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May 30, 2008

Daily roundup

Comedy Isn’t as Funny Anymore

Reading Gina's post about the passing of Harvey Korman caused me to start thinking about comedy in general.

I have loved comedy since I was a little kid. I remember the great comedians like Red Skelton, Jackie Gleason, Milton Berle, Alan King, Dick Van Dyke, Bill Cosby, Bob Hope, Carol Burnett, Tim Conway, Harvey Korman and many many others. All of them showed us how to laugh at ourselves and everyday living. They weren't crude, rude, didn't need to cuss, nor make lewd remarks. They all provided laughs with their ad lib comments and actions. Today's comedians would do well to watch these greats in action and learn why they were so great.

I don't find much comedy funny today. It is usually done at someone's expense, sexual in nature, gross, and sometimes downright mean. Today's comedians are lazy comedians because they want the laughs without doing the work. I believe one of the common threads for all of these great ones were their understanding of human nature and the fact they could see humor in their own lives.

A number of comedians today started out the same way. I remember Jay Leno before the Tonight Show and he was genuinely funny. He didn't make lewd remarks or do sexual humor and he became known for it. Then he began hosting the Tonight Show and, as far as I am concerned, he has ceased to be funny.

One exception today is Bill Cosby. I have followed him since the '60s and he is as funny today as he was then and he has remained true to his art. No cheap laughs, just great humor.

God gave us humor in order to lighten up our lives. But as with so much else today, we have cheapened it.

Here is a clip of Tim Conway and Harvey Korman's dentist sketch. This is an example of true comedy. If you can view this and not find it funny, I advise you to check your pulse.

Open book thread

Open_book_2 Welcome to the first Point open book thread! All this summer, we'll be posting a thread every Friday where bloggers and commenters can come to talk books. Any and all books: books that you're reading now, or that you've read, or that you want to read. Share your opinions, ask for recommendations, list your favorites, create some buzz -- anything goes.

I'll try to get the thread up earlier in the day from now on. I would have had it up earlier today had I not spent much of the day in an epic battle with the insurance company (but that's a story you don't want to hear).

Anyway, I'll lead off with this gem of a review for what sounds like a gem of a book, a novel about poet Gerard Manley Hopkins. Every once in a while you run across a review that's so good your mouth starts watering, and this is one of those times; ever since I read this one this morning, I've been itching to hit Barnes & Noble, and probably would have, had the insurance company not needed me to stay here and make 12 billion phone calls. Hopkins is one of those poets I don't understand very well but love anyway, and I can't wait to read what sounds like a wonderful novel about him.

Much as I enjoyed the review, though, one passage drew a sigh as well as a chuckle from me: "Here is what happened when I began raving to some (very nice) friends about 'Exiles' . . . This is how they replied: 'I hate poetry. I don't read it. It's a damned waste of time.' Or, 'Do you know the immense amount of harm organized religion has perpetrated over the years? Even if you do accept the notion of a personal god?'"

Yeah, heard that one before.

Now it's your turn. What are you reading, or dying to read, or wondering if you should read?

Reducing Our Oil Dependency

Gas_pump_2 American Solutions has created a petition urging Congress to "Drill Here. Drill Now. Pay Less." You can see it at this link

I've said for years that it's time for us to use our own oil, and to quit mortgaging our future to Middle Eastern despots (or South American ones). But that's just a beginning, just one small step in the process of reducing our dependence on oil in general. In the long run, we need to look to larger solutions -- like building more nuclear power plants and more mass transit systems so people don't have to use cars to get to and from work (yes, I know, that's going to be a hard habit to break: it could even require banning all gasoline-powered cars in the inner cities. That would, at least, offer an extra incentive to either take the train or buy an electric-powered car).   

I know that the higher gas prices are forcing me to rethink how often I dash to the store, and making me plot the most efficient route when I'm out running errands. In the long run, I'm sure it will affect the next car we buy (my husband is even considering getting a motorcycle to ride to work). How about you? How are gas prices affecting the way you live? 

We’ve come a long way, baby

Sex_and_the_city I probably shouldn't weigh in on Sex and the City, since I haven't seen much of the show and don't plan to see the movie. Nonetheless, being at least vaguely familiar with the storylines of both, it's hard to resist raising a cynical eyebrow at images like the one at right.

Carrie & Company are supposed to be the collective face of the strong, independent, self-aware modern woman, no? Then why is it that most of the ads for the movie are about (1) money and all the things it can buy and (2) romance with cheating womanizers?

It's always seemed so odd to me that the Sex and the City stories that so many contemporary women revel in are so similar to the plots of the fairy tales that so many of those women don't want their daughters reading . . . if you strip away the good character and the moral values of the fairy-tale heroes and heroines. The happily-ever-after ending may not be politically correct anymore, but it took SATC to tarnish it completely by making women everywhere long to see it happen for an adulterer and his paramour, who had put up with years of hurt from him. (The fact that one of the movie trailers actually has Carrie telling a little girl that life isn't like "Cinderella" indicates, sadly, that the woman seems to have missed the entire point of her own existence.)

For a slightly different take on womanhood, contemporary and traditional, my review of Lori's book A Walk with Jane Austen is now up at NRO.

(Image © HBO Films and New Line Cinema)

The Whole Story

Part of my job at BreakPoint includes being keeper of the library. The job has its perks, one being that I have to (speed) skim through new books to see which ones should be kept for future reference.   

Recently I ran across an intriguing bit of writing which you might find interesting in the preface of The Skies of Babylon: Diversity, Nihilism, and the American University by Barry Bercier. Bercier introduces a novelist whom I've never read, Heimito von Doderer, who wrote The Demons.

Bercier includes a brief section of a meditation from Doderer's novel about the intellectual disasters of Europe during the '30s and '40s. Here's the snippet, told in a narrator's voice, about "the whole story."

And yet--in fact you need only draw a single thread at any point you choose out of the fabric of life and the run will make a pathway across the whole, and down the wider pathway each of the other threads will become successively visible, one by one. For the whole is contained in the smallest segment of anyone's life story; indeed we may even say that it is contained in every single moment...

Good-bye to one of the greats

Harvey Korman passed away yesterday at age 81. Take a few minutes and enjoy a little of his work in tribute. There's so much to choose from, it wasn't easy to settle on just one! Those of you who can think of other favorites are welcome to put links to them in the comment section.

A good pastor is hard to find

At least, that's what Senator Obama must be thinking right about now.

The Point Radio: Against the College Grain

The university campus has become a place where "hooking up" is the norm -- but attitudes may be changing....

Click play above to listen.

Here is more commentary on the state of the American campus:

Continue reading "The Point Radio: Against the College Grain" »

May 29, 2008

Summer reading poll

Thanks to all who participated in the poll on celebrity news. Final results were as follows:

Total Votes: 612

6.7% - 41
Ignore it - it's all trash

44.8% - 274
Pray for celebrities - they are God's creations, too

6.5% - 40
Use the celebrities as object lessons

38.2% - 234
All of the above

3.8% - 23

It's good to see that our celebrities are getting some much needed prayer!

The new poll is on your right. You can make more than one selection in this poll. Vote and then, if you'd like, share more about your genre(s) of choice in the comment section under this post. And stay tuned for even more summer reading-related activities . . .

(Thanks to Travis and Catherina for their help with these polls.)

Travels with Jane

Map_austenfinal Our own Lori Smith has a lovely travelogue with photos up at Beliefnet, showing many of the places she visited on her quest to follow in Jane Austen's footsteps. Click here and enjoy.

If you haven't yet read Lori's book A Walk with Jane Austen, now would be a great time to get your copy; it makes perfect summer reading! (Don't forget that you can try a "free sample" of the book at BreakPoint WorldView.)

(Image © Beliefnet)

What Exactly Is a ’Centurion’?

You hear Chuck Colson mention the Centurions Program on occasion in the BreakPoint commentaries, and read their articles on our website and their posts at this blog. But maybe you still aren't sure what Centurions are all about?

In the current issue of BreakPoint WorldView, Becky Beane offers an inside glimpse of some of the work Centurions are doing "in the field" after their one-year commitment in the program.

To date, more than 400 men and women have completed their first year of Centurions training. They have been commissioned to carry on the teaching and application of biblical worldview. They are particularly challenged to engage others within their existing spheres of influence and branch out from there.

In this and next month’s issues of BreakPoint WorldView, we will tell the stories of four Centurions. In their time after receiving Centurions certification, they have walked into the unknown and made an impact on their communities. And they have taken their learning and transformed it into practical application to renew the world around them.

First, we will introduce you to Robert Mayes and Bill Peel.

Continue reading "What Exactly Is a ’Centurion’?" »

Till the fat lady . . . well, you know

"Al Gore's 'Inconvenient Truth' Being Made into Opera"

Update: It must be acknowledged that Dave Barry has my headline beat by miles. I bow to the master.

Pray for a great man of God

Dr. Michael Easley, president of Moody Bible Institute (and my former pastor), has been forced to resign by back problems that have plagued him for years. Please pray for relief and healing for Dr. Easley, one of the truly great leaders, teachers, and men of God in our generation.

It’s Not Good for Man to Be Alone

One clever fellow decided that instead of taking time for a relationship, he'd have to settle for a bed-time companion--only his companion isn't human.

Oy vey!

(Watch for language in comments.)

No Pump, No Slump

Gas_pump An article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune is speculating that fewer road trips and flights this summer due to high gas prices will result in an increase in Sunday church attendance. Whether this is true or not, I think what the church needs more than ever is a Biblical response to folks who feel the pinch of high gas prices. Hope we're ready.

The Point Radio: Friend for Hire

Truth really is stranger than fiction....

Click play above to listen.

To find out more about this strange-but-true story, see this article from Fox News.

The Africans love Obama -- or maybe not

Obamapuertorico210 While I was in Africa, I was repeatedly asked about the presidential campaign and, particularly, about Sen. Obama's candidacy. It's not hard to understand why black people in Africa are excited about the idea of a black man running for president of the U.S. One question that I was asked on several occasions was "Is America ready for a black President?"

I know my husband and others think I'm naive on this point, but I really don't think Sen. Obama's race is an issue, especially given the demographics on the "browning" of America: Hispanics, Blacks, and Asians make up somewhere between 35-40% of our population. And we've already seen a huge surge in white Americans who favor Obama. If he turns out to be the Democratic candidate (and I expect him to be), then I guess we'll just have to wait and see whether America is ready for a black President or not. 

My daughter and I fielded a lot of questions about this election.  Each time, I tried to explain my belief that neither race nor gender should play a role in our decision to vote for one candidate over another: we need to vote on the issues. So, we discussed the issues that are of the greatest concern to Americans (the economy, the war in Iraq, illegal immigration, and abortion) and explained the positions of the three leading candidates.

That's when we noticed their enthusiasm for Obama being tempered. You see, we were in a Muslim country, and Muslims -- like many Christians in America -- believe that abortion is murder. Other students wondered aloud about Obama's religion: is he a Muslim or a Christian? One student quietly told my daughter, "I don't want a Muslim to be president of the United States!" 

So, while there was excitement on the one hand, there were also serious questions about Sen. Obama. In that regard, I think the Africans are not so different than most Americans I know. As tired as we may be during this seemingly endless primary process, we need to keep paying attention to the issues -- seeking to look behind the politician's mask to see the inner man (or woman) who will be our next president. 

(Image © Reuters)

May 28, 2008

Daily roundup

Worst Year for High School Students

An article in the Wall Street Journal last Saturday talks about how the increasing competitiveness of college admissions has made high school junior year a crucible of academic pressure for many students aiming for Ivy League colleges. It seems that many high school students are living stressful lives, putting in more hours of school and extra-curricular activities just to keep up with college admission requirements and polishing up an impressive résumé to get into an elite university. Parents are influencing this trend in both good and bad ways.

Do you agree with the article? Are the students profiled in the article a minority or the majority? Who is responsible for this trend, the children or the parents? What kind of worldview are the children and their parents reflecting?

The Twilight Zone

When you put on Good Morning America and you hear them talking approvingly about a new form of stem cell research that doesn't use human embryos and avoids controversy -- even though it's still "speculative" -- it's like waking up in the Twilight Zone. In a good way.

(More here.)

From the Frontlines in China

I have a friend who works as a college professor for English Language Institute China (ELIC), an organization that sends Christian teachers to Asia. Although my friend wasn't anywhere near the earthquake, she is very aware of the emotional aftershock many of her students and fellow teachers are feeling. She writes:

Thanks for lifting up (code language for "praying for") those affected by the earthquake; keep those thoughts coming. As the death toll climbs near 70,000, there is also the challenge of many living in tents struggling to meet their daily needs. Our teachers who were closest to the earthquake are on their way home; their school closed for fear of aftershocks. The director of our program and another member of ELIC, who are both licensed counselors, have been down in the quake affected area providing emergency counseling. Many of the students have been deeply affected by this tragedy. Please be covering this nation!

Patriotic Shopping?

Bagamerican Well, here's something I didn't know about Lord & Taylor:

Ever since the Iran Hostage Crisis began in 1979, Lord & Taylor has opened each and every shopping day by playing the Star Spangled Banner, reports James Barron in the New York Times (5/26/08). The tradition began with then-chairman Joseph E. Brooks, who ordered the anthem played because, as he said at the time, "with all its problems, this is still the greatest country in the world." Joseph's idea outlasted his tenure at Lord & Taylor (he resigned when L&T was sold in 1986) and shows no signs of going away, even as the retailer undergoes "re-branding and re-imaging" to make "it relevant for today," as spokesperson La Velle Olexa puts it.

Nancy F. Koehn, a retail historian at Harvard Business School, says that by keeping the anthem, Lord & Taylor is "keeping its core attributes." She also says that the daily ritual is a reminder of a time when shopping at department stores was a day-long event. "To stand for the national anthem in a department store ... is to step briefly back into a moment when things seemed simpler and more straightforward and more firmly rooted than they are now, in the sense that people say 'I remember that' and 'I'm looking for that footing today.'"

. . . Some people stand, while others sit; some sing along while others do not. For at least one shopper, the message was clear. As the final note was played she stage-whispered, "'Play ball'" and headed for the aisles.

(From Reveries)

Un-memorializing Memorial Day

Concert She was just lying there in the grass...

I was one of the thousands who gathered in front of the Capitol Building on Sunday evening to honor those who have fought and died for freedom. As we did, we were confronted with a type of liberty that is nothing but disgusting. As my friends and I rose from the lawn in reverence at the first notes of the National Anthem, to our left we noticed a woman lying flat on her back, a posture far more appropriate for the beach than for a patriotic concert.

This woman had chosen to exercise the freedom that had been given to her by the countless men and women who died for her by disrespecting them. In her "liberation" she was distracting the rest of us from the honor we desired to pay to the members of our family -- for me, my grandfather who earned a Purple Heart in World War II, and my two cousins who have fought in Iraq, one of whom is there right now.

It doesn't bother me all that much if she's not the biggest fan of our country. I'll admit, I've had my moments. But please don't disrespect those who have given their time and their lives so that you can lie on the grass.

(Image © PBS and Capital Concerts, Inc.)

The Point Radio: Leadership Deficit

A new survey shows a crisis of leadership among America's youth....

Click play above to listen.

Learn more about this problem from Laura Sessions Stepp.

May 27, 2008

Daily roundup

A Long Way Yet to Go in Burma

Burma's ruling junta has renewed pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi's house arrest.

Police earlier detained about 20 activists as they marched to the Nobel Peace Prize laureate's home in Rangoon, where she has been held since May 2003.

US President George Bush said he was "deeply troubled" by the decision, which comes amid criticism of the generals' response to Cyclone Nargis.

Ms Suu Kyi's party won 1990 elections, but she was denied power by the junta.

The 62-year-old National League for Democracy (NLD) leader has spent more than 12 of the last 18 years in detention.

Read more. (Via UN Wire)

An Indy Ear Worm

Indy I was one of the masses who went to see Indiana Jones this weekend. Now, unfortunately, the theme music is the soundtrack to my day's routine. Mostly, I'm noticing that it isn't fitting any of my adrenaline-filled office tasks, like checking emails, writing, writing and more writing. But I did read this article this morning, and the heroic anthem seemed to fit that.

Anyone else see Indy? Personally, I missed the hunting for Bible relics. But, otherwise, I thought the movie did live up to the hype. Your thoughts?

(Image © Paramount)

Who will watch the watchers?

Under Stephen's post "Sex Change Operations....for Kids," there's an ongoing discussion about whether Boston Children's Hospital is truly performing sex changes on kids, or just delaying puberty (not that any of us consider that a great idea either). But there's no doubt at all about what's being done to an Australian 12 year old, aided and abetted by a judge and the child's own mother.

A JUDGE has allowed a 12-year-old Victorian girl to start a taxpayer-funded sex swap, despite objections from the child's father.

The girl has begun court-approved hormone treatment in the first step toward a complete gender switch.

The Family Court orders also permit the girl, who cannot be named, to apply for a new birth certificate, passport and Medicare card in a boy's name.

The application to allow the hormone treatment was lodged by the girl's mother.

A state government observer, an endocrinologist, a psychiatrist, a family counsellor and a lawyer acting on the child's behalf all supported the plan.

Read more. (H/T Mark Steyn in The Corner)

Blogger roundup

Here's some extra reading material from Point bloggers:

T. M.'s and Angelise's articles are from the April/May issue of BreakPoint WorldView. The current issue of our online magazine also has an excerpt from Lori Smith's book A Walk with Jane Austen.

Remember Also the Doughboys

Doughboys Speaking more of stories we don't want to hear, Edward G. Lengel, author of To Conquer Hell: The Meuse-Argonne, 1918, honors the "doughboys" of World War I, whose experiences and sacrifices have not received popular attention:

. . . As we observe Memorial Day, a hard truth remains: Americans haven't forgotten about the doughboys. We just didn't want to hear about them in the first place. The war's last and greatest battle involving U.S. soldiers, fought in the Meuse-Argonne region of eastern France during the autumn of 1918, sucked in more than 1 million U.S. troops and hundreds of airplanes and tanks. Artillery batteries commanded by men such as the young Harry S. Truman fired more than 4 million shells -- more than the Union Army fired during the entire Civil War. More than 26,000 doughboys were killed and almost 100,000 wounded, making the clash probably the bloodiest single battle in U.S. history. But as far as the American public was concerned, it might as well never have taken place. "Veterans said to me in their speeches and in private that the American people did not know anything about the Meuse-Argonne battle," Brig. Gen. Dennis Nolan wrote years later. "I have never understood why."

Back then, civilians justified their indifference by claiming that the veterans refused to share their stories. In reality, the ignorance was self-imposed. "The boys would talk if the questioners would listen," said one embittered ex-doughboy. "But the questioners do not. They at once interrupt with, 'It's all too dreadful,' or, 'Doesn't it seem like a terrible dream?' or, 'How can you think of it?' or, 'I can't imagine such things.' It shuts the boys up." Far from remaining silent, U.S. veterans wrote hundreds of memoirs, diaries and novels of their experiences. In Europe, Canada and Australia, such books were big business. In the United States, they went mostly unread. . . .

Historian David McCullough has said that all teachers of history should be trained storytellers. But there are some stories that Americans would rather not hear. If war tales aren't thrilling, readers and armchair Napoleons aren't interested. The Civil War and World War II seem to lend themselves to good storytelling, as long as one avoids the ugly, depressing bits. They appear to have clear beginnings and endings, with dramatic heroes and villains. They move. World War I, by contrast, with its images of trench warfare and mustard gas, is not so easy to manipulate in a marketable manner. Popular historians consequently avoid it. As one trade publisher recently told me, World War I has "poor entertainment value." Attempts to discuss it, even with avid students of military history, often end with the same comments that veterans heard back in 1919: "It's all too dreadful," and so on. So powerful is this perception that even genuinely exciting stories -- those of Medal of Honor winners Charles W. Whittlesey, Alvin C. York, John L. Barkley and Freddie Stowers -- are ignored.

We should step back and think for a moment about what this says about Americans as people. Do we honor our veterans for all their sacrifices, or do we care only if they can tell us a good story? And who, then, is guilty of ingratitude?

Continue reading "Remember Also the Doughboys" »

The Point Radio: Secrets of a Long Life

What's the secret of a long life?...

Click play above to listen.

This article at ABC News offers more practical ideas on how to live a long life.

May 26, 2008

Faith in the Midst of War

Faith_war Today is a day during which we should remember all those who have fought for freedom around the world over the years -- and thank the ones who did so and are still with us, as the opportunity presents itself.

As I mentioned Friday, many of our veterans have seen darkness we cannot begin to imagine, and some still deal with the after-effects. In the midst of the horrors of war, where is faith and where is God? Chuck Colson addresses that in today's BreakPoint commentary:

Where is God amidst the horrors of war? How do soldiers keep their faith in God’s goodness amidst the suffering and slaughter of battle?

American soldiers and sailors, airmen and Marines have asked questions like these ever since the War for Independence. The questions occupy their thoughts and find their way from faraway battlefields into letters to loved ones.

Journalist Andrew Carroll has collected many of these letters in a book titled Grace under Fire: Letters of Faith in Times of War. Among them is a note from Private Walter Bromwich, who questioned God’s role in the slaughter of World War I.

“How can there be fairness in one man being maimed for life, suffering agonies, and another killed instantaneously, while I get out of it safe?” Bromwich asked his pastor back in Pennsylvania. “What I would like to believe,” Bromwich wrote, “is that God is in this war, not as a spectator, but backing up everything that is good in us. I don’t know whether God goes forth with armies, but I do know that He is in lots of our men or they would not do what they do.”

Other soldiers worried about their public witness more than their personal safety. In 1943, Private First Class William Kiessel, who was about to take part in the invasion into France, wrote to friends that he did not want prayer for his safety, because “safety isn’t the ultimate goal. True exemplary conduct is.” And he added, “What is important is that whatever does happen to me I will do absolutely nothing that will shame my character or my God.”

Read more, and share your thoughts here.

Continue reading "Faith in the Midst of War" »

The Point Radio: Are You Being Served?

Do you want to know the secret of greatness?...

Click play above to listen.

Here are some more great ways to serve others:

Continue reading "The Point Radio: Are You Being Served?" »

May 23, 2008

Daily roundup

Posting will be light on Monday because of the holiday. Have a blessed Memorial Day.

A lesson in ’respectful disagreement’

Not everyone will agree with me -- in fact, I'm going to get blasted -- but all things considered, I think John McCain handled his conversation with Ellen DeGeneres about same-sex marriage pretty well.

Let's face it, it was going to be an awkward moment however he handled it. This is not an easy issue to discuss. First, you're dealing with a topic that is being sold as the big warm-and-fuzzy issue and the big civil rights issue of the day simultaneously. Second and more important, you're dealing with fellow human beings with feelings. As valid as conservatives' reasons are for not wanting to see a radical redesign of marriage enacted into U.S. law, when you come face-to-face with someone for whom this is a deeply important personal issue, there's going to be misunderstanding, hurt feelings, and often anger. Respect and understanding are paramount in any discussion of the sort.

Civil unions aside (though I do have to say that Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse does an excellent job here of offering reasons why that middle ground won't work), I think that calmly stating his "respectful disagreement," wishing her happiness, adding a touch of humor, and leaving it there was probably the best thing McCain could have done, given the nature of the conversation and the format of the show.

What do you think?

(H/T About.com)

Remembering the other veterans

This weekend is one in which we tend to remember all the uplifting, inspiring stories of veterans and current soldiers and the sacrifices they have and are making for our freedom. And well we should remember them. But let us also remember that casualties of war don't always happen on the battlefield -- that even the soldiers who come home alive and seemingly whole may still be haunted by horrid memories of war, memories that prohibit them from achieving a "normal" life again.

"Tom Ricks's Inbox," from the Washington Post, is one of my favorite regular columns. Ricks offers an unsugarcoated view inside the military. This past Sunday's entry was heartbreaking -- and reason to pray harder for all soldiers and the families who support them when they come home, filled with memories of darkness we cannot imagine: things they saw, things done to them, things they have done.

Last January, this feature carried an excerpt from an article in the Marine Corps Gazette by Marine Staff Sgt. Travis N. Twiggs, detailing his struggle with the post-traumatic stress disorder that resulted from one tour of duty in Afghanistan and three in Iraq. Twiggs pulled no punches about his "psychosis," writing that he acted out combat episodes in the halls of the Bethesda National Naval Medical Center. But it concluded on what I thought was a generous, upbeat note: "[T]he PTSD is not completely gone. There can be a helicopter passing by or a loud noise or even certain words and it will remind me of the past. It's just that now I know how to deal with it. . . . "

He sounded like he was getting the help he needed. Then, on Thursday, I saw this article by the Associated Press:

Continue reading "Remembering the other veterans" »

The Point summer reading list (with a little help from our friends)

Book_stack Thanks to all of you who helped to contribute to this year's recommended reading list. You can see the finished product here.

As Chuck Colson mentioned in yesterday's BreakPoint commentary, we have more book-related activities coming up this summer, so be ready to share more thoughts on books with us!

It’s Friday ... I’m Feeling a GraphJam

Introicon My sincere thanks to Julie W for directing my attention to GraphJam, the humor site for those who are analysts at heart. Current fave posts are Population of Alderaan and Ownership of Base.

Honorable Mention goes to the Relative Emotional States post, in which I learn that Three Dog Night was, in fact, a band with three vocalists who don't play instruments. Is it just me, or is watching two guys do nothing but stand there and smile for 90% of the song ... occasionally belting out "NUMBER!!" ... exceedingly awkward?

Anyway, I think we need to submit a GraphJam post on behalf of The Point. All of their content is acquired via submission, and you, the Pointificators, are the smartest commenters around, so I know we'll come up with a brilliant idea (unless the upcoming holiday weekend has you thinking grilling, not graphing).

Continue reading "It’s Friday ... I’m Feeling a GraphJam" »

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Dog_cat_rat Well, gotta hand it to this guy: He has found a profound and amusing way of making some worldview statements using a rat on a cat on a dog. It gets theologically profound when the owner points out that you can't force a cat to do anything--so how did he get his cat to cooperate in this extraordinary worldview exercise?

(Image © CNN)

The next Carrie Underwood hit?

"Pilots run out of fuel, pray, land near Jesus sign"

The Murph Challenge

Lt_michael_murphy Heard of the “Murph”? A friend introduced me to it and has pulled me into doing the “Murph” every Saturday morning. It’s a workout program that involves completing a 1-mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 squats and then another 1-mile run in the shortest possible time. More fitness enthusiasts are getting into it and in fact many are encouraged to register online and do the “Murph” challenge this Memorial Day.

What’s interesting about the “Murph” is that it was developed in memory of Navy Lieutenant Michael Murphy of Patchogue, N.Y., who was killed in Afghanistan in 2005 and received the Medal of Honor last year. Lt. Murphy was killed trying to save his SEAL team during a fight against 40 insurgents. He exposed himself to enemy fire in order to radio for help for his team.

The workout was one of Lt. Murphy’s favorites and he’d named it “Body Armor.” But from the time of his heroic death it was referred to as “Murph” in honor of Lt. Murphy, who wanted nothing more in life than to serve his country and its people. What a great expression of neighborly love. “Greatest love is shown when people lay down their lives for their friends." (John 15:13, NLT) Just like Lt. Murphy did, giving our lives to serve our neighbors is the best way to honor our soldiers and celebrate Memorial Day.

Are you ready for the “Murph” challenge?

(Image © the U.S. Navy)

The Point Radio: Living in Fast Forward

Life is not just a race....

Click play above to listen.

Want some more thoughts on slowing down the race of life?

Continue reading "The Point Radio: Living in Fast Forward" »

May 22, 2008

Daily roundup

Re: Steven Curtis Chapman Tragedy

A Web page/blog in honor of Maria Chapman has been set up here, with places for friends and fans to express their condolences to the Chapman family.

Only human

Janehorrocks The next time someone hands you that cliché about how wonderful things would be if only women ran the world, hand her (it's usually a her, for obvious reasons) a copy of The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard.

My friend Mike, a font of all things eclectic, recently loaned me his copy of this six-episode BBC series, about a supermarket manager who impulsively decides to become a candidate for prime minister -- and wins the election. At first glance, Mrs. Pritchard looks like classic wish fulfillment for both feminists and anyone who's ever wanted to stick it to the politicians -- in other words, nearly all of us.

However, as the action shifts from the excitement of the independent outsider's campaign to the gritty day-to-day reality of running the government, the tone gradually turns more realistic, and thus much, much darker.

While Mrs. Pritchard is not someone I would vote for -- I usually found myself agreeing with her opposition in Parliament -- her love for her country and desire to help people make her an engaging and sympathetic figure to watch. Unfortunately, for those who watch carefully, her sunny optimism is a red flag almost from the beginning. She and her largely female coalition go to work with the highest hopes and ideals, convinced that the new PM has her finger on the pulse of the "great British public" and knows all about how to gauge their opinions, improve their lives, and get them more involved in politics. Then she discovers how easy it is, when you have power, just to tell people what to do and make them do it, whether it's truly in their best interests or not. Such is the nature of the political process that the lovable middle-class mother of two begins to turn into a bully.

By the last episode, Mrs. Pritchard's family is falling apart and almost every one of her advisers has been morally compromised. And one of the few who's managed to keep her nose relatively clean is being corrupted by none other than the idealistic Mrs. Pritchard.

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Islam in the West, Christianity in the East

From the latest issue of BreakPoint WorldView, Chuck Colson on Islam:

Recently, Archbishop Rowan Williams suggested accommodating British Muslims to observe their own law, rather than that of the United Kingdom. Williams proposes finding “a constructive accommodation with some aspects of Muslim law”—in other words, sharia. That begs the question: Where would Williams draw the line? At husbands beating their wives for wearing Western clothes, or perhaps stoning a woman accused of adultery?

Williams’s fellow bishop, Michael Nazir-Ali begged to differ. His father had to leave Pakistan after converting to Christianity—he knows a few things, needless to say, about how Islam fails to mesh with Western ideas and law. Nazir-Ali told the UK Telegraph that sharia is “in tension” with “fundamental aspects” of Anglo-American law. That is because our “legal tradition” is “rooted in the quite different moral and spiritual vision deriving from the Bible.” He also recently spoke about “no-go zones” that Christians should avoid due to threat of violence. Now his own family requires police protection as a result of death threats.

As I said recently on “BreakPoint,” we fawningly respond to Islamic overtures for dialogue, even as we see Christians being persecuted in Muslim nations—and sharia law being imposed on others right in our own backyards. This is a sign of the Church’s weakness. We’re not involved in a mutual exercise of tolerance; we’re being hijacked. . . .

Now, there is good news in this story about Islam and the West. As I recently noted on “BreakPoint,” all over the world, Muslims are converting to Christianity. . . .

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The core of reality

From Jennifer F. at "Et Tu?":

On Thursday afternoon my children and I went outside to investigate an odd object on our sidewalk, and unfortunately discovered that it was a badly injured bird. . . .

I'd tried to shelter my kids from the sad situation, but my son got a pretty good look. He turned to me with deep concern on his face, hoping for an explanation. It was obvious that this little animal was dying. With tears in my eyes, I glanced from him to the bird and stammered, "It's OK, honey. The birdie is going to be with Jesus."

It was strange to hear myself say something like that.

In my culture growing up, suffering and death had no transcendent meaning. Living things suffer, life is unfair, everything dies, and that was that. When we heard Christians comfort one another by saying that deceased loved-ones had "gone to heaven" or "were with Jesus," their assurances seemed like nothing more than attempts to drown out reality with platitudes.

Yet there I was, saying the same thing to my own children. And, oddly enough, I meant it, and found it deeply comforting. It doesn't seem like a statement so simple could have much importance, and yet I found those few words contained truths more important than almost anything else. As I heard myself repeat the words that I once thought were bromidic sayings for people who couldn't face reality, I realized that they contained the truths that are the very core of reality.

Read more.

(H/T Wittingshire)

Double Tragedy Strikes Steven Curtis Chapman’s Family

Last night Steven's 5-year-old daughter was struck and killed in their driveway by a car driven by her brother.

Our prayers are needed for Steven and his family at this sad time. You can read about it here.

Back to the Rescue

Tornado Katrina put FEMA down in history books as one of America's bad guys. Here's a short review of its "misdemeanors" from the pen of WORLD Magazine's editor Marvin Olasky in The Politics of Disaster:

The federal government, it seemed, was the bad kind of father, alternately a bully and a pantywaist with little in between. Sometimes, as in Jackson (Miss.), FEMA merely passed out the money to people without demanding any evidence. But those who had truly suffered learned, as the (Washington) Times summarized the message from FEMA spokesman David G. Passey, that they needed to "register for assistance and that checks or funds transfers would usually take between 10 days and two weeks to reach them. Many people said they could not wait that long, or did not have the patience to deal with all the bureaucratic mix-ups."

In refreshing comparison, volunteers from churches across the Gulf coast tied on their aprons and came to the rescue. Faith-based organizations that normally would have been slammed by the ACLU and the liberal press for "proselytizing" while providing a hot meal or making a bed, were left alone. It even caused some atheists to perk up their ears at the overwhelming turnout of Christian groups. One atheist writing in the Guardian Weekly commented:

[Christians] are the people most likely to take the risks and make the sacrifices involved in helping others...The correlation is so clear that it is impossible to doubt that faith and charity go hand in hand.

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