Author: Karl (page 1 of 40)

Merry Christmas Gents

Gents: Feliz Navidad

I was thinking of what I might give each of our Bible Study “gents” for Christmas but realized that I was probably too late. Besides, I don’t like to shop, even on-line, Black Friday is now Old Friday, and none of the men, like me, “need anything.”

Nevertheless, the thought plagued me: What would I give these gentlemen, if I could?

I was reminded that when we lived in a remote village in Papua New Guinea many years ago, Joice would play a game with our daughter Karol, whom she home-schooled. We had an old Montgomery Ward catalogue that all of us liked to look through. Sometimes Joice would give it to Karol, saying “Imagine that I gave you $50 to spend and you can buy whatever you like from the catalogue.” Karol would spend hours, looking at toys, games, clothes and record the prices of those she liked until she came up with her $50 quota. It was fun to see what she wanted—but, of course, didn’t get it. Years later, upon reflection, and in tune with current thinking, we realized that we must have damaged her psychologically in some way. However, she doesn’t think so and has vowed not to report us to Homeland Security, the FBI, or the DaySpring church council. This is somewhat comforting because I am currently on the church council.

I decided to play the catalogue game for some of our gents, or Bible Study men. I wanted to be somewhat spiritual, so I opened my Christian Book catalogue, where its banner claims “Everything Christian for less!” Being a retired missionary, I am always looking for a bargain.

The first thing that caught my eye was the “ESV Illuminated Scripture Journals, 19 Volumes, New Testament” marked down from $99.99 to $54.99, a savings of $45. This seemed the ideal gift for Don (I won’t say which Don) because each page of text had a corresponding blank page opposite so that Don could “engage with and reflect on God’s Word.” Some careful examination, however, told me that this would not do: the type point was 11.75, much too small for the aging eyes of either Don. It did have hand-lettered (rather than by foot or elbow) illustrations and a slip-cased softcover but I would have to find something a little easier on the eyes (and mind).

I wondered who of the men might like “Jesus Calling for Christmas,” which includes (hallelujah!) a “joy filled pack” that is overflowing with gifts for the merry and Christ-centered holiday. There is even “12 festive cards with Scripture from 2 Corinthians 4:6 (I didn’t have time to look it up), a CD with selections from Handel’s Messiah,” as well as a cherry red tote with words engraved on it from John 3.16. A long-term Babptis would like that, I thought, so I put Bill’s name beside the catalogue picture. Bill (and Joe) might also appreciate the NKJV American Patriot’s Bible, but it might be more appropriate to imagine giving it to them on Veteran’s day.

This was fun: imaginary buying. I usually sit next to Bob and we share information on books and Bibles. I had introduced him to the One Hour Bible and he had told me about the One Minute Bible. When I get a minute, I am going to have a look at it. Bob, I thought, would like a study Bible. That choice slowed me down considerably: there were so many versions. Would he like The ESV Reformation Study Bible, 2017, Condensed edition or The NKJV Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible, Second Edition? The Reformation Bible was in a “more concise form,” portable and “a perfect solution for the on-the-go believer.” Not many of our Bible Study men can be classified as “on-the-go,” so maybe the Stanley Bible was a better idea. It has 30 life principles, 2,500 life lessons, 43,000 cross references, and an unspecified number of “What the Bible Says” articles and “Answers to Life’s Questions.” I’m going to have to think about his imaginary gift Bible more.

The process has taken more time than I imagined and it wouldn’t be prudent to mention all the men’s names and the choices I came up with. There are so many study Bibles: The KJV Ryrie, The NASB Ryrie, the NKJF Full-Color, the NKJV Jeremiah (not the original prophet, but a later TV one), The NIV Jeremiah, the ESV Jeremiah, the ESV MacArthur, the NASB MacArthur, the NLT Swindoll, the NKJV Wiersbe, and so on (and on).

Well, as someone said, “You can’t have everything—where would you put it?” There was one last person that I had to find a Bible for: our teacher Eric, and fortunately I found just the page of selections for him. There it was, or rather there they were: the NASB Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible, The ESV Hebrew-Greek Stud Bible, The KJV Hebrew-Greek Word Study Bible, Sixth Edition and the “new” New English Translation Bible, Full-Notes edition. I dreamed that I would buy all of them for our teacher.

I can’t go on, but I will mention The ESV Large Print Bible for Jim when he can no longer read the screen on his i-phone. (There is also a “super giant print” edition available.)

I couldn’t quit without doing some imaginary shopping for myself. However, I don’t need a Bible, whether for the study of Greek, Hebrew, or Spanish. Also, I don’t need (yet) the super giant-print, wide-margin, or the NRSV New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha. I need something more practical, like The Art of Neighboring or The Search for Significance. Then I found what I thought would be just right: Putting an X Through Anxiety and it was only $1.49. My time had not been wasted. It was a good Christmas day of shopping after all.

Karl Franklin
Christmas 2019

A Football Interview

A Football Innerview

The football season has happened upon us and in my views I chanced upon an interview between the well-known sports commentator Sippy Boltcutter, who once played for the Kentucky Frymakers, and Spud (Big Hoss) Spinebreaker, newly recruited left tackle for the Baylor Bears.

Sippy caught up with Spud outside the Big Bottle Brewery in Waco, Texas where this interview took place for WXAKY, Friday the 13th of December, prior to Spud’s leaving to play in the Substitute Splenda bowl game in Dallas the very next day. Some of the commentary has been edited to make sense.

Sippy: Spud, if I may call you that, can you tell us when you first began to play football?

Spud: Mama tells me it was in 2nd grade at the Pushback Primary school near Dallas, but I don’ think so. Daddy gave me a football when I was three years old and said he made my first tackle.

Sippy: I understand that you went to Dunkerville H.S. and played. Was that hard?

Spud: No man, I mean, we were like brothers there and loved each other. We had each other’s backs all the time. I mean we were like right there when we needed.

Sippy: According to my records you graduated from Dunkerville in 2015 after being selected to the All State Head Targeting Team, a recent innovative squad, supported by Jerry Jones.

Spud: Yeah, I mean we the ones, man. Everybody got out of our way. We be big and mean.

Sippy: I understand you got a lot of offers for college scholarships.

Spud: Yea, M&A wanted me bad and UCAL, UTB, ATM and TCY sent their big boys to find me.

Sippy: What made you decide on ATM? What did they offer you that the other schools didn’t?

Spud: Mama told me not to go to any school that offered me a car, house or refrigerator. Baylor didn’t have a car at the time and said that there were rules or something that they had to follow. My daddy was strong on rules, so I took ATM.

Sippy: You mean Baylor didn’t offer you anything?

Spud: Well, they said I didn’t need to take any hard classes—like English or History—and that I could stay in a place off the college campus. They said they’d give me teachers to help me write papers. That sounded good to me, but daddy liked ATM better.

Sippy: So you went to ATM for a while but then what happened?

Spud: One year there and I blew out my knee at a weekend party. The doc needed to cut me and then a lot of rehab.

Sippy: And after that why did you transfer to Baylor?

Spud: I had two buddies—Hubcap Jones and Facemask Wilsox there and they told me to come.

Sippy: what has been the hardest part for you at Baylor?

Spud: I’ve had a lot of trouble learnin’ the bear claw—my fingers and hands are big and just don’t let me do it good. Some of the cheerleaders laughed at me and I may file a complaint.

Sippy: What are you intending to major in?

Spud: Some of my buddies recommend psychology, but I ain’t taking nothin.

Sippy: No cars, houses, refrigerators?

Spud: Nothin—I mean to gradjeate and I ain’t going to jail.

Sippy: Didn’t one of your buddies get arrested for DIU and an accident?

Spud: That was Fenderbender Jones II, but he’s kinda dumb.

Sippy: And what would you like to do once you leave Baylor?

Spud: I wanna sell cars and motorcycles. I got a buddy, Slamdunk Pearson, who does that. He says he makes a lot of money and meets really nice people.

Sippy: Well Spud, we need to wrap it up—our audience can be grateful for the fine athletes that Baylor has been recruiting. The President is planning a party for them.

Spud: I hear she is a real cool Pres.

Sippy: Thanks Spud, and hats off to Baylor and you as a fine scholar athlete.

Spud: Huh?

The end of football season in Baylor
Sick em’ Bears

Brooks on the Second Mt

Brooks, David. 2019. The second mountain: The quest for a moral life. New York: Random House.

Part I: The Two Mountains.

The first mountain is the normal one: the person performs in order to be successful and, when this happens, he or she begins to wonder, “Is this all there is to life? The second mountain involves a rebellion, however slight, against mainstream culture and considering others who are in need. It involves a vocation, a spouse and family, a philosophy or faith and a community. Brooks takes up each of these in the book. He notes the joy and satisfaction on starting on his quest for a moral life.

1) Moral ecologies: These are a “collective response to the big problem of a specific moment” (4). They are built on a series of assumptions: the people’s right to live as they please; the God within; privatization; total freedom; the centrality of accomplishment. A tension between the self and society.

2) The Instagram life: “the big swim to nowhere”; the aesthetic life; and the notion that complete personal freedom “sucks”.

3) The insecure overachiever: leading to personal identity and your job title alone, constantly comparing yourself to others.

4) The valley: The “social” valley has led to loneliness, a crisis of meaning, distrust, tribalism and suffering. “suffering shatters the illusion of self-sufficiency” (17).

5) The wilderness: leading to confusion of purpose and a need to shed the old self and let the new self emerge—discovering your heart and soul (43).

6) Heart and soul: “The soul is the piece of your consciousness that has moral worth and bears moral responsibility” (46). We come to see the shallowness of life, when we are not fulfilled, leading to hardship, which is necessary to begin the “second journey” (51).

7) The committed life: commitment begins with the love of something, a contract with it. It gives us our identity, a sense of purpose and builds our moral character.

8) The second mountain. There becomes a motivational shift (67) that involves our desires being transformed. States include: material pleasure, ego pleasure, intellectual pleasure, generativity, fulfilled love and transcendence (“The feeling we get when living in accordance with some ideal” (67).

The four commitments. Part II: Vocation.

9) What vocation looks like: “The think everybody knows about finding a vocation is that it’s quite different from finding a career” (89). Brooks notes that “The summons to vocation is a very holy thing. It feels mystical, like a call from deep to deep” (93).

10) The annunciation moment: realizing the moment or time when you have the awareness of a vocation and finding your purpose in life.

11) What mentors do: learning how to deal with success and error. [See my article on “Mentoring a mother tongue speaker.”]

12) Vampire problems: Choices that determine the kind of person you are and become. Shoiuld the decision be rational, which Brooks sees as a “fable” (109) or should the “daemons” (unresolvable tensions) take over and determine the journey? No one can consciously “anesthetize the daemon” but people can be strangers to their own desires and settle for a false life (115). It is not about a career path but about what “gives me my deepest satisfaction” (121) and is therefore the right “fit” for me.

13) Mastery: “A job is a way of making a living, but work is a particular way of being needed, of fulfilling the responsibility that life has placed before you” (123). A vocation makes the man.

Part III: Marriage.

14) The Maximum Marriage: “Passion peaks among the young, but marriage is the thing that peaks in old age” (139). Brooks notes that “marriage is the ultimate moral education” (144)—it demands nearly everything and gives nearly everything (146).

15) The stages of intimacy I: the glance, curiosity and the dialogue precede opening the gates to each other.

16) The stages of intimacy II: the leap, crisis and forgiveness precede fusion.

17) The marriage decision: Are you ready? Do you really like the person? Does the person fill your need? How high is the bar? Quoting Lewis Torman, there are things to look for in a relationship: happiness of parents; childhood happiness; lack of conflict with mother; home discipline (firm, not harsh); strong attachment to both mother and father; lack of conflict with father; frankness from parents about sex; degree of childhood punishment; neither disgust or aversion of premarital attitude about sex (168).

18) Marriage: The school you build together: building intimacy with autonomy; the crises of life; a rich sexual life; keep alive the idealized images of each other; empathetic wisdom; communication the art of recommitment. The first love is champagne (183), the second love is the second mountain. It is love that endures until death.

Part IV: Philosophy and Faith.

19) Intellectual commitments: The evolution of American education, including the humanistic ideal (192) and the intellectual virtues. Brooks notes that “The educated life is a journey toward higher and higher love” (201).

20) Religious commitment: stories about how some people, including a nod to himself (Brooks) have found faith.

21) A most unexpected turn of events: further examples of faith in the author’s life. His was a “pilgrimage” from the Jewish tradition into an understanding of grace. The Jews of NY put “peoplehood before faith” (210) but “the Jesus story was not about worldly accomplishment” (219). He reviews his interaction and subsequent attachment to Anne Snyder, researcher and colleague. Brooks describes his “own moment of decision (245ff) and it involved reading many authors and experiencing faith as change.

22) Ramps and walls: Brooks describes several walls: 1) the siege mentality, dividing those “who are unimpeachably good and those who are irredeemably bad” (256); 2) the wall of bad listening where people “unfurl the maxims regardless of circumstances” (256); 3) the wall of invasive care; 4) the wall of intellectual mediocracy—those who are brutal in the “march for excellence” (257). He also found ramps: 1) ritual—moral order and sacred story; 2) unabashed faith; 3) prayer; 4) spiritual consciousness; 5) the language of good and evil, now “largely abandoned in the public world,” (259), especially the word “sin.” “I am a wandering Jew and a very confused Christian, but how quick is my pace, how open are my possibilities, and how vast are my hopes” (262).

Part V: Community.

23) The stages of community building I: unveiling yourself and confronting our weaknesses in conjunction with others.

24) The stages of community building II: village over self; initiating connections; radical hospitality; community as expert; the least are the most (286). “Thick institutions have a physical location, often cramped, where members meet fact to face on a regular basis, such as a dinner table or a packed gym or an assembly hall” (294).

25) Conclusion: The rationalist manifesto: an examination of hyper-individualism vs. relationalism in the process of becoming a person. Brooks is interested in “the good life,” not in terms of things, but rather in terms of commitments and relationships. This, he notes, will lead to “the good society” (308). He concludes with a declaration of interdependence in which joy is recognized as a moral outlook.

Acknowledgments: there are many, but he concludes with Anne: “This book has been, and the rest of my life will be, warmed and guided by Anne’s light” (315).

Notes 11 pages that are cross-referenced to each chapter of the book.

Index: key terms are agency, beauty, Christianity, commitment, community, culture, ego/self, emotion, faith, first mountain, God, happiness, heart/desiring heart, individualism, Jewish people and Judaism, joy, loneliness, love, marriage, moral ecology, morality, purpose, relationships, second mountain, society, spirituality, suffering, the valley, vocation and wilderness.

Brooks is extremely well read and quotes many authors. Those who seem most quoted are: William F. Buckley Jr., Frederick Buechner, Edmund Burke, Dorothy Day, Alai de Botton, Fyodor Dostoyefsky, Victor Fankl, Sarah Hemminger, Abraham Joshua Heschel, James Hollis, William James, Jesus, Soren Kierkegaard, Martin Luther King Jr., C.S. Lewis, Abraham Lincoln, Friedrich Nietszche, Henri Nouwen, Anne Snyder, Joseph Soloveitchik, Davy and Sheldon Vanauken, David Foster Wallace, Judith Wallerstein and William Wordsworth.

The book is easy reading, aside from looking into the notes and index for the many quotes and references. I found the chapters on vocation and marriage especially well written, with practical ideas and comments.

Karl Franklin
October 2019

On Parade

The Baylor Homecoming Parade was last Saturday, and it reminded me of some parades I have seen. One vivid one was when we were living in Canberra, Australia and watched the ANZAC parade, in which Australian and New Zealand military veterans marched, as best they could, in groups representing various wars and conflicts. The Aussies didn’t care if the occasionally tipsy soldier got out of line.

Of course, it was nothing like Chairman Kim and his mighty men and missiles on parade, but it was impressive. The North Koreans march in what seems to be almost goose-stepping monotony—thousands upon thousands of them—past their beloved leader and dictator, who salutes them smartly. It was Hitler all over again.

In Texas, generally, the parades are small and patriotic—lots of American flags, the Shriner’s racing about on their scooters, fire trucks, local High School bands tooting and drumming, convertibles carrying notable and not so notable politicians, jeeps, a few floats and of course Texans riding their horses. The horses are always last in the parade and you can imagine why—who would want to march after the horses deposit their food remains down the street?

But I have a gripe about parades, and it came to light at the Baylor Parade. There were scores of people on floats and on the street as well, who were throwing candy to the children (and some big adults). The children were expecting candy—lots of it—they were holding sacks like it was Halloween only it was not “trick or treat.” It was “fill er up—throw some here.”

The problem I see is that lawsuits and parade candy may become mixed. Some of those kids are going to get awfully fat from eating so much candy and they will decide, as a result, that the Parade is responsible for their being a fat boy or a fat girl. They will blame Baylor for their obesity, and it will go to court and cost the college millions of dollars. They will be fat-shamed, and it will be Baylor’s fault.

There is no good reason to throw candy. Instead, why not have Kentucky Fried throw out wings and Chic-fil-a can toss the kids chicken nuggets; The Chinese restaurants can chuck rice balls and I Hop can spin their pancakes to help the kids have fun with frisbee-cakes, whirling them up and down the street and over and in the floats. Parade helpers, dressed like bears—the Baylor mascot—could give cups of Dr Pepper to the very young, preparing them in life for the Baylor beverage of choice.

Of course, I know that won’t happen. There are too many sororities and fraternities represented in the Parade, all performing deeds of kindness around the campus and city. I tried to keep track of each Greek alphabet letter signified in the Parade and found that Chi, Pi, and Psi were underreported and Zeta, Xsi and Omicron barely got a mention. This is surely something that the Baylor president and the Greek department should be made aware of. There was also an over-abundance of Parade queens, but no Parade kings. I have referred this discrepancy to the Future Baylor Nurses Association, The Baylor Dive Club and the Noble Nose Brotherhood.

Where they will take it remains a secret, but rumors are that the Virtual Reality Club and the Ronald McDonald House have also shown an interest.

I was somewhat shocked—as any good Baptist should be—by how many dance groups were in the Parade: the Golden Wave Band, with 300 members (or was it 3000?), the Baylor Dance Company, swing dancers, country dancers, and even the Phi Gama’s Honky Tonky Boot Stomping group.

I have mentioned the matter to the Dean of Social Services, the Baylor Pre-Vet Medical Association, The Salvation Army and Truett Seminary. In the future expect more waltzes, calypso and flamenco, perhaps even a fire dance, where the performer spins poi, consisting of wire wool in chicken wire cages first dipped in paraffin.

However, I must not close in a negative mode. The enthusiasm of the kids getting candy, the beauty of the convertibles with their shivering queens, the 300 sorority queens (or was it 3000?), and the cowboys and cowgirls with their horses—it made my eyes water and my heart pump wildly.

I awoke suddenly in this condition and realized I was now watching the Baylor football game—it had been a long sleep, dream and parade. I was bleeding green and gold.

In case I may have made up some of this, I’ll check with the Baylor Adult Day Care Center for help and see if they will loan me a service dog.

October 2019
Waco, Texas

Self-Service and Drive-Thrus

Remember the White Tower chain of hamburger joints? These small shops were set up so that the customer could watch a blob of hamburger smashed to a small pancake size, quickly cooked mass, and served up in a matter of minutes. The first store began in Wichita in 1916, but they quickly spread across the U.S.

These tiny white huts were the forerunners to the McDonald brothers, who opened shop in 1948 to show us how a high speed hamburger should be done—quickly and tastelessly. It was followed by Burger King and Wendys, and now many others, all seeing how fast they can get us to buy, devour and pay for a hamburger—or chicken sandwich, pizza, taco, donut or cup of coffee. We have become the Olympic champions of fast food and drive-thrus.

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