Archive for February, 2008

Divine Encounter at 35,000 feet

Friday, February 29th, 2008


I am on trip that will take me to the UK, the Middle East, and South Africa.

As Patty and I were praying before I left, she prayed specifically for divine contacts. As I settled into my seat on British Airways, I discovered that the distinguished African gentleman next to me was exactly that. He was an Anglican bishop from Uganda, on his way home after speaking at a conference in the states. A few notable highlights of the conversation were:

He believes the greatest challenge to the church in East Africa is that it “does church” meaning it is captive to the traditional and institutional and has lost its sense of missionality.

The greatest need in East Africa is leaders for the Christian movement and a means of developing them that is transformational and not just the impartation of information.

He is part of a think tank in Africa that wrestles with issues relating to the sending of Africans as missionaries but for the most part, he feels the African church, with a few exceptions, is not at this juncture. Existing models don’t work, particularly regarding the marshaling the resources necessary to accomplish the sending task.

When I asked if he was part of the Ugandan Anglican body that was accepting parishes of the American Episcopal Church which were leaving the denomination, he responded “yes,” but then politely corrected me. “These individual churches in the U.S. are not leaving the Anglican communion. It is the American Episcopal Church that has left us.”

In the course of our travel, the conversation covered a spectrum of topics, everything from Obama to the shabbiness of LAX. It was a pleasure to encounter and enjoy this godly saint at 35,000 feet.

The Smart Shepherd

Tuesday, February 19th, 2008


The February 18, 2008 issue of Newsweek includes a fascinating article about Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. It is worth a read.

What Tim Keller has done in New York is a superb study in good missiology applied to reach thoughtful, urban professionals with a gospel that is a combination of “orthodox Christianity, challenging preaching, with an emphasis on social justice and community service.” The article goes with the following description of Tim:

“Like so many New Yorkers Keller is a misfit. He’s a megachurch pastor who doesn’t like megachurches. He’s an orthodox Christian who believes in evolution. He emulates the puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards and loves a good restaurant. he’s an evangelist who relishes the power of doubt. New York is the perfect home for such an idiosyncratic Christian.”

Evangelicalism 101(a)

Sunday, February 17th, 2008


This quarter’s Theology News and Notes from Fuller Theological Seminary is an excellent overview of the Evangelical Movement. It is well worth the read for anyone serious about trying to get their arms around the background and contemporary status of this important historical stream in the Protestant tradition.

How to Remember

Friday, February 15th, 2008


If memory is such a powerful tool and the human brain an untapped resource, what can we do about it. Joshua Foer goes on to say in National Geographic:

“Over the past millennium, many of us have undergone a profound shift. We’ve gradually replaced our internal memory with what psychologists refer to as external memory, a vast superstructure of technological crutches that we’ve invented so that we don’t have to store information in our brain.

We’ve gone, you might say, from remembering everything to remembering awfully little. We have photographs to record our experiences, calendars to keep track of our schedules, books (and not eh Internet) to store our collective knowledge, and Post-it-notes for our scribbles. What have the implications of this outsourcing of memory been for ourselves and for our society? Has something been lost?

So is there anything practical that we could do to better tap into this remarkable resource that sits on top of our necks?
“If you can convert whatever it is you’re trying to remember into vivid mental images and then arrange them in some sort of imagined architectural space, known as a memory palace memories can be made virtually indelible.

Peter of Ravenna, a noted Italian jurist and author of a renowned memory textbook of the 15th century, was said to have used this loci method to memorize the Bible, the entire legal canon, 200 of Cicero’s speeches, and 1,000 verses of Ovid. For leisure, he would reread books cached away in his memory palaces. ‘When I left my country to visit a a pilgrim the cities of Italy, I can truly say I carry everything I own with me,’ he wrote.”

Memory and Oral Tradition

Thursday, February 14th, 2008


I’ve always been under the assumption that written tradition is more reliable than oral until I came across a fascinating article in November 2007 issue of National Geographic on the topic of “Memory.” It states:

“A memory is a stored pattern of connections between neurons in the brain. There are about a hundred billion of those neurons, each of which can make perhaps 5,000 to 10,000 synaptic connections with other neurons, which makes a total of about five hundred trillion to a thousand trillion synapses in the average adult brain. By comparison there are only about 32 trillion bytes of information int the entire Library of Congress.”

The article goes on to give examples of people and times where extraordinary memory was the norm:
“Ancient and medieval people reserved their awe for memory. Their greatest geniuses they describe as people of superior memories.

Thomas Aquinas, for example, was celebrated for composing his Summa Theologica entirely in his head and dictating it from memory with no more than a few notes. Roman philosopher Seneca the Elder could repeat 2,000 names in the order they’d been given him. Another Roman names Simplicius could recite Virgil by heart – backward.

A strong memory was seen as the greatest of virtues since it represented the internalization of a universe of external knowledge. Indeed, a common theme in the lives of the saints was that they had extraordinary memories.

In fact, there are long traditions of memory training in many cultures. The Jewish Talmud, embedded with mnemonics—techniques for preserving memories—was passed down orally for centuries. Koranic memorization is still considered a supreme achievement among devout Muslims. Traditional West African groits and South Slavic bards recount colossal epics entirely from memory.”

How to Pick a President

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008


Seeing that this is the largest primary election day in this presidential selection year, I was intrigued at the commentary this morning on NPR from cowboy poet, philosopher, and former large animal vet, Baxter Black who supined the following on how to pick a president:

“There are always politically incorrect insinuations that women would vote for a woman candidate for the primary reason they’re both women or that blacks would vote for a black candidate simply because they’re black. Well of course they would, or at least give it serious consideration. .

The same with cowboys, vegetarians and paroled felons. It’s natural to want to have someone in office who understands you. What percentage of the Mormon vote do you think candidate Romney is going to receive? 99% And how many brush-clearing cedar-whacks went for George W.? Given the opportunity to poll candidates there are several questions that I would proffer, i.e.,

Do you consider miracle whip and jalapeños essential nutrients in the food pyramid?
Do you prefer Copenhagen or Skoll?
Do you have any nieces, nephews, cousins or children named after coon-dogs: Blue, Jake, Badger or Whoop?
Do you head or heel when team roping?
How long before you have to renew you’re Farm Bureau membership, your subscription to Sports Afield, and the warranty on your four-wheeled drive pick-up?”