Thursday, October 29, 2009

World record holders

I've always had a soft spot in my heart for Sonlighters. After all, if nothing else, they are customers of our family's company. But there's more to it than mercenary interest, you may be sure! For some reason, Sarita and I "just" sense they are, most of them anyway, "kindred spirits."

But the two kids I'm about to tell you about go way beyond "kindred." I have no hope of ever competing with their unique talents!

Take 15-year-old Mason Pelt, for example, caught on video juggling five balls while jumping no-handed on a pogo stick. His feat has been accepted as a world record by the Universal Record Database (URDB):

After Mason's mother posted about the pride she holds for her son's achievement, Linda in MN noted that, while her son is not the record-holder, he participated in a world record-breaking event: Dave Schulte breaking the record for the "fastest time to knock a coin off the ear of 15 participants with a yo-yo." Linda's son is the third-from-the-last young man in the red shirt and black strap across his chest.

Pretty impressive!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Strategic Inheritance Legacy Lounge forum "open for business"

I will confess: I've been dragging my feet. Not sure why. But I had to overcome the hurdle.

I have finally "turned on" the Strategic Inheritance Legacy Lounge forum and invite you to join what I hope will soon be a freewheeling and inspirational discussion of all things related to passing on a heritage from one generation to another.

Join us, won't you?


Monday, October 19, 2009

Nobel Prize in Physics won by homeschooler!

My friend Jill Evely brought this to my attention: Willard Boyle, co-inventor of the CCD (charge-coupled device; the primary device "at the heart of virtually every camcorder, digital camera and telescope in use today") and co-winner of this year's Nobel Prize in Physics, was homeschooled from preschool through 8th grade. Indeed, even today he credits his mother with being one of his most significant mentors.

For an entertaining and informative mini-biography, see the Science Canada website.

And for more about CCDs and their development, check out the Wired magazine article, More Than Meets the Eye: How the CCD Transformed Science.

--If you are reading this on Facebook, please know that it first appeared on my personal blog.
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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Wheat and tares

Matthew 13:24-30:
He put another parable before them, saying, "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away.

"So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, 'Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?'

"He said to them, 'An enemy has done this.'

So the servants said to him, 'Then do you want us to go and gather them?'

"But he said, 'No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.'"
I got thinking about this parable.

Did Jesus mean for the church not to rid itself of heretics--or potential heretics--or heterodox believers? Are Christian fundamentalists wrong, then, at least to some degree, in their view of "biblical separation"? I find the fundamentalist argument attractive, in one way--it seems that the Bible is so clear on the points these people emphasize. And yet. And yet. What are we to make of this parable? And what of Jesus' statement in Mark 9:40 (see also Luke 9:50): "the one who is not against us is for us"--a verse I have confessed in the past tends to appeal to me more than its close relative, Matthew 12:30 (see also Luke 11:23): "Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters"?

--If you are reading this in Facebook, please realize it appeared first on my personal blog.
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A disturbing poem

As I clean up old emails, I come across certain correspondences that I think are worthy of publication. This is one . . . about a poem written in 1931 by e.e. cummings called "i sing of Olaf glad and big." The entire correspondence took place between October 26th and 30th, 2004.

Sonlight had assigned cummings' poem as part of its American literature program--at the time, notionally in 8th grade though the program was designed and advertised for use by any student in high school.

The problem that elicited the correspondence: cummings included the "f" word and the "s" word, parents were not warned of their appearance, . . . and, perhaps more than anything else, readers had too little understanding of what the poem is really all about--what is a conscientious objector (and what is the history of that particular designation); what is a trig westpointer (graduate of the Army's West Point Academy); what is a "silver bird" (a colonel); what are "noncoms . . . [and] kindred intellects"; and so forth:
i sing of Olaf glad and big


i sing of Olaf glad and big
whose warmest heart recoiled at war:
a conscientious object-or

his wellbelov'd colonel (trig
westpointer most succinctly bred)
took erring Olaf soon in hand;
but--though an host of overjoyed
noncoms (first knocking on the head
him) do through icy waters roll
that helplessness which others stroke
with brushes recently employed
anent this muddy toiletbowl,
while kindred intellects evoke
allegiance per blunt instruments--
Olaf (being to all intents
a corpse and wanting any rag
upon what God unto him gave)
responds, without getting annoyed
"I will not kiss your f***ing flag"

straightway the silver bird looked grave
(departing hurriedly to shave)

but--though all kinds of officers
(a yearning nation's blueeyed pride)
their passive prey did kick and curse
until for wear their clarion
voices and boots were much the worse,
and egged the firstclassprivates on
his rectum wickedly to tease
by means of skilfully applied
bayonets roasted hot with heat--
Olaf(upon what were once knees)
does almost ceaselessly repeat
"there is some sh*t I will not eat"

our president, being of which
assertions duly notified
threw the yellowsonofabitch
into a dungeon, where he died

Christ (of His mercy infinite)
i pray to see;and Olaf, too

preponderatingly because
unless statistics lie he was
more brave than me:more blond than you.
Talk about a powerful poem!

I had not read it till I read the following letter and realized I had better find out what the customer was talking about:
Dear Sonlight,

I have been a "sonlighter" for going on 6 years. I adore the Sonlight curriculum and have never looked back! However, I was stunned today when my daughter informed me that the f word and s word were in this poem. I perused the instructor's guide for some sort of warning but found none! Did I miss it somewhere? Usually you are great about forewarning us and we can decide, but this time, it came out of the blue! Maybe next year's instructors guide can have a little warning next to that assignment and have the parent preread. I do not have time to read every word that she is going to read. I have read all of the readers but not the poetry.

Debbie K
Once I read the poem, I felt acute embarrassment and shame . . . not because the two obscenities happen to appear. But because I realized I/we had truly failed the parent and the student.

I replied:
Dear Debbie:

Thank you for writing about your concern.

There are reasons--probably not "good enough"--why you and your daughter had the experience you had with the "i sing of Olaf glad and strong" poem. Indeed, my "Word" in today's edition of [the Sonlight bi-weekly newsletter] A BEAM OF SONLIGHT will address some of that. [In that "Word," I confessed that, in the midst of our ongoing transitional attempt to create a real business that could stand on its own without input from Sarita and me, neither Sarita nor I had read either the poem or the book in which it appeared. We had entrusted the creation of that particular literature course to an employee whom we thought had enough understanding of our purpose, goals, customers, sensitivities, and so forth. --Obviously, we were wrong.]

More importantly, however: please be assured that we have taken your concern and feedback to heart. Indeed, I have acted upon your concern in several different ways. Among them:
  • I have asked our editorial review committee to consider again whether this poem should be included in next year's schedule. If it is included, I have requested that they seriously consider including a "forewarning" in our study guide. The "forewarning" should reference not only the LANGUAGE, but the shocking CONTENT of the poem.
  • Further, I have requested that, if it is included, the forewarning be
    included in the notes for the DAY BEFORE--so that, supposing a person is using our IG, s/he won't accidentally read the poem AND THEN read the "forewarning" AFTERWARD.
  • Finally, I have been working on some notes about the MEANING of this particular poem that I hope to include in future years' IGs. If the poem is included in future years' schedules, I hope the additional notes will help students work through the issues involved, not merely with the language you noted, but the content of the entire poem. I believe "i sing of Olaf" is a shocking and disturbing work
    for far more than cummings' choice of language!
Again, I want to thank you for writing.


John Holzmann
Debbie wrote:
Hi John,
I couldn't really address the shocking content, as I really did not get what was going on. I could tell that it was unpleasant . . . but maybe I am too naïve? I don't know. So, I am really hoping that all Hannah (my student) got out of it was not the shocking content, but the shocking language! I'm not sure that I *want* to understand the shocking content. I felt violated when reading it, it disturbed me, I didn't want to delve too deeply into exactly what he was talking about.

Is this subject something worthy to feel violated about?

Does it cause us to examine history in order not to repeat it?

I don't know. As I said, I didn't understand what exactly was happening in the poem.

Debbie K
I so appreciated Debbie's forthright honesty!

I replied as follows:
Dear Debbie:

Thank you for writing back. What you have told me helps me realize I need to write more or very different notes than I have already.

You note that the shock of the poem overwhelmed any real understanding of what it was about. And so, you ask, "Is this subject something worthy to feel violated about? Does it cause us to examine history in order not to repeat it? I don't know."

I am glad you wrote this to me, because I had assumed that the poem's subject was rather plain.

Please permit me to attempt a basic "explanation" of what the poem is about and then you tell me if you think it should cause us to examine history in order not to repeat it. (My sense: Yes, it should. And not only with respect to the primary subject of the poem, but with respect to other matters as well.) Is this poem worth "studying" (or, at least, reading so as to understand)? . . . I would very much appreciate hearing your perspective.


Supposing we were to continue to assign this poem, here's how I think I would like to "explain" it. I think I'd like to say something along these lines:

Olaf, the primary character in the poem, is a Conscientious Objector (CO) during World War I. As a CO, he has been placed in a military prison and is being violently, awfully abused for his beliefs. Indeed, he is abused unto death.

What is a CO? A person who refuses to fight because of sincerely held pacifistic beliefs.

Some questions to consider: Should a person who objects to all war--i.e., who believes that when Jesus said to "turn the other cheek," He meant it not only for an individual, but also for husbands when they see their wives being abused, and citizens of a country when their country is being attacked: should such a person be forced into battle or killed for refusing to participate? The United States came to the conclusion that it would not force such people into battle. That is why, for World War II, it created the CO status.

However, COs have traditionally been looked down upon and have often been charged with cowardice. (That's why, in the poem, Olaf is called a "yellowsonofabitch.") In World War I, COs were imprisoned . . . and often abused for what their attackers believed was their cowardice.

If you read the poem carefully, you realize Olaf's abusers attack him sodomistically "on his rectum." And it is in the midst of that sodomistic attack, in the midst of Olaf's death struggle (except Olaf refuses physically to attack those who are violently abusing him) . . . --It is in the midst of being attacked sodomistically, in the midst of Olaf's death struggle, that cummings places those offensive words in Olaf's mouth.

First, let me note that supposing Olaf objected to the war on religious grounds, I find it strangely odd to have Olaf utter such words. On the other hand, supposing Olaf objected on non-religious grounds, or supposing he truly was devout, but "simply" broke down and used those particular obscenities: I find it rather "interesting" (to put it mildly) that cummings has him use those two particular obscenities. From a poetic/artistic perspective, they seem strangely "appropriate" in the context of what the soldiers are doing to Olaf.

However we want to interpret those two obscenities, I am far more concerned about the "message" of the poem. And that comes in the last two lines where cummings suggests that, rather than being "yellow," "unless statistics lie [Olaf] was/more brave than me:more blond than you."

So this poem raises some deep questions, and at a visceral (deep, emotional) level: Was Olaf brave? Was it worthy of him to "stand up" for his beliefs at the cost of his life? What about at the cost of the abuse he suffered?

Pushing beyond Conscientious Objection and Conscientious Objectors: should people like Martin Luther King, Jr. have been willing to suffer abuse at the hands of the citizens and police of the towns his non-violent protests disturbed? Should Christian missionaries be willing to go to places where they may suffer physical harm or even death because authorities oppose the preaching of the gospel? Should American soldiers or private citizens go to places like Iraq where they may have to pay for their kind intentions with their own violent and/or painful death?


I had originally written some very different notes, but after reading your comments and questions, I wonder if these might be more helpful.

I would sincerely appreciate hearing your perspective on these things . . . including your sense of whether or not we should schedule this poem. [NOTE: When we add the new 7th Year program, we are planning to move the current "8th Year" program into high school. Would that make any difference to your perspective?]

Again, THANK YOU for "talking" with me about this!

Sincerely, In Christ,

John Holzmann
Debbie wrote back:
Dear John,

Bravo! Your explanation was succinct and highly articulate. I wish I would have had the value of that insight prior to reading the poem the first time. The whole CO history was fascinating. The questions raised are thought provoking. And you are right, that those words are strangely appropriate.

I am also gratified that next year this will be introduced in high school and not Junior High.

I hope that you do include those notes in the instructor guide.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Very Respectfully Yours!!

Debbie K

Saturday, October 10, 2009

"The Latest" in "Seeker Friendly" Churches?

I found an email I sent to our assistant pastor four years ago:
Subject: "The Latest" in "Seeker Friendly" Churches?

Got this from one of the women on our forums:

FRESNO, CA, April 1 - On Sunday morning at the 18,000-member Calvary Church, tithers flash green Costco-like cards at greeters, who let them in early and usher them to special seating areas.

"The seats have more padding, and they recline," says tither Dan Phelps, kicking back before the sermon. "I feel a little guilty, but you can't knock the comfort."

Calvary is believed to be the first church in America to use membership cards to dole out privileges to certain members. First-time visitors are offered the best seats - plush recliners in the orchestra section - while non-tithing attendees carry orange membership cards and are forced to sit in hard, stadium-style seats on the mezzanine.

"We give honor to whom honor is due," says pastor Jerald Dennis. "If you tithe or volunteer in some way, you deserve a special thank you."

Churches like his are drawing wealthier "church consumers" by promoting luxury and social stratification inside the sanctuary. As rich people attend, the theory goes, tithe revenues increase and the church better promotes the gospel.

At Life Family Center in Abilene, Texas, members at all levels earn "reward points" similar to frequent flyer miles for tithing and attending. The points add up to free hotel stays, vacation packages and tickets to NASCAR events.

Ringing the church's cavernous sanctuary are private skyboxes where groups watch the service while enjoying hors d'oeuvres and deep leather chairs. Some pay only occasional attention to what takes place on the platform.

"We compete with professional sporting events, not other churches," says pastor Lovey Pederson. "I would rather people come here than a football stadium, so I offer bigger perks."

This year, at least a dozen more mega-churches will introduce some form of "club card."

"The credit card commercial said it best: 'Membership has its privileges,'" says Pederson.
Of course, this SEEMS to disagree with James 2:1ff, . . . although as I read James 2, it appears the admonition is against discriminating against the poor solely because of their poverty, or discriminating FOR the rich solely on the basis of their wealth and status. . . .

I find this particularly interesting because it reminds me of two books I'm reading right now (VERY slowly, TOO slowly): Branded Nation: The Marketing of Megachurch, College Inc., and Museumworld by James B. Twitchell, and England: Before and After Wesley by J. Wesley Bready (long out of print).

Twitchell describes Willow Creek and similar churches from a marketing perspective. Brilliant. And distressing.
First the obvious: this is not a church in any traditional visual or architectural sense. It resembles a nifty little junior college or a small business concern that manufactures something clean, like drugs or computer parts. . . . On one side of the campus-and that's what it's called in the church literature-is a greensward, on another side is a five-acre reflecting pond, and in between are the black slabs of endless parking. And I mean endless-3,100 spaces. Rule number one of modern retailing: you are only as big as your parking lot. . . . Getting parishioners off the Interstate and into the parking lot costs the church more than $100,000 a year for local police in their official cars. And it's worth every penny. Here is rock concert affiliation. This brand is so popular that the police can barely control the consumers! . . .

Once parked, you can take a shuttle bus to the various doors of the church, just as you do at Disney World. The parking lot has the cute cartoon signs necessary for mall shoppers or airport trippers so that the car can be located. Needless to say, the lot is spotless, as is the rest of the campus. . . .

There is no one portal done up like a passage into another world with a huge arch and fonts. Nothing that says, "Main Entrance: Abandon Hope All Who Do Not Enter Here." Instead, here is the easy entrance to the modern business-lots of doors. . . .

Straight ahead of you is a 4,540-seat auditorium. The seats are just like those down at the Cineplex 16. No drink holders, however. And no prayer pads or slats for kneeling. You pray sitting or standing, not on your knees. . . .

In the carpeted foyer, overhead video screens announce details of the day's activities. This could be a hotel lobby or an airport. On the video monitor is a digital clock counting down the time before the service begins. . . .

Over the weekend there are four exactly interchangeable services. These are the boomer "seeker services," the loss-leader entertainment. The church calls them, with deflective candor, Christianity 101 or Christianity Lite. Then midweek there are two "believer services." That's the grad school, the place for transcendence . . . and tithing.

The weekend seeker services are not worship services, to speak of. They are edutainment. They are aimed at a population that generally is skeptical. Hence the take-it-or-leave-it aspect. It's pure soft sell, like a Super Bowl television commercial. It's Sunday-supplement religion, comforting to believers and informative to the curious.

--Branded Nation, pp. 91-95

Bready describes how thoroughly corrupt the Church of England had become in the 18th century . . . to the point where he writes the following in the first paragraph of Chapter II in his book:
Anthony Collins, author of Priestcraft in Perfection and Discourse on Free-thinking, on being asked why, holding such deistical opinions, he sent his servants to Church, answered: "That they may neither rob nor murder me!" Lord Bolingbroke, a confirmed Deist, considered Christianity "a fable," yet he held that "a statesman ought to profess the Doctrines of the Church of England." Sir Leslie Stephen in his English Thought in the Eighteenth Century, referring to the later Deistic period, says: "Scepticism, widely diffused through the upper classes, was of the indolent variety, implying a perfect willingness that the churches should survive though the Faith should perish."
I should note that Collins lived 1676-1729; Bolingbroke, 1678-1751. And "the 18th century" is a good general indicator of the Deistic period. Bready notes that John Toland's Christianity not Mysterious, published in 1696, was "the first popular Deistic treatise." And all of the factors that Wikipedia lists as contributing to the demise of Deism occurred in the late 18th and early- to mid-19th centuries.

The Church of England was almost completely and solely a church for the wealthy and the privileged. It had almost nothing to do with people of lower stations in life.


Just thought you might find this stuff interesting.


PS. Oh. The original quote from our website: the poster said it was an April Fool's joke.

Maybe. Or maybe it is a harbinger of things to come.
Tonight I found the original article about the "club card" church was first published in February 2005 in LarkNews, a satirical "news"paper published by Joel Kilpatrick.

Reminds me of the old Scope commercials . . . only better

So you own your own company and people try to get you to give them for free what they ought to be paying for. How do you reply?

For some reason, the problem gets me thinking of commercials I saw probably 30 years ago or more (I have hardly watched any TV in the meantime): "How do you tell someone they have bad breath? . . . Scope. Once in the morning does it." --Or something like that.

Well, Scofield Editorial, an Indianapolis-based video and post-production company, seemed to hit the mark perfectly in behalf of the poor small businessperson who is asked for breathtaking "favors" that no self-respecting businessperson ought ever to have to consider. . . . They do it in a clever, humorous 2:20 video:


Thursday, October 08, 2009

One of those serendipitous discoveries . . .

My brother sent me an email an hour ago:
Hey John!

I was just reading about a power outage in the Catskills, and the article mentioned that one of the streets that lost power was . . . of all things . . . John Holzmann Road!

Were you aware that there was a road “named after” you?
Naw! It couldn't be. But I clicked through on the link he provided.

View Larger Map

If it had existed 35 years ago, when I was in high school, I could have ridden my bike there. It is less than 60 miles from the house where I lived at the time in upstate eastern New York:

View Larger Map

Pretty amazing.

[If you're reading this in Facebook, I posted the original on my personal blog.]

Wednesday, October 07, 2009


It's been almost a month since I read Jonah as part of my reading-through-the-Bible-in-a-year program. At the time, the thought hit me: What if . . . ? What if Jonah is not history (as I think I was encouraged to believe as a youngster), but, rather, more like a vision--like the dreams and visions of Daniel . . . or the Apocalypse of John?

I'm not completely sure why the thought hit me.

Partially, I'm sure, it was because I had read Daniel only about a week before, so his dreams and visions were still rather fresh in mind.

Another reason why the thought may have hit me: Throughout my reading of the Old Testament, I have kept being reminded of some of the things Lamoureux said about the ancient Hebrew and ancient near-eastern cosmology. (I still have to finish my series on Lamoureux's book. Let it suffice for me to say: Lamoureux asserts that [many of] the ancient Hebrews and [many of] the people living in the ancient near-east viewed the world very differently than we do today. Thus, for example, when Daniel speaks [Daniel 4:10-11, 20] of a tree that appears in the middle of the earth/land that grows so large that it is able to reach to the sky and be visible to the end of the entire earth/land--"Obviously," says Lamoureux, "there is no 'center' on the surface of a sphere. Only in the context of a two-dimensional circular earth does this verse make sense. . . . But again, the purpose of the Bible is not to disclose science and the shape of the earth. . . . [Rather,] the Holy Spirit descended to Nebuchadnezzar's level and used the geology-of-the-day. . . . Only in the context of a flat earth with ends does this passage make sense. On a spherical planet, it is not possible to see the 'whole' earth from any tree, no matter how tall it might be" [Denis O. Lamoureux, Evolutionary Creation, pp. 116-117].) --I've been "testing" Lamoureux's thesis: Do I believe--and, supposing I do, why do I believe--that someone in the ancient near east (a Jew) would have believed that this, that, or the next passage was really "teaching" or "revealing" a literal cosmology? [For example, did the writer of Psalm 78:23--"Yet He commanded the clouds above/And opened the doors of heaven"--really believe in some kind of literal ("real") "doors" in heaven? Or could he have "simply" been using imagistic language?])

And so, in Jonah, I began thinking:
  • Jonah says he fears YHWH the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land (1:9), and yet he is trying to flee from the presence of this God (v. 10). --What kind of worldview must he have had if he could both believe that YHWH is the God of heaven and He created the sea and the dry land . . . and yet Jonah is trying to flee from Him? (???)
  • What kind of view of nature did the author--and/or Jonah and/or the seamen who tossed him into the sea-- . . . What kind of view of nature must any of these people have had for Jonah to say (1:12), "Pick me up and hurl me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you" and/or for the author to write (1:15), "So they picked up Jonah and hurled him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging"? --Are these expressions indications of possible animistic worldviews in which the sea has a mind or spirit of its own?
  • God appoints a great fish to swallow Jonah . . . and Jonah remains in the fish's belly for three days and three nights. --Clearly, this should at least raise a question about the physical difficulties of survival associated with living inside a fish--no matter how large it may be--for any extended period of time. (From where was Jonah supposed to get his air?)
But the point at which my mind really shifted was at Jonah 2:10:
And [YHWH] spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land.
--Somehow, the image of a great fish being able to vomit a man out so that he lands directly on dry land . . . and so he doesn't have to first swim to the dry land or wash up on the dry land: I got an image in my mind of some late medieval artist's woodcut illustration of the event--where the fish sits upon the water and spits Jonah out. . . . And I got thinking: "Wait! Is this whole book more of a vision or a kind of 'moral tale' than it is a story of literal history?"

And as I read on into chapters 3 and 4, I came to think more and more that the question could--and probably should--be answered in the affirmative: This has more to do with God teaching us about the kinds of attitudes we ought to bear toward others than it does with any kind of literal cosmology.

Why? What evidence--or potential evidence--would lead me in such a direction?

[Let me note that what follows is my thinking. I have not done any research to find what other people have said (though I have done just enough looking online, now, to realize--what probably shouldn't come as a surprise to me, but, due to my background, actually is--that many others have thought the same thing that I am simply "toying" with, here (i.e., that Jonah may not be literal history).]
  • "Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days' journey in breadth" (3:3; NOTE: there are reasons for questioning whether the text really means three days' journey in breadth. It is possible it could mean something else--like, perhaps, "it took three days to walk around and see everything in it" [something like that]. But the next verse--which I'm about to quote--seems to speak against such alternatives). And (3:4), "Jonah began to go into the city, going a day's journey."

    --???!!! Was there such a large city anywhere in the world at that time? A city that would take three days to traverse? Even today: Is there any such city that would take three days to walk through? --Or should we view this reference to "Nineveh" as more of a vision of some quintessentially huge and wicked city (or civilization)?
  • Can I imagine any king, anywhere responding as the Book of Jonah suggests the king of Nineveh responded to the kind of message we are told Jonah preached? Some foreigner comes in and says, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!" and the king arises from his throne, removes his robe, covers himself with sackcloth, sits in ashes, and proclaims, "Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water, but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish"?

    Sorry! That is really difficult for me to imagine. --It is certainly beyond my imagination as literal, "normal" history (which, of course, means: the only way this could possibly be history and not a vision is if God performed a truly astonishing miracle, perhaps sending a spirit of fear that completely unnerved the Ninevites [including their king]).

    [I should probably comment: Whether you want to call it a "spirit" or some kind of brain chemical imbalance, I know that only a day or two after I read Jonah, I woke up in the middle of the night--about 3 a.m.--and was fine. But then, suddenly, completely out of the blue, I felt the most awful, dark dread roll over me. Not fear, in the sense of feeling a "presence" "out there" that was coming to get me. Rather, some internal feeling of despair and darkness, a strange fear that maybe I would become so depressed that I would commit suicide. --Totally irrational. Totally without objective basis. But the feeling was there nonetheless. Absolute despair.

    Eventually, not wanting to awaken Sarita, I got up and began reading. My mental state lifted somewhat. Finally, at about 4:30 in the morning, I found myself both exhausted and feeling the need to move my bowels. Taking care of that business, suddenly: no more dark thoughts.

    I went back to bed, slept soundly for another hour and a half or two, and have been fine ever since.

    . . . So why did I go into those details? --Because I can imagine a similar overpowering "spirit" could come upon a political leader . . . or upon a whole nation . . . and they might behave as the Book of Jonah describes the Ninevites as behaving. . . .]
    But that is not "normal" history. Kings of mighty civilizations don't usually nor suddenly begin to quake in their boots because some foreigner comes to town and begins to say that the civilization is about to be overthrown. More usually, they respond defiantly and/or dismissively--as does the pharaoh in the Book of Exodus.

    So, as I noted above, though I want to be open to the possibility Jonah is "real"/literal history, I also sense and see evidence for the possibility--maybe even probability--that it is "something else" . . . perhaps, as I suggested above, some kind of "vision" or "apocalyptic."
Having said all that, however, I am up against the problems of the "slippery slope" ("If you're going to reinterpret Jonah--which sounds so much like literal/real history--as something other than literal history, then where do you end? Doesn't that open you to interpreting absolutely any- and everything in the Bible as something other than literal/real history?") and what about Jesus' comments that equate His death and resurrection to Jonah ("For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" [Matthew 12:40] and, "For as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so will the Son of Man be to this generation" [Luke 11:30])?

Yeah. Tough questions. And the main reason I haven't posted till now: These questions bother(ed) me too much to feel comfortable even to mention the thought that had niggled and continues to niggle at my brain.

But that's one of the reasons I like the Sonlighters Club forums and the entire blogosphere: I can raise these kinds of questions among friends (and, I realize, potential enemies!) who can help me work through issues, provide input both pro and con any particular viewpoint. . . .

So what initial replies do I have to these two key questions/critiques concerning the idea that Jonah might be more visionary than literal?
  1. Even the most ardent biblical literalists admit that, though "Most often, the biblical authors employed literal statements to communicate their ideas," still, "the biblical writers often used figurative language to communicate truth in a graphic way" (Hank Hanegraaff in his article about biblical hermeneutics titled L-I-G-H-T-S to The Word of God--referenced as a foundational source by one of the world's leading Young-Earth Creationist/literalist organizations, Answers in Genesis).

    Still, while Hanegraaff, for example, says that "in most cases, the meaning of such language is clear from the context," obviously, it isn't always clear . . . so we are left to wonder and puzzle these things out under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. There is no purely and wholly mechanical method by which we can determine whether a particular passage is to be taken literally or not.
  2. As for the problem of Jesus' references back to Jonah, I wonder: Is it necessary for Jonah to be literally historical in order for Jesus' references to bear weight?

    [Actually, it was this question, that I have just raised, that has held me back from posting for this past month.]

    --I have no good answers nor hints of answers.

    Do you?

  3. This kind of thinking and questioning, frankly, is scary to me. I have never been taught to question--or how, properly, to question Scripture in this way. But, somehow, I think it is important that we learn to do so . . . and how to do so.

    It is important so that we can "be prepared with an answer" to those from the "outside" who will raise these questions for us. --I think we, who believe in and desire with all our hearts to follow God and follow His Scriptures: We need to be able to confront these kinds of questions fairly, dispassionately, and without fear.

    It is important, too, I think, so that we can interpret Scripture rightly and so we can follow God with all our hearts, with all our souls, with all our minds, and with all our strengths. We ought not to feel we can follow it (and Him) only with our hearts but not with our minds (for example). And/or, we ought not to feel we can follow it (and Him) only half-heartedly and/or "half-mindedly."

    --Any ideas or thoughts you'd like to provide?

    [Please understand that, if you are reading this on Facebook, it appeared first on my personal blog.]
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Saturday, October 03, 2009

Music education: Waxing nostalgic a bit . . .

A couple of employees at Sonlight have started a blog about music education. Their first post inspired me to write about my musical training/background.

I'm curious to see where Tim and Anne Marie go with their blog. (I have some knowledge of what they have in mind. But they are also doing "their own thing," here, so there's also a huge gap in my knowledge and I really am curious to find out where they take this.) Even more--and this is why I'm writing this post--I am curious to find out what others think about music education and what they remember as they think about their own experiences with music education.

Indeed, I got thinking about writing this post because I want to ask my best friend from elementary school (whom I mention below) what he might have to say about these things.

Got any inputs you might want to share?

Here's what I wrote:
Let me start with my dad: He was a fairly accomplished pianist and violinist and--by everything I ever saw--really LOVED classical music. I mean, it MOVED him.

He wanted his 6 children--of whom I am #2--to love it the same way he did. As a result, he pushed me--at least, I think he pushed me! (I don't know anything about my other brothers and sisters)--to take piano when I was in first grade.

I hated it.

I hated having to walk the three miles to the lessons. I hated the practice. I thought it was "stupid." And it was certainly boring.

I don't remember the psychology of it all. Maybe I had asked for the lessons. Maybe. But, whatever, he kept on threatening me: "If you don't practice, I won't pay for your lessons."

I think I finally escaped the pain within about six months. Something like that.

But then, when I was in 4th grade, we (everyone in my class at school) learned a bit about the flutophone (cheap recorder). In 5th grade, we were encouraged to take up a real instrument.

I chose clarinet. I loved it. I got pretty good at it. My dad sent me to private lessons in addition to the public school lessons. I got up to Mozart's Concerto in A. Loved the music. Loved the sound of the instrument.

But my public school music teacher ("our" teacher) was an absolute witch. She verbally abused so many of the kids so badly, I "couldn't take it" anymore. (Honestly, as I recall: I don't think she abused me very much, if at all; I "simply" remember she would yell at kids and abuse them . . . and there was enough other noise going on in my life at the time at home that) I quit. I "just" left my instrument in the music hall at school one day with no intention of returning.

And I didn't.

My best friend went on with his clarinet playing and became quite good at it. In fact, last I knew, he does music for a living now (though not as a clarinetist).


I sang in church and in the church choir. Loved that outlet. Especially the tenor line.

Throughout high school, I used to listen to groups like the Moody Blues and sing along and especially enjoyed the high background wailing vocals.

Sometime about, maybe, 10 years ago, as the church moved more and more into "praise" music and completely abandoned four-part harmonized singing, I got the idea in my head that I would start harmonizing like the Moody Blues. So, at this point, whenever I can hear myself (i.e., the "worship band" doesn't play too loudly!) I try to improvise and add interesting ornamentations to whatever the rest of the congregation is singing.


I think, honestly, if I had the opportunity to learn anything I wanted, I would love to learn how to play percussion (the only time I can recall ever laughing out loud for joy over someone's playing, it was because what a drummer was doing in the middle of a song; it moved me).

And the one other thing I would love to do is learn how to compose music. But/and, I'm afraid, I would have to learn a lot of music theory and, somehow, figure out (or be taught) the way music "fits together."

[I remember reading a good portion of Gödel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter and being amazed at the patterns he described. I also recall watching/listening to and attempting to follow some of the early lessons in Piano for Life and being amazed at how regular the patterns are. --But I certainly don't understand these things! I can "feel" the harmonies when I sing; I have no idea where I am on the musical scale.]




--In case you're reading this on Facebook: This post originally appeared on my personal blog.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Another one of those people who can do "unbelievable" things

Hula hoops. Around your knees, your waist, your chest, your neck, your wrist, your toes . . . while standing on your head, while contorted into a pretzel, while standing stock-still, while making movements most humans can hardly imagine.

The "magic" of Cirque du Soleil's Alegria.

I gasped and cheered throughout: