A Very Kind First Review…

I have a new book, out Oct 1, and I was delighted today to find it has already garnered a review.

When you write a book – working so hard and long on it – it is a little un- nebabyrving when it finally enters the world. It’s your baby that you’ve been gestating for months, struggling with bouts of anxiety, exhaustion, hopelessness, confusion and doubts. It can induce fits of vomiting and heart-burn. Then finally, one day it emerges and you wonder if people will love it like you do. Will they think it’s special or a terribly ugly baby? Will they laugh at it or find it lovely? There’s only one way to find out. You have to put it out there and nervously wait for the reaction of others.

This first review of the book today made me happy and encouraged. He “got” what I was trying to communicate and explained its substance and message. He liked my baby.

Let’s hope for more like this!

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Pot Improves Your Marriage

Ok, here’s a fun one.

A new study from the University of Buffalo School of Public Health tells us that the more a couple smokes pot together the less likely  they are to be violent with each other.

OldHippies

So, let’s get this straight. The more a couple gets baked together, the more mellow and chill they get with one another? Check.

I’ve been imagining how this might work itself out in your average day-to-day stoner marriage. Perhaps like any of these scenarios.

Him: Why haven’t you been fixin’ dinner for your old man anymore?

Her: What? I fixed you Cheetos for every night this week!

Him: Uh…  yea…Cheetos are awesome.

or..

Her:  Why aren’t you going to work anymore? Did you go and loose your job again?

Him: No. It’s just they were making me work at work, so I said, “Sheez, who needs that?”

Her: uh….yea… that’s awesome.

or perhaps this…

Her: The baby seems to have filled her diaper again. Can you take care of it?

Him: Sure. Let me just torch a fat one and you won’t smell it no more.

Her: uh… yea… awesome.

and finally…

Him: Babe, I don’t want your old boyfriend coming around no more. I don’t like the way you sit in his lap all the time.

Her: But he’s the dude that brings those sick buds you like.

Him: Uh…yea…. he’s awesome.

So, the couple that burns a few together, don’t beat the snot out of each other.

There you have it.

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Contrasting White House Responses to Beheadings

A young American journalist is beheaded by a masked, gutless and ideological thug. The second grisly brutality in so many weeks against one of our citizens.

Of course our government’s highest officials gave official and personal responses. The contrast in these responses is stark and curious.

President Obama gave genuinely gracious words about Steven Sotloff, his bravery, his service to truth as well as compassionate and caring words of consolation to his family.   He condemned the attacks and stated, as you can see in the video below,

“Our response is clear. And that is to degrade and destroy ISIL so that it’s not longer a threat, not just to Iraq, but the region and… to the United States.”

Degrade and destroy. A curious word: degrade.

“…till its no longer a threat”? Kill it or disable it? How about until it no longer exists?

The New York Time’s report on President Obama’s response was interesting in its first paragraph:

President Obama vowed on Wednesday to punish the Sunni militants whose videotaped beheadings of two American journalists he said had “repulsed” the world, saying the United States would lead a regional and international coalition to beat back the terrorists.

“punish”       “beat back”      “degrade”

And this follows his recent admission that he had not yet developed a strategy for confronting ISIL after the previous beheading of American journalist James Foley.

Vice President Joe Biden commented on the Sotloff brutality as well, but took a very different tack in his public comments. His were stark and strong words, like a fire and thunder Southern preacher. He spoke as a leader who is clearly outraged by such savagery against one of his citizens and what will happen to the vermin who committed it.

“They should know, we will follow them to the gates of hell until they are brought to justice. Because hell is where they will reside. Hell is where they will reside.”

What do you think of the approach of each these reactions and their distinct contrasts?

I’d like to hear your thoughts.

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A Theology of Labor Day

Labor Day is more than a day marking the end of summer and the day we return to real life again. It’s more than a day off work to do other stuff or nothing at all, as nice as that might be. It’s the celebration and commemoration of the hard and faithful workers who’ve built and continue to daily build our nation. Canada, like a good neighbor, celebrates this day right along with us.

In celebrating the labor we do in our daily lives, it is important for Christians to recognize and remember that work and its importance is central to the Christian story. It is nothing less than divine.

We are taught so in the first and second pages of scripture. Genesis 1 gives us the details of God’s work in daily detail. Then chapter 2 begins with these words:

1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 2 And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. 3 So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.

All of creation is God’s work, His labor. And when He was done with it, He rested. “Work” is a curious word the scriptures use for God’s creative actions here. And it curious that He who cannot and never tires, He who cannot be exhausted, rested. It is reasonable to suggest that God did not rest because He was worn out, but simply to take a good bit of time to reflect upon and enjoy the work He had done. We should do the same. Our God worked and does work. And what God does is wholly and perfectly divine.

And as God created the first two humans on the sixth day, the first command He gave them was to create beings in their own image, just as the Triune God created them in His own image and likeness. This was their first work, and it was delightful, joyful. Following on the foot heals of this, man and woman were commanded to tend creation, to watch over it, harvest it, assist in its fruitfulness as it was created to do. Work: a creative and participatory task to be done as a gift from God by every person who is a unique God Imager in creation.

Work is not a product of the Fall. It just got more difficult because of the Fall. It would now draw sweat from our brows, create calluses on our hands, produce aches in our backs and make us tired. It would and will sometimes be fruitless, a failure. But it would still be deeply satisfying to us because there is something deeply divine in it. No human can live a meaningful, happy life without having work that allows them to contribute to something larger than themselves, even if that means sweeping the streets or cleaning toilets. To do that work is better than having no work. And those who have no material need to work because of wealth will find they cannot be happy without work, a task that improves their lives and the lives of others. We are made for work.

Consider as well God who became flesh and lived among us. Christ came as the Savior of the world, but didn’t go straight to the “important work” of his public ministry and the Cross. He was actually a bit of late bloomer in that regard. Rather, he lived an average day-in/day-out work-a-day life, just like anyone else does. And he did so for three decades, so there was a great deal of daily work there. We don’t know what He did; the scriptures don’t give us much of a picture there. But He wasn’t a loaf.

As a son in a real family, He had chores to do. As a friend, He was surely happy to lend a hand to help His buddies do their chores so they could go play all the sooner. As a neighbor, He no doubt offered a hand to help fetch water, move furniture, clean floors, go to the market now and again for those in his community. Here is a marvelous painting of this very reality. It is by John Rogers Herbert entitled Our Savior Subject to His Parents at Nazareth (1847)

John Rogers Herbert, Our Savior Subject to His Parents at Nazareth 1847

The Savior worked. And what the Savior did, as He walked along the earth with us, was divine. The incarnation does not permit Christians a platonic view of work, that which is “secular” and the other which is “sacred”.

Work is divine. All work. It is a gift, a blessing. It might not always feel that way, in fact many times quite the opposite. But knowing the Christian story, both at creation and in the incarnation, we know that it is.

Happy Labor Day. Blessed day of labor tomorrow.

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Big in Taiwan

Just got a note The Ring - Tawain Trans 006yesterday from my publisher that my book on the down-sides of cohabitation has been translated for the Taiwanese reader. Cool.

So, for all the Taiwanese friends on your Christmas and Birthday lists, your shopping just got exponentially easier.

 

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Are Unmarried Births Really Declining?

Thankfully, this is exactly what it looks like’s happening. Regarding out of wedlock births, a new report from the National Center for Health Statistics finds the following:

Steepest Decline Since 1940: Unmarried child-bearing has declined at its steepest and most sustained rate since 1940 over the last few years, both in terms of rate and real numbers. The rate declined 14% from its all-time high in 2008.

unmarried birth rates decline

Cohabiting Births Now Majority: Increasingly, unmarried births are taking place in cohabiting relationships, 58% of all out-of-wedlock births today, up from 41% in 2002. These are also increasingly intended pregnancies, by 20% in 2002 to 29% in 2010.

Increases for Ages 35+: Age-wise, non-marital births have declined since 2007 for all women up to age 35, but have increased for those over 35. Specifically…

1. Declined 30% for ages 15-17 and 26% for ages 18-19.

2. For 20-24 year-olds declined by 19% and 13% for those aged 25-29.

3. However, they’ve risen 7% for women aged 35-39 and a remarkable 29% among 40-44 year-olds. (A theory for this curious outlier is presented in the conclusion below.)

Declines for All Races: Race-wise, declines are seen in all groups since 2007.

1. Hispanic women had the highest levels in 2007, but the greatest decline today at 28%.

2. Black women had an 11% decline.

3. Non-Hispanic White women had a 6% decline.

4. Asian and Pacific Islanders have always had the lowest levels in general, having a very minimal recent decline.

In terms of percentage of non-marital births to all births, that number has stayed largely the same at 40.6% in 2013 from 41% in 2009. (NOTE: This particular number remains unchanged – while all the others have changed dramatically – because it is a percentage of all births, which have been declining faster than non-marital births have.)

Is “The Man Problem” at work here?

No one really knows the reason for this positive turn. But the sharp and continued increase of these births among cohabiting women and those in their later 30s and 40s is very curious.

I believe it has much to do with the difficulty women are having finding marriageable men today. If they cannot find men who they feel good about marrying, they will simply settle for living with them and getting a baby from them as they feel their biological clocks ticking down in these later ages.

And this is exactly what we are seeing in increasing numbers.

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When Jesus Art Goes Wrong: Sports

The Lord Jesus has always – at least for 2,000+ years -been a central figure in art. Much of this art – like this one, for instance – is some of the most dramatic and meaningful art humanity has been given. But of late, some of it is anything but worthy of the Savior of the world. And it’s not coming from bitter atheists, but genuinely well-meaning Christians. But good intentions do not make good art. And it doesn’t make it honoring either.

Here is a very curious collection of such art, from the sports genre.

Tennis Jesus

Jesus came not to be served, but to show us his killer backhand.

Jesus came not to be served, but to show us his killer backhand.

Hand-off Jesus

Jimmy, if I say a forward lateral's legal, ain't no ref gonna say otherwise.

Jimmy, if I say a forward lateral’s legal, ain’t no ref gonna say otherwise.

Choke-up Jesus

My eye is on the sparrow.  Yours are on the ball Bobby!

My eye is on the sparrow. Yours are on the ball Bobby!

Got Game Jesus

You know I've done other miracles with baskets.

You know I’ve done other miracles with baskets.

8th Round Jesus

I just beat the snot out of a guy. And my hair still looks heavenly.

I just beat the snot out of a guy. And my hair still looks heavenly.

Tell me what your favorite sports Jesus is!

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