what the Bible is

I read Flunking Sainthood by Jana Riess some months ago. I was going back through my Kindle highlights and found this passage where she quotes Debbie Blue. It really resonates with me.

The Bible isn’t really at all good at being an instruction manual. It’s good at leading us into a tangle of wild poetry, heartbreaking stories, contradictions, twists and turns, the concrete struggles of a vast array of unruly, disparate human beings being sought after by God. . . . The Bible isn’t a cage that contains God, making God available to take out or hang in our living room, it’s a witness to the fecund, ungraspable Other (and our relationship to that Other).

“… it’s a witness to the fecund, ungraspable Other (and our relationship to that Other).” Wow! We could profoundly transform our relationship to our church, our religion, and to each other by taking this to heart.

burgers, taste, and our personal history

I wrote in December about some anecdotal evidence of declining quality at In-n-Out Burger. I’ve written blog entries about topics I thought were much more important, but between Facebook and my blog comments this entry struck a nerve.

Boston Pobble mentioned Five Guys, an up-and-coming chain that relies on quality and word of mouth, with no advertising. She said, “I could never eat another burger but theirs and be good.” One opened up not far from us a while back and Terry and I tried it after Christmas. It was good. Really good. And I love the way that they make it really easy to select the toppings you want.

But it is not In-n-Out. This man could not live on Five Guys alone. In-n-Out has a distinctive taste that is not like any other hamburger. But more than that, it is part of many of our personal histories. That is why, I think, my blog entry struck a nerve. As I said in my original entry, I’ve been eating In-n-Out since college. That’s forty years. Add to that the fact that for many years In-n-Out was only available in Southern California. For those of us who moved away, we were delighted when they moved north, and we could enjoy a pleasure of what was in our minds a younger, more innocent time. The fact that many of those who are new to In-n-Out burger are not all that impressed should not be surprising. After all, for us In-n-Out fans, the history, the memories, and the context are as important as the Double-Double burger.

I have to admit, by the way, sacrilege though it might be, that Terry and I agree that the fries at Five Guys are better than those at In-n-Out.

a Star Trek world

I see the depressing state of our world and the sometimes outright craziness of American society (look at some of the reactions to Sandy Hook: armed guards and armed teachers in the schools?) and I wonder, why can’t we make progress? Why do we take two steps forward and one step back so often? Why can’t we have a Star Trek society?

Star Trek had a positive vision of the future. This is most clearly embodied in Star Trek: The Next Generation where the message was that war, crime, hunger, poverty, and discrimination had been utopia2eliminated on earth. (Admittedly not so much so in the most recent and upcoming “prequel classic” Star Trek movies.) Yes, it is science fiction. But it is a modern myth, and we have our myths for a reason. They can tell us about who we want to be as a people. And that vision is utopian, it’s true. But what’s wrong with that, really? As Fr. Phil has said, would you rather have a dystopian vision of the future?

It seems hopeless at times, but I believe we need to maintain that vision and continue the fight for a Star Trek world, for a better world.

Let those who have a dream, dream,
Together we could work to build a better world.
Hand-in-hand with our companions who share our love for living,
And give more than we are given,
Let us give more than we are given.

A Better World, The Limeliters, David Reuter, Reuter’s Music BMI

what cooking should be

I’ve said that while I like to catch a few minutes of Rachael Ray’s syndicated daily television show in the morning while I’m getting my hot tea, I don’t want that fact widely known. No do I want it known, by the way, that I subscribe to the magazine Every Day with Rachael Ray on my iPad.

In any case, I was catching part of her show over the Christmas break, and she had Trisha Yearwood on. In addition to her music career, she has written a cookbook and has a show on Food Network. She was making one of her dishes and said that she was not big on measuring. Rachael picked right up on that and said:

Who measures? It’s a drag to measure. Measure when you bake. Cooking’s about having fun.

I like that. That’s how I cook.

In that context, I should update you on my project. I’ve completed adding all of my Cooking Light stack3recipes using the Web versions (that’s the now non-existent stack on the right) to my Living Cookbook database, and am now ready to start the far more tedious process of scanning and adding the recipes from Clean Eating and other sources (that’s the stack on the left). But it will be fun. And even more fun to be in the kitchen making the recipes.

Here’s to having fun cooking in 2013!

Sacred Music Friday: Magnificat

The first movement of John Rutter’s setting of Magnificat, sung by Bow Valley Chorus, John Goulart Music Director. Uplifting and Energetic!

about that semicolon

A while back I wrote about reading the book Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation  by Lynne Truss. The book was both fun to read and informative. As a one who takes writing seriously, I paid close attention both to Lynne’s arguments and her prescriptions. I had to quibble with her when it came to semicolons, however.

She offers the following as examples of correct usage:

It was the Queen’s birthday on Saturday; nevertheless, she had no post whatever.
Jim woke up in his own bed; however, he felt great.

Now far be it from me to argue with the critically acclaimed author of a book that was a bestseller on both sides of the Atlantic, but to my eye both of these are wrong. From the first time I learned about semicolons, probably in elementary school, I was taught that a semicolon connected two independent clauses. Adding “nevertheless” and “however” and making each second clause dependent means that a semicolon is not called for here.

Correct would be:

It was the Queen’s birthday on Saturday, nevertheless, she had no post whatever.
Jim woke up in his own bed, however, he felt great.


It was the Queen’s birthday on Saturday; she had no post whatever.
Jim woke up in his own bed; he felt great.

Truss says clearly in her preface that she made no changes to the book, written with an eye to British English, for the American edition. So I will simply chalk this up as one of the differences between British and American English.

I don’t often use the semicolon; when I do use a semicolon it connects two independent clauses.

watching and learning

PeaceBang, aka the Rev. Dr. Victoria Weinstein, wrote this on Facebook some time back. It’s been sitting in my collection of quotes and I keep coming back to it. I haven’t used it here before because I think the “100% of the time. Never fails” part made me just a little bit uncomfortable. But you know what? I think she’s right.

I have learned something interesting: when things seem to be a tangled mess in some part of my life, the best response is to do absolutely nothing but gather information for awhile and take zero action. While I am doing nothing but , another energy is at work. When I let that energy (God) take the lead, the outcomes are inevitably far better than when I don’t. 100% of the time. Never fails.

What I’m Reading

It’s been a while since I’ve talked about what’s on my iPad Kindle app, though I have mentioned various books I’ve been reading along the way. I will say that I think for 2012 Amazon was quite happy with me as a Kindle books customer.

I have spent the last number of weeks delving into serious nonfiction. I read The Swerve: How the World Became Modern, which describes the quest for the manuscript of De Rerum Natura by Lucretius, and its influence on the early modern period. I followed that with The Misunderstood Jew, which describes Jesus’ Jewish roots and how interpretations of gospel stories often fail to take into account the Jewish context. Next I read, in part simultaneously, Unprotected Texts: The Bible’s Surprising Contradictions About Sex and Desire and The Liturgical Year: The Spiraling Adventure of the Spiritual Life. The former is a fascinating and well-documented discussion about the highly divergent and contradictory teachings in the Bible on sex and sexuality. The latter is by Joan Chittister, one of my favorite authors in the realm of spirituality. It is a marvelous meditation of the importance of the liturgical calendar in our lives. In amongst those books, I enjoyed Eats, Shoots & Leaves, which was highly enjoyable, but of course made some very serious points about the importance of proper punctuation.

I thought I was going a bit overboard with religion and serious, well-footnoted nonfiction, so as I was finishing Unprotected Texts, I started 360 Sound, The Columbia Records Story as an iBook, given that it’s not available in Kindle format. Upon completing Texts I decided it was now time for something completely different, and downloaded the Kindle edition of George Takei’s Oh Myyy!, the story of how the septuagenarian actor’s presence in social media has gone viral.

As for what’s next, we’ll see. I have plenty of samples on my iPad of books I may want to read. And, of course, there’s always something new coming along. Fortunately, my Christmas present from Terry was a pair of very generous Amazon gift cards.

Those will keep me going for a while.

the liturgical cycle

Yesterday was Epiphany, and as those of you who have been reading this blog for a while know, I am fond of quoting W.H. Auden at this time of year. Not exactly an optimistic perspective, but reflective of how I often perceive reality.

Once again
As in previous years we have seen the actual Vision and failed
To do more than entertain it as an agreeable
Possibility, once again we have sent Him away,
Begging though to remain His disobedient servant,
The promising child who cannot keep His word for long.
The Christmas Feast is already a fading memory,
And already the mind begins to be vaguely aware
Of an unpleasant whiff of apprehension at the thought
Of Lent and Good Friday which cannot, after all, now
Be very far off.

Auden knew his liturgical calendar. And indeed, Ash Wednesday is early this year: 13 February. Not very far off indeed.

Yet if we can lift ourselves out of that ennui, we can find real meaning and value in the cycle of the liturgical year, even if we struggle at times to live it out to its fullest.

I recently read The Liturgical Year: The Spiraling Adventure of the Spiritual Life by Joan Chittister. She tells us:

Life is not meant to be escaped, we learn, as the liturgical year moves from season to season, from feast to feast. It is meant to be penetrated, to be plumbed to its depths, to be tasted and savored and bring us to realize that the God who created us is with us yet. Life, we come eventually to know, is an exercise in transformation, the mechanics of which take a lifetime of practice, of patience, of slow, slow growth.

Wise counsel as we move through the liturgical seasons.

Sacred Music Friday: We Three Kings

Looking towards Epiphany on Sunday.