutation of the six thousand?

As a child, I first attended a Baptist church and later, Bible/Free churches. Beauty was a no show at these churches. There were, of course, colorful Sunday school materials – what is considered Christian education resources – for the kids. And with a constant pamphlet diet – a three point sermon with alliteration – there was no hunger for intellectual activity. I observed, as did Mark Noll in his book “The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind“: The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind.” I saw extreme resistance to obtaining knowledge. The pews were there to be used, but scholarly books, not so much. It would not be too far off to say that understanding was gained by and strictly limited to what the Bible ‘teachers’, OTC books and seminars say the Bible says.

Over some fifty years I have heard the same bad theology passed down from generation to generation. Not once in the Bible church did I ever hear a sermon or a class talk about the Kingdom of God being here and now – a major thrust of the four Gospels . The sermons, to an Amen, were, “You need to get saved so you can get to heaven. If you are saved then you need to come forward to rededicate your life. Then you must think seriously about becoming a missionary. Everyone must get to heaven because this world will be judged harshly.” Imagine how our world would change if we prayed for and practiced “on earth as it is in heaven”, and prepared for the return of our King? He will be bringing heaven down to earth to join them together.

There is also the highly profitable Rapture fantasy series based on a mis-reading of the Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians. And, of course, there is the teaching of a literal six-day creationism. Science must be eschewed as being antagonistic toward God and His Word. I learned otherwise on my own.

And, there is the constant reiteration of the mis-understanding of Paul’s letter to the Romans. Sadly, Romans, since the Reformation and the Enlightenment, has been reduced to a quirky systematic theology – all about us. Paul’s circular letter to the Christians in and around Rome speaks of God’s plan to redeem his creation. The letter is a well thought out dissertation reminding Jewish and gentile Christians in Rome of God’s covenantal faithfulness, his righteousness. It was meant to reinforce an Old Testament understanding of God’s plan for redeeming his creation that was in place all along.

I never heard this at church. Instead, I heard the four spiritual laws imposed onto Romans. And with this I was taught that God imputes – gives – his righteousness to me, sinner that I am. But, this thinking has no basis in Romans given its Scriptural context of Genesis 15 and the Abrahamic covenant. Regarding my righteousness: I am made righteous in the law court of God by God’s exercise of His covenant faithfulness and his desire to put the world to right.

I don’t recall anyone over those years, except for a few visiting professors, who seriously studied theology, N.T. Greek or Hebrew to understand the context of what was written. Often, the visiting seminary professors would reassert the same bad theology using highfalutin terms.

I have heard countless sermons based on poached verses to create a ‘relevant” topic to preach on Sunday mornings. Relevance and accommodation are apparently key to mega-ness. The mega-church I’ve mentioned offers two services: traditional and contemporary worship. As such, this church divides the Body of Christ into sects for mega-accommodation.

Am I jaded about the Evangelical church? After many years of being involved with these Bible churches, in some sense I am. That is perhaps why I can see the six thousand continuing to come back to the mega-church because it looks… bigly: “There has to be something for me inside this Yuge Assembly of Bricks Church.”

If the election of Donald Trump, supported by the many Evangelicals who voted for him tells you anything, and if the existence of the mega-church tells you anything it is that the Evangelical assembly line approach to Christianity must go onward. And, Bible fortresses must be built.

~~~

A coincidence? I found this audio link (see right sidebar) on Twitter this morning.

~~~

“Beauty is vanishing from our world because we live as though it did not matter.” ―Roger Scruton, Beauty

What is revealed to me in the experience of beauty is a fundamental truth about being – the truth that being is a gift, and receiving it is a task. This is a truth of theology that demands exposition as such.” ― Roger Scruton, Face of God: the Gifford Lectures

“The point of Christian scholarship is not recognition by standards established in the wider culture. The point is to praise God with the mind. Such efforts will lead to the kind of intellectual integrity that sometimes receives recognition. But for the Christian that recognition is only a fairly inconsequential by-product. The real point is valuing what God has made, believing that the creation is as “good” as he said it was, and exploring the fullest dimensions of what it meant for the Son of God to “become flesh and dwell among us.” Ultimately, intellectual work of this sort is its own reward, because it is focused on the only One whose recognition is important, the One before whom all hearts are open.” ― Mark A. Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind

Your Personal Populism

 

golden-calf-syndrome-golden-calf

I will deliver

You know I’m a forgiver

Reach out and touch faith

Reach out and touch faith

Your own personal Jesus

Someone to hear your prayers

Someone who cares

Your own personal Jesus

Someone to hear your prayers

Someone who’s there…

-Personal Jesus, Depeche Mode

~~~

When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him (Exodus 32:1).

~~~

Does any of this ring a cow bell? redhandpointingdown

Malignant populism…

…is impatient, short-tempered. “You shall know them by their outrage.”

…is self-referring.

…demands tokens of assurance, of victory, of winning.

…uses fear mongering to gain and remain in power.

…avoids all risk to obtain security and protectionism.

…believes that draining the swamp removes lethargy and guilt.

…is a left-brain big government solution and a right-brain protest of big government.

…seeks to replace the timeless with the temporal; throws the baby out with the swamp water.

…obtains identity from sympatico sources and by denigrating and mocking all others

…is self-centered and narcissistic in its demand for self-preservation.

…makes everything personal, including its self-protected version (SPV) of Jesus.

…has no problem inflicting pain on others; “You’ll get yours now because we won”.

…shuts down discussion and debate with, “Grow up.”

…makes graven images (“Come, make us gods who will go before us”) to obtain instant gratification and to mollify their anger at not being “represented”.

…is “here and now or else”.

…as social justice: “We won. Accept it. Get over it”. (Other than using the remote, they have changed nothing.)

…uses words like “smashed”, “owned” “destroyed” and “crushed” to describe another “win” for the team.

…lives and dies by its icons: a flag, a cap, a brand, a golden representative.

…becomes what it worships: hollow, static, lifeless.

…says, “I’m the bully, now. I’m the elite. I’m the ruling class, now. The last is first, now, you’ll see.”

…has acolyte exculpatory messaging: “we are not represented…” (“As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.”) …so give us what we want here and now. Make us feel great about ourselves again.”

And last, for this post…such populism defines itself as a direct rebellion against the powers that be – powers they say have not represented them and their concerns. So, they will repeal and replace with whatever is handy. Enter the Replacement.

Feeling unknown

And you’re all alone

Flesh and bone

By the telephone

Lift up the receiver

I’ll make you a believer…

-Personal Jesus, Depeche Mode

~~~

The idea behind our republic (we are not a democracy) was for the public to be well-informed and for the well-informed public to inform the directions and decisions of our representatives. But, information gathering today is decidedly myopic in scope and typically occurs via a highly partisan media, a media whose main concern is to be profitable (to “win”) at any cost. As such, anger and outrage is coaxed on by a very ‘sympathetic’ media’ who want you to come back for more. Hence, the seemingly ‘righteous’ anger directed toward the powers that be the many unabashedly express: “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

There is also, it seems to me, a rejection of the printed word, including Scripture and our Constitution. In its place: an obstinate presumption of black and white rightness. Well, one does not have to become a malignant populist screaming out of his Twitter window at passersby.

Not all populism is bad.  The Convention of States (C.O.S.), as one example, represents a more thoughtful and orderly populism. Issues are debated to create informed and orderly change.

Regarding national issues, there should be a Convention of Churches so that Spirit-informed-“on earth as it is in heaven” Kingdom of God matters are discussed, debated and then direct our national polities…as we wait for God’s Representative to return.

Don’t Go Changing

 

“Where have you been?” Jess opened the door for Chad.

“On my way home from work I stopped at Replete Christian Bookstore. I bought a bunch of books that are going to change everything.” Chad set the bag on the dining room table.

“Wow, a lot of books. I hope the change pays for everything.”

“Look at these titles.” Chad read them off: 

“Divine Masculinity on a Dime”

“Practicing the Presence of Masculinity”

“The Thrust of Biblical Manhood: a Guide for the Closet Masculine”

“Broken Manhood:  A Guide in Feminine Times”

“Not Content to Be Just a Man: One Man’s Struggle to be Masculine”

“Courage in the ManCave of Doubt”

“’Christianity Feels Masculine’ and other Manly Quotes”

“The Miracle of Masculinity”

“If Only: Thoughts on Ideal Manliness”

“The Ancient Art of Manliness and the Warrior Man: Losing is Not an Option”

“When the Church is Not Masculine Enough, Bring It!”

“If Grace Matters, So Does Larry.”

Chad pulled the last book out of the bag. “I got this one free because I spent $50.00 – “Shall we Gather at the Urinal?  A Comic Graphic Novel for the Seeker Church Male”.  You won’t recognize me after I read these books, Jess.”

“Truer words have never been spoken.”

 “I think I’ll buy a pickup truck this weekend.”

“No you won’t.”

“But how can I be seen as masculine if I don’t have a truck? They say women think men are masculine when they drive pickups”

“They also say that women don’t like men who drive them to distraction.” Jess countered.

“It is written… right here in this article.” Chad picked up a copy of Christian Men that Matter Magazine. “Women like a guy who has a job and who drives a pickup truck and who pees standing up and who eats meat and is willing to carry them out of a burning building.”

“Four out of five isn’t bad. I guess I’ll keep you.” Jess broke a wry smile.

“If I have a pickup you will think more highly of me, you’ll respect me. I just know it.”

“I know that I will think more highly of you because I will be sitting so high up in that cab.”

“Aw shucks, all the guys at church, …some of the guys at church, traded in their vans for a pickup.”

“I’m going to trade you in for a man who drives a family van and is content.”

“Look what I got in the mail.” Chad waved the envelope. “It is an invite to “Your Call to the Wild: Unleash Your Masculine Anima – a Week-Long Seminar to Reclaim Your Masculinity. It is only $300.00 for the entire week. We bring sleeping bags and shoot BB guns and stuff. Sounds like fun!”

“Let me see.” Jess looked at the invite. She handed it back to Chad, “Return to sender. There is no one by that need here.”

“Oh, Jess. You’re not pooh-poohing the seminar, too, are you? I need to find my belly fire, my inner noble savage. I need to map my masculinity.”

“I’ll trace out a map of your masculinity later. It’s time for the kids to go to bed. Chad, can you take care of that?”

“Sure, Jess.” Chad put the envelope down without opening it. “All right kids.” Chad looked at Kim and Kevin, “It’s time to brush and flush.”

But now, though, Chad could tell that the ice cream –infused kids were not ready for bed. So, that night, Chad’s stomp ritual began.  Chad stood at the end of dining room table and then stomped his right leg down onto the wood floor. The stomp vibrated the piano’s wires. A raucous dissonance followed.

The kids looked at dad wide-eyed. They saw the playfulness in his eyes. Kim and Kevin slowly got off their chairs. And when they did, Chad started stomping after them. The piano prattled and the china chattered as the three of them circled the table. Kim and Kevin squealed.  Maggie, the Sheltie, joined the pandemonium. She barked trying to herd Kim and Kevin. The bedlam went on for ten minutes until Chad was out of breath.

Dad looked at Kim and Kevin. He knew from their red cheeks and their glowing glee that his tour de force would become a nightly ritual. So be it.

One look from dad and the kids knew what was what. Still breathing hard, the kids bounded up the stairs to brush and flush and await their bedtime story from dad.

Jess came out of the kitchen and over to Chad. She put her arms around him and said, “My, how you’ve changed – your face is beet red.”

“I heard you’re a cartographer.” Chad lifted his right eyebrow as he said this.

“A good man is not hard to find.”

 

 

 

 

© Jennifer A. Johnson, 2017, All Rights Reserved

Give Birth to the Promise of Living

 

 

And all God’s people said…

“All of God’s promises, you see, find their yes in Jesus; and that’s why we say the yes, the “Amen,” through Jesus when we pray to God and give him glory.” II Corinthians 1:20

How Can I Be Sure?

 

Thomas found Harking Café and went in. He found Julia at a table eating a salad as big as her head. He sat down and, as usual, waited for her to begin the conversation. Two hours before Julia had called wanting to talk to her childhood friend Thomas about her Jeffery.

Julia, her mouth full, waved to Thomas with her fork. After several bites she started. “You know,”…,”Jeffery hasn’t said anything but I think he doesn’t love me.”

“And, what makes you think that?” Thomas asked.

“I have a feeling that he wants out of our relationship.”

“What gives you that impression?” Thomas looked puzzled.

“He’s avoiding me.” Julia tapped the air with her fork.

“Avoiding you as in not being with you? You two are married.”

“He’s avoiding me by not seeing what I need before I have to ask.”

“Mind reading is not easy. See.” Thomas cupped his hands around her salad bowl and closed his eyes. “I got nothing.”

“Jeffery should at least know how I feel. I don’t feel loved. Aren’t I supposed to feel loved in a marriage.” Julia took another bite.

“Maybe you have never been loved like this before.” Thomas put the menu in front of his face.

Julia stopped chewing, raised her brows and looked at Thomas.

“Oh, I know what love is and what I feel isn’t love. It is more like Jeffery puts up with me.”

When the waitress came, Thomas ordered a sandwich and then winced. High-pitched screams had come from across the room. Two young girls were fighting over the syrup bottle.

The waitress snarled, “Its Kids Eat Free day at Harking.” She put her hand on her hip and looked around. “We supply the food, you supply the environment. This is what I put up with every Tuesday.” She grabbed the menu from the table and was off.

“Have you talked to Jeffery about all this?” Thomas continued where Julia left off.

“Oh, yeah. He says he doesn’t understand what I am talking about. He says he loves me. He says he goes to work every day to provide for us and then comes home to me. It’s nice that he takes care of things but that isn’t what I mean by being loved. I need more.

And, when I ask Jeffery, he says he isn’t thinking of someone else when we make love. But, how can I be sure?”

Thomas looked out the window and thought. “I really don’t want to go there, do I?”  After some long slow chewing he looked at Julia and asked. “Do you think of someone else when you make love with Jeffery?”

“Sometimes. I mean, it’s just women’s fantasy stuff, you know? Paperback novel chick flick stuff, not real guys.”

Thomas pressed her.  “But, do you think of Jeffery when, you know…?”

After a long silence between bites, Julia said, “In a way I guess. It’s hard for me to visualize him when I’m not sure he’s thinking of me.

“You say that as if you know what Jeffery thinks.”

“Jeffery’s a guy. You know how guys are.”

“Tell me.

“Did I tell you that my father was never around because of his sales job?”

“Yes, the last time we talked.”

“Mom told me countless times that she couldn’t count on dad except for his paycheck.”

“Jeff is home for you at night. Do you take advantage of that?”

“I want him to sit with me and watch TV. He likes to go into the garage and work on his car.”

“Maybe, you two should find something you enjoy together. Take a mind reading class together.”

“Yeah, right. It wouldn’t take a mind reader to see that I like certain things a certain way. Isn’t that why he married me – to take care of me? In any case I don’t see him changing. Talking with him hasn’t changed anything. I don’t think he listens to me.”

“Why do you say that?”

“He’s distant, like he doesn’t know how to respond. Maybe he just doesn’t want to be bothered.”

Julia grabbed her purse and got up from the table.

“I’m going to grab a smoke. I’ll be right back.”

Thomas looked down at his half-eaten sandwich. He wondered if this conversation would finish him off.

After several minutes, Julia returned.

“There’s this guy outside,…Bill. He is having the same thing going on in his marriage. He doesn’t feel loved by his wife. He says his wife doesn’t understand him. We have a lot in common.”

Thomas, hoping to change the subject, asked Julia how her telemarketing job was going.

Julia was quick to reply. “Try selling something that people don’t want over the phone. They don’t know you and you are trying to get them to take a credit card offer and one with a 26 percent finance charge. I don’t like manipulating people.”

Thomas choked on his ice tea and covered his mouth with his napkin. He set the glass down on the table.

Julia continued. “Maybe Jeffery thinks he is better than me. Maybe he is better than me. Maybe that is why he doesn’t love me. He must think that I am not worthy of his love.”

“Didn’t you say he brought you flowers the other day?”

“He did. The flowers…I need more than the thought behind it, you know? So, I have a weekend planned for us. I made a reservation at a resort for this weekend.”

“Jeff never mentioned that to me when I saw him yesterday.”

“Oh, he doesn’t know yet. I’ll tell him tonight and see how he responds. If he balks, well…that will tell me everything.”

The waitress came with the check.

“Here”, Thomas offered, “let me pay. I read your mind.” Thomas grabbed her check off the table.

“Thanks.”

Julia’s phone rang. “Hi Liz. Yeah, let’s get together and talk. See you at Lou’s in about an hour.” Julia ended the call.

“Oh, before I go Thomas, I have to tell you about my dream last night.”

“There’s no sense holding anything back at this point,” Thomas said with a wink.

“I was on the platform at the Metra station. There was a large clock above me. Jeffery was somewhere inside the station paying for our tickets. A conductor leaned out the door of the train and asked me, “How can you be sure?” I looked around for Jeffery and then saw my mother. She told me, “You can’t count on tickets, kiddo.

Then the train started moving, I looked backed for Jeffery and saw my dad. He was the conductor. Then I went through a turnstile and boarded the train alone. I sat down next to a fortune-teller and I asked, “Where are we going?”  She said, “If you don’t know where you are going any train will take you there.” And then I woke up.”

“Someone is reading your mind.” Thomas put his tongue in his cheek.

Julia pulled her compact from her purse and checked her look. She then got up from the table.

“Thanks Thomas for…” Julia pointed a swirling finger at the table. “Gotta go.”

Thomas stood up. “You know where I can be found.” But, Julia had already walked out the door.

“Or, maybe not.”

 

 

 

 

© Jennifer A. Johnson, 2017, All Rights Reserved

A Gravity Situation

 

Praise Him, sun and moon; Praise Him, all stars of light!

Psalm 148:3

earth-rotation-time-lapse

Did you wake up today wondering why the planets and moons are round? For some reason, I wondered this while working out on the elliptical machine at the health club this AM.

OK. So, you didn’t wake up and wonder why all the planets and moons in billions of galaxies are round.  But I’m going to tell you anyway.

planetsmvmt

Better, I will let Tega Jessa explain. From Jessa’s web article, “Why Are Planets Round”:

You may have wondered why are planets round. I mean why aren’t the cubes or pyramids? The answers can be found in how gravity works and the formation of our solar system. Our solar system was formed like many other star systems from a nebula. A nebula is a concentrated area of gases and cosmic dust in what is the called the ISM or Interstellar Medium. These gases and dust are spread through space and when enough of it gathers it gains suitable gravity to establish a gravitational field. This clumping creates nebulas and started the process for star formation.

The next step in a star’s birth would be the rotation of the nebula. As matter is drawn in and organized by the nebulas increasing gravitational field it start to gain angular momentum and start to rotate. This is just like how an ice skater spins faster when they pull in their arms. As the matter is pulled into the nebula’s center of mass, it spins faster making it easier for more matter to be pulled in. This process will happen until under the increasing gravity until the gases go under nuclear fusion and a star is born.

After the birth of a star there are now two sources of gravity whose tides fight over the remaining gases and dust. The first gravitational field is that of the nebula and the other is the gravity of the new star. The tidal forces of these two fields bunch the remaining gases and dust together. Heavier element will clump together faster to make the beginnings of rocky planets. It is important to note that gas giants are planets that were close to becoming stars but did not reach critical mass for fusion. In the end, even as these planets are forming they still carry over the angular momentum and spin as well drawing more matter.

This process works like a carpenter’s lath. The new gravitational field pulls matter towards the center of the planet’s mass. The rotation helps to round out the rough edges. As time passes and the planet cools the planet settles into its final shape depending on its own rotation and the gravitic influence of its star. This is what makes a planet round.

 gravity-earth-and-moomgravity-newton

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OK. Now we both know why planets and moons are round. Next question:

“What is shaping your world?” nebula-forming