Saturday, January 31, 2009

Sunday, From "The Prodigal God," By Tim Keller


"MOST READINGS OF THIS PARABLE (The Prodigal Son, in Luke 15) have concentrated on the flight and return of the younger brother---the "Prodigal Son." That misses the real message, however, of the story because there are two brothers, each of whom represents a different way to be alienated from God, and a different way to seek acceptance into the kingdom of heaven.

It is crucial to notice the historical setting that the author provides for Jesus's teaching....Luke recounts that there were two groups of people who had come to listen to Jesus (tell this parable). First there were the "tax collectors and sinners." These men and women correspond to the younger brother (who squandered his inheritance). They observed neither the moral laws of the Bible nor the rules for ceremonial purity followed by religious Jews. They engaged in wild living. Like the younger brother, they "left home" by leaving the traditional morality of their families and of respectable society. The second group of listeners was the "Pharisees and the teachers of the law," who were represented by the elder brother. They held to the traditional morality of their upbringing. They worshipped faithfully and prayer constantly.

With great economy Luke shows how different each group's response was to Jesus. The progressive tense of the Greek verb translated "were gathering" conveys that the attraction of younger brothers to Jesus was an ongoing pattern of his ministry. They continually flocked to him. This phenomenon puzzled and angered the moral and the religious. Luke summarizes their complaint: "This man welcomes sinners and (even) eats with them." To sit down and eat with someone in the ancient Near East was a token of acceptance. "How dare Jesus reach out to sinners like that?" they were saying...

So to whom is Jesus's teaching in this parable directed? It is to the second group, the scribes and Pharisees. It is in response to their attitude that Jesus begins to tell the parable. The parable of the two sons takes an extended look at the soul of the elder brother, and climaxes with a powerful plea for him to change his heart....

...the original listeners were not melted into tears by the story but rather thunderstruck, offended and infuriated. Jesus's purpose is not to warm our hearts but to shatter our categories. Through this parable Jesus challenges what nearly everyone has ever thought about God, sin and salvation. His story reveals the destructive self-centeredness of the younger brother, but it also condemns the elder brother's moralistic life in the strongest terms. Jesus is saying that both the irreligious and the religious are spiritually lost, both life-paths are dead ends, and that every thought the human race has had about how to connect to God has been wrong."

-----The Prodigal God, by Timothy Keller

Thursday, January 29, 2009

On the Hugh Norris Trail

I'm currently in southern Arizona outside Tucson on a mostly silent spiritual retreat. This place I come to on and off for over 12 years happens to be on the edge of some of the best winter hiking in the country. Maybe the world. I feel guilty telling you how lovely it is right now, albeit chilly, when the rest of the country is so freezing damn cold. Nevertheless, I'll say the contemplation is going well---I've only gotten two 'correction' notes on the bulletin board since arriving last Sunday, one for mis-parking my rental car and the other for letting my cell phone go off outdoors, answering it and then laughing really loudly causing people for miles in all directions to lose their chain-of-quiet thoughts. I can be such a disruptive influence.

In between praying for various things, including good hiking weather, I go out into this amazing, wild desert land and completely wear myself out walking and climbing every day. I'm indeed blessed that I can do this every couple of years. Many of my good friends now go to Florida for the winter, and I go and visit them and will continue to. But I have this insane gene, this rogue DNA programming, that makes thoughts of Florida go out the window when I see and think of terrain like this:

I am now wallowing in the land of cacti and coyotes and loving every minute. I've had nary a thought of the excesses of Washington bailouts, and Iran's growing nuclear capacity all day. Now that's a retreat worth having.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Cold Weather, Time For Hearty Homemade Soup

WHEN I SLAVE AWAY IN THE KITCHEN, I consider myself more a concocter than a great cook. I'm just dumb or foolish enough to try about anything once and believe in going by the spirit rather than the letter of any recipe law. I use recipes to give me a general direction. After that, I prefer to strike out on my own, rarely nitpicking with measuring paraphernalia. I prefer instead to throw in handfuls of this or that and taste as I go. I suppose the description I would use is to improvise. I cook like a pianist who plays by ear.

But enough about me. I'd like to give you a general idea of how to make this here chicken vegetable soup that's so soothing in cold weather. It's easy and can be served/garnished with all sorts of fun things to make it different each time you bestow it on family or friends:

I begin by sauteing some chopped onions, green peppers (and sometimes celery, garlic, leeks and fennel) in olive oil in a big pot. As this cooks, I begin to throw other ingredients in to brown including but not limited to sliced zucchini, summer squash, sliced or canned tomatoes, and frozen or fresh sliced okra. The okra is really important if you're a Southerner like me.

Let these things cook a bit and then pour in a big thing of chicken stock (if you cooked the chicken from scratch) or broth (if you didn't). I prefer to buy the low-sodium broth in a paper cartons at Whole Foods. Then I like to add sea salt as needed.

If the broth is too strong, then I add a little water, or if not, I may add more broth and water and taste as I go. The last two big ingredients I add are fresh kale which I cut up with my kitchen scissors before tossing in. And the chicken which I also cut with scissors to medium sized bites. Put as much or as little as you like with both. I like lots of kale which is a great winter tonic and chicken.

Let all this simmer at as low a temperature as you can for a while, maybe 30-40 minutes. If you like the way it tastes, smells and looks you can then add more seasonings like sea salt, herbs and of course lime juice, or lemon. I prefer lime and like to serve a quarter of lime when each bowl comes to the table.

I like to make a big batch of this soup at once because it just gets better every day you serve it. The problem is, people rarely leave that much to serve the next day.

The really fun part of this is what you put with it. My favorite accompaniments include: lime and avocado slices with French bread; a dollop of really good plain yogurt with cream at the top and some cornbread; sliced raw onion and cheddar cheese on saltine crackers; and finally ladled over brown rice. They're all really good and will satisfy even the most hearty of appetites.

You'll notice I don't cook this with a lot of potatoes as I'm not a starch person. Potatoes always make me sleepy and they're very fattening. So I leave the starchy stuff to others. Sometimes I throw in green beans or Brussel sprouts, but by and large, I use the recipe above. In truth when you try it, you're only limited by your culinary imagination. Make it your own. Meanwhile, bon appetit!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Square Me

TUESDAY: Just when you think all reason has been lost in DC, a heartening turn of events for the stimulus. But then there's this: Is President Obama the next Neville Chamberlain?

A cadet at West Point writes today at Pajamas Media about meeting former President Bush a month before he left office and how shockingly impressive Bush was in person. Don't miss this piece. In Hollywood, a protagonist can be a child rapist (”The Woodsman”) or serial killer (”Monster”) and not alienate Academy voters. But if he or she drops the n-word or another ugly epithet, well, then we have nothing to learn from them.

Why Grand Torino got snubbed by the Academy: "In Hollywood, a protagonist can be a child rapist (”The Woodsman”) or serial killer (”Monster”) and not alienate Academy voters. But if he or she drops the n-word or another ugly epithet, well, then we have nothing to learn from them." Through new, wild and wonderful Breitbart's Big Hollywood.


CALL ME A SQUARE PEG in a round hole. Call me my grandmother. Call me anything. But an outraged taxpayer is what I call myself. Let's see, my federal tax dollars during a time of unprecedented financial crisis will now go to exporting abortion again to the rest of the world? And pay for birth control funding as a part of the new economic stimulus package? What part of this picture am I missing?

Our founding fathers, the original enumerators---George, John and especially Thomas---are not just twirling in their graves, they've now gyrated out, levitated over the Capitol Dome and are starting to lurk over Mrs. P's Senate office. You know, that post modern who describes herself as the most powerful woman in the world, and the moral authority for those with no internal compass whatsoever. While she's at it dictating and enumerating, she's going to stick it to that irrelevant ole Vatican too.

We as a nation are broke financially, but that's the very least of our bankruptcies and certainly not the most troubling.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Radical Message of the Gospel

From The Prodigal God, by Timothy Keller:

THIS SHORT BOOK IS MEANT to lay out the essentials of the Christian message, the gospel. It can therefore, serve as an introduction to the Christian faith for those who are unfamiliar with its teachings or who may have been away from them for some time.

This volume is not just for seekers, however. Many lifelong Christian believers feel they understand the basics of the Christian faith quite well and don't think they need a primer. Nevertheless, one of the signs that you may not grasp the unique, radical nature of the gospel is that you are certain that you do. Sometimes longtime church members find themselves so struck and turned around by a fresh apprehension of the Christian message that they feel themselves to have been essentially "re-converted." This book, then, is written to both curious outsiders and established insiders of the faith, both to those Jesus calls "younger brothers" and those he calls "elder brothers" in the famous Parable of the Prodigal Son.

I am turning to this familiar story, found in the fifteenth chapter of the gospel of St. Luke, in order to get to the heart of the Christian faith. The parable's plot and the dramatis personae are very simple. There was a father who had two sons. The younger asked for his share of the inheritance, received it and promptly left for a far country, where he squandered it all on sensual and frivolous pleasure. He returned home penitently and, to his surprise, was received with open arms by his father. This reception alienated and angered the elder brother greatly. The story closes with the father appealing to his firstborn son to join in the welcome and forgiveness of his younger brother.

On the surface of it the narrative is not all that gripping. I believe, however, that if the teaching of Jesus is likened to a lake, this famous Parable of the Prodigal Son would be one of the clearest spots where we can see all the way to the bottom. Many excellent studies have been written on this Biblical text over the last several years, but the foundation for my understanding of it was a sermon I first heard preached over thirty years ago by Dr. Edmond P. Clowney. Listening to that sermon changed the way I understood Christianity. I almost felt I had discovered the secret heart of Christianity. Over the years I have often returned to teach and counsel from the parable. I have seen more people encouraged, enlightened, and helped by this passage, when I explained the true meaning of it, than by any other text.

I once traveled overseas and delivered this sermon to an audience through an interpreter. Some time later the translator wrote to tell me that, as he was preaching the sermon, he had realized that the parable was like an arrow aimed at his heart. After a period of wrestling and reflection, it brought him to faith in Christ. Many other have told me that this story of Jesus, once they came to understand it, saved their faith, their marriages, and, sometimes literally, their lives.

In the first five chapters I will unlock the parable's basic meaning. In Chapter 6 I will demonstrate how the story helps us understand the Bible as a whole, and in Chapter 7 how its teaching works itself out in the way we live in the world.

I will not use the parable's most common name: the Parable of the Prodigal Son. It is not right to single out only one of the sons as the sole focus of the story. Even Jesus doesn't call it that, but begins the story saying, 'a man had two sons.' The narrative is as much about the elder brother as the younger, and as much about the father as the sons. And what Jesus says about the older brother is one of the most important messages given to us in the Bible. The parable might be better called the Two Lost Sons.

The word 'prodigal' does not mean 'wayward' but, according to Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 'recklessly spendthrift.' It means to spend until you have nothing left. This term is therefore as appropriate for describing the father in the story as his younger son. The father's welcome to the repentant son was literally reckless, because he refused to 'reckon' or count his sin against him or demand repayment. This response offended the elder son and most likely the local community.

In this story the father represents the Heavenly Father Jesus knew so well. St. Paul writes: "God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not reckoning to them their trespasses" (2 Corinthians 5:19----ASV) Jesus is showing us the God of Great Expenditure, who is nothing if not prodigal toward us, his children. God's reckless grace is our greatest hope, a life-changing experience, and the subject of this book.

-----Timothy Keller, Introduction, The Prodigal God

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Going Away, Coming Back

Good news from New York: Cameloted Caroline gives way to a fresh new pick. Larry Kudlow writes how Treasury nominee Tim Geithner's lack of character and truth telling may sully Obama's administration sooner rather than later. Newt agrees. Sucker's rally ending?
EARLY WEDNESDAY A FRIEND and I fled to the mountains, far from the maddening crowds and chatter of endless inaugural rehashing. The landscape was steely gray, beautifully dreary, freezing cold and wonderfully silent. We went to a state park where we rented a cabin, built a fire, read and relaxed in peace and quiet. There were no computers, no talking heads. I returned late today before the polls closed, so I could vote on the English-only question in Nashville which sadly appears to have been defeated. Political correctness and twisted arguments have ruled the day in blue Nashville.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Michelle Obama's Inaugural Outfit, Yeah Or Nay?


NO TOPIC on the minds and lips of women everywhere yesterday was of greater interest than the topic of The Outfit Michelle wore for her husband's swearing in. Never mind that Bush was jeered at the dais, Ted Kennedy had a seizure afterwards, Cheney arrived in a wheelchair, Obama repudiated much of Bush's policies in his speech, the day was cold, the stock market down over 330 points, and there was only one porta-toilet for every 500 human bladder in the District yesterday. All of that was of little or no concern next to the real topic: What didya think of the outfit?

We women like to get down to the really important stuff, the nitty gritty. At first I hesitated to weigh in, but after sleeping on it, I've decided to put my two-cents worth in.

First I think Michelle is a great looking woman with a definite sense of her own style. She will undoubtedly set lots of new fashion trends--for better or worse--and keep outfitters like J Crew and Gap afloat during these tough economic times.

Having said that, I was not dazzled with the outfit. Here's why: she looked as if she was on her way to the first inaugural ball and was skipping the swearing in entirely. That's right, she looked like she was going straight for the celebration without passing GO! For my money it seems as if she was overdressed for the day occasion.

As for whether she looked like she was wearing a brocade tablecloth---one of our favorite sub-topics yesterday---I would have to say yes, sort of. Most of her admirers called her outfit BOLD, but I would have to say she had a bit of misplaced enthusiasm, and leave it at that. Yes, the color was eye-popping on that dreary DC winter day. But the rhinestone neck was a bit much, even under cloudy skies.

Over the grapevine I've heard the editors of Vogue Magazine advised and dressed Michelle for the inaugural day, after she did a photo shoot for an upcoming edition with photographer Annie Liebovitz. Evidently they admonished her about wearing a short suit jacket that might make her be-hind look big (as they said, like Laura Bush's). They, the powers that be at Vogue, also encouraged her with the eye-popping gold (yeller?) color. As a result, Michelle, wore a long jacket to minimize her derriere and a wild color to meet Vogue's advice on standing out in the crowd.

So there you have it. What did you think?

Another post from my archives on Michelle and Jackie O.

And we haven't even discussed the ball gown below....

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Best Wishes To President and Mrs. Barack Obama

May God bless, protect, keep and guide them and their new administration. I pray and wish them my very, very best. And may God bless and sustain America in these most turbulent times. For tonight, let the dancing and celebration be wild and wonderful. And tomorrow, let's get on with it.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Bush's Final Flight Home

JOHN TAMNY: Why supply siders are eager to show Mr. Bush the door and escort him onto Air Force One today. Yes, to President Bush doing the (almost) right thing at the last minute. Still, shouldn't it have been a pardon?


That final flight home from Washington and the White House on Air Force One is always poignant for the newest ex-president, as the shiny new next president begins his honeymoon with his adoring public. This honeymoon appears to be even more passionate than usual. Still, let us be glad for the peaceful transfer of power, one of the greatest signs of a true, albeit nasty democracy. God bless America. And God bless our new president, Mr. Barack Obama. Oh, I almost forgot. God bless Mr. Bush, along with wonderful Laura, now the happiest, most relieved man and ex-president alive in the known universe on the occasion of his last flight from Washington D.C. back to Crawford and Dallas, Texas, circa January 20, 2009.

Want to also add my deepest admination and gratitude to Laura Bush, for carrying out her duties of First Lady in the highest and most elegant of ways. She looked the part, she acted the part, she spoke the part, she dressed the part, she comported herself the part of One Great, Great Dame, and I for one will greatly miss her in the years to come as First Lady Extraordinaire.


Monday, President Bush's Last Day in Office

STUNNING: Another Bush supporter. H/T

Eric at Tygrrr Express pens Bush an admiring letter of appreciation I wish I'd written on the occasion of Bush's last day in office, appropriately Martin Luther King Day.

A few highlights worth recalling,

"Dr. King was a much better speaker than you..... Despite attempts by some who try to rewrite history for their own gain, I want to thank you for your many accomplishments, beginning with everything you have done to secure Dr. King’s vision of a truly colorblind society.

"Nobody has hired as many black Americans to as many prominent positions as you have. You made Colin Powell your Secretary of State. You appointed Dr. Condoleeza Rice to be your next Secretary of State after a stint as your National Security Advisor. You hired Larry Thompson to be your Deputy Attorney General under John Ashcroft. Rod Paige was your Secretary of Education.

"These people were not hired because they were black. They were hired because they deserved the jobs based on merit. You did not make token appointments. You hired good people who happened to be black. That is colorblindness."

Read it all. And thanks Eric. Many have said that Mr. Bush's appointment of Condi Rice as Secretary of State paved the way in the American consciousness for Mr. Obama. I happen to agree.


Several days ago, Fred Barnes at the Weekly Standard wrote ten things that Bush got right. It's well worth reading, if you haven't already.

Some of Bush's successes include thwarting global warming hysteria a la refusing Kyoto, the treaty that would have made no economic sense long before the consensus of climate change collapsed as it has now, he enhanced interrogation of terrorists and thwarted innumerable potential attacks, he rebuilt presidential authority badly degraded over several previous administrations, was an unfailing supporter and friend of Israel, and he promoted the forward march of democracy and free markets around the world.

There's more, so read it. I couldn't agree more. Thanks, Fred, for reminding us what the left myth makers want us all to forget. History, no doubt, will treat Bush better in retrospect and with each new terrorist threat to American soil.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sunday, From George Washington's Prayer Journal, Mount Vernon

O eternal and everlasting God, I presume to present myself this morning before thy Divine majesty, beseeching thee to accept of my humble and hearty thanks, that it hath pleased thy great goodness to keep and preserve me the night past from all the dangers poor mortals are subject to, and has given me sweet and pleasant sleep, whereby I find my body refreshed and comforted for performing the duties of this day, in which I beseech thee to defend me from all perils of body and soul....

Increase my faith in the sweet promises of the gospel; give me repentance from dead works; pardon my wanderings, and direct my thoughts unto thyself, the God of my salvation; teach me how to live in thy fear, labor in thy service, and ever to run in the ways of thy commandments; make me always watchful over my heart, that neither the terrors of conscience, the loathing of holy duties, the love of sin, nor an unwillingness to depart this life, may cast me into a spiritual slumber, but daily frame me more and more into the likeness of thy son Jesus Christ, that living in thy fear, and dying in thy favor, I may in thy appointed time attain the resurrection of the just unto eternal life bless my family, friends, and kindred.

---George Washington, undated prayer from his prayer journal, Mount Vernon

Friday, January 16, 2009

Some Quotes

“If you don't read the newspaper you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper you are misinformed.” -- Mark Twain

“It's all storytelling, you know. That's what journalism is all about.” -- Tom Brokaw (famous last words from a chief myth-maker of the MSM)

“Facing the press is more difficult than bathing a leper.”-- Mother Teresa (Yes, but I'll bet you never meet Joe The Plumber.)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The English-Only Vote in Nashville

THE HOT CONTROVERSY and RIDICULOUS QUESTION: If Metro Nashville votes for English-Only government proceedings does that make it xenophobic and anti-immigration? The city's Aw-Shucks mayor and Tennessee's progressive governor both think we should care more about what outsiders think of us than of our principles and institutions because it might hurt business. Never mind this amendment would only continue and clarify the status quo. Fearmongers say it will mean no one can conduct business in any other language but English, but that's not true. It's only about conducting government business. Most Nashvillians are not taken with the arguemtn for political correctness and like the idea of drawing a line in the sand. Good for us. We'll see the results on January 22.

The Official English Charter Amendment:

On Thursday, Jan. 22, 2009, voters will have the opportunity to vote on the following Charter Amendment, and you would think by opponents this is the end of the worlds and will disallow speaking of all foreign languages in the city. Nothing could be further from the truth:

“English is the official language of the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee. Official actions which bind or commit the government shall be taken only in the English language, and all official government communications and publications shall be in English. No person shall have a right to government services in any other language. All meetings of the Metro Council, Boards, and Commissions of the Metropolitan Government shall be conducted in English. The Metro Council may make specific exceptions to protect public health and safety. Nothing in this measure shall be interpreted to conflict with federal or state law.”

I don't do a lot of writing about local politics in Nashville---been there/ done that in ways far, far too numerous to mention; however, on the question of English-only in conducting business in local government councils and commissions, I make an exception.

To be clear, I am very much in favor of Crafton's bill defining English as the official language of political discourse and decision making in Metro Nashville. Opponents of the bill say it will make Nashvillians look like a bunch of hillbillies and bigots, and its effect will be to lose money and business for locals. Furthermore it could inconvenience immigrants who haven't yet learned to speak English or can't afford to hire a translator. Will be writing more in the days ahead. Special election Thursday, January 22. It's a flash point issue for the nation. Stay tuned.

Read more.

"It's about keeping Nashville united, not divided by language and encouraging immigrants to learn English and pursue the American dream. And yes, it's also about keeping costs and taxes low, by not making city agencies operate in multiple languages. Vote for the Official English Charter Amendment Thursday, Jan. 22. Let's keep Nashville united by language."

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Humor Break: Checking Kids Homework

Come on, you know you need a good laugh. And it's cute and funny. Found at Carpe Diem.

Inflatable Street Art, Porcelain Pistols

UPDATE: From Debka: Iran is recruiting Somali pirates to help it replenish supplies for it's terrorists Hamas in Gaza via the Persian Gulf, Suez Canal and even Sudan. Also, will entrepreneural innovation blossom during the recession? Jeff Cornwall at Belmont University thinks so.

Garbage bags become amazing street art in New York. There's a metaphor here about taking the lowest form of stuff and making something beautiful out of it, in a place and way we least expect. Giving a new meaning to blooming where we're planted.

Meanwhile, Boo Hoo! Can you imagine a grown man---or someone masquerading as one---wants to have the world take away all references to Gone With the Wind because it reminds him of slavery? The 'demandingness' of the political correct class has reached new sub-prime lows. Is the Political Correctness Bubble about to burst too? Or does it need to inflate a little more?

Finally, the porcelain pistol. More of these fabulous pieces at Yvonne's. How would you like your tea, with or without heat?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Week of January 12

Independent Christian film, Hollywood's best investment of 2008, by a long-shot. Fireproof trailer.

The assumption is that there is someone just right for us to marry and that if we look closely enough we will find the right person. This overlooks a crucial aspect to marriage. It fails to appreciate the fact that we always marry the wrong person. We never know whom we marry; we just think we do. Or even if we first marry the right person, just give it a awhile and he or she will change. For marriage, being [the enormous thing it is] means we are not the same person after we have entered it.

— Stanley Hauerwas

The monstrosity of sexual intercourse outside of marriage is that those who indulge in it are trying to isolate one kind of union (the sexual) from all the other kinds of union which were intended to go along with it and make up the total union. The Christian attitude does not mean that there is anything wrong about sexual pleasure, any more than about the pleasure of eating. It means that you must not isolate the pleasure and try to get it by itself, any more than you ought to try to get the pleasure of taste without swallowing and digesting, by chewing things and spitting them out again.

— C. S.Lewis

Courtesy of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York, January 4, 2009

Monday, January 5, 2009

Chapters and Changes

IT WAS ONLY A MATTER OF TIME. But now it's finally has happened, and probably won't be back anytime soon. It's the Bursting of the Boob Job Bubble, along with the rest of the commodities markets. First there was the collapse of big housing, followed by big gold, steel, oil and gas, and now, gentle reader, the unthinkable has happened: the economy is taking out the market for big boob jobs. Saline, silicon, you name it, as a new round of layoffs is threatening to reduce the plastic industry to botox injections, eyebrow tweezering and tattoo removal procedures. Most plastic surgeons report their business is down 25-50%. What an amazing turn of events. Whatever will burst next? Is anything left?


GIVING NEW meaning to the phrase dangling participle: And another reason I have zero interest in going to the slopes soon (I prefer staying close to the ground by xc-ing). Clearly this will not be the highpoint of this man's life, nor winter ski experience. But mercifully he survived, only a little worse for the, er, over-exposure. It's not funny so don't--do not--laugh. And one last thing. This man and his lawyers will soon be the new owners of this Vail ski resort.

UPDATE: Why does the New York Times shamefully love Hamas?

For several months, and actually more, I've considered taking a writing vacation. While I've managed to do it for a day or two, that's been the extent to date. It's cause I love, love, love to write here.

But more and more I feel real winds of change in my life and I'm not yet sure where they're taking me. I must confess, continuing to write about politics fails me to motivate in the slightest at this point. I sense I've said all I have to say for now. In many ways, I feel this trip on the Web both writing and reading others' writing, wonderful as it is, has become an increasingly distraction. Interesting, but still a distration. Then last Sunday, I heard a sermon at McLean Bible Church on letting go of those things which, while neither good nor bad, seem to take away time and energy from the things you need to be doing more. I felt the words pierce my heart. I'm beginning to feel much is redundant and my time can better be directed elsewhere. It won't be easy to pull back this after these several years of writing almost daily.

So for a little while, I'm going to write only intermittently until I decide what to do and if and when to do it. There's a real chance I'll stop for a while and start up again in a very different direction with new subject matter. There's also a chance I'll stop entirely. New chapters can be tricky and messy with fits and starts.

In all events, I will post occasionally in January and into mid-February and see where this all takes me. I don't want to burn any bridges. At the same time I don't want to deny my deep sense that a new chapter seems to be unfolding for me on several fronts and I'm being called away from the amount of time I've spent on the computer in the past few years.

Speaking of burning bridges: Taken in China, the Fuijiang River bridge---built in 1971-- was demolished Monday. WSJ Photos.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Year-end Solar Sunspot Tally


2008 SUNSPOT Activity: Among lowest years in last 100 years

According to Final sunspot counts for the year 2008 are now available and the numbers are very low. The sun was utterly blank--that is, it had no sunspots whatsoever--on 266 days last year. That makes 2008 a century-class year in terms of low sunspot numbers. To find a year with more blank suns, you have to go all the way back to 1913, which had 311 spotless days. Now for the good news: Evidence is mounting that the deep solar minimum of 2008 is coming to an end; we can expect a livelier sun in 2009. Time will tell.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Israel's Ground Invasion Of Gaza Has Mercifully Begun

SUNDAY: Doing the will of God, is it ever too late? The genesis of the Arab-Israeli conflict in the Old Testament story of Sarah and Abraham and their sons, Ishmael and Isaac, is found in the above commentary and also here.
FOR THE LIFE OF ME, I never understood why Israel withdrew and gave Gaza solely to the Palestinians in 2005. Surely they didn't believe Hamas or the Palestinians would be satisfied with this gesture of having their very own sovereign territory for the first time and think peace would prevail in this land of ancient antipathies. What Israel got as a show of appreciation has been increasing numbers of rocket/missile attacks (6,464 in three years!) fired daily into southern Israel--up to hundreds a day in the past few months---at civilians, houses and schools. Now the Israelis have had enough.

I hope they really mean business and are willing to take the heat that's going to come from the world community, (and blubbering outrage of the AP), that espouses the chimera of moral equivalence and it's all their fault. All invasions are not created equal. I don't doubt Israel is going on the offensive now---to get rid of Hamas' rocket launch sites, which are being supplied by Iran and smuggled in through Egypt---because it has no idea what stand the Obama administration will take come January 20. But never mind.

It's not exactly like the Bush administration and Condi Rice have done much but acquiesce lately. As far as I'm concerned Rice as Secretary of State has been about as effective and weak as a U.N. peacekeeper and Israel knows it. So it's moving on with with what it has to do, with or without the United States' blessings. I hope and pray they'll meet their goals to get control of this untenable situation in Gaza with a minimum of bloodshed. And then can establish a sustainable cease-fire with no tolerance for violence: no mortars, no rockets, no more mosques as armories, no more tunnels and kidnapping Israelis.

That's it, folks. After getting shed of the missle/rocket sites and the weapons, Israel must insist on a sustainable cease-fire. There will be zero tolerance for the continuing violent, terrorist attacks in any way, shape or form. It goes for Hamas in Gaza. It goes for Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Friday, January 2, 2009

A Few Predictions For 2009 and Words About Dreaded New Years Resolutions


AS I'VE GOTTEN OLDER, I've come to realize that deep expectations of ourselves and others with dictates about hard and fast change that we stake our happiness on are just big disappointments waiting to happen. That doesn't mean I have to be hard-hearted towards relationships (to the contrary), nor I'm not disappointed in myself and others at times, but it does mean I put my trust ultimately and realistically in and on another Source, another Hope and in another, Higher World. And this Source alone helps guide me---the only one I can deal with---to change.

I've learned something's usually going right, when things seem to be going wrong. My job is to discover what it is and grow as best I can, with minimum protest.

I've learned to use the words Never and Always less. As much as I wish to be the paragon of consistency and virtue, I find that in my fallen state, I'm not what I wish all the time. That's why the gift of repentance is such a powerful process in my life. And it is a process.

So when it comes to New Year's resolutions I've learned to think more in terms of going in a certain direction, rather than attaining some high-and-mighty goal, for once and for all. It helps me move forward with direction, knowing I'm sometimes going to miss the mark. But it also keeps me from letting myself off the hook. In the end, I believe God puts us here to turn to Him and to grow up with His help. It can be a terribly messy process----one day, sometimes one minute, at a time.

This year I want to continue in several directions I began last year: I want to spend more time in Bible study, prayer, Scripture memorization and service to others. I want to eat well and less, and exercise daily. I want to do more original writing and thinking ---is there anything original under the sun?---here at Webutante, even if it means not posting every single day. I want to waste less time in trivia and spend more quality time in person, in the real world with family, friends, those I love and would like to know better. As per 2008, I'll win a few and lose a few. But with God's help and guidance, I commit to doing what I think is best in each situation.



1. Stocks markets will rebound and pick-up mightily the first half of this year. While still no conclusive leadership groups have been established---which indeed will most certainly happen and soon---my hunch is on construction for infra-structure, bio-techs, Internet and wireless stocks. I'm up-in-the-air about gold. Will revamp this as the month goes on.

2. The Day of Gore Hysteria has come and going, going ....soon gone as more real scientists step-up and dispute faux evidence for man-made climate change. That's not to say that climates aren't changing or that Gore won't, for a while at least, make a ton of money with his carbon bashing investment funds, as nincompoops like these jump on his band wagon. My money is on solar sunspot activity being the biggest predictor of weather forces here on earth. And the dirth of sunspots this past year portends a chilling trend over the next year.

3. Bill Clinton will be named to fill his wife's vacant Senate seat until 2010 as she goes to head State Department. This will be a good thing in that it may rein Bill in for a little while as global emissary who would be World Czar and potentially minimize embarrassment to the Obama Administration with Bill running all over like a loose cannon. It also gets us beyond the now thorny question of Caroline, The, wrong already?

4.Petro-tyrants like Putin, Chavez, Ahmadinejad and the Cuba brothers won't be nearly so bold in their threats as their oil revenues go steadily down in 2009. Sure, they can still make trouble, but not nearly as much as when they're flush with too much cash.

5. Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska, and Czech President Vaclav Klaus, new head of the EU, will remain my favorite politicians. There are so many reasons to like these two that I'll make a point to follow them much more. While I'm at it, I want to keep an eye on the new mayor of London, former journalist Boris Johnson who's refreshingly politically incorrect and may be a new conservative leader in the Thatcher genre.

6. Bankruptcies will proliferate with the state of California leading the way. Anything, anyone with lots of debt it can't pay off will be up for grabs. It won't be pretty.

7. The Southeastern United States will still be the most vibrant place to live this year and for decades to come. Its sounder economic base, God-fearing people and conservative values, not to mention its great home-cooking, will mean the trials and tribulations we face as a nation will be a little less dismal. And yes, SEC college football will continue to rule our nation's sports heart and soul.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year! Now Let's Get Down To Makin' Bacon For Black-Eyed Peas and Greens

Finished Southern New Year's Day meal: Black-eyed peas with bacon, fresh greens (kale, this time) sliced onion, lemon, garnished with Goat's Milk Chavrie and Spicy Plum Chutney. And if you're inclined (I'm not a beer drinker, but make an exception today), a good tangy Corona goes well with this. I'm not a slave to recipes and like to mix and match things up. To wit, this would be just as good with a white Cheddar (or yogurt), any other kind of greens, any chutney and/or baked fruit balance off the saltiness of the bacon.

ONLY ONE GOOD REASON I've learned moderation on New Year's Eve over the years: It's because it's much more fun to wake up the next day, the first day, feeling like a million so I can do my Southern thing in the kitchen to bring the year in in style, with good luck and prosperity. No self-respecting Southern woman would let the day pass without fixing, not cooking mind you, but fixing black-eyed peas and their accouterments for good luck and fortune. And after all we've been through in 2008, don't we need all the good luck we can get, from any and every pot and skillet we can pull out of our cupboards?

This year, I'm not in my own kitchen, but rather guest cooking in a relative's in Washington. It's not easy cause I like my own stuff better and know where it all is. Nevertheless, I'm going to blog it as I go.

First let's talk about the bacon, above. It's an essential for the black-eyed peas. In truth, I cook bacon only 5-10 times a year now. But when I cook it, I'm extremely finicky as to how it's done.
Just as I like the whites of eggs hard (and the yolks soft), I like bacon cooked thoroughly and slowly. I don't like half raw bacon, instead preferring it crisp, but never over done. Over the years I've ruined more bacon than any other single food I've ever cooked. The bacon above was my second batch cause I ruined the first one on the gas stove (which I love, but am not as used to cooking on) when I left the room and came back five minutes later to find the charred remains. Second time was a charm though and it turned out exactly right. This year, I just couldn't bring myself to cook black-eyed peas from scratch, so I did the next best thing which was to buy several decent cans and go from there. Above, I've put the peas in a casserole dish I found and added chopped onion (garlic, fine), green peppers, and tomatoes, a little more salt, and olive oil. Then I've baked it for a little while in a 350 degree oven.
Above are two stalks of kale and onion in a little water, olive oil before cooking down.In the old days, Southerners cooked this with ham hock for hours and hours. But I let go of cooking like that years ago. Then too a little bacon in the black-eyed peas does the duty for the other.
After 20-30 minutes of cooking the kale with the lid on, it cooks down and I use kitchen scissors to wheddle it down even further into bit-sized pieces.

Happy, prosperous and blessed 2009. Thanks for coming by.