Warning: Contains Hot Coffee

Lars dislike of coffee may have saved him from a painful disaster had he used an EspressoExpress. The coffee-making device is being recalled because “the heating element can ‘forcefully separate from its base during the brewing cycle.'” If the product was properly labeled with warning to the user, I don’t see the need for the recall. “Warning: May spew scalding liquid while brewing. If contact with skin, consult a physician. What remains in the carafe should be great espresso. Enjoy.”

Franchises: Voting and Starbucks

First things first: Vote tomorrow. I won’t tell you how to vote. Since I know I’ve been fully as successful as CBS News in keeping my political preferences secret, I feel confident I remain non-partisan, fair and balanced when I advise you to vote as your heart tells you I would vote.

Look—I know that only a meteor strike on the North Side of Minneapolis will prevent a former Nation of Islam member—an associate of Louis Farrakhan’s, supported by CAIR—from being my congressman, and I’m still voting. So you can certainly make the effort.

Sharia law is probably next thing. You think the ACLU’ll complain when that happens? I can hear them now—“What’s the problem? It was just Christianity in government we were worried about. The Constitution doesn’t say anything about Islam.”

I finally figured out where to vote. I got a map in a city mailing, telling me which precinct I was in, and I noted that it did not jibe with the information I’d gotten from the Secretary of State’s website. I called city hall and got the answer (I think). Naturally, my polling place is the one farthest away from where I live.

Brother Moloch spent last night in my spare room. I took a half-day off work and drove him to the airport today. He’s in the sky now, winging his way to Tanzania to visit the Youngest Niece, who’s spending a semester there. Her chief supply request? “Bring Gummi Bears.”

I can imagine the Man from Macedonia telling Paul in the vision: “Come over to Macedonia and help us. Bring Gummi Bears.”

(By the way, I’ve always wondered at the people who ask how Paul knew the man was from Macedonia. Hello? The guy said, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” You’ve got to figure he wasn’t Belgian.)

Moloch broke in my coffee maker for me. I bought the machine months ago, when my cousin from Norway came to visit. You can’t host guests from Norway without offering them coffee. Coffee is the Norwegian national jones. You know why the Vikings turned into Scandinavians, why they went from the terrors of the world to the dullest people in Europe (the dullest continent)?

It’s because they finally got coffee. “Ah. That’s better. Somehow I don’t feel like fighting anyone anymore. I feel like wearing clogs and making furniture with nothing but right angles.”

But my cousin didn’t drink coffee. This created an instant bond between us. We are both Unworthy, Uncaffeinated Norwegians.

My secret shame (well one of my secret shames) has always been that I didn’t drink coffee. All my grandparents drank the stuff. My parents and all my uncles and aunts drank it. But my brothers, Moloch and Baal and I, we never picked up the habit. We never saw the point.

Until Moloch became a pastor. Lutheran pastors are required under some obscure provision of the Book of Concord to drink coffee. What are you supposed to do, go to Mrs. Olson’s house (if you remember Mrs. Olson, don’t say anything. You’ll only prove you’re as old as I am) and say, “Oh no, I don’t drink coffee. Got any tea? Moxie? Single Malt Whisky? Absinthe?”

You’ll drink coffee and like it.

In fact, after a while, you’ll be screaming and breaking out in hives if you don’t get it.

Philosophy of Science: Evolution

Maxine of Petrona has a couple posts on evolution. The first points to several reviews of Richard Dawkins’ book The God Delusion and other evolutionary items. The second post criticizes a librarian who appears to leap the logic to conclude that libraries are biased against intelligent design theories.

Author Marilynne Robinson also reviewed Dawkins’ book in the latest Harper’s. Mark Bertrand summarizes that review here:

In a nutshell, the problem with Dawkins is that he compares the very worst of religion with the very best of science. Nineteenth and early twentieth century race-based eugenics isn’t “real science,” in Dawkins view — in spite of its widespread acceptance by the scientific community worldwide, not just in Nazi Germany — but suicide bombings, the Inquisition, and the murder of abortion clinic doctors are real religion. Historically speaking, science hasn’t always made things better, just as religion hasn’t made them worse. But, as Robinson points out, Dawkins isn’t concerned too much with historical realities.

Perhaps Robinson makes the point on which I always stand with evolution (though I didn’t stand there firmly in our recent blog argument), that being the theory of evolution is only a philosphy of science, a way of viewing the evidence, not the only conclusion for clear-headed scientists.

Next in the Continuing Saga of Mr. Darcy

Do you remember that bit of news on publishers seeking out fan-fic writers and a particular trilogy based on Pride and Prejudice? Will Duquette has read the first in that trilogy, An Assembly Such As This by Pamela Aidan. He says it isn’t all that bad. “Aidan’s Darcy is nevertheless an intriguing character, consistent with Austen’s Darcy.”

Speaking of fan-fic, November is National Novel Writing Month. I want to type out some fiction this month as well, not for a novel, but for sketches and stories. I may shove some of it to the blog so you have the “opportunity” to read or ignore it.

Bertrand on The Master’s Artist

J. Mark Bertrand describes what it means to write stories as a Christian, someone who belongs to Adonai:

The Master’s Artist isn’t a synonym for “an evangelical writer” . . . It bespeaks an effort to do one’s art graciously, with beauty and truth, to do it theologically, applying the ideas of scripture like so much sandpaper to the ideas of man. The evangelical artist might be content to argue one side against another, but the Master’s Artist argues against himself as well as his world, longing in some small way to be useful as an instrument of Christ’s comprehensive redemptive work.

Drawn and Haggard

The whole Ted Haggard thing makes me sad. Not only for its own sake, but because it strikes a nerve around here.

I wasn’t actually involved with the church body I now work for, back when it happened, except in the sense that the church I grew up in had joined up. I got the news from a friend (now a former friend) who derived considerable pleasure from the discomfiture of those disgusting pietists.

It was several years ago now, back when the Very Large Lutheran Church Body Which Shall Remain Nameless was coalescing like a lump in a batch of Cream o’ Wheat (“Hey! You guys don’t believe anything anymore, and we don’t believe anything anymore either! No reason we can’t do whatever it is we’re doing all together!”). Lots of churches that hadn’t gotten the Postmodern Memo were looking for a new affiliation, and our group looked pretty good to many of them. We (and by “we” I mean “they,” because I wasn’t involved yet) were doing great, adding congregations almost on a weekly basis.

But the scandal threw all that in the dumper for a while.

The president of our fellowship, a man widely liked, respected and admired, was discovered to be living a double life. He was, as it turned out, a secret bisexual. He couldn’t hide it anymore when his wife was diagnosed with H.I.V.

I came on staff some time later, when the wounds were beginning to heal. But the pain remained; the betrayal was far from forgotten. The man himself was still alive when I came in. He was a member of my church. I never met him as such, but I saw him often, a tall, gaunt man whose skin was darker than his genetics had intended. His wife had already passed away by then. He had repented and accepted discipline. He was on the sidelines, off the roster. I never heard him speak.

I know two of his daughters, both of them members of my church. Lovely, smart, godly women. I can’t even imagine the kind of emotional suffering they’ve been through.

I don’t have much point in writing this, except to remind people of the personal tragedy that accompanies scandals of this sort. Somebody’s in a lot of pain today, and could use your prayers.

Letters for Prayer Washed Up in Atlantic City

Here’s a bit of news which could get you thinking. In Atlantic City, New Jersey, a man and his son retreived a bag from the water, filled with written prayers to the Lord. The AP reports:

Many of the letters were addressed to the Rev. Grady Cooper, though many more simply said “Altar.” According to the text of several of them, they were intended to be placed on a church’s altar and prayed over by the minister, the congregation or both.

A card in the bag identified Rev. Cooper as an associate pastor at Mount Calvary Baptist Church in Jersey City. The AP learned that he died two years ago, but was unable to learn anything more from the church or locate his family.

The letters represent the hard and silly things we pray for, those of us who know little about the God we claim to worship and those of us who know him intimately. It’s interesting news, but it feels voyeuristic to read the concerns of unknown people in an AP story.

Robin Hood Redux Again

The Grumpy Old Bookman reports, “The new BBC TV series Robin Hood is turning out to be a disappointment, I fear, but if you’re up for a Robin Hood novel then Andrew Fish has a brand-new one for you: Erasmus Hobart and the Golden Arrow.” According to the book’s site, Erasmus Hobart and the Golden Arrow “explores what happens when a Nottinghamshire schoolteacher travels back in time to seek out the truth behind the Robin Hood legend,” and learns that Robin Hood was a crook.

I don’t know what to think of the book, but I do feel good about the author’s sensibilities from his rundown of Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood: “The Kevin Costner version of the story was wrong on so many levels, from the use of a fifteenth century castle at Old Wardour, through to Costner’s complete failure at a British accent. Somehow, however, the film is still enjoyable, and Bryan Adams’ anthem sounds much better when you haven’t been subjected to it on the radio for weeks on end.”

Jack slices, then crushes, a friend

I came today to one of my favorites in my reading of C.S. Lewis’ Letters. It’s one he wrote to his friend Cecil Harwood on May 7, 1934.

If you know about Lewis’ life, or if you hang out with Lewis people (and let’s face it, you’re here) you probably know of his great love for the music of Wagner. But he knew Wagner almost exclusively from gramophone records. He had very little opportunity to hear the operas performed live.

In spring 1934 he and his brother Warnie, along with J.R.R. Tolkien and others, planned to go to London to attend festival performances of the entire Ring cycle. Cecil Harwood was entrusted with the job of buying tickets. Harwood, for some reason, failed to carry out this assignment.

Lewis responded to Harwood’s letter of apology with this epistle (which Harwood himself, if I remember correctly, described as “Johnsonian”):


I have read your pathetical letter with such sentiments as it naturally suggests and write to assure you that you need expect from me no ungenerous reproach. It would be cruel, if it were possible, and impossible, if it were attempted, to add to the mortification which you must now be supposed to suffer. Where I cannot console, it is far from my purpose to aggravate: for it is part of the complicated misery of your state that while I pity your sufferings, I cannot innocently wish them lighter. He would be no friend to your reason or your virtue who would wish you to pass over so great a miscarriage in heartless frivolity or brutal insensibility. As the loss is irretrievable, so your remorse will be lasting. As those whom you have betrayed are your friends, so your conduct admits of no exculpation. As you were once virtuous, so now you must be forever miserable…. I will not paint to you the consequences of your conduct which are doubtless daily and nightly before your eyes. Believe me, my dear Sir, that I forgive you.

As soon as you can, pray let me know through some respectable acquaintance what plans you have formed for the future. In what quarter of the globe do you intend to sustain that irrevocable exile, hopeless penury, and perpetual disgrace to which you have condemned yourself? Do not give in to the sin of Despair: learn from this example the fatal consequences of error and hope, in some humbler station and some distant land, that you may yet become useful to your species.

Yours etc

C. S. Lewis

Von Doehren: When I Became a Christian, I Stopped Writing

Relief Journal Assistant Editor Heather von Doehren on writing as a believer:

To be honest, once I became a Christian (which was just four years ago) I stopped writing—not because I stopped having things to write about, but because I didn’t know how to reconcile being a Christian and a writer. How does someone write about Christian topics without sounding cheesy or cliché? As an atheist, I perceived Christians as annoyingly perfect people (I know…naïve…), who existed in a world that just did not exist. Yet Christian writing almost always portrayed this same polished (censored?) angle on reality. I didn’t know how to write as a Christian because, upon this transformation, nothing was mystically easy, censored, or anything like 7th Heaven.

Once I became Christian, I felt as if all of my actions, words, and thoughts were being held to the highest of all high standards—and not just from other Christians. I didn’t feel like I could be honest about what I was struggling with; in the past, my poetry expressed my human flaws, and in becoming Christian I felt as if I had to censor all those flaws. And no one can write like that. Yes, carrying the label “Christian” means we should be more like Christ; however, just because we aim, doesn’t mean we always hit our target. In reality, Christians aren’t perfect people. But if you look at most Christian writing, you’d think we are.

This is an excerpt from an interview with Heather von Doehren and Relief’s Editor-in-Chief Kimberly Culbertson.

When I see my title clear

Courtesy of Writer’s Digest Magazine, here’s this cute little engine from www. lulu.com that analyzes your book title, to discern whether it’s bestseller quality or not.

Naturally I plugged my own titles in. Personally I think I’m pretty good at composing titles, but the utility doesn’t entirely agree with me.

Two of my titles earned 63.7% ratings, which isn’t bad–Wolf Time and The Year of the Warrior.

But Blood and Judgment only rated 26.3%, as did the original title I wanted for Wolf TimeWind Time, Wolf Time (which I still think is a great title, no matter what anybody says).

Personally I like to have words that start with W in my titles. W has an evocative sound. It reminds me of wind and water.

And Walker.

Relief Journal Short Story Contest

Finding the Profound in the Profoundly Ordinary” is the theme of a short story contest by Relief Journal and Faith in Fiction. From the announcement: “Andre Dubus writes of cooking an omelet and it becomes a holy moment. Marilynne Robinson takes the act of baptism and communion out of their churchly garb and gives them new resonance and depth. Inspired by examples like these, the “Daily Sacrament” short fiction contest will challenge you to explore the everyday in light of the eternal — or the sacred in the surroundings of the commonplace.”

Have you subscribed to Relief Journal? There are benefits to those who donate or subscribe before November 15.

Book Reviews, Creative Culture